I have rarely written about personal matters on my Blog. I am also long past formulating New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of a year. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that the universe would present me with a year of years in 2016, to top any I have ever experienced! Continue reading →
Cape Town has just been ranked third Best Food City in the World by Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards 2014. Taste of Cape Town 2015, running at the Green Point Cricket Club until the end of today, gives locals and visitors a taste of what makes our city so special as a food destination.
Hosted for the eighth year in Cape Town, and run by food editor and stylist Justin Drake, Taste of Cape Town has settled in at the cricket club venue after venue changes in early years. Taste of Cape Town is a festive and fun way to eat and drink one’s way around one venue, showcasing not only restaurants and wine estates in Cape Town, but also those in the Winelands.
I was invited by Errieda du Toit PR to attend the Taste of Cape Town, and was joined by Continue reading →
I don’t visit Paarl very often, usually disappointed with the restaurant offering of the town. Last week I spent a day there, to visit Jan Willem & Seuns, and Melissa’s newish branch. I had given up on Bosman’s at Grande Roche, after repeated poor experiences in the restaurant. However, a chance meeting of Bosman’s new Restaurant Manager and its Sous Chef at Maison in Franschhoek a few days prior led me to return.
During the busy festive season days I took a break at The Kitchen at Maison in Franschhoek, and sat next to a table with a couple, which turned out to be Austrian Chef Christoph Terschan and Restaurant Manager Onwaba Maholwana of Bosman’s. We chatted for ages, talking through the whole Eat Out Top 20 restaurant list, and our respective experiences with the restaurants. Onwaba was well-informed about my previous Bosman’s disasters, and Continue reading →
After a one year absence, the Rossouw’s Restaurant Guide is back, with a new name, new sponsor, new editor, and a new methodology of recognising top restaurants. Restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands still dominate the 5-star restaurant list by far, with 13 out of 20 restaurants in the Western Cape, out of 300 restaurants evaluated in total!
Yesterday ‘Rossouw’s by Diners Club International 2015 South African Restaurant Guide’ was launched in Johannesburg, now sponsored by Diners Club, the same company also sponsoring the Platter’s by Diners Club 2015 South African Wine Guide. Anna Trapido has been the editor for just more than half a year, writing individual reviews about restaurants on their website, and has compiled the new Guide, awarding twenty restaurants with 5 star ratings nationally, another change, as the Rossouw’s restaurants only achieved a maximum of 3 stars in the past, when it was run by previous owner JP Rossouw. The publication format now matches that of the Platter’s Guide. A 5-star rated restaurant is defined as a ‘consistently superlative restaurant in its category – with no/almost no issues’! To obtain a 5-star rating the restaurant had to achieve a score in excess of 90%, errors in food being unbalanced, or wines and foods not matching, counting against a restaurant, for example. Every element of the restaurant visit, from making the telephonic booking to the departure, was scored. All meals were paid for by Anna’s reviewers, all largely unknown Continue reading →
Will the resignation of two 2014 Eat Out Top 10 Chefs, with a third to come it is rumoured, make it the easiest hop into the 2015 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list ever? While it is a bit early, we speculate as to which new restaurants will make it onto the Eat Out Top 20 and Top 10 Restaurant lists later this year.
Given the strict rule of an Executive Chef having to have worked a full twelve months (November 2013 to October this year) to qualify to get onto the Eat Out Top 20 shortlist, the three restaurants with the departing chefs will not qualify to make Top 20 for the judging in the next two months or so. Hartford House and Pierneef à La Motte should definitely be off the list, and the third Top 10 restaurant will be confirmed shortly (see Postscript below). Chef Chris Erasmus left Pierneef à La Motte a week ago, to open his new restaurant Foliage on the main road of Franschhoek next month, while Chef Jackie Cameron is opening Jackie Cameron’s School of Food and Wine in Hilton in January next year, but leaves at the end of July. The third chef is rumoured to move from the Winelands to Cape Town, to open his own new restaurant, and could not be reached yesterday due to the restaurant being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. We would not be surprised if a fourth Top 10 restaurant chef makes a move to Cape Town too, given the number of new restaurants opening in the next few months. Continue reading →
* Nando’s, Prince Harry’s and Beyonce’s favourite chicken take-out in London, will be opening its first store at Gatwick airport.
* Heathrow needs a third runway to deal with the estimated doubling of traffic by 2030. One plan is to build a floating runway on an estuary of the Thames, instead of demolishing houses in a village close to Heathrow.
* Wide-spread flooding hit Somerset West, Franschhoek, Hermanus/Stanford, Strand, and Cape Town on Friday evening. The Franschhoek Pass, Chapman’s Peak, Betty’s Bay/Gordon’s Bay road, and Victoria Road* between Camps Bay and Hout Bay are still closed.
* Eben Sadie of The Sadie Family Wines is the winemaker featured in the weekly Terroirist blog interview!
* Not only is Stellenbosch famous for its many wine estates producing excellent Continue reading →
MasterChef SA Season 2 is the talk of the country, and we have another four weeks of viewing to look forward to. To warm things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 26.
We are also running a weekly prize for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be chopped out of the MasterChef SA. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 20 on 14 August, Pierneef à La Motte has generously offered a R500 voucher for two, making the correct prediction. The restaurant was featured in episode 10, when Chef Chris Erasmus conducted a MasterClass, preparing a terrine.
Pierneef à La Motte opened almost three years ago, and has made the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist two years running. It pays homage to the master artist JH Pierneef Continue reading →
Last night’s episode 12 kept viewers glued to the screen, as Finalists Sanet Labuschagne, Tiron Eloff, and Jason Steel had to replicate La Mouette Chef Henry Vigar’s dish. Karen Els enjoyed her special MasterClass at The Creamery.
Chef Henry Vigar of La Mouette was the ‘top Cape Town chef‘ viewers were told would be present in the episode, and whose dish they had to replicate. When Chef Pete Goffe-Wood introduced the chef as being a good friend, that it is his favourite restaurant, and that the chef is from the UK and has a South African wife, and has worked at top UK restaurants, we could not help but think that it was Chef Luke Dale-Roberts from The Test Kitchen and the Pot Luck Club, as the description could have equally applied to him. As Chef Henry has not made the Eat Out Top 20 list since he opened in Cape Town three years ago, it was a surprise that M-Net overstated his standing, as he is very low key on the Cape Town restaurant scene. Kamini Pather said that the restaurant is best known for its six course tasting menu. La Mouette was a favourite of ours when it opened, but we have not been for a long time, due to poor service, even from the owners. Chef Henry’s dish was Salt and pepper prawns, chorizo popcorn, tamarind sauce, and shaved radish on sweetcorn purée. The task was to replicate Chef Henry’s dish exactly and to make four exact portions of it. Continue reading →
New Media Publishing has just sent its statement regarding the shocking slating of its Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlistby its 2012 international judge Bruce Palling, standing by him regarding his role as judge, and not taking responsibility for his restaurant bashing since 1 February. It does not contain one word of regret about Palling’s appalling behaviour, nor any signal to the restaurant industry that the action by Palling is inappropriate or unprofessional, and is condoning the action by writing that Palling is free to write what he wants to. The media statement does not even share that prior to Palling’s postings they had realised that there is a problem with the Eat Out Awards, and that they have embarked on a strategy to make the awards better.
The statement we received follows:
‘Recent online media coverage related to the 2012 Eat Out Restaurant Awards has prompted us to issue a clarifying statement:
The Eat Out Restaurant Awards is a highly credible annual event that honours and celebrates the best restaurants and top chefs in South Africa, with almost a year of preparation Continue reading →
Babylonstoren is the flavour of the year, and is on everyone’s lips. Just over a year after opening, the hotel has made the Conde Nast Hot 100 list, and Babel Restaurant the Eat Out Top 20 shortlist. Now the owners Karen Roos and Koos Bekker have opened the Babel Tea House on the impressive property, as a refreshment stop for visitors to their garden.
Designed to emulate a Victorian ‘kweekhuis’, the glass conservatory is positioned under oak trees about 400 meters from Babel Restaurant. To get there, one must walk through the massive 1,2 km x 700 meter 3,5 ha fruit and vegetable garden, with 350 species, which was designed by Patrice Tarravella, who has a Relais & Chateaux property about two hours south of Paris, which is well-known for its garden. The Bekkers contracted Patrice to design their garden in the same style, with a lot of trellising of roses in-between the vegetables, and especially along the pathway. One needs a hat, and comfortable walking shoes to walk on the part stony and part peach-pip path to the Tea House. Tables with a collection of colourful chairs are set up under the trees outside the Tea House. Inside the Tea House one can sense the decor style of Karen Roos – a collection of flowers, including blue lillies, just lying as if they are still to be put in a vase. Another table has a collection of vegetables on a table, making a decor statement. A third table has herbs from the garden, with Nigiro glass tea pots and warmers. One can choose one’s herb from a collection from the garden – e.g. rose geranium, sage, mint, lavender – and have one’s own tea made, at a mere R10 a cup. Cupcakes were also on display.
When one arrives one receives a brochure with the layout of the grounds, and of the vegetable garden specifically. I heard that a guide can take one through the garden, but this is not communicated on arrival nor when one is at the Tea House. Some interesting sounding garden sections include the prickly pear maze, the historical mulberry, ‘mulberry meditation’, the citrus block, the ‘guava avenue’, and many more.
It is very ‘gesellig’ at the Tea House, as a number of visitors came to say hello, including radio man Nico de Kock, the F&B Manager Annelle van Tonder, who brought me a Winner plum as a welcome, and both Karen Roos and Koos Bekker. Karen Roos is a very private person, and had her own decor magazine ‘Red‘ many years ago, and ended her editorship of Elle Decoration, no doubt to devote more time to her new project. She has won awards for her stylish dressing, and her impeccable taste shows in her understated decor at Babylonstoren. Koos Bekker and I have crossed paths three times – as members of the editorial team for Die Matie whilst we were students at the University of Stellenbosch; as a client when I was seconded from Y&R Johannesburg to work with him as a market researcher when he set up M-Net 25 years ago; and as a research consultant to M-Net a few years later. Now he is the CEO of Naspers. Koos’ touch is evident in the Chinese on the signage, with English or Afrikaans, and his company has lost a lot of money there, he told me. He is still very active in China, having returned from a trip to there the day before, he told me. Babylonstoren must be the only South African tourism player that is recognising the potential power of the Chinese market. Admirably he has taken Mandarin lessons, to master this difficult language. Koos looked like a country gentleman, with a Panama hat, was friendly and relaxed (he is an extreme work-a-holic), and he even brought me a hat to protect my face from the sun. He has invested an inordinate amount of money in Babylonstoren, one assumes. Koos told me that they will start producing their first wines next year in their 300 ton cellar, Charl Coetzee, previously of Clos Malverne, being their winemaker. In the meantime they are selling wines drawn from the terroir surrounding the Simonsberg in their shop and in the restaurant. I have read elsewhere that a tasting room for these Simonsberg terroir wines is on the cards at Babylonstoren, with a deli selling cheeses too.
The GM Terry de Waal also came to introduce himself, and told me that his background is industrial engineering and not hospitality at all. He was the project manager when Babylonstoren was first developed, and now takes overall responsibility for the estate. His industrial engineering skills were useful when the Tea House was designed, working with Patrice, Koos, and Karen to come up with the design of the building. I saw Terry being hands-on, carrying food boxes from the kitchen to clients.
Water is offered for free in branded bottles, and must be from the farm