On Thursday a number of writers were invited to try the new Chefs in Gardens, an eatery which is based on there being as few impediments between the kitchen and the diner as possible. The eatery opened ten days ago.
Decor has been designed minimalistically as a rectangular interior by interior designer and The Power & Glory bar and eatery owner Adam Whiteman, with raw concrete ceiling slabs, industrial trunking and extractor fans, and a kitchen running along the length of the space. In the middle of the kitchen is a wood fire. Parallel to this space is the seating area. For the event the tables almost connected and become a long table. The two spaces are only separated by some shelving, so that both the kitchen and the diners are in eye contact with each other. Tables are light wood, with A-frame chairs. It is nice to see material napkins, and cutlery is Stainless Steel Gourmet.
Chef Jenny Ward is the core of Chefs, and Lauren told me that Chef Jenny studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts. She worked at Bistrot Bizerca previously, and then did cheffing for private jet catering company Par-Avion and celebrity clients, which have included Mariah Carey. Her clients complimented her in her light fresh and unfussy food preparation style, and encouraged her to open a restaurant serving this style of food. On her travels she spent time in Sydney and Melbourne, and it was in the latter city that she worked in a Turkish restaurant, and was exposed to wood fire food preparation. She gets the fire going in the morning and uses different pieces of wood to smoke and prepare dishes. They bake bread, they smoke condiments, they slow roast lamb and tomatoes, and use the fire extensively in their food preparation. Once the fire has died down they dry herbs in the fireplace. Chef Jenny is supported by Campbell Stevenson, who is a co-partner and Manager. Justin Letschert created the concept and is also a partner, as is Adam.
Campbell told us that Chefs serves all food on a tray, with compartments and separate bowls holding the different elements. The way they have set up the eatery bridges the gap between chef and the kitchen. They have a big operational and functional kitchen, to make the best possible food. It enables their patrons get their food fresher and more quickly.
Chefs has a very simple concept: every day they offer three dishes for lunch, a meat (or fish) dish, a vegetarian dish, and a light meal. Each is individually priced. There is no printed menu. A dessert of the day is available too. When one arrives one orders at the front desk, and a tablet shows the elements of each dish of the day, and the price. One chooses one of the three dishes, pays and sits down, waiting for a tray with the elements of one’s dish to be brought to the table. The dishes are varied each day. Dishes are designed to be healthy, to be fresh, and have flavour, which we experienced.
The three choices which were available to us on Thursday were the following:
# Bourbon-basted lamb chops (four juicy and tender ones), with chips; tzatziki; a salsa made with corn kernels, cucumber, and tomato; and a salad of cherry tomatoes, rocket, fennel, pea shoots, and feta; and a passion fruit ànd vanilla cordial (R160). This dish was my choice.
# Tuna carpaccio with seared prawns, coconut, ginger, and pea shoot; Asian salad; guacamole; slaw with two cabbages, apple, and jalapeño; lemon salsa; lime mayonnaise; passion fruit and vanilla cordial; and a Vietnamese-style lime soy and coriander lemon dressing (R160). This dish was the choice of Lauren Shantall, my table companion.
# Burrata Caprese salad, costing R145, with a salad of green beans and rocket; smoked tomato aioli, ciabatta; whole Burrata; tomato and basil; and rocket pesto. As no one at our table had ordered this dish, our photograph was of the ordering tablet, demonstrated to us by one of the waitresses.
I sat at a table with Lauren Shantall, the owner of Lauren Shantall (Pty) Ltd, the integrated communications agency which is handling the media requirements for the launch of Chefs. I was impressed with the detail of her knowledge about her client’s dishes. She explained that the signature theme of Chefs is blue chef’s tape, which I saw in the logo above the door after her explanation, on our table to depict our table number, and on all food containers in the kitchen. Decor is purposely minimalist, she explained. She said that they may consider opening for early dinner in future. While the food seems ideally suited to pick up and drive home as a take-away, this is not on the cards at the moment. Businesspersons in the area are the prime target, being offered a quick but healthy lunch.
Our dessert was a highlight, perfect for a warm day, with fresh strawberries and strips of mint, a shard of almond meringue, and a ball of strawberry frozen yoghurt, served in a water glass. Lauren told me that Chef Jeffarie Sabe, previously of Ellerman House, is the sous chef and also handles pastry. The Barista is originally from Zimbabwe, and started at Origin nine years ago. He made me a perfect dry cappuccino, served with a ginger and peanut butter cream biscuit. He is a very friendly and well-spoken staff member.
I was excited about the refreshingly different Chefs eatery, adding another quality sustainable healthy light stylishly presented food establishment to Cape Town’s already excellent restaurant portfolio.
Chefs, 81 Saint John’s Road, Gardens, Cape Town. Tel (021) 461-0368 www.chefscapetown.co.za Instagram @chefs.ct. Monday – Friday 12h00 – 16h00. Booking is not required.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein