I had been invited to try Seelan Restaurant & Bar a few days after it opened in March, and it was still in set-up phase at that time, a number of dishes on the menu not yet available, the menu and winelist not being perfect, and the service still needing to be streamlined. The restaurant’s new PR company Communication Services Africa invited me for a return evaluation, yesterday being a perfect day to do so, to enjoy the good weather at the outside seating, and the generous lunch.
Beverage Manager Dominic remembered me from the previous visit, and provided a media release which PR executive Kyle Krok had left for me, and copied the wine list for me. He went through the ‘menu’ I would be served, but came back after the first course, to tell me that Chef and owner Seelan Sundoo was preparing a special ‘adventurous’ menu for me. I was looked after with excellent service by Marilyn Baardman, whose late father had worked for Seelan. She is the best water topper-upper I have ever experienced, and was excellent in ‘reading’ me and my requirements. The multilingual front of house hostess Goshia, whom I met at the opening, has since left while Justin Paul Jansen is still there, but was not on duty yesterday.
Dominic told me that the Oakhurst olive oil they have on the table comes from an award-winning farm in Tulbagh, and judged as one of the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oils in the World recently. The Aceto Balsamico di Modena balsamic vinegar is imported from Italy, but is not specified on the bottle, and the black pepper and Himalaya salt grinders carry no branding either. Dominic told me that the menu has not changed since their opening in March. However mussels were not available due to red tide. They have to use tinned white asparagus for their dishes with this vegetable, as they cannot source any fresh, given the floods up north earlier this year. They do not have access to tuna at the moment, so have removed any dishes containing this fish, and have added oxtail to the menu. The dessert list will always have three mainstay desserts (Tiramisu, baked cheese cake, and chocolate tart), with additional desserts alternating, such as the recently added crème brûlee, as well as ice creams and sorbets made by Sorbètiere. Dominic said that the winelist will change shortly, and therefore not all the wines are available, while they run down their stock.
My amazing lunch consisted of eight courses, served in smaller than usual portion sizes (prices indicated below are those for the full-sized portions), as Seelan wanted me to taste a range of dishes across their menu. Bread on the table is home-baked, and I requested butter with it. The first course which Marilyn brought to the table was a Roasted aubergine salad, served with pine nuts, feta cheese, currants, basil, fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, radishes, and red onions (R80). Course number two was marinated beef sirloin carpaccio, which was thicker cut than one normally sees, explained Dominic, it being the traditional thickness (R78). It was served with a mustard dressing, a local parmesan cheese, and was drizzled with the Oakhurst olive oil, my favourite dish of them all. Music is piped throughout the restaurant, and was a mix of mood music creating memories (such as George Benson), and more modern and beaty music.
Seelan came to sit with me, and told me that he regularly travels to St Tropez, having good friends living there that look after him, and he returns their hospitality when they come to visit here. He said that the boats moored outside his restaurant remind him of St Tropez, and we chatted about the food market there, and the pavement painters, from whom I bought some paintings when I was there a few years ago. His menu therefore is inspired by the French/Italian Mediterranean. He told me that business has been excellent since they opened, April being a particularly good month, and that the management of the V&A Waterfront is very happy with them, and the turnover rental they received. CEO David Green is a regular diner at Seelan’s. A typical Italian dish on the menu is the East Coast shrimp served with cannelini beans, roasted artichoke, calamari, and a truffle vinaigrette, a starter on the menu at R80. Seelan told me that his staff are evaluated before appointing them, a polygraph test being done on each applicant before appointment. It means that he has minimal problems in this department, and he is proud of the staff, most of whom worked with him in the past, mainly coming from La Perla, The Grand in Camps Bay and on the Beach, The Reserve Brasserie, and Shimmy Beach Club. The Bouillabaisse was served without mussels, due to the red tide problem, but with calamari, prawns, and line fish, and in a beautiful silver tureen, adding a touch of class (R95).
The fifth course was kingklip tagliata (R160), which was served with a ginger chilli soya sauce, and is Seelan’s signature dish, Marilyn told me. It can also be ordered with sirloin, as a starter. Other starters include fresh West Coast oysters, served natural or with an Asian pickle sauce (SQ), deep fried calamari (R70/R90), and grilled Patagonia calamari (R75/R105). Salads range from R65 for chopped Seelan salad to R85 for three mini pizzas served with a buffalo mozzarella, basil, and tomato salad. Pasta dishes range from R600 for the ‘Al Farouk‘, with prawns, crayfish, line fish and a light curry spice, down to R70 for Arrabbiata. Course number six was a Rotisserie duck Orange (an alternative Chinese BBQ is available too), costing R165, served on a bed of sauteed cabbage. Marilyn brought a Fortis steak knife, but it was easy to cut. Other poultry options are grilled chicken breast or served Milanese style (R110), spatchcock baby chicken Mozambique (R150), and rotisserie chicken (R135).
Thin cut lamb cutlets were prepared with Malay spices and chili (wild origanum is an alternative choice offered), at a cost of R135. Other meat options are lamb from the rotisserie (R130), grilled veal chops or served Milanese style (R175), and veal pillard (served with mushrooms) at R125. Other meat options are 300 gram of sirloin steak at a cost of R145, 250 gram fillet R170, 500 gram prime rib R185, and prime Black Angus beef burger R80. Sides cost between R25 – R35. Seelan’s signature dishes include a seafood salad (R115), seafood platter (R450 for one person, R850 for two), lamb curry (R145), prawn curry (R135), and scallops with perlemoen sauce gratin (R175). A number of specials are written on a blackboard as one enters the restaurant, changing monthly.
The desserts arrived on a trolley, a stylish old-world way of presenting the dessert selection, which was tiramisu, malva pudding, crème brûlee, chocolate tart, ice cream, vanilla baked cheese cake, a granadilla sorbet, and a delicious chocolate macaroon ice cream from Sorbetière. Marilyn organised the perfect dry LavAzza cappuccino for me.
The winelist has G.H. Mumm (R1159) and Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque (R4449) champagnes, and five MCCs ranging from R39/R180 for Môreson Miss Molly to R59/R294 for Boschendal Brut and Rosé available. No vintage or region of origin information is provided. Four Shiraz/Syrah wines are available, in a price range of R37/R134 for Lula Syrah from France, to R234 for Ridgeback Shiraz from Paarl. Craft beers are from &Union, and the range including Sunday creates a colourful display near the see-through kitchen window.
Seelan’s has settled in, and has improved greatly since its opening three months ago. The typos are still on the menu, and will be addressed when the winter menu is introduced. The winelist typos have been largely corrected. The service level is exceptional too, Marilyn coming to check on me all the time, and answered most of my questions, finding information inside for the questions she could not answer. It was long a dream of Seelan to open his own restaurant, and he could not wish for a better location, overlooking Table Mountain and Quay 5, giving Seelan a taste of St Tropez. Seelan has arrived, and receives very loyal support from Capetonians. He described what I experienced, enjoying watching the activity of shoppers walking past, and the boats going about their business: ‘I envisioned Seelan as a destination restaurant also frequented by locals, where people can lose track of time as they enjoy each other’s company over a good meal. We have taken great care to ensure that every single element enhances this warm, inviting atmosphere‘.
Seelan Restaurant & Bar, Quay 5, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 421-4906 www.seelan.co.za Twitter: @SeelanVandA
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter; @WhaleCottage