Award-winning chef and restaurateur Luke Dale Roberts has unveiled a brand-new dining concept in the heart of Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill precinct. 'SALON' is an effortlessly stylish space defined by its elegant décor, elevated dining and enthralling cocktail collection.
“From the start I wanted the feel of this new restaurant to draw on the concept of a traditional European salon,” explains Dale Roberts. “It’s created a space that is as much about the food and drinks as the people around you.” To hit the right aesthetic note Dale Roberts turned to long-time interior collaborator, designer Maurice Paliaga, who contrasted contemporary design elements with tones and textures that resonate with both the heritage of the building and the traditional salon concept.
Diners arrive at SALON through a bright golden portal, a striking entrance into a more traditional salon space of Victorian-style floors and classical marble-topped bistro tables. With SALON housed within the precinct’s historic silo building, transforming the gridded structure into a more enveloping space required a highly creative approach. Golden domes and Art-Deco patterning soften the square dimensions of the room, while Venetian plasterwork and vintage-style filament lamps bring both texture and warmth.
“Luke felt it was important that SALON was broken up into various areas,” explains Paliaga, “and so our plan created a general seating area backed by an elegant bar and banquettes, while intimate dining spaces feature just behind a series of arches.” And that is, of course, the raison d’etre of the new venture, with the SALON menu marking something of a return to the heady days of The Test Kitchen, once rated as the best restaurant in Africa.
“The ‘Dark Room’ experience was, for me, the high point of The Test Kitchen at the time, so I decided to emulate that here at SALON,” says Dale Roberts. “On the Journey menu, I’ve taken each country that I’ve worked in and created a signature dish from that country’s culinary heritage. I really wanted this menu to be small, focused and interactive. I want people to come along on a voyage that really shows my evolution and influences as a chef.”
Part of that journey has been building teams of talented people, and working alongside Dale Roberts in creating the menu was Carla Schulze, Head Development Chef. “Even though she has been behind the scenes, Carla has really been instrumental in creating this experience,” says Dale Roberts. “We have become an incredible team, and we work extremely well together in bringing concepts for dishes to life.”
The nine-course Journey menu begins with a dish that was a perennial favourite in the Dark Room; Pork Scratchings with Guinness foam. In true Dale Roberts style it’s an apparently simple plate reinvented to offer layers of texture and flavour.
This is the only dish rebooted from the original Dark Room menu, with all other courses brand-new creations. The inventive take on a classic Sunday roast celebrates the chef’s English roots, while Dale Roberts’ time in Asia is expressed in the fragrant “Singapore chilli”, Malaysian-style laksa and Korean beef “kalbi”. But perhaps the highlight is in the two thoroughly South African plates; as Dale Roberts conjures a playful take on a shisanyama staple, and ends his journey with a traditional South African dessert.
“The Journey menu is a real snapshot of my life as a chef,” says Dale Roberts. “It takes my decades of travelling, tasting and cooking in some incredible kitchens around the world, and condenses it all into a nine-course exploration of all the wonderful flavours and dishes I’ve encountered along the way.”
SALON is open from Tuesdays through to Saturdays, and guests can reserve their “Journey” or “Explorer” timeslots between 6pm and 9pm. 1st Floor silo building, The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town.