Tag Archives: Cookery School

TimeOut Market Lisboa presents the best cuisine of Lisbon, Portugal, under one roof!

I had seen in a magazine prior to my arrival in Lisbon that the Time Out Market Lisboa is a must-visit venue. What an impression it made on me, when I visited it at the beginning of June, with about 30 restaurants, bars, and florists in this massive food market very close to where I stayed in Lisbon. How does one choose what to eat, with such a selection?! Continue reading →

Chewton Glen to open James Martin School of Cooking, Bakery, and restaurant!

imageChef James Martin is a top UK celebrity chef, and has been connected with Chewton Glen over many years, having worked at the UK’s leading hotel as a pastry chef twenty years ago, and is now set to open the James Martin Cooking School, Bakery, and Relaxed Dining on 1 December. Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 6 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   SA Tourism has launched a cinema advertising campaign highlighting the beauty and thrill  our country offers,  at 94 cinemas in seven Indian cities.  In the foyer of the cinemas one is able to book a holiday to South Africa via travel agents, taking the movie-goers to action in booking.  Part of the marketing campaign is ‘Take me to South Africa‘ promotion, in which four winners travel with cricketer Jonty Rhodes as their tour guide.

*   Comair says that domestic airfares are unlikely to come down, even if new low cost airlines enter the market, as it would not be sustainable to operate as such lower rates.

*   Chef Liam Tomlin’s Chefs Warehouse has moved to Bree Street (ex Caveau and ex Awestruck), having dropped the second part of the original business name (& Cookery School).  They serve lunch from 11h30 onwards, and an early dinner.  (received via newsletter from Chef’s Warehouse)

*   The government has lashed out at the media for its negative reporting about events in South Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 7: Mystery Box 7 ingredients unlucky for some, Herman Cloete wins Mosaic MasterClass!

MasterChef 2 7 Mystery Boxes Kitchen Whale Cottage PortfolioThe first Mystery Box of Season 2 provided a surprising challenge in episode 7 last night, particularly as it contained chicken as one of the seven ingredients for a dish to be prepared within 45 minutes. The Finalist making the best dish would go to Pretoria, for a MasterClass on plating at Chef Chantel Dartnall of Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient.  Surprisingly some of the previous stars chickened out, while others shone.

The judges said that they were testing the ability of the Finalists to think on their feet. They were not given a recipe to prepare a dish within 45 minutes from all seven the ingredients: chicken, capers, verjuice, toasted bread crumbs, bone marrow, ricotta cheese, and asparagus spears.  Chef Benny MasekwamengMasterChef SA 2 7 Ingredients Whale Cottage Portfolio said that the number of ingredients related to the MasterChef SA prize of a VW Golf 7, and that  7 is a lucky number.  Chef Pete Goffe-Wood challenged the Finalists to ‘delight and surprise‘ the judges, and to serve them ‘fabulous food‘. Speaking amongst themselves, the judges feared that some of the chicken might be undercooked, but they did praise the variety of chicken dishes which they had seen prepared. Continue reading →

Liam Tomlin Food to relocate to Cape Town in November

Liam Tomlin Food, a joint venture company with Liam Tomlin, Hein Koegelenberg, Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg and Berdine Neethling, is to relocate to Cape Town in November, the company announced today.

Co-owner Hein Koegelenberg said in a meeting today that to be closer to their support base in Cape Town, it makes sense to move the cookery school to a Cape Town venue.  Chef Liam Tomlin is still running courses at the current venue in Franschhoek until the end of October, and will be one of a program of chefs who will be doing cooking demonstrations at Leopard’s Leap, and will continue as a consultant chef to Leopard’s Leap. The program could include a three Michelin star chef from the Institut Paul Bocuse school of cooking.  The new Leopard’s Leap tasting venue was officially opened six months ago.

The move to Cape Town will co-incide with a food offering at Leopard’s Leap, given the demand expressed by winetasters.  Hein said that plans have not been finalised, but it is likely that cake and coffee, as well as chicken from their rotisserie will be sold with salads and bread.  Some of the space in the shop is likely to sell fresh foods to take home.

In the media release Liam Tomlin is quoted as follows: ‘It makes sense to be nearer to our main support base and although we will miss the beauty of the Franschhoek Valley and its friendly people (not to mention having wonderful wines across the room from us!), we are also looking forward to being in the hustle and bustle of Cape Town’.

To tie in with its Liam Tomlin Food culinary connection, Leopard’s Leap is launching a Culinary wine range, inspired by the French regions of Champagne, Loire, Rhone, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Sauternes, each of the wines being suitable for pairing with specific foods.  The range will be available exclusively at the Leopard’s Leap tasting room in Franschhoek, and at the new Liam Tomlin Food venue in Cape Town.

Good news is that Harry Joubert, previously with the Brampton tasting room in Stellenbosch, is the new manager of the Leopard’s Leap tasting room.

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Despite the media release published a month ago, and the interview I had with Hein Koegelenberg at that time, Liam Tomlin Food will close down at Leopard’s Leap at the end of October, and will not move to Cape Town, Hein Koegelenberg confirmed telephonically today, saying that it was not financially viable to open the cooking school company in Cape Town.  Chef Liam Tomlin will be available to Leopard’s Leap on an ad hoc consultancy basis.  Leopard’s Leap will start serving food from 1 November.

Liam Tomlin Food: www.liamtomlinfood.com Twitter: @LiamTomlinFood

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

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club pairs Jorgensen’s potstill brandy, Honest Chocolate, and the Haas Coffee Collective

This month, the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club marries three unique Cape artisanal businesses, and hosts Jorgensen’s Savignac Potstill Brandy and Honest Chocolate, at coffee merchants and art and design specialists Haas Collective.

Jorgensen’s Distillery is in Wellington, and Dawn Jorgensen has been a faithful attendee of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings, having briefly introduced their Primitiv Vodka to members last year. Their portfolio of handcrafted spirits has since grown, to include Jorgensen’s Gin, Field of Dreams Absinthe, Naked Lemon Limoncello, Naked Lime Liqueur, and the Savignac Potsill Brandy. Roger Jorgensen lovingly handcrafts the spirits products with passion, hard work and endeavour. Dawn handles Marketing and Sales, and is an ardent user of Social Media.

Honest Chocolate opened for business earlier this year, handcrafting their organic chocolate. Both owners Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk are passionate about chocolate, and evolved from experimenting with raw cocoa powder. Anthony is a self-taught chocolate maker, and was joined by Michael, who had similarly experimented with chocolate making in London. Last month they opened their first shop, on Wale Street, and manufacture and sell from this outlet. They also have a representative in Johannesburg, supplying outlets and they have a stand at the new Neighbourgoods Market there. They Blog and Tweet, in-between their chocolate making.

The Haas Collective is ever-evolving, with its Haas Coffee Collective, Haas Communications Collective, Haas Design Collective, and Haas Gallery Collective, four businesses that have Capetonians raving, the coffee shop having become a firm favorite of many, the only outlet serving Kopi Lawak coffee in South Africa. Coffee is supplied from Strictly Coffee in Robertson.They also serve breakfasts, lunches and cakes, seven days a week. Haas uses Twitter to entice followers into their emporium. Haas is owned by Francois Irvine and Glynn Venter.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.

Dawn and Roger Jorgensen, as well as Anthony and Michael will each speak for about half an hour about their businesses, and the role that Social Media plays in them, and there will be product tastings too. The meeting will be held in the Haas Gallery. The Club gives fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

*   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Wednesday 19 October: Haas Collective, 67 Rose Street, corner Church Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com. The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

Leopard’s Leap to make a leap into Franschhoek cuisine scene!

I have the highest regard for the passion and energy of Hein Koegelenberg, who wears a number of hats, including heading up the operation of La Motte, founder of Meridian (a local distribution and sales company for 24 leading wine brands) and Historic Wines of the Cape (a warehousing, labelling and shipping company), and co-owner of Leopard’s Leap with his wife Hannelie Rupert-Koegelenberg.   I was delighted that Hein made time last week to share the planned developments at Leopards’ Leap, which is set to open a Tasting Room as well as a Cookery School in October, next door to La Motte in Franschhoek.

On the 10 hectare farm with its 400 square meter building being built, the Leopard’s Leap brand will have its first home, having been produced at the La Motte cellars in the past.  The brand sells six times as much as La Motte in volume, a total of 600 000 cases of six bottles.   The brand was created eleven years ago, as a second label to the Rupert wine brands La Motte, Rupert & Rothschild, and L’Ormarins.  Originally the brand was made from the left-over grapes from these three properties, but now Hein and his team buy in wine from Perdeberg, Wamakersvallei, Ashton Winery, Darling Winery, Leeuwenkuil and La Motte to create Leopard’s Leap wines.  The wines have been bottled at the KWV to date.  

A recent development is that Leopard’s Leap is bulk shipped to the United Kingdom, where it is bottled under the supervision of the winemaker, to save up to half of his shipping costs, given the Rand risk, Hein said.  Almost a quarter of Leopard’s Leap production has been bottled in the UK.  This is the way in which Leopard’s Leap has reacted to changing market conditions, and Hein’s philosophy is to adapt, saying one must make things work for your business when the external environment changes.   Hein is not optimistic that the strength of the Rand will change in the next 3 – 5 years.  Having withdrawn from the American market for some time, Hein says the time is right to go back into the USA with Leopard’s Leap and La Motte, an agent just having been appointed to sell the brands there.  

The three leopards on the Leopard’s Leap label have energy, and depict the personality which Hein and his wife wish to create at their new Tasting Room.  They have therefore appointed Mokena Makeka, a ‘hot’ young architect from Cape Town, whose Makeka Design Laboratory recently re-designed the Cape Town Station for the World Cup. The interior decor will be handled by Christo Barnard, who did the decor of Pierneef à La Motte.    The design will reflect that the brand’s target market is younger, and enjoy drinking this wine at a lower price point.  The building will have a lot of glass, to bring the outside in, and a large outside sitting area too.   A tasting room, delicatessen offering picnics, and wine sales facility make up the core of the new building.

A cutting-edge demonstration kitchen with 24 state-of-the-art work stations will also be built for the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School  branch opening at Leopards’ Leap, with owner Liam Tomlin and his wife moving to Franschhoek.  Tomlin has worked in leading restaurants in the UK, Europe and Sydney, including Banc in Sydney, about which he wrote a book with the same name, and another entitled “Season to Taste”. He opened the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town a year ago. The Cookery School will offer a wide range of classes, presented by Tomlin as well as by top local and international chefs.  The Chef’s Warehouse will sell a wide range of kitchen products, to offer participants the tools to make at home what they have learnt at the Cookery School.

The food to be served at Leopard’s Leap will be picnics. Tomlin and Barnard are currently working on the picnic concept, to develop a unique offering relative to what is currently being served at other wine farms, to create a unique identity for Leopards’ Leap.   Hein described the Leopard’s Leap brand as ‘pastel, earthy, funky, trendy, with energy”, and this will guide the interior decor and personality of the new Leopard’s Leap building. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club  will visit Leopards’ Leap on a Saturday on Saturday 12 November.   Further details can be obtained by e-mailing whalecot@iafrica.com

Leopard’s Leap Wines: www.leopards-leap.com

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

Food & Wine Bloggers should be opinionated, but substantiate their views

A lively entertaining debate about how opinionated bloggers can be in their blogs about their restaurant experiences was created when well-known food alchemist Pete Goffe-Wood, owner of Wild Woods Restaurant, Eat Out Top 10 restaurant judge, restaurant consultant, and owner of the Kitchen Cowboys cookery school for men addressed the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting at the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School on Thursday.

Goffe-Wood said that he started blogging about a year ago, as an extension to his writing for the Food page in GQ magazine.   He does not rely on his Kitchen Cowboy blog to make money, but instead he uses it to express his passion about food, and his opinions about issues relating to the restaurant industry, e.g. pricing of wines, corkage, restaurant reviews. He does not blog every day, but rather when he needs to “vent” his opinion about something that is an issue for him.

It is clear that Goffe-Wood enjoys opinionated bloggers, who do not shy away from expressing their views, and who stand by what they write.   Some of his favourite blogs are “Diary of a Food Whore”, “Eat Asia”, as well as “JamieWho”.  He singled out attendee Kim Maxwell as a good reviewer, and mentioned the controversy about JP Rossouw’s review of La Mouette.  If one critiques a restaurant, one must be able to substantiate the reason for the criticism, he said.  A blog that did not carry criticism about restaurants, and that only said good things about good restaurants would not have depth, in his opinion, and would not be a benefit to the restaurant industry.

Goffe-Wood clearly does not like food blogs with recipes, which he disparagingly described as having beautifully styled photographs, but with “inane writing and inane recipes”.  He himself would never write about recipes on his blog.   He also criticised bloggers who had nothing new to say, and who cut and paste the work of other writers.   He discussed the value of blog comments, and felt them to be a beneficial in that they get a discussion going, even if commenters can be harsh in criticising each other.   Another question raised was how polite one must be in expressing a negative opinion.

Pieter Ferreira has been making MCC sparkling wines at Graham Beck for the past 20 years, and is called “Pieter Bubbles” by his friends, and writes a blog called “Bubbles on Wine”.  His blog grew out of his Tweeting, which he does during his day to day activities on the Graham Beck Robertson and Franschhoek farms.   The Tweets become a reminder for him about his experiences during the day, and these he can put into his blog on a later occasion.   He likes to put other writers’ interesting stories on his blog, and also to share exceptional experiences at restaurants, or about a special bottle of wine.    While his blog is a personal one, he is blogging mainly about Graham Beck brands, and therefore it benefits the wine estate as the blog posts will be found via Google searches.

Ferreira’s bubblies are so outstanding that Nelson Mandela chose Graham Beck Cap Classique for his inauguration.  Many years later, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle celebrated their inauguration with the same brand.  Ferreira told the story that the cellar at the White House may only stock American wines.  The Graham Beck wines are stored in the kitchen, to get around this sacred White House rule.   Ferriera brought the Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blanc, Brut Rose, Coffeestone Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamekeeper Reserve Chenin Blanc for the Bloggers’ Club members to taste.

Due to space constraints at the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School, the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings will be held at a larger venue in future.  Please contact Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com to obtain more information about the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com (Photograph by Lesley Cox)

Restaurant Review: Gaaitjie in Paternoster one of West Coast’s best

A mid-winter break in Paternoster had to include a repeat visit to Gaaitjie – Salt Water Restaurant, a restaurant with the most stunning setting on the rocks overlooking the bay, and one of the best restaurants on the West Coast. 

Suzi Holtzhausen is the owner of Gaaitjie, and moved to Paternoster from Johannesburg, where she had a cookery school, six years ago.  She started off setting up the Salt Coast Inn, offering self-catering accommodation, followed by the Eatery, which offered breakfasts, “lite meals and sweet treats”, the business card says.   Here I once had a bizarre cheese omelet (ordered as such) drowned in a boerewors and onion sauce for breakfast.  Suzi ran cookery courses.   Suzi’s mother ran the Eatery when Suzi opened Gaaitjie six months ago, but it has been closed down now.

Gaaitjie probably is better suited to a summer visit – in the early summer evening it is still light enough to sit on the terrace outside (I learnt that it is important to book the exact room you want to sit in), and to enjoy the beautiful view onto the sea, and to hear the waves crashing.  Blankets are provided should it become chilly once the sun sets.  For lunches outside it is perfect.  In winter customers have to sit inside, and this makes space restricted, and last-minute bookings hard to make.  The best tables in the main restaurant room, with a fireplace, are the first to go.  I thought I had done well with a booking five days ahead, but other bookings had been received a month ago, I was told, making my power to change my table allocation close to zero.   I was seated furthest from the action, in a room that only had a very smelly gas heater, so I asked to be moved to the main restaurant room.  This is when I learnt of my low rank from Camilla.  The best she could do was to seat me in the entrance room, which has one table, but also a fireplace.   For a single diner it is a very lonely place, but Susan, the manager for the evening and a good friend of Suzi, kept me company as she was buzzing along, checking on everyone.  She is an absolute natural at customer care and friendliness, unlike Camilla, who looked unfriendly.  A new waitress struggled with a simple order for cold water.  She received training behind the counter, which I could hear. Given the stature of Suzi’s cooking, the new waitress was not yet an asset to the restaurant.  She was allocated to my table – again I felt to have hit rock bottom.

Gaaitjie is the name of the building which Suzi rents from the local Sea Fisheries’ department, and they renovated it to her requirements. It looks like a Greek cottage, as do most of those in Paternoster.  One can only see the signage from the road, as the restaurant is so low down, at close to sea-level.   The kitchen is in the middle of the building, and one has to walk through it to get to the main restaurant room and terrace.   The generator for the fridge ticks away, and evokes a farmhouse memory.   The ceiling is covered in reeds, giving it a further Greek feel.   The doorways are low, especially for tall gentlemen passing through them.   The walls have framed yellowing newspaper clippings with general articles about Paternoster.  The cutlery is nothing special, but the serviettes are made from material, with a shell forming a serviette ring.  Here and there a fishy decor touch can be seen – an ashtray filled with shells, a fish-shaped water bottle, and a ceramic fish on the bar counter.

Gaaitjie’s menu is restricted to seven starters and mains each, and four desserts.  Each one of Suzi’s dishes are unique, and her stature as a chef comes from her marriage of ingredients, often demanding a brave palate from her patrons in trying unusual ingredients or combinations.   The paper menu starts with the sentence: “Taking time to prepare the best of what’s around the West Coast area, served by the people of Paternoster”.  The menu can change daily, depending on the produce that Suzi can get hold of.  Gaaitjie is not inexpensive, and hence it is mainly Capetonians and other out-of-town visitors who eat there.  I recognised a fellow Slow Food Cape Town member arriving with a party of six others.

I chose the mielie chowder with scallop and green pea wontons, at R 50, an ideal dish for the first chilly night of the winter.   The wontons were deliciously crispy, and the chowder very filling, topped with green beans, and I regretted having it before the main course, both being very filling dishes.   My pork belly choice was stated on the menu as requiring 45 minutes’ preparation time, so the chowder was a good way to pass the time, giving little action on Twitter that evening.   The chowder was served with the most unusual muffin-shaped bread with an onion marmalade centre and crowned with black sesame seeds and fresh herbs.   It was served with an anchovy, garlic and olive tapenade.   Anchovies are one of few things I do not eat, so I was presented with a slice of butter, beautifully served with a twig of chive balancing on top of the slice standing on the plate, so simple but so attractive.   Other starter options were angelfish bobotie spring roll on coconut and bean sambal; chicken liver peri peri vetkoek with creme fraiche and roasted chilics; spinach and curd samoosas on hot tomato and basil salad; grilled pear and deep-friend labna cheese salad; and a house salad of greens, feta style cheese, cucumber, tomato and seeds, all costing between R45 – R55. On a summer visit I had eaten the chilled pea and fresh crayfish soup, at R75, which was outstanding, but there was no crayfish on the menu as the season closed a month ago. 

The main courses range in price from R110 for the snoek lasagne to R125 for a braised lamb shank and butter bean pie with mint and pumpkin broth.  Other mains were yellowtail fillets simmered in curry leaf masala and lentil rice; a stew of black mussels, baby calamari, sweet pepper and spicy sausage; the crisp pork belly (and crisp it was, with the most delicious crackling, which I left for last) served with an unusual leek mash; roasted quail on a hot beetroot salad; and chicken breast with pesto pasta.

Dessert choices were preserved naartjie and ginger praline cheesecake; malva pudding topped with molten local blue cheese and melon preserve;  baked custard with Witblitz-soaked Cape gooseberries; and rich chocolate mousse with salt dust (I wanted to order the mousse, but could not get a good description of its ingredients, as it was new on the menu that evening – the fact that part of the mousse was white chocolate which contained passion fruit made me decide against it, and none of the other dessert options attracted me).

The winelist is on a separate sheet of paper, and is introduced as follows: “We keep waste to a minimum and km’s travelled low so choices are local and small”.  For this reason most wines are from the West Coast.  Each wine is briefly described, and the wine estate it comes from mentioned.  Corkage is charged at R 40.  One sparkling wine (Kasteelberg) is offered at R 135, five white wines range from R 95 for a Kloovenburg Chardonnay and an unknown La Capra Chenin Blanc from Fairview, to R 145 for Fryer’s Cove Bamboes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, and The Ollo from Altydgedacht.   Four red wines include two Shirazes (Spice Route at R 165 and Nieuwedrift at R 95), an unsual sounding Cappupino Ccinotage (R105) and Cloof Inkspot R 105.  The wine-by-the-glass choice is limited to Cloof (white and rose’ at R 25), and MAN Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 at R 30.  

I left with mixed feelings, having enjoyed my two previous dinners at Gaaitjie more.   The food is outstanding, but one must make a lot of allowances in the other things one expects from a restaurant in terms of decor, service and wine selection.   Suzi strikes me as one of a rare breed of restaurateurs who believes that a focus on food is of paramount importance in a restaurant, and that little else matters. 

Gaaitjie – Salt Water Restaurant, off St. Augustine’s Road, Paternoster. Tel 022 752 2242.  www.saltcoast.co.za/gaaitjie (page does not open).  Open for lunch and dinner on all days except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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

Restaurant Review: There is little of Jardine at Jardine Restaurant

A Twitter friendship with co-owner Wilhelm Kuehn, and a challenge from him to visit the restaurant to do a review, was the reason for returning for a meal at Jardine Restaurant in the Cape Town city centre, after 18-months since the previous visit.  

Jardine Restaurant makes me think that it is somewhat ‘schizophrenic’ – a fine-dining ex-Top 10 restaurant, which also has an informal take-away at its Jardine Bakery section, and an informal sit-down lunch at tables and benches outside the door on the pavement.   Restaurant founder and co-owner George Jardine has opted out of city living, to start a new country restaurant on Jordan wine estate in Stellenbosch, and now only cooks at Jardine Restaurant “2 or 3 times a week”, I am told, but the restaurant still carries his name.   Wilhelm tells me that Waterkloof and Tokara were alternate options George Jardine had evaluated for his new restaurant.

Jardine has handed over the chef reins to Eric Bulpitt, who has worked at the Winchester Mansions Hotel, The Showroom, Ledbury in London, and at Jardine Restaurant with George.  Kuehn was a lawyer, and now is the General Manager, keeping a fine eye on things upstairs, walking the floor to check that all runs smoothly.

Jardine Restaurant had to face the humiliation of falling from 3rd place in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list of 2009 to between 12 – 20th place last November.  One does not know if the judges felt that things had slipped, or because they felt that an award cannot go to a chef when he is not cooking there all the time any more – Jardine’s move to the winelands had been widely announced.   Kuehn says the Top 10 award result last year created introspection, but Bulpitt’s new menu for the restaurant is drawing in regulars.   I heard tourists, and recognised Howard Godfrey, MD of @home, as patrons, on an almost-full Thursday evening. 

When one arrives one is met by Johan.  I had not booked, but he made a plan to make a table available.  I told him I would be out by 9 pm, but Jardine is not for fast in-and-out dining, mainly because the menu requires one to have a minimum of two courses, and I therefore only left after about two hours. 

The downstairs section has never made an impact, and is set up as a bar and lounge.   Upstairs the restaurant space has a central middle area, and tables against the windows, separate from the rest.   It is not a particularly attractive space decor-wise, only a pop-art painting by Richard Scott on the far wall creating a splash of colour, one of a few artworks on the walls, coming from Worldart.   A functional shelf holds functional cutlery holders and crockery.  Close by, an old-fashioned cash register has an untidy collection of paperwork next to it.  The tables have white tablecloths, and attractive and comfortable brown leather chairs. I sense a woman’s hand is lacking in the decor of the room (as I did at the Warwick tasting room recently) – all is very functional here.   The chef and his kitchen crew of five work in a very small space, preparing each dish.  Chef Eric is in the centre, finishing things off. 

Wilhelm comes to chat and we talk about Twitter, other restaurant Twitterers, and the soon-to-open nearby Cookery School.  A waitress brings the menu, printed on strong board, and it changes day by day.   One chooses two (R 230) or three courses ( R 260), a 5 course chef’s menu (R 400) or a wine pairing menu (R350), the last two options not being explained by the waitress.   A side salad is specified as costing R 45 extra, and other (unspecified) sides at R 35.

The menu choice was five starters and mains, and four desserts.  The starters seemed esoteric (‘Evita and Princess figs’ -two varieties of figs, I was told and ‘vegetable patch’) or too fishy (oysters, mussels and salmon) for my taste.   Main choices were line fish, Frazerburg lamb leg, seared Kroondal duck breast, rump, and grilled elf mushrooms.  

An amuse bouche is served, almost over the top and ‘airy-fairy’, very foamy in general, and is meant to be an olive tapenade covered by a “tomato spoon” (missed the tomato taste), white pepper and a basil leaf.  It is extremely light and aerated, and I am brought another because the air will have escaped while Wilhelm and I talk too much.  I love duck, and was surprised when it was served – I call it “deconstructed”, with four little bits of duck, and little portions of “parfait en croute, celeriac, pomegranate and shallot” spread out on a wooden platter.   The tiniest of tiny flowers, nuts and other ingredients are sprinkled across the plate.   Had I not ordered a side of the most wonderful crunchy green beans sprinkled with flaked almonds, I would have still been hungry after the main course.   The parfait is outstanding, the little that is offered.

The dessert options were chocolate torte, citrus tomato minestrone, pineapple souffle flambe, and a selection of South African cheeses (gorgonzola, camembert, labare-style cheese, ash-rind goat’s cheese and gruyere served with walnut toast and watermelon konfyt).   The cheese platter, served on an extremely heavy granite slab, was an excellent choice, and was an enjoyable slow eat.  It was decorated with the finest apple slices, always great with cheese, and slices of strawberry and raspberries, as well as nuts and blueberries.

The waitress was very efficient in explaining the menu items, but each item has so many components, that when the dish is brought to the table, one has long forgotten what exactly the chosen dish entails (Opal Lounge has the same problem).  But the waitress was patient in running through the ingredients again.  One irritation is the waitress offering her personal recommendation of the duck – I know that many restaurants do not allow their staff to eat the restaurant’s food, so I always reject such “recommendations”, as tastes do differ.  I chose the duck, because I love duck, not because she recommended it.

The winelist is attractively presented in a brown leather cover, matching the chairs.   It is an extensive list, separating bubblies, whites and reds, each sub-divided into varietals and blends, followed by two pages of mainly French and some Spanish wines.    Wines by the glass are reasonably priced – a Villiera by-the-glass costs R 40, a Tribout R 120.   A Jardine (made by Paradyskloof) Unwooded Chardonnay costs R 25, a Lammershoek Roulette Blanc R 40.  The La Motte Millenium and Sterhuis cost R 45 each (for 125 ml).  For the tasting menu one can order 60 ml portions of wines too.   Billecart-Salmon champagne is served in various options, ranging from R 950 – R 7 000 a bottle.  Two Graham Beck Cap Classiques cost R 410, the VIlliera R 190.   Red wine options number 35, and range from R 95 for a MAN Shiraz to R 990 for a Muemve Raats De Compostella 2006; 27 white wine options range from the Jardine Unwooded Chardonnay at R 100 to R 780 for the Platter 2010 White Wine of the Year, the Sadie Palladius.  French wines start at R 1 600 per bottle, to R 8 600 for a Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild 1995.

The sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn is told that I have ordered a glass of La Motte Millenium 2007, and that I would like it poured at the table (I distrust wine-by-the glass service).   Johan tells me that they have actually found a bottle of 2006 – what luck!   Koelewijn comes to the table, does not show me the bottle, as I ask of him twice, and just carries on pouring the small portion. I ask him if I may not taste the wine.  He retorts that he has done so already!   There was no “hello, my name is Jaap, I am the sommelier, let me tell you some more about the La Motte Millenium…” from him.  Why is that sommeliers have such attitude and arrogance (like at Bosman’s and Reubens in Franschhoek)?   The minute I started the cheese platter, he was back to offer me another top-up of the wine or a port.   No question was asked whether I had enjoyed the first glassful.   The empty glass was probably taken to communicate that it was good!  I had to ask for a cappuccino to accompany the coffee, as this was not offered as a beverage option.

The lunch menu changes regularly too, and that of 11 March had four starters (oysters and mussels as per the dinner menu) and two salads, 3 mains (line fish, rump and mushrooms, as per the dinner menu), and 3 desserts (chocolate torte and cheese as per the dinner menu).  Here the prices look reasonable, and one can order per dish.    The sums do not add up if you see the lunch prices for individual menu items, compared to paying for 2 or more dinner courses.  Wilhelm says the lunch menu dishes are simpler.   

If Wilhelm had not come to chat, I would have left without the “connection” to Jardine Restaurant.  There is some very soft music, so soft that it is inaudible.   It gets progressively hotter in the room, as the airconditioning is on but the windows are open, defeating the function of the aircons.   A fan is brought from around the corner, and makes a difference.

Jardine Restaurant, corner Bree and Bloem Street, Cape Town.  Tel (21) 424-5640.          www.jardineonbree.co.za.  Twitter @JardineCapetown.  Open for dinner Monday – Saturday evenings, lunch is served Wednesdays – Fridays.

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