Earlier this month the Reserve Brasserie opened in the space which has housed Brio, Riboville, and a Standard Bank, in a building going back to the 1830’s. It is now part of the larger Reserve, spanning Adderley Street to St George’s Mall, in a beautifully renovated building. A visit a week later was a most enjoyable evening, with great service, comedy entertainment, and generous food servings.
I was invited to the opening party, at which canapés were served, but they did not really do justice to the type of food served. I could only stay for a short time, having to also attend the opening night of ‘Queen at the Ballet’ at the Baxter Theatre. The PR consultancy CSA invited me to return a week later, to try the menu, and to see the Reserve facilities. I invited Bettie Coetzee-Lambrecht to join me, and we were treated royally from the minute we set foot into the Reserve Brasserie, which has its opening on Adderley Street.
I was a regular visitor to Brio, having loved what the previous owners Skippy and Lauren had done to restore the interior. Louise van Niekerk did the interior of the Brasserie, we were told. The band stand and dance floor have been removed, and the space has been filled with more tables and chairs. The lounge area near the bar has different furniture, and is more Indian-styled. This is where we had a sherry to start with, and we were entertained and informed by the very knowledgeable waiter Francois Marais, who has worked for Riboville, Brio and now the Reserve Brasserie. We were told that the Stander gang conducted their only unsuccessful bank heist in the building, not managing to steal any money. The name for the Riboville restaurant came from the name of a horse on which owner George Sinovich had bet his last R10000, which was an outsider and paid out 100:1, allowing him to invest in the creation of the restaurant! Riboville once was Cape Town’s largest seller of caviar and of champagne, and also was known for having the largest restaurant wine collection of about 15000 bottles.
I was fascinated by the story of the ghost in the building, which Francois has experienced first hand, when he lived in the building’s 3rd floor for a while, and saw a shadow walking past the stained glass door on numerous occasions, but could never find any sign of a human being, knowing that he was the only person in the building after lock-up time. He showed us the granite block, which looks like a tombstone, engraved with the name of Alfred Tattersall, born in 1910, and who was such a dedicated bookkeeper on the 3rd floor that he died in the office in 1953. The spirit has made itself felt by the lift going up to the 3rd floor, even though it is locked to not proceed beyond the first floor, the lights swaying, and bottles of wine stored in the old bank vaults in the basement having been found open and drunk! It reminded me of the spirit at Kitima, which we wrote about earlier this month.
Other changes to the Reserve Brasserie are the blue lighting around the bar, and a ceiling grid with mock ivy and flowers, the ‘hanging gardens’ bringing a more ‘outdoor’ and Italian feel to the inside of the restaurant, not having any windows to outside. Red lighting attracts attention to the ceiling, but its colour can change. A large wall canvas of a beautiful lady facing the restaurant is striking, and is backlit by the candelabra. Francois told us that it is the late wife Anja of the owner of the building, her German husband Harald Sieck having put it up in the Reserve Brasserie in her honour.
The staff are passionate about the special space in which they work, and Creative Director Justin Paul Jansen and Francois took us to see The Reserve Club, separated from the Brasserie by a full length curtain. The decorator who did the Club is Andy Graff, and she used beautiful paintings from Occulus for the alcoves, created seating corners, as well as a smoking and a non-smoking bar. The Club is pure ‘theatre’. Using lighter fluid, we were shown how they use pyrotechnics to add extra fun and fire to the experience at The Club. Nellie, the mobile elephant, is ready to do service, being wheeled in, with a pretty girl on it, to serve a bottle of ordered champagne. Justin demonstrated, by jumping onto the smoking bar, how he uses midget Papi to pour drinks from the top of the counter, direct into the mouths of his clients. Events are held for upmarket beverage brands, and the couches allow clients to dance on top of them. Strobe lighting is incorporated in a beautiful chandelier, and various colours light up the floor. VIP clients have included Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, various sheiks, and more.
As it is not very light in the building, Francois organised a table lamp, to allow for better quality photographs. Seating for the 94 guests is a mix of red and gilded chairs, as well as black mock-snake wall couches. A serviette with ‘R’ embroidered on it looked smart. Empty champagne bottles serve as candleholders on the tables, a little Italian old-world. The GM and Chef of The Reserve is Seelun Sundoo, who was in charge of La Perla for fifteen years, followed by The Grand in Camps Bay. As an amuse bouche we were served a chicken, lentil, pea, and Indian spice soup in a small bowl, with home-baked honey bread, described as a ‘winter warmer’. The large classy menu offers a large range of items divided into sections Italian style, e.g. Anti-Pasti, Zuppa, Primo, Secondi.
As a starter I ordered the Vitello Tonnato Tartare, which was a deconstructed interpretation of the dish, being raw minced veal prepared with olive oil, capers, herbs, tuna, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and gherkins, to which some Indian spices had been added for an ‘exotic feel’. One can also order mussels, scampi, baby calamari, mini lobster buns, salmon cakes, beef carpaccio, and crostini, in a price range of R50 – R95. Pizza is available at the prices of R40 and R65. Soup options are a bisque (R80), or the lentil one we started off with, at R50. Salads cost between R50 (rocket, fennel and parmesan) and R80 (The Reserve Club salad). Pasta Primos are reasonably priced between R65 – R85, and include ravioli and linguini options, as well as lasagne.
The Secondi list offers 14 options, and I chose the pan fried baby salmon trout, with almond, lemon, and capers (R135). Francois was sweet enough to fillet it at the table, and to organise Basmati rice. The ‘Reserve’ steak of the day, Cape lobster, and Mozambique Queen Prawns are SQ. Linefish (kingklip on that evening) costs R98, baby kob R110, salmon with curry sauce R130, baby chicken R96, Fillet R115, and veal is available in two options, at R125 and R140. One can order vegetables and fries as extras for R30/R40.
The dessert list offers a fruit plate, a chocolate torte, tiramisu, chocolate eclairs and cake of the day, in two sizes, at R35 and R50. The Torched marshallow meringue sounded unusual and interesting, which one dips into the chocolate sauce.
Francois’ witty banter throughout the evening coupled with his excellent service will be remembered for a long time to come, and he wins our vote for ‘Waiter of the Year’, if there were to be such a recognition. It is a pity that he will be leaving for the Marriot in Dubai at the end of September. A night out at The Reserve is highly entertaining, and affordable, with a large food choice. Some of the items and some ingredients specified on the menu were not available on the evening.
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: Reserve Brasserie now offers a Business Lunch from Wednesday – Fridays, 3 courses plus beer or mineral water costing R140.
Reserve Brasserie, The Reserve, 130 Adderley Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-0654, www.the-reserve.co.za (not updated with details of the new chef and menu). Twitter: @ReserveCapeTown. Tuesday – Saturday dinner. Reserve Club Friday and Saturday evenings from 23h30. 25+ year olds, R100 cover charge, but waived if guests have had dinner at the Brasserie. Special midnight menu for the Club on weekends.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage