Entries tagged with “bar”.


The new The Yard in the Silo District of the V&A Waterfront opened last week, as a multi-cultural cuisine restaurant, but also offering a bar, a homeware shop, and a Deli. It is the most unique restaurant I have experienced, in its diverse food offering. (more…)

La Parada Kitchen with Bull head Whale Cottage PortfolioOn Thursday the massive new La Parada Bar da Tapas opened on Bree Street, the second outlet with this brand name in the Harbour House group. It is a restaurant and bar that will attract custom due to the extraordinarily low prices of its food and beverages, in a block that now includes Africa Café, Bistrot Bizerca, HQ,  Awestruck, Simply Asia, The House of Machines, &Union, and Birds Boutique Café.  La Parada means stop or standstill, a clever name for one to break away from a busy day, even though one can imagine that it will become very noisy as it becomes popular due to its low prices.

La Parada is in a building that has been extensively renovated, and La Parada has taken the ground floor.  A night club is set to open in the basement in two weeks, I was told by a waiter, and a glass floor in one section will attract attention to what will be happening below.   One cannot help but notice the restaurant on Bree Street, diagonally opposite &Union, as it has windows opening along almost all of the street frontage, with counter seating inside and outside.  It was very cold yesterday, and there was no place to hide from the cold wind inside the (more…)

The House of Machines Interior Whale Cottage PortfolioThe House of Machines opened on Monday in a pedestrian lane on Shortmarket Street, and promises to be a good coffee spot as a start, as its co-owner Brad Armitage was a co-owner of Vida e Caffè when it first opened.  We found a motorcycle shop discreetly positioned at the back of the outlet, and experienced a vibrant coffee shop, bar, and light snack restaurant with very friendly and attentive service.

The building dates back to the 1890s and has housed a bar, a restaurant, a workshop for furniture designer Gregor Jenkin, and most recently a yacht design company. All three the co-owners designed the interior.  It is dominated by a massive black bar/serving counter, with wooden table counters attached to the wall at which one sits on signal red (not Vida red, as I joked with Brad!) stools.   Each table can seat up to four comfortably, and has a glass jar with Bakers & Chef cutlery, and Natural salt and pepper grinders.  Beautiful ceiling beams and weathered cement floors have been left as is.  The seating wall is covered with a collection of photographs of the three co-owners with their bikes, on their visit to the USA, which they undertook to obtain ideas and inspiration for their new venture.  Paul van der Spuy is one of the owners, who loves coffee shops, is a men’s fashion designer who owns Blue Collar White Collar, is the unofficial ‘Mayor of Cape (more…)

For all the doom and gloom in the hospitality industry at the moment, it is refreshing to discover a new restaurant in the center of town, that has raised the bar with a slick and chic new establishment. Valora Café, Restaurant and Bar opened on Monday, where L’Aperitivo used to be, next door to Skinny Legs & All.  Valora means ‘brave’ in Latin, and is one of a number of exciting city centre restaurants to open in the past few months, which include Roberto’s, Dear Me, and What’s On Eatery.

I had noticed the sudden closure of L’Aperitivo a month ago, often driving down Loop Street.  I stopped to have a chat to Chef Andrew Mendes, while the renovations were taking place.  He told me that the restaurant would open on 1 August, and it did!  L’Aperitivo had a large counter, which took a lot of the relatively small space. The Valora counter is smaller, positioned at the back of the restaurant, and has a far more spacious feel about it.  One part of a wall is rough brick, and the rest of it is painted a light gold yellow, the back wall behind the bar is a deep burgundy, while the other two sides have glass windows, letting the welcome winter sun in on a very chilly day, with snow on Table Mountain.  I liked the interior design, understated, chic, with dark wood-top tables, chairs with a white/silver fabric, and bar chars in a light rose burgundy colour. The bar counter has gold design tiles on it.  The decor reminds one of What’s On Eatery and La Mouette. There is no clutter. The shopfitting and interior design was done by Ricci Cinti, who remembered me as his first boss of many years ago. His partner in Epic Ark designed the logo, which has a similarity to that of the Queen Victoria Hotel, giving it a classy feel.  Outside, modern grey garden couches, with a rope to demarcate the Valora space on the pavement, add further class to the establishment.  The owner wanted to create an interior that was ‘sexy and modern, finer dining, offering value for money’. The floor is a laminate that looks like it is made from old wine barrels.  I found it very hot inside, and the waitress switched off the heaters.

Valora has been opened by Mike Mouneimme, who was the operator of Caprice in Camps Bay for ten years, and is the cousin of Caprice owner David Raad.  The family is Lebanese, and this reflects in the Mediterranean style restaurant, which consists of a collection of Lebanese, Italian and Greek dishes.  Chef Andrew worked at Tuscany Beach for more than three years before joining Valora, and prior to this at the previous Avontuur restaurant in the V&A Waterfront, and at Superior Catering, which did the private catering for the Atlantic Beach Golf Club as well as for Pearl Valley.  He was not given much creative freedom at Tuscany Beach, and he is excited about the freedom to develop the menu. Andrew laughed when he said that the restaurant name comes from the bravery in opening a restaurant in these challenging times, and for the small kitchen space he has to cook in.

The cutlery is smart, being Fortis Hotelware, and I loved the special edition LavAzza Calendar 2011 cups with a gold design on them.  The Fortis salt and pepper containers have a yin/yang design, and a ceramic hurricane candle holder was on the table.  The paper serviettes do not match the interior quality, and Manager Lisa said that she is working on getting these changed to material ones.

The menu/winelist has a golden cover, with the logo, and looks inviting and classy.  Inside the pages are in burgundy.  The menu offers an extensive range of items.  For Brunch one can order a baked bagel with salmon and scrambled egg, French Toast, a health breakfast, or toasted Focaccia, all at about R50.  The salad choice includes Lebanese Tabbouleh and Fattoush salads, as well as Tuna, Greek, chicken, and beef salads, ranging from R58 – R78.   Roast beef, cheese and tomato, and spicy chicken sandwiches made with home-made bread cost about R60.  Eleven mezze choices range in price from R12 – R40, and include Lebanese flat bread, Baba Ganoush, aubergine, and Lebanese Kefta kebabs.  Starters included a beautifully presented Two Tone soup, recommended by Chef Andrew, being a clever design of two soups, presented in a yin yang shape, with a rich dark beef soup sprinkled with biltong powder, and a light truffle cream with a hint of chilli, with two prawns, which was served with toasted brioche, costing R50. I enjoyed the deep fried crispy Patagonian calamari rings served with a separate bowl of lemon butter sauce, slices of lime and a sprig of origanum (R40).  Other starters include snails, spicy chicken livers, and stuffed mushrooms, all costing under R50.  Six main courses include a 350 gram rib eye steak (R135), Turkish spiced fillet (R125), beef ragout (R98), Psarri Plaki line fish (R105), chicken Parmagana (R75), and grilled Patagonia calamari (R70).  Pasta includes wild mushroom, ravioli bolognaise, seafood pasta, and Namibian desert truffles, ranging between R70 – R110. The Valora burger costs R55, and a Prego Roll R75.  Desserts cost R50 and less, and include chocolate baklava, berry panna cotta and chocolate truffles.

A small number of wines is offered, with a selection of cocktails.  Dom Perignon costs R2750, Veuve Cliquot R 750, Moet et Chandon R700, and Boschendal Brut R195. Brampton white (R25) and red (R28) is served by the glass.  White wines are by Lammershoek (R165), Ernst Gouws & Co, South Hill, Rickety Bridge, Seven Steps and Waverley Hills (R95).  Red wines come from the same wineries (R120 – R210), with the exception of Seven Steps, as well as Kanonkop Paul Sauer at R650.  The LavAzza cappuccino costs R17.

I was impressed by the classy feel of Valora, the smooth running of the restaurant on its fifth day, the creativity of Chef Andrew’s menu and food presentation, the wide choice offered, and the reasonable prices.  I was not charged for the Two Tone soup, Chef Andrew saying that he wanted me to try it.  Valora is a perfect spot to pop in before or after a concert or a show.  The service was attentive, and Lisa kindly went to have the menu copied at a nearby shop. Parking is a challenge during the day. The menu and beverage list contains a number of spelling errors. The business cards match the menu in gold and burgundy.  A cool unique touch was the stick of chewing gum which came with the bill, in a deep red wrapper with the Valora logo, although I am not sure if the Valora target market is into chewing gum!  I’ll be back to try more of Chef Andrew’s cooking creativity.

POSTSCRIPT 3/6/12: Valora has closed down.

Valora Café, Restaurant and Bar, Shop 70, corner Loop and Hout Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 426-1001.  www.valora.co.za (The website is still under construction).  10h00 – 22h00 weekdays, 17h00 – 23h00 on Saturdays.

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

I often stay in five-star accommodation, to see what we can learn from it.  When a special offer was made to members of Gastronauts, attending a dinner at The Taj Cape Town last week, I grabbed the opportunity to experience this hotel, and made a booking.   I had booked the hotel room to share with my colleague, to allow her to experience the advertised 5-star service, but a last-minute guest arrival prevented her from joining me.  I was relieved in hindsight that she could not join me, because I would not want the service I experienced at The Taj to be her benchmark for service quality.  I was so frustrated by the poor staff service that I experienced that I checked out of this The Leading Hotels of the World member hotel just after midnight.

It started when I knew that my colleague could not join me, so I called the hotel at 16h00 on the day of my stay, to ask for the room to be changed from a twin-bed one to one with a king bed.  I asked for the Reservations Manager who had handled my booking, and the call went through to his answering machine. I did not receive a call back, and called again an hour later, to be told that he wasn’t feeling well, and that he had been sent home.  Clearly no one was listening to his messages. 

When I arrived, I parked at Mandela Rhodes Place (free parking here is included in the package, as the hotel does not have its own parking), and I had to carry my overnight bag, my computer bag, and my dress bag from the parking garage to the hotel.  A Taj doorman saw me coming along, and quickly opened the door, and welcomed me back (odd, as I had just arrived!), but made no effort to help me with my bags.   There was only one receptionist on duty, and she was assisting a security officer linked to a VIP room.  There was no acknowledgement of my presence until she had finished with the other person.  She then asked me mechanically “How can we be of assistance?”.  It was quite obvious that I was checking in, given the luggage that I had with me, but this seemed to be a surprise to her.   I was then told that I had to sign the ‘Legal document’ – this is when my hair started to stand on end.  She asked if I wanted to go to the lobby for the check-in.  As if I was a tourist, I was asked for my passport, not a document I normally walk around with in my home city of Cape Town!   I was offered a non-alcoholic drink in a tiny glass, but requested a glass of water, lemon and ice from Andrea, when she asked me what I wanted to drink.   I was served a glass of lukewarm tap water without ice and lemon.  When I fed this back to Andrea, she seemed quite relaxed about it, without apology, and the water was replaced with what I had ordered.  

The ‘Legal document’ I signed had no details about my stay, other than my name, the rate, and the date of stay.   However it had eleven Terms and Conditions, in very small print, that I was asked to sign.  Being very cautious of such ‘legal documents’, especially as she used this term, I studied the document in detail.  Some of these terms are rather scary.  For example, it states that the rate on the ‘registration card’ is exclusive of taxes and is ‘for room only’.  It was confirmed to me that the rate included Breakfast, but this is not stated in the terms and conditions, and I had to write this into the ‘legal document’.   The hotel has the right to take a ‘lien’ on guest luggage and belongings if one does not pay what is due, and these can then be sold or auctioned off.   No responsibility at all is taken for theft or other loss.   The clause that caught my eye was the following: “The Management reserves to itself the absolute right of admission to any person in the hotel premises and to request any guest to vacate his or hers (sic) room at any moment without previous notice and without assigning any reason whatsoever and the guest shall be bound to vacate when requested to do so” – not the best way to inspire confidence and trust in the hotel and its operation on arrival.   A clause relates to ‘tenancy’ and ‘sub-tenancy’  and is not understandable at all, it is so full of legalese!   Very nervously I signed the ‘Legal document’; and asked for a photocopy, to record which rights I had signed away!

I was then chased along to go to the room.   Again I had to carry all my own luggage to the room!  I had to laugh when the staff member asked if she could book a table for dinner for me, but I had booked specifically due to the Gastronauts dinner at the hotel, which Andrea said was not reflected on my booking!  She kept calling me by my surname, which is a 5-star hotel habit, but it is so formal.  I asked her to call me “Chris”, but she clearly felt uncomfortable doing so.  It reflected what the problem is in this hotel – a lack of communication between staff members and departments.  Andrea asked me if I would be using the internet, a rather silly question, as I was clearly lugging my laptop with me.    Proactively she offered to expand my internet allocation to a 24 hour one, instead of the half an hour free service guests are entitled to, the only good service I received outside of the Mint restaurant at the Taj Hotel.   I do question the half an hour allocation – surely internet connection is an entry level service accommodation establishments should offer these days, especially at 5-star level.  The cost of the 24 hour service is a preposterous R230.   Andrea called for an ice bucket so that I could add ice to my bottle of water, which was at the bed.  It arrived without ice tongs, and I had to take the ice with my fingers.   Andrea asked me if I would need to know anything else, having switched on the TV, showing a promotional Taj programme.   She did not explain how to find the TV channels or how to use the phone, all of which became an issue later on.  Luckily I referred to the room directory, and I was guided to find it in the drawer of the desk – I would never have thought of looking for it there.  I found a welcome letter in my room, signed with ‘warmest regards’ from the Assistant Front Office Manager, and I was asked to note the ‘key facilities’ of the hotel, so that I could enjoy a ‘memorable stay’!  The room card holder gushes on this theme too: “Our team is committed to making your stay not only comfortable but also memorable in every way” – I am sure the experience I had is not the ‘memorability’ that the hotel had in mind!

The room has a beautiful view onto Table Mountain, especially on the 8th floor level.   It has a comfortable desk, with the clever placement of plug points above the desk, and not below it.  A table had a welcome bottle of Doolhof wine, some fruit, chocolates and a plate with pannacotta on it.  The bathroom is well-appointed, with bath and shower, and Molton Brown  bathroom amenities.  It is not the most luxurious hotel room that I have stayed in, but it appeared comfortable and spacious.

Prior to the Gastronauts dinner we had sparkling wine in the lobby, being a glass of Môreson Solitaire MCC NV (Veritas Gold).   The hotel would have known how many persons were booked for the dinner, but the sparkling wine had run out when I arrived, the waiter told us.   It took some time before he found some more of it.  We were served canapés, being gruyere profiteroles and white asparagus jelly.  We were ushered into Mint restaurant, and I was told at which table I was to sit.  I chose a place in the middle of the table, and was then forced to move from this seat, as the chair was booked by another member, I was told.  There were no name cards on the table, and I was most determinedly moved by the Beverages Manager.   In the end it turned out to be a blessing, sitting with Angelo and Tina Casu from Grand Dedale, Samarie Smith from Die Burger and her partner Paul Swanepoel, with Takuan von Arnim and his wife Christiane of Haute Cabriere, and Michael Pownall, GM of the Taj Hotel.   Michael came to South Africa for the opening of the Cape Sun in 1994, then opened La Vendôme Hotel in Sea Point, moved to the Mount Nelson Hotel, and then spent some time in America for Orient Express, the owners of the Mount Nelson, amongst others. Michael and Angelo worked together at the Cape Sun and at the Mount Nelson.  In 2008 Michael returned to open the Taj Cape Town, a challenge as he was involved in the renovations, which incorporated the old Board of Executors and the South African Reserve Bank buildings.

The set menu, without choices, was printed on hand-made paper with an orange and gold-embossed backing, and rolled up with a ribbon, looking elegant and unusual.   Three sets of cutlery were laid out per guest.  Willowcreek olive oil and balsamic vinegar were on the table, as was a basket of delicious mixed rolls.  The Gastronauts dinner and wine pairing was good, and the service excellent.   The dinner had been specifically paired with 2010 Gold and Double Gold Veritas award-winning wines, Bennie Howard, the Gastronauts’ chairman and Veritas Awards’ Deputy Chairman, and the Taj head chef Sayam Longani pairing the food courses and the wines.  The starter was a duck and goose liver terrine which was served with an interesting grape compote, and thinly sliced toast, and was paired with De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay 2009 (Veritas Gold).  Bennie told us that De Wetshof makes eight excellent Chardonnays, and that the Finesse goes well with food, being rich and elegant.  I did not enjoy the sage-baked kabeljou, finding it dry and rather boring, but it was paired with a heavenly Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2010 (Veritas Double Gold), a delicious fruity wine.  For the pairing of the softest deconstructed Karan Beef Wellington, served with the cutest porcini mushroom pie, we were offered two wine choices – Bilton Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Veritas Gold) and the Lamond Cape Agulhus Syrah 2008 (Veritas Double Gold), and for many the Bilton was the preferred wine.   Dessert was an unexciting dark chocolate parfait with orange jelly, and one had the choice of pairing it with a yummy Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2009 (Veritas Double Gold), or a Van Rhyn’s 12 year brandy (Veritas Double Gold).   Friandises were served with a choice of coffees, to round off a lovely evening.

After dinner I wanted another cappuccino, and I asked a staff member of the hotel when the Twankey Bar closes.  She told me at about midnight or 12.30 am.  I went to pop in at Brio first to have a coffee there, and then went to Twankey.   It was 23h20.   There were other guests in the bar.   When I asked for a cappuccino, I was told that the bar was closed, as they had cashed up already, despite the other guests still being there.  I asked the waiter if he could add the coffee to the room bill, to which he answered in the affirmative, but no coffee ever arrived.  He was very keen for me to use the hotel bar, which I did not see nor was I shown – I thought it was the Twankey!  When I returned into the hotel, I was welcomed back once again by the doorman, clearly a standard line.

On my return to the room at about 11.30 pm the turn-down had been done, and a letter of departure (I had not used the room for more than an hour at that time) was already waiting for me, thanking me for my choice of hotel, trusting that I “had a memorable time”, and wishing me “a safe journey onwards”.   It also requested that I complete a Guest Feedback Survey, and stated that “all at Taj Cape Town look forward to welcoming you back to our special hotel in the very near future”.   The survey has some oddities – it refers to “associates anticipating and meeting your personal preferences” and the “ability of our associates to ensure no disturbances occur…”, meaning that the staff must be referred to as ‘associates’, a first in the hospitality industry, to my knowledge.

Needing to do some work, and always working with the television on, I tried to find channel 23, which the TV list said was Deutsche Welle.   I wanted to pick up on the latest news about the resignation of the German Defence Minister.  I could not get the remote to change anything on the TV, and had to work out how to use the phone to call for help.  I could not be advised about the TV channels on the phone, and was told that someone would call me back.  A knock on the door presented the duty manager and her colleague.  She arrogantly told me that the use of the remote to find the TV channels was self-explanatory!   However, it was not that clear to her either, as she struggled for about ten minutes to get to channel 23 !  However, channel 23 was set on ProSieben (an irritating common channel) and not on Deutsche Welle.  I was told that they could not send an IT person to my room to fix the problem immediately, and would only be able to do so the next morning, when I was due to check out!   I explained to the Duty Manager that they just needed to change the programme selection within the German bouquet.   I heard nothing further, and had to call again.  I was promised a call back, which did come some time later, but I could not work out how to answer the room phone.  I then called the Front Desk.  Here a new person answered the phone, telling me that his colleagues had left for the day, and that I would have to wait for IT for the next day to fix the “Dutch TV” problem!!!   Once again a communication problem between staff was evident.  By now I had quite enough, and decided that I could only escape this service nightmare by checking out and going home.   Michael Pownall was standing at Reception when I left, and asked what was wrong.  I promised him a report.  Kindly he sent a staff member to accompany me to the Mandela Rhodes Place parking garage, and once again I carried all my belongings myself.  So I did not get to try out The Taj Cape Town bed, the bathroom, the pool, or the breakfast, but I was far happier once I had left for home.

The Taj Hotel has a nice GM, and good staff at Mint Restaurant, but the Reception staff have a ‘falseness’ about them, being like ‘tape recorders’, saying the same thing over and over again to each guest without the ability to vary their standard message, and do not have complete information about the hotel (e.g. the Twankey Bar closing time), or about their guests.   The staff arrogance is a shame, as The Taj Cape Town is so beautiful, and could be welcoming to Capetonians too.   I did not experience five-star service at The Taj Cape Town, and certainly did not have a ‘memorable stay’!

Taj Cape Town, Wale Street, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 819-2000.  www.tajhotels.com 

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

The Power & The Glory is a most unlikely name for a restaurant/bar, and does not reflect anything about this new eatery and bar belonging to talented interior decorator Adam Whiteman.   The restaurant name is also the name of a Graham Greene book, written in 1940, and refers to words in the Lord’s Prayer.  Not surprisingly, Greene’s novel was controversial.   The Power & The Glory is an easy-going laid back place to stop and have a bite to eat and a beer, if one can find parking on this busy intersection on Kloofnek Road and Burnside Road, below Rafiki’s Bar, but don’t expect any service efficiency or much friendliness.  

Whiteman’s design teeth were cut in The Grand Café and Rooms in Plettenberg Bay, where he and his mom Gail Behr created a rich plush Moroccan style red velvet palace of rooms and a restaurant.  When his mother sold the Grand Café to Susie Main, he was contracted to do the decor for the Grand Cafés in Camps Bay and then The Grand on the Beach.   I was a very regular guest at The Grand Café and Rooms in Plett, and Adam’s brother Steven was hands-on in running the business, with Adam living in Cape Town. Given that Whiteman is the owner of The Power & The Glory, I had to come and try it out.

After only being open for a week or two, it was full already, but then it only has four tables, and some bar stools on the inside and outside of its windows, at which counters have been constructed.  I was told that a scooter outlet and a laundromat previously operated in this space.  The lower level has a huge counter that has a weathered look about it, with a busy collection of things on top of it, and a selection of beers, wines, ready-made sandwiches, a bowl of eggs, rosemary sprigs, natural yoghurt, Toulouse sausages, containers of muesli, and more inside it.   Breads lie on the counter, which make one think that one can buy them, but they are for use in the restaurant, and are supplied by Marcelino’s Bakery in Loop Street.  The patterned stainless steel counter was made by Gregor Jenkins, to the design of Whiteman, and has an aged look, and is duplicated in the Black Ram Bar.  Generally, the interior has a neglected and used look, but I am sure that is completely by design. 

In this lower section are the bar stools and window counters, the only seating.  In the upper section are the tables and chairs, and through this section is the bar.   I was standing at the counter to write down the details and prices, and Whiteman was putting change into his till.   I connected with him when he and I arrived simultaneously.  I chatted to him over the counter and asked him questions, but he looked stressed, and soon snapped at me, saying that he was busy, and that he only had half an hour before he had to go – an hour later he was still there.   He barely spoke to anyone, except to his staff.  He was up and down in the restaurant, and looks like an introvert, and one of those owners that should be in the back room, and let his relatively friendly staff (those on the early shift, at least) run the show.   I saw a Tweet by Andy Fenner that was less than flattering about the treatment Fenner’s wife received at the mouth of Whiteman the previous day. 

The rest of the information that I needed I obtained from a waitress, who stood behind the counter most of the time, as do the rest of the staff.  The tables are not cleared quickly, to allow the restricted seating to be made available to the stream of new arrivals.   Crockery is ordinary and white, and cutlery pedestrian.  Serviettes are tiny brown ones, but have a commendable recycled stamp on them.  The staff that made my cappuccino (coffee beans are from Deluxe) (R16) and Caprese salad (R48) seemed relatively more organised, but a shift change took place, and new staff stood behind the counter, with no carry over to existing clients – there was no record of what I had ordered, when I asked for the bill.  The waiter that brought it to me had a top on that was torn and it was held together with a big safety pin.   He was decidedly unfriendly, somewhat similar to his boss!

The menu is divided into three sections, and is only visible on boards above and alongside the counter.  No paper version is available.  The sign at the counter says that one must place one’s order at the counter and pay when ordering, but I was not given a bill, until I asked for it on my departure.  The “Morning Food” is available all day, and includes granola and yoghurt (R32), boiled eggs and toast (R26) or served with anchovy mayonnaise on toast (R36), goat’s milk cheese on rye toast (R36), croissants cost R16, and sticky pastries R18, a rather unusual breakfast choice.  Don’t expect a cooked breakfast – the food preparation area is directly behind the counter, and there is no space to cook anything.  From midday one can order sandwiches: gammon, chicken or sirloin (R36 – R42), Danish hot dogs (R30), “Saucissonn” (sausage) and bread (R28), chicken salad (R36), and sirloin salad (R38), a very small selection of easy-to-prepare dishes.   I had a wonderful Caprese salad, and it took me straight to Italy, served with a ball of mozzarella, quarters of tomato, sprigs of fresh basil, and drizzled with olive oil, which came with a large thin slice of rye toast (but which I had to ask for twice).   “Night Food” is a simple choice of Hot Dogs (R30) and sandwiches, as per the lunch menu.

One helps oneself to cold water in two jugs on a table, with attractive slices of orange. The wine prices are listed on a separate board, but the beer prices are not listed at all.  The waitress seemed uncertain about these, but gave them to me as R28 for a large Darling Brew, and R19 for a small one, Black Jack costs R19, Heineken and Windhoek R16.  De Morgenzon, Hermit on the HIll, Lammershoek, “Ernst & Gouws” and Black Pearl wines are sold, and range in price from R30/R110 – R46/R180.

What I did love, and what brought back memories of The Grand in Plett, was the music, more jazz initially, but becoming quite heavy rock.   Whiteman was the compiler of the iPod which The Grand played, and it was what made the restaurant such an amazing success, creating a tremendous atmosphere, and changing in its type and tempo throughout the day.   

Having had a far better and friendlier reception at Caffe Milano earlier that day, I don’t think I’ll be back to The Power & The Glory in a great hurry, given that one will be likely to wait for a table, and has to tolerate variable service levels, even though the salad I had was excellent and I enjoyed some of the music.   This is a ‘man’s man’s’ place, and too laid back and unfriendly for my liking.  

The Power & The Glory, corner Kloof Nek and Burnside Roads.  Tel (021) 422-2108.   No website. Monday – Saturday 8h00 – 22h00 for meals, and Bar 17h00 – “late”.  A sign on the door says “Ons praat Afrikaans”.

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

The Salmon Bar at The Yard in Franschhoek recently re-opened in a new venue in the same centre, but now is visible to the main road.    The new venue has an odd shape, but its interior decor is marine-orientated, and it is far better able to communicate that it is all about salmon and trout, but also serves wonderful breakfasts, sells outstanding breads, as well as muffins, croissants and cupcakes, and excellent cappuccinos.  The restaurant seems to have got streets better since its re-opening at the beginning of December.

Judy Sendzul is the clever owner of The Salmon Bar at The Yard, which was previously located at a courtyard off the main road when it first opened three years ago, so it was especially popular amongst the Franschhoek locals, who liked the restaurant for its coffee, breakfasts, and salmon meals, to buy wonderful bread, and to sit at a restaurant table without the noise distrubance of trucks driving by on the main road.  Initially I was not a salmon fan, and therefore did not consider it for lunches, or even dinners, when these were introduced.  But that has changed.  The website describes the owner Judy as “chef, restaurateur, retail food product developer and marketer”.  She worked at Woolworths, developing new products for two years.   The Three Streams Smokehouse, a partner in the venture, also supplies Woolworths with salmon.   

When Bouillabaisse closed down, the developers of The Yard moved the Pam Golding offices to the Bouillabaisse space, and The Salmon Bar took the Pam Golding space, but also that of Schwartz jewellers behind it.  The result is a long thin extended restaurant, which almost divides itself into two sections: one near the ‘retail section’ of the restaurant and its pay point, and another set further back, towards the courtyard.  The space has been used cleverly, with a counter running down the length of most of the restaurant.  There are comfortable couches against the other wall, and modern white chairs.   I have always admired the modern wave-like glass shelves which The Salmon Bar uses to display its breads, and these were in use in the old location already.   Being focused on marine decor ourselves at Whale Cottage, it is a pleasure to see another business’ fish focus, with an engraved outline of a fish in the ceiling, linked to a slogan:  “We source our fish responsibly and cook it simply for breakfast, lunch and dinner”.  A wooden fish collage has been hung up behind the couches, and fishes have been painted on the wall above the trout and salmon fridges.  The table number has a fish on it. On another wall there is another saying: “Produced and passionately hand made in Franschhoek”.   The menu says “We source responsibly and cook simply”. 

The Salmon Bar describes itself as “Restaurant, Bar, Deli, Bakery” on its menus.  There are two menus, one for Breakfast, which is served until midday, and one for the other meals of the day, available throughout the day.  The Breakfast menu is a small laminated menu, printed on both sides, and offers a large variety of interesting and unusual choices: croissants cost R15; pain au chocolate R15; muffins R22; toast, grape jam and Huguenot cheese costs R30; a croissant with oak smoked Royale Highlands trout and cream cheese costs R45;  scrambled eggs and toast are my favourite, served plain at R30, R35 with tomato relish added, and R40 with bacon; lemon scrambled eggs with trout and crème fraîche cost R55; poached eggs (R30); fried eggs and bacon cost R40; boiled eggs and soldiers (R35); frittata and chorizo R55; bagel and scrambled egg with bacon or trout costs R45; ricotta hotcakes, berries and crème fraîche cost R40; and mushrooms on toast with ham R60.  Cappuccino is charged at R15. 

Cleverly the winelist is printed on a wine bottle, and is a small selection of mainly Franschhoek wines, heavily weighted to those from Boekenhoutskloof.  There are five white wines, starting at R25/R90 for Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, and for the Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc, to R55/R220 for the Boekenhoutskloof Semillon.  “Pink wines” offered are Wolftrap (R25/R90) and Haut Espoir (R33/R130).  Five red wines start at Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier (R25/R90), and The Chocolate Block costs R60/R260.   “Fine wines” cost R900 for Bollinger, Krone Borealis Cuvée MCC 2007 costs R35/R170, and Krone Rosé Cuvée R45/R220.

The main menu is A3-sized, and one side sketches the “Journey of the Royale Highlands Trout”: the eggs are hatched in Franschhoek.  The fingerlings are transported to the Lesotho Highlands, where the clear and cold water of the Katse Dam is ideal for farming trout. Then the full-grown trout are returned to Franschhoek, where they are cured and smoked.   On the other side, the extensive, unusual and unique salmon and trout focused menu is printed.   Sashimi is offered, 6 pieces of salmon cost R65 and 6 pieces of tuna R75.   “Japanese tapas” offered is salmon and prawn pot stickers – there was far more salmon than prawn in these, and the manager agreed that it is predominantly made from salmon, and explained that the prawn content is finely chopped.  I would have expected a 50/50% prawn and salmon content. One could not taste the prawns at all (R35); grilled whitefish (R45); the prawn rice noodle spring roll was crunchy, containing mange tout, with a delicious crispy ‘wrapper’, but containing chilli and therefore had quite an afterbite! (R30); and Oshi Zushi (pressed salmon sushi – R35/R70).  “Smoked and cured” offerings are Loch Duart Scottish salmon and toast (R85), and a smoked salmon platter (R125).   Trout paté costs R55, prawns Marie Rose R85; Teriyaki salmon bites R85; New Zealand mussels R65; and Richard’s cured meats R75.   Salads are unusual too: grilled Yakitori salmon salad, with seaweed and mushrooms (R98); yellow fin tuna (R75); hot smoked trout Niçoise (R85); spicy pear salad (R55); and a 4-cheese platter costs R85.   “Grills” available are linefish (R85); fish cakes (R65); Franschhoek trout (R75); Loligo squid (R65); and prawn/salmon Tom Yum” (R55). 

The Deli sells Tokara olive oils, as well as jams, honey, cheese, trout, salmon paté, and a wonderful collection of breads – the dough is supplied by Knead Bakery, and baked on the premises: buttermilk rye, light rye, ciabatta with olives, multi-seed health bread, fruited muesli, and barley, potato and rosemary bread, ranging in price from R22 – R28.  Baguettes cost R12.  One can also buy Black Tiger prawns, tuna, mussels, Norwegian salmon, Rainbow Trout, Richard Bosman’s Quality Cured Meats, and home-made mayonnaise. 

I love going to The Salmon Bar, with really friendly staff, and a chef who is willing to bend the rules about which of their lovely breads may be used to make toast.  Parking always seems to be available outside on the main road.   The prices charged are reasonable, and the restaurant has a niche untouched by any other in Franschhoek or the Western Cape.

The Salmon Bar at The Yard, 38 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4591.  www.salmonbar.com (The website lists the menus and winelist, and each page has a beautiful salmon shot, but the general food items are not featured due to the lack of an Image Gallery. Some photographs of the interior are of the previous location).  Open Monday – Sunday 8h00 – 21h00.

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