Tucked away in the leafy green suburbs of Karen is the Cave à Manger wine restaurant found in the Wine Box. A very intimate and quiet space for a date night and a fan favourite for wine lovers. Cave à manger is a French phrase meaning dining cellar in English. True to its name, the space combines wine tasting with an à la carte dining experience. With each dish, they offer two options of wines to pick from per glass. A group of ladies from Team Wine Kenya invited me to join them for a wine tasting as part of their training in preparation for the Wine Olympics in France coming up in October.
Since wine was our agenda, the meals were carefully paired with wines from Gérard Bertrand, a winery based in the South of France. François and Henri, who were guiding us through the tasting, work for the winery and are sommeliers who have been in the business for years. The wines they offered were of very high quality but also affordable. What many people do not know in the Kenyan market is that high quality wines also have very high alcoholic levels, with most ranging between 12 and 18 per cent.
We started off with a gourmet cheese platter filled with assorted cheese, crackers, bread, grapes, berries with a side of spreads such as honey, mango compote and a delicious chilli orange thyme jam. The platter goes for Sh2, 100. This was paired with Orange Gold 2020 Blanc which pays homage to the first orange wines of Georgia 4,500 years, as François explained. The bottle goes for Sh2, 735 while a glass goes for Sh750. The wine is actually orange in colour which is unusual to find but the taste resembled a blend of different white grapes. However, it is an acquired taste but is best paired with spicy dishes and cheeses.
The starter was a fan favourite. It was a plate of smoked salmon carpaccio with smoked cream cheese which added a crunchy taste to the meal. Since fish always tastes great with some citrus, the lemon emulsions that surrounded the salmon gave it a zesty taste. None of the ingredients overwhelmed the others. The small plate goes for Sh1, 500. The wine that accompanied this was Heritage Coteaux De Narbonne Blanc 2020 that costs Sh1, 715 per bottle. It has a very lemony taste since it is a Sauvignon Blanc which is a great choice for the smoked salmon dish.
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The main dish was slow-cooked beef short ribs with a BBQ glaze, jalapeno and mango coriander chutney. The meat fell off the bones and was very flavourful because of the sweetness of the mango in the chutney. The dish goes for Sh1, 850. A bottle of Heritage Kosmos Rouge 2020 was served with the meal as François explained the sun, moon and astrology play a big role in organic winegrowing. He also said astrology even determines when they plant and harvest. The elegance and complexity of this wine with vanilla and cherry aromas is evident on the nose. The bottle costs Sh3, 735 while a glass costs Sh950.
Even the dessert was served with a glass of Heritage Cremant de Limoux Brut Rosé 2020. The bottle goes for Sh2, 915 and is paired with a mixed berry compote which has red fruit such as strawberries. The Sh800 dessert is mixed with meringue and mint to add some sweetness to it. The dessert was a perfect blend of sweet and sour. Apart from red fruit desserts, the rosé can also be paired with smoked fish, and sweet or spicy dishes.
The Wine box is also home to the Cellar Door where wine lovers or customers looking for wines for events such as weddings or restaurants come to sample different wines from all over the world. For those dining in Cave à manger, they can buy a bottle of wine for Sh1, 000 less from Cellar Door if they order it with their meal.