The restaurant at 65 Main Road used to be one of Green Point’s most popular when it was called Miss K, but nose-dived when it was taken over by an Italian owner and he renamed it after his daughter Giulia a year ago. He lasted a few months before returning to his homeland, as his wife did not like Cape Town. This left the space for Whitney Wentzel to take it over and to open 65 on Main within two weeks, at the beginning of August. It was a surprise discovery, following a most mediocre Camps Bay experience earlier that day!
I underestimated Whitney on first appearance, and thought her to be the manager, as a waiter came out to greet me even though she was outside as well. I was left in the care of a second waiter Sheldon, who informed me that Whitney is in fact the owner. Whitney studied at the Hotel School in Granger Bay, having graduated just before the World Cup, and worked as F&B Manager at The Taj, The Cullinan, Zimbali, and the Arabella Kleinmond hotels since then. She had a dream to run her own restaurant, and told me that she dutifully saved as much as she could, having been taught by her portfolio asset manager mother. Although only 25 years old, I sensed that Whitney pays attention to detail, and knows exactly what she is doing, and that her establishment will be one to watch as she grows in experience and reacts to customer feedback, which she actively requested.
Little has changed in terms of the interior, but a couch has been added near the entrance. The coffee table has a glass vase of oranges, a selection of magazines, and Jamie Oliver’s ‘Return of the Naked Chef’. I had a wobbly table, but new ones are on order, Whitney said. Sheldon tried his best to stabilise the table. There is no decor on the walls, only a TV screen on each wall but with no volume, good background music filling the restaurant. The first change I noticed was the staff uniform, completely different to anything I have seen before, the waiters wearing a strong blue pair of pants, a shirt, and a smart branded button-down blue jersey. Sheldon had a lovely smile and seemed very eager to please, but is very softly spoken, making it difficult to hear him. He will develop as his confidence grows. A lovely touch was Chef Foster Dube coming to the table, to check if all was to my satisfaction. He reports to Chef Linda Trautmann, a graduate from Silwood Kitchen and who has worked in London. I liked the material serviette but there are no tablecloths, although there is an unusual grey sponge-like centrepiece ‘placemat’ with a glass vase with two apples. Cutlery is brand new and good quality, but unbranded. An unbranded salt and pepper grinder is on the table. Sheldon brought bread to the table in a neat bread basket, with a bottle each of Willow Creek Extra Virgin olive oil and Cabernet Sauvignon Balsamic Vinegar, the latter which I haven’t seen before. Sheldon brought branded Clover butter portions when I asked for it for the bread.
There is a collection of menus, for Breakfast, for Lunch and dinner combined, for ‘Kiddies‘, and Desserts, all in the same yellow colour, neatly designed and printed, each with the 65 on Main logo of butterflies and orchids. Whitney designed the menu, and prides herself that no dish costs more than R110. The menu states ‘We use free range chicken and eggs. Buy in organic produce’. Whitney said that she receives deliveries daily, no food being kept for use the next day. Breakfast is served all day. Eggs Benedict cost R52; a classic two egg breakfast with a number of accompaniments R48; DIY two egg omelet R30, Health breakfast parfait R30; or a muffin, scone or croissant (R20 each). Starters include Tapas platters of cashew chicken satay, sticky chicken wings, calamari, samoosas, spring rolls, and Panko style prawns, costing R45 for one, R80 for two and R110 for three tapas. Beef carpaccio costs R75 and chicken liver salad R55. The starter portion of Wild Mushroom Ravioli (R65) was generous, topped with rocket and a dominant raspberry vinaigrette, and was served with a rich and creamy Parmesan sauce, which became the hero of the dish at the expense of the ravioli. Grilled catch of the day, 200g beef loin, and lamb cutlets cost R110; Chicken Supreme R85; Malay chicken curry R80; and Meatball linguini R75. The children’s menu ranges from R25 – R38. I had a chocolate brownie with superb vanilla bean ice cream for dessert, and a nice touch was the butterfly logo on the dessert plate, as well as the fresh serviette served with it. Very impressive was how the dessert spoon was brought to the table, Sheldon holding it with a serviette, a nice Whitney touch! Other desserts are ’65-ers Chocolate euphoria, served with mixed berry compote and vanilla bena ice cream (R65); crème Brûlée; and malva pudding, the latter two costing R55. The LavAzza cappuccino was perfect, and served with home-made fresh biscotti. Muffins, scones, and chocolate brownies are on display, to eat there or to take away.
