I recently received a call from Ian Halfon, co-owner of the Waterfront-based Belthazar Restaurant and Wine Bar (and Balducci), telling me about their new Alfresco Value Lunch, which is available every lunchtime. It is an amazingly affordable offering of good value dishes, and even some wines, from a restaurant that has been known for excellent but expensive steak in the past.
The full menu and winelist is still available, but the Alfresco Value Lunch menu was brought to the table when I asked for it. It is an A4 page, in the same design style as the larger standard menu, and is divided into Starters, Burgers, Wet and Dry Aged Beef, Salads, Fish, Desserts and the Value Wines. The menu also refers to the new “Instore Biltong Bar”, beef, ostrich, kudu and “other rare South African game” biltong being available for sale at the Reception desk inside the restaurant.
Co-owner Doron Duveen came to say hello, and told me what a difficult year it has been for business across the board, and how clients are trading down in terms of food and wines, and cutting out starters and desserts. Their response has been the recent introduction of the Alfresco Value Lunch, with a good number of options to choose from. Initially I declined Doron’s offer to have a glass of wine, but his sommelier-in-training Luke Ericson was better able to twist my arm to have a small taste of a wonderful 2006 Rijk’s Shiraz. The glass was served with a tag, denoting the name of the wine, the variety, and its vintage.
I chose to sit outside, under the Nederburg branded umbrellas, surrounded by tourists. The staff look smart, with a white branded Belthazar shirt, black pants and white apron, and a smart-looking black bow-tie. All staff smile, and check regularly if all is in order. The Belthazar staff have always impressed me with their professionalism, and those with attitude do not seem to work there anymore! The bread plate, consisting of a large roll, butter hygienically protected with a branded paper cover, and a pork and beef sausage in a Napolitana-style sauce, was brought to the table, whether one orders from the standard or the Alfresco Value Lunch menu, a mini-meal in itself. A standard as well as a steak knife is automatically set on each table, with a material serviette. Even though I only used the fork for the bread and sausage, the whole sideplate and its cutlery was replaced in preparation for the main course. No fish knife was offered for my choice of main course.
While I associate Belthazar with steak, I chose to have calamari served in a pan – usually it is served with chilli and garlic, but I asked for the former to be removed – and with chips or a baked potato, which the waitress was willing to have changed to rice. The pan looked brand new and shiny, and came with Patagonian calamari tubes, the rice, and a generous lemon-half, excellent value at R89, and surpassing my benchmark of the best calamari which I usually have at Willoughby’s. Linefish costs R99; Burgers cost R65 for a classic pure beef burger, up to R85 for a “Double Whopper Beef Burger”, served with two patties; Steak Roll and chips costs R89; a 200 gram sirloin and chips costs R99; and salads range from R55 for the Alfresco Salad to R85 for a Smoked Tuna Salad. For Starters one can order Biltong (R75) or Droëwors (R 65) – the weight served is not specified; a cured meat platter with olives and bread for two costs R120; and Smoked tuna carpaccio costs R 85. A Value Seafood platter filled with linefish, calamari, prawns, and mussels served with rice or chips and a sauce costs R265 for two persons to share. Three desserts are offered, ice cream or sorbet at R40, and Ice Cream Sundae and Malva Pudding at R49 each. I had a lovely frothy Illy cappuccino, costing R20.
Three wines are offered as Value Wines: Koelenbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2010, South Hill Rosé, and Morgenhof Fantail Pinotage 2008, all three costing R99 a bottle.
I will come back to Belthazar for a lunch stop when at the Waterfront, knowing what a nice selection of light lunch options they now serve at affordable prices.
Belthazar Restaurant and Wine Bar, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 421-3753. www.belthazar.co.za (The website is functional, with the standard menu, Alfresco Value Lunch menu and winelist, but few food photographs). Monday – Sunday lunch 12h00 – 16h00 for the Alfresco Value Lunch, standard menu available lunches and dinners, seven days a week.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.comTwitter: @WhaleCottage