Entries tagged with “Catherine Marshall”.

Last Friday I shared a 7-course dinner at Pierino Penati, at Villa 47, sister restaurant to the one-star Michelin restaurant with the same name operating outside Milan in Italy, as a guest of Dine4Six. I have eaten at Pierino Penati, the best restaurant in Cape Town, previously, and have found it to be the best restaurant in the city. (more…)

Cape Town’s first Michelin-star linked restaurant has opened on the third floor at Villa 47. Pierino Penati Ristorante at Villa 47 is the sister restaurant to the one-star Michelin restaurant Pierino Penati, established seventy years ago in Brianza close to Milan in Italy. It raises the bar of fine dining in our city, and is now the best fine dining restaurant in Cape Town! (more…)

imageAt the presentation of the 2016 FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 awards at Nooitgedacht outside Stellenbosch on Friday, it was announced that eight out of the Top 20 Sauvignon Blancs come from Elgin and Durbanville.

Chalk & Cork logo Whale CottageI was bombarded with a barrage of Tweets when the new owners of Mozzarella Bar on Kloof Street first opened in July, having bought the business from ‘Mr Charm’ Giorgio Nava.  Nava must have sold the owners Amy and Marc Botes a good dose of rudeness and cheek too, which is what I experienced when I popped in at the now renamed Chalk & Cork, waiting for my car to be washed at the Engen garage nearby, earlier this week. I enjoyed going to the Mozzarella Bar, with its charming Italian manager Simone, previoulsy.

I photographed the counter as one enters (there is no signage at the entrance, but only on the low wall of Chalk & Cork Interior Whale Cottagethe outside seating, visible to all passing on Kloof Street (the patrons that is, and not the branding)!  The waitress could not tell me why the restaurant is named Chalk & Cork, other than to say that they have a lot of wine on the winelist!  She could not explain the ‘Chalk‘ part.   There is a cork collection building up on both sides of the front door.  The downstairs entrance doesn’t appear to have changed much, although there is more equipment against the back wall behind the counter compared to the Mozzarella Bar.  The Pizza oven is still there, as is the drinks fridge. They are no longer selling Mozzarella, which will be available at Piazza Italia, up the road on Park Road.  Upstairs they can seat 30 patrons.  On a rainy day they have next to no business, the upstairs seating not being visible nor known.  (more…)

Tracy van Maaren Tracy Whale Cottage PortfolioLast night I attended the first Tracy van Maaren Wines Trade Tasting, representing a handful of select fine boutique wine estates, held at Auslese. Each of the wine estate’s wines offered for tasting was personally paired with a canapé designed by Chef Harald Bresselschmidt of Aubergine.

Tracy started her wine career by working as PA to Dana Buys at Vrede en Lust.  She then moved into the clothing industry, but regretted this move.  She returned to the wine industry, working at Jordan.  Almost nine years ago she started her company, her first wine clients being Vriesenhof, Raats, and Catherine Marshall.   She represents her clients’ wines in the ‘mid to top restaurants’ and independent retailers (e.g. Caroline’s, Wine Concepts, and Vino Pronto) in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, with Paarl and Franschhoek.

Auslese is a renovated house, available to rent for functions, about two blocks from Aubergine.  It has a smallish kitchen, and the space was cleverly used to set up tasting tables for nine brands, with Pol Roger (Churchill’s favourite champagne) represented in the entrance hall by Great Domaines’ Derek Kilpin andTracy van Maaren Pol Roger Whale Cottage Portfolio their brand new French import Morgan Delacloche.

Arriving at about 18h30, there was no crush, and one could get to easily taste the wines and food pairings, chat to the wine representatives, and to the invited guests, which included John Maytham of Cape Talk, Mark Bland of Expresso, Mandi Jarman of Aquila, Chef Vanessa Marx and her colleague  Rumby of Dear Me, Catharina’s Manager Ronel Smidt, sommelier and consultant Jörg Pfützner, John and Lynne Ford, and Mike Duggan of Wine Concepts. (more…)

One of the exciting things about winter is that a number of restaurants are offering excellent value Gourmet evenings, with top wine makers presenting their wines, paired with special dishes prepared by the chefs of the restaurants.  It is a shame that some of the dates clash.

The Pavilion at The Marine Hotel, Hermanus

6 May:   Bouchard Finlayson Winery

3 June:   Paul Cluver Wines

1 July:   Klein Constantia Wine Estate

5 August:   Creation Wines

2 September:   Hamilton Russell Vineyards & Southern Right

The 5-course dinners, paired with wines, cost R 320 per person.  Tel (028) 313-1000

The Grand Café Camps Bay

11 May:   Peter Falke Wines

15 June:   Stellekaya

13 July:   Haute Cabriere


The Grand on the Beach

18 May:   Antonij Rupert Wines

22 June:   Ernst Gouws & Co

20 July:   Peter Falke

The 3-course food and wine pairing dinner costs R300.  Tel (021) 425-0551

Bosman’s, Grande Roche Hotel, Paarl

27 May:   AA Badenhorst Family Wines with winemaker Adi Badenhorst

10 June:   The House of Krone with winemaker Matthew Krone

22 July:   Glen Carlou with winemaker Arco Laarman

26 August:   Backsberg with winemaker Guillaume Nell

3 September:   Nederburg Auction Pre-dinner with cellarmaster Razvan Macici

28 October:   Raats Family Wines with winemaker Bruwer Raats

The 5-course meal with wine, coffee, canapés and petit fours costs R690.  Tel (021) 863-5100

The Garden Room, Mount Nelson Hotel

29 April:   Vergelegen with winemaker Andre van Rensburg

27 May:   Bouchard Finlayson with winemaker and owner Peter Finlayson

24 June:   Neil Ellis Wines with owner Neil Ellis

29 July:   Groote Post with winemaker Lukas Wentzel

26 August:   Rust en Vrede with winemaker Coenie Snyman

30 September:   Deetlefs with winemaker Willie Stofberg

28 October:   Boschendal with winemaker Lizelle Gerber

15 November:   Moreson with winemaker Clayton Reabow

9 December:   Boekenhoutskloof with winemaker Marc Kent.

The 7-course dinner costs R 395 per person with matching wines.  Tel (021) 483-1000

Chenin Wine Bar and Restaurant

26 May:   Ernie Els Wines

Cost is R 100. Tel (021) 425-2200


28 April: Buitenverwachting winemaker Brad Paton

Cost of the 5-course meal is R460.  Tel (021) 794-3522

Nobu at One&Only Cape Town

29 April:   Stark-Condé Wines

Cost of the 7-course meal is R R480.   Tel (021) 431-5111

What’s On, Watson Street

7 May:   Fleur du Cap winemaker Christoff de Wet

Cost of the 6-course dinner and wines is R300 per person or R500 per couple.  Tel (021) 422-5652

Marika’s, Gardens

9 May:   Mischa and Eventide

6 June:   Barton Wines winemaker JP Geyer

4 July:   Nabygelegen with winemaker James McKenzie

Cost of 5-course dinner and wines is R 200.  Tel (021) 465-2727

1800°C Grill Room, Cape Royale Luxury Hotel

7 May:   Hartenberg Estate

2 June:  Morgenhof

7 July:   Warwick wine estate

4 August: La Motte Wine Estate

Cost of 4-course dinner with welcome drink and wines R335.  Tel (021) 430-0506

Casa Nostra, Sea Point

28 May:   Fairview

2 July:   Klein Constantia

Cost of 4-course meal R230.  Tel (021) 433-0187

Bergkelder, Stellenbosch

30 June:   Fleur du Cap Unfiltered

Cost of 5-course meal, Wine and Flavoured Salt tasting by Craig Cormack of Sofia’s is R400.  Tel (021) 809-8025

French Toast

22 June: L’Avenir Vineyards

6 July:   Constantia Glen

3 August :  Diemersdal

7 September:   Creation Wines

5 October:   Rustenberg Wines

Cost of 3-course Tapas and wine pairing R 220 per person.  Tel (021) 422-3839.

24 August: Overgaauw vintage port pairing (with David van Velden) with food, R80.  Tel (021) 422-3839

Café BonBon, Franschhoek

8 June:  Jacoline Haasbroek from My Wyn

22 June:   Haut Espoir

4-course dinner and wine pairing R195 per person.  Tel (021) 876-3936

La Mouette, Sea Point

8 June:  Arco Laarman from Glen Carlou

4-course French theme dinner R240 per person. Tel (021) 433-0856

Swiss & Austrian Social Club, Sea Point

11 June:   Waverley Hills Organic Wines

5-course dinner paired with five wines R250.  Tel (021) 434-8405


19 July:   Joubert-Tradauw

9-course emal paired with wines R225.  Tel (021) 424-6334

15 on Orange

21 July:  Warwick wines

6-course meal paired with wines R295.  Tel (021) 469-8000

Knife Restaurant

27 July: Glenwood Wines

4-course meal paired with wines R220.  Tel (021) 551-5000

Warwick Wine Estate

22 and 29 July: 4-course dinner paired with Warwick wines, celebrating Stellenbosch Wine Festival.  R390. Tel (021) 884-4410

The Class Room, Hermanus

12 August: Rust en Vrede

3-course dinner paired with wines R195.  Tel (028) 316-3582

Harvey’s at Winchester Mansions

3 August: Avontuur Wine Estate

5-course dinner paired with 7 Avontuur wines R345. Tel (021) 434-2351

5 October: Luddite

5-course dinner paired with 6 Luddite wines at R345 per person Tel (021) 434-2351

Sinn’s, Wembley Square

25 August: Durbanville Hills with winemaker Wilhelm Coetzee

4-course dinner paired with 4 wines R225.  Tel (021) 465-0967

Pure Restaurant, Hout Bay Manor

24 September:   Groote Post wine estate

5-course dinner paired with wines R 260.  Tel (021) 791-9393

96 Winery Road

28 September:   Van Ryn’s

4-course dinner paired with Van Ryn’s brandy R320.  Tel (021) 842-2020

Cassia Restaurant, Nitida wine estate, Durbanville

30 September:  Nitida wines

4-course dinner paired with Nitida wines R 300.  Tel (021) 976-0640

Bayside Café, Camps Bay

30 September: Beyerskloof Wines

5-course dinner paired with Beyerskloof Wines R 175 per person.  Tel (021) 438-2650

Clos Malverne, Stellenbosch

28 October: Clos Malverne wines

5-course dinner paired with Clos Malverne wines R 445.  Tel (021) 865-2022

La Residence, Franschhoek

18 November: Waterford Wines with winemaker Francois Haasbroek

6-course Dinner paired with Waterford wines R 800.  Tel (021) 876-4100

The Vineyard Hotel

Friday 13 May

Schalk Burger & Sons

Friday 27 May

Warwick & Vilafonté

Friday 10 June

West Coast Wines with Tierhoek

Friday 24 June

Stellakaya with Ntsiki Biyela

Friday 1 July

La Motte

Friday 15 July

Solms Delta Wine Estate

Friday 5 August

Dombeya Wines with Rianie Strydom

Friday 19 August

Catherine Marshall Wines

Friday 2 September

Meerlust Wine Estate

Friday 16 September

Favourites from Wine Concepts

Friday 7 October


Friday 21 October

Wines from the Swartland (Kloovenburg, Babylon’s Peak)

Friday 28 October

Constantia Valley Wines

The dinner costs R 250 per person.  Tel (021) 657-4500.

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

Sofia’s at Morgenster in Somerset West opened a month ago, and has been named after the star that Morgenster owner Guilio Bertrand admires most, being Sophia Loren.   When one enters the restaurant, photographs of the Italian actress welcome one.   Sofia’s adds cuisine class to Somerset West, a town that has not been blessed with good restaurants (The Restaurant at Waterkloof being an exception), but has some service problems to address.

We had to go to Somerset West, and made a last-minute decision to call for a table.  Manager Michelle did not hesitate in saying yes, despite a full restaurant as a result of a birthday celebration by guests, for which we were grateful.  We arrived a little later than planned, but were happy to be given a table just to ourselves outside under the trees.  

Sofia’s at Morgenster is run by chef Craig Cormack, a partner of Bertus Basson of Overture, on the Morgenster estate, probably better known for its olives and olive oils than it is for its wines.   One drives through the estate, seeing the olive orchards on the hill, past the winery and tasting room, to get to Sofia’s. The rustic thatch-roofed building has a grape trellis, offering the perfect shade for sitting outside on a hot summer’s day.  The building has a number of rooms, not making it feel as large as it is.

The Fortis Hotelware cutlery design is contemporary, and I was delighted that I was offered a fish knife for the kingklip, something I missed at Aubergine at our dinner a few days prior.  We did not receive serviettes, and had to ask for them.  The menu changes weekly, and the week number is specified on the menu.   The waitress looking after us was very willing to check when she did not know something, which was quite often.  She brought the menu, a thin strip on a dark plastic clipboard, and talked us through the menu, describing every item.  She got stuck with the difficult words, and tried her best to come up with definitions (e.g. ‘parmentier’ she described as ‘shredded’, when it means that it is potato-based).  She did admit that she was new to the hospitality industry, having worked in the cosmetics industry before.  Every starter she described to us with warts and all of how chef Craig and his team prepares it (I would have preferred to not have known so much detail), and described every dish as “very delicious”.  I felt sorry for her, as she was out of her depth in taking orders and in talking through the menu – some names she mentioned I asked her to spell.  She told me that they are just taught the words, without the spelling!   

Chef Craig sent an antipasto platter of olive-based treats to the table, to demonstrate the partnership with Morgenster.  I loved the tapenade, and the marinaded black olives, but did not eat the mini-pizza slices, as they were topped with anchovies, a personal dislike.

The menu is compact, with four options each per starter, main course and dessert.  A two-course meal costs R155 and 3-courses R220.  Despite the restricted choice, it was hard to choose what to order, it all sounded so “very delicious”.   I chose the chicken liver parfait as a starter, which was served with a peach chutney, as well as a light and fluffy brioche.   Other starter options are smoked snoek parmentier, Asian squid salad and onion tarte tartin.  The main course was ordered as a “parma ham wrapped over roasted fish” on the menu, but there was no parma ham when it was served.   It was served with a vanilla risotto, an unusual taste, and a truffle froth.  My partner’s beef stroganoff was tasty, but not exceptional.   Other main courses choices were pork fillet and braised lamb shoulder.  The dessert choice was a difficult one, all four sounding wonderful – chocolate royaltine and vanilla ice cream; watermelon soup; crème brule (sic); and the most interesting sounding beetroot ice cream, beetroot cheese and smoked and pickled beetroots.   A cute touch was a small Father Christmas gingerbread biscuit that came with the cappuccino served in an unusual glass cup with silver handle. 

We ordered the Graham Beck Brut Rosé by the glass (R45), only listed on the winelist per bottle (R130).   The Graham Beck Brut is charged at the same price, which is unusual, given that the Rosé bubbly usually is more expensive.    The white house wine is the Collaboration chenin blanc, a collaboration between chefs Craig and Bertus, as well as the Hidden Valley winemaker Louis Nel.   Wine vintages are specified, and the price spectrum fair.  White wines start at R30/R150 for Lands End Sauvignon Blanc and Kleine Zalze Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc (R150), up to R250 for Rustenburg Wooded Chardonnay and Radford Dale Viognier.  The red wine selection is restricted, at R30/R105 for Sofia’s 2002 vintage house wine made by Morgenster – R 300 for Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir 2009 and Annandale Shiraz 2003, to allow the presentation of Morgenster’s Bordeaux Blend wines.  The flagship Morgenster range is priced per vintage (R350 – R460), as is their Louren’s River Valley range (R160 – R185).  The Morgenster Tosca, Nabucco and Caruso wines are also available.   The Morgenster wines have a small mark-up of about R30 per bottle for the Lourens River valley wines, and of R60 for the Morgenster range.

I liked the peaceful country farm setting, the character renovated thatched roof building, the hand-picked ingredients where possible from the Morgenster gardens, and chef Craig’s creativity and weekly menu changes.  Staff training needs attention.  The hardest challenge for chef Craig is to use culinary terms which the staff can pronounce and explain correctly.    The starter arrived almost too quickly after placing the order, while the second course dishes took too long.   I will be back, to try more of chef Craig’s creativity.  Sofia’s is a star in the making, but the restaurant still needs time to settle in.

POSTSCRIPT 22/4: Returned to Sofia’s for a food and wine appreciation society. In a cosy room with fireplace.  Evening started with a tasting of Morgenster wines: Caruso Rosé, Tosca (60 % Sangiovese), Nabucco, Lourens River Valley, and the Platter 5-star Morgenster Bordeaux blend.  Two canapés were served: Ham hock terrine and pea spoom, and chicken liver parfait with brioche and green fig, both excellent.  The Calamari and coconut curry starter was accompanied by a 2010 Doolhof Sauvignon Blanc, with a very sharp chilli taste, and the least successful dish of the evening.   The main course of pork neck, prune and almanad jus was paired with the Sofia’s red blend.   Lovely dessert of chocolate truffle cake with raspberry compote and raspberry ice cream.

Chef Craig Cormack is an avid salt collector, and he sent around six of the 42 salts he has (there are 129 kinds of salt in total): Black Hawaiian Lava, Red Lava, Cervia, Bolivian Rose, Pakistani Volcanic, and Persian Blue Crystal.

Sofia’s at Morgenster, off Vergelegen entrance, Lourensford Road, Somerset West.  Tel (021) 847-1993.  http://www.facebook.com/Sofias.at.morgenster (No website, which is hopefully being worked on, to allow a professional profile of the restaurant, without the grammatical errors on the Facebook page, and photographs of the beautiful plating in an Image Gallery).  Open Mondays, Wednesdays – Sundays for lunch, and Wednesdays and Saturdays for dinner.

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

Cape Town’s only Eat Out Top 10 restaurant, Aubergine, went about its business as if nothing had changed for the team of Harald Bresselschmidt the day after receiving its special honour, it seemed.  The Eat Out  plaque is on the shelf in the entrance hall, and if one had not read about the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Award winners announced on Sunday evening, one would not have known that Aubergine has been crowned as Cape Town’s best restaurant, except that the restaurant was fully booked on a Monday evening.

I took relatives from Germany to try out Aubergine last night, and had not been there for many years.  My overall reaction was one of uncertainty of how I felt about the evening there.   I was not sure if I could agree with the Eat Out judges that this is the one and only top restaurant in our city, as judged by them. 

The building is Victorian, located in Gardens, but the interior was very unmodern, functional, almost old-fashioned, with some interesting looking lampshades (looked like serviettes hanging over the light fittings), with wooden tables and woven chairs seating 60 – 70 guests, woven beige placemats, and some paintings of aubergines downstairs (including one by Father Claerhout), and more modern artwork upstairs.   One enters past a bar counter, and a wine storage system separates the restaurant from the bar counter.  I was fascinated by the changing lighting effect on this wine storage section, and wondered whether it enhanced the wines.  We sat in the upstairs section, with just four tables, a reed ceiling, and a triangular window offering a peek of Table Mountain.  It became very hot upstairs, and the small open window did not cool things down much.   Lighting was very low upstairs, from interesting wall light fittings creating the shadow effect of branches on the walls.   Serviettes are of good quality, as is the glassware, but the cutlery seemed too ornate compared to the unfussiness of the decor.

The lovely hostess Jacqueline heard us talk, and immediately switched to German, and served us in German for the rest of the evening, which impressed my relatives.  Jacqueline has only been at the restaurant for three weeks,  and is a most efficient and helpful hostess, answering our many questions.    The menu is divided into an a la carte section, and a degustation menu, but one is allowed to “mix and match”, which caused confusion at the time of the presentation of the bill, as every item ordered was itemised and not charged as per the set degustation price.   The menu is attached to a leather holder, with Aubergine branding.   The menu has a welcome from the “Cuisinier”, as Bresselschmidt calls himself on the business card.  The introduction to the menu states: “Ingredients come first”.  As Chef Patron he emphasises the “honest use of prime South African products, often enhanced by Oriental spices and cooking styles, leads you to appreciate the subtleties of what I try to produce”.   The degustation menu costs R344/R485 for three courses, R 420/R600 for four and R 525/R745 for five courses, the second price reflecting the cost with a wine paired to each dish.

Howard Booysen was a very knowledgeable sommelier, who studied at Elsenburg, and makes his own Weisser Riesling under the HB Wines label, which is on the Aubergine winelist.  He shares the sommelier honours with Dominic Adelbert, who studied hospitality in Geneva and Adelaide, and learnt about wine at Gleaneagles in Scotland, he said.  The winelist is impressive, neatly bound in a leather folder, with 30 pages each in a  plastic sleeve.  Vintages and regions are mentioned, and each vintage of a wine stocked is priced separately.  The winelist contains about 490 wines, and a full page is dedicated to wines by the glass.  A good spectrum of local and imported brands, and prices, is included in the extensive winelist.  We ordered the Catherine Marshall 2004 Shiraz at R 225.  The champagnes include Pol Rogers (ranging in price from R580 – R2200), Le Mesnil (R790 and up), Billecart Salmon Rosé (R1300), Drappier (R375 – R500), Tribault Rosé(R696), Laurent Perrier (R1000 – R1450) and Duval Leroy (R795 – R 3300).  Local brands of bubbly are Steenberg (R220 – R425), Teddy Hall R(385), Villiera (R220 – R300), Simonsig (R430), Krone Borealis (R270 – R3000), Silverthorn (R280) and Jaques Bruére (R230).   Shiraz choices start at R52/R215 for Migliarino, with 27 brands offered, Signal Hill and Eben Sadie ranging in price between R1000 – R1200, depending on the vintage.   White wines by the glass cost between R35 and R50 a glass, and red wines R45 – R65 per glass. Bresselschmidt told us that he is a Riesling fan, and calls himself the ‘Riesling ambassador in South Africa’.  He is importing 500 bottles from Germany.  His cellar at Auslese, the events venue he opened close by in the past year, holds 25 000 bottles in total.

A number of bread options was offered, and the wholewheat bread I chose was crispy and crunchy, freshly baked.  We tried to order a variety of dishes amongst the three of us, to be able to taste as widespread a range as possible.   The amuse bouche was an unexciting kingklip terrine, topped with salmon caviar and vinaigrette, served with a mini cucumber salad.  The triangular plate it was served on did not hold the knife, and it kept falling off, a frequent complaint one has of restaurant plates these days.  The support staff, wearing burgundy shirts, did not match Jacqueline’s level in any way, even though the lady that served us had been at the restaurant for four years.  I found her hard to understand, and she kept stretching in front of my cousin to pass on plates and cutlery to me, an absolute no-no for a top restaurant.  We were surprised that more senior staff do not bring the food to the table and explain the dishes.    The waitresses tried hard but lacked polish.

I had the Delice of smoked salmon trout and caper butter, served with roccula dressing, and poached quail eggs in a potato nest (R85).  No fish knife was served with this course.  My cousin had the Carpaccio of cured beef, served with marinated Burrata mozzarella, and a tomato and herb salad (R89).  She expressed surprise at how thick the beef slices were.  Her husband had the fish soup (R65), and felt the fish taste too pronounced, not something he is used to in German restaurants, being prepared in the French style. 

The highlight of all the dishes was an ‘in-between’ dish, being steamed crayfish served with black noodles and a saffron sauce.  Then came a sweet melon and mint sorbet palate cleanser, too sweet to our liking.

Something odd happened with the serving of the “Cape Sea Harvest” main course (on the degustation menu), which my cousin and her husband had ordered, described as a duo of kingklip and kabeljou when the menu was explained and our order taken.   When it was served, it only had one piece of fish.  We were not told proactively that the kingklip had run out, and whilst Jacqueline expressed her sincerest regret about a communication error between herself and the kitchen, it seemed unacceptable that an order taken was served incorrectly and was only reacted to when questioned.   I had a most unusual tender tongue dish, with very finely sliced marinated tongue, served with asparagus and a delicious vanilla and green tea velouté (R160).  Other main courses are duck (R182), lamb (R178), beef sirloin (R175) and ostrich fillet and tartare (R174).

For dessert my cousin had a very generous duo of Aubergine Créme Brûlée (R65).  I chose a Beignet of Tomme Obiqua cheese from Tulbagh, served with Golden Delicious apple (which I could not taste), roccula and walnuts (R105).  Other dessert options included a Charlotte of pear and ginger served with prickly pear sorbet (R75),  assiette of chocolate (R84), Delice of lemon and strawberry meringue (R58), and a chef’s surprise (R94).  I had ordered a cappuccino with the dessert, but it was only brought to the table after we had finished it, sweetened by a lovely plate of friandises served with the coffees.

Bresselschmidt came to our table and was very generous with his time in answering all our questions.  He opened Aubergine 15 years ago, and chose the name because of his respect for a vegetable that is flexible and offers versatility.   He had come to South Africa in 1992 to work at Grande Roche, and thereafter at Rhebokskloof.    He has lost track of how many times he has been on the Top 10 Eat Out  list, and thinks it is six or seven times.   He told us how hard it is to run a restaurant, when you have to double and triple check everything, something that can affect one’s creativity, he said.  He called for a score from the Eat Out  judges, so that restaurants making the Top 10 list can get feedback about their performance relative to their colleagues, and not just on a ranked basis.   We discussed the variability in the Eat Out  Top 10 list, and Bresselschmidt felt it may be the magazine’s way of keeping interest in the Awards.  Rust en Vrede is his favourite restaurant, and Bresselschmidt plans to take his team there next month to allow them to experience the country’s top restaurant.   He is also loyal to Bosman’s, celebrating his wedding anniversary there, having met his wife at the Grande Roche.  Nobu is another favourite. 

I am yet to be convinced that Aubergine is the best restaurant that Cape Town has to offer.   I did not experience it last night, mainly due to the inconsistency of the service and of the food served.

Aubergine Restaurant, 39 Barnett Street, Gardens, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 465-4909.   www.aubergine.co.za Mondays – Saturday evenings, Wednesday – Friday lunches.

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

Saffron is a sacred spice, used for seasoning and colouring dishes, and is the most expensive spice of all, so its choice as a name for the restaurant of the new 5-star Abalone House in Paternoster is a misnomer, in that its food does not contain any of this special spice.

I ate at Saffron restaurant for four nights in a row, not having many other options in Paternoster, during a winter break.   The dining room decor is busy, with about seven tables squeezed around a central serving table, on which the breakfast and the afternoon tea are laid out.   At night this table plays no role, and therefore makes things feel a little squashed, especially as the chairs are large high-back ones.   Beautiful big bulbous red wine glasses, good quality cutlery and napery are on the tables.   The music sounds a little canned, coming from an i-Pod, and is piped through the whole guest house.

One cannot miss the work of Tretchikoff at Abalone House, as it is in most rooms. Tretchikoff prints of the Chinese Girl and Balinese Girl are in every bedroom and bathroom, and in the public areas as well.  Natasha, Tretchikoff’s granddaughter and founder of The Tretchikoff Trust (www.vladimirtretchikoff.com), stayed at the guest house one evening, and was charming when I met her and her husband at afternoon tea.   The dining room decor colours are yellow/orange, with splashes of purple.   Beautiful glass lanterns with a candle are lit at every table every night, even though I was the only guest at the guest house on most nights, giving the restaurant a romantic and festive atmosphere.  White orchids are everywhere.  It was cold in the dining room in the evenings, as the fireplace is in the lounge, and its heat does not spread to the dining room.

The menu and winelists have a gold colour, with the branding and logo of the guest house embossed in it.   Nowhere could I see the Saffron restaurant name inside the restaurant, except on a tiny silver plaque as one enters the restaurant.  The menu changes every three days.    Three choices are offered for each course, and on the first night I chose a celery and potato soup, which tasted more of leek, and was very thin.  I could not taste the potato.  The freshly baked bread brought to the table had a crispy crust, and was more-ish. Other starter choices offered were almond rolled goats’ cheese, as well as smoked salmon and potato salad, all starters costing R 45.

I skipped the main course on the first night, and had a lovely portion of the mixed vegetable side dish, at R25, with carrots, broccoli, and beans, all crispy and not over-cooked.  The fillet of beef on another evening, served with champagne mash and a red wine jus, was perfectly prepared medium-rare, as ordered, and a little expensive at R125 for a less than 200 gram portion of fillet.   Other mains offered were a duo of salmon and and hake (R 80), and roast vegetable and garden herb risotto (R70), the latter being an extremely delicious and generous serving of risotto with green pepper, courgettes, mushrooms and beans, and quite different to what I had expected from the ‘roast’ description.   I had the apple crumble dessert served with ice cream, at R 40, but the crumble part was very crumbly and burnt when grilled in the oven.   The cheese platter is very good value at R 45, with five cheese types, biscuits and fig preserve offered.

Red wines-by-the-glass are reasonably-priced, and on offer are Chamonix Cabernet Sauvignon (R45), Hermit on the Hill (R35), and Cloof Inkspot (R 25).  White wines offered by the glass are Withington (R 25), Journey’s End ‘The Haystack’ (R30) and COAV (R30).  R50 corkage is charged.  Unusually the winelist contained the following note: “All wines are subject to availability and vintages may change due to demand”.  Commendably the vintages are mentioned.   Each wine is briefly described on the winelist.   Champagnes stocked range from R605 for a Drappier Carte d’Or to R1 430 for Gosset Grand Milliesime.   Cap Classique wines range in price from R185 for Krone Borealis to R390 for High Constantia. Three Shirazes are offered: Migliarina 2007 at R 200, Tamboerskloof 2006 at R 190, and Catherine Marshall at R 125.

My biggest problem with the restaurant was with Rudi the waiter, who doubles up as the hotel’s guest relations person.  On the day that I arrived, he wore a pair of shorts and the guest house staff’s African style shirt – in Paternoster one does not feel to be in Africa.   He must have sensed me looking at his shorts (or legs), and he quickly put on a long apron, which made him look far more professional.  He was very vague in his knowledge of the menu (i.e. which vegetables are in the mixed vegetable side-dish), and had to keep going to Nickie Lawson, the chef, to ask her.   Nickie is a fun Irish lass whose mom lives next door, and this had led her to Paternoster.  I was a little weary about eating at the restaurant, as I had been warned that it had some problems, and after a poor start on the first night, the food got better and better on each subsequent night.  Rudi is extremely willing to please and made me the best cappuccinos for breakfast and afternoon tea (yes, this is part of the guest house package, not at the Mount Nelson level, but sandwiches, chocolate cake slices and the most delicious light scones are served with strawberry or berry jam and fresh cream every day).  His past as mechanic, self-confessed, may explain some of the rough edges, but he is kind, laughs a lot, and nothing was too much trouble.

On the second day, I was told by Ann, the Manager, that the owners Johan Jansen van Vuuren and Stef Venter had wanted me to have a bottle of wine on the house.  Rudi brought me a condensed current winelist, with only a few items on it, as well as the brand new well-presented winelist.  I liked the greater selection on the new list, and requested a Tamboerskloof Shiraz from it.  Rudi looked and looked in his bar, and very few of the wines on the new list were in the tiny bar, and he had to tell me that the bar stock had been stored elsewhere in Paternoster, but that he would have the bottle for me for the following day’s dinner.  He was true to his word, and the smoky Shiraz character of the wine went well with the (unintended) smokiness of the fireplace in the lounge.

Saffron Restaurant is expensive, but its pricing no doubt is based on supply and demand, and its five-star grading – there is no other reasonable equivalent in Paternoster, except for Gaaitjie and Ah! guest house, where I also ate during my holiday.  I will be back to try the restaurant under the new management of Darren and Lindsay Stewart, the new Executive Chef and GM, respectively.

Saffron Restaurant, Abalone House,  Kriedoring Street, Paternoster.  Tel (022) 752-2044.  www.abalonehouse.co.za(the Image Gallery is very slow to download.  There is no menu nor winelist.  The name of the new chef has not been updated on the site, which probably means that the dishes in the Image Gallery are those of ex-Chef Nickie).

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

The menu and business card of the Opal Lounge claims that it is the most beautiful restaurant in Cape Town.   It could more aptly be called the most arrogant and pretentious restaurant in Cape Town.   This is the restaurant that, at its time of opening about a year ago, charged for tap water.  A review by ‘Rossouw’s Restaurants’ quickly made the restaurant drop this policy.

The reason for trying out the restaurant was a Valentine’s promotion e-mail which had been received from the restaurant, and the menu that came with it, which looked excellent.  

On arrival we were met by Conrad, who opened the glass door for us, as a gale force south-easter was blowing.  Immediately we were struck by his pretentious greeting, full of airs and graces, which made us feel unwelcome.    He has previously worked as a waiter at Emily’s and Ginja, as well as at overseas restaurants. 

About half an hour later the manager Francois Hough introduced himself, and asked rather aggressively why I was taking notes about his menu and his winelist, who I was and where I was from.  I told him that I write a blog.    I told him that I had to take notes as their website is under construction.  I asked him for his surname, but he refused to give it to me.  He became more friendly as the evening wore on, but did not seem to know how to deal with feedback presented when he asked for it.  He was previously at Paranga, Pepenero and Manolo. 

The restaurant is based in a lovely house, built in 1897, on Kloof Street, and was previously the home of Manolo (not having been shy in the arrogance department either), and a restaurant with French chefs before that.  The building seems to have had little staying power or luck for the previous owners.  It has two lounges, one being an open plan one off the passage, where the Manolo bar and one of the dining rooms used to be.   Two other rooms are used as dining rooms.  The room on the right to the entrance was unbearably hot.  The room we chose became hotter as the evening wore on, and the airconditioner seemed to make little headway in cooling the room to a more acceptable temperature.

The promotional letter describes The Opal Lounge as “Sophisticated yet very homely”, a contradiction in terms.  “Not an ordinary restaurant, but one which has been styled with passion and attention to detail to give your guests an extraordinary dining experience“, boasts the promotional letter (its writing in bold). 

The menu says “Our sincere hope is that you have a glorious experience in any one of our Lounges; that you leave happy, and in the truth that everything we endeavour to do for you on this occasion will bring you back to make this your second home” (underlining as per the menu)!   Our experience was exactly the opposite.

The winelist is beautifully presented in a heavy black leather folder, and has commendable descriptions eloquently written for its extensive collection of wines, not only describing each vintage in great detail, but also each wine.  This is how the Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Bella Rose is described, for example: “Bella Rose has the faintest tinge of salmon pink, a lively presentation of Pinot Noir flavours, a pleasing fine mousse and it reveals an elegant dry finish.  The discreet blush of Belle Rose is emphasized in the name the “beautiful rose””.  This is copywriting at its best!

Interesting was seeing that the red wines are listed before the white wines.   Champagnes stocked are Veuve Cliquot, ranging between R 800 – R 1 200, Bollinger Brut at R 860, Krug at R 2 400, Pol Roger at R 800 and Moet Chandon at R 650.   Cap Classiques range from R 140 for the Eikendal to R 275 for Pierre Jourdan Blanc de Blanc and Cuvee Bella Rose.  Pinot Noir wines ranged in price from R 230 for the Catherine Marshall to R 645 for Hamilton Russell.  The Shirazes cost between R 165 for the Neil Joubert and R 410 for Kevin Arnold.  Grootte Post’s Merlot costs R 175, while that of Veenwouden and Meerlust costs R 410.   Chardonnay ranges from R 165 for Eikendal and Haute Cabriere, to R 585 for one from Hamilton Russell.  The Sauvignon Blanc is priced in a range from R 130 (Eikendal) to R 195 (Steenberg).  

Our first problem arose when we ordered the wine, wanting the 2005 vintage of Warwick Three Ladies, as per the winelist.   The vintage had run out, we were told.  Another two wine choices followed, with the advertised vintages not being in stock.  Our fourth choice was a Steenberg Merlot, and the 2007 vintage as per the winelist was available.   Conrad offered to chill down the wine for us, something we have never been offered for a red wine before.  We declined the offer, being happy with it at room temperature.   The Manager came to explain that the restaurant is re-doing its winelist, and that he had worked with owner Rochelle Bushell on it that day, to update it.  He promised that Rochelle would call the following day.  She did not.  Strangely, after being open for a year, the restaurant’s website is under construction.  

The black leather menu is very descriptive, and each dish gets the copy-writing treatment but over-promises what is presented.   Eight starters include a summer soup, strawberry gazpacho, prawns, Caesar salad, venison dim sum, salmon carpaccio and mushroom tortellini, ranging in price from R 45 – R 77.   The mushroom tortellini is described as follows: “A medley of mushrooms combined with mild goats cheese and stuffed into pasta parcels.  Served with sliced prosciutto, a fresh asparagus salad and truffle dressing.  Finished with a light preserved lemon hollandaise”.   The amuse bouche was a tasty wonton with beef, cottage cheese, and olive, served in a lemon hollandaise sauce.  The Mushroom Tortellini did not deliver on its promise, no prosciutto being found in the dish, and the “asparagus salad” was 6 tiny slivers of asparagus used to decorate the plate.  

Nine main courses are offered, including oxtail, tuna, venison, lamb, duck, beef fillet, line fish and mushroom, ranging from R 105 – R 151.  The Exotic Duck is described as “An exotic dish of duck served 4 different ways. Pan seared duck breast on mange tout, confit leg on pomme de terre croquette, duck liver and thyme wonton, and finally finished off with crispy duck skin. Served with mango salsa, orange gastrique and carrot puree”.  The duck skin was two tiniest 20 cent size pieces, which were shown to the waiter to illustrate the overpromise of the menu, and was not “crispy”.  He did not react to this feedback.  The Manager’s reaction was a lame “I’m sorry”.    The fillet steak was served as tiny thin slices, with an olive oil mash, good in taste but not enough to satisfy a young student.   After the main course a mango and passion fruit “palate cleanser” was served.

The dessert list offers six choices, ranging from R 45 – R 60, as well as a luxury dessert platter for two to share, with a selection of desserts, at R 95.  A cheese platter is also available.  The chocolate mousse dessert promised a peppermint centre, but there was none.  The small slice of chocolate mousse cake was lost on the large plate that it was served on, and tiny specs of peppermint were found at the end tips of it.  It was accompanied by a semi-fredo.   I am a cappuccino addict, but could only manage to finish half of it, it being too milky.  We were charged in full for it, even though I told the waiter that I was not happy with it.

The Head Chef at The Opal Lounge is Robert Miguiez, and the Executive Sous Chef is Steven Kruger, previously with Ginja and Portofino.

NOTE: The day after our dinner on 22 March, for which we had paid R 770, I received a call from Malcolm Bushell, who introduced himself as the husband of Rochelle Bushell and a director of the company.   In the most rude, abusive and threatening manner, he told me in no uncertain terms that if my review (only written on 26 March and posted today for the first time) were to contain any “lies”, or was disparaging, he would have no hesitation to seek legal advice, and also told us to not return to the restaurant.  He was not interested in hearing what the customer feedback was about the experience at the restaurant, doing the “my staff are perfect” routine, and did not allow the customer to speak.   There was no “thank you” for the custom.   When I told him that I would share this call experience with friends Gudrun and Barry Clark, who were also at the restaurant that evening, he said he did not care, and that they too would no longer be welcome!   It is clear to see from whence the arrogance of the staff of this restaurant comes!

The Opal Lounge, 30 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town. Tel 021 422 4747.  www.theopallounge.co.za   Open Mondays – Sundays for dinner only.  Open for lunch for corporate bookings only.

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