Yesterday was a picture perfect day to try out the new Summer menu of new Executive Chef Christo Pretorius at Azure restaurant at the 12 Apostles Hotel, at the invitation of its GM Horst Frehse. The amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean is brought into the restaurant and reflects in the menu too.
Chef Christo was promoted when Chef Henrico Grobbelaar left the hotel to head up the kitchen at Equus restaurant at Cavalli Estate in Stellenbosch a few months ago. He had previously worked at De Huguenot (no longer operating) with Chef Tanja Kruger, and at the Cape Royale before joining the 12 Apostles. He travels overseas every year, to experience international cuisine. He acknowledged that he is nothing without his team, and that he delegates to his staff, mentors and trains them. Chef Christo focuses on ingredients that are seasonal, and sources them as locally as he can, the game coming from Uitenhage and Oudtshoorn. Only green-listed SASSI fish is served. He has a good relationship with his suppliers, and knows that they will assist him when he has urgent requests. His focus at Azure is on ‘flavourful food‘. Horst shared that they have had very good feedback about Chef Christo’s menu, and that the chef comes out of the kitchen as much as he can, to meet the guests and to obtain their feedback.
At our table was guest Gerda Klüver, a hotel housekeeping and openings consultant, with a wealth of experience that made Horst and I determined to write a book about the industry with her. She has opened The Palace and Sun City (with a staff complement of 4000!), the Table Bay hotel, the Arabella, and many more hotels, still consulting on turning hotels around. The stories she told about working in Nigeria were frightening, having to be escorted by two security staff with machine guns just to leave the building! The country clearly is not a tourist destination, only visited by businesspersons. Jill Wagner, handling marketing for the three Red Carnation hotels in South Africa (Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and The Oyster Box too) and Deputy GM Michael Nel joined our table too (he has been at the Red Carnation group for ten years already, having spent the last seven years at the 12 Apostles), leading to a very extended lunch with lots of laughter, excellent food and wines, and good service. Each staff member wears a red carnation, an unusual touch, to link to the corporate company ownership. As one steps into the hotel reception, a beautifully decorated table for Christmas attracts attention, done with class and style. A large Hexenhaus welcomes one in Azure, with a Christmas tree set up too, and Christmas music is piped throughout the hotel. The azure blue exterior is brought into the Azure restaurant through the beautiful shell underplate, blue water glasses, as well as other marine touches such as a silver seaweed sculpture on the fireplace, and a collection of framed marine-themed drawings.
We enjoyed a glass of Krone Rosé Brut Sparkling on the terrace, where it was wind-free, after a windy start to the day. The location is amazing, and the hotel focuses on the activities they offer their guests to maximise their enjoyment, such as mountain picnics. Horst had selected a wine per course, to pair with Chef Christo’s dishes.
The menu was professionally presented in a 12 Apostles folder, and Gerda and I were greeted by name on the menu page. Chef Christo came to the table, and explained that he had selected some of his favourites from the menu, for us to try. A generous bread basket was brought to the table, with bread rolls (including my favourite poppy seed), seed loaf, ciabatta and rye bread. Snoek paté and butter are on the table to enjoy with the bread. An amuse bouche of salmon three ways, served as tartare, mousse, and cured, was an excellent start, served with Jordan The Real McCoy Riesling 2013. The Prawn Dhal was an interesting collection of flavours created through pickled cauliflower, coriander yoghurt, sultanas, mango chutney and cauliflower, with chips of poppadoms. This is one of their best selling dishes.
The quail risotto was attractively plated, rich in yellow and orange from the butternut and cinnamon purée, to which had been added quail confit leg as well as breast, sage butter, macadamia crumbs, and a quail jus. This course was paired with Backsberg Chardonnay 2011. A dramatic intermediary course was juniper-infused cocoa butter sorbet, with smoke when water was poured over the dry ice container. Horst loves the Farmed Cob dish, and said that he could have it for all three meals of the day, it coming from Port Elizabeth and is supplied by Wild Peacock. It was served with the last white asparagus of the season, smoked potato, succotash pea purée, a citrus gel with lime, lemon and orange, and lime crumble. This course was paired with Lomond Sauvignon Blanc 2013.
The main course was Springbok Loin, also a guest favourite, served with a shank and potato pave, cabbage and prune purée, baby beetroot cubed, smoked and puréed, caramelised pearl onion, and a juniper jus. The Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2011 was outstanding, a seven variant blend from the wine estate owned by the group too.
Horst then told the table that he knew it is my birthday tomorrow (Facebook is a give-away), but that in German custom it is bad luck to congratulate one ahead of time. The kitchen had wanted to bake a birthday cake, but Horst’s wife Barbara had told him that it would not be the right thing to do. The dessert was created by pastry chef Nathan, being a Lime Cremeux, served with lime sponge and curd, and plum salad and sorbet, with meringue and deep fried basil. It was paired with Perdeberg Winery Weisser Riesling Reserve 2011.
As if we had not been spoilt enough already, a platter of petit fours was brought to the table, served with our coffees. We laughed when the whale bell rang, signalling a whale sighting, as we had just been speaking about a whale spotting whine writer!
We had enjoyed a lovely afternoon in good company, with excellent food and wines, and felt as if we were far removed from the hustle and bustle that is Cape Town in this busy time of the year.
Azure, 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, Victoria Road, Camps Bay. Tel (21) 437-9000. www.12apostleshotel.com Twitter: @12_Apostles
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
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