Chalk & Cork logo Whale CottageI was bombarded with a barrage of Tweets when the new owners of Mozzarella Bar on Kloof Street first opened in July, having bought the business from ‘Mr Charm’ Giorgio Nava.  Nava must have sold the owners Amy and Marc Botes a good dose of rudeness and cheek too, which is what I experienced when I popped in at the now renamed Chalk & Cork, waiting for my car to be washed at the Engen garage nearby, earlier this week. I enjoyed going to the Mozzarella Bar, with its charming Italian manager Simone, previoulsy.

I photographed the counter as one enters (there is no signage at the entrance, but only on the low wall of Chalk & Cork Interior Whale Cottagethe outside seating, visible to all passing on Kloof Street (the patrons that is, and not the branding)!  The waitress could not tell me why the restaurant is named Chalk & Cork, other than to say that they have a lot of wine on the winelist!  She could not explain the ‘Chalk‘ part.   There is a cork collection building up on both sides of the front door.  The downstairs entrance doesn’t appear to have changed much, although there is more equipment against the back wall behind the counter compared to the Mozzarella Bar.  The Pizza oven is still there, as is the drinks fridge. They are no longer selling Mozzarella, which will be available at Piazza Italia, up the road on Park Road.  Upstairs they can seat 30 patrons.  On a rainy day they have next to no business, the upstairs seating not being visible nor known. 

Before I could sit down on the grey re-painted benches outside, I had to ask the waitress to clean the table and bench, it being covered in pollen and leaves from the tree above.  In fact none of the tables and benches were clean, which is odd, as the co-owner Amy and the waitress had walked to the far end of the seating area, and neither had picked it up nor thought to clean it.  One would have thought that the waitress would have cleaned all the other tables after my request, given that lunchtime was coming up! I asked the waitress for a dry cappuccino, explaining to her how I like it, and then asked her about the type of pastries (R18 – R24) which they offer, as they are just generically described on the menu.  She mumbled a reply, so she had to say it again for me to understand her (they are plain, almond, and chocolate).

She Chalk & Cork Smashed egg Whale Cottagereturned with the cappuccino, which was anything but dry, so I asked her to request a coffee-and-foam one from the barrista.  I ordered the ‘Smashed Avo’ without the rocket and olive ‘tapanade’ (sic) (R38), which sounded like a weird addition to the breakfast dish. It arrived at the table without any garnish, two poached eggs on top of (s)mashed avocado and feta on rye toast, a rather weird combination in itself.  Although I wasn’t asked how I would like the eggs done, they were cooked medium and not too soft.  Other breakfast choices are The Yard (eggs and bacon, R55), The Piglet (scrambled egg and chorizo, R75), The Rabbit (muesli, yoghurt and berry compote, R40), Morning Bruschetta with mushrooms (R35), and Hopscotch (scrambled eggs and chorizo, R 50).

It was at this point that Amy acknowledged my presence for the first time (we were four customers in total), and  brought the second ‘attempt’ at the dry cappuccino, which probably was the same one anyway, not looking any different.  I told her that it wasn’t right, as it had milk in the coffee, and she snapped at me, saying that she had made it, it being coffee and foam.  I asked her to remove it. She was so rude in her tone when she spoke to me that I laughed in shock, and she told me immediately that I was rude to laugh at her!  While I was eating the egg dish, she asked me from behind if everything was in order with it. The pièce de résistance was when I asked for the bill.  The waitress came armed with the bill and her credit card machine (for a bill of R38), asking me how I wanted to pay, even though I had not intended to leave immediately, as I wanted to finish some work and had to wait for my car wash to be finished.

The lunch and dinner menu is tapas-focused, 13 options ranging in price from R16 for olives, to R88 for ‘fresh’ Burrata with salsa verde.  Other options are charcuterie boards, cheese boards, chorizo, quail eggs, Springbok carpaccio, mini chorizo burgers with ‘aloli’ (sic), and chicken liver parfait.  Main courses are a beetroot and fennel soup (!) at R45, mussels, angelfish, ricotta salad, sirloin steak, and beetroot salad, none of the dishes costing more than R115 (for the lamb). Sides of chips and vegetables are extra. Pizzas cost R80 – R90, with R20 charged extra for Banting cauliflower base ones (with a quota of 15 per service only!), with topping choices of bacon, salami, feta, and parma ham. Desserts cost R40 – R55, for vanilla pannacotta, flourless chocolate cake, and citrus cheesecake.

The winelist offers craft beers (R25 – R44); ‘Bubbles‘ with Sterhuis Blanc de Blancs (R45/R225), Maximillian Prosecco (R235), and Silverthorn ‘The Green Man’ (R55/R290).  Some wines are offered by the glass, and very odd is that the listings, under the headings of ‘White’, ‘Rose’ (sic), and ‘Red‘, commence with the cultivar before mentioning the brand, for most wines, but not all! Swartland and Elgin wines dominate. White wines include Mullineux, Savage, Dalla Cia, Julien Schaal, South Hill, and Catherine Marshall, ranging from R32/R120 to R290 in price.  The Rosé is by Lammershoek, at R32/R120.  Red wines include Chamonix, Craven, and Intellego, with prices of R28/R105 to R290.  The menu and winelist are boringly and cheaply presented on white A4 pages held together on a clipboard.

Marc Botes is from Cape Town, having worked at Buitenverwachting, before moving to London, where he worked as Head Sommelier of two (unnamed on website) Gordon Ramsay restaurants.  Here he met the ‘charming’ Amy, who joined Ramsay as a supervisor.  He moved to Koffmann’s as General Manager.  Amy did a one month stage at The Fat Duck before she moved to the Salt Yard Group as GM.  Here she met their Head Chef Mandie Kruger, who had worked at Rust en Vrede before moving to London, and worked at Le Quartier Français and Babylonstoren on returning to the Cape, none of this background showing in the boring plating of my dish as well as in the photographs of the tapas dishes on their website!

The website is misleading, in claiming that they are ‘a beautiful two storey wine bar and restaurant with a large hidden courtyard’ – there is no courtyard, and the outside seating is not hidden at all, and in fact is very visible to passing pedestrians and motorists!  There is nothing particularly attractive about the building! Furthermore the claim that they offer ‘great knowledgeable service’ is completely misleading, given the waitress’ lack of knowledge (she was sold on by Nava) as well as Amy’s exceptional rudeness. As I left, Amy told me that she and her husband (I never met him) would be happy to not have me come back to their restaurant again!  A rude barrage of Tweets followed too.  So, if one likes one’s breakfast, glass of wine, and/or tapas with a dose of Chalk & Cheek from abusive Amy, then Chalk and Cork is the perfect place to visit!  Alternatively, we strongly advise against visiting this very average, dirty, and rude wine bar and restaurant!

POSTSCRIPT 7/9:  Since posting this review, Chalk & Cheek have blocked us from reading their Tweets, not realising that we can see them anyway.  Amy also posted an arrogant Tweet, which she must have had a rethink about, having removed it again – perhaps she is showing up the personality of her mentor Gordon Ramsay!: ‘@WhaleCottage please remove this comment. I understand your service issue, but there is no need to continue this. thanks‘!  It is not clear which comment she is referring to. On Twitter they show that the signage has just been erected above the entrance, and they have posted a pic of their Smashed Avo, much better looking than what they served me, obviously trying to make a point! Amy will destroy her restaurant with her abuse, arrogant attitude, and Tweeting.

Chalk and Cork, 51 Kloof Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-5822    www.chalkandcork.co.za   Twitter: @ChalkandCork  Monday – Wednesday 9h00 – 18h00, Thursday – Saturday 9h00 – 22h00

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com   Twitter@WhaleCottage   Facebook:  click here