Brains on Toast at La Tête Restaurant

Yes, brains on toast.

It’s the very first thing that catches your eye as you peruse La Tête Restaurant’s menu and it’s absolutely no joke. Chef Giles Edwards doesn’t just stray off the proverbial beaten path at La Tête, he turns around and gives it the finger with his unorthodox menu.

Brains La Tete Restaurant, Cape Town
Lambs brains on toast

The nose-to-tail dining revolution

The concept is simple and, moreover, a desperately needed paradigm shift in the way society views food. It’s called “nose-to-tail” dining and it means that the entire animal, literally from nose to tail, makes it to our plate; not just the popular cuts of meat we’ve become comfortable and familiar with. To illustrate, La Tête’s menu features such intriguing dishes as brains on toast, crispy pig’s tails, baked trotter (pig’s feet), and grilled ox heart.

Chef Giles La Tete Restaurant
Chef Giles (left) in his natural habitat (picture from La Tete’s Instagram account)

Aside from the fact that these meats – organs – bear serious merit as food (and are exquisitely prepared at La Tête), the philosophy underlining nose-to-tail dining is that nothing goes to waste. It’s an environmentally conscious philosophy and one that Chef Giles aims to drive home with his unconventional menu.

Let’s face it: popular media and societal influences have convinced us that nobody eats brains, perhaps with the exception of zombies. And you’d have to be barbaric to eat an animal’s heart. Even liver is, to many people, “totally gross”. Yet we heartily tuck into beef steak, lamb chops, pork belly, and chicken breasts, legs, and wings.

La Tete Restaurant, Cape Town
Probably the most “normal” thing we ate that evening: roast quail and chips

It’s environmentally unconscious to waste meat that is more than just edible but actually delicious and healthy. I for one think that the heart is a beautiful meat and boasts a flavour that few other cuts of meat can rival. Among my favourite snacks of all time is lightly seasoned, barbecued chicken hearts, which we used to order on skewers from the food carts that stationed themselves outside of our regular watering holes in Thailand. How I miss Thailand.

Having said all of this, La Tête Restaurant’s menu isn’t only an ode to entrails; it also features a plethora of other, slightly less controversial dishes, such as fish soup, roast quail, crispy pig cheek, and gurnard, as well as dishes even the fussiest of eaters would happily order, including hake, roast lamb rack, and several delectable vegetarian options.

Holding hands with local farmers and the Harvest of Hope

Harvest of Hope sustainable farming Cape Town
Harvest of Hope (image from website)

La Tête’s menu changes every single day depending on what local ingredients are available and in season. Chef Giles maintains fantastic relationships with local farmers and fishermen who will personally call him up should they, for example, have a fresh batch of brains, a catch of gurnard, or a harvest of celeriac. Using whatever’s fresh and available, Chef Giles concocts delicious dishes to add to that evening’s menu.

La Tête also supports an agricultural initiative called the Harvest of Hope, a community garden located in the Cape Flats. This initiative aims to facilitate the direct and personal delivery of fresh, locally grown produce to Cape Town’s restaurants, which, in so many ways, is better than ordering expensive ingredients from overseas. Why buy from foreign farms when we have such a bounty of local agricultural projects and farms that could use our support?

Blazing new trails

I’ve never tried brains before and, truth be told, even I suffered from a serious spell of prejudice-driven doubt prior to tucking into La Tête’s signature dish of lamb’s brains on toast. However, I found it tender and tasty, along with all the other oddities we tried that night. La Tête, without a doubt, offers diners an incredible experience and a totally fresh, much-needed perspective on food. All praise goes to Chef Giles Edwards and his team for having the guts, balls, and brains to blaze this new trail in Cape Town’s culinary scene and for having made such a roaring success of it!

La Tête Phone: 021 418 1299
Address: 17 Bree Street, Cape Town
Website: www.latete.co.za

This article was originally written by Thea Beckman for Southern Vines Magazine: http://www.southernvines.co.za/2017/10/03/brains-toast-la-tete-restaurant

Author: Thea Beckman

Canadian born and South African raised, Thea Beckman AKA Wander Woman Thea, is an experienced travel, food, and wine writer and (amateur) photographer with a devastating love of all of the above. She is a travel bug, a bookworm, and mildly alarmed by how many arthropods she can be at once. When she’s not writing for a living and for pleasure, she enjoys bird-watching, reading, drinking wine, cooking, and SHORT walks on the beach because the summer southeasterly winds in Cape Town are a real bitch. Thea is the author of the book “Why? Because Science!” Facebook @WanderWomanThea Instagram @wander_woman_thea

6 thoughts on “Brains on Toast at La Tête Restaurant”

  1. As a kid we ate Lamb Kidneys often and I really liked them. Lamb’s fry (liver) and bacon also featured a lot. Even (apparently) used to eat brains that my Mum crumbed and called “chicken cutlets”. I’m not sure when they turned into something I wouldn’t eat. But we should respect the animal by using all of it. I did try tripe recently and can honestly say I never have to try it again.

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    1. Haha! I have to agree… I’m really up to try anything, but if there’s one part of the animal I draw the line at, it’s tripe. I’ve tried it on more than one occasion and I really don’t like the taste or texture. It’s like rubbery, fatty diaper. It’s just as well that many cultures consider it a delicacy or else it would go to waste!

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  2. “… guts, balls, and brains …” brrrr. Meat should have fibre — sheesh, you’ll have us gobbling ants next …

    To each his own. The NZ Maori loves a feed of huhu grubs. I’ve never tried them, but then Eskimos apparently love a nice big bowl of maggots … and guess what huhus look like?

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    1. I’ve eaten heaps of bugs, too! In Thailand! And toad stew: delicious. The foods we find acceptable and approachable are largely dictated to us by our culture. If we were raised to find beef testicles “normal”, we wouldn’t be having this conversation 😉

      So tell me, Argus: what kind of “ivore” are you?

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      1. In the navy I learned quite early on to eat what the locals eat and not ask too many questions.

        As far as ‘ivore’ I’m yer basic omnivore (more or less); but am squeamish indeed where bugs are concerned. I have no idea if earthworms and garden slugs are edible and have absolutely no desire to find out—even if there are cultures that thrive on and esteem them. Brrr. To each his own, no?

        In earlier days people used to love an Argus stewy concoction but would turn green if I mentioned that they’d just wolfed a pile of seaweed. These days the dreaded weed is fashionable. But I always made sure of where I collected it, and thanks to the power of the wwweb realise that I was not a lone crank.

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      2. Most of the time I eat weird shit it’s (1) to confront my own prejudices and (2) to brag about it on my blog 😉

        Happy to hear you’re up to give the weird and wonderful a go! I think we should all be a bit more like that.

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