Restaurant Review: TRUFFLE first ‘5 star 100% Halaal Fine Dining Bistro’ in Cape Town not yet ‘5 star’!

Truffle Exterior Whale CottageThe bottom end of Chiappini Street has housed two of my favourite restaurants in their time – Bruce Robertson’s The Showroom and Cormac Keane’s Portofino, both the talking point of Cape Town in their time.  After a surprisingly long tenancy by low class Leaf, a smart ‘5 star 100% Halaal Fine Dining Bistro‘ has opened, called TRUFFLE.  The restaurant was opened to offer top-end Halaal cuisine, which has not been available in Cape Town before.  The name was chosen for its association with indulgence, which is echoed throughout the restaurant.

I had seen the exterior branding whilst driving down Buitengracht Street a week ago, but could not find any website via Google.  Yesterday I stopped by, and was astounded how the restaurant interior has changed since Leaf occupied the space until about a year ago.  Mohammed Adam was kind enough to spend time with me, to share information about the restaurant. Truffle Mohammed Adam Whale Cottage He and Nisreen Ebrahim are joint owners, Nisreen and her husband Rafiq being previous owners of four fast food outlets they would not reveal the names of (LinkedIn revealed that they were Nando’s outlets), and took over the space in January. Mohammed did all the interior design, after some building work was done, half of the upstairs being closed off by means of a wall now, to give the kitchen double volume space.  Almost everything has been changed, other than the wooden floor in the outside section, with a new wooden floor upstairs; new wooden steps for the staircase to match the tops of the tables and theTruffle Lighting Whale Cottage counter top of the sushi and coffee bar; new lighting in copper with an industrial feel, including some lamps resembling cookie jars; exposed ducting in grey matches the decor colour; new tiles on the downstairs floor; a new perspex roof over the deck area; almost all kitchen equipment thrown out and the kitchen layout changed; the bathrooms redone; wallpaper with trees, broken with a mirror panel; new tables (with odd vintage-lookTruffle Tables chairs wallpaper 2 Whale Cottage black legs); and attractive chairs mostly in grey upholstery, and some in a gold honeycomb design, of which the bottom of the legs were ‘milk dipped‘, to tie in with the copper and gold design effects.  The restaurant can seat 110, and can double up as a conference centre.

A banquette has been fitted upstairs, in a blue/silver design, and will get cushions with a protea design, Mohammed said. The protea is a central theme of the design, the tables having a silver vases with a pin cushion in it, and a protea will be engraved in the window behind the sushi/coffee bar.   Proteas have been incorporated into the logo design, which is honoured in an attractive ode Truffle Collage Whale Cottageto Cape Town, both old and new, with a collage of individual photographs of Table Mountain, the old cable car, Cape Town Stadium, Bo Kaap, the coloured cubicles on Muizenberg beach, proteas, and more.  Each picture was individually hung to create a very attractive and ‘proudly Cape Town’ focal point.  More artwork is to come.  Real proteas have been planted in two planters at the entrance door, and vases with proteas are on the bar counter too.

The tables have grey leather place mats, giving a quality feel relative to the many woven ones one sees so often.  A central small leather mat looking like cork holds the vase, ordinary looking white salt and pepper cellars, with TRUFFLE branding on it and the words ‘Seafood Steaks Grill’, in case one didn’t know what the restaurant offers.  There are grey material serviettes on a white side plate.  The cutlery is brand new unbranded stainless steel, but was laid incorrectly, the fork on the right and the knife on the left!  Staff look smart in white shirts, TRUFFLE branded on the sleeve and front pocket.

I was greeted by Restaurant Manager Mark Scheidel, who tried to get me to order a mocktail immediately!  He seemed hesitant to offer too much information, being particularly cagey about divulging information about the owners prior to Mohammed arriving at the restaurant.  He did tell me that he started two weeks ago, coming from Willoughby’s. He described the restaurant as ‘5 star without the frills and fuss’. I was most impressed when he spontaneously told me that they did not have fresh fish, given the storms of this past week, not stocking any frozen fish.   Before leaving, I briefly met Chef Nick Blazic, who was too busy to come to the table, and it was difficultTruffle Chef Nick Whale Cottage (2) to photograph him at the pass, being under pressure with orders coming through.  All I managed to get from him is that he previously worked at Tortilla Modern Mexican in town and at Salero Tapas & Vino Bar in the V&A Waterfront.  The Sushi Bar opened Truffle Sushi chef Whale Cottageyesterday, with Chef Nagashima Mutsuo, originally from Pretoria, and a friend of the Ebrahims for many years.  The menu does not yet reflect the sushi offering.  I was told that a new menu will be prepared and laminated, as the brown paper menu is showing fatty finger marks already.

I was brought two seeded rolls, with salted butter (I did not taste the salt) as well as a sundried tomato and toasted almond pesto, which arrived at the table messy at the Truffle Roll Whale Cottageedges.  I was told by Mohammed that the rolls come from Bavaria Bakery, and they could have been a day old, not as soft as one would have expected. It felt as if they had been warmed up for one second.  The bread basket did not match the decor style. Making a choice from the menu was hard, and I was intrigued how the menu, designed by Mohammed and Nisreen with Chef Nick, incorporates truffles in a number of courses, as oil, in a vinaigrette, drizzled over dishes, and as chocolates for dessert.   The menu introduction states that ‘Truffle is the culmination of our many years of culinary creativity and of our belief that a sophisticated cosmopolitan dining experience can complement – rather than shun – fun, friendliness and authentic gastronomic pleasures.  Welcome to fine dining. Redefined‘.  Odd was the promise of ‘fresh artisanal bread, generously sliced…’ in the introduction too, which was not an accurate description of the rolls served!

Truffle Prawn cocktail Whale CottageI chose a prawn cocktail starter, and was intrigued to see the description of it having a ‘twist of Tabasco and crème fraîche’ (R69), but I could not taste the seasoning, nor did the consistency of the Marie Rose sauce for the plating reflect the use of the cream specified.  Odd was the addition of chopped tomatoes.  Five prawns, (too much) chopped lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado, topped with chives and salmon roe, made up the attractive looking dish.  Other starters are in a price range of R45 for onion blossom (a deep-fried onion designed to resemble a Protea) to R79 for Kataifi prawn (in phyllo pastry).  Four grilled Patagonica calamari options are available, some with fillings, and each prepared in a different style, as well as grilled haloumi, a mezze platter, and Jalopeno poppers.  Salads range between R60 – R70, and are standard Caprese, Greek, and ‘Ceaser’ (sic) salads.

Main courses include steaks, a choice of meat from Chalmar (from Gauteng) and Sparta (from the Free State) Chalmar costing more (R180 for beef fillet and R140 for sirloin for 250g), and lamb cutlets (R145), for which sauces (R23) and vegetables (R25) can be ordered.  Two stuffed fillet options are available, at R180 and R220. A half free-range chicken costs R95, chicken breasts R83, fish ranges from R90 for linefish to Norwegian salmon at R175. Crayfish costs R280, and prawns are available at R185 and at R260, and a prawn curry costs R150.  I ordered Truffle Pasta Whale Cottagethe creamy wild mushroom pasta (expensive at R105), and was disappointed with its ordinary presentation, there not being any rocket nor Parmesan shavings as the menu promised.  The ‘drop of white truffle oil’ was more than the menu suggested, dominating the dish.  Seafood pasta costs R130, and two ravioli options cost R80 and R120. Pasta Focoso costs R70.  Six dessert options cost R50 – R60, for chocolate fondant, hand-made chocolate truffles, pecan tart, pannacotta, and a sundae.   I was offered a dry cappuccino made from Premium LavAzza, to taste, but I generally find the coffee of the brand very weak relative to good strong artisanal coffees, as was the one at TRUFFLE.  Almost as an afterthought, after the Dessert section, 12 ‘Light Meals’ are offered, costing R60 – R140, including burgers made with beef, chicken, lamb, crayfish, vegetables, and falafel.  Fish and chips, sliders, and sticky chicken wings are also offered.

Mohammed emphasised that the restaurant is not just for Muslim residents of Cape Town, but for locals and tourists too.  Bringing in alcohol is an absolute no-no, Mohammed said, but believes the smart interior, friendly service, and secure parking offered will make up for it. They are purposely holding back on the marketing of the restaurant, to settle in.  The restaurant had a fair number of patrons at 15h00 yesterday afternoon, who would have heard about the restaurant on the Facebook page, on Instagram, and by word of mouth.

The pricing of the steaks is expensive, but the menu contains more and less expensive dishes.  The interior is classy, the staff friendly but not yet 100% efficient, my waitress wanting to remove the side plate before I had finished the roll. Mohammed was very generous with his time and information about the restaurant, given how guarded Mark was in providing details.  The menu and dishes served are not yet at a ‘5 star‘ level, nor is the service.   I will go back to try some more dishes, and to try to get to speak to Chef Nick.

POSTSCRIPT 4/9:  Chef Nick Blazic has resigned from Truffle and left immediately.  He has been replaced by Chef Ryan Brown.  The ‘wrong-way-round’ cutlery has been laid for the benefit of Truffle’s Muslim’ patrons, I was told today.

TRUFFLE, corner Chiappini and Hospital Streets, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 418-3777.  Website www.truffleco.co.za under construction.  On Instagram and Facebook currently, Twitter to come.  Monday – Sunday lunch and dinner, open from 11h00.

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

26 replies on “Restaurant Review: TRUFFLE first ‘5 star 100% Halaal Fine Dining Bistro’ in Cape Town not yet ‘5 star’!”

  1. Samantha Kay says:

    Hi there,

    Just a correction, it’s Muslim not Moslem.

    Regards,

    Samantha

    • Thank you Samantha.

      I have corrected it.

      • Marwaan says:

        Hi Chris,

        Think the reason for the fork on the right and knife on the left: Muslims should eat with their right hands and in most cases do. It is a practice recommended in Islam to always consume food with your right hand (Sunnah). I speak under correction.

        I assume the standard internationally is the other way round hence the reason you think its wrong.

        Regards
        Marwaan

        • I will check with the restaurant tomorrow Marwaan.

          They were at great pains to tell me that they welcome tourists as well as other Capetonians.

          • fred says:

            Businesses that ‘welcome’ paying customers and then impose their religion deserve contempt and should never be supported. And I would love to see the shock on American, European and Australian tourists faces when they are told that no alcohol is served.

          • Enchanted says:

            Has anyone considered the health risks in eating pig meat ? Alcohol consumption , socially , moderately and abuse thereof has proven to be the main cause of death in our country. So perhaps as sane , intelligent human beings we can find the benefit of abstaining from pig meat and alcohol.
            As for five star fine dining there is a huge gap in the market for clientelle who prefer to eat meat that has been slaughtered humanely and to eat food prepared by staff who fully comprehend the concept of cleanliness and hygiene. This is in a nutshell the meaning of the arabic term ” Halaal ” . Direct translation is ” Wholesome ” for those who do not UNDERSTAND.
            Service levels all over is lacking. Staff training by professionals is what’s needed then we will see improvement. Business owners need to be sincere and passionate about empowering staff then we will see service levels increase.

          • Thank you for sharing this with us.

          • Feroz says:

            In this day and age of negative mindsets and hipocrisy with regards to muslims around the world i commend the owner of Truffles for remaining firm in his beliefs that we do not need to conform to social pressure and bigotry. We all would agree that food is our main source of sustance and would not put anything in our bodies that would compromise it so im glad im living in my Rainbow Nation that caters to all nationalites and everyone is welcome to eat where they feel comfortable. If a 5 star halal restaurant can pull off what non-halal restaurants could not then my hats off,we all should just practice abit more tolerance and respect for other cultures.I will definitely try Truffles out.

          • Please let us have your feedback about Truffles when you have been Feroz.

  2. Hanifa Abdulla says:

    I just so happened to be there at the same time you were… The food presentation is better than most restaurants, the flavours promised were however lacking and in desperate need of improvement… The rolls I can agree were reheated rolls because ours became rock hard after a few minutes that it resembled rusks, the calamari started stuffed with peri peri prawns were simply just stuffed with steamed prawns which retained water and did not taste at all like peri peri prawns but was served with a peri peri dip. The food was served timeously and we had a somewhat efficient waitress who was friendly. My sister and her family decided to try Truffle on the Sunday for lunch and they had terrible service.. they waited for almost an hour for their main meals which were not tasty and accordingly over priced and their waiters were not efficiently trained and they seem to have forgotten about the patrons sitting upstairs after a while..

  3. Colin Gen says:

    Cape town has gone halaal bonkers!! Everything from roasted almonds, hot cross buns to bottled water bears the halaal logo. This is nothing but a money making scam by the Muslim Judicial Council and other Islamic organisations to extort money from businesses. I for one (and the majority of my family,friends and business associates) will never visit a halaal eatery as we find it unacceptable to impose one’s religion on others in any shape or form.

    If renowned chef Bruce Robinson and seasoned restauranteur Cormac Keane could not make a go of their establishments in the same spot then it is going to be one long hard slog for the owners of Truffle. And the no alcohol policy (religious intolerance to the extreme) makes visiting this eatery a NO NO!

    • Thank you Colin.

      Despite little marketing Truffle currently seems to be very busy, word of mouth in the nearby Bo-Kaap bringing in diners.

      There appear to be staff issues in the kitchen, as two chefs left after a week of opening.

      I receive quite a few calls from persons mistakenly calling my number, wanting to book at Truffle.

    • freenative says:

      Umm ok so out of 88% restaurants in Cape Town that are not halaal, you complain about this one Colin Gen, I mean get a life , that’s all I can really say. Cape Town is made up of all different cultures , races and religions I take my hat off to people that are trying to cash on that exact reason, that not everyone eats the same kinds of food. Hence why we have Chinese , Mexican, Indian, Mzoli’s, Eastern Fusion, Higher French Cuisine restaurants in Cape Town. I know a lot of people that don’t necessarily need to drink while they are eating and they are not Muslim (surprise surprise)

      • colin geb says:

        Oh come on, dont be ridiculous – since when did a Mexican, Frenchman, Chinese or African impose their religion’s rules on you when you frequent their restaurant? Just like muslims refuse to eat at restaurant that serve alcohol and pork, non-muslims should vote with their feet and not support restaurants that impose their religion on its customers. I also know people that dont drink alcohol while they are eating but why should the rest be restricted from enjoying a tipple because the owners religion says so? FYI we are in Cape Town not Iraq or Syria!!

  4. Ryder says:

    Informative review, nice!

    I don’t think anyone is forcing their religious beliefs on anyone. They are clearly targeting Muslim clientele who would like a more upmarket dining experience, of which there are certainly not many in Cape Town. Also, the halaal tourist market is growing year by year, especially to South Africa, so that could also be a draw.

    You aren’t forced to eat there, and by reading the review you are now aware that alcohol is not served and the venue is halaal, so it’s simply your choice to go there or not. No need to make a fuss (or display such ignorance), your needs are overwhelmingly catered for at other establishments.

    If they can sort out the issues mentioned here, they might just have success where others have failed. The halaal market in Cape Town is certainly big enough to sustain it.

  5. Shahida says:

    Colin, I think you’re right. Why should religious belief be imposed upon you. I suggest you go to an establishment run by Hare Krishnas and insist on being served a fillet of beef. How dare they deprive you of your meat fix. Talk about religious intolerance!

  6. ebrahim mia says:

    TRUFFLES WAS MY WORST RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE EVER!!!
    On Sunday 2nd November 2014, at just about 13h00
    my wife & I entered Truffles situate in chiappini street green point Cape
    Town. At 13 05 the waiter, who I won’t mention his name took our orders and
    told me that the food will take between 10 & 15 minutes to our delight. I
    couldn’t decide between the chalmar steak and the king truffle fillet, the
    waiter suggested the fillet as it was stuffed with prawns and veggie side, and
    I said ok and had the mango daiquiri to drink. My wife ordered a pasta focoso
    with an appeltiser.

    An elderly couple sat down in front of us just as the waiter
    took our orders and proceeded to the very noisy kitchen. A few minutes in,
    whilst trying to have a conversation, we hear the chef’s very loud voice,
    shouting and ordering the staff around. Baffled at this I told my wife this is
    very unprofessional, I mean I can hardly hear what you speaking to me, and she
    agreed. By 13 15, the noise increased from the kitchen and the elderly couple
    called the waiter over and asked that the chef and staff inside the kitchen
    stop shouting.

    A man who I think is the manager came out and immediately
    apologised saying its hectic today and that they are under staffed. At just
    about 13 20 our drinks arrived and I enquired it’s been 15 minutes where is our
    food? The waiter explained it won’t take long; it’s on its way. A younger
    couple sat opposite us with their 2 year old and their waiter (a female)
    immediately took their order and proceeded to their requests. Within 5 minutes
    the little girl received her cool drink and chips with chicken pieces and her
    parents received their starters.

    To my astonishment we are sitting their patiently and
    smiling, and I remarked you are very lucky we waiting 25minutes for our food
    already, they replied it must be the luck of the little one. Just then a friend
    of mine Mr Kumandan enters and proceeds to sit upstairs with his family after
    having a 5 minute discussion with us. It was 13 35 by then an still nothing
    regarding our food. Nothing from our waiter, I almost thought he forgot about
    us. I began getting restless by 13 45 and got up, went to the kitchen and asked
    where our food is, it’s been 40 minutes, and once again I got an apology and
    had to proceed dejected to my seat. Seriously unimpressed at eating my daiquiri
    that far for lunch the couple in front of me remark they also now waiting for
    their order roughly the same time.

    Finally after waiting for 50 minutes my wife’s food arrives,
    and bewildered and shocked I asked where my food is, I was told its being
    finalised. I was so hungry I started eating of her food, 5 minutes later, by
    14h00 my food arrives, there was no stuffed prawns as the menu indicated just 2
    loose prawns, any way I dig into my food which I ordered well done as I never
    eat raw steak and start chewing on it to only but find it raw as hell. I was so
    pissed off I called the waiter and reprimanded him, firstly about the 55 minute
    waiting for our food, then the food being raw, he then apologised again and
    took my food. 15 minutes later, I get a well cooked meal with the same piece of
    beef, not that I complained, I was so hungry I just wanted to eat and get out
    of the place already. Courtesy would have dictated I get a new piece of meat.

    We couldn’t wait to get out of the restaurant even when we
    were promised free dessert. I then approached the owner and told I just had the
    worst dining experience in your restaurant, I paid my bill, I never tipped the
    waiter and left saying I will never return nor recommend anyone to this restaurant.

  7. Kat says:

    Do not go there if you are a student. You get spoken to condescendingly by the hostess. Also had the pleasure of listening to the waitress mocking us downstairs as we were seated upstairs. What happened to treating customer equally? I could have been a millionaire for all they knew.

  8. Kat says:

    Also, the fish used in the sushi was not fresh at all. It was slimy and had a very pungent smell. NOT RECOMMENDED!

  9. Ameen says:

    Thanx for the review Chris. Note: the cutlery is not laid incorrectly for the intended market. Muslims eat with their right hand, hence the fork on the right!
    Reading the rest of the comments below, I don’t think it’s a place to go for a first date, other than excellent ambiance

  10. Wasiema says:

    Definitely a terrible dining experience, will never go there again. Bad service, late food, incorrect orders. Just awful

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