For Agnes, who grew up in a food-loving family on the island of Corsica, it's about French styling and flair. The restaurant has a warm and inviting atmosphere, with design that's simple but elegant. And while certain fine dining establishments turn sophistication into pretentiousness, Manna Epicure's creamy décor and soft lighting make you feel relaxed and at home.
"I believe a restaurant is a theatre," Agnes writes on the restaurant's recently upgraded website. "People yearn to be entertained: they arrive hungry - for food, for joy, for beauty. This is what we love to give our guests. At the start of each new day, I say to my staff: 'It's show time!'"
And they certainly perform well! Our waiter, like the rest of his colleagues, was attentive without being overbearing. And I especially like the fact that Agnes, despite being the boss, took the time to personally welcome us and a number of other guests as we arrived to fill out the intimate space, and even helped her staff by serving food with a friendly smile.
For Jonny, who grew up in the small town of Citrusdal in the Western Cape, it's about more than just the cuisine. "Cooking is the ultimate self-expressive art form," he writes. "That's why every plate that comes out of my kitchen is a piece of me. I believe there is simply no better way to show love than through food."
To experience the best of what Manna Epicure has to offer, my friend and I decided to order different items for each course, all of which were beautifully presented, delicious, and ideally portioned to leave us satisfied but not stuffed. The breakdown was as follows:
The total came to just under R450, although the restaurant currently has a few specials, including 50% off all breakfast food items before 9am as well as two- and three-course set menu dinners (at R95 and R120 respectively) from 5pm to 7pm.
The menu at Manna Epicure is primarily about combining French and South African cuisines. But Jonny's inspiration from acclaimed food scientist Harold McGee (and his passion for world flavours) recently led to the introduction of an Argentinian twist.
Unfortunately, while I was lying in bed and mentally writing this review, I realised that I should have probably opted for one of the Chalmar beef steaks, which include Jonny's reinterpretation of the Argentinian chimichurri meat marinade as a fresh and versatile sauce. Perhaps this new addition to the menu is something the restaurant should be more vocal about?
Nevertheless, I now have even more of a reason to go back to Manna Epicure again and again. Given the wonderful experience we had (and the consistently high ratings on TripAdvisor), I suspect that whatever Agnes and Jonny come up with is bound to be another match made in heaven!
Manna Epicure is located at 151 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town. The restaurant is open on Sundays and Mondays from 8am to 9pm and Tuesday to Saturday from 8am to 10pm. Call +27 (0)21 426 2413 or email moc.erucipeannam@ofni.