Restaurant Review: Bootlegger Café and Grill in Constantia offers good quality menu with variety and excellent coffee!

The Bootlegger Coffee Company has grown by leaps and bounds, opening branches not only locally but internationally too. It was a surprise therefore to read that the company had partnered with serious fine-dining Chef Eric Bulpitt of Faber at Avondale in creating Bootlegger Café and Grill in High Constantia, the home of the former very popular Greens.

There is no sign in the menu of the hand of Chef Eric, the menu being pedestrian in offering a variety of food types, including pizzas, grills, salads, burgers, bar snacks, sandwiches, wraps, and desserts. The menu will please those being weight conscious, as well as diners seeking more substantial foods, such as steak. In the tiniest of type size at the bottom right of the menu it states: ‘Menu curated in collaboration with Eric Bulpitt’, it probably meaning nothing to the average Constantia resident, given that Chef Eric has operated his restaurants in Hermanus and now in Paarl in the last few years since having left The Roundhouse and Jardine’s, never having owned his own restaurant in Cape Town. 

It was announced earlier today that on 1 April Chef Eric is moving to La Motte as its Executive Chef, and that Chef Michelle Theron, who has been at Pierneef à La Motte for the past eight years, but was never able to bring the restaurant up to the same cuisine standard as did her predecessor Chef Chris Erasmus, now owner of Foliage, is moving to Hazendal wine estate, which is relaunching with a restaurant and a Deli.

I was invited to join Katie and Jonny Friedman and their friend David for an early supper, and was intrigued as to what the food would be like, having seen a number of complaints on the Cape Town Good Bad and Nasty Restaurant Facebook page. If there were problems earlier this year, leading to the complaints, then owner Pieter Bloem has sorted them out! 

Three of us chose the Caprese Burrata starter, the delicious and creamy mozzarella ball supplied by Puglia, and served with sliced tomato, fresh basil, and drizzled with Morgenster olive oil (R115). I liked that the brand names of the suppliers are mentioned in the menu. It was declared a hit by all three of us, and in my opinion it was the best dish of the evening. 

Katie had ordered the Onion Tarte Tartin, a dish of sweet and salty onion tart, puff pastry, and mascarpone (R75), surprisingly completely drowned in mixed greens leaves, not revealing any of the tart underneath them, a major plating fail in admitting that the dish itself was not attractive. But she said that she would return for the tart alone, it was so delicious.

Other Starter offerings are soup, chicken liver parfait, beef carpaccio, and grilled black mushrooms, ranging in price from R65 – R85. 

I had a side dish of wilted spinach with Parmesan (R30) as my next course, a healthy dish and at a good price, but oversalted. I loved the glass bowl in which it was served. Grilled corn on the cob, and sweet carrots with Crème Fraîche were some of the other unusual side dishes.

Katie ordered a bunless hamburger of 200 gram Chalmar beef, lettuce, tomato, gherkins, and fried onion, served with hand-cut chips (R115). Without the bun topping it looked less attractive. A chicken burger is also available, as is Spring Vegetable gnocchi, grilled Norwegian Salmon, and chicken schnitzel, all at R115.

Jonny kept his ‘main course’ healthy too, ordering a side of wood-fired Baby Marrow (R30). 

David ordered Lamb Ragù as the main course, described in the menu as lamb shoulder braised in the wood-fired oven, served with pappardelle, parsley, and drizzled with Morgenster olive oil (R160). It was dusted with Parmesan cheese, but its presentation was bland, missing a touch of greenery to round off the dish! He felt that its taste was bland too.

Grills offered include chicken, pork belly, lamb rump, beef fillet, sirloin, rump, and Hanger steak, all served with a side dish, prepared in their Spanish-built PIRA charcoal oven, and the meat pieces brushed with garlic and rosemary butter. One can share a 1,2 kg T-Bone at R520, but the other steaks are more reasonably priced at R150 – R215. Sauces cost an extra R35. There are seven Pizza offerings, starting at R69 for a Margherita, up to R130 for Salmon Trout, as well as Parma Ham pizzas.  Italian fennel sausage with spinach and caramelised onion, and Anchovy with capers, olives, and Parmesan are more unusual pizza offerings. Salad choices include Caesar with add-ons, the base salad costing R75. Smoked salmon trout, roast chicken, and baby beetroot and butternut salads are also available.

A week later I was in the area again, and ordered my favorite dry cappuccino, and had a dessert of delicious battered Granny Smith apple fritters, served with a salted caramel sauce, into which I dunked sections of the fritters (R55). It was served in beautiful glass bowls too.  Doughnuts are offered at the same price, while Crème caramel, brûlée cheesecake, and chocolate fondant cost R75. 

The wine list is disappointing, for the restaurant being located in the Constantia wine region, one of only two in Cape Town, with only four ‘Quick Wines’, of which only two are from Constantia, being Buitenverwachting Meifort (R55/R175), and Klein Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc (R55/R175). The other two wines are a Waterford Rosé (R64/R195), and a Piekenierskloof Grenache (R75/R225). No vintages are mentioned, but the wine regions are. Four Sparkling wines are listed, two from Constantia being Steenberg 1682 MCC (R295), and High Constantia Clos André MCC (R495). Le Lude is my favorite bubbly, and its Brut is also served by the glass, at R95/R395, while the Brut Rosé is not. Le Mesnil Champagne Blanc de Blancs, distributed by Le Lude, is available at R985 per bottle. Beers, craft beers, and ciders are available, as are ten cocktails (R79 – R85). 

The service was on the slow side, without explanation or apology from the waiters, on both visits, but I was not in a hurry, so it did not bother me. Overall, the experiences were good, and I would recommend the restaurant to others, without mentioning Chef Eric’s involvement in the menu design, as it would raise expectations which cannot be met!  

Bootlegger Café and Grill, Shop 6, High Constantia, Cape Town. Tel (021) 794-7843. www.bootlegger.co.za Instagram: bcg_capetown @bootleggercoffeecompany Monday – Friday 6h30 – 21h45, Saturday and Sunday 7h30 – 21h45. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein

 

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