Eat Out has just announced its Finalist Top 20 Restaurant list, from which the Top 10 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Award winners will be chosen.  Seven each of the twenty finalist restaurants are from Stellenbosch and Cape Town, three are from Franschhoek, one is from Johannesburg, one is from KwaZulu-Natal,  and one from Pretoria.  Bruce Palling, UK food blogger and new right-hand judge to Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, has just returned to London after a 14 day and 25 lunch and dinner ‘feasting and tasting’ trip to South Africa, mainly spent in the Cape.

We congratulate the following Top 20 finalists:

Cape Town:

Bizerca Bistro

The Greenhouse

La Colombe

Planet Restaurant

The Pot Luck Club (subsequently withdrawn)

The Roundhouse

The Test Kitchen

Stellenbosch:

Delaire Graff

Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine

Makaron

Overture

Rust en Vrede

Terroir

Tokara

Franschhoek:

Babel

Pierneef à La Motte

The Tasting Room

Other:

DW Eleven-13

Hartford House

Restaurant Mosaic

Our prediction of the Western Cape Finalists did not include Bizerca (odd selection as the restaurant is moving to a new venue next month) and The Pot Luck Club (the tapas restaurant of Luke Dale-Roberts)! The Roundhouse is a surprise entry to the list, as its Chef PJ Vadas left in March, and it is a shame that the creativity of Chef Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof has once again not been recognised. For the second year running Chef Reuben Riffel has not made the Top 20 list, his Robertsons and Rama endorsement no doubt costing him a standing in this list!  The Top 20 list is very predictable this year.

The Top 10 Eat Out Restaurant Award winners will be announced at a gala dinner at The Westin hotel on 25 November.

POSTSCRIPT 18/9: In speaking to restaurateurs today after the Top 20 Restaurant Awards Finalist List was announced, the following criticism about the list has been expressed:

*   The Pot Luck Club only opened in December 2011, and therefore it has not been open for a full twelve months, as the rules state.  We all know that Mrs Donnelly has a very soft spot for Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, but the same rules must apply to all.

*   Grande Provence Chef Darren Badenhorst worked alongside Chef Darren Roberts for more than a year, as did Chef Eric Bulpitt at The Roundhouse work alongside Chef PJ Vadas before he left. Grande Provence was not evaluated for the Top 20 list, while The Roundhouse was!  Last year Rust en Vrede had to sit out a year, when David Higgs left, even though Chef John Shuttleworth had worked alongside Chef David for more than a year.  This highlights how inconsistent the application of the rules is.

*   Eat Out Judge Bruce Palling flew to Johannesburg to have lunch at DW Eleven-13 on Saturday, but does not appear to have made it to Restaurant Mosaic in Pretoria or to Hartford House in KwaZulu-Natal.

POSTSCRIPT 19/9: It is ironic, if not shocking, that Mr Palling’s presence in the Top 20 Restaurant Award Finalist evaluation did not safeguard Mrs Donnelly from falling into the same trap of her bias in including The Pot Luck Club, which has not been operating for a full year. It appears that Chef Luke Dale-Roberts has withdrawn The Pot Luck Club from the Awards today, and we salute him for doing the right thing.  However Eat Out should never have selected the restaurant in the first place!  This is how Eat Out subsequently announced the withdrawal of The Pot Luck Club from the Top 20 list, stating that they will not replace the restaurant with another: Our original communication listed The Pot Luck Club as one of the nominees. However, on discussion with chef Luke Dale-Roberts, we discovered the restaurant only opened in December 2011, and not in November 2011. (One month short of the cut-off.) Therefore, as per our judging criteria, The Pot Luck Club is not eligible for the awards this year. Luke fully supports our decision and we wish him all the best with the restaurant for 2013!’

POSTSCRIPT 3/10: I met Werner Hayward, Brand Manager at New Media Publishing, at The Christian Eedes Chardonnay Report presentation yesterday, and we discussed the infamous new UK Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants judge Bruce Palling, and how he did not prevent the embarrassing error of including The Pot Luck Club into the Top 20 Finalist Restaurant List. He admitted that this had been a ‘stupid mistake’ by his company!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage