Today the inaugural ‘2016/2017 Gourmet Guide: Top South African Restaurants, their Chefs & Recipes‘ was launched at the Good Food & Wine Show. Twenty one top restaurants were honored with one or two plates, acknowledging them as the best restaurants in our country.
We have written previously about the Gourmet Guide, and its awards, a very low-key new award system, only really known to the restaurants which were honored at the award ceremony today. Initially the awards were described as our country’s Michelin awards, and a similar methodology was said to have been used to find the top restaurants. Creator of the Gourmet Guide and the awards, Jenny Handley (in the photograph with DW Eleven -13 Chef Marthinus Ferreira), of the promotions company named after her, posted short descriptions about her restaurant visits on her Blog ‘Jen’s Journeys of Flavours‘. The top 21 Chefs honored were sworn to secrecy, and none of them knew how many plates (one or two) they would win. A teaser campaign was emailed to the chefs as well as interested parties daily, with a written description of one of the restaurants as well as a photograph of one of its dishes. The clues were really difficult, and I only recognised that of Indochine (‘Virtually Asian‘), Springfontein Eats (with a reference to ‘German expertise‘), and Hartford House (‘Meander… to magnificence‘).
As the winning chefs could not all attend at the same time, they received their award in groups, ten of the twenty one chefs arriving between 10h00 – 11h00 this morning. I was allowed to attend the award handover, and received a complimentary copy of the Gourmet Guide too. Chef Chantel Dartnall of Restaurant Mosaic outside Pretoria was unable to attend, having to be at her restaurant. Chef Constantijn Hahndiek of Hartford House (left) spent 24 hours in Cape Town, having to rush back to the Mooi River restaurant for dinner service tonight, and for a busy weekend lying ahead, having just opened their new tea house. Chef Marthinus is planning to spend the weekend in Cape Town, catching up with his chef mates. He looks amazing, having lost a large amount of weight, and was beaming, also because his restaurant did so well in the awards. I arrived at the same time as Chefs Michael Broughton of Terroir and Chris Erasmus of Foliage (right), and we chatted to Eat Out‘s Abigail Donnelly, theoretically a competitor to the new Guide. She was unaware that the awards would be presented today.
# Chef’s Warehouse
# DW Eleven-13
# Restaurant Mosaic
# La Colombe
# The Pot Luck Club
# The Test Kitchen.
The winners of the One Plate Award (recognizing ‘excellent cuisine, a top-quality eating experience‘) are:
# Camphors at Vergelegen
# Ellerman House (even though not open to the public)
# Indochine at Delaire Graff (Chef Virgil Khan with Tanja Mackay Davidson in the photograph)
# Jordan Restaurant
# Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town
# Qunu at The Saxon Boutique Hotel
# Springfontein Eats in Stanford, its Chef Jürgen Schneider having received one Michelin star for his restaurant in Germany
# The Roundhouse Restaurant
# The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français
# Winehouse, a surprise to most chefs I spoke to, being associated with Ten Bompas Hotel in Johannesburg.
Three plates will only be awarded to restaurants upholding and elevating their standards in the future.
Conspicuous by their absence are other top restaurant contenders which did not make the Top 21 Restaurant list: Overture, Waterkloof, Greenhouse, Pierneef à La Motte, Maison, Grande Provence, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson, Tokara, Rust en Vrede, The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal, and Delaire Graff Restaurant.
While 21 restaurants were recognised in receiving one or two plate awards, the Gourmet Guide contains a total of 82 restaurants (although claimed in the Guide to be a list of 100) including the Top 21 restaurants mentioned above, as well as 9th Avenue Bistro, 95 Keerom, Azure at the Twelve Apostles, Babel at Babylonstoren, Bistrot Bizerca, Bosman’s at Grande Roche, Bread & Wine, Cheyne’s, De Grendel, Kitima, La Mouette, ON19, Planet Restaurant, Roots, and View at the Four Seasons. Greenhouse, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson, Rust en Vrede, Boschendal, and Pierneef à la Motte are not included in the Guide at all. Weird was the inclusion of a host of restaurants that would not be considered as ‘Gourmet’ or competing in the league of the Top 21, such as El Burro, Don Armando, Gabriëlskloof, The Kitchen, The Dining Room, Kloof Street House, La Boheme, Magica Roma, Reuben’s at the Robertson Small Hotel, Orinoco, and True Italic.
The Gourmet Guide is impartial, the media statement claims, clearly a dig at Eat Out, in that it does not contain any advertisements for restaurants or hotels. Ads for Taittinger (the champagne which was served to the winning chefs), and Rio Largo Olive Estate are the only ones in the Guide.
A list of 32 criteria was evaluated for each restaurant, being aspects relating to food, wine, service, setting, ambiance, and decor. In addition, cleanliness was evaluated. Consistency of performance was also evaluated, meaning that the restaurants should have operated for two seasons at least. For each restaurant listed in the Gourmet Guide, details (address, telephone number, website, location) are provided, and a short summary of the establishment offered. For some restaurants recipes for some of the dishes are provided too. QR codes are provided for each restaurant.
POSTSCRIPT 29/5: I was disturbed by two bits of feedback I received about the Gourmet Guide today, seriously affecting its reputation : the certificate for Indochine, a one plate winner, has the name of the restaurant as well as Chef Virgil Kahn’s surname incorrectly spelt! I have also heard that the publication personnel contacted the PR agencies of the restaurants, requesting free meals for Ms Handley and her assistant. This would amount to a ‘sighted’ evaluation, as the restaurants would have known about the visit, and would be the furthest from a Michelin-style evaluation which Handley had promised initially!
POSTSCRIPT 31/5: We received the following feedback from Natalie Brock, Ms Handley’s PA: ‘Some of the restaurants that were not plated, or included, could have been for a number of reasons, but predominantly because the chef declined a final evaluation (the word inaugural does not excite everyone!), or because the service in the restaurant did not come up to scratch. There are more than 100 restaurants mentioned in the guide – some properties have more than one eg Vergelegen has Camphors reviewed and The Stables mentioned, there are a few Reubens and le Sels’.
Jenny Handley: ‘2016/2017 Gourmet Guide: Top South African Restaurants, their Chefs & Restaurants‘. Map Studio. Tel (021) 437-0334 www.jennyhandley.co.za Twitter: @Jenny_Handley @MapStudio Available at leading bookstores at R299.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein