On Saturday morning I attended the launch of the innovative new Nuri Sushi Factory Breakfast Menu in Sea Point, invited by Brewz Krew MD Thabied Harris. The menu rolled out at the Sea Point branch yesterday.
In less than a week after opening its newest Tiger’s Milk Restaurant & Bar on Kloof Street in Cape Town, the restaurant is operating smoothly, as if it has always been there. It is already busy, attracting custom with little marketing effort to date by the Harbour House Group. A hugely exciting attraction is that DJ René Tanguy will be playing at the newest Tiger’s Milk on Fridays, starting this week. It is the 26th Harbour House Group restaurant to open. Continue reading →
After a record year of restaurant openings, the pace of new restaurants opening in Cape Town and in the Winelands has slowed down, with no new restaurant openings in January, to our knowledge.
We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously, and welcome information.
# Marigold has opened in Franschhoek, part of the Leeu Collection (photograph). Continue reading →
Chef Mike has been at Myoga for eight years, having opened the restaurant after leaving Ginja, at which he worked with a number of younger chefs who have Continue reading →
Today I was invited by Harbour House Group owner Michael Townsend to try their first new Easy Burger Bar, which opened on Bree Street two weeks ago, in the space that was previously Lucky Fish. The lunch served as an update of the latest developments in his restaurant group.
Easy Tiger Burger Bar is the first in Continue reading →
Last night I attended a Communal Dinner at Salushi Asian restaurant in Claremont, the first trial dinner to which 20 writers had been invited. They will be held every Wednesday evening, and are called #WolftrapWednesdays, the wine being sponsored by Boekenhoutskloof’ Winery’s The Wolftrap.
Coming from the other side of the mountain, I struggled to find Salushi, which I could not see from Protea Road, being set back. Continue reading →
Your walk-out from our employment at Whale Cottage Camps Bay twelve days ago without resignation, on the day that you saw the salary in your bank account, is the worst blow to any employer, especially given the good relationship we enjoyed in the eight months in which you worked for us. We appointed you when your previous employment at the White Lodge Guest House in Constantia had run out (they are shocked at your claim that they reneged on a contract, as there was none) due to the severity of the recession last winter. We took a chance on you, despite the financial pressure on our business at that time, and you were an excellent receptionist, with the potential to grow into the rest of your job description of Manager.
As you left without notice, despite our meeting appointment for the day of your sudden departure, we have chosen to communicate to you via this blogpost how we view your behaviour, not deserved given how well we looked after you, with a salary increase after six months, giving you three days off to attend a family wedding in Queenstown when we were fully booked and couldn’t spare you but found a locum for you, and regular invitations to you, your family, and your boyfriend to the theatre and restaurants. You regularly expressed to us and to others how much you enjoyed your job. In retrospect, little signs of a recent change in your behaviour – your breaking of our rules, taking an afternoon off when we had guests checking in, wanting to delegate your duties to two unreliable housekeepers while you went to the wedding, and more – were evident.
You can imagine our shock when a guest house colleague in Camps Bay called a week prior to your walk-out to tell us that he had received your application for a job, as must have most hotels in Cape Town, and in which you dishonestly called yourself our ‘General Manager’. When you sent out your CV to more than 100 hotels last winter, no one except ourselves responded. We appointed you immediately. At no time did you express any dissatisfaction or desire to grow your spectrum of tasks, which we would have happily delegated to you. On the day before your departure you asked me for copies of your salary slips, and lied as to the reason why you needed them. We had thought that you were the most honest staff member until that day, and given the information from our guest house colleague, this request was a further confirmation about your job search. We asked someone to call you on the pretense of inviting you to a job interview, and you announced that you had accepted a job that day at a hotel in Claremont.
Given this information, we met with you at the end of that day, and read through the employment contract with you, specifically the clause relating to the calendar month’s notice that you had agreed to, and we confirmed by additional contract in the meeting, which you signed, that your last day of employment would be 30 April, as per the contract. Under pressure and in tears you told us that you were starting at your new employer three days later. We discussed that you had made a mistake in accepting the new job on this date, and that you would have to tell them that you could only start on 1 May, and we even offered to try and find a replacement for you at the end of March to assist you, at our own expense. We highlighted to you your dishonesty in lying to us, and your secretiveness in sending out the application for all hotels to see (not sending the application by blind copy), and in not honouring your employment contract. You told us that the reason for the job search was the pressure from your boyfriend Ian Little, who had to drive you to and back from work every day as you do not drive, due to the increasing cost of the petrol between Plumstead and Camps Bay. We promised to discuss with you the next day how we could enlarge your range of duties, for more pay, to cover the increased petrol costs. You did not even have a letter of resignation to give us, and you promised to contact the new employer about the delay in starting with them. The next morning you saw the salary payment, and dropped to the level of a housekeeper by sending us a text message saying that you had dropped your keys at the guest house and had left our employment (we were fully booked and you left the guest house management to the housekeepers, without even saying goodbye to them), giving yourself the weekend off, and causing chaos at the guest house, the staff bursting into tears when we had to tell them that you had absconded from our employment without notice, resignation, and farewell. Only later that morning you sent an e-mail with a letter of immediate resignation, in breach of your employment contract.
Your parents in Queenstown were devastated to hear about your dishonesty, having seen you as a trustworthy and honest daughter, even though they had seen the negative influence on your behaviour since you moved to Cape Town with your boyfriend. Your father was ready to drive to Cape Town to come and fetch you, but didn’t have enough money for the petrol. Your new boss and co-owner Nicolene Barrow at the 5-star The Andros Boutique Hotel in Claremont was speechless when we called her and told her about your breach of our employment contract, given that you had lied to her in saying that we had given your leaving us our blessing! We are surprised that you moved for a lesser position at the same salary that we were paying, to save a few Rands in petrol. It is shocking that a colleague in the hospitality industry could be so naive and opportunistic to expect the appointment of a new member of staff with two days notice to the previous employer. For a person who moved to Cape Town from Queenstown last year, job hopping after 3 months and then 8 months for two jobs does not look good on your CV.
At 25 years you are relatively young, but we could not believe that you are so naive as to :
* blatantly breach our employment contract and the additional contract which you signed about your date of departure, clearly showing that you have no respect for the law of contract, and have no business ethics and honesty at all, not being trustworthy for any future employer
* expect our co-operation for paperwork from us
* expect any positive future references for any prospective employer, given that we are one of your four hospitality employers
* think that we would not have warned your new employer
* think that we have not shared our experiences with your previous employers White Lodge Guest House, and the Heritage Guest House in Queenstown.
Any prospective employer should know that they are not only appointing you but also your boyfriend, manipulating you in the background. His invitation to connect on Linked-In, to ‘coffee dates’ and dinners, and his other attempts to become my ‘friend’ were totally inappropriate and unwelcome. Even since your departure he is communicating with us, as if he is your manager or representative. We did not appoint him.
Wanting to share the outcome of our subsequent negotiations, in which you admitted the breach of your contract, I called The Andros Boutique Hotel yesterday, and asked to speak to Ms Barrow. Your new colleague Steyn Venter called back aggressively on behalf of Ms Barrow, threatening legal action should your hotel’s name be mentioned in this blogpost. What a shame that we cannot share with her the final outcome of our negotiations with you, which should be of interest to her as your current employer.
You will pay the price of your dishonesty for many years to come, and you probably already regret your selfish and short-sighted action, which has cost you your reputation and a lot of money in paying out our contract, money which could have got you to Camps Bay for a number of years yet!
We are sharing this letter with the hospitality industry, not only as a warning about any potential future employment of you, but also to share with hospitality employers the rights that they have to have their employment contract honoured, even if it is financially after a departure, which we are happy to share with them privately. It is also a reminder to hospitality employers that all staff are legally obliged to give and work out their notice, and there is a moral obligation to do so too, given that no business can operate with a sudden departure of a staff member without a hand-over and the replacement of that staff member, as we all know!
We salute our labour advisor Gerald Jacobs for his excellent advice, and the luck of finding locum Lily Lello, who came to our rescue two days later, allowing us to honour our guest bookings in Franschhoek, and to continue operating our Whale Cottage Camps Bay, both operations which could have been jeopardised by your walk-out.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
It was via Twitter that I first read about Starlings Café, which had opened more than four years ago, but only became well-known when they started Tweeting about six months ago, co-inciding with their new farmer-style market they host in their garden section on Wednesdays at 16h00 – 18h00.
Focusing on home-grown produce in the preparation of its food for the small menu, owner Trish Krutz offered her suppliers a small homely space in which they could display their organic and home-grown produce to the Starlings Café clients, a win-win situation for both the Café in attracting more business, and for the product suppliers, who are part of a market growing in popularity. Trish said she likes to stay below the radar, ‘behind the hedge’, she said. The Café prepares all its food, only buying croissants from Cassis.
One sees the Origin coffee branded umbrellas of Starlings Café only once one steps off the pavement on Belvedere Road, and the interior feels homely, consisting of two interleading rooms and an open-plan kitchen, and then leads onto the terrace outside, which is protected against the weather. Tables and chairs are mix and match, and each table has a different colour and pattern tablecloth. Walls are covered with sketches, paintings, and prints, giving it a very homely feeling, as if one is visiting a friend’s parents’ house, with vases of roses and rosemary on each table. The Willow Creek ceramic extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar containers suit the country-style restaurant, even if it is in the city, with unbranded salt and pepper grinders. Paper serviettes have a starling printed onto them. The menu is simply printed on white board, with a starling on it too. Its introduction states: “We love supporting local suppliers and using the best quality home grown produce we can find”. This is visible as Trish was connecting with her suppliers after the worst market buying rush was over. I tried the mozzarella fior di latte (using Puglia’s mozzarella), tomato and basil pesto salad stack (R45), with amazing wholewheat bread baked by the Café. It was a delicious combination, not needing butter or any of the condiments. One can also order a tart of the day; Thai chicken curry; Portabellini mushrooms, roasted tomato and artichoke risotto; or a hamburger; ranging from R45 – R65. A choice of salads is offered, including chicken caesar, and roasted vegetables (R55 – R69). Sandwiches with roast vegetable, feta and pesto; bacon, Dalewood brie and homemade tomato chilli jam; and chicken on rye with harissa and date dressing cost R50 – R59. Trish was extremely friendly, but her staff less so.
On a lower level to the terrace are the tables set up for the market, with nine stands, protected against the heat by trees and more Origin umbrellas. Matt Allison is a friend from the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, and his colourful table had vegetables on it that he had picked two hours previously. He was selling parsley, butter lettuce, carrots, red onions, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, green peppers, green beans, and more. Interesting was the Boutique Garden Honey stand, at which honey from hives set up in Cape Town gardens is sold. I was fascinated to see the difference in the colour of the honey coming from Newlands (dark brown, a sign of fynbos, I was told) compared to that from Claremont (being far more golden) gardens. The garden honey costs R45, while their spingflower honey from the veld costs R25. They also sell interesting sounding honey-flavoured soaps, e.g. Rose geranium, Marigold and lemon, Myrrh and frankencense. Pets can be treated with wheat free low fat organic treats, for sale at the market. Simply Wholesome supplies restaurants and homes with organic and free range produce on order, with delivery, and evolved from a greater focus by the owners on eating healthily. One can buy salted and unsalted farm butter, eggs, ‘free run’ chicken and eggs, as well as Seville orange marmalade, fig preserve, sundried tomato mustard, and strawberry jam. The House of Pasta has a restaurant and take-away service at the bottom end of Long Street, and the owner is Italian. His charming wife explained all the pasta types to me, including gluten-free lasagne sheets and fusille, as well as tagliarini, and spinach and butternut pasta. The Creamery was selling delicious strawberry and lemon curd ice cream flavours. Richard Bosman’s charcuterie products were for sale, with a new smoked bacon. Julie Carter from Ocean Jewels Fresh Fish had a table. Afrikara Co-op is from Wolseley, and sells organic biodynamic natural yoghurt, cream, and feta cheese (labneh too usually, but not yesterday), as well as aubergines, and whatever fruit and vegetables they produce.
Attending the market yesterday allowed me to meet Karen Welter for the first time, who does the Tweeting for Starlings Café, and her late parents-in-law were friends of my parents many years ago. Karen is busy with a dissertation on ‘Sustainable Restaurants’ at the Sustainability Institute, which is part of the University of Stellenbosch. She is focusing on key issues for restaurants in terms of how they can operate their businesses in a more sustainable manner in terms of their energy usage, communication, sourcing products, best practice, and collaboration with others.
It was a very special experience at Starling’s Café, with friendly collaboration amongst the market stallholders evident, and friends clearly meeting there regularly. It felt like a mini-bazaar, for a special set of persons lucky to live close by to Starlings Café to allow them to visit regularly. It has none of the crowdedness that one experiences at the Slow Food Market at Oude Libertas or at the Old Biscuit Mill.
Starlings Café, 94 Belvedere Road, Claremont. Tel (021) 671-6875. Facebook Twitter:@StarlingsCafe. Monday – Friday 7h30 – 17h00, Saturday 8h00 – 16h00, Sunday 8h00 – 12h00. Market on Wednesday 16h00 – 18h00
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
For the past six months we have run a Restaurant winter specials list, many of which were extended until the end of September.
We are delighted that many restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands have seen the benefit of offering specials, and have decided to continue to do so for summer. The list follows below, and will be updated continuously:
* Pure at Hout Bay Manor: 3 course dinner for R200, and R280 with a glass of wine added, summer. Tel (021) 790-0116.
* Pepenero in Mouille Point : sirloin and chips R 79, seafood platter R 129, 1 kg prawn platter R 99, oysters R 9 each, sushi platter R109. Half price sushi all day. Summer. Tel (021) 439-9027
* Sinn’s Restaurant at Wembley Square: lunch (6 options) at R 50. 3-course dinner at R 150, Autumn. Tel (021) 465-0967
* Theo’s on Beach Road, Mouille Point: oysters R 6 each, 1 kg prawns R 99, line fish R79, for lunch and dinner. 300 gram sirloin steak, spatchcock chicken peri peri, 500 gram spare ribs all R 79 for lunch only. Full sushi platter R99, half platter R50. Summer. Tel (021) 439-3494.
* Sevruga in the V&A Waterfront: half price sushi Monday – Saturday 12 – 6 pm; 25 % off sushi Sunday 12 – 2pm, 50 % off 2 – 6 pm. Summer. Tel (021) 421-5134
* 1800 Degrees in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, Main Road, Green Point: 100g sirloin + 100g rump + 100g rib eye, and sauce = R99. Until end March. Tel (021) 430-0506
* Myoga at Vineyard Hotel, Newlands: 6 course dinner, with 5 choices per course, for R 195, Mondays – Saturdays, continues throughout summer Tel (021) 657-4545
* Beluga, The Foundry, Green Point: 1 kg Prawns R 99; 50 % off sushi and cocktails all day Sunday, and from 12h00 – 19h00 weekdays. Mondays – Saturdays. Summer Tel (021) 418-2948.
* 221 Waterfront: 3-course meal and live music R135 on Wednesdays. Dine & Cruise package: 1,5 hour cruise, 2 glasses sparkling wine, 3-course meal R 370; Lunch & Cruise package: 1 hour cruise and meal R210. Until 30 April. Tel (021) 418-3633
* Jakes in the Village/on Summerley, in Tokai and Kenilworth, respectively: 25 % off all dishes but must have a main course as a minimum, 5 – 7 pm only, 25 % off flatbreads on Mondays; Free Peroni, glass of wine or coffee for lunch; every 6th lunch free on Loyalty Card. Mondays – Saturdays, Summer. Tel (021) 701 3272
* The Lookout Deck, Hout Bay: 1 kg for prawns R 99, pay for 12 oysters and get 18, until end March. Tel (021) 790-0900
* La Mouette, Regent Road, Sea Point: Autumn Tasting Menu dinner 6 courses R 240 for 2 persons, Tuesday – Sunday lunch and dinner. Tel (021) 433-0856
* Bertha’s in Simonstown: 1 kg mussels, 1 kg Queen prawns or 1 kg mini seafood platter cost R 99 each, R11 for Peroni linked to seafood platter. Calamari, mussel, chips, BBQ chicken and wing platter R99. Summer. Tel (021) 786-2138
* Pepperclub Luxury Hotel & Spa: 6 oysters and a glass of bubbly R60, Fridays from 16h00, with jazz. Current.
* Aubergine: 2-course lunch R184, 3-course lunch R235, Wednesdays – Fridays, Summer. Tel (021) 465-4909
* Balducci’s: All pizzas (except Flaming Prawns) R49, 26-piece Platinum Sushi Plate for R99, Burgers from R55. Monday – Sunday, 12h00 – 18h00, indefinite. Tel (021) 421-6002
* Ferryman’s Tavern, V&A Waterfront: Combo-specials R100 (linefish + calamari), R85 (sirloin + calamari), R99 (pork rib + chicken wings), Mussel hotpot R75, chocolate mudpie R26. Summer. Tel (021) 419-7748
* Hildebrand: 2 courses R 99, 3 courses R 130; Summer. Tel (021) 425-3385
* Chenin Restaurant and Bar: 200g Sirloin steak R65, Cape Malay prawn curry R70, Moussaka R60 + glass of wine. From 5 May, for Autumn. Tel 021 425-2200
* Leaf Restaurant and Bar: 51 % off sushi from 11h00 – 19h00, and all day on Sunday; 12 prawn platter R89, Dimsum 30 % off. 50 % off cocktails all day Sunday. Summer. Tel (021) 418-4500
* Blowfish in Blouberg: R49 lunch specials, e.g. chicken schnitzel, 12-piece sushi, 6 oysters, hake and chips. Current Tel (021) 556-5464
* Cafe Chic: Six Moroccan tapas for R 70. 2 course meal R 100, 3 course meal R 120. Until 15 April. Tel (021) 465-7218
* OYO at V&A Hotel : 500g crayfish special R185. Summer. Tel (021) 419-6677
* Vanilla, Cape Quarter: 1/2 price sushi 12h00 – 18h00, half-price cocktails. Summer. Tel (021) 421-1391
* Adega, Sea Point: 1 kg King Prawns R119. Summer. Tel (021) 434-3029
* Knife restaurant, Century City: Bagel R35; Salad R45; Rib, meatball, chicken wing and chip platter R60, all specials include a beer/glass of wine/colddrink and coffee. Lunch special, 12h00 – 15h00, Mondays – Fridays. Summer. Tel (021) 551-5000
* St Elmo’s, Kloof Str, Gardens: Cheese-filled crust slices R17,90, until 17h00 daily; 2 large regular pizzas R99,90 daily all hours; 2 pizzas R79,90 Tuesdays all hours. Dipping strips – two for R99,90. Individual small pizza + Coke R29,90 Monday – Friday, until 16h00 daily. Summer. Tel (021) 422-2261
* Saul’s Sushi @ Vegas, Sea Point: Eat as much sushi as you like = R120 – Mondays and Tuesdays; 30 piece sushi platter R99 – Wednesdays and Thursdays; Oriental Buffet = R79 – Fridays and Saturdays; two for the price of one – Sundays. Current. Tel 087 151 4595
* Bhandaris Indian Restaurant: Buffet R99 Wednesday dinner and Sunday lunch and dinner. Two main meals for R99 on Mondays. 30 % off for pensioners on Tuesdays. Until 30 April. Tel (021) 702-2975/Tel (021) 782-1525.
* Zorba’s, Lagoon Beach Hotel, Milnerton: Starter and main course R100 on Monday nights. Summer. Tel (021) 528-2093
* San Marco, V&A Waterfront: 3 course meal plus Peroni or glass of wine and tea/coffee R99. Until 15 December, 15 January – 31 March. Tel (021) 418-5434
* Trees Restaurant, Townhouse Hotel, Cape Town: 2 course dinner R95, 3 courses R130. Summer. Tel (021) 465-7050
* Down South Food Bar, 267 Long Street: Rib & Prawn Platter including a side and sauces R75, until end February. Tel (021) 422-1155.
* Mainland China Restaurant, 111 Main Road, Claremont: Seafood Buffet R89, Saturdays 18h30 – 21h00; Buffet R 49; 50 % sushi discount Tuesday – Sunday. Tel (021) 674-2654
* Il Cappero, Barrack Street: “Eat as much as you can” lunch buffet R75, Monday – Friday. Summer. Tel 461-3168
* Cape Town Fish Market: Sirloin and Calamari Surf and Turf R64,65; Surf and Turf Supreme, with 8 prawns, R99,95. Until 2 May. Calamari duo and 300ml soda R68,95, only at V&A Waterfront, until 15 April. Tel (021) 418-5977
* Trinity, Bennett Street: “All you can eat” Dim Sum R135. Two-for-one burgers Wednesdays. Pizza R50 until 7 pm daily. “All you can eat” ribs Mondays R99. Tel (021) 418-0624
* French Toast, Bree Street: Bruschetta tapas free; Sauvignon.com R 20 per glass. Monday – Saturdays 5 – 7 pm. Tel (021) 422-3839.
* Cru Café Restaurant & Wine Bar, Cape Quarter: Scrambled egg and salmon breakfast for 2 plus bottomless cup of coffee R 78, Weekdays; 2 gourmet burgers with onion rings, French fries and Stella Artois beer R120 weekday lunch; Two pastas and two glasses of wine R99. Sunday – Tuesday evenings. Comfort food (Bobotie or Bredie) for two for R 119, including 2 glasses of wine, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. T-bone steak (350g) for two at R150, Friday and Saturday evenings. Until September. Tel (021) 418-6334
* Krugmann’s Grill, V&A Waterfront: Beef ribs 500 gram BBQ-basted beef ribs and starch R75, Wednesdays only Tel (021) 418-9393
* The Square, Vineyard Hotel, Newlands: ‘Tastes of 2011’ focuses on different theme every month, from April – September. April theme is ‘Best of British’, with British menu change weekly, 2 courses R 140 or 3 courses R 170. Dinner only, Monday – Sunday. Tel ()21) 657-4500
* Dunes, Hout Bay : Sunday brunch with smoked salmon, oysters and cooked breakfast R 100. Tel (021) 790-1876
* Sinn’s Restaurant, Wembley Square: Lunch R 50 (choice of six options); 3-course dinner plus glass of wine R 150. Autumn Tel (021) 465-0967
* Café Nood, Claremont: Pizza and glass of wine or a Peroni at R45 via Dealio. Current. Tel (021) 671-4475
* Arnold’s on Kloof, 60 Kloof Street, Gardens: Jack Black stew (type of stew changes throughout winter)for two plus bottle of Altydgedacht R99. Tel (021) 424-4344. Throughout winter.
* Five Flies, Keerom Street: 350g steak plus glass of wine R110. 15 April – 15 May. Tel (021) 424-4442
* Balducci’s, V&A Waterfront: Alfresco Lunch specials – soup and salad R89, fish R89, calamari R89, seafood platter for two R245, Steak Roll and chips R85, Steak and chips R99, Burgers from R55 – R75, Glass of wine R27, bottle R99. daily 12h00 – 16h00. Tel (021) 421-6002
* Harbour House, Kalk Bay: 2-courses R140, 3-courses R160. May. Tel (021) 788-4133
* Live Bait, Kalk Bay: Prawns and stir fry Asian noodle salad R 60. Sunday – Thursday evenings in May. Tel (021) 788-5755
* Polana, Kalk Bay: Steak, chips and mushroom sauce, R50, Sunday – Wednesday dinner April; Half free-range flame-grilled chicken R50, Sunday – Thursday dinner and Saturday lunch, May. Tel (021) 788-7162
* Massimo’s Pizza Club, Hout Bay: “Order any 2 adult take away (pizza, pasta salad)” to a minimum value of R100, and get an &Union beer, Darling Brew beer or a 500ml bottle of Bob’s Your Uncle wine for free, all day Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays until 17h00. Current Tel 073 390 1373.
* Allee Bleue, outside Franschhoek: choice of three 250g steaks at R 115, including a glass of estate wine, current. Lunch until 7 pm, Sunday – Thursday. Sunday Spit Braai with live music R175. Summer Tel (021) 874-1021
* Olivello, Klapmuts, outside Stellenbosch: 2-course meal R 115, 3-course meal R 135 plus glass of wine. Summer. Tel (021) 875-5443
* Ryan’s Kitchen at Rusthof, Franschhoek : 3-course dinner R 195; 6 course Taste of Africa dinner R295. Autumn. Tel (021) 876-4598.
* Restaurant Christophe, Stellenbosch: business lunch – 2 courses R130, 3 courses R 150, Tuesday – Friday, served within one hour, all year. Tel (021) 886-8763
* Allora in Franschhoek: mini-seafood platter R100, gorgonzola rump steak R95, marinated venison R95; 3-course Sunday lunch R99. Summer. Tel (021) 876-4375.
* L’ermitage, Franschhoek: 3 course lunch and glass of wine R 140. Current. Tel (021) 876-9200
* Laborie Restaurant in Paarl: 3 courses plus a glass of wine R145, until April.
* The Restaurant @ Clos Malverne: 4 course Food and Wine pairing menu R148, includes four courses and four wines. Tuesday – Sundays.
* 96 Winery Road, Stellenbosch: Free main course for May birthday boys and girls, to celebrate the restaurant’s 15th birthday. Tel (021 842-2020
* Dornier Bodega, Stellenbosch: Meat-free Mondays, Comfort Tuesdays, Pasta Wednesdays, Soup Thursdays, Fish Fridays, R79, lunch, May – September, Tel (021) 880-0557
* Towerbosch Restaurant, Knorhoek Wine Estate, Stellenbosch: Soup & Bredie Menu with soup and bredie R90, Wednesdays – Saturdays; Asado Argentian-style braai on Sundays R165. May – August. Tel (021) 865-2958
* Season in Hermanus: Sunday roast R 65 – R75, 3-course Sunday lunch R 110. Summer. Tel (028) 316-2854
* Mediterrea in Hermanus: 3 course meal R 195, Monday – Thursday dinners and Sunday lunches, current Tel (028) 313-1685
* The Class Room Restaurant, Hermanus: 3 course meal plus amuse bouche, palate cleanser, coffee and friandises R 165. 6 – 30 April. Tel (028) 316-3582
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Copyright: Whale Cottage Portfolio
From reviews I had read about A Tavola (‘at the table’ in Italian), it seemed that I had missed a gem by not having eaten at this Italian eaterie in the Southern Suburbs. After having eaten there earlier this week, I cannot see what they were raving about – the food was average and expensive, and the service was shocking!
I arrived after a tasting of Old Vines’ wines (the Baron von Holdt exceptional) at the home of mother-and-daughter winemakers Irina von Holdt and Fran Botha/Potgieter, at 9.30 pm. I was not sure whether I would be welcome at that time, especially as the two persons sitting eating at a table nearest the door (turned out to be the manager and a staff member) made no attempt to acknowledge my arrival. I carried on walking, and was greeted by a waitress, pointing at all the empty tables, to make my choice.
Mike came to present his services as the waiter, and handed me a laminated standard menu, another photocopied menu of “Specialities” (these were defined by him as being on a menu that changes regularly!), as well as a paper winelist (No Diner’s Club Winelist Award for this one). The menu highlights the ‘rules and regulations’ of this establishment – one may not be there between 4 – 6 pm, nor after 11 pm. Heaven help you if you are having a good time, and you loose track of time. No menu ‘changes or variations to any dishes please’, the menu stipulates – all reflecting the Italian ‘flexibilty’ of this restaurant! All food items on the menu are in Italian, with English descriptions. Corkage costs R30.
The restaurant is quite large, and I am sure that they can accommodate about 100 guests per sitting, especially as they have outside tables too. The kitchen is open-plan to the restaurant, with a counter that runs along most of the length of the restaurant. The walls are a deep-red, with lots of glass doors, which must be ideal for summer dining. The red colour scheme is carried across to the staff dress, who look smart in uniform red shirts and black pants. The chairs are unattractive, and make a terrible noise when diners get up and move them on the dark floor tiles. The tables looked like they were covered with good white table cloths, until I heard the staff scrubbing the plastic (I kid you not!) tablecloths right next to where I was still eating. There is a tiny deli section as one enters, with Italian products. Italian music was playing softly. A holder with Olitalio olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a standard on each table.
I ordered Vitello ai Funghi e Vino Bianco from the Specialities menu, and was disappointed when the “marianted” veal scallops arrived at the table – my plate had more pasta than veal on it, the wine sauce making it look as if there was more meat. The ‘wild mushrooms’ tasted as if they were out of a tin. The overriding taste was one of extreme saltiness, dominating the promised wine in the sauce. The dish, with four small veal scallops, cost R115. I did not think this to be good value.
I asked Mike if I could keep the paper copies of the menu, and he said he had to get permission for this. I did not get a response to the request. The same reply came to the request for a copy of the laminated menu. No reply was received but the Manager Kurt Henderson brought it to the table, being proactive in giving me the new menu effective 2 September. This was the only interaction I had with him, even though he could see me – no one was interested in how I enjoyed my meal, despite Mike seeing me making notes. I felt that the manager had little control over his staff – the waiters were huddled in a group, chatting, and I had to request a menu for the dessert, and a bill – nothing came proactively.
I noticed that the prices between the menu of 1 September, and that of the new menu, had decreased for almost all the dishes at A Tavola, with the exception of those for the desserts. I called the restaurant the following day, and owner GianCarlo Pironi’s ‘buon giorno’ was welcoming and friendly, very different to what I had experienced the evening before in his restaurant. He confirmed that the price reductions will hold for the time to come, as their supplier of Italian foods has managed to negotiate good deals with their suppliers, and therefore they could reduce their food prices – compliments to the chef for passing this price benefit on to the A Tavola customers!
With the introduction of the new menu, it would appear that the Speciality menu will fall away, as some of the dishes on it have been added to the new menu. Antipasti dishes have come down in price by around R10 a starter, and start at R42 for Zucchini Fritti, up to R76 for a platter of parma ham, salame, mortadella, coppa, grilled vegetables, olives, brushetta and tomato. In the Insalata section prices have come down by up to R14 for the calamari salad. Most salads cost R58. In the Primi section the pasta dishes have not come down much, and sound expensive in starting from R64 for Penne Arrabiata, Penne Napoli and Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino, up to R92 for seafood pasta Linguine Marinara. In the Secondi section prices have been reduced by R10, and now cost R 115 for almost all the dishes (mainly veal). In the Dolci section desserts cost between R38 – R48, and the Tiramisu (an absolute weakness of mine) I ordered was most disappointing – I barely tasted the liqueur, and it seemed terribly dry, with little mascarpone cream. I did like the chunky chocolate chips at the top of the dessert. It tasted pre-prepared, without love. A cheese platter for two costs R78 and gelato costs R38 (number of scoops not indicated). The cappuccino came as a flat white instead of with froth, and when I questioned Mike about this, he said that this is the way it is made, take it or leave it!
The winelist offers Prosecco at R190, or local Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel at R165. Food & Wine Guru Michael Olivier recommends Tierhoek Chenin Blanc on the winelist, at R140 a bottle and R46 per glass. Other white wines include Haute Cabriere, Flagstone Viognier; De Grendel, Iona, and Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc; and Jordan Unoaked and Doolhoof Chardonnay, none more expensive that R165. Red wines on the list range from Cederberg’s Cape Atlantic Merlot, at R115, to Morgenster Tosca blend at R245. Five whites and five reds are offered by-the-glass. Two Italian white and three red wines are offered, at under R 200 each. Certain wines have been crossed off the winelist – as it is a photocopy, it is unforgivable that the list was not revised and issued without corrections. No vintages are specified nor are the wines described. The winelist promises that the red wines are ‘cooled’ at 15 C, something I have never seen on a winelist before, but is commendable, says Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira.
When I paid for the meal in cash, R 30 more than the bill, I expected my change to be brought to the table. I had to ask Mike to bring it to me, lest he thought that I was giving him an ueber-generous tip. He came to the table sulking, and I asked him why he had not brought the change. He then let rip at me, saying he had not expected a tip, as I had been ‘impossible’, ‘shutting him out’. I explained to him that I had found his service to be absolutely reactive, and that he could not make an assumption about a tip, unless told to keep the change. This was a bad note on which to leave the restaurant – Manager Kurt made no attempt to reprimand the waiter for his rudeness.
I won’t be back at A Tavola, given its rude staff (even though owner GianCarlo sounded really nice over the phone), its prices (even though they have reduced many of their menu items, off a high base), and average food.
POSTSCRIPT 11/4/13: We received this e-mail today, clarifying that Giancarlo Pironi is not involved in the restaurant, and has not been for a long time: ‘I would like you to cancel the blog associating me with A Tavola restaurant in Claremont. Yes is true that I started A Tavola Restaurant in december 2009 together with Kurt and David, but I left the partnership few months after the opening. My Name is still used up to today by A Tavola, but now that I am about to begin a new venture in food I don’t want to confuse my future clients. Thanking you in advance for your kind understanding I wish you all the best in the future. Warm regards. Giancarlo Pironi’.
A Tavola, Shop 1, Library Square, Wilderness Road, Claremont (opposite Kingsbury Hospital, off Main Road). Tel (021) 671-1763. www.atavola.co.za. Lunches Monday – Friday 12h00 – 15h00, Dinners Monday – Saturday 18h00 – 22h00. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. On Mondays the pasta dishes in the Primi section of the menu cost half price.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com