Tag Archives: corkage

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

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

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

Restaurant Review: Just Pure The Bistro offers impure service and food!

Just Pure The Bistro Exterior Whale Cottage PortfolioLooking for a coffee shop in Hermanus over lunch yesterday I popped in at Just Pure The Bistro, located within a showroom that sells the Just Pure pure skin and body care range.  I had no intention to write about my sandwich and coffee stop, but the dreadful service from the staff and owners compelled me to write a review.

The balcony has a fantastic view onto the ocean, and the ocean was particularly rough yesterday, with massive waves, making it a pleasure to sit outside.  I used to love going there when Bellini had its art gallery and coffee shop in the same space.  I walked inside the shop, not having been there for some time, and saw that the Just Pure showroom still looked the same, found a Cape Times on a table, and chose a table to sit at outside.  I was not welcomed by any staff, and saw a waitress yawning as I wanted to ask her for a table.  She brought a menu and I placed my order of a glass of ice, a jug of milk, and an espresso, wishing to make my own iced coffee, and a glass of ice water.  She brought the ice on a saucer, and there was no glass into which I could pour all the ingredients.  She returned with the same number of ice cubes in a glass, so I had to send her back to fill it up.

I chose to order a ‘Country Loaf’ sandwich, from the ‘Gourmet Open Sandwiches‘ section,  with tomato, mozzarella, and avocado, which I asked to be toasted, and expected a seed type loaf.  The waitress returned, after having taken the order, to double check that I wished to only have one slice , described confusingly in their menu as a half portion (R49), two slices being a full portion (R65).  It took at least half an hour to be served, but it gave me a chance to read the newspaper, and to catch up on Social Media, having spent about two hours driving to Hermanus.  What I was served was an attractively presented but non-gourmet plain slice of Continue reading →

Eat Out 2014 to reduce in size by more than half!

One wonders why New Media Publishing is changing its Eat Out 2014 magazine, announcing on Monday that it is reducing the size of the restaurant magazine by more than half, in carrying only 500 restaurant write-ups, compared to the listing of 1100 restaurants in Eat Out 2013!

The cost saving in reducing the size of the magazine is evident, advertising sales for the magazine probably being a greater challenge this year, given how tight the economy is. Another reason must be the power of the internet, with fewer restaurant lovers paging through the Eat Out magazine, and more Googling information about restaurants, often finding the websites of Food24 and Eat Out, with the largest listings of restaurants.  Bloggers are a threat to these two sites, as increasingly top restaurant bloggers find their reviews on the first page of Google too.   The blog reviews may have greater credibility than the conglomerate restaurant sites, in being more honest.  The conglomerate restaurant sites have been seen to copy restaurant information directly from the restaurant websites, without writing their own reviews in many instances, thus affecting their credibility as an information source.  The Eat Out website has been criticised for carrying out-of-date information about restaurants.

To try to detract attention away from the drastic reduction in the Eat Out 2014 content, New Media Publishing announced that restaurants must apply to be considered to be included in South Africa’s Top 500 restaurant list!  Closing date for applications is 30 June.  The applications will be evaluated ‘by a panel of 50  of ‘South Africa’s top food/restaurant industry experts (to be announced)’. Restaurants will be evaluated on menu composition, ingredient seasonality, wine, service, and ambiance, plus other (unnamed) factors. In case the message is not clear, the Eat Out announcement emphasises that only the Top 500 selected restaurants ‘that impress our 50-strong editorial panel’ will be included in the restaurant magazine next year.  The form to be completed requests a description of the restaurant, the year in which it opened, its seating capacity, its signature dishes and the average price of the main courses (how does this work for a Tasting Menu?), its policy on BYO wine and the corkage fee, and the credit cards accepted by the restaurant.

It is disconcerting that the criteria for inclusion have not been clearly stated.  Of concern too is that one of the most sensitive issues, being that the chef has to have been at the restaurant for a twelve month period from November 2012 onwards, is not mentioned, and one does not know if any/all restaurants, no matter how recently opened, will be included in the Top 500 Restaurant list.  It is also not clear if the Top 20 shortlist, and the ultimate Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list, will be derived from the Top 500 list!

Eat Out Top 500 Restaurants: http://www.myjotform.com/EatOut/restaurant Closing date 30 June. Image: Eat Out

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

Restaurant Review: Latitude33 making waves in Cape Town!

I travel along fashionable Bree Street regularly, and noticed the new Latitude33, a mixed venue selling clothing, artwork, some deli items, and is a restaurant.  Its name reflects Cape Town’s geographical location, and its interior is dedicated to the oceans surrounding our city, and surfing in particular.  Its striking ceiling in the coffee preparation area reflects that this new Cape Town eatery is set to make waves!

I found the venue open last week, and was told that they close the kitchen at 15h00, and the venue at 15h30, as they open early in the morning.  I had never driven past Latitude33 before its closing time, and therefore never previously had found it open and operating.  Arriving just at closing time then, I was still made to feel welcome, was served an iced coffee (R25), and co-owner Charles Post came to chat, to share background information.  The venue was previously a nightclub which had burnt down, and the building was extensively renovated.  Charles lived in New Zealand, where he was a rugby player, but not quite at All Black level, he admitted. While he is not a surfer himself, he loves the surfing lifestyle, and that is what they have brought into the venue decor, with big surfing posters from Australia, and surfboards on some of the walls, some painted by Glen Roe, with tributes to Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and more.  A sports corner with big leather couches and a flatscreen TV will serve rugby lovers.  The interesting wave-like ceiling, seemingly flowing out of the shelving unit behind the coffee machine, was inspired by photographs which Charles saw on a website for Melbourne-based Baker D Chirico.  Wooden chairs and tables fill the venue, and also are on the pavement, interspersed with wine vats.  The chairs have blue and red stripes on them, almost giving them an Indian touch. Cutlery is by Fortis Hotelware, and blue paper serviettes are offered. Cape Herb & Spice Atlantic Sea Salt and Extra Bold Peppercorn grinders are on the table.  The multi-use venue was inspired by a shop which Charles saw in Bali. His girlfriend Olivia Franklin runs the upstairs section, with clothing for sale, as is her artwork.

The Chef is Gerald Walford, a friend of Charles from Johannesburg, and he said he enjoys the ‘change of pace in Cape Town’, although he expected it to be slower than it is!  He is aware of Cape Town’s reputation for less good service, and they want to ‘bring Johannesburg service flair’ to their restaurant, and have chosen staff to achieve this. Value for money is important, and they are striving to offer the best possible quality. The feedback they have received is that their portions are too big, and they have reduced them.  The menu changes regularly, and is ‘client-friendly‘.  Suppliers have been ‘hit and miss’, Gerald said, but he seems satisfied with them now.  They stock an interesting selection of unusual jam ‘blends’, supplied by Die Ou Pastorie in Pretoria, including Rooibos Sweet Chilli, Balsamic Pinotage Jelly, and Vanilla Plum. Chef Gerald worked with MasterChef SA judge Andrew Atkinson at the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg, and calls him his mentor.  He also worked with MasterChef SA Culinary Producer Arnold Tanzer during Season 1 last year. His philosophy is to make his customers as happy as possible, and to offer consistency, and therefore he is hands-on in preparing the food.  I was impressed that he came to check on my feedback about the excellent Salmon Eggs Benedict (R65), which I had ordered from their all-day breakfast menu, a good enough reason to go back again.  The bread range which is offered is rye, bagels, sour dough, white, wholewheat and panini, baked in-house. Eggs Benedict is also available with bacon and spinach. A full cooked breakfast costs R65, and a mini breakfast R50. Omelettes start at R20, and one can select sixteen ingredients to add, the price of each specified.  French Toast sounds delicious, at R45, with a choice of bacon and syrup, Nutella and caramelized banana, berry compote and whipped cream, or chorizo and roasted coconut!  Lunch is served from 12h00, and consists simply of salads (cous cous, grilled chicken, and steak, ranging from R55 – R65), burgers (beef, chicken, or ostrich, at R65), sandwiches (with schnitzel, Asian Pork belly or Club, ranging from R50 – R65) and wraps (mushrooms, grilled chicken, and beef, at R35 – R40).

Andrea Maskew is the Pastry Chef, having owned a catering company previously, and has been a freelance food stylist for Woolworths’ Taste magazine, working with Food editor Abigail Donnelly and assistant Hannah Lewry.  She bakes fresh pastries and confectionery every day, including cupcakes, muffins, triple Lindt chocolate cookies, white chocolate mousse cake, and fudge.  She studied at the SA Chefs’ Academy.

Coffee is by Truth, and they have borrowed a barista from the coffee supplier.  Their iced coffee is good and strong.  Service is friendly, but seemed slow, given that I was the only customer eating at the time.  I returned yesterday, to try one of the dishes, and to photograph the interior, the chairs already having been placed on the tables on my previous visit, not making the eating section of Latitude33 photographable then. The food is excellent, but the paper menu, the paper serviettes, the menu offering, and the service all have potential for improvement.  A liquor licence will be applied for, and therefore clients are encouraged to bring their own wine.  No corkage is charged.

Latitude33, 165 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 4249520. www.lat33.co.za Twitter: @Latitude33_Cpt.  Monday – Friday 7h00 – 15h30, Saturday 8h30 – 14h00.  Free WiFi.

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

Restaurant Review: Kitima full of spirit, Elsa’s Table has pride of place!

I was invited by Katie and Jonny Friedman to dinner at Kitima in Hout Bay, an icon of Asian cuisine in Cape Town, and winner of the Best Asian restaurant in South Africa in the Eat Out Restaurant Awards in November. It was a most interesting evening, not only experiencing the good value food, but also hearing the story about Elsa’s Table, named in honour of one of Hout Bay’s longest standing ‘residents’!

The Friedmans own Orphanage on Bree Street, and we got to know each other at their cocktail emporium when it opened earlier this year. They have done so well with Orphanage that they are linking it to a double story behind the existing building, with an entrance on Orphan Street, adding another bar downstairs, and creating the Orphanage Club upstairs in which 1920’s style jazz, blues, and other music will be performed live. Reservations must be made, and it is planned to serve canapés with the drinks, served by the bottle in this venue. The Friedmans live in Llandudno, and love Kitima, usually eating there once a week.  They were surprised that I had never been, and wanted to share one of their favourite restaurants with me.

Kitima is close to the Imizamo Yethu township in Hout Bay, but one feels very secure, as one is guided into the parking by their security staff, and shown the entrance to the building.  The old Cape Dutch building, originating from 1670 when it was a manor house on the first farm in Hout Bay, and having been a National Monument for more than 50 years, is called The Kronendal, and is a tasteful marriage of its untouched historic Dutch origin with Thai decor touches added. The building relives the history of the Cape via the Dutch East India Company, which connected Europe, the Cape, and Siam (now Thailand).  There are two generous bars, with lounge seating at one, and bar seating at the other, serving fresh ‘Thai and Western cocktails’ , which are prepared by mixologists.  I had a taste of Katie’s Strawberry Rose Martini, a delicious cocktail with a minute rose, and it was actress Halle Berry’s favourite when she ate there while filming in Cape Town two years ago. It was amusing that my simple request for a medium cream sherry appeared a more exotic order than the martinis which Katie and Jonny ordered.  There are three rooms (Bangkok, Boat, Temple) and the VIP Room, in which the restaurant patrons sit, up to 160 in winter and about 220 in summer, when they can expand outside.  Tables are placed quite close to each other, yet one does not hear the other patrons. Tables have white tablecloths, and the chairs are upholstered in a black and grey/silver fabric.

Waiting for the Friedmans to arrive, I was shown around the restaurant by host Stian, and our first stop was at Elsa’s Table in the entrance hall, the only table in this large space, and which attracted my attention with its plates of food on the table, with a glass each of red and white wine, and a vase with red roses.  It looked like a table at which a very special event was about to be celebrated, one assuming that the couple had temporarily vacated the table to go to the bar.  It was quickly explained that this is Elsa’s Table, Elsa having been the daughter of one of the first Dutch owners of the building, Sir Abraham Josias Cloete, who lived there with his family between 1835 – 1849. Elsa fell in love with a British soldier. Their union was not sanctioned by her parents, so he committed suicide at the oak tree outside the restaurant building. It is said that Elsa died of a broken heart.  Since then her ghost has regularly been seen in the building on moonlit nights, and her existence felt inside the building.  In accordance with Thai culture, the table laid for Elsa and her soldier is a blessing, and has been prepared in honour of the spirits.  Since Kitima has opened and dedicated the table to her, there has been minimal activity and no more sightings of her ghost, I was told. Our waiter was kind enough to check which dishes were served at Elsa’s Table that evening, and his list was Pad Pak Rum (seasonal vegetables wok-fried with a garlic and oyster sauce), Pla Neng Ma Nao (steamed kingklip), steamed rice, and Crêpe Suzette. The dishes served at Elsa’s Table are changed daily. The red wine was a Barista Pinotage, but the white wine was an artificial liquid, he said, and the roses plastic.  I was reprimanded for putting my handbag on one of the chairs to make a note about a piece of information, reflecting how serious the restaurant is in honouring its previous resident.

The restaurant is named after its owner Kitima Sukonpongpao, who arrived in Cape Town from Thailand ten years ago. She opened Kitima five years ago, specialising in Asian cuisine, including Japanese, Chinese, and Thai.  Ten ‘5-star Thai chefs’ run the kitchen. Chef Kent came to the table, telling us that he had just returned from Thailand, but that he was teaching students at the University of Thailand about restaurant service and food preparation, an honour to do this for the King of Thailand, only seeing his mother for two days, and barely having a break. Thai cooking is characterised by its use of herbs, and lemongrass in particular, I was told, but its true recipe to success is its service, making it unique, and therefore better than Nobu and Haiku, said the restaurant host. The restaurant is so popular that one must book ahead.  The website introduces the philosophy of the restaurant: ‘Only passions, great passions, elevate the soul to great things’.

The brown covered menu is the largest I have seen, even more extensive than that of Haiku.  It is neatly organised into Appetisers, Soups, Salads, Sushi and Sashimi, Dim Sum, Soup, Salads, Seafood, Duck and Chicken, Beef, Pork and Ostrich, Curries, Vegetables, Rice, and Noodles, each section offering a large selection of options.  The first observation was how inexpensive Kitima is, when compared to Haiku, Nobu, and Willoughby’s, for example.  The waiter told us immediately that most of the Dim Sum was not yet available, needing a few days to be prepared after the restaurant re-opened from its winter break.  When Katie wanted to order the tuna, she was told that it was out of stock too.  One is served a spoon and fork, and chopsticks, and I asked for a knife for both the starter and main course. I ordered Ebi (R40), which is a prawn, avocado and Japanese mayonnaise handroll, as a starter, beautifully presented on a stand. Appetisers include oysters (R15 each), a number of spring roll options, including duck, cheese, vegetable, and prawn, and prawn cakes cost R45 for three. The sushi selection is extensive, tuna and salmon sashimi, and prawn, tuna and salmon Nigiri costing about R15 each. Platters of eight pieces of sushi range from R38 – R55, a number of handroll and fashion sandwiches are offered, and salmon roses cost R52 for four.  Dum Sum is defined as ‘little treasures’, and include a number of ingredient combinations, including prawns, pork, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, ginger, and chives, at a price range of R33 – R40.  The well-known Thai Tom Yum Goong prawn soup with mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass and coconut milk, topped with fresh coriander (R39), and traditional Japanese Miso soup with tofu and spring onion (R25), are included in the soup list.  Numerous salad options are available, including beef, prawn, chicken, duck, fish, seared tuna, and vermicilli, costing between R50 – R70.

For the main course I tried my Haiku favourite, being Duck à L’Orange. Katie told me that the duck comes from Thailand, as they were not happy with the quality that they source locally.  The duck dishes cost R105 – R125, while the chicken dishes cost around R65.  Seafood main course options are dominated by prawns, including a prawn basket, and sweet and sour prawn.  Kingklip, salmon, and Bluenose (not on the SASSI list) can be ordered, steamed, fried with batter, or wok-fried.  All the beef, pork, and ostrich dishes are wok-fried, and cost about R75, with the exception of the ostrich, which is a little more expensive.  Red and green chicken and seafood curries, chicken and beef peanut curries, and lychee duck curry are some of the curry options. For vegetarians there are a selection of choices, including a green or red vegetable curry, costing about R55. Steamed rice costs R12, but one can also order egg fried, vegetable fried, or prawn fried (R49) rice.  Noodle dishes are served with chicken, prawns or vegetables.

For dessert Katie and I shared Crepe Suzette, which was served with ice cream (R45), and I had a cappuccino (R18) with it. The other dessert options are more Western, including Crème Brûlée, Bread and Butter pudding, deep fried bananas, chocolate or fruit spring rolls, lychees, sorbets, and ice creams, inexpensive at R28 – R45.

The Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz (R270) was decanted, and was a good choice for our meal.  The winelist recommends the pairing of Riesling for medium-spiced and steamed dishes; Sauvignon Blanc for chicken, fish, and seafood; Chardonnay for milder dishes and sushi; Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for pork, duck, and spicy beef dishes; and Pinot Noir for more subtle-flavoured beef dishes.  The rules are quite strict, with corkage costing R35 for local wines and R50 for champagne.  However, one may not bring any brands that are on the restaurant’s winelist.  Disappointing is that no vintage information is provided, and that there are typing errors, unforgivable for a restaurant that has invested in an extensive wine, spirit, and liqueur offering. A list of 13 champagnes is offered, ranging from R110/R660 per glass/bottle of Guy Charbaut Selection Brut to R3200 for Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1998.  Other champagne brands include Bollinger, Ayala, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon, and Billecart Salmon.  Only seven MCCs are available, starting at R35/R140 per glass/bottle of Beyerskloof Pinotage Brut Rosé, peaking at R 490 for Steenberg 1682 Pinot Noir Brut.  A wide selection of varieties is offered.  The Shiraz prices start at R33/R90 for Arabella by glass/bottle, and include the excellent Andreas, as well as Holden Manz.

For a first time visitor Kitima feels overwhelming, both in terms of its size, and its extensive winelist and menu.  One could go back week after week, as the Friedmans do, and try something different each time, the variety offered being so extensive.  The prices are unbelievably good for having received the Eat Out accolade of the best Asian restaurant in South Africa.  Service is very attentive, polite and correct, starting when one parks on the property, and one is guided by attendants. A nice touch was the chef’s visit to the table.  I will certainly be back, to try more of the menu.  I loved the story of Elsa’s Table, and the respect that is paid to this spirit.

Kitima, 140 Main Road,  Hout Bay. Tel (021) 790-8004.  www.kitima.co.za. Twitter:@_Kitima. Tuesday to Saturday dinner, Sunday buffet lunch. Booking recommended.

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

Restaurant Review: What’s On Eatery is an elegant and friendly home from home

I had read about What’s On Eatery on Watson Street in the city centre on Twitter, with Hennie Coetzee (@Batonage) and Maggie Mostert (@BlackDelilah) recommending the new restaurant highly.  I was welcomed warmly by co-owner Trever Jordaan from the minute I stepped into the restaurant, and I felt completely at home in the elegant interior that has been created in the double story building that once was Platinum restaurant.  What’s On’s promise is “Food l People l Passion”, with a ‘fusion of family & friends’, and this is what I experienced last Friday evening.  It offers very good value food (the starters and desserts in particular) and wines.

Watson Street connects Bree and Loop Street, one block from Buitensingel Street.  I found parking easily, and a canopy identifies the eatery, and what it stands for.  One enters the attractive light grey Deli and Breakfast space, which doubles up as the bar, with wines stored on shelves, and a glass counter containing salads, pies and sandwiches during the day, with croissants, cakes, pastries, and other sweet bakery treats available too.    Trevor led the way to the restaurant upstairs, and showed me the private dining room, which can be used for functions with up to 10 persons.  The restaurant has ten tables, and the walls are a stronger grey colour.  There are lovely wooden floors, interesting paintings by Joseph Lucaks, beautifully upholstered chairs, and wallpaper on some walls, all creating a warm, homely and elegant space.  One wall has quirky-shaped mirrors on it.   Trevor and his partner clearly have a good decor hand.  The highback chairs are attractive, and reminded me of those at La Mouette – in fact the hearty welcome was reminiscent of La Mouette when it first opened.  The light was soft, created with a mix of candles, lamps and modern downlighters.  The tables have a white table cloth, and the white serviette had a silver pattern running through it.  Glassware is good, the cutlery is by Maxwell Williams, and the food is served on white plates and bowls, some of them not holding the cutlery, in that they slide into the plate, a common restaurant problem.  A Woolworths salt and pepper grinder are on the table, as was a vase with real roses.   What made an impression in being so unusual yet clever was a card with “Thank You” lying on the serviette, continuing as follows: “…for sharing our dream…please spread the news to family & friends and join our facebook group on our website…”.

Trevor is a most amazingly warm person, who clearly loves people and his new restaurant.   He was hands-on throughout the evening, asking for feedback continuously.  He was receptive to hearing my opinion and suggestions, and I was impressed by his positive reception thereof, and his immediate implementation of changes.  He joined Twitter immediately and is planning to start a blog too.   Trevor was previously a guest house owner, and that is probably why we connected so well.   His goal is to make his guests feel at home, as if they are visiting his home, and he wants to get to know his guests better, as he does not want any ‘strangers’ in his home, he said.   Trevor’s partner and co-owner is Chris Mears, but is not involved in the running of the restaurant.   I was served by Nina, previously with Col’Cacchio in town, and she was friendly and looked attractively dressed in a white shirt and black slacks, with a branded apron from Vrede & Lust.  Uri from Jardine, which closed down at the end of February, now works at What’s On.   The chef is Kerin D’Offize, previously with the Foodlovers’ Market in Claremont and Harbour Rock in Hermanus. 

The menu, winelist and bill holders have the same blue-green cover, with branding in white.   The pages are neatly affixed to the cover, but can be easily removed when any pages have to be updated.   Nina brought  a plate of delicious freshly-baked olive bread to the table, which was more-ish.  I ordered the duck liver parfait, served with morello cherry sauce and garlic crostini (R40).  I felt that the garlic and parfait were fighting each other, the garlic being overpowering.   The cherry compote was an unusual but good marriage with the parfait.  Other starter options ranged in price from R35 – R 45, and included braised leek and gorgonzola tartlet, springbok bobotie spring rolls, smoorsnoek and feta crepes, black mussels, and baked camembert fondant.  Unusual is that all salads can be ordered in half-portions too, at R 40 – R60 per half portion, and R60 – R80 for a full portion, probably meant to be shared.   Interesting sounding salads are the rooibos-smoked chicken salad; steamed prawn and baby calamari salad; and biltong, mango and feta garden salad.    I was surprised when a complimentary wild mango, mint, melon and vanilla pod sorbet palate cleanser was served.  I loved the taste combination, and never eat mango usually.

The Beef Wellington main course I ordered had porcini mushrooms, garlic and bacon in the pastry casing, but no chicken liver paté (R135).    It was served in two halves, the fillet perfectly prepared medium rare as ordered, with roasted beetroot ‘chips’, mash and butternut.  It was served with a green peppercorn Bordelaise sauce, which I found too sharp and salty.  Other main course options are oxtail, line fish and calamari, confit of lamb rib, roulade of chicken and spinach, venison fillet, sole, rib eye steak, tiger prawns, ostrich burger, and a grilled wild mushroom risotto, ranging from R 85 – R145.   Side dishes are available at R15 each.  I didn’t have a dessert, but the options are a chocolate and hazelnut fondant, a trio of sorbet, crème brûlee, chocolate truffle and espresso tart, and honey and almond cheesecake served with basil and chilli ice cream, ranging in cost from R40 – R50.  I had a foamy cappucino (R17), made with Tribeca coffee, and I liked Trevor’s description of the foam looking like a meringue!

The winelist is introduced as follows: “This list has been prepared to showcase the very best wines to complement our culinary concept.  We constantly search and hand-pick the perfect selection of wines so that you, as our guest, experience ultimate wine and dining at What’s On”.   The list specifies the regions from which the wines come, but there are no vintages for most of the wines listed.   The wine-by-the-glass choice is restricted to one white and one red, and my recommendation to Trevor was to expand the selection.  I had a generous glass of Vrede & Lust’s Boet Erasmus Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot blend, at R45 a glass/R265 per bottle, and I was allowed to taste the wine first.   I am not one for blends usually, but this was an excellent wine.      The white wine-by-the-glass is Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc (R35/R140).   Sparkling wines include Graham Beck Brut MCC (R185) and Boschendal Brut Rosé (R195).  Shiraz options are Brampton (R100), Graham Beck (R135) and Bernard Series Basket Press (R215).  A number of ‘cellar selection’ wines are also available, such as Kanonkop Pinotage 2008 (R440), Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2006 (R565) and Hamilton Russell Chardonnay (R475).  Corkage costs R30.    

Breakfast choices include French Toast; omelets; flapjacks; oats; muesli, fruit and yoghurt; and a cooked breakfast, none of these choices costing more than R32.   Lunch options include a variety of fillings on ciabatta (R39 – R55), salads (R45), beef fillet (R65); prawn, chorizo and saffron risotto (R65); chicken breast (R48); and chicken roulade (R55).

The bill says “Thank you for visiting us at What’s On.  We look forward to have you back ‘home’ soon”.  It is so refreshing to see a restaurant thanking its clients on arrival and on their departure.  I felt at home, and Trevor has found an opportunity to ‘chat’ by e-mail almost every day since I went to What’s On, and he is a strong relationship builder, something many restaurants fail at, taking one’s custom for granted.  As I did for La Mouette when they first opened last May, I spent time with Trevor to run through Social Media Marketing with him subsequent to my dinner.

POSTSCRIPT 19/5: Food bloggers and clients of What’s On Eatery were invited to try out the new winter menu this evening – two courses cost R125, 3 courses R150.  One can also order off the menu, at R 39 for a choice of nine starters (including grilled brown mushrooms – left, stuffed calamari tubes, tempura snoek and prawn); R98 for one of eleven main courses (including Duck la orange – right, Coq au vin, Beef Wellington, Beef fillet, Karoo lamb shank); and R40 for one of five desserts.  The winter menu is good value for money, and the portion sizes are very generous.

POSTSCRIPT 16/9: Exciting news is that Chef Oliver Cattermole from Dash Restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel will start as Chef at What’s On Eatery from 1 October.

What’s On Eatery, 6 Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 422-5652.   www.whatsoneatery.co.za (The homepage on the website has attractive food photographs, which will make one want to come to What’s On Eatery, but these are not carried over to the Image Gallery, which has more photographs of guests than of the food.  The menu is on the website). Twitter @WhatsOnEatery.  Deli open Monday – Friday 7h30 – 16h00.  Restaurant open Tuesday – Saturday evenings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restaurant Review: Buitenverwachting Asparagus Menu a good but expensive tip!

I had the pleasure of rediscovering Buitenverwachting about three weeks ago, having been invited to try their Sunday buffet lunch.  Whilst there, I had experienced chef Edgar Osojnik’s excellent cuisine, and therefore decided to return to try the Asparagus Menu, which runs until the end of November.

It was a lovely summer’s day and we sat on the terrace outside the restaurant, facing the Courtyard.  It was much quieter than on my previous visit, yet noisy from a field close by, where a sport’s day was being held.  

The Courtyard menu cover is made from black leather, is branded, and contains only a few pages, with four pages dedicated to the Asparagus special menu, costing R 260 for a 3-course meal plus a glass of Buitenverwaching Sauvignon Blanc or the Meifort.  It also contains a one-page Courtyard menu, being a mix of starters, mains and desserts, thus giving only a few options per course for non-asparagus eaters.

The Asparagus menu offers two standard asparagus dishes that one can order on an a la carte basis, either as a starter (R82) or as a main (R104) course.  Two choices are offered : with vinaigrette, offering olive oil, balsamico or truffle oil, and a baguette; and with a selection of sauces, being hollandaise, butter, Mornay, or Béarnaise, with parsley potato.   Other asparagus starter options range from R75 – R110, and are asparagus served with potato and an onion salad;  asparagus served with quail;  asparagus with parma ham; and asparagus with baby chicken.   Main courses are expensive, ranging between R145 – R165, and choices are asparagus served with salmon trout gnocchi, hanger steak, veal involtini, ravioli espuma, or with grilled line fish.  One of the desserts is served with asparagus, also containing rhubarb and strawberry gratin, and is served with saffron honey ice cream, at R69.

I could not get the waitress to explain to me exactly how the asparagus and linefish dish is served, and the French restaurant hostess came to assist, being very professional with her care of our table.  The waitress, by contrast, sulked the minute we said that we did not understand her reply about how the asparagus is served.   The hostess was able to offer a compromise, and Chef Edgar made a special dish with a most wonderful firm piece of kingklip, a parsley potato, and crunchy steamed white and green asparagus topped with the most outstanding deep yellow Hollandaise Sauce, at R156.  I savoured it slowly, to enjoy every bit of the wonderful taste.

My son is not an asparagus fan, and ordered the Entrecote steak with porcini dauphinoise at R152, and proclaimed it to be excellent, tender, and with a wonderful taste due to the shallot sauce on the steak.   Asparagus is one of the vegetables that comes with the dish, and a large thin fried potato slice added a lovely design touch to the presentation.    

Other Courtyard menu options are a caeser salad served with anchovies and salmon (R95), a vegetable tian served with sorbet, smoked onion puree and crostini (R73), and Sissy’s open sandwich (R44).  We were served an amuse bouche, which looked very attractive in its presentation, but was not really special in terms of its content, being two minute slices of Buffalo Mozzarella (looking like a quail egg slice at first, being so tiny) and a grapeseed Peperonata terrine with a minute panfried crostini, on top of which was a tiny drop of chippollini puree – a mouthful of a description for something that wasn’t!   Dessert options are rhubarb and ice cream, and Kardinalschnitte, a mousse cake slice.  

If one chooses to sit inside, or comes for dinner, one is offered the Nuptials Menu, a very clever name for the menu which pairs food and wine, but is even more expensive.  The menu is a very restricted one in terms of number of choices, but is beautifully presented, in a black leather cover too, with cards that can be changed as the menu changes.  So, for example, a starter Buffalo Mozarella and peperonata terrine is paired with Buitenverwachting’s Buiten Blanc at R20 per 125 ml glassful.  A Curry Leaf pan-fried langoustine-scallop starter at R 195 was paired with a Jordan Riesling at R25.  A veal main course costs R215, and is paired with  Whalehaven Pinot Noir at R35.  A Raspberry soufflé costs R55 and a chocolate variation R85, both paired with Buitenverwachting 1769 at R35 for 75ml.

I was shocked at the wine prices, not having seen them on my last visit.   While the Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc costs R45 in the wine shop a few meters away, it costs R120 on the winelist, and R40 per 250ml glassful; the Chardonnay costs R85/260; the Sauvignon Blanc R60/R180; the Meifort R60/R175; the Merlot R65/R195; the Cabernet Sauvignon R80/R245, and the Christine R160/R485.  The Buitenverwachting Buiten Brut costs R272, and other MCC brands appear very expensive, with Pierre Jourdan Belle Rosé costing R383, Graham Beck Brut R474 and High Constantia Clos André Cuvee Brut R479.   Moët & Chandon costs from R990, Veuve Cliquot R1020 and Krug Grand Cuvee R2335.  Imported wines are from France (R761 and up), Italy (including a Barolo at R1218), and Australia, the USA and New Zealand (more reasonably priced between R342 – R583).  Shiraz wines on the winelist are Boland at R279, Glen Carlou (each vintage costing a different price, most expensive being 2004 at R410), Kevin Arnold at R320, Anatu at R280 and The Foundry at R301.  

When I saw the bill, and the cost of the cappuccino in particular, at R26, it really hit home to me how expensive Buitenverwachting is.  I have not drunk such an expensive coffee elsewhere in Cape Town.  Buitenverwachting cannot be faulted in terms of its gourmet cuisine, but one pays a high price for it, positioning it at the well-heeled Constantia set as well as international tourists.  The Sunday Buffet lunch is however excellent value at R240 for the four course meal.

We popped into the wine shop/wine tasting room after the lunch, and in fact did not see that its entrance was in the Courtyard.   It was quite disappointing – it is quite a large room with comfortable seating, looking much like someone’s lounge but not with much class, and display cases for the wines, as well as jewellery made by the wife of the  Buitenverwachting GM Lars Maack.  Given the quality of the wines and the restaurant, I was shocked to see the chap behind the counter wear a Billabong T-shirt and what looked like a swimming costume.  I left with a bottle of Buitenverwachting Meifort wine, having tasted it at the Sunday  Buffet lunch, at a cost of R60.

Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia Road, Constantia, www.buitenverwachting.com. Tel (021) 794-3522.  Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner, Sunday Buffet lunch. Corkage R55.

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

Restaurant Review: Blowfish Restaurant will blow fishlovers away!

I rarely go to the Tableview and Blouberg area. When I received an invitation from Nikki Dumas to join her at Blowfish Restaurant for an early dinner, prior to seeing a preview of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, it seemed an appropriate ‘starter’ to a must-see movie.  

Nikki is a wine consultant to Blowfish, and has won a coveted Diamond Award from Diner’s Club International for the winelist she has created for Blowfish for the past two years, as well as a Wine Spectator Award.   She is a passionate wine lover, and uses the word ‘swirl’ a lot.  She came to Cape Town to open Vilamoura in Camps Bay, and then joined the Slick restaurant group when Vilamoura closed down.  She worked at both Balducci and Belthazar, on the wine side, and became Deputy General Manager.   She has been a wine consultant for over a year now, her Winestyle consultancy offering waiter training, winetastings, and she compiles winelists.

Blowfish belongs to the Singer Group, which has a number of hospitality interests.  I recognised Oliver Wing, the Operations Manager, when I arrived.  He used to be a manager at Haiku and Bukhara, and was sent to London to open Haiku there.  The restaurant is located in the Dolphin Beach Hotel in Blouberg, and is a large space, seating about 180 guests.  The restaurant has a view onto the Atlantic Ocean, over the roofs of hotel rooms below.  It is a large open-plan room, with a sushi bar with conveyor belt, a bar, and upstairs there is a TV/smoking room, as well as the wine cellar, in which functions are hosted, including workshops on how to make sushi.    The chairs are Greek-style, all in white, and white is the dominant colour in terms of furniture and fittings, except for beige plastic table cloths.  

Blowfish uses a cute illustration of a blowfish on every page of its menu and on the winelist, creating good synergy between the two documents.  The pay-off line is ‘Seafood Sushi Sunset’, it being rare for a restaurant to have one.

There is a fish counter (as per Codfather in Camps Bay), from which one can order a selection of fish and shellfish, in the size of one’s choice, which is then weighed and charged.  The fish types on offer at Blowfish are angelfish, bluefish, butterfish, calamari, Cape salmon, Dorado, kingklip, monkfish, Norwegian Salmon, cob, sole, swordfish, tuna (yellowfin), yellowtail, sardines, Cape rock lobster, king prawns, langoustines, Tiger medium prawns, Tiger giant prawns and oysters.   I was impressed that the cost per gram was shown per fish type.  Soon a similar meat counter will be introduced. 

What impressed me tremendously was the depiction on the menu of each of the ‘green’ fishes on the SASSI list, which are those that are in good supply.  A whole page of the menu is dedicated to the restaurant’s “Green Values”, the first time I have seen this on a menu.  It states that the restaurant is a “SASSI Aware” participant, to “promote and offer you sustainable seafood choices from legal sources in an effort to help improve the conservation status of over-exploited seafood species.”   Contact details of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative are provided.   Near the fish counter a SASSI poster has been put up, showing the different green, orange and red fish and shellfish types.  I would have loved to see them show the orange symbols on the other fish dishes (e.g. prawns and kingklip) on the menu, to be absolutely correct, allowing their customers to choose whether they want to order ‘orange’ fish.  By implication, the non-marked fish dishes on the menu would be orange.

The Blowfish menu is very extensive in offering sushi, salads, soup, platters, combinations of meat and fish, and the fish ordered from the counter.  Starters range in price from R40 – R55, and include a bacon and seafood skewer, bushveld sushi made with crocodile, trio of salmon, Thai-style fishcakes, king calamari, Wok beef, and mussels.   The sushi choice is vast, covering two pages of the menu,  including Fresh rolls, Cooked rolls, Traditional Maki rolls, Inside Out rolls, platters (ranging from a 12-piece Nigiri at R125 to a 60-piece Chef’s Speciality platter at R550), sushi salads and hot sushi.  The cost for smaller portions of sushi depends on its ingredients, roughly ranging from R25 for three to R45 for four pieces.  The Chef’s Recommendation section has a selection of dishes, ranging from R 95 for the kingklip to SQ for the crayfish curry.  One can also order duck, Fillet Mignon, lamb rack, and the Chef’s signature dish, being Seafood Espetada.  Platters cost as little as R99, for the Blouberg platter (kingklip, calamari, and prawn skewer), up to R 220 for the Kite-Boarders platter (mussels, calamari, linefish and rock lobster).   A selection of stir-fry dishes is also available, from R65 upwards.

I love a prawn and avo handroll, and that at Blowfish was the best I’ve had, being more moist than recent ones I have tasted, with mayonnaise added, very reasonably priced at R40.   It was hard to choose what to order from the menu, and therefore I chose a piece of kingklip, some calamari and a tiger prawn from the fish counter, to be grilled and served with Basmati rice.  The selected fish and shellfish is prepared with the “fishmonger’s” seasoned ‘signature Blowfish spices’, and one has a choice of four sauces: lemon butter, garlic butter, sweet and sour, and peri peri. 

As the movie started at 8 pm, and I had to drive to the Waterfront to see it, I had to eat quickly when the main course arrived, to make it back to the city in time.   I could not finish all of the food, as it was far too large a serving.  It was excellent, the massive prawn being a highlight.  I missed out on the desserts, but could have ordered a Lindt chocolate brownie, Croque en Bouche, baked cheesecake, chocolate banana spring rolls and more, at a most reasonable cost of R25 – R 35.  A cheese platter is also available at R75. 

Nikki has created two winelists for Blowfish, one just focused on imported wines, and the other on local wines.  She is very proudly South African when it comes to her wine recommendations, and she has included about 140 local wines on the winelist.  She describes each variety, indicating the colour one should expect, and the flavours they should have.   The region of origin of each wine is indicated, and the wines are listed from lowest to highest price per variety, the perfect winelist!  The Sauvignon Blanc section is the largest, with 24 options, and the prices of all the brands are very reasonable, ranging from R 90 for Hazendal to R240 for Neil Ellis.  MCC’s start at R90 for Pieter Cruythoff Brut, which Nikki says comes from the Swartland, to R428 for Constantia Uitsig.  White wines sell better than red wines at Blowfish, but Nikki has a good selection of red wines too.  Ten Shiraz wines are offered, the Landskroon and Porcupine Ridge being most reasonably priced at R105, to R 260 for Grande Provence.  Corkage is the lowest I have seen, at R20 for the first two bottles, and increases to R50 per bottle thereafter.   The winelist also proudly records the awards it has won.

While Blowfish is too far for me to travel to from the Atlantic Seaboard, I know where to eat when I next go to that area.  I could see how popular the restaurant is amongst locals – from being the first to arrive at 18h00, the restaurant was close to full with locals, bringing their children and babies in prams, when I left two hours later.

Blowfish Restaurant, Dolphin Beach Hotel, 1 Marine Drive, Blouberg.   Tel (021) 556-5464 www.blowfishrestaurant.co.za  Twitter: @BlowfishCTN  Nikki Dumas’ website is www.winestyle.biz

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

Restaurant Review: There is no saffron at Saffron Restaurant in Paternoster

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