For being one of three judges for the annual Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards; being known as a celebrity chef, restaurant consultant and food alchemist; and presenter of the Kitchen Cowboys cooking workshops, our first visit to Peter Goffe-Woods’ new Wild Woods Bistro & Bar, at the foot of Chapman’s Peak Drive in Hout Bay, was a disappointment. Our expectation was of a quality restaurant, that reflects what top restaurants aspire to : good food, good service, good ambiance, and if one is lucky, a good connection, which makes one feel that the restaurant is one that one would like to return to again. Sadly, this expectation was nowhere near met, and it appears as if Goffe-Wood is not serious about his new venture. Given the stature he holds in the Cape Town food industry, and being a judge of other restaurants, Goffe-Wood may seriously disappoint his followers, and may even damage his reputation.
We sat on the terrace with a fantastic view across to the Hout Bay landmark The Sentinel, for a Saturday lunch, and our first surprise was that we were seated at a very battered looking wooden table. My first reaction was to ask the waiter if he would bring the tablecloth, as the tables inside the restaurant all have one, but those on the terrace do not. There is no attempt to even cover the well-worn tables with place mats. The decor inside the restaurant is very basic – the table-cloth covered tables, wooden chairs, and very basic and functional lighting, with a bar counter, behind which the Manager Rory was to be seen most of the time, even though most of the few clients sat on the terrace. The word “unpretentious” came to mind immediately – paper menu, paper serviettes, the decor (or lack of it), and the battered tables.
We were asked for our meal order immediately, and were not offered a winelist. An ordered beer never arrived. Our waiter was friendly, and took the order efficiently, and brought us bread with only one place setting, but brought another when requested. The bread was lovely, clearly home-baked.
The menu lists eight starters, ranging from R 45 (mussels, chicken liver parfait and two salad choices) – R 60 (gravadlax, caprese salad and cured ham). The main course list was commendable, in that Goffe-Wood has clearly capped his prices at R 100, for a substantial plate of food, offering seared tuna, sirloin steak and lamb rogan josh at this price, mushroom risotto at R 60, angel fish at R 75, and chicken breast, pork belly, veal brisket, hangar steak, and a sirloin and egg sandwich range between R 80 – R 90. The pork belly was served with a generous portion of mash and a little spinach, and was most crispy and delicious. I would have preferred to not have the gravy, which is not mentioned on the menu. The steak and egg sandwich was a substantial meal for a hungry student, and the chips tasty. We did not have any of the six desserts offered, at R 40, nor the cheese plate at R 60. Having seen the menu on the website before we came, just 2 days before our visit, I was disappointed that it differed so vastly from that which we were presented.
The menu carries the S A Sustainable Seafood Initiative logo, so subtle that most would not see it or recognise it. The menu has a welcome non-smoking sign on it, and welcomes “restaurant friendly children”.
The Manager Rory only spoke to us when we asked about the lack of 3G connectivity in the restaurant, especially outside, and he confirmed that they struggle with it too for their credit card machines because of the mountain. This prevents the patrons from being able to Twitter, which Goffe-Wood should attend to, being on Twitter himself. Rory previously was a restaurant owner himself (Rory’s in the City Bowl and Observatory) before he opened a restaurant in Arniston.
Goffe-Wood was not seen at all, being in the kitchen, which is a good place for him to be for the benefit of his clients, but connecting to his customers in these early days of his restaurant opening would go down well, especially as he is a very likeable and sociable person. Goffe-Wood’s charming wife Elize was not at the restaurant.
The waiters need training, our waiter not only forgetting the beer, the Manager nor the waiter checking our satisfaction with the meal, the waiter removing our plates while we were chewing the last food on the plate, and the waiter wanting to take our money before we had finished our coffee or looking ready to leave.
POSTSCRIPT 25/4/11: After just over a year of being open, Wild Woods is closing at the end of this week.
Wild Woods Bistro & Bar, Main Road, Hout Bay (next door to Chapman’s Peak Hotel), Tel 021 791-1166, open Tuesday – Saturday evenings, and for Saturday and Sunday lunch. www.wildwoods.co.za Twitter @peteGW
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
We where sitting behind you yesterday eating lunch as well, the reason i know this is because we sat on the same table and moved because of the same reason you mentioned, i agree the decor is pretty sub standard, i thought the food was okay, type of UK gastropub fare and was pretty good value.
We asked for a cushion or a high chair for our daughter but they didnt have one which is dissapointing and the comment on the menu that children who are restaurant friendly are welcome made me smile, i wonder how you judge how a child is restaurant friendly.
I hope he does well but Hout Bay is a bit of a graveyard for restaurants.
When we left there was no goodbye or anything, i agree the service is very friendly albeit a little amateur, maybe the manager maybe should spend a little more time out from behind his bar.
All new restaurants have to ‘find their feet’ even if owned by a ‘celebrity’ – whatever that means??
From a purely business standpoint and for the reason given by Daz above (Hout Bay being a graveyard for restaurants) I think that Peter is right not to spend a heap of money on the place just yet. Don’t forget as well that it’s the same interior that housed Comida, which had a very good run for a few years.
I was there last night and enjoyed the food and the service – Peter came out to chat – though I would say that the manager left me a bit cold.
We’ll certainly go back soon and are happy to recommend it.
Thank you for your comment Daz. I meant to come over to your table to commend your daughter for being so perfectly behaved, but was late for an appointment. I am sorry now that I did not connect with you. She is the perfect example of a restaurant guest’s definition of “restaurant friendly children”!
I agree with the comment about the Manager – having been a restaurateur himself, he must know how important it is to check on his crew, especially as they are so new, and that he should connect with the customers.
Thanks for your feedback Tom. I did not know the previous restaurant – would Pete have taken over their tables? For me the attraction of driving there 3 weeks ago, after reading in the Eat Out newsletter that it had opened (it had not), and coming back again on Saturday on the basis of a Tweet from Pete, was that Pete owns the restaurant. This makes expectations higher than for an average restaurant opening.
I am glad you had a good time, and I read a great accolade about yesterday’s lunch written on Twitter by the Fairlady food editor. Sounds like yesterday’s menu was far diffeent to ours on Saturday.
They certainly didn’t have a kids menu when we went so maybe it’s improved a bit but I’ve never been made to feel so unwelcome anywhere ever before (or since).