The winelist does not match the design of the menus, having been compiled by Meridian wine distributors and branded as such on the back, something I have not seen before. The restaurant therefore just stocks that company’s 25 odd local wines. It was a surprise to see champagnes on the winelist, not being local brands and because Whitney is positioning her restaurant as good value. Veuve Clicquot Rosé costs R850, while the Brut and Moët et Chandon cost R800. Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel is sold by the glass at R45/R200, while its Brut Rosé costs R220, and L’Ormarins Brut R220. Two or three brands per variety are offered, but a few more Sauvignon Blancs. In the Shiraz category Cape Point Vineyards Splattered Toad costs R35/R130, and De Grendel R220. Whitney brought a small glass of Dâbar Sauvignon Blanc, a Napier wine estate in which her partner has a business interest, for me to taste. A selection of 23 cocktails is offered, ranging in price from R48 – R52. A number of jugs of filtered water is available, with mint, lemon, or strawberries. Cigars are available.
Whitney has appointed Tin Can PR agency*, and The Fresh Ingredient* to develop her brand, the latter company having developed a number of hospitality brands. One senses her determination to build her brand, and Whitney may not stop at one restaurant only, one can predict. Whitney has hard work ahead of her in training and growing her staff, but she appears to know what she is doing, and has young and fresh ideas which may surprise some of the older hands in the restaurant industry. The restaurant is true to its pay-off line ‘Where food meets pleasure‘. The bill was presented in a glass container, and came with two Lindt Lindor balls. I had ordered a muffin to take home, and again Whitney’s touch was visible, with a serviette inside the box, as well as an extra serviette and a fork provided. An error with the ravioli charge was quickly corrected. It was very hot inside, despite the cold and wet weather outside. 65 on Main is a place to watch, and should soon draw the old Miss K fans back, as well as attract new supporters.
Disclosure: Whitney gave me a bottle each of her 65 on Main branded still and sparkling water to take home.
POSTSCRIPT 24/8: I returned today, to get the information from the dessert and breakfast menus (updated above), which I did not receive by e-mail. I tried the Breakfast Wrap (R35), which contains scrambled egg, rocket, tomatoes, and bacon and was served with very spicy chips, which are not mentioned on the menu, which Whitney replaced with a side salad. Service remains a weakness, this time from Shephard. I also met Chef Linda, who told me that she has had her own restaurant in Wellington and a bakery in Scotland, and worked in a number of Wellington restaurants. She was selected by Whitney after a ‘cook-off‘, the dishes of the chef candidates being evaluated by Whitney and her waiters. Her summer menu will contain more tapas, summer salads, line fish, steak, and she will retain the Malay chicken curry. Her bread comes from Knead, but she bakes everything else herself. One can order scones, muffins, and chocolate brownies, or take them away. The coffee was served with a mini choc chip cookie today, freshly baked and delicious.
*POSTSCRIPT 26/8: I have just received a call from an executive (he spoke so fast I did not get his name) of Tin Can PR, who is leaving at the end of this week, and appears to be setting up his own PR consultancy with 65 on Main as a client. He confirmed by e-mail that The Fresh Ingredient has not yet been appointed.
POSTSCRIPT 29/8: I returned to the restaurant this evening after a show, and was pleasantly surprised at the table cloths and candles, and two new superb dishes being tested for the summer menu: chicken liver parfait served with rooibos-infused raisins and a poached pear syrup; as well as a buttermilk panna cotta with a berry compote. New staff have been appointed, and Lebo was the best I’ve experienced in my three visits, an intern from the Hotel School. Whitney told me that they only use organic milk from Woolworths at the restaurant, and can offer patrons gluten-free bread and pasta. They have also introduced a Loyalty Card, as well as a guest comment card requesting feedback.
POSTSCRIPT 31/8: 65 on Main is becoming addictive, and Whitney created appetite appeal by Tweeting a photograph of her self-baked choc chip marshmallow muffin yesterday, which I went to try. It was beautifully served with their butterfly logo and a spoonful of vanilla bean caramelised nut ice cream.
65 on Main, 65 Main Road, Green Point. Tel (021) 439-9559. www.65onmain.com Twitter: @65onMainCT Free wifi. Monday and Tuesday: 7h00 – 17h00. Wednesday – Saturday 7h00 – 23h00. Sunday 7h00 – 17h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage