The publishers of the Gourmet Guide 2020 have made it really difficult to write this post, in that it is not revealing its full list of 36 restaurants that received its one, two, or three plate awards on Monday, until January 2020, its website states. One can surmise that it wants the Gourmet Guide 2020 to be bought so that it can generate income. By January these Awards will have long been forgotten! Continue reading →
The new The Yard in the Silo District of the V&A Waterfront opened last week, as a multi-cultural cuisine restaurant, but also offering a bar, a homeware shop, and a Deli. It is the most unique restaurant I have experienced, in its diverse food offering. Continue reading →
* Mercedes-Benz South Africa will be taken for a ride by the V&A Waterfront for the next 12 months, as a member of the V&A Waterfront Partners Programme, which comes with a number of exclusive rights to connect with the V&A’s visitors, including receiving their e-mail addresses, using their venue for events, outdoor advertising, and business to business campaigns. The V&A sees the advantage as being increased footfall, which it overclaims at 23 million per year! For Mercedes-Benz the deal is an opportunity to become ‘visualised at the V&A Waterfront to aspirational consumers‘.
* Fodor’s Travel has written a comprehensive article entitled ‘Wine Lover’s Guide to South Africa‘, praising our country for its excellent terroir suited to wine farming, and becoming ‘world-renowned’, especially our indigenous Pinotage. Linking food and wine, the Western Cape is becoming increasingly associated with food excellence too. Wine tasting in Stellenbosch is recommended, at Kanonkop, Tokara, and Waterford Estate, while Indochine, Delaire Graff Restaurant, and Jordan are recommended restaurants. In Franschhoek La Petite Ferme, Haute Cabrière, Môreson, and the unique Franschhoek Wine Tram are recommended. The Tasting Room and Bread & Wine are recommended restaurants. In Paarl KWV is recommended, with Bosman’s Restaurant, which is overpraised as ‘one of the best restaurants not only in South Africa, but in the world’ (sic)! Groot Constantia is mentioned as being the oldest wine estate, and La Colombe and The Greenhouse are recommended restaurants.
* A clever and cheeky reply to EFF Commissar Andile Mngxitama, who wrote to Sir Richard Branson, saying that the Continue reading →
* Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Public Enterprises, has instructed SAA to cancel its order for 23 wide-body long-haul aircraft, which the airline said that the fuel efficient aircraft would turn around its loss situation.
* SAA is resuming its non-stop flights between OR Thambo and JF Kennedy airports from 9 March, ahead of schedule. On its return flights SAA made a refueling stop at Dakar.
* Simonsig has begun harvesting its Pinot Noir, a week later than normal due to higher summer rainfalls. The grapes have higher levels of acidity than usual, and will go into the making of their Kaapse Vonkel MCC. (received via media release from GC Communications)
* South African Cuisine and Culture are of greater interest than Wildlife to Indian tourists. The role of Robben Island, and the incarceration of the late Nelson Mandela, is of great interest to them, and is being added to tour itineraries.
* SA Tourism has hosted a pre-launch screening celebration for ‘Mandela: The Long walk to Freedom‘, in Sydney, ahead of the movie launch Continue reading →
More restaurants in the Western Cape than in any other province entered and received a Diners Club International Winelist Award 2013. At the 30th Awards function held for the Western Cape at the Vineyard Hotel on Wednesday, MasterChef SA Judge and Tsogo Sun Chef Benny Masekwameng announced the 38 winners in the Diamond, 30 in the Platinum, 26 in the Gold, and 2 in the Silver Award categories, 96 awards in total.
Veteran wine critic Dave Hughes chaired the judging panel, which included fledgling judge Chef Benny, restaurant guide editor JP Rossouw, wine judges Christine Rudman and Fiona McDonald, Winestyle.biz owner Nikki Dumas, and the Cape Wine Academy head Marilyn Cooper. He said that it was fitting that the Awards ceremony was held at The Vineyard hotel, the Newlands area having been the first in Cape Town in which grapes were grown, but soon Continue reading →
Neil Perry, top Australian chef of flagship restaurant Rockpool in Sydney, visited chefs and restaurants in South Africa earlier this month, and has returned to his home country, encouraging Australians to experience our ‘Food Safaris’, reports Southern African Tourism Update. His trip was widely reported, and the Sydney Morning Herald sent journalist Anthony Dennis to accompany Chef Perry on his culinary tour, an unfortunate choice with his emphasis on our apartheid past in his article! Not only did the visit and resultant publicity reflect our country’s unique cuisine, but it also has tourism marketing benefits, the visit having been sponsored by SA Tourism.
Chef Perry’s journey started off at the elite and exclusive boutique hotel Ellerman House in Bantry Bay, where he did a braai of crayfish tails with his Asian touch, kingklip, and soy-marinated yellowtail. He was assisted by Ellerman House Head Chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert, who told the visiting chef that South Africa’s cuisine extends beyond game eaten next to a fire under a safari-style boma. ‘But in South Africa there’s a group of highly trained, skilled chefs who are creating a strong food culture and identity‘, she said.
Dennis praised our country’s ‘fine wine, great seafood and where the barbeque…is a favoured cooking appliance’. It is a shame then that he digs into our country’s past, writing that ‘apartheid can still cast a shadow, even over the dining table’, singling out MasterChef SA judge and Chef Benny Masekwameng as one of few ‘Black South African chefs’. Chef Benny told the journalist that the eating habits of the ‘majority of black South Africans who live below the poverty line, not much has changed at the dinner table‘, but that the ‘middle class’ in our cities are increasingly exposed to global food trends! The ‘shanty towns’ on the way to the Winelands receive a predicted mention from the journalist too, contrasting them with the modern airport built for the 2010 World Cup.
Chef Perry praised the wine industry: ‘South Africa has got amazing wine credentials. One of the real positives is that it has a lot of old vines in the ground and you’re getting some fantastic maturity there’. He praised Franschhoek’s fine white wines. Calling Franschhoek’s Grande Provence a ‘lodge’, Chef Perry and the journalist enjoyed the creative cuisine of Chef Darren Badenhorst, who prepared a typical South African braai lunch for them, with Karoo lamb chops, free-range Spring chicken, and boerewors, ‘a traditional and delicious type of sausage’. The visiting team stayed over at La Residence in Franschhoek.
Their next stop was Phinda Game Reserve, where they enjoyed the traditional Boma dinner (‘with a dirt floor, stone and reed walls’). They were treated to springbok, impala, and warthog, and entertained by the staff choir. Chef Perry was impressed with our game meats, saying ‘it was really quite intense’, not having any Australian game (other than ‘Wallaby‘ on their menus, according to blogger Bruce Palling). In Cape Town the Australian team had eaten springbok at The Twelve Apostle’s Azure for the first time, served as a ‘Cape fusion main course of springbok fillet with celeriac cream, roasted radish, orange tapioca and sultana-caper paste. The rare, perfectly cooked meat has the consistencey of beef but with a distinct saltiness and dark chocolate-like richness’.
In Durban the visitors ate traditional Indian food, including bunny chow at the House of Curries, described as ‘classic street food from the apartheid years and is a feature of the national diet across all groups’! One wonders who fed Dennis this nonsense information! In Johannesburg a Chef’s Table dinner at the San Restaurant at the Sandton Sun Hotel represents ‘the Rainbow Nation’s ethnic groups. Under apartheid, this congenial, multiracial gathering would have been deemed illegal‘. Chef Garth Schrier served the visiting chef more Bunny Chow, as an amuse bouche of a mini loaf of bread with a Cape Malay chicken prawn curry.
One wonders what SA Tourism’s understanding of our country’s cuisine is, and that of the Western Cape in particular. With 16 of the top 19 Eat Out Restaurant Finalists based in the Cape, it is a surprise that not one of these top chefs, most of the calibre of Chef Perry, were exposed to the visiting chef. At least up and coming Chef Darren Badenhorst at Grande Provence was included in the programme, even though he has not made the Top 19 list due to not having been in charge of the kitchen for a full year. This is even more evident from the SA Tourism website’s Top 10 Wine estates (gastronomic) list, of which the compiler is not identified:
2. Rust en Vrede
3. La Colombe
4. Pierneef à La Motte
6. Bread and Wine
8. The Goatshed
Odd inclusions on the list are Bread and Wine, Fyndraai, and Fairview’s The Goatshed, while surprise exclusions are Delaire Graff’s two restaurants, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, the Restaurant at Waterkloof, and Grande Provence. The ranking of Tokara in 10th’s position is an insult to the cuisine creativity of Chef Richard Carstens!
While all publicity for South Africa is fantastic, and in Australia’s leading newspaper even more so, it is a shame that a journalist should have turned a South Africa Food Safari story into an apartheid story, which is not the topic of his story at all. One wonders what gives an Australian the right to point fingers at our country’s past, given their own Aborigine history! It wouldn’t be a surprise if one were to find that Dennis has South African roots! At least Chef Perry enjoyed his trip: ‘My food philosophy is all about local, high quality produce and fresh ingredients so I was thrilled to meet with like-minded chefs in South Africa’. He encouraged travellers to our country to ‘add a South African food safari to their bucket list’, advising that they visit the Winelands, shebeens, experience a Braai, and enjoy a seafood buffet on the beach.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I became a fan of Chef Oliver Cattermole when he was at Dash restaurant at the Queen Victoria hotel last year. The opportunity to try some of the dishes on his new menu at Dish restaurant at the Le Franschhoek hotel reflected the creative cuisine skills of the Michelin two-star La Gavroche trained chef.
Seeking clarification on a winter menu special, I Tweeted Chef Oliver, and he invited me to try his new winter menu last month, the first menu containing only his dishes since he started at the hotel nine months ago. I had not been impressed with the restaurant on previous visits, but a number of changes, including the menu, made the meal one of my highlights in Franschhoek this year.
When I arrived, I saw a special table with new high back chairs and a tall silver candelabra prepared for me. I was happy to see that the Eetrite cutlery had been set out for a number of courses, eliminating the problem of stretching. On the table was a vase with the most beautiful Blushing Brides, and coarse Atlantic sea salt and pepper grinders. The beautiful table setting alone made me feel like a queen. The table was closest to the pass, which is open to the restaurant, so I could chat to Chef Oliver and ask him questions about his delicious dishes. I was delighted to see that the piano had been moved to the side of the dining room, and was not played, as I have experienced before. Despite it being a freezing cold evening, it was cosy and warm inside, with a modern mobile gas heater in the centre of the room.
Chef Oliver started his career on a part-time basis whilst still at school, cutting his teeth with Chef George Jardine, then at the Cellars Hohenhort hotel. After school he started at Haute Cabriere, working for Chef Matthew Gordon, before leaving for London, where he worked in Chef Michel Roux Jnr’s La Gavroche kitchen in London for a year, describing ‘him as generally a nice guy’. The kitchen had a staff complement of about 20, all French speaking. He learnt the discipline of cooking at La Gavroche. Chef Michel Jnr did a Masterclass on MasterChef SA, and impressed with his way of dealing with the Finalists, firm but friendly. Chef Oliver also did a two day stage in Alain Ducasse’s kitchen at the Dorchester Hotel, just for the opportunity to learn from this esteemed chef. He also worked at top London restaurants The Ivy and Cannizaro House, before missing sunny South Africa, and returning to Cape Town.
Phillip is a Zimbabwean Hospitality Management intern from the International Hotel School, doing his training at the Le Franschhoek hotel, and he was very proactive in looking after me in serving the food as well as pouring the wine. He told me that he is studying in South Africa, due to the better quality hospitality training offered locally, and the excellent wine estates in the Cape, having visited almost all of those in Franschhoek already. The dishes were served paired with wines especially selected by Chef Oliver from the special wine collection of the hotel.
The first dish was a Forest mushroom soup served with a semi-dried tomato and mushroom soil, which came to the table with home-made brown bread, and was paired with Hoopenburg Pinot Noir 2008. It was one of the highlights of the meal, being thick and creamy, and a perfect antidote to the cold outside. The mushrooms are foraged by a supplier in Stellenbosch. On the starter menu the dish costs R 65.
One of the most beautiful Autumn-inspired dishes was the vegetarian ‘A Taste and Textures from the garden’, costing R100 on the main course section of the menu, and consists of a purée of beetroot, parsnip, sheets of beetroot, dried red onion, cavioli (cauliflower), baby marrow, a beetroot crisp, butternut purée, spinach purée, baby turnips, served with beetroot soil, and red and green caviar drops. This dish was paired with a Mont Rochelle Unwooded Chardonnay 2010. Chef Oliver told me that he sources his vegetables and herbs from Daniel Kruger, who grows special produce to chefs’ specification outside Franschhoek. He brings seeds for unusual sized and coloured vegetables (e.g. purple potatoes, black radishes, yellow and green-striped aubergines the size of golf balls) from the USA and Holland.
The Duck Bon-Bon starter with parsley root pureé and hot pickled vegetables costs R65, and was paired with a Terra del Capo Sangiovese 2008 from Antonij Rupert Wines in Franschhoek. The duck is shredded, parsley is added, and rolled in Japanese breadcrumbs, served with spinach purée, and a piccalilli relish made from courgette, cauliflower, peppers, onions and vinegar. The parsley root comes from the hotel’s own garden. The fourth course was a starter of pan-seared scallops served with a celeriac triangle and Ras El Hanout (honey-infused Moroccan spice mix, which has 21 spices such as hibiscus, rose petals, cardamom, cumin, fennel, ginger, chilli peppers, nutmeg, tumeric, pepper, cinnamon, pollen, curry powder, and coriander), as well as a golden cauliflower, coloured with tea and saffron, at R75. This dish was served with a French wine, which Oliver had found in the hotel cellar, a Louis Satour Ardèche 2008 Chardonnay. Chef Oliver sources the scallops from French importer Socomaf.
Compressed pork was served with a medley of apple pureé, toffee apple, and apple caviar, a fruit mustard, as well as a haricot bean purée, a dish which is also on their starter menu, and costs R60. This dish was paired with Thelema Rhine Riesling 2008. Other starters on the Dish menu are oak-smoked salmon (R75), and roasted beetroot with whipped goats’ cheese (R60).
The Roast rump of Karoo lamb with minted mash and young white and orange and red carrots was a filling main course, with three slices of lamb served, at R160. This course was paired with Haut Espoir Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. Other main courses include Chicken Bourguignon, line fish of the day, dry-aged beef fillet, and thyme-roasted venison, ranging in price from R125 – R160.
To complete the more than generous dinner Chef Oliver served Carrot Cake as a dessert, with a medley of carrot pureé, mousse, jelly, and paper, to which he had added walnut candy and raisin pureé, costing R60. Other desserts have a similar cost, and include apple and sultana crumble, goats’ milk pannacotta, barrel-smoked chocolate fondant, and brioche treacle tart pain.
Every one of Chef Oliver’s dishes is a work of art, created by his team of thirteen, who not only prepare these lovely dinner dishes, but also look after the breakfast requirements of the hotel guests, prepare lunch and dinners at their Le Verger restaurant in the glass ‘hothouse’, and banqueting requirements for conferences, weddings, and other events. Chef Oliver is in the right place in Franschhoek, in the village which positions itself as the gourmet centre of the country, to present his creative cuisine.
Dish Restaurant, Le Franschhoek Hotel, Franschhoek. Tel ()21) 876-8900. www.lefranschhoek.co.za Monday – Sunday dinner, Sunday buffet. Twitter @Le_Franschhoek
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have eight more gripping episodes to look forward to in the next two months. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 18.
We are also running a weekly lucky draw for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA every week. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 11 tomorrow (29 May), Grande Provence has generously offered a 3-course restaurant voucher for two, to the value of R600, to the winner.
Darren Badenhorst is the new Executive Chef at Grande Provence. He left school in Durban to study marketing, but gave up after a year, because he realised that his passion lay in cooking. He enrolled at the Christina Martin School of Food and Wine, the most prominent culinary school in KwaZulu-Natal, where he did a one year intensive, ‘extremely strenuous’, diploma course. From there he went to the Benguerra Lodge in Mozambique as Executive Chef, but his stay was short-lived, having to evacuate the island after the worst ever cyclone to hit Africa destroyed most buildings on the island. He was appointed at Zimbali Boutique Hotel as Chef de Partie. He then moved to Eat Me Gourmet Café, a private contract catering company, and to Three Cities‘ One on One Events catering company, promoted to Executive Chef. Feeling that he had reached a glass ceiling, he moved to the Cape, and joined Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof. In this time he met Grande Provence Chef Darren Roberts at one of the magnificent Big Five Multiple Sclerosis charity lunches at which Waterkloof had participated. He started at Grande Provence over a year ago.
He sees the level of cuisine in the Cape to be far beyond that of any other region, and believes that competition between restaurants brings out the best in them, and is key to creating consistency. Flair and passion must show at all times. He admires Chef Neil Jewell for his charcuterie, there being no comparison, and Chef Margot Janse from Le Quartier Francais, for her creativity and experimentation with the food that she prepares. Chef Darren Badenhorst says that he will not change the menu drastically, sticking to the fine dining French cuisine with an Asian twist. The quality will be the same, but he will add his stamp to it. He has a small team of six in the kitchen, which will grow next summer. He lives on the Grande Provence farm, and loves his job, rarely taking time off. He likes to create dishes with balance, in texture and in colour. Coming from the Natal coast, he loves diving and spearfishing, and also therefore preparing seafood. His first new addition to the menu is a delicious soft shell crab starter on pan-fried sushi with sesame seed, with a soft boiled yolk presented in a beautifully crafted kataifi pastry, the colour coming from a red pepper aioli, and finished off with soya and wasabi pearls. His new Ballontine of Chicken with a bone marrow centre, truffle of pomme duchess, carrot and cardamom pureé, morel mushrooms, cracked black pepper, and fresh Japanese truffle, is an artistic portrait that could have been framed and hung in the Grande Provence Gallery!
Tweet your prediction of which of the 9 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or e-mail it to email@example.com. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 29 May at 19h30, at the start of episode 11. The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. There will be a weekly Restaurant Voucher prize draw per episode for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA, and voting for the following episode can start as soon as that day’s episode has been aired. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize is rolled over to go to another week.
POSTSCRIPT 29/5: Surprisingly, there was no Pressure Test in tonight’s episode, so the Grande Provence prize will roll over to another week.
The Restaurant at Grande Provence, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8600. www.grandeprovence.co.za Twitter: @GrandeProvence Monday – Sunday Lunch, Monday – Saturday Dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.comTwitter:@WhaleCottage
The opening function, one of two, at Leopard’s Leap last night, was a welcome indication of how the gourmet bar in Franschhoek is about to be raised, with the addition of the Liam Tomlin Food Culinary Studio. Not one of the 300 guests could have left not being impressed with the architecture and decor of the building, dominated by its beautiful new chandelier, with the generosity of the hosts, and with the excellent food, served with Leopard’s Leap wines.
I have been to Leopards Leap a number of times since it opened in November, and noticed the new chandelier immediately on arrival, after entering the building on a green carpet, being offered a choice of six welcome cocktails. Flowers in massive vases lining the entrance were by creative florists Okasie in Stellenbosch. The chandelier was designed by interior decorator Christo Barnard, and he is very chuffed with how well it was executed by Pierre Cronje. The tasting room staff collected vineyard leaves, which Christo had dye cut out of stainless steel, replicating different leaf shapes, and then spray painted them in yellow, green, and red leaf colours, making a magnificent statement over the tasting counter, and bringing the vineyards into the tasting room, the vine design looking absolutely realistic.
Guests of honour were ex-President FW de Klerk, who had addressed a lunch of 40 members of the Beijing University alumni club yesterday afternoon (a lunch that made CEO Hein Koegelenberg beam, in that he signed up R1,5 million in business during the lunch, he shared with us), and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, who looks younger and more stylish than ever before, all due to her stylist Janine Schouw, she said. Premier Zille came to say hello, and remembered us meeting at Artscape about five years ago, which makes her such a remarkable person, and such a respected and well-loved politician. It was touching to see the Premier connect with Mr de Klerk, holding hands. The mutual respect was clear to see.
Leopard’s Leap CEO Hein Koegelenberg made a short speech to welcome the guests to the new Leopard’s Leap Vineyards, housing Leopards Leap Wines and Liam Tomlin Food. He recounted that he had created the Leopard’s Leap brand twelve years ago, and he acknowledged the work of label designer Anthony Lane in developing it into an international brand, now sold in 41 countries. It had not had a consumer interface in the past, and the neighbouring farm to La Motte was ideal for a tasting room, not only due to its location on the R45 and its proximity to La Motte, but also because the grapes on it had been planted by Hein’s father, and he still looks after the garden team on the estate. Hein said that Leopard’s Leap is the most diverse wine company in the world, focusing on diversity in sourcing grapes and producing the wines in different regions.
It was the ancient marriage between wine and food that led Hein to seek the ‘perfect pairing of wine and cuisine’ with chef Liam Tomlin, who moved from Sydney to Cape Town some years ago, consulting to La Motte when its restaurant opened, and opening his own Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town. Now Liam Tomlin Food offers cooking demonstration classes, upping the standard of Franschhoek’s gourmet cuisine offering. The venue was designed to blend Franschhoek’s ‘proud heritage of wine and cuisine’ with modernity and innovation, to create a world class experience for its visitors. The building was designed by architects Mokena Design Lab, Christo Barnard did the interior design (having done that of Pierneef à La Motte too), with furnishing by Pierre Cronje. The building houses offices for Leopard’s Leap Wines and Liam Tomlin Food, a state-of-the-art cooking school and demonstration area, a shop selling cooking equipment, ingredients, and utensils, a garden in which to enjoy picnics in future, and a reading lounge. Reflected in the building too is the passion the family has for the conservation of the Cape mountain leopard, which is reflected in the magnificent 9 meter high steel sculpture by Marco Cianfanelli, outside the building. Hein believes that the ‘statue will become a landmark in the Franschhoek Wine Valley’.
Chef Liam’s speech was short and sweet, and he won brownie points when he said that it was much better moving from Australia to South Africa, and not vice versa. He also said that South African wines are better than Australian ones. He told us that initially he would concentrate on establishing the cooking courses, whereafter the Food Shop will be created, eagerly awaited by locals. An organic vegetable garden has been planted, for use in his kitchen.
Different food stations were created throughout the kitchen to feed the 300 guests, a mix of food and wine writers, wine farm neighbours, and local winemakers, with trays of material serviettes and cutlery at each, and each dish labelled. Chicken roasted in the brand new rotisserie was served with a sticky soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and ginger, and a cucumber salad, its Thai basil giving it a sharp edge. There was sea bass served with delicate noodles. The pork belly served on a pancake with Hoisin sauce and spring onion probably was the most popular dish. A most interesting duck sausage was another hit, containing raisins, pistachio nuts, confit leg, and duck liver, served with a potato salad and duck jus. Chef Liam told us that they had ordered 150 ducks to make the duck sausage, and that their supplier had initially let them down badly, it costing them five days in time to get the sausage made as a result. A sweetcorn and basil veloute was served in an espresso cup. An interesting dish was a melted Raclette cheese served with steamed potato and bruschetta. Desserts were a lemon posset, and a Bailey’s Irish cream parfait with cocoa crunch. In tasting each of the delicacies, one could get a close look at the kitchen equipment, and Grande Provence owner Alex van Heeren spontaneously described the facilities as ‘world class’.
The clearing of plates and serving of drinks was organised by Aleit event company, and Aleit Swanepoel, the owner, and his team made each guest feel like a special VIP, bringing one drink after the other (a delicious berry Shiraz drink).
As if the hosts’ generosity had not been enough already, each guest received a magnificent presentation box with a thank you from Liam and Hein ‘for sharing this special celebration with us’, and containing a bottle of Leopard’s Leap Shiraz Mouvèdre Viognier 2008, as well as a pack of risotto rice, dried mushrooms, and a bottle of Black Truffle oil, with a recipe card for mushroom risotto.
La Motte and Leopard’s Leap are a new gourmet gateway to Franschhoek, and it would appear that further exciting developments are underway at both wine estates, from what was suggested to me last night.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage.
Last week Anel Grobler of Spit of Swallow and I were ‘paired’ for a visit to Waterkloof wine estate in Somerset West, a change from the blogger group invitations normally extended. It meant that I could get to know her a little better, and that we received personal and dedicated attention. I was impressed by the biodynamic farming on the wine estate, and by Chef Gregory Czarnecki’s cuisine.
We savoured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc 2009 on arrival, chatting about Chef Gregory’s background before marrying a local lass, and how happy he is at Waterkloof, coming from the Michelin 3-star Lucas Carton restaurant in France. He is French, with Polish roots. We expressed our surprise about the Eat Out Top 20 list exclusion of the restaurant, and he said that they were disappointed, as they work hard to up their game, and treat every customer with passion, not only the Eat Out judge. Most important is that what they do is consistent. He is a perfectionist, and did not even allow himself time off for his honeymoon, to make sure he is in the kitchen every day. His kitchen is proudly local, and they do not import any products. Increasingly they are sourcing from the Waterkloof farm, and herb (including the scarce tarragon) and vegetable planting has started. Trout comes from Lourensford close by, fish from the West Coast, kabeljou specifically from a sustainable farm in Port Elizabeth, and the farm supplies eggs, chickens and lamb too. They want to become as self-sustainable as possible.
The farm drive in farm manager Christiaan Loots’ bakkie was impressive, and his passion for what he does, and for applying the principles of sustainability (an earthworm farm is being created, and he reuses everything on the farm, with little thrown away), shows. He is going in the opposite direction to most other wine farmers, looking to sell his mechanical equipment to be able to buy more horses, not only to do the work but also to use the dung for compost, which benefits his land and the vines. ‘Nature does the stuff for us’, he said. The farm is 120 hectares in size, of which just less than half is under vines. They apply organic farming principles, not spraying for weeds, just keeping them under control, as they add silicon and nitrogen to the soil. They don’t add fertiliser, only adding compost, their seven horses and more than 80 Dorper sheep assisting with this, and all kitchen scraps are composted as well. They have just bought the next door farm, so that they can grow feed for the horses, rather than buying it in, which means that the bottom section of the road will be tarred. The farm planted 20 hectare in 1995, but Christiaan started in 2005, and has more than doubled this. He is a trained viticulturist, and taught himself the principles of biodynamic farming, with the encouragement of owner Paul Boutinot. It takes three years to be certified Biodynamic, and this is what Christiaan is working on. Not using tractors anymore, the vines can be planted closer together, giving more yield. More than 30 hens run around in the vineyards, eating bugs, and laying eggs in a special egg truck. Only fynbos is planted in the garden, and they have 111 species on the farm. Christiaan has two cows, which he uses to make ‘cow dung tea’ to compost his vineyards.
I have seen Anel at many a function, and know her as a fun no-nonsense person, with a love for laughter and wines, and very successful at what she does with Spit or Swallow, together with her partner Jan. She told me a little more about herself – she is a Libra, typically undecided, says she is a hippy at heart, loves animals, was born in Kroonstad, lived in Grootfontein and Pretoria, until her parents moved to Betty’s Bay. She studied clothing production management at the Cape Technikon, and worked in clothing manufacture for ten years, before leaving because she felt that she was in a rut. She enjoyed drinking wines when she came to the Cape on holiday. She started Tweeting, and created Spit or Swallow and Wine Times too.
The backdrop to our table was majestic. Our meal started with Chef Gregory personally taking our order. An amuse bouche of biltong and miso soil, pomegranate and yoghurt mousse, beetroot smear and buchu meringue was served, with the Waterkloof Circle of Life White 2010. Paul Boutinot came to say hello, and told us that biodynamic farming is good for the environment, but even better for improving the quality of wine. It makes the vineyards more resistant to diseases, and takes farming back to its original roots of more than 70 years ago. He said that the Waterkloof wines reflect what is in the vineyards. He chose the farm as it is the site to make the ideal wine, where nature is in ‘perfect balance’. They have 113 days from flower to picking, the average being 80 days, he told us. Boutinot has an agency in the UK which distributes Italian, French and South African wines.
Anel and I chose different dishes, so that we could share the look and taste of each dish. Plating is a strength of Chef Gregory. I started with a Camembert Crème Brûlée, rich and creamy, with the most beautiful celery shavings, curried walnut, and Granny Smith and celery sorbet (R55). Anel enjoyed her Smoked farm egg and parma ham starter (R50). With the Magaliesburg duck breast was served puy lentils, a terrine of confit leg with foie gras and rhubarb, and carrot and tarragon puree (R150), and the dish was paired with Circumstance Syrah 2008. Anel chose Monkfish and crispy prawn (R155), a very attractive dish. Deconstructed orange parfait and citrus shortbread was served as a pre-dessert, my dessert choice being a strawberry and hibiscus comsommé, with fromage blanc and cucumber sorbet, while Anel ordered the cream of Ivoire white chocolate served with matcha tea and black sesame (all desserts cost R60).
A 6-course Degustation Menu is excellent value at R385, and if wines are added to each course the cost is R490.
I had been impressed with Chef Gregory’s plating of the dish he prepared earlier this year at the Grande Provence Big 5 Multiple Sclerosis charity lunch, and he demonstrated this strength again at our lunch. He and his team of ten create cuisine masterpieces, and the restaurant deserves to be on the Eat Out Top 10 list. Its increasing self-sustainability, the biodynamic farming methods, and organic wines make this a wine estate that is in perfect balance. Last week Waterkloof was recognised by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network as the top South African wine estate in the Architecture and Landscape category.
Waterkloof Restaurant, Sir Lowry Village Road, Somerset West. Tel (021) 858-1292. www.waterkloofwines.co.za Twitter:@WaterkloofWines Lunch Monday – Sunday, Dinner Monday – Saturday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter @WhaleCottage