It was a surprise that the Rossouw’s by Diners Club International 2016 South African Restaurant Guide was launched on such a low-key level at the Platter’s Wine Guide launch in Cape Town on Thursday evening. They might wish that they hadn’t launched it at all!
Publishing Editor JP Rossouw showed us the cover of the book briefly when he revealed the new blue cover of the 2016 Platter’s Wine Guide. That was it! Last year the Restaurant Guide (with twenty 5-star restaurants then) was surprisingly only launched in Johannesburg, when it was run by then-editor Anna Trapido, who left Rossouw’s earlier this year to jump ship to the American Express Platinum Restaurant Awards.
It is immediately evident that the system of evaluation has changed, restaurants now rated in one of three categories: Highly Recommended, Recommended, and listed but with no rating evaluation! There is therefore no comparison with results from previous years. The methodology too has changed: Rossouw’s subscribers via Facebook and its website, as well as Diners Club members, a 1000 respondents collectively, were asked to ‘say about your favorite eateries’. Rossouw’s visited restaurants too, unannounced and with bills paid. ‘Establishments that were identified as favorites were flagged with a ‘recommended’ tag and those that really stood out from the rest received a ‘highly recommended’ tag. These are South Africa’s best restaurants overall – and not only in the ‘fine dining’ style‘.
Rossouw found a high overlap between what were the public’s ‘Best of‘ and those restaurants rated most highly by the Rossouw’s reviewers, suggesting ‘that the one quality that better restaurants have is consistency‘.
The Highly Recommended list consists of 30 restaurants, of which 24 are in the Western Cape, 5 in Gauteng, and only one in KwaZulu-Natal. Comparing the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist with the Highly Recomended list, there are 17 restaurants in common. Notable absences in the Rossouw’s Highly Recommended list relative to Eat Out are Indochine, DW Eleven-13, and The Kitchen at Maison. The 2016 Highly Recommended restaurant list is as follows (Eat Out Top 20 shortlist restaurants identified with an asterisk):
Western Cape : Aubergine, Bombay Brasserie, Bread & Wine, Burrata, Camphors at Vergelegen*, Carne, Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen*, Foliage*, Greenhouse*, Ile de Pain, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine*, Kyoto Garden Sushi, La Colombe*, Marianna’s, Nobu, Overture*, The Pot Luck Club*, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson*, The Restaurant at Waterkloof*, Rust en Vrede*, The Tasting Room*, Terroir *, The Test Kitchen*, and Tokara*. (List amended, see Postscript).
Gauteng: Cube Tasting Kitchen, five hundred*, The Local Grill, Restaurant Mosaic*, Ritrovo
KwaZulu-Natal: Little Havana.
It is a shock to see that Hartford House is not included in the Highly Recommended list, given the excellent work which its new Chef Constantijn Hahndiek is doing there, receiving Recommended only. A bigger surprise even, but reflecting Eat Out‘s Top 20 exclusion, is that both Franschhoek restaurants Grande Provence and Pierneef à la Motte did not receive a rating at all!
A surprise is to see Ile de Pain on the list, which has been closed for the past six months due to a devastating fire, and will remain closed for another six months or longer while the restaurant is being rebuilt!; Bread & Wine, which did not receive a nod from Eat Out this year; Aubergine has not been recognized by Eat Out for a while, while Carne and Bombay Brasserie are a surprise too! Burrata has a Highly Recommended in the Guide, but is not listed in the Media Release! Reuben’s restaurant in Paternoster is not noted in the Guide. The errors detract from the credibility of the Rossouw’s Guide!
POSTSCRIPT 1/11: I have had more time to take a second look at the Rossouw’s Restaurant Guide, and can make more comments:
- From about 320 restaurants included in the Restaurant Guide last year, with a detailed one-page write-up done for each by Trapido, the restaurant total included in the latest Guide is just more than 400, now reduced to half a page per restaurant.
- The thickness of the Guide has grown, despite the number of pages dropping from 335 pages last year to 264 this year, by using thicker paper this year!
- Restaurants that received Diamond or Platinumm recognition for their wine list in the Diners Club Winelist Awards are indicated
- The writing style is very different, consisting of a stringing together of adjectives and phrases which the Rossouw’s website users used to describe their favorite restaurants, offering less depth. No price range is indicated.
- Short descriptors are used for each restaurant, and ‘Uber trendy‘ (e.g. 95 Keerom, long past its sell-by date!) is an often-used irritating one! Alternatives are ‘romantic‘, ‘ideal for visitors‘, ‘Good for groups‘, and more.
- It is clear that the Rossouw’s judges have not been near many of the restaurants they included: the milk-crate chairs at Bird’s Café have long been removed; every one of the three restaurants as well as the picnic service are mentioned under one Boschendal banner, rather than being evaluated separately, being very different restaurant styles!; Carne is said to source beef, lamb, and game from owner Giorgio Nava’s Karoo farm, but we know that is dishonest, from our research conducted some years ago!, Chapman’s Peak restaurant is also past its sell-by date, and receives dreadful reviews, making it a surprise to see it receive a ‘Recommended‘ rating!; the Chefs Warehouse description of offering ‘some classy bistro-style mains‘ is completely inaccurate, as one can only order eight tapas dishes of the day as the main course!; Creation is listed with a ‘Recommended‘ rating, and its food is good, but it has always said that it is a wine-and-food pairing venue first and foremost!; Suzi Holtshausen is still referred to as the owner/chef of Gaaitjie!; Golosi in Sea Point is reviewed as one restaurant, but has two locations offering two different food types, which is not reflected!; Greenhouse is described as offering ‘lighter lunchtime options‘, but it is not open for lunch!; the blackboard menu at The Kitchen at Maison is not referred to!; La Belle’s Camps Bay branch, open for about a year, is not mentioned (the exclusion of the newest Mouille Point branch is understandable); La Mouette is a past Eat Out Top 20 restaurant, but did not receive a restaurant evaluation in the Guide; Makaron also has been a former Eat Out Top 20 restaurant, but did not make it to their list this year, but achieved a ‘Recommended‘ in the Guide; Joostenberg Bistro was listed as ‘Highly Recommended’ in the media release but in fact only receives a ‘Recommended‘ rating in the Guide! Trafford’s in Pietermaritzburg was included last year, but has been excluded from the Guide this year! All these errors are unacceptable in a Guide of this stature – can it still be taken seriously??!!
Rossouw’s by Diners Club International 2016 South African Restaurant Guide. Tel (028) 316-3049. www.rossouwsrestaurants.com. Twitter: @RossouwsRstrnts R195.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here