Yesterday I attended two tastings of the Robertson-based Springfield Estate wines at OpenWine Pair Shop on Wale Street, a central tasting facility offering a selection of South African wines. I was impressed with the personality of co-owner Jeanette Bruwer, which came through in the evening tasting in particular! She introduced her wines in a consumer-friendly fun and natural manner. Continue reading →
Yesterday evening the Domaine des Dieux tasting at OpenWine was opened on Wale Street with a Sabrage of its award-winning Claudia MCC 2010, possibly the first time that a Sabrage has been done in the city centre. Continue reading →
The first event I attended of the Hermanus FynArts Festival on Monday evening was the Festival Gala Dinner, being a highlight in that I was able to attend it, and in meeting Benguela Cove owner Penny Streeter! The Festival is a jam-packed celebration of art, food, music, and culture, running over a ten day period! Continue reading →
The competition catered for wines, beers, and ciders, entered by large, small and Continue reading →
Yesterday was only the second day of Open Door being open on Constantia Uitsig, but it felt as if it had always been there, with everything running smoothly. Open Door is the third restaurant of co-owners Neil Grant and Barry Engelbrecht, alongside Burrata and Bocca, and serves country fare.
Previously the home to The River Café on the wine estate, with a tasting room on the side which has moved across the driveway, the space of Open Door is large, being able to seat 250 patrons at full capacity, in different sections. One enters around the corner, and no longer at the former tasting room entrance. The main restaurant room is spacious, with a gas fireplace to come at the one end, and an open kitchen on the other end, with the bar close to the kitchen section, opposite of which is Neil’s precious wine collection, looking smaller than that of Burrata, but is not, Continue reading →
For the first time in the Western Cape a Tourism Ambassador has been appointed. Bob Skinstad, South African rugby hero and commentator, is the new Tourism Ambassador for the Overstrand, encompassing the municipal region stretching from Kleinmond-Hangklip to Gansbaai, via Hermanus and Stanford. The area is also known as the Cape Whale Coast.
The concept of a Tourism Ambassador was the idea of Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten, who felt that Bob’s interaction with top rugby fans locally, as well as internationally would stand the Overstrand region in good stead if it was recommended by him as a holiday destination on his travels. Bob grew up in ‘Southern Rhodesia‘, but loved coming on holidays to Hermanus with his parents, and they now live in the seaside town (with his parents-in-law too), giving Bob’s endorsement even greater credibility. A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed for 12 months between Bob and the Overstrand municipality, confirming which services he will render, and how many packages of products from the area he can use for marketing purposes. He wants the region to become more Social Media savvy, and recommended ‘We Chat’ as a huge free Continue reading →
After seeing a Tweet by The Collection by Liz McGrath Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff about the new interior of SeaFood at The Marine earlier this week, I decided to lunch there yesterday, being in Hermanus for the day. It was a most disappointing experience, given the five star and Relais & Chateaux status of the hotel.
The Marine hotel has a long heritage and was bought by Mrs McGrath a number of years ago. and sat on its own on the cliffs overlooking Walker Bay, technically a magnificent location, but little is made of the beautiful view. A recent flurry of development across the road from the hotel has given it a lift. Mrs McGrath appears to be like Le Quartier Français owner Susan Huxter who renovates her establishment annually. Mrs McGrath did the latest interior design of SeaFood at The Marine, her staff told me. The colour scheme now is grey, with grey chairs, grey tables, and grey Continue reading →
Gorry Bowes-Taylor has built up a loyal following of book lovers as well as book launch lunch lovers on behalf of Wordsworth. The launch of Tony Leon’s latest book, ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, which was released two weeks ago, was sold out at Myoga on Saturday, not only due to the witty smart speaker but also the excellent menu offered by Chef Mike Bassett for the event.
The book, Leon’s second (the first was ‘On the Contrary‘), tells the story of Leon’s retirement from DA (Democratic Alliance) opposition politics after twenty years, and taking up an appointment as ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, ‘jumping before I was pushed’ from his party, as good politicians should do, he said. The book launch made it clear that politicians have the gift of the gab, and Leon is no exception. He is an excellent salesman for his book, attracting one’s attention with a provocative question – e.g. how does the previous Leader of the DA promote an ANC government in South America – and then encourages one to buy the book without answering his question, so as to not do Wordsworth (and himself of course) out of revenue!
Leon names-drops a lot – he is a close friend of Joost van der Westhuizen, and Pieter-Dirk Uys’ Evita Bezuidenhout is quoted too: ‘As a fellow accidental ambassador, reading Tony Leon’s adventures in the land of the original Evita and the gauchos, reminded me there are reasons to be grateful we live in South Africa after all‘. Even ex-President Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying about Tony Leon: ‘Your contribution to democracy is enormous. You have far more support for all you have done than you might ever read about‘, high praise indeed!
Myoga is located in the Vineyard Hotel grounds, and there was a severe traffic jam in getting to park on the property, given a huge exodus of a church group with had used the conference hall, made worse by a hotel security person who could not cope with this nor speed things up. All 100 guest had pre-booked, and were seated according to a plan. The seat at the table that I was allocated to had two adjoining table legs where one’s own legs were meant to be, making it impossible to sit there. The manager Shameemah was most unhelpful, saying that she could do nothing at all, and that is how it is! Eventually she made a plan by offering a seat at a table with the most friendly ‘Wordsworthians’, who were delighted I had taken the last seat at the table, as it prevented someone else whom they had experienced at the previous lunch from sharing the table with them. One of the table companions is a regular blog reader, and she quoted reviews she had read on our blog. Ingrid Crowther and her mother were lovely guests too, and we shared notes about restaurant experiences.
Most of the guests at this table attend each of Bowes-Taylor’s Wordsworth book launch lunches, not necessarily because they like the author, will buy the book, or are avid readers, but because they get to experience new restaurants, meet nice people, eat good food, taste unknown wines, and are entertained by the authors talking about their new books, all at the cost of R250. The ‘Wordsworthians’ were more than delighted with the Tony Leon book launch lunch, as it ticked all the right boxes, despite some problems experienced in making the bookings! The disasterous Penny Vincenzi book launch lunch at Sevruga three years ago got the restaurant removed from the Bowes-Taylor list, while De Grendel restaurant appears to be one of the popular venues.
Chef Mike and his team put on a lunch of note, which was paired with the wines of the Hemel en Aarde Valley’s Domaine des Dieux. Shane Mullis introduced the wine estate, each guest having received a glass of Rose of Sharon MCC 2008 as a welcome drink, made of 75% Pinot Noir and 25 % Chardonnay, and which spent 42 months on the lees. The boutique wine estate name means ‘place of the gods‘, and is owned by Sharon Parnell. At 320 meters above sea level, the wine estate is one of the highest in the country. It is particularly known for its sparkling wines, the Claudia MCC 2007 being made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Other wines in the range are the Chardonnay 2010, and Josephine Pinot Noir 2010.
The ‘Tantalizer’ was a superb starter of pan fried prawns with the Myoga signature sweet chili, crowned with coriander infused cream, which was paired with the Domaine des Dieux Sauvignon Blanc 2009, with asparagus notes and ripe fruit aromas. The sauce was so delicious, that everyone at our table requested a spoon, to finish every last drop! ‘The Main Event‘ was a sous-vide beef fillet, which was served with crispy potatoes, pan fried mushrooms, smoked bordelaise jus, and finished off with a sun-dried tomato mousse. The main course was paired with an excellent Domaine des Dieux Syrah/Mourvédre 2010. A perfectly made dry cappuccino accompanied ‘The Crowning Glory’, a refreshing dessert of golden tart, which was filled with lemon custard on peach jus, complemented with a most unusual goat’s cheese ice cream.
Leon concluded that if one was not interested in reading his book for the South African or Argentinian politics, one could buy it for the handy tips of where to shop and what to see in Buenos Airies, which his wife Michal had written for the book. His time in South America showed him that Argentina is even more corrupt than South Africa. He said it was sad to see how Argentina, once the seventh largest economy, now has a smaller economy than that of South Africa. He says the country is very focused on its past rather than on its future, and mocked it for representing a ‘vote for a better yesterday‘! The decline of the country appears to have been triggered off by the death of ex-First Lady Eva Duarte Perron in 1952. Leon also told the story of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who would not set foot in the cathedral of Buenos Aires, as its Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had criticised her government. Yet she traveled to Rome to attend his investure as the new Pope Francis earlier this year! He referred to other famous Argentinians: soccer star Lionel Messi and new Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Leon took his post in 2009, and the forthcoming soccer World Cup in South Africa helped him to leverage off big events, including rugby. The book details what happens in an embassy, his budget of about R20 million employing 27 staff per year. Leon told a funny story about his lunch with ex-South African Nobel prize winner JM Coetzee, who had been painted as being a recluse. Coetzee was participating in a Literary Festival in Buenos Aires, and Leon mistakenly invited him to the city’s best steak restaurant, the writer being a strict vegetarian! Leon found him to be anything but reclusive. Leon said that one should live in another country to appreciate one’s own country!
As an ambassador, Leon spent a lot of time in restaurants, and at dinners and cocktail parties at other embassies, and at the homes of Argentian contacts he got to know in his three years. He raves about the typical Asado barbeque, and the steaks served in the ‘parillas’, their meat cuts differing to ours. His guests will have been served samoosas, bobotie, and malva pudding, he shares. Funny is his chapter in not being able to find any Big Macs in Buenos Aires, the world famous burger being the benchmark for the real value of country’s currencies as measured by The Economist, as it would have shown up Argentina’s high inflation rate (of about 25%). No mention is made by him of any South African wines or the role they may have played in enhancing trade and cultural relations between South Africa and Argentina! He did visit Mendoza, the Argentinian wine region, on a number of occasions, but does not reveal which Malbec wines appealed to him.
Leon is articulate as a speaker and as a writer too, and the book is easy to read and hard to put down. One senses that he must have bitten his tongue on numerous occasions about his host country and his home country in the three years of his ambassadorship, having ended his latest career a year early, not explaining clearly why he did not end the term of his post. He now is a consultant, writer, and speaker.
Tony Leon: ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, Picador Africa, 2013. www.tonyleon.com Twitter: @TonyLeonSA
Myoga, Vineyard Hotel, 60 Collinton Road, Newlands, Cape Town. Tel (021) 657-4543. www.myoga.co.za Twitter: @MyogaRestaurant
Domaine des Dieux, Hemel en Aarde valley, Hermanus. Tel (028) 313-2126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I had heard about new restaurant Lizette’s Kitchen in Hermanus from a review by JP Rossouw and tried it a week ago with my colleague Carole. It is a refreshing addition to what is generally an average collection of restaurants in this seaside village.
The restaurant opened three months ago, and is cleverly located on the traffic circle as one enters Voëlklip, a historic house built around the 1920s and was the first farmstead in Voëlklip, which everyone who has been to Hermanus will know. It is a large property, which was lovingly renovated by Lizette Crabtree and her fiancé Scott, following prescriptions of the Heritage Council. They did not use any decor design service, they said proudly, and it is one of the smarter restaurant interiors we have seen in Hermanus. The building is also the home of Scott and Lizette, laughingly telling us that they sleep in the garage. The off-street parking area is neat and spacious. The seating space is large, inside and outside, and the doors are stacked back so that the two merge. One faces the traffic circle, with greenery behind it, and it has a very peaceful aura. The roof has been newly thatched, and some interior walls must have been removed to create the open space. One section has a bar counter, and further down one can see a lounge area with a fireplace. At the till there is a Buddha, next to a vase of proteas. There is a lot of wood – on the floors, the table tops, and the (rather uncomfortable) café style chairs. Outside sheets of corrugated iron have been cleverly used to make planters in which jasmine is growing. The waiters wear black shirts and pants, with a Hermanuspietersfontein branded apron.
Scott and Lizette met in Vietnam, where she worked in the kitchen of a large top hotel. They managed a $10 million boutique chain resort, but decided to come back to Lizette’s home country, although she never previously lived in Hermanus.
Outside a bar counter has been made from wooden crates, and Creation gets a plug, its branded crates having been used. We were told that three wine estates have a special home at Lizette’s Kitchen, Boekenhoutskloof being prominent, its winemaker Marc Kent having a soft spot for the restaurant, and he has made umbrellas and other support available to the restaurant. Interesting was a new Boekenhoutskloof brand Le Cap Maritime, which we heard about from Scott, which is served in Business Class on Emirates flights, and is now available (Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – at an inexpensive R25 per glass/R90 per bottle, and Shiraz 2010 – at R25/R100) at the Hermanus restaurant, having been made from grapes from Hermanus, and the label describing the brand as ‘A coastal venture by Boekenhoutskloof’. Lizette had met Marc a number of years ago, having worked as chef in Franschhoek at La Petite Ferme, and at Monneaux Restaurant, when Chef Reuben Riffel had left to open a restaurant in the UK. Lizette left for Vietnam, taking 20kg of Springbok as her luggage, and a case of wine each from eight Franschhoek Vignerons was shipped over. She hosted a South African promotion in that country, most of these wines now selling well in Vietnam. Other favourite wine brands the restaurant supports are Creation, and Hermanuspietersfontein.
We were welcomed by the waiter Astin Jangle, and I asked him if he could print out a copy of the menu, so as to not have to write down the whole menu. He seemed very unsure about my request, and had to call on Scott for permission. Scott initially was hesitant, saying we should see the menu on the website, as it changes so often. When I mentioned the Rossouw review, he opened up, and told me that they did not know when JP visited the restaurant. They appeared annoyed that he had called it a Vietnamese restaurant, not having got the concept right, they felt. Our Franschhoek connection, and knowing Boekenhoutskloof, helped to relax Scott, and he relented on providing a copy of the menu. The menu is described as being Afro-Asia fusion, to describe Lizette’s South African roots and the influence that Asia, and more specifically Vietnam, has had on both their lives.
A nice touch was the rolled facecloths brought to the table, with a fresh fragrance, which the waiter could not identify. Carole and I were both undecided about what to order, and had a lot of catching up to do, so Lizette volunteered to bring three courses to the table, our only proviso being that it should not contain chilli or be too hot. Lizette suggested that we share the three dishes. Commendable was the black material serviette, although there are no table cloths, with only a cheap-looking place mat. Carole ordered an alcohol-free Mojito, the Mosquito looking beautiful with a slice of watermelon and a piece of sugarcane. We started with Saigon Summer Spring Rolls (R65), a combination of fried spring rolls with a bite, and fresh (i.e. raw, as we discovered, and therefore tasteless) rice paper rolls, served with three dipping sauces, being chilli jam, peanut, and Hoisin. This was followed by the best dish, being Paprika Squid served with Tabbouleh, which was sautéed with lemon, and was served on broken wheat salad with Spanish onion and tomato (R65).
The third dish was Bun Cha, a traditional North Vietnamese dish offering three variations of pork, being pork rashers, pork patties, and (once again) pork spring rolls, with which came cold rice noodles, fresh herbs, and the Hoisin dipping sauce again (R75). This was the order we had placed, and therefore we asked for the bill. The waiter begged us to try the dessert, being a very delicious lemon curd served with home-made shortbread and a slice of apricot (R30), even though we had not ordered it, and made it sound as if it was a special ‘gift’ offered by Chef Lizette. Only when checking the bill that evening did I see that we were charged for this ‘gift’!
The menu introduction explains that it is varied, reflecting ‘our journey from Africa to Asia’, and that ‘the flavours are fresh and pronounced’, and that only the best local produce is sourced. The Asian dishes are made using traditional recipes, and no seasoning has been added commendably, allowing the diner to add fish sauce, herbs, sprouts, soya, lemon, and more, to suit one’s preference of a sweet, sour, or salty taste. One is wished ‘Chuc ngon mien’, a wonderful meal. Most dishes are Vietnamese, but with some Thai and North African dishes too. There is a bread and cheese section, a plate of mezzes costing R75; Pita wraps are available with fillings of beef, chicken and lamb, at R55; Artisan Flatbreads are served with options of chicken, pork ribs, lamb, goats’ cheese, and tiger prawns, at R52 – R65; salads are unusual, including Lamb Kofta, and Moor Lamb Kibbeh, both containing lamb patties (R78); Noodle Bowl dishes, served with prawns or beef red curry, cost around R75; Tom Yum soup is R70 and a Vietnamese Pho Bo beef broth R50; Moroccan lamb shanks cost R130, and are served with Tabbouleh and a Greek salad; Thai style steam mussels in coconut and sweet chili cost R70; linefish steamed in bamboo, prepared with sesame, ginger and soya, costs R84; and a Vietnamese Heo Kho To interestingly contains braised pork belly stew with quail eggs R75. The dessert list contains a mix of very basic South African treats (ice cream and Bar One sauce, brownies, cake) as well as Che Chuoi, a traditional Vietnamese warm sago, banana and peanut pudding, all very reasonable priced in a range of R22 – R35.
The wine list is part of the menu, and wines are listed under quirky headings, more creative than those used in the ‘100 Women 100 Wine’ so-called competition! So, for example ‘Refreshing, zingy wines’ are La Petite Ferme’s Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (R165) and Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc 2011 (R200). ‘Rosé, not just for the girls’ lists Hermanuspietersfontein’s Bloos 2012 at R108, and Sir Robert Stanford Rosé 2012, at R135. The ‘Fat Cat Selection’ offers the Sir Robert Stanford Shitaz 2009 at R195, Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block at R320, and Bouchard Finlayson’s Hannibal 2008 at R350. Wines by the glass are very reasonably priced, ranging from R21 for Sir Robert Stanford’s Cutter’s Cove Chenin Blanc and Helderberg Wijnmakerij Cabernet Sauvignon at R21, to Creation’s Syrah/Grenache R35/R145. ‘Bubbles’ by the glass are by Krone (R30/R160), and Domaine Des Dieux Rose of Sharon (R150), and Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut NV costing R850 are also on offer.
While the waiter was very helpful and friendly, he disappointed when we wanted to leave in a hurry, to make a 14h00 meeting, and he told me that he could not bring the credit card machine to the table due to the portable one not working, which meant that I had to go to the bar counter. When I got there, an older lady expressed surprise, saying that the credit card machine had been fixed that morning, and should have been brought to the table. The duplication of foods in what we were offered, the raw spring roll, and the forced acceptance of a dessert we did not order were off-putting. The presentation of the dishes is very attractive. Conservative Hermanus and tourist palates may find the menu too Asian, with too few familiar dishes. The venue itself is attractive, barring the bathroom, offers enough parking, and is not as crowded as the seafront restaurants in the village. The food and beverage prices are reasonable, and it would be a great meeting place for out of town visitors to Hermanus, staying in Voëlklip in particular.
Lizette’s Kitchen, 20 on 8th Street, Voëlklip, Hermanus. Tel (028) 314-0308. www.lizetteskitchen.com. Daily from 11h00, lunch and dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
The Hermanus Wine & Food Fair is more low key than similar ones in Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, and Riebeeck Kasteel. This year the Fair is expanding its reach by putting close to 50 wine producers’ more than 250 wines, from Elgin to Elim and including Hermanus and Stanford, on show over the Women’s Day long weekend, from tomorrow until Sunday, in the Hemel-en-Aarde Village at the entrance to Hermanus. The proceeds of the Fair will go to the nearby Camphill School for children with special needs.
This is the 15th year that the Fair will be staged. The wines on show represent a wine region which has more 4 and 5 star Platter-rated wines than any other in South Africa, says the Fair write-up in Bay.
For the first time an interactive website www.thevine.co.za will allow winelovers attending the show to rate and review the wines they have tasted, and so build up a history of their wine tasting experiences, and share these with other wine lovers. The producers who will present their wines, many of them on the Hermanus Wine Route, are the following: Arumdale, Almenkerk, Ataraxia, Barton, Beaumont Wines, Belfield Wines, Black Oystercatcher, Boschrivier, Bouchard Finlayson, Brunia, Creation, Domaine des Dieux, Feiteiras Wines, Ghost Corner, Henry, Hamilton Russell, Hermanuspietersfontein, Hornbill, Iona, Jakob’s Vineyards, Jean Daneel, La Vierge, Lomond, Newton Johnson, Raka, 7Springs, Southern Right Wines, Spioenkop Wines, Spookfontein, Strandveld & First Sighting, Stanford Hills – Jackson’s, Southhill, Sumaridge, The Berrio, Vaalvlei, Whalehaven, Walker Bay Vineyards, William Everson, Winters Drift, and Zandfontein. Paul du Toit, owner of Wine Village, is the co-ordinator of the Hermanus Wine & Food Fair.
The food at the Hermanus Wine & Food Fair will be provided by the restaurants in the Hemel-en-Aarde Village centre, including The Class Room, B’s Steakhouse, and Season. EAT will run a Peroni Beer and wine bar. In addition, cheeses, olive products, charcuterie, buchu teas, bee products, herb liqueurs, nuts, sundried tomatoes, pomegranate products, pesto pastes, artisanal chocolates, and breads will be available for tasting and to purchase.
Hermanus Wine & Food Fair, Hemel-en-Aarde Village, Hermanus. 9 – 11 August, 11h00 – 19h00. R 95 per day, or R200 for 3-day pass. Free parking. www.hermanuswineandfood.co.za. Book via Computicket.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage