How does one summarise Cape Town’s newest trendy hotspot that is a 32 bedroom Hotel, a rooftop bar with a resident mixologist, and a restaurant with Chef Guy Bennett at the helm, located in an area in which such an offering is not expected, that is simply gorgeous? The Gorgeous George Hotel, and with it the GiGi Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, will bring the Cape Town city centre alive again, an area that has not seen any innovation in quite a while. Continue reading →
As part of a three-day stay in Franschhoek last week, I made a point of revisiting some older restaurants. One of them was Haute Cabrière, a restaurant which I had heard little of, other than its appointment in November last year of new Chef Dennis Strydom, of late. Continue reading →
It was a ‘wow’ reaction when I entered newly opened Imibala Restaurant on Bright Street on Monday, at the invitation of Ian Downie representing the restaurant owners Johann and Gaynor (Ian’s sister) Rupert, and of PR Consultant Ann Wallis-Brown. The Imibala Trust, its Gallery and its Restaurant is focused on giving back to the Helderberg community through the monies that it raises, a very noble initiative.
Ian and I connected immediately, very interested in good food, Ian having founded Gastronauts in Johannesburg when he still lived there. We both have been members of Slow Food in Cape Town, when Jos Baker was Continue reading →
On Saturday I managed to get to see Crisp for the first time, it having closed early on the Sunday of the Bastille weekend. It offers Franschhoek locals and visitors an amazing variety of fresh, canned, bottled, and packaged produce at very reasonable prices, with service from very professional staff.
On my previous visit, looking through the window, I expected a restaurant, seeing the four tables (with Boekenhoutskloof-branded table tops) and multi-coloured wooden chairs, but currently they only serve very good coffee (from Euro Café) and water. The Deli belongs to Ainsa McTaggart Jooste, the staff told me, who already owns a Crisp in Riebeek-Kasteel. However, the website shares that Crisp is a supplier of fresh produce to restaurants and hotels. I know one of the two staff members Wendy, who previously was the Assistant Manager at the Salmon Bar, the most friendly and efficient staff member I have ever experienced there. Wendy told me that they are planning to do meals, such as cheese and charcuterie platters, as well as additional items on a small menu. Continue reading →
The Franschhoek Food Emporium was a favourite stop in Franschhoek, until it closed down a year ago. Fortunately it has just re-opened as Good Food & Co, with a new owner Johanita Henning and Chef Kim Cox, and does not look very different to its past interior. It was a delight to see Michelle van Sittert again, who was at Sacred Ground when it opened, and was a fantastic asset for the bakery/coffee shop.
Kim is the chef, whom I have met twice already, and she prepares the cooked foods, and orders the stock from the best suppliers. Her meat comes from Ryan Boon, for example, who distributes Spier’s Farmer Angus’ beef. Her lamb comes from Fairview. In her display cabinet Continue reading →
The invitation I received from new Babylonstoren Food & Beverage Manager Simoné Rossouw did not reveal what a special honour it was to be invited to the third anniversary celebration of the innovative wine estate, with a top restaurant, boutique hotel, wellness spa, wine tasting and shop, and retail outlet.
We met outside the retail area, which has been expanded to add the shop which originally was located opposite Babel restaurant. Owner Karen Roos (with husband Koos Bekker) has created the most amazing transformation of the wine estate, which had commenced behind the scenes three years prior to their opening, with their GM Terry de Waal and his team planning and implementing their future direction. Karen is one of the most stylish South Africans, having won most stylish dress awards when they were still awarded, and having been the editor of Elle Decor.
We were welcomed with three drink options, being home-made ice tea with waterblommetjie, mint and lime; melon and mint cordial with fresh thyme; and strawberry and rose geranium with lavender and lime. Alternatively one could drink the Babylonstoren wines. On the table was the most interesting ‘pick up sticks’ presentation of smoked salmon and Serrano ham bread sticks. The new Spa will be the reason for a future visit, as I never saw it, being distracted with the extensions to the retail building. Continue reading →
The Wordsworth launch lunch of Agri-Expo Dairy Manager Kobus Mulder’s book ‘Cheeses of South Africa’ at Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town yesterday was most enjoyable, with great company, good food and wine, a charming hotel ambassador, and entertaining author/speaker.
Gorry Bowes-Taylor has been organising book launch lunches for Wordsworth for years, and will be a comedian in a next life, not being the most diplomatic lunch hostess, but is loved for making her guests laugh, and for finding new venues at which to hold the book launches. As I have written before, the lunches have a cult following by some of her regulars, who are not really interested in the subject of the book or the author, but who find value in the R225 three course launch lunch, excellent quality wines, the chance of making new friends at the table, the chance of winning a prize in the lucky draw, and for being entertained by Gorry and the author/speaker. She did not disappoint with her lunch organisation yesterday. Wordsworth sets up a table to sell the discounted launch book at such a function. Continue reading →
The opening of Sacred Ground Artisan Bakers just over two weeks ago created big excitement in Franschhoek, it being the first artisanal bakery in the village that has been called the Gourmet Capital of South Africa. Sacred Ground is not just a bakery, but also is a deli, a coffee shop, a wine shop, and gourmet sandwichery.
What makes Sacred Ground special is the spacious selection of Deli treats and the very friendly hands-on owners and staff. Michelle Hewitt from next-door Surrey Homes and Sannette Koopman are partners in the venture and have both been in the shop when I have visited on two occasions, as has Sannette’s husband Heinrich. Michelle is used to doing home interiors, so it was a natural that she guided the design of Sacred Ground, wooden counters, wood top tables, and wooden chairs with green seating having been used to give the shop an earthy and warm feel. One places one’s order with the super-nice Michelle van Sittert, who is also Sacred Ground’s Tweeter. Thomas is the head baker, and joined the Sacred Ground team from Zimbali. He was the Pastry Chef of the Year in 2008. The staff wear black, with a branded hessian apron.
There is so much to take in when one arrives at Sacred Ground, but the bread selection probably catches one’s attention first, displayed on shelves, and the names and prices are marked. So, for example, there is olive ciabatta (R22,50), Panini (R7), Sacred Baguette (R10), Ciabatta (R17), French Baguette (R15), Stumpy (R10), Crusty Sourdough (R25), 10% Rye (R25), and Cheesy Baguette (R18). Cakes and cupcakes are still bought in, but will be baked on the premises in future. A slice of cake costs R35, and one can choose from Chocolate orange, Cheesecake, Carrot cake, and Red velvet cake. The cupcake selection comes in different colours, at R15 each. Macaroons cost R8. There is fudge, biscotti, nougat, panforte made in Betty’s Bay, and slabs of Honest Chocolate.
The shop has a couch seating section for coffees, wines or a beer and a chat, a counter at which one pays and which displays the cake selection, and a large charcuterie fridge. Fresh food fridges are placed along the walls, alongside the bread selection, and the rest of the space is filled with tables and chairs. The colourful red and yellow BOS umbrellas attract attention from the main road, and the owners have planted red and yellow plants outside their door to match these colours.
Bread is the foundation of Sacred Ground and the Deli selection, and the food offered on the menu all relate to it. Surrounding the bread selection is a fine selection of Truckles, Anura, and Dalewood cheeses, as well as Bocconcini and Fior de Latte. There is a big range of Allée Bleue’s herbs; unbranded unsalted and salted butter; chicken liver paté; duck eggs; Froggit thyme-infused balsamic vinegar; Kloovenberg and Olyfberg olives; Prince Albert and Olyfberg olive oil; Oryx salt and pepper; Bean There coffee; Dilmah teas; honeys; a selection of craft beers from &Union, including Steph Weiss and Berne; Whalehaven Idiom, as well as Mon Rêve boutique wines, of which the Merlot 2010 has already won a ‘Michael Angelo’ (sic) Double Gold in its first year of launch; and wooden boards, which are also used to bring the food to the tables. The Charcuterie counter allows one to choose specific cuts of cold meats supplied by a variety of suppliers, including Raith and Gastro Foods, and includes various salamis, black forest ham, coppa ham, parma ham, as well as speciality cheeses, to take home.
The menu is short and sweet, and a blackboard advertises the Daily Specials. All food is served on paper placed on wooden boards. Commendable is that Breakfast is served all day. I ordered The Artisan Egg Mayo (R35) on my first visit, sounding better on the menu than its execution, promising ‘free range egg, mayo and chives on bread of your choice’. The scrambled egg was cold and was drizzled with Froggit balsamic vinegar, which I was not warned about nor wanted. An alternative ‘Breaking the Fast’ option is ‘Oeufs Bicyclette’, or Eggs on Wheels (R59), ciabatta layered with parma ham, two eggs and mozzarella, topped with hollandaise sauce. One may choose the bread on which the eggs are served. One can also order sandwiches throughout the day, with salami or mozzarella (R49), salmon or chicken (R59), or a ‘Sacred Dog’ with a Frankfurter or a Bratwurst (R40). The Platters look super, a choice of two cold meats and two cheeses costing R 85, and three of each costing R120.
The cappuccino (R14) is made in the flat white style with Bean There beans, but a second order and careful explanation of a dry cappuccino resulted in a perfect cup. The Fair Trade description of the coffee, in its own outlets too, is misleading, as it is not Fairtrade endorsed. Sacred Ground is licensed, and it is a surprise to see that no Franschhoek wines are stocked. Hermanus-sourced La Vierge Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sangiovese style are offered by the glass (R25 – R45) or bottle (R85 – R150) with Whalehaven Idiom (Bordeaux blend) at R280, as well as Paarl-based Mon Rêve wines, at R25 – R45 per glass, and R75 – R250 per bottle for the Merlot. Pongracz is available by the glass (R45 – R55) or bottle R150 – R180. Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Belle Rose costs R190, and Krone Borealis Cuvee Brut 2009 is available at R150.
Sacred Ground is a friendly village meeting place, with good service, reasonable prices, a good selection of deli items and excellent breads, as well as cakes and cupcakes, which have been in short supply in the village. It has added life to The Square, which has not had much traffic since it opened about 18 months ago.
Sacred Ground Artisan Bakers, The Square, Huguenot Street, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-3948. www.sacredground.co.za Twitter: @SG_Bakery Monday – Sunday 7h00 – 19h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Even though it shouldn’t have been a surprise, it was a most impressive visit to the new wine tasting center at Babylonstoren, not only offering a tasting of its own four wines, but also offering for sale two wines from each of the wine estates surrounding the Simonsberg, as well as gorgeous produce in its cheesery, bakery, and charcuterie, which opened two months ago.
One enters the tasting centre, housed in the original smithery and stable on the farm, which has been beautifully restored by owner Karen Roos and her GM Terry de Waal, to keep the building as authentic as possible. Flooring which looks weathered and as if it has been there for ever, comes from the old Dietman piano factory in Wellington. The walls are part raw brick and part plastered and painted. As Ms Roos has shown on the estate, she is a ‘less is more’ decorator, giving the tasting room a spacious feel, with only a central table displaying the Babylonstoren wines and one other Simonsberg wine, as well as a cheese of the day to taste. A small wooden table with a bench on one side is the only seating in the room, beautifully ‘decorated’ with a box of just picked and washed vegetables, including carrots and purple potatoes. From the central room the cheesery and charcuterie are on the right, behind modern glass doors, and the bakery is to the left.
Koos Bekker, husband of Ms Roos, has a passion for the terroir of the Simonsberg, and came up with the idea of a ‘home’ on his wine estate for the wines produced at the wine estates on the ‘inner circle’ surrounding the mountain. When Babel restaurant opened on the wine estate over a year ago, it served wines from the neighbouring wine farms when it had not yet made its own wine, a commendable service. A ‘map’ showing the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is painted onto a tile collage on the wall, showing where each of the 27 wine estates, being Vuurberg, Zorgvliet, Thelema, Tokara, Neil Ellis, Rustenburg, Glenelly, Morgenhof, Remhoogte, Quion Rock, Knorhoek, Muratie, Delheim, Uitkyk, Kanonkop, Natte Valleij, Marianne, Mt Vernon, Anura, Glen Carlou, Neil Joubert, Backsberg, Noble Hill, Rupert & Rothschild, Vrede & Lust, Plaisir de Merle, and Babylonstoren, is located. A shelving unit stores the wines of the other Simonsberg estates, and as they are lying, it is difficult to see the estate names. Each is price marked, and sold at the cellar door price of each wine estate. Because the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is not a formal one, there are no maps, no price list, nor information about any of the wines, including the Babylonstoren ones, a surprise, given the marketing and advertising background of Mr Bekker (Y&R, M-Net/Multichoice/MWeb, Naspers). None of the four Babylonstoren wines have their 2011 vintage indicated on their bottles, and the staff could not explain this unusual strategy. They called winemaker Charl Coetzee to come over for a chat, and he seemed to think it odd that I was asking questions about this, only mentioning that they were matured in tanks (with the exception of 20% of the Viognier, which was matured in barrel). He was generally cagey about providing information about the Shiraz, Viognier, Mourvèdre Rosé, and Chenin Blanc. He explained that there is no price list, as the two wines sold per Simonsberg wine estate will change over time, depending on their customers’ interest in them. He referred to the launch of their flagship Chardonnay and Shiraz in September, and these will have the vintages on them, having been matured in barrels. He was previously at Clos Malverne and Kaapzicht, and has been at Babylonstoren for about eighteen months. He said that he personally loves Pinotage, but this grape variety is not grown on the estate. Grapes were on the farm when it was bought by the Bekkers, and the vines are 14 years old. This is the first winemaking on the farm. The wine side is so new to the wine estate that it is not even on their website yet, he said. In the upstairs section there is a private winetasting and wine storage area, with minimal decor.
Having got stuck on the wine information, Karen ‘Bread’ Pretorius came to my rescue before the winemaker could be found, and she was extremely friendly and informative. She is in charge of the tasting centre, and also doubles up as the baker, having previously worked in the Babel kitchen. The breads baked vary every day, cost R25 each, and include baguettes; a 50% Rye, with Rooibos and raisins; and a tomato relish on a white loaf. All are baked with Eureka stoneground flour in their wood-fired oven, which looks like it has been there for ever. Karen is not formally trained in breadmaking, she said honestly, learning through ‘trial and error’, and ‘stealing with my eyes’, describing herself as a passionate breadmaker. She was the Head Chef at Umami in Stellenbosch previously, and praised Maranda Engelbrecht for what she has learnt at Babel. The Charcuterie is a large room, and its painting of a duck, bull’s head, and a pig onto the white brick wall, which is visible from the tasting room, reminds one of the bull painted on the Babel restaurant wall. The meats are supplied by Jason Lucas’ Jamon from Prince Albert, who also was the thatcher of the building roof. They sell pre-packed portions of Black Forest, Parma ham, Pancetta, and Coppa hams, salami, Kalbsleberwurst, and biltong. The cheeses come from nearby Dalewood predominantly, but also from Kleinrivier and Nuwehoogte. The cheeses are displayed in fridges, and also in the airconditioned cheese room, which opens into the charcuterie. Karen told me that they have a close relationship with their suppliers, all having passion for their products in common with Babylonstoren, being chemical-free, MSG-free, and healthier.
Babylonstoren is bound to come up with further surprises in future. A Loyalty Card is in the pipeline. A visit to see their extensive vegetable and fruit garden, to eat at Babel restaurant or at the Babel Tea House, to try their wines in the winetasting centre, and shopping at their bakery, charcuterie, and cheesery is highly recommended. As the tasting centre is only two months old, there were some information deficiencies amongst the staff, which Karen will fix through training. A coffee machine may be in the pipeline for the tasting centre too, as Babel does not serve coffees only, and the Babel Tea House is a long walk away.
Babylonstoren Tasting Centre, Bakery, Charcuterie, and Cheesery, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter: @Babylonstoren. Cellar Tour 12h00 Wednesday – Sunday, must be booked ahead as they only take 12 – 15 persons, R100. 10h00 – 16h00 for tasting centre. R10 per person entry fee to the wine estate.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
It was via Twitter that I first read about Starlings Café, which had opened more than four years ago, but only became well-known when they started Tweeting about six months ago, co-inciding with their new farmer-style market they host in their garden section on Wednesdays at 16h00 – 18h00.
Focusing on home-grown produce in the preparation of its food for the small menu, owner Trish Krutz offered her suppliers a small homely space in which they could display their organic and home-grown produce to the Starlings Café clients, a win-win situation for both the Café in attracting more business, and for the product suppliers, who are part of a market growing in popularity. Trish said she likes to stay below the radar, ‘behind the hedge’, she said. The Café prepares all its food, only buying croissants from Cassis.
One sees the Origin coffee branded umbrellas of Starlings Café only once one steps off the pavement on Belvedere Road, and the interior feels homely, consisting of two interleading rooms and an open-plan kitchen, and then leads onto the terrace outside, which is protected against the weather. Tables and chairs are mix and match, and each table has a different colour and pattern tablecloth. Walls are covered with sketches, paintings, and prints, giving it a very homely feeling, as if one is visiting a friend’s parents’ house, with vases of roses and rosemary on each table. The Willow Creek ceramic extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar containers suit the country-style restaurant, even if it is in the city, with unbranded salt and pepper grinders. Paper serviettes have a starling printed onto them. The menu is simply printed on white board, with a starling on it too. Its introduction states: “We love supporting local suppliers and using the best quality home grown produce we can find”. This is visible as Trish was connecting with her suppliers after the worst market buying rush was over. I tried the mozzarella fior di latte (using Puglia’s mozzarella), tomato and basil pesto salad stack (R45), with amazing wholewheat bread baked by the Café. It was a delicious combination, not needing butter or any of the condiments. One can also order a tart of the day; Thai chicken curry; Portabellini mushrooms, roasted tomato and artichoke risotto; or a hamburger; ranging from R45 – R65. A choice of salads is offered, including chicken caesar, and roasted vegetables (R55 – R69). Sandwiches with roast vegetable, feta and pesto; bacon, Dalewood brie and homemade tomato chilli jam; and chicken on rye with harissa and date dressing cost R50 – R59. Trish was extremely friendly, but her staff less so.
On a lower level to the terrace are the tables set up for the market, with nine stands, protected against the heat by trees and more Origin umbrellas. Matt Allison is a friend from the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, and his colourful table had vegetables on it that he had picked two hours previously. He was selling parsley, butter lettuce, carrots, red onions, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, green peppers, green beans, and more. Interesting was the Boutique Garden Honey stand, at which honey from hives set up in Cape Town gardens is sold. I was fascinated to see the difference in the colour of the honey coming from Newlands (dark brown, a sign of fynbos, I was told) compared to that from Claremont (being far more golden) gardens. The garden honey costs R45, while their spingflower honey from the veld costs R25. They also sell interesting sounding honey-flavoured soaps, e.g. Rose geranium, Marigold and lemon, Myrrh and frankencense. Pets can be treated with wheat free low fat organic treats, for sale at the market. Simply Wholesome supplies restaurants and homes with organic and free range produce on order, with delivery, and evolved from a greater focus by the owners on eating healthily. One can buy salted and unsalted farm butter, eggs, ‘free run’ chicken and eggs, as well as Seville orange marmalade, fig preserve, sundried tomato mustard, and strawberry jam. The House of Pasta has a restaurant and take-away service at the bottom end of Long Street, and the owner is Italian. His charming wife explained all the pasta types to me, including gluten-free lasagne sheets and fusille, as well as tagliarini, and spinach and butternut pasta. The Creamery was selling delicious strawberry and lemon curd ice cream flavours. Richard Bosman’s charcuterie products were for sale, with a new smoked bacon. Julie Carter from Ocean Jewels Fresh Fish had a table. Afrikara Co-op is from Wolseley, and sells organic biodynamic natural yoghurt, cream, and feta cheese (labneh too usually, but not yesterday), as well as aubergines, and whatever fruit and vegetables they produce.
Attending the market yesterday allowed me to meet Karen Welter for the first time, who does the Tweeting for Starlings Café, and her late parents-in-law were friends of my parents many years ago. Karen is busy with a dissertation on ‘Sustainable Restaurants’ at the Sustainability Institute, which is part of the University of Stellenbosch. She is focusing on key issues for restaurants in terms of how they can operate their businesses in a more sustainable manner in terms of their energy usage, communication, sourcing products, best practice, and collaboration with others.
It was a very special experience at Starling’s Café, with friendly collaboration amongst the market stallholders evident, and friends clearly meeting there regularly. It felt like a mini-bazaar, for a special set of persons lucky to live close by to Starlings Café to allow them to visit regularly. It has none of the crowdedness that one experiences at the Slow Food Market at Oude Libertas or at the Old Biscuit Mill.
Starlings Café, 94 Belvedere Road, Claremont. Tel (021) 671-6875. Facebook Twitter:@StarlingsCafe. Monday – Friday 7h30 – 17h00, Saturday 8h00 – 16h00, Sunday 8h00 – 12h00. Market on Wednesday 16h00 – 18h00
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage