Tag Archives: BYO

Restaurant Review: Don Armando first ‘Argentinian’ steak restaurant in Cape Town!

Don Armando Logo and Chef Dan Whale CottageMy friend Whitney and I had not met for dinner for a while, after a very busy summer season, and chose the newish ‘Argentinian’ restaurant Don Armando.  It belongs to Il Leone Chef and owner Daniel Toledo, who named the new steak restaurant after his Argentinian father.  It opened in December, and is a ‘boutique restaurant’ seating about 50 patrons..

We had never heard of Cobern Street in Green Point, and had to call the restaurant for some landmarks to find it, as a Google Map let us down.  It is two buildings up a side road on which Il Leone is on the corner, the building once having been a night club.

We were shown to the small terrace right on top of the two storey building, withDon Armando interior uptairs Whale Cottage
space only for 2 small tables and a six seater, and we enjoyed the privacy and fresh air, despite hearing and smelling the extractor fan throughout the evening, and smelling burning fat at one stage.  Lighting is very low key, making it hard to photograph the dishes and interior, Whitney using her Torch App to light up the dishes for me. I went back the following day to photograph the decor, and found the daylight streaming into the rooms very bright.

The deck is clad in wooden slats, so that one cannot see the less glamorous Continue reading →

Neighbourhood treasure The Blue Café opens in Tamboerskloof, as Deli and General Dealer!

The Blue Cafe Exterior Whale CottageThe Blue Café opened in Tamboerskloof on Saturday, after a few months of renovation, having operated as The Daily Deli for 18 years.  The small building with attitude has a heritage dating back to 1904, and is set to become the new secret food treasure in the hood of Tamboerskloof.  Pricing is very reasonable.

I drove past yesterday afternoon, having seen a Tweet referring to its opening, and met the charming Murray von Hirschberg, co-owner with his wife Jeanne, with input from her mother Lynda Loubser.  Jeanne started working at Melissa’s Kloof Street as a teenager, first as waitress during weekends and school holidays, and then joined them full-time doing product development, having worked there for 13 years, The BLue Cafe Murray and Jeanne 2 Whale Cottageand giving up a dream to study medicine.  She told me that she loved working for Melissa van Hoogstraten.  It is Jeanne’s distinctive handwriting that was used for all price labels at Melissa’s for all the years that she worked for them. Murray told me proudly that Jeanne was accepted to do an MBA at UCT without a base degree, that she received a scholarship to study Organisation Development at Cornell University in the USA, and will start working on her PhD shortly.   Murray was an investment banker in New York, owns a massage company Enmasse, and has launched a unique Enmasse rooibos tea blend, telling Continue reading →

Eat Out selects Top 500 restaurants for its 2014 Guide!

Burrata Pick me Up dessert Whale Cottage PortfolioOne of the changes New Media Publishing has introduced for Eat Out‘s 2014 edition is that its printed Restaurant Guide will only list 500 restaurants, as opposed to 1100 last year.  The method of selecting the included restaurants has changed too.

The process commenced with Eat Out announcing that it was looking for applications from restaurants to be included in the 2014 Eat Out Guide, such applications closing on 30 June.  It described the application process as follows: ‘This call to action turns up the heat and shifts the onus onto the restaurant to put themselves forward in a simple process‘.  The restaurants that wanted to be considered for inclusion had to complete a Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: La Pentola brings international cuisine with local flavours to Hermanus!

A Hermanus restaurant space with one of the most beautiful views must be the new La Pentola (The Saucepan), previously the home of Mediterrea and Grilleria, on Marine Drive close to the Marine Hotel. Lunch yesterday, to celebrate the 16th anniversary of Whale Cottage Hermanus with our Manager Carole, was made all the more special with a school of dolphins escorting whales across the majestic Walker Bay, which La Pentola looks on to.

Carole had been to the restaurant before, having met Chef Shane Sauvage when he was at La Vierge restaurant on the Hermanus Wine Route. La Pentola opened a few months ago when Grilleria vacated the premises. Chef Shane also owns a restaurant with the same name in Pretoria, which he opened in 1995 and is now run by his sister.  Chef Shane told us that his father is of French origin and his mother came from Seychelles, yet he does not speak French.  He worked at Italian restaurants before opening his own restaurant, and this inspired the love for Italian cooking, and hence the Italian name of his restaurant.  Chef Shane impressed by being on the floor regularly, chatting to his clients, and hugging those he knows. He is proud that he started as a ‘bus boy’, fetching plates, to being the owner of two restaurants today.  He talks about the ‘fusion cuisine’ which his restaurants prepare, being French, Italian and Mediterranean dishes made with South African produce.  The website emphasises that Chef Shane uses real butter, cream and fresh herbs, as well as olive oil, and that no MSG and artificial flavourings are used in their cooking!  Only grain-fed beef, duck, and chicken is sourced.  The dietary requirements of lactose intolerant and diabetic clients are catered for.

Chef Shane has already published two cookbooks: ‘The Edge of Fusion’, and ‘InFusion’, the latter book winning him a Gourmand World Cook Book Award in 2009. He proudly brought his books to the table to show us, and they are are available for sale in the restaurant.   ‘InFusion’ focused on the ‘infusion of South African produce, liquor and lifestyle’, says its introduction, and contains Forewords written by Good Food & Wine Show owner Christine Cashmore and restaurant reviewer Victor Strugo, with beautiful food photography by Sarie Pretorius.  Chef Shane is described by Strugo to stand for FRESH: Fruit, Real, Emotions, Seasons, Herbs.  Alcohol is used in the preparation of most dishes.

The restaurant has wooden tables without tablecloths, and the chairs are covered in tan mock leather, the walls are painted in yellow/gold and tan, covered with an odd collection of paintings. The windows can open and are stack-able, allowing one to enjoy a superb unobstructed sea view over the bay, an ideal location for photography of the visiting whales.  A new lounge-style seating area has been added in one corner of the restaurant. The tables have material serviettes, but an ordinary salt cellar and a cheap black pepper grinder.  The menu and winelist are covered in black plastic, and both disappointed in their presentation, the menu just being a typed list of items with a hand-correction, and the winelist containing diagrams of the wine districts and regions, and of the Aroma Wheel, which probably were copied from coloured sources, but lose their impact in black and white.

The menu has ten starters, and Carole enjoyed her Mussels Provencal (R48), a hearty portion served with muffin-shaped rolls containing mushrooms, capers and oregano.  Every menu item is described in detail in terms of all of its ingredients, and how the dish is prepared, rarely seen on menus.  Outback Crocodile and Springbok Carpaccio are the two most expensive starters, at R60.  Other interesting sounding starters are Angel snails (‘Spanish snails wrapped in bacon, pan fried with red onion, black pepper, butter, steamed in chardonnay, bound with cream and flavoured with origanum‘, the menu describes), Basil and port livers, and Afro Parisian pastry (smoked salmon, apple, served with phyllo pastry parcel filled with brie and mango pickle). Chardonnay fig and honey and African mampoer sorbets cost R10 each, and can be ordered as palate cleansers.  The main courses range in price from R85 for Santorini Chicken to R 165 for seafood fillet (fillet steak with seafood, tawny port and basil and cream sauce) and Mozambican Prawns (served with a beer cream sauce).  I enjoyed the kingklip prepared with red onion and tomato, basted in butter, served with ‘cream rice’ dusted with parmesan cheese, carrots and beans (R120), less complex than many of the other dishes in its ingredient combination.  I was impressed that it came with a fish knife, seldom offered.  Other main courses include a fillet flamed with 10 year old KWV brandy and served with Dijon mustard and green Madagascan cream sauce (R145), and Crocodile pastry (crocodile tail in curry cream sauce wrapped in phyllo pastry, R125).  Pasta dishes are made from Overberg flour and Locke Stone farm organic eggs.  Impressive is that the children’s dishes are healthy steak, fish and chicken, served with potato croquettes and vegetables (R45 – R50).

Desserts are affordable, none exceeding R50 (Strawberry Flambé with Belgium chocolate ice cream).  Carole loved the Crème Brûlee, a deep rich yellow colour, served with a strawberry sorbet, while I had the chocolate terrine served with cream, with an excellent cappuccino. Chef Shane sent two glasses of coffee liqueur to the table, but I declined, having to drive back to Cape Town.

The winelist states that BYO costs R30, explains the Aroma Wheel, and identifies the wine districts and regions in South Africa. Most wines offered are from Hermanus.  Bollinger is offered at R1200, Van Loveren Christina NV costs R220, Goedverwacht Crane Rosé Brut R130, and Bonnievale NV R120. Few wines by the glass are offered, costing about R45.  Vintages span more than one year, to save on reprinting the winelist, one would suspect.  Three Shiraz wines are available: Reyneke Organic ‘2009/10’ (R140), Val de Vie ‘2008/9‘ (R360), and Porcupine Ridge ‘2011/2012‘ costs R135.

Chef Shane’s menu is interesting, most dishes unusual.  His willingness to connect with his clients on the floor is a strength few chefs bother with.  The presentation of the menu and winelist could be improved, to match the food, and the fantastic view offered in the restaurant.  Service was not perfect, but our waiter was friendly.  The website seems overwritten in its accolades.  The most impressive part of our visit was the understanding by Chef Shane when we had to rush back to the guest house to check in guests just after we had ordered our food.  Our order was placed on hold and our table was kept for us until we returned.

La Pentola, first floor, 87 Marine Drive, Hermanus.  Tel (028) 313-1685. www.lapentola.co.za. Tuesday – Sunday lunch and dinner.

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

Restaurant Review: Bistro Sixteen82 recipe for success, excellent value for money

I had read about Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg wine estate in Constantia on Twitter, and about its Beef Tataki in particular, one of Chef Brad Ball’s signature dishes.   My first visit last week was one of wow – amazement at the wonderful setting, the amazing decor, the friendliness of the staff, the wonderful food, as well as the value for money, a perfect recipe for success.  I felt that the “Bistro” name, which Wikipedia defines as “a small bar serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting” is completely inappropriate for this wonderful restaurant, the restaurant underselling itself, and thereby overdelivering.

Bistro Sixteen82 opened just less than a year ago, in a new building built on the historic Graham Beck Foundation-owned wine estate, which was given to Catharina, “the widow Ras” as she was known, by Simon van der Stel in exchange for (undefined) “favours”, I was told by the charming Lida van Heerden, the Cellar Door Manager.  Catharina must have been quite a lady, having had five husbands, and was the inspiration for the name of Catharina’s, the other Steenberg restaurant.   With the historical heritage of Steenberg, the modern building housing the tasting room as well as the Bistro is a surprise, but fits into the environment well, probably because the building is quite a distance away from the historic Steenberg Hotel buildings.  There is ample parking, and the building opens onto a well-kept lawn, which seems to melt into the vineyards on the mountain slope above.  There is a lovely water feature, making it very tranquil to sit outside.

When one steps into the tasting room, which one has to walk through to get to the restaurant, one notices the dominant chandelier, made from 2700 green and red resin oval shapes, depicting grapes, with pips and all!   The light was made by Carole Carr-Harris from Divali Lighting in Hermanus, and weighs a ton, needing a reinforced ceiling to hold the weight.   The tasting section is a round island in a generously sized room, from which leads a lounge, at which one can taste wines too, or just enjoy sitting at the fireplace on a wintry day.   The architect and interior decorator is Richard Perfect, and he certainly did a perfect job in creating an architecturally unique building inside and out. 

The restaurant is a large space, with tables seating 70 patrons close together, especially against the two end walls, which have a fixed seat against the wall.   The close proximity of the tables, and the fully booked restaurant, gave it a wonderful buzz and energy.  It was nice to see Jenna, the hostess, who has attended one of Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings.  Chef Brad was off-duty, but kept an eye on things with his staff as soon as he had read via Twitter that I was at the restaurant, and also provided the exact details of the sauce served with the asparagus starter on Twitter, even though he had the day off!   A large structure made from branches is a decorative feature on the ceiling, and bunches of pin-cushion proteas presented in large glass vases give a flash of orange in an otherwise white-dominant restaurant interior, the same protea-filled vases being seen at the entrance to the building, from which can also see the steel vats of the winery. The comfortable chairs have a natural wood look, with what looks like a modern-day ‘riempie’ for the seat, matching the ceiling wood structure.  The vats are also visible behind the Raw Bar, and the estate’s white and red wines are cleverly displayed on two of the walls, creating a design feature.  A Raw Bar refrigerated display counter contains salamis and hams, capers as well as cheeses, with an Oyster Tank next to it.  Staff look smart and professional, with white shirts, a smart slim silver tie, with a tie clip, and black slacks and black aprons. 

The tables have white table cloths and impressive serviettes with the name of the restaurant embroidered on them.  Cutlery and glassware is of good quality.  The menu and winelist is made from black leather, and is a simple insert.  The number of choices of dishes and wines is reasonable, yet very varied, making it easy to choose.   The reasonable cost of the dishes impressed, Front of House Manager Jürgen Welp telling me that from the outset Chef Brad Ball wanted the Bistro to stand for value for money, both in terms of its food as well as the wines (the mark-up is no more than 25 % for the Steenberg wines, unlike some of its Constantia neighbours charging threefold for their estate wines, even if the tasting room is only a few steps away).  With a corkage fee of R40, it would be more expensive for a customer to do a BYO with corkage added, compared to ordering from the winelist.

Chef Brad Ball was previously at River Cafe, Olympia Café and Pastis, while Jürgen had worked at Buitenverwachting for seven years.  Both set up Bistro Sixteen82 a year ago. 

Our waitress Natalie brought the bread basket to the table, consisting of a bread stick, slices of focaccia and ciabatta, with a small platter of olives and sundried tomatoes, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar served in tiny milk jugs.  The Summer menu is divided into four sections, labeled as “Stimulate” for the starters, including smoked pork paté, pea and pancetta risotto and snails, costing R46 each, and mussels, slightly more expensive;  “Rejuvenate” contains two dishes : Beetroot tarte tine served with smoked trout mousse (R68) and the house salad (R45/R64).  “Inspire” contains the main courses, ranging from R78 for Broccoli feuillette (gorgonzola fondue) to R 120 for Franschhoek Trout and Steak au Poivre.  Other mains include a pork belly ragout, line fish, a charcuterie selection and sticky pork belly.  The “Indulge” selection contained five desserts, costing between R44 – R50, all interesting sounding, and a cheese platter at R48.

I ordered the Asparagus starter (R50), served with a truffle mousseline with parmesan, and decorated with tiny snippets of tomato, a lovely melody in green, yellow and red. The sauce was delicious, and overshadowed the steamed crispy asparagus, it was so special.   My son had the Beef Tataki, which is seared beef fillet and then thinly sliced in carpaccio style, served with soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, chilli, sesame oil, radish, spring onions, and lime juice. It is a unique combination of ingredients causing a taste explosion, costing R49 as a starter and R 105 as a main.  My (student) son could not finish the main course portion, it was so filling.  I ordered the entrecote steak, simply served as two thick slices, with mash (a bit stodgy, I felt, but it was my choice – normally the steak is served with potatoes and peppercorn sauce) and steamed carrots and beans.  An excellent small but effective steak knife was provided.

The Raw Bar board shows prices to be R18 for an oyster, and Gravadlax at R44.  Other options are Pink Tartar, being Norwegian salmon with chilli and lime, costing R60/R105 as starter/main course, and the Red Tartar, being a tartar of Chalmar beef served with capers and a quail egg (R56/R98).   The cappuccino was served with two pieces of home-made Turkish Delight. 

We were offered a complimentary glass of the Steenberg Brut, made from 100 % Chardonnay, the first tasting of this bubbly, crisp and dry, and a good marriage with the asparagus.   The Steenberg wine range consists of 1682 Chardonnay MCC, Sauvignon Blanc, HMS Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc, HMS Sphynx Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, 1682 Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Nebbiolo, Catharina, Magna Carta, and Klein Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and Bordeaux Blend.   The Steenberg wines understandably dominate the winelist, with almost all their wines being available by the glass.  The Klein Steenberg Bordeaux Red costs R24 for a 250 ml carafe and R70 for a bottle, and the most expensive is Steenberg Catharina 2007 at R77/R230.   It also lists a few other Constantia wine brands, keeping it proudly-Constantia.  Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve costs R 585 and the Rosé R750.  

I don’t always make a point of visiting the cloakroom, and here I saw the only aspect of the decor that came across as kitsch – the cloakroom and the toilets are covered with a wall paper that is a close-up of a vineyard, making one claustrophobic.  It is such a contrast to the good taste of the decor in the rest of the building. 

I loved my first visit at Bistro Sixteen82, and will be back again to try some of the other dishes on the Summer menu.  I felt it to be excellent value for money, and a happy and relaxed space, with very friendly staff and happy customers who did not seem to want to go home.  I am very surprised that Bistro Sixteen82 did not make the Top 20 Eat Out Restaurants shortlist, but should be sure to do so in 2011.  The Breakfasts, and the Eggs Benedict in particular, are legendary at Bistro Sixteen82 too.  

POSTSCRIPT 22/2: A visit to my accountant in Constantia was a good opportunity to make a return visit to Bistro Sixteen82.   I had an early lunch, and was served by Manager Jürgen, and was offered a glass of Steenberg Brut – I accepted a half glass. I tried two new starters on Chef Brad Ball’s menu, and absolutely loved the presentation as well as the taste of the Duck liver parfait and duck prosciutto, creating a beautiful dark/light effect underneath the mousse, and served with a small wine-poached pear.   Then I had the Capellini and truffle créme, topped with chopped tomato and a poached egg, a more simple but filling and tasty dish, beautifully paired with the Steenberg Semillon.  

Bistro Sixteen82, Steenberg wine estate, Constantia.  Tel (021) 713-2211.  www.steenberg-vineyards.co.za   Twitter :@Bistro1682.  Mondays – Sundays, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, 9h00 – 20h00. 

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