On Monday evening Condé Nast House & Garden presented its Gourmet Restaurant Awards 2017, in conjunction with Discovery Vitality, at Klein Constantia. Restaurants were awarded in a number of categories, with some surprises, and the awards may be an indicator as to which of the 30 Eat Out Restaurant finalists will make it into the Eat Out Top Ten Restaurant list on Sunday!

The category winners and runner-up chefs/restaurants, with the list of finalists, are as follows: 

GOLD AWARD FOR CONSISTENCY AND CHEF EXCELLENCE

Winner: Liam Tomlin, Chefs Warehouse, Beau Constantia, Thali, Cape Town; Singita Game Reserves
Runner-up: Chris Erasmus, Foliage, Franschhoek

The Gold Award is presented to ‘a chef who has performed consistently well across various platforms or over a number of years at one establishment’ (our underlining)! It is a tremendous accolade to Chef Chris Erasmus of Foliage to have been named as a runner-up in this category. 

Chef Liam Tomlin, the ‘granddaddy’ of chefs, and his Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, has been awarded as the Best Tapas restaurant in the Eat Out Everyday Eateries awards as well as being named as a Top 30 Eat Out Finalist, an absolute contradiction! For the past two years Tomlin has not managed to make the Eat Out Top 10!  Chef Chantal Dartnall of Restaurant Mosaic would have been a worthy winner in this category, in my opinion! 

Nominees for this category were the following:
Harald Breschelschmidt, Aubergine, Cape Town
Michael Broughton, Terroir, Stellenbosch
Christiaan Campbell, Boschendal, Franschhoek
Luke Dale-Roberts, The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club, Shortmarket Club, Cape Town; LDR x The Saxon, Johannesburg
Franck Dangereux, The Foodbarn, Noordhoek
Chantal Dartnall, Restaurant Mosaic, Pretoria
Jacques Erasmus, Hemelhuijs, Cape Town
Marthinus Ferreira, DW Eleven-13, Johannesburg
Arno Janse van Rensburg, The Kitchen at Maison, Franschhoek
George Jardine, Jordan Restaurant, Jardine Restaurant, Stellenbosch

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT

Winner: La Petite Colombe at Le Quartier Français, Leeu Collection, Franschhoek (photograph)
Runner(s)-up: Luke Dale-Roberts x The Saxon, Johannesburg; Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenhort, Cape Town

This is a weird Award category, as there are very few restaurants of note operating within hotels. Hotel restaurants traditionally are poor. La Petite Colombe only opened three months ago, a minimal period of operation in which to receive this Award! Once again Restaurant Mosaic should have won this category! The Oyster Box is a strange bedfellow to this restaurant collection! Indochine rather than the Delaire Graff Restaurant may have been a more worthy nominee, given that Executive Chef Michael Deg left the restaurant at the end of September! 

Nominees in this category were as follows:
Babel at Babylonstoren Farm Hotel, Franschhoek
Catharina’s at Steenberg, Cape Town
Delaire Graff Restaurant, Stellenbosch
Level Four, 54 on Bath, Johannesburg
Makaron, Majeka House, Stellenbosch
Nobu at One&Only, Cape Town
Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient, Pretoria
The Grill Room at The Oyster Box, Durban
The Restaurant at Hartford House, KZN Midlands
View at Four Seasons Westcliff, Johannesburg

BEST TASTING MENU

Winner(s): The Test Kitchen, Cape Town and La Colombe, Cape Town
Runner-up: Restaurant Mosaic, Pretoria (photograph)

This is the ultimate battle ground for the Eat Out Top Ten Restaurant Awards later this week, The Test Kitchen and La Colombe being close competitors for Top Restaurant. For the first time the playing field should be level between these two restaurants, given The Test Kirchen’s spectacular crash in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List earlier this year, costing our country no longer having a contender in the top fifty restaurant list! Chef Luke Dale-Roberts has been extremely low profile since the crash, while La Colombe is pushing itself through Facebook posts, the TripAdvisor accolade having little credibility! And continuously seems short-staffed, and offering specials, despite it being Summer already! It is a shame to see the egos of the restaurant chefs get in the way! Once again Restaurant Mosaic is the star of the show in this category, and Chef Chantal Dartnall has won a number of top international accolades  this year! Weird is that The Kitchen at Maison is on this list, Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg having left the restaurant at the end of last month, opening his Janse & Co restaurant in Cape Town next month. The restaurant will be taken over by Chefs Warehouse, and will not be offering a Tasting Menu! 

Nominees for this category were:
Camphors at Vergelegen, Stellenbosch
Faber, Avondale, Paarl
Fermier, Pretoria
Overture, Stellenbosch
La Petite Colombe at Le Quartier Français, Franschhoek
The Kitchen at Maison, Franschhoek
Greenhouse, Cape Town
The Restaurant at Waterkloof, Somerset West

HIDDEN GEM

Winner: Wolfgat, Paternoster
Runner-up: Mzansi, Langa

Wolfgat appears a worthy winner, Creative Chef Kobus van der Merwe foraging in his home village of Paternoster, from the sea, and from the coastline.  The Table at De Meye is commendable in its approach to farm to table seasonal produce, and does not blow its trumpet, truly hidden. Karoux in McGregor is a star gem too, that I have been lucky to experience a number of times this year. It has gone empty-handed at Eat Out this year, not even making the Top 30 Restaurant list nor its Eat Out Everyday Eateries, a regular winner in the past. Eat Out insultingly classified Betty Blue Bistro a Coffee Shop in its Everyday Eateries awards recently! 

Nominees in this category:
Betty Blue, Hermanus
Camilla’s Kitchen, Prince Albert
Indian Summer, Durban
Karoux, McGregor
La Lampara, KZN Midlands
La Sosta, Swellendam
Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar, Johannesburg
Marianna’s, Stanford
The Table at De Meye, Stellenbosch

NEIGHBOURHOOD EATERY

Winner: The Chefs Table, Umhlanga, Durban (photograph) 
Runner-up: Coobs, Parkhurst, Johannesburg

This could be an equivalent to the Eat Out Everyday Eateries, but I did not experience The Chef’s Table as a local neighborhood eatery one returns to regularly as ‘our second dining room’, as defined in the awards, offering a Tasting Menu. Café Bloom is a surprise inclusion in the list, having been taken over by Chef Jonty Nicholson, and renamed Country Market when I visited it in the Midlands in August already! 

Nominees in this category are:
Alfies, Pretoria
Amore, Cape Town
Bellevue Cafe, Durban
Bellini’s, Johannesburg
Cafe Bloom, KZN Midlands
Eatery JHB, Johannesburg
La Tête, Cape Town
Sage Cafe & Deli, Litchi Orchard, Durban
Surf Riders Food Shack, Durban
The Glenwood Restaurant, Durban
Pesce Azzurro, Woodstock

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

Winner: Momo Soko, Johannesburg
Runner-Up: Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar, Johannesburg

Both these restaurants are unknown to me. Including SCHOON on this list is a joke, this tiny coffee shop hardly being a restaurant, and has been open for less than two months! La Petite Colombe should also not have been on this list, given that it has only operated for just more than three months. Bosjes Kombuis has a beautiful setting, but hardly belongs in this category! 

Nominees are as follows:
La Boqueria, Johannesburg
Bosjes Kombuis, Ceres
Three Wise Monkeys, Sea Point
Momo Baohaus, Johannesburg
La Petite Colombe, Franschhoek
Old Town Italy, Johannesburg
Reubens Restaurant & Bar, Franschhoek
Café du Cap, Cape Town
Schoon, Somerset West
Forti Grill & Bar, Pretoria

DECOR & DESIGN

Winner: Marble, Johannesburg
Runner-up: Mink & Trout, Cape Town

Marble won the Eat Out Boschendal Style Award last year, so there is good synergy in this Award recipient. Mink & Trout’s makeover does not come close to the decor design of Marble! Bosjes Kombuis building has no spectacular design features, other than the exterior Delft-like tile wall design!  The Werf Restaurant probably would have been a more worthy Decor & Design runner-up. 

Nominees were the following:
1904 Bistro Américain, Durban
Bosjes Kombuis, Ceres
Café Del Sol Tre, Johannesburg
Don Armando, Johannesburg
Orangerie at Le Lude, Franschhoek
Pintxada Tapas Bar, Durban
Shortmarket Club, Cape Town
Werf Restaurant, Stellenbosch

VITALITY WELLNESS

Winner: Raw and Roxy, Cape Town (photograph)
Runner-up: Tree Natural Café, Durban

Both these restaurant names are unfamiliar to me. The award recognizes restaurants ‘preparing whole, seasonal ingredients’. Surely Werf Restaurant at Boschendal, and Babel at Babylonstoren, would have more worthy contenders? Plant is on the nominee list, but closed down some months ago!  The list of nominees sounds like a ‘Lentil and Headscarf’ brigade! 

Nominees were as follows:
Conscious 108, Johannesburg
Earth Mother Cafe, Durban
Free Food, Johannesburg
Fresh Earth Café, Johannesburg
Green Beans, Cape Town
The Greenside Café, Johannesburg
Leafy Greens Café, Johannesburg
Spirit Café, Cape Town
Plant, Cape Town
Sexy Food, Cape Town
Marrow, Cape Town

SMALL PLATES

Winner: Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia, Cape Town
Runner-up: Pintxada Tapas Bar, Durban

From everything I have seen, the category winner is a worthy winner. It could be funny if this Chefs Warehouse makes Eat Out Top Ten, and Chefs Warehouse & Canteen does not!  Foxcroft will have its nose out of joint in not winning this category, and also appears to be struggling, in continuing Winter specials in summer!  Chalk & Cork is a joke on this list! 

Nominees on this long list are as follows:
Bistro 1682, Cape Town
Chalk & Cork, Cape Town
Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, Cape Town
Culture Club, Bar de Tapas, Pretoria
Escondido, Johannesburg
Fork, Cape Town
Foxcroft, Cape Town
S43 Home to That Brewing Co, Durban
Makaron at Majeka House, Stellenbosch
Marigold, Franschhoek
Mulberry & Prince, Cape Town
Shio, Cape Town
Thali, Cape Town
The Foodbarn Deli, Noordhoek
The Pot Luck Club, Cape Town
Urbanologi, Johannesburg

KITCHENAID READERS’ CHOICE

Winner: 9th Avenue Bistro, Durban
Runner-up: Ten Bompas Winehouse, Johannesburg

This is the biggest joke of the Gourmet Restaurant Awards, in that a Social Media driven vote led to this winner outcome! ‘Voted for solely by Gourmet readers through various social media channels, this is our people’s choice – your favourite restaurant in the country, picked by you. Throughout the year we have been running competitions calling for entries to vote; once having narrowed it down to the nominees, readers once again selected the winner. This award is not judged by our judges. This year’s winner, as chosen by you, is 9th Avenue Bistro, which has continued to remain at the forefront of the Durban dining scene since its inception in 2001’.  Have the Gourmet Restaurant Awards organisers been near this dive, to associate themselves with this restaurant, especially given that Durban hardly is the Social Media or Restaurant Metropolis of South Africa?  I was shocked at its poor quality, when visiting the restaurant for dinner in August. The nominee Restaurant list is very diverse, even including Eat Out Top 10 level restaurants! We all know that Social Media is the easiest voting system to manipulate!

Restaurant Review: 9th Avenue Bistro in Durban in the dark ages, slides further!

Nominees were as follows:
Chefs Warehouse, Cape Town
Cheyne’s, Hout Bay
DW Eleven-13, Johannesburg
La Colombe, Constantia
Marble, Johannesburg
Overture, Stellenbosch
Pierneef à La Motte, Franschhoek
The Test Kitchen, Cape Town
The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal, Franschhoek

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein