Entries tagged with “art gallery”.


imageSince selling my guest houses I have stayed at a mix of self-catering and guest houses in Franschhoek, and have been very disappointed. Franschhoek Boutique Hotel GM Llewellyn Lambert took pity on my Franschhoek accommodation experiences, as documented in Sour Service Awards on this Blog, and invited me to come and stay at the hotel. He had showed me around just after it was completed a few months ago, but this was my first stay.

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Just Pure The Bistro Exterior Whale Cottage PortfolioLooking for a coffee shop in Hermanus over lunch yesterday I popped in at Just Pure The Bistro, located within a showroom that sells the Just Pure pure skin and body care range.  I had no intention to write about my sandwich and coffee stop, but the dreadful service from the staff and owners compelled me to write a review.

The balcony has a fantastic view onto the ocean, and the ocean was particularly rough yesterday, with massive waves, making it a pleasure to sit outside.  I used to love going there when Bellini had its art gallery and coffee shop in the same space.  I walked inside the shop, not having been there for some time, and saw that the Just Pure showroom still looked the same, found a Cape Times on a table, and chose a table to sit at outside.  I was not welcomed by any staff, and saw a waitress yawning as I wanted to ask her for a table.  She brought a menu and I placed my order of a glass of ice, a jug of milk, and an espresso, wishing to make my own iced coffee, and a glass of ice water.  She brought the ice on a saucer, and there was no glass into which I could pour all the ingredients.  She returned with the same number of ice cubes in a glass, so I had to send her back to fill it up.

I chose to order a ‘Country Loaf’ sandwich, from the ‘Gourmet Open Sandwiches‘ section,  with tomato, mozzarella, and avocado, which I asked to be toasted, and expected a seed type loaf.  The waitress returned, after having taken the order, to double check that I wished to only have one slice , described confusingly in their menu as a half portion (R49), two slices being a full portion (R65).  It took at least half an hour to be served, but it gave me a chance to read the newspaper, and to catch up on Social Media, having spent about two hours driving to Hermanus.  What I was served was an attractively presented but non-gourmet plain slice of (more…)

Saronsberg Tasting sheet Whale Cottage PortfolioFor the first time in the ten years of wine production, Saronsberg invited a group of wine writers to a tasting of its wines, followed by lunch at the Cape Grace Hotel.   Saronsberg, with Rijks, is synonymous with Tulbagh.

Saronsberg was bought by Nick van Huyssteen in 2002, previously being the Twee Jonge Gezellen farms, which they renamed after the mountain in the area.  A year later a large part of the then fruit Saronsberg Nick van Huyssteen Whale Cottage Portfoliofarm was destroyed by a fire, making them start from scratch and planting vineyards on 51 hectare of the farm, making Nick’s dream of a wine farm come true, necessitating the building of a cellar.  The day-time heat in Tulbagh was taken into consideration in the design of the cellar, we were told, to cool things down. Two years later they made the first wines.

It was the wedding of a niece three years ago that brought me to spend a (more…)

Equus Interior Whale Cottage PortfolioI had eagerly awaited the opening of the Cavalli Estate on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West,  its majestic entrance having been completed about two years ago, and having heard a number of times that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar would be heading up the kitchen in the Equus restaurant.  Its Equus Tasting Room, Gallery, Boutique, and Restaurant opened a month ago, its 54 thoroughbred saddlebred horses, and olive and vine plantation make up the Cavalli Estate.  It must be the largest Winelands tourism offering in terms of size and facilities offered.

Horses dominate everything at Cavalli, the Italian name for the animal, and the racehorse stud was developed while the Equus centre was being built.  The stud is the main reason for the estate’s existence, and one passes the large stable building as one drives to Equus, with fynbos evident in the gardens landscaped by Keith Kirsten, who also did the Delaire Graff gardens.   I had been invited to be shown around by mother and daughter Gundel and Annette Sogor from Gordon’s Bay, who had been to the tasting room before, but had not yet eaten at Equus. Arriving separately, we each shared how unprofessional the welcome at the security entrance as well as at the parking had been, and Lauren Smith, owner’s daughter, architect, and Operations Manager of the estate, made quick work in having the problem addressed and the outsourced security men replaced.

The Equus building is vast, and consists of a massive art gallery, a boutique, (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Babylonstoren is expanding its offering of fruit and vegetables, by now growing various varieties of mushrooms in its Mushroom Cellar.

*   Eurostar is to introduce a London – Amsterdam route from 2016, a four hour journey.

*   Xolani Mancotywa, Sommelier at the Saxon Hotel, has reached the Finals of the international 2013 Best Young Sommelier, having won the South African title.  He is competing against eleven other such country winners in Washington on 18 October.  The competition is sponsored by the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs, a global gastronomic society.

*   An innovative way of attracting business into the city in the evening is First Thursdays, the 20 or so city centre art galleries staying open until 21h00 (some even later) on the first Thursday of each month, (more…)

Pendock Wine Gallery full view Whale Cottage PortfolioNotorious Neil Pendock is launching his Pendock Wine Gallery at the Taj Cape Town hotel at 18h00, to many a most unusual move, in a minute space which would not allow more than a handful of persons to move inside the gallery at any time.  The Gallery concept and its link to the hotel’s Mint Restaurant is as quirky as Pendock is.

The roughly 2 by 4 meter space is half of the Edit[ed] hotel shop, and once inside Pendock’s Wine Gallery one can see inside the shop through a glass door, a design weakness, as it does not match the less-is-more sparse design of the Gallery.  Six ornate shelves will hold a bottle of wine each, according to a monthly theme, September being dedicated to Pinotage, but the choice of six is not explained, other than space constraints.  However, Pendock does pride himself on his selection, in that the six (Black Elephant Vintners, Diemersdal, Manley (more…)

It’s the low key openings, without fanfare, that are often the most exciting.  Luvey ‘n Rose on Rose Street in Bo Kaap opened earlier this week as a coffee shop, art gallery, antique shop, adding wines once the liquor licence has been approved, and soon to be a permanent artist’s residence too.

Owned by Ignatius Claassen, an erstwhile actuary who decided to go it alone and start a completely different business, the business is located in a historic pink painted three storey building on Rose Street.  Ignatius cannot find the date of the completion of the building, but it is sturdily built, and he does know that there was a workshop downstairs, a button factory in the middle, and that it had an apartment on the top floor.  In the early days, when Cape Town’s cobble stone streets were tarred, the building was owned by a shoe and trouser tar-protection clog manufacturer.

Ignatius grew up in Despatch in the Eastern Cape, and took art as a school subject until Std 7, and says that he can draw and paint.  In the army (he was part of the last intake) he made money from his army friends by drawing them, which portraits they sent to their girlfriends and parents, as they could not send photographs in those days. When some starting receiving what he called ‘Dear Johnny’ relationship-ending letters, they felt that the drawings were jinxed, and so a promising art career came to an end.  However, Ignatius’ interest in art never waned, and he bought works at auctions, from art galleries, and from artist friends directly in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, and in Johannesburg where he lived for part of his career.  A short-lived guest house career followed, until he sold two properties, moved to Cape Town, found the property, and put his money into art and antiques.  It was meeting up with his school friend Paul Noppe Adams that was a sign to change direction, and his children living in the Cape that made him settle in Cape Town.  He and Noppe live in the building, and Ignatius’ neat bedroom (reflecting his army training, he laughs) is open to view, as is the bathroom, as they contain art works that are for sale too.

Ignatius is quite philosophical about art, saying that one buys a work because of an emotional bond that it creates with the purchaser.  He buys works that appeal to him personally, that he would want to hang in his own home.  He will sometimes buy a piece for the concept, and not for its beauty, he said.

The first two floors are filled with art works from artists such as JH Pierneef, Walter Battiss (left), Shaney van den Bergh (photograph right, unusual in being painted on woven paper strips), Penny Siopis, Peter Clarke, Paul Emsley (once an art lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch and now lives in the UK, whose recent portrait of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, was controversial), Wayne Barker, Stanley Pinker, and Alexandra Ross.  A table is dedicated ‘as a shrine’ to the late David Botha, with prints and drawings available for sale.   The third floor will be dedicated to the use of a studio apartment for a promising artist, and the first resident will be Johannes Phokela, a Soweto-born Masters in Painting graduate from the Royal College of Art and one of the artists chosen to represent our country at the International Venice Biennale later this year.  The view from his apartment is onto Table Bay harbour, and onto the colourful Bo Kaap, a stimulating inspiration for the artist.

The two floors are filled with an array of furniture, none matching, but forming clusters of seating, firstly available to buy, but also to invite one to sit down, to meet with friends or with clients and colleagues, over a good cup of Deluxe coffee (made in a mean-looking Sevruga coffee machine) and a Cuban cigar, with Buena Vista Social Club or Cesaria Evoria as background music.  The windows are big and let in light, uplifting in the winter months to come.  The latest newspapers are available, as are art books for one to peruse.

They are not offering a restaurant service, but have partnered with Jason’s on Bree Street, in carrying his menu.   At a R15 surcharge paid by the customer, the order is collected from them by scooter and delivered back, it taking 16 minutes from placing the order to the BAB (Bacon, Avo, and Brie) sandwich (R55) being delivered.  On the coffee table where we sat was a book called ‘No, It Is’, in which William Kentridge sketches have been printed inside over the book copy.

Luvey ‘n Rose is sure to become cult.  It is laid back, friendly, and a most unusual environment in which to meet others, or just to have a quiet moment away from others!

Luvey ‘n Rose, 21 Rose Street. Bo Kaap, Cape Town.  Cell 0835577156  Facebook page. Monday – Sunday 7h00 – 18h00 (opening times variable, to be adjusted once the liquor licence has been received).  Wifi to come.

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

It was a Tweet by Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick on Friday that ‘announced’ the long-awaited opening of Casparus on Dorp Street, the new restaurant of both renowned (for his sauce-based food) and infamous (for his temperament) Etienne Bonthuys, who had been at Tokara restaurant for 10 years, but had left last October to make space for Richard Carstens, another iconic chef.

Being in Stellenbosch, I had called the restaurant and tried to make a booking for dinner before the start of a concert at the Endler Hall, but the person answering the phone said their dinner only starts at 7.30 pm (information which turned out to be incorrect – they open for dinner at 7 pm), putting an end to that plan, and I went to Christophe’s instead.  Not one to be put off easily, I decided to pop in after the concert, just at the 10 pm kitchen closing time, I had been told on the phone, even if it was just for a coffee.   I was most surprised when I was greeted and seated with great friendliness, and offered a menu and winelist.

At this point I was in awe – I have never seen a restaurant interior quite like this, and one quite so large, one long open-ended area, made up of numerous ex-rooms, in part looking unfinished, but so by design, an open-ended construction that opens into the open air and eventually a garden and trees, with a Bauhaus look on one side mid-way in red and blue.  Let me start at the beginning though.  The exterior of the building on DorpStreet is a 1820 historical home, and there were very tight restrictions on renovations to that part of the restaurant, so it has been kept as it was, a generously-spaced open-plan room through which one walks to get to the huge restaurant part.  A dispute with a neighbour about the approval for a window caused the long hold up in completing the building work and opening.

The entrance room has the feeling of an art gallery, and only in talking to Bonthuys’ wife Jane Moses did I understand that the new restaurant is jointly owned by Bonthuys and his friend Strijdom van der Merwe, a land artist I had to admit I had not heard of before, but whose work in tying red bows on oak trees on Dorp Street (not sure what symbolism was intended then) was well publicised in the local papers.  Bonthuys and Van der Merwehave different creative strengths, and it is evident that they feed off each other, and will continue to challenge each other. In the entrance room, a modern artwork which has become the logo, reflecting the ‘unfinished’ wooden roof ‘planks’, fills one wall, another wall is filled with photographs of the red ribbon tree project, and a third wall has the original plan of the erf, dating back to 1820, printed onto the wall!  Of course one does not appreciate any of these images until one sits down, and someone explains it all.  The first owner of the erf was Dr Casparus Termytel, and he was allocated the land in 1791, being the “Burgergeneesheer” of the Dutch East India Company, and the restaurant has been named in his honour.  The records do not show whether Dr Termytel actually erected a building at that time, having died in 1793.  The first recorded plans for a building on the erf are dated 1820.

One walks through an in-between room, which is a smaller section containing the bar, and the cash register.  It looked a little untidy, but one is so ‘distracted’ by all the artwork hanging on the left, being photographs of ‘naturescapes’ created by Van der Merwe, and presented as banners, to ‘hide’ the kitchen from view.   Bonthuys must be suffering from ‘Platzangst’, having had a massive kitchen at Tokara, and he is far more constrained in space at his new ‘home’.  Having only heard the worst about Bonthuys, and that he never ventures out of his kitchen, I asked Jane to photograph him for me.  She sweetly took me to him, and I even got a smile out of Bonthuys, yet looking rather shy and bashful. 

To continue the guided tour – beyond the kitchen the restaurant becomes very broad, and extends deeply towards the garden area, now totally modern, with a protective sheet over one of the sections, as if the building construction is not complete, and a set of planks criss-crossed above the seating area, also looking unfinished.  Looking carefully, one can see the doors that can be locked at night, but the general effect is one of a massive open space with an unfinished look above it.   On one of the walls inside the seating area a slide show runs continuously, showing lovely old historic homes of Stellenbosch, projected against one of the walls.  The slide show is one of Van der Merwe’s ‘works’ too, and is the third slide show Van der Merwe has compiled since the opening of the restaurant, and is the one that has attracted the most positive feedback, Jane told me.  The tables are all wooden, a mix of more old-fashioned ones as if coming from someone’s home, and others contemporary, and the chairs at almost every table are different, but that is probably also part of Van der Merwe’sdesign.  There is no table cloth, but a good quality material serviette, trendy Fortis cutlery, and a little table light, as the back end of the restaurant is very dark.  Jane told me that heaters and fires in drums are planned.  I saw the guests at a table next door wrapped up in blankets, provided by the restaurant. I also saw these guests smoking, which could put other guests off – the open roof makes it difficult to draw the line about the smoking/non-smoking sections, if there is such a delineation. There is seating for 60, but they can expand to 80 should they make use of the garden at a later stage, Jane said.  Bonthuys has retained most of his kitchen staff from Tokara, but most of the waiters are new, and therefore Jane was assisting.

The restaurant is a gallery too, and ideally needs a guide to explain its artworks, and the meaning of and rationale for the ‘unfinished’ construction look of the restaurant.  Jane was a wonderful ‘tour guide’, and explained all the art and action at Casparus.  I could not have wished for a better person to talk to, so as to find out more about the restaurant,its chef and the artist.  Bonthuystrained in Belgium, and started his cuisine career with Rosenfontein in Paarl in 1997, and then owned Floris Smit Huis and then Bonthuys in Cape Town.  He opened at Tokarain 2000, a massive restaurant space with a wonderful view, and a huge kitchen.  Here too there were no table cloths, and the staff were allowed to dress how they wanted to, something that surprised me then, and does at Casparus as well, where the same staff policy has been introduced.   Jane explained that Bonthuys wants the staff to look as if they are eating at the restaurant too!  She also told me that Bonthuys likes anonymity, and that is why he likes to stay in the kitchen – do not expect him to come out of his kitchen enclave to greet his guests, but Jane more than makes up for this in charm and friendliness.

The menu and wine list look neat in black leather covers. However, the pages in the menu look heavily used already, while those in the wineliststill look fresh and new. A crispy bread roll was brought to the table, with a substantial slice of butter.  When I expressed surprise about the unbelievably low prices, Jane explained that Bonthuys wants to serve a ‘bordkos’, which their customers can afford and enjoy to eat there regularly, and not be a ‘fine dining’ restaurant that customers only visit once a month or less often.   He wants Casparus to become a ‘home’, a place one can pop in to, much like I did on Saturday evening.  There are 13 starters to choose from, and Jane said that Bonthuys’ oyster starter served in a delicious sounding Cap Classique wine buttersauceis a signature dish, and is the most expensive starter at R80.  A carrot soup, and an avocado soup with a prawn, cost R30 and R35, respectively, the least expensive starters.  One can also order a Caprese salad or Salad Nicoise, hake souffle with shimejimushrooms, salmon tartare, and mushrooms in puff pastry.   I wanted to have the grilled kingklip(R90) as a main course, but it was sold out by the time I arrived. I settled for a wonderful Norwegian salmon, served witha delicious light chive sauce witha taste of mushroom, as well as superb baby potatoes and asparagus (R100).  The signature main course is beef fillet with bone marrow served in a red wine sauce, and has come to Casparus from Tokara, costing R140. Grilled springbok served with a lobster sauce is the most expensive dish, at R150, and all the other main courses cost less than R100.  One can also order linguini with prawns, tagliolini with Thai chicken, baby calamari and oxtail in a saffron sauce, as well as rump or sirloin.

The dessert selection is smaller, but the prices are unbelievable, in ranging between R30 – R45.  Most of them contain ice cream, Jane saying that Bonthuys is also known for his home-made ice creams.  On her suggestion, I tried the Meringue Negresco, praline ice cream served on a meringue and topped with Advokaat, absolutely delicious and amazing value at R30.  Other dessert options are Sabayon Surprise, a sorbet selection (raspberry and pineapple), frozen dark and white chocolate mousse with mandarin custard, a trio of ice cream (chocolate, praline and coffee), and fresh berries with mint ice cream. The cappuccino was foamy, and very strong.

The wine list details the vintage of the wines, and simply lists the brand names and prices per variety. There are wines at low, medium and higher price points. No wine-by-the-glass is indicated.  Sparkling wines are Pierre Jourdan Brut (R165) and its Cuvée Belle Rose (R200), as well as Steenberg Chardonnay Brut (R175).  Sauvignon Blancs range from R85 (Kaapzicht) to R110 (Alluvia Ilka, Neil Ellis Groenkloof and Tokara Reserve).  The cost of the eleven Shiraz wines start at R80 (Tokara Zondernaam), and Waterford Kevin Arnold is the most expensive, at R240.  AA Badenhorst Family Wines’ white blend is the most expensive wine on the list, at R435.

The newness of the waitrons showed, especially with the waiter serving me – I asked him if it was his first night working at the restaurant, as he had no idea of the ingredients of the desserts, yet he was willing to ask the kitchen everything.  His sweet yet smart reply was that “this is one of my first nights”!   Jane will need to up the training of the waiters, not only their product knowledge, but also that of the artworks and of the meaning of Van der Merwe’s interior design.  What is exciting is that Casparus will be an exciting palette, likely to be continuously changing.  One hopes Bonthuys has left all his quirks and tantrums behind at Tokara, and that his six-month wait to open the new restaurant will have helped him to find himself.  No doubt Casparus will become a talking point, for its excellent and value for money food and wine, its creative and unusual interior decor, and its art gallery.  Casparus is a new star on the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route, in the new Gourmet Capital of South Africa.  I predict that Casparus will feature on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list in 2012.

POSTSCRIPT 28/3: I was in Stellenbosch today, and returned to a (closed) Casparus to photograph the building exterior.  It struck me how humble and low key the brand name is on the windows – one would never guess what an exciting restaurant is deeper inside the restaurant building, not visible from the street when closed.  I spoke to the Manager of Detail Interior Design shop across the road, asking her if she had seen it, and she had no idea that it was a restaurant.

POSTSCRIPT 30/3:  Emile Joubert has sent this background to Etienne Bonthuys, and his restaurant history: “Just a bit of Bonthuys history:  Rosenfontein opened in the late 1970s, not 1997. I was 16 yrs old when I bit into a piece of venison he cooked at Rosenfontein and had a “did the earth move for you?” moment. The late Anton Rupert used to fly business associates from Jhb to Cape Town to dine at Rosenfontein.  After Rosenfontein he had headed up the restaurant at Buitenverwachting where Bonthuys had a major impact on Cape Town’s culinary pedigree during the 1980s. Floris Smit followed, and in the early 90’s he opened up a restaurant in Belgium, returning to Cape Town in 1995 as owner/chef of Bonthuys in the CBD where Jinja used to be. Tokara followed. And I can’t wait to visit Casparus as like Elvis, Bonthuys will to me always be The King.”

POSTSCRIPT 9/4:  I had to go back!  The Oysters in Cap Classique butter (R80) beckoned, and were amazing.  I asked for a spoon to have every last bit of the sauce!  It is one of Bonthuys’ signature dishes he brought along from Tokara.  They were delicious with a glass of Pierre Jourdan Brut at R40.  I had a second starter, to allow the indulgence in one of Bonthuys’ fabulous desserts.  It was mushrooms in puff pastry with bacon, sundriedtomatoes and butternut cream (R55).   The puff pastry was very tough, even hard to cut with a knife, but its content was delicious.  The Trio of ice cream (to-die-for coffee, praline and chocolate, all made by Bonthuys) in a chocolate cup (R35) tasted even better with the glass of 2003 Cabriere Pinot Noir, which Achim von Arnimbrought to my table.  I ate the ice cream with a teaspoon, to make the enjoyment of it last even longer!  The waitress, Katrien, is the daughter of Johan Slee, the architect of Casparus and a good friend of Bonthuys and Van der Merwe.  Her service was excellent, and she was knowledgeable about the menu.  Whilst there have been complaints about slow service, I did not experience this, despite the restaurant being full.  Jane Moses came to say hello, and told me that they had their best night last night, with 78 covers.  Strijdom van der Merwe launched a new slide show today, focused on his ‘naturescapes’, and how they are made.  I have found such amazing energy at Casparus.  I chatted to the Von Arnims, as well as to Louis Nel, winemaker of Hidden Valley, Jonathan Snashall of hunter gatherer vinter blog, and Georgie Prout of Glen Carlou, adding to the enjoyment of the evening. The question on everyone’s lips was what would happen in winter, with so much of the restaurant being open-ended, so to speak.  A fire was lit, and was quite smoky initially.  The architect comes to pop in regularly, and the thinking is that he will address protection against the Cape winter weather when it comes!

POSTSCRIPT 16/4:I am Casparus-addicted, and told Etienne Bonthuys so tonight – I cannot stay away. My third visit tonight, after another concert at the Endler Hall, and it was so nice to be recognised by two waiters Pierre and Katrien, who served me last Saturday.  It was exceptionally busy at 9.45 pm when I arrived, but the waiting time for my amazing thick and creamy Avocado soup with cucumber and prawn (R35) was not long.  My bill for R120 for the soup, another lovely ice cream dessert, a glass of Kaapzicht red wine and cappuccino came to R120 – one cannot beat Casparus for value.

POSTSCRIPT 21/4:It was my first lunchtime visit today, and I missed the magic that the dark brings to the restaurant.  The slideshow by Strijdom van der Merwe cannot be projected, as it is too light.  Given the first bite of winter, some of the tables have been moved to the ‘voorkamer’, the room one enters.  The kingklip, served with the Cap Classique sauce from the Oyster starter instead of the balsamic sauce, was exceptional, and amazing value at R85.   I did not like the frozen mousse as much as I love the ice creams. 

POSTSCRIPT 30/4:  I noticed the hand of Strijdom van der Merwe in the design of the sand outside the restaurant.  It was lovely to be welcomed back to my 5th visit by three waiters who have served me previously.  I also met Martin, the winemaker of Kaapzicht, the housewine at Casparus, as well as the marketing manager of Nederburg, sitting at the neighbouring table, and to chat to Delaire Graff chef Christiaan Campbell.   The salmon in the Linguine (R85), with prawns, was the softest and tastiest I have ever eaten.   Happy 60th birthday chef Etienne Bonthuys for tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT 13/5: A 6th visit to the restaurant followed a disappointing concert at the EndlerHall, and at 9 pm the restaurant was still full, so I was seated in the ‘lounge’ outside, withfires.  I had a lovely light clear soup withshellfish (the mussels removed, and including salmon, scallops and prawns).  Then I had sirloin steak with a delicious mushroom sauce. The steak was a little tough and fatty in sections.  The bill arrived with a R90 charge for a bottle of wine, but I had not ordered any.  The charge was quickly removed by Pierre when I pointed this out to him.  An Irish coffee was well-made.

POSTSCRIPT 21/5:  My seventh visit, and the most disappointing one – the kingklip I had before had noticeably shrunk in portion size, and the wine list had at least two wines advertised as 2007 vintages available only in 2009 – the waiter honestly told us that most of the wine vintages are out of date, unforgivable for a restaurant less than 2 months old.  When I chatted to Chef Etienne about it afterwards, he just shrugged, and I had the sinking feeling that nothing will be done about it.  The winelist is a collection of typed pages, and the vintage information can easily be rectified.  Tried the Sabayon Surprise dessert for the first time – still love the home-made ice creams more.

POSTSCRIPT 17/6:  Visit number 8!   Nice to know that Jane and Etienne are reading this blog, and read my previous comment about the winelist.  I was happy to see the winelist amended with the new vintages, on a return visit tonight.  Also loved the staff saying yes, without hesitation, to my arrival at 22h30, for a cappuccino and Bonthuys’ wonderful ice cream.

POSTSCRIPT 4/2: I have lost count of the number of times that I have been to Casparus – it remains my favourite!  The prices have increased slightly (by R5 a dessert, for example), and more main courses are over R100.  New dishes have been added, including this delicious rump of lamb with lobster sauce!

POSTSCRIPT 15/6: A colourful addition to the menu is pork loin with citrus segments, prunes, and a mandarin sauce.  Very poor service from the waitress unfortunately, bringing the credit card machine whilst we were still eating, unasked.

Casparus Restaurant, 59 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 882-8124.  No website yet. casparus@afrihost.co.za Tuesday – Saturday lunch and dinner.

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

After reading about the Haas Coffee Collective on Twitter, and being impressed with how quickly it has created awareness in the two weeks that it has been open, I went to have a cappuccino yesterday.  It is a most interesting collective of coffee roastery and coffee shop (Haas Coffee Collective), as well as the Haas Design Collective, with the Haas Communication Collective ad agency upstairs, all trading under the Haas brand.  Each Haas business is to interconnect and benefit from the other.

The first wow was when the young black-hatted young man behind the counter welcomed me by name as I entered, being Kent Fourie, who was at school with my son, and moved from Ellerman House to start working at Haas.   He told me a little about Haas, and introduced me to Francois Irvine, an artist and interior designer, a partner in the Haas Collective.  Francois is in charge of the Haas Design Collective specifically.   Glynn Venter, previously a creative director at FCB Draft, is the other co-owner.   From the name, I imagined it to have a Dutch owner (perhaps thinking of chef Camil Haas of Franschhoek).   Glynn laughed when I asked him about the origin of the name, and he coyly told me that Haas is the name of his favourite soft toy bunny, which he acquired about four years ago at the Old Biscuit Mill, and which accompanies him everywhere he goes, wearing a seatbelt when driving with Glynn in the car, and having a personality all of his own.   A felt bunny is on top of an interesting wall-mounted corner unit containing the crockery that they had specially made for the coffee shop, with a fly or an ant printed on each saucer, which causes great amusement as customers try to get rid of the realistic looking insects!   I loved the bunny-shaped biscotti that was served with the cappuccino (R18).

The Haas Design Collective, with partner Vanessa Berlein, has been open for a year already, and is Francois’ collection of artworks by a variety of artists that he sells.   A few steps down is the new Haas Coffee Collective, which was created when the previous tenant vacated the space.  It has lovely weathered-looking beams, and the counter was especially designed by Francois and made from lovely wood, matching the wooden floor.   The coffee roasting machine from Germany stands in this space, as do two wooden tables and chairs.   One can sit outside at white tables and chairs too, or in the cutest nook off the Design Collective.

The 100 % arabica coffees that the Haas Coffee Collective sells and uses come from Robertson, from ‘Strictly Coffee’, owned by Rensche and Hanno Schwartz.  The company has been operating for about five years.   Rensche used to work at Distell, and was a client of Glynn’s when he worked at the ad agency.

For their opening PR function, the coffee varieties that are sold by the Haas Coffee Collective were paired with food.    For example, Java coffee was matched with brownies; coffee from Guatemala was served with canapes containing citrus.   The coffee that has caused a stir on Twitter is Kopi Luwak, which is specially ‘processed’ by the Indonesian Luwak civet, and comes at an extreme cost of R730 for 250g, and R80 per cup, making it the most expensive coffee in the world.   Next most expensive is the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, which costs R400 for 250g, or R60 per cup.  There are eight coffees in the Haas Coffee Collective, at around R 50 – R 60 per 250g, each with a very quirky name and a different origin, and each is described as if it were a wine:

*   Return of a War Hero is a Brazilian roast, with a kola nut scent and fruit flavours

*   The Three Sisters is a blend

*   The Famous Jailbird is an Ethiopian roast, “peach and plum are the dominant fruit notes, with hints of mango”

*   The Mysterious Gentleman is a roast from Guatemala, with floral notes, a hint of chocolate, caramel and fudge

*   The Boxing Club is a Colombian coffee, with “deep red wine tones and of nuts”

*   Monday Morning Lift Club is a blend

*   The Swimming Club is decaffeinated coffee

*   The Newly Weds is a Costa Rican roast, a “coffee’s coffee”, and is ‘smooth, rich and subtly fruity’.

After only being open for two weeks, the Haas Collective is expanding to a downstairs space across the road, which will serve as an art gallery for larger works of art.  Glynn and Francois are deciding what else to add, either a design studio, or a hot desk, which will allow business persons to use space as an office away from their office, with wifi, much like Café Neo in Mouille Point.

The Haas Communication Collective has only been open for  a few days, and has signed up its first clients already.  The upstairs space offers two rooms, one having a large lounge attached to it, which will be the meeting space with clients, and will allow them to experience the creative working space in which their ad agency will be creating their campaigns.  The Haas Communication Collective has been appointed to handle the communication of the Whisky Live Festival, and will incorporate the Haas Coffee Collective.    A coffee and brandy pairing event is planned too.  On 25 May an exciting new coffee-related project will be launched, involving “one of the world’s most well-known artists”, Glynn said.

One can have something to snack whilst at Haas, with a small selection of treats offered.  Smoked Gypsy ham on ciabatta costs R35, while ciabatta with cheese and vegetables costs R30.  Wonderful looking muffins and croissants are also for sale.   Iced coffee is available, but does not contain ice cream.  Haas has an iced coffee maker, and one of the interesting ingredients added to ice slush is condensed milk!

The Haas Collective is brimming with ideas, and will be a space to watch as it expands its very new empire.  Commendable is its Loyalty Card, with one free coffee for every nine bought.   The coffee is good too!

POSTSCRIPT 28/5: Haas Coffee has announced the launch of its new Tretchikoffie – such a clever idea!  It also matches the TretchiCushions on its furniture.

POSTSCRIPT 15/10:  Haas Collective has moved to 19 Buitenkant Street.

Haas Coffee Collective, Haas Design Collective and Haas Communication Collective,  67 Rose Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-2239.   www.haascollective.com.   Twitter: @HaasCoffee  Monday – Friday 7h00 – 18h00, or until the last patrons have left,  and Saturday – Sunday 8h00 – early afternoon, or until the last patrons have left (how refreshing!).

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

I have been to Grande Provence many times, yet have not written a review of their dinner, but have written about their High Tea,  and Chef Darren Roberts’ visit to Hong Kong late last year.   A pre-Valentine’s Day dinner on Sunday evening was a very special treat, not just in terms of the quality of the food served, but also because of the service, the beautiful interior, and extreme friendliness.

It started when Food & Beverage Manager Donovan Dreyer came towards us as we walked to the restaurant from the parking area, to welcome us.   He had called earlier in the day, to confirm the reservation, and had apologised for not being there, as he had the evening off.  He seated us, introduced us to our waitress Shasta, and was most helpful in printing the menu for me.   He then went off, after sending two glasses of sparkling wine to the table, with the compliments of Grande Provence.

Since 2005 Grande Provence (previously belonging to Count Augusta) has belonged to a Dutch consortium called The Huka Retreats, under the management of Alex van Heeren, and they also own Huka Lodge in New Zealand (usually on the Top 100 world accommodation lists) and the privately owned Dolphin Island in Fiji.  The business card describes the positioning of the company to be :”Intimate . Sensual . Elegant”.  Grande Provence supports good causes, and its highlight is the annual fundraising lunch prepared in honour of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, sponsored in its entirety by Grande Provence.  This year it will be held on 29 May, and Grande Provence Chef Darren Roberts, his Huka Lodge counterpart Michel Louws, Rudi Liebenberg of the Mount Nelson Hotel, Gregory Czarnecki of Waterkloof and Roland Gorgosilich of the Grande Roche will each prepare one of the five courses.   I have attended two of these outstanding lunches in the past.

Chef Darren has worked as a Pastry Chef at L’Heiner Konditorei in Vienna, as well as in London, Johannesburg, Melbourne and the Seychelles.  Before joining Grande Provence last year, he worked at Farncourt Hotel, and he has been a restaurant consultant.   He always makes time to come out of his kitchen to say hello.

Similarly to Delaire Graff and Glen Carlou, Grande Provence invests in art and also has an art gallery, with regularly changing exhibitions.   I love the interior decor of Grande Provence, and Virginia Fisher is the decorator to the group of properties, and is based in New Zealand.  The tasting room has a counter made from industrial steel, and the bar chairs are the cleverest I have ever seen on a wine estate, with a tractor seat, surprisingly comfortable to sit on.   In the restaurant, she used industrial steel tables, and blue chairs in the two outside rows, and the finest white leather high-back chairs in the central row.   The restaurant has a fireplace too, and is lit, even on some nights when it does not seem necessary.  The table has linen runners in white with blue stripes, which look a little like fancy drying cloths.  The wooden salt and pepper grinders look ordinary and out of place with the silver theme (same criticism as at Glen Carlou), given the stature of and price one pays for a meal at Grande Provence.  Two sets of cutlery are laid, and the glassware is excellent.  Each table has a silver side table (more attractive than the wooden ‘handbag tables’ at Mange Tout) on which the ice bucket and the water jug go, leaving the table free for the really important reason for being there, being the food!  Staff wear black ‘GP’ branded shirts, and black pants, with a grey apron. I was happy to see that the denim staff clothing has been done away with. 

The menu is in a holder made from the same fine white leather, as is the winelist.   One must have a minimum of three courses, costing R295, four courses cost R380, and five courses R 450.   Once again, a three course meal is more than adequate, as one receives an amuse bouche as well as a palate cleanser too, adding a further two courses.  While the courses listed are identifiable as starters, mains and desserts, one may choose any three on the menu, and in any order, even if one has the dessert first!  Unusual is the bold red note on the menu that one should advise the waitrons if one would like breaks between courses.  We absolutely loved the mini wholewheat loaf that was served in small slices, containing pieces of fruit, and topped with poppy and sesame seeds.    It is sold in the tasting room, and costs R15 a loaf.   An amuse bouche was brought to the table, being a mushroom tart with mushroom puree, similar to a quiche, and placed on top of the most crispy fried parma ham, and hidden under basil leaves when served.  I was impressed with how warm the plates were when they were brought from the kitchen, and I cannot recall when last I experienced a hot plate on my restaurant visits.  My starter of Tempura langoustine tail, blackened corn and tomato was brought to the table in a soup plate, and the sweet-tasting sweetcorn velouté was poured into the plate by a waiter at the table, with much more style than we had experienced at the new Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson Hotel.  The tempura batter was very light and not very crispy.   My partner had ordered a Green Pea and Shimeji mushroom ravioli, which he enjoyed, but felt it to be salty.  Other starters are Tom Yum prawn risotto, caramelised eel and foie gras terrine, rillettes of duck, pork and rabbit, quail, Stilton and curried pear tartlet, carpaccio of beetroot, and duck prosciutto.  A palate cleanser of plum sorbet and lemon compote was a surprise course. 

I loved the juicy Tagine of duck, served with green olives, dates, pistachio nuts, sweetcorn polenta and walnut arancini (with a R25 surcharge).   I missed Chef Darren’s colourful plating touch, as the plate only had shades of brown on it.   My partner’s Asian braised pork belly, by contrast, had colour appeal, with oranges creating a colour contrast, and was served with tatsoi, roasted onion infused mashed potato, and a hazelnut and apple crumble.  Further main courses to choose from include Baby chicken, hake, beef fillet with lobster tail, springbok and Karoo lamb neck.  Donovan had told me that the most popular dishes ordered are the Grande Provence Seafood Selection, with his own special XO broth that Chef Darren came back with from Hong Kong last year, and crème brûlée served with a strawberry salsa, and a refreshing strawberry and mint sorbet served on a spoon, which was my dessert choice.  The brûlée was soft and creamy.  My partner chose the Prince Albert Regal cheese, served with brioche and olives.  Other dessert options are chocolate calzone, summer fruit jelly and a chocolate tart.

The winelist has mainly Grande Provence (including Angel Tears) wines, and the wine prices are roughly 50 % of cost of sales, influenced by availability and awards won.   We were impressed with the generous wine quantity poured by the glass.  My reaction to the chilled (17°C) 2007 Shiraz was picked up by the waitress, and she came back with a bottle at room temperature, and allowed me to taste that one as well, and I far preferred the non-chilled glassful.  The paper in the wine list we were given seemed heavily used.   Innovative was the first page listing of all the awards that the Grande Provence wines have won.   Wines by the glass include the Grande Provence Chardonnay (R56/R180), Sauvignon Blanc (R46/R160), Viognier and Chenin Blanc blend (R42/R140), Cabernet Sauvignon  and Shiraz (both R55/R190), Pinot Noir (R60/R230) as well as Angel Tears Sauvignon Blanc (R22/R80), White (R20/R70), Red (R22/R80), Pink (R20/R70) and Blanc de Blanc MCC (R45/R200), very affordable prices.  The Grande Provence, the wine estate’s flagship wine, costs R700.  Pongracz (R185), Pierre Jourdan Belle Rosé (R44/210), Piper Heidsiek (720) and Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé (R1500) are also available.

Donovan proudly told me about the new Rosetta imported coffee range that they will be introducing soon.   Grande Provence guests will be able to order their coffee made from beans of the origin of their choice, much as one can order a type of tea.  Beans will be available from Papua New Guinea, two options from Ethiopia, Panama, Brazil, and Indonesia. The Illy coffees will remain the baseline coffee at Grande Provence.

Grande Provence has been an Eat Out Top 10 restaurant, its previous chefs Peter Tempelhoff and Jacques de Jager having been awarded this accolade.  I am convinced that Chef Darren can achieve the same, and have found him to be one of the most creative platers and food designers, especially as far his desserts go.  I felt disappointed that our dinner did not reflect enough of this talent, which I have seen on so many previous occasions, and I told Chef Darren so when he came to say hello.  Our waitress was good and attentive, but I was annoyed when she interrupted a heated discussion between my partner and I, just to ask our permission to serve the next course, an odd touch, as one is normally in the hands of the chef as far as serving timing goes. A sign of the professionalism of Grande Provence, and of F&B Manager Donovan, was his call the following day, to check if everything had been to our satisfaction, proactively requesting feedback.  It is this care and friendliness that makes me go back to Grande Provence over and over again.

Restaurant at Grande Provence, Main Road/R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8600.  www.grandeprovence.co.za. (The website contains the menu, a profile of Chef Darren, and a description of the restaurant interior.  Disappointingly there is no Image Gallery to display Chef Darren’s beautiful dishes).  Monday – Sunday lunch and dinner.

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