Tag Archives: Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc

Restaurant Review: Sloppy Sam not sloppy at all

A spontaneous invitation to join Cormac Keane, previous owner of Portofino, for dinner at one of his new favourite restaurants, led to the introduction to Sloppy Sam on Somerset Road in Green Point, Cape Town.   While its name may put one off from trying the restaurant, it is anything but sloppy.  Sloppy Sam is a most warm and welcoming restaurant.   Its business card promises “Simple Food Cooked Well”.

The charming Persian owner and hands-on chef Hooman Saffarian spent time at our table, always a plus when the owner takes the time and trouble to meet his customers.   Equally impressive was waiter Bradley, who had the right balance of attentiveness, service, and friendliness, and clearly loves his job.  He proudly said that he has worked at the restaurant for a year, and would not easily move, even if he were to be paid more somewhere else.

Sloppy Sam is a Cape Town institution, having been established on Glengariff Road in Sea Point as a milk bar in 1935.   In 1984 Saffarian bought the restaurant, only the fourth owner in the 75 year history of the restaurant.   He sold the restaurant in 1993, but he and his family missed the restaurant so much that he bought it back.  Four years ago the restaurant moved to its current location, previously the home of “The Restaurant”, whose owner Graeme Shapiro emigrated to Australia.   Sloppy Sam has a namesake in Rome, we are told.

The first impression of Sloppy Sam on entering is that it is a Greek restaurant, as the music sounds Greek.   It has Greek style chairs, in a Greek-blue, and has a homely feel from its cluttered yet neat look – crates of bottled water, wine, and Persian delicacies stand on the floor, and add to the decor.   Shelves are filled with imported jams, pomegranate juice, and pickled garlic.   A bowl has an attractive collection of red onions, lemons and aubergines.  Persian rugs hang over the balcony and on the wall, and they, together with the works of art, are for sale out of the restaurant.   Saffarian sells antiques as well, Bradley tells us.

The menu and winelist are in one document, a no-nonsense plastic folder with information.   The menu has mediterranean Mazzehs, which include tarama, tzatziki, dolmek, kuftek (meatballs) and bademjan, all at R 35, served with pita bread, a little over-toasted for my liking, making it tough.  Feta, olives and humus cost R 38. Spanakopita, sardines and tuna carpaccio cost around R 39, and two salads cost R 47.   All main courses have been kept under R 100, at R 99 for the lamb shank, roasted lamb neck and pepper steak, and the lamb ribs,lamb chops, moussaka, beef and chicken kebabs, calamari and tuna are cheaper.   The pan-fried calf’s liver is R 75.   I love liver, and while it was not as thick-cut as I like it prepared, it was certainly tasty.  The potato mash could have been creamier, and not feel as if it was just compressed potato.  The tzatziki and humus were excellent.   Keane enjoyed his chicken kebabs with a spicy tikka.  Desserts cost between R 25 – R 33, for baklava, halva and malva pudding.

Bradley offered me a choice of two wines in dinky bottles – I have not seen these in a restaurant for years!   I choose the 2006 Blaauwklippen Cabernet Sauvignon, and was allowed to taste it without asking!   The wine list has a small selection of inexpensive wines: Chardonnays range from R 120 for Hartenberg to R 165 for Springfield Wild Yeast; white blends from R 95 for the Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc to R 120 for a Haute Cabriere Chardonnay/Pinot Noir; Rose’s cost R 69 for the Nederburg and R 85 for the Boschendal Blanc de Noir; Fleur du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon costs R 120, while the Springfield Whaleberg costs R 229; Beyerskloof Pinotage is R 99, while the Hartenberg costs R 130; the Villiera Merlot costs R 115, the Bilton costs R 140; the Bellingham Shiraz costs R 120 and the Diemersdal R 135.

The restaurant has the cutest website ever seen (restaurants generally are not well-known for their marketing), which looks like a picture book, and makes a sound when you turn the pages.  It opens on the Homepage with a proud shot of Saffarian, with loud middle-Eastern music.  It warns one not to expect “blitz cooking” at the restaurant.   We will definitely return to Sloppy Sam.

Sloppy Sam, 51a Somerset Road, Green Point, tel 021 419-2921, www.sloppysam.co.za.  Open Mondays – Saturdays, evenings only.

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

Restaurant review: Haiku still star-struck, 50 % more expensive!

Haiku restaurant in the Cape Town city center has been one of my favourites ever since it opened more than four years ago.  It is a sister restaurant to Bukhara, one of Cape Town’s leading Indian restaurants.  I have never written a review about it.

Being named as the Eat Out Best New Restaurant 6 months after it opened (a once-off award category of Eat Out) made the restaurant the in-place for Capetonians, and this led to an extreme degree of arrogance from the staff.  One could not book a table for the same day, let alone just arrive without a booking.

The initial success led the Haiku owner Sabi Sabhawal to open a Haiku in London, but the project failed dismally, due to poor location in an alley off a high street, exorbitant renovation and staff costs, and high menu prices, which resulted in the closure of the restaurant.  It proved to be a blessing in disguise for the restaurant, in that its best staff, but also its most arrogant, was sent to London, and most did not return to Cape Town.

For the past few months Haiku has become friendlier and more flexible.  There is no longer drama with cheeky waiters.   The canopy on the outside of the restaurant now proudly carries the Haiku branding.  But now its pricing has become excessive!

A visit back to a busy and buzzy Haiku last week, unbooked and latish at 22h15,  was a shock, because the menu has changed radically.  Haiku is unique in charging its dishes in stars, rather than in Rand, and prescribes that for dinner one has to eat for 4 stars each.   Each star used to cost R42, i.e. a total cost of R168 per head, and the price had not been increased for a good year.   Now the cost per star has been reduced to R40, and while this may seem that the price has reduced, it is misleading, as many dishes have been re-priced, a new half star pricing for menu items having been introduced.  A 3-course meal previously costing 4 stars, consisting of a starter (1 star), a main course (2 stars) and a dessert (1 star), now has increased to a 6-star cost, at R240 for the same meal items, a 43 % increase!   In addition, the plain rice, which was a free staple served with the main course dishes, now costs 1/2 a star.   The waiter David explained that the recosting was done because patrons “abused” the star allocation on the menu previously, choosing dishes which were better value, and which were meant to act as “loss leaders”.

Dave started at Haiku when it opened, and is the only “surviving” waiter.  He is gentle and nice, and informative.  I ask him what changes he has seen over the four year history of Haiku.   He says that while the restaurants patrons no longer are Cape Town’s trendsetters, they now are tourists, production company representatives, Johannesburgers and loyal international visitors.   He does not mention Capetonians.

The price increases of the dishes are not the only change on the Haiku menu.  The previous list of 260 menu items has been reduced to 200.    The look of the menu, and its headings is so different, that one has to get used to finding one’s favourite dishes.   The menu is divided into sections: Dim Sum, costing 1 – 1,5 stars, with a choice of spring rolls, fried wontons, dumplings and steamed rice rolls; Tempura, costing between 1,5 – 2 stars, with a selection of prawn avocado (still as delicious as ever), salmon, soft shell crab, mixed vegetables, and beef; the Sushi section cost ranges from 1 – 4 stars, and contains 38 options, including sashimi, maki, nigiri, California rolls, sandwiches, handrolls and more;  The Grills section dishes cost 1 – 3,5 stars, for Robata, Teriyaki, Tepanyaki, beef fillet and lamb chops;  Salads cost 1,5 stars; Soups 1 star; Noodle dishes cost 2 stars; Rice dishes range from 1/2 – 2 stars; Hot Pots 2 – 3 stars for mixed seafood and beef; ‘Sizzling’ dishes include beef, lamb, chicken and ostrich, and cost 2,5 stars; sixty Wok dishes are offered, ranging from 1,5 – SQ for the crayfish.  The entry level duck costs 3 stars, and the Duck Orange is still the favourite on the menu, as good as ever, with no reduction in portion size; Desserts now costs 1,5 stars, for coconut ice cream, mango ice cream, lychees and ice cream, chocolate spring roil, a trio of Asian desserts, a banana crepe, and chocolate mousse.

The menu is introduced with the following paragraph: “Dear guest, food at Haiku is served as tapas, each dish when ready, to be shared and enjoyed.  10 % service charge for 4 or more persons. A minimum charge is 4 stars per person for dinners only”.   The menu and the winelist are not available to be seen on the Haiku website, a privacy policy of the restaurant!

The Haiku winelist, in mock alligator cover, is branded Bukhara, and is extensive with about 130 wines, confusingly offering a first list of better value for money wines in bottles and by the glass, and then it continues by offering wines by variety, two pages for red wines and one page for white wines.    The value-for-money white wine list ranges from R 105 per bottle/R35 per glass for a Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc to R245 per bottle/R82 per glass for a Constantia Uitsig Reserve Semillon; the red wines range from R135 per bottle/R45 per glass for Jordan Chameleon to R445 per bottle/R148 per glass for Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmond.    Each variety is described succinctly, but no wine vintages are specified.   Sparkling wines cost R190 for Pongracz and R900 for Moet et Chandon; champagnes range from R212 for Graham Beck to R900 for Krug Vintage.  The classification of the Moet and the Graham Beck is interesting, each appearing to be in the wrong section.   The Overgaauw Chardonnay costs R138, the Hamilton Russell R405; Thelema Sauvignon Blanc costs R150, and the Fleur du Cap Unfiltered R220; a Simonsig Gewuerztraminer costs R124, the Platter White Wine of the Year, the Sadie Family Palladius, costs R790; Le Bonheur’s Cabernet Sauvignon costs R208, and that of Rustenburg Peter Barlow R620;   Vergenoegd’s Merlot costs R200, Durbanville Hill’s Luiperdsberg costs R425;  Grootte Post’s Pinot Noir costs R248, and Bouchard Finlayson’s Pinot Noir Tete Cuv R1 050; The Guardian Peak shiraz costs R133, the De Trafford R627 – Dave checks the vintages of the shirazes, and a Cloof 2003 is available – the other shirazes are 2007; a KWV Roodeberg costs R176, the Vergelegen V costs R1 400.

Haiku restaurant, Bree Street, tel 021 424-7000.  Dinner bookings taken for 19h00 and 21h00.  The website can only be accessed via www.bukhara.com, and is outdated, still featuring a page for the ex-London branch!

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