It’s the highlight of the restaurant industry tonight, and 1000 restaurant staff, food lovers, suppliers, and media will be at Thunder City to salute and celebrate the Mercedes-Benz Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants.
It must be one of the most oddball years for the Mercedes-Benz Eat Out Restaurant Awards 2014, the goalposts changing in August and September, as more and more Top 20 calibre chefs left their restaurants of employ, to join other restaurants, or to open their own establishments. Some Eat Out judges had already been sent to evaluate potential Top 20 candidate restaurant before the chef departures were announced, wasting time and money for New Media Publishing and its judges Abigail Donnelly (Editor of Eat Out), Andy Fenner (Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, supplier to a number of Top 20 restaurants, a conflict of interest), Arnold Tanzer (MasterChef SA Production Director), Garth Stroebel (restaurant consultant, with potential conflict of interest), Reuben Robertsons Riffel (hardly able to cook in his own restaurants, only using bottled spices and herbs, and judge on MasterRobertsons, so one wonders how he is capable of judging others!), and one further mystery judge.
We wrote a few months ago that this would be the easiest year for a restaurant to make Top 10, given the departure of so many top-level chefs, which included Chef Chris Erasmus from Pierneef à La Motte (to open Foliage), Christiaan Campbell from Delaire Graff (moving to Boschendal), PJ Vadas from Camphors at Vergelegen (to open his new The Hog House), Oliver Cattermole from Mondiall (moving to the Leeu Hospitality Group), Jackie Cameron from Hartford House (to open her new Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine), and Babylonstoren Chef Stefan Danz (moving to Stables at Vergelegen). In addition Top 10 regular La Colombe was not eligible due to its long closure in moving to new premises. Eat Out rules demand that Top 20 candidates have worked in the restaurant for a full 12 month period from 1 November the year before.
Our prediction for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants tonight is as follows, in no particular order:
* The Test Kitchen – with the restaurant at number 48 on the 2014 World’ 50 Best Restaurant list, there is no doubt that Donnelly’s favourite chef Luke Dale-Roberts will make number 1
* five hundred – industry favourite Chef David Higgs is sure to make the number 2 slot again
* The Greenhouse – despite losing his right hand Gerald van der Wat to The Tasting Room, Chef Peter Tempelhoff should be on the list
* Mosaic at The Orient – despite falling off the Top 20 list last year, Chef Chantel Dartnall has bounced back into the Top 20 list, has reinvented herself, has strengthened her wine side with annual wine buying trips and restaurant visits with Sommelier Germain Lehodey, and enhanced her communication via Social Media and e-mailed newsletters and videos.
* The Restaurant at Waterkloof – Chef Gregory Czarnecki is a master plater, but may be let down by his waiting staff, who do not match the cooking and creative talents of the kitchen. The restaurant has just won a Klink Award, and been named top Winelands Restaurant in the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards.
* Tokara – Eat Out has been unkind to Chef Richard Carstens and his team in the past three years, and one hopes for 4th time lucky tonight. The Tokara team runs a tight ship, with good food and wine service too.
* Jardine at Jordan – Chef George Jardine has long been held in high esteem, but a recent visit showed that he seemed disinterested, chewed bubblegum whilst plating a client function, drank out of a 1 liter Jordan water bottle in full view of the patrons, and the service from two waitrons was really poor and unprofessional. The restaurant is also looking a bit jaded at the edges and needs a revamp. The ‘decor’, or lack of, has never been its strength!
* Overture – one worries about Chef Bertus Basson becoming another Riffel, being a TV star and travelling to other venues as a pop-up restaurant, rather than being at his own restaurant.
* The Tasting Room is a perennial, but appears to be slipping, having only achieved 4 stars in the 2015 Diners Club Rossouw’s Restaurant Guide due to its lack of innovation in its tasting menu.
* Last but not least: will Donnelly give Chef Luke’s second restaurant The Pot Luck Club the second Top 10 restaurant nod, making it a first for two restaurants belonging to the same owner? Or will it go to Rust en Vrede, where service levels appear to have dropped due to staff changes, having won the Eat Out Service Award for the past few years?
We have compiled the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list based on talk, Social Media commentary, and reviews. Planet Restaurant, La Mouette, Makaron, The White Room, Bread & Wine, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson, The Kitchen at Maison, Terroir, and DW Eleven-13 are also on the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist.
We congratulate all top 20 restaurants for being finalists, and for making it this far, an achievement in itself. Let the party begin!