On Tuesday Open Door at Constantia Uitsig opened its doors for Breakfast, served from 9h00 until 11h00 daily. It is reasonably priced, and offers some unusual breakfast options. Open Door is the third restaurant co-owned by Neil Grant and Barry Engelbrecht, with Bocca on foodie Bree Street,and Burrata at the Biscuit Mill, and opened in May.
Yesterday was only the second day of Open Door being open on Constantia Uitsig, but it felt as if it had always been there, with everything running smoothly. Open Door is the third restaurant of co-owners Neil Grant and Barry Engelbrecht, alongside Burrata and Bocca, and serves country fare.
Previously the home to The River Café on the wine estate, with a tasting room on the side which has moved across the driveway, the space of Open Door is large, being able to seat 250 patrons at full capacity, in different sections. One enters around the corner, and no longer at the former tasting room entrance. The main restaurant room is spacious, with a gas fireplace to come at the one end, and an open kitchen on the other end, with the bar close to the kitchen section, opposite of which is Neil’s precious wine collection, looking smaller than that of Burrata, but is not, Continue reading →
The opening of Bocca (meaning ‘mouth’ in Italian) Restaurant on Bree Street was eagerly awaited, having been held up by a last piece of paper to be approved by the City of Cape Town. Three weeks after opening the Italian-style restaurant, seating about 90, is packed to the rafters, doing more than 200 covers per day most days. Following a lunch last week, waiting for a car repair a block away, I enjoyed a special lunch with tastes of a number of the dishes on the Bocca menu on Tuesday. The restaurant had been introduced to me in August already.
I was invited by Five Star PR owner Janie van der Spuy, with freelancer writers Jenny Handley and Bianca Coleman, Mail and Guardian‘s Amit Raz and Brent Meersman, and Katharine Jacobs of Eat Out. We were joined by co-owners Neil Grant and Barry Engelbrecht, who opened Burrata at the Old Biscuit Mill in 2012. Having bought two pizza ovens from Naples when they opened Burrata, it was a long-term plan to open a second pizza restaurant in Cape Town. Pizzas bake at a temperature of up to 485°C. The two owners looked at a number of properties in the city centre, but the unusual venue on the corner of Bree and Wale Streets grew on them, allowing them space to add a mezzanine level, as well as an outside deck, which is already a hit, and attracts attention from passers-by. More space is available if they need more in future. Bocca is the only pizza restaurant on Bree Street. Natural oak wooden slats have been used throughout, from the exterior cladding, to steps into the restaurant, on the deck, and inside the restaurant, on its walls, and serving as banisters on the metal staircase, giving an Continue reading →
In the past week three further Top 20 Restaurant candidate chefs have announced their resignation, making the restaurants at which they work ineligible to be nominated for the 2014 Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist. This year is the most volatile we have ever seen as far as top restaurant chef departures go, opening up the opportunity for a fresh 2014 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards list.
The latest chef resignations are the following:
* Chef Oliver Cattermole left Mondiall Kitchen & Bar two weeks ago, today joining the Leeu Collection as its Executive Chef for its five star Dassenberg Estate hotel and Rusthof Country House in Franschhoek, both opening next year. Chef Oliver has worked locally at Dash at the Queen Victoria Hotel, the Le Franschhoek hotel, and Mondiall, as well as internationally at Ivy Restaurant, La Gavroche, Novelli, and at Cannizaro House hotel.
* Chef Brad Ball, who helped open Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg, leaves in two weeks to start up what sounds like a collective of three restaurants at Pedlars on the Bend in Constantia
* Chef Christiaan Campbell leaves Delaire Graff Estate, after opening up the main restaurant more than Continue reading →
Last night my friend Whitney Wentzel and I enjoyed a very generous dinner at Burrata, losing track of the number of courses we enjoyed. I had been invited to hear from co-owner Neil Grant what exciting developments are planned at Bocca, which will open on the corner of Bree and Wale Streets in mid-September, as well as longer term at Constantia Uitsig, when they take over the former River Café, with a name change.
Bocca (means ‘mouth’ in Italian) will seat 70 diners on two levels inside, as well as a further 23 on a deck extending out of the restaurant on Bree Street, which has an extra-large pavement. Neil and Chef Annemarie Steenkamp will open Bocca, with the assistance of Matteo, a sommelier who has worked on the cruise ship The Residence at Sea. He in turn will have a sommelier supporting him. The Bocca kitchen is smaller, Chef Annemarie said, but she is excited in having designed most of it herself. A sister pizza oven to the one at Burrata, also sourced from Naples, has been installed, in orange. Space has been allowed for a bar counter. Seating is at counters, as well as at custom-designed tables and chairs. There will be more colour in the interior, and less industrial design, than at Burrata. The interior design was done by INHOUSE designers, who also designed the interiors of Burrata, The Test Kitchen, The Butcher Shop & Grill, and Carné. A number of locations were considered for the new restaurant, including the former Rhapsody’s space on Main Road in Green Point.
Neil and his business partner Barry Engelbrecht are delighted that they found the Bree Street Continue reading →
Earlier this week Christian Eedes presented the results of his third annual Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report, sponsored by Sanlam Private Investments, at a lunch-time function held at Burrata. A number of the Top 10 winemakers have collected Top 10 awards in the past three years, reflecting the consistency of the results for South Africa’s second largest varietal. Eight of the Top 10 Cabernet Sauvignon winners are from Stellenbosch this year.
Eedes explained that sixty Cabernet Sauvignon producers were invited, on the basis of their performance in Platter’s, at Veritas, and other wine awards, to submit their wines for evaluation for his Top 10 Cabernet Sauvignon Report. Roland Peens and James Pietersen, both from Wine Cellar (James was formerly with Belthazar) were his fellow judges, as has been the case in the first two years. The standard is higher every year, Eedes said, making it more difficult to judge than before. He thanked Social Media writers for assisting him in spreading the results of his Reports. Continue reading →
Welcoming the guests, sponsor Sanlam Private Investments CEO Daniël Kriel said that he values the ‘decent price’ of South African wine and food each time he returns from an overseas trip. He added that his company is passionate about wine and art investment. Having researched the topic on Wikipedia, Kriel said that Chardonnay is the most grown grape variety in the world. He also said that South Africa’s first Chardonnay vines had to be smuggled into the country. He thanked the producers who had offered their wines for evaluation, and for their passion for South African wines.
Wine writer and judge Christian Eedes said that Chardonnay is a Continue reading →
It’s that time of the year again, and this week Eat Out will announce its shortlisted Top 20 Restaurants for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards 2014. The judges have been furiously eating their way around the country, and top restaurants are licking their lips in the hope of cracking the Top 20 list, from which the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants will be announced at the gala dinner in the V&A Waterfront on 10 November.
Given the turmoil in the judging of our country’s Top 10 restaurants in the past two years, Eat Out publisher New Media Publishing communicated with the industry, and invited past Top 20 chefs and some restaurant owners to chat about what they want in restaurant awards. The overwhelming majority of respondents requested a panel of South African judges (British blogger ‘judge’ Bruce Palling used last Continue reading →
One of the changes New Media Publishing has introduced for Eat Out‘s 2014 edition is that its printed Restaurant Guide will only list 500 restaurants, as opposed to 1100 last year. The method of selecting the included restaurants has changed too.
The process commenced with Eat Out announcing that it was looking for applications from restaurants to be included in the 2014 Eat Out Guide, such applications closing on 30 June. It described the application process as follows: ‘This call to action turns up the heat and shifts the onus onto the restaurant to put themselves forward in a simple process‘. The restaurants that wanted to be considered for inclusion had to complete a Continue reading →
I was first introduced to Pol Roger champagnes at Rust en Vrede a number of years ago, poured by then sommelier Neil Grant, at the insistence of a guest house friend who had invited us to dinner. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of twelve (mainly wine) writers to celebrate the launch of the latest Pol Roger vintages at Burrata, of which Neil is now the co-owner. As Burrata is one of my (few) special restaurants, and the champagne brand impressed me then, I needed no encouragement to accept the invitation!
I had met the charming Johannesburg-based Derek Kilpin (right), General Manager and co-owner of Great Domaines, the importers of mainly French wines, at a French-themed evening last year at Wild Peacock in Stellenbosch, and was lucky enough to sit next to him then. He introduced each of the five Pol Roger champagnes which we tasted, but encouraged everyone to relax and to enjoy the champagnes and lunch, superbly prepared by Chef Annemarie Steenkamp and her team. A surprise was meeting Barry Engelbrecht (left), a very reclusive Burrata co-owner and pizza master chef, who was at the pizza oven. I am unable to resist the prosciutto and fig pizza at Burrata.
We received a glass of Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut on arrival, Derek introducing the Pol Roger range to us, and sharing that Great Domaines has been distributing the brand for the past six years. He praised Neil for his knowledge of and loyalty to Pol Roger, a brand which was first launched in 1849, and of which 1,5 million bottles are produced annually (compared to 35 million bottles of Möet et Chandon, for example). A Non Vintage champagne is hardest to make, he explained, in that it has to be consistent with that of previous years, given that three different grape varieties (equal portions of Pinot Noir for structure, Pinot Meunier for the fruit taste, and Chardonnay for the elegance) from 140 different vineyards are used to make this champagne, which costs around R550. The vintage champagnes cost about R750. Derek shared that even year vintages since 2000 have been particularly excellent. The champagne house only makes vintage champagnes if the grape quality is good enough, and therefore has skipped all the uneven years in the past twelve years. Derek shared that Pol Roger employs four of only ten certified riddlers left in Champagne, who turn about 60000 bottles per day in the 7km of caves below the winery.
I enjoyed speaking to Tracy van Maaren, an independent distributor in the Cape, also representing the Great Domaines brands, and she told me that she focuses on small specialist retailers such as Caroline’s and Vaughn Johnson, and that Pol Roger is served in restaurants such as Burrata, Rust en Vrede (serving it by the glass too), Terroir, Tokara, The Test Kitchen, and Aubergine. An increasing number of champagne brands are being made available in our country, she said, making it a very competitive market.
The Pol Roger Brut 2002 is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, and was on the lees for nine years (the minimum requirement in Champagne is three years), fermentation having taken place in stainless steel tanks, giving it a clean and precise character, and was described as ‘spectacular’ by Derek. It was paired with a starter with a name that was mouthwatering in itself, being a rich and creamy Tokai Forest porcini mushroom risotto. The mushrooms were foraged for Chef Annemarie by Ross. This was followed by a perfectly pan-seared kingklip, which was served with saffron potatoes, fennel, capers, and sultanas, and was paired with the Pol Roger Blanc de Blanc 2002, made from 100% Chardonnay, one of the more popular champagnes, in part due to 2002 being such a good year.
The third course of a delicate duck breast, with toasted almonds, cavatelli (a non-egg pasta made from semolina, Chef Annemarie explained), chestnut crema, maize, and roast Jerusalem artichokes, was paired with Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2000. It spent eleven years on the lees and is predominantly made from Pinot Noir. It was released (initially in magnum size) in 1975 in honour of the British Prime Minister, seventeen years after his death. Sir Winston became a close friend of Odette Pol-Roger and was a passionate drinker of a bottle of Pol Roger a day, loving the tipple so much that he named one of his racehorses after the brand! The friendship was so close that all Pol Roger labels had a black border around them when the statesman passed away. The dessert was a colourful sour cherry spuma, served with poached rhubarb, pomegranate, marshmallow, and vanilla ice cream, which was paired with the Pol Roger Rosé 2004, made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, to which still wine was added to give it colour, Derek explained.
The superb lunch paired with the superb Pol Roger champagnes proved how effectively each course of a meal can be paired with champagnes.
Disclosure: We received a gift pack of two champagne glasses and a 375ml bottle of Pol Roger Réserve Brut.
Burrata, The Old Biscuit Mill, 373 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town. Tel (021) 447-6505. www.burrata.co.za Twitter: @BurrataSA Monday – Saturday, Lunch and Dinner.
Great Domaines, Tel (011) 778-9355. www.greatdomaines.co.za Twitter: @GreatDomaines @Pol_Roger
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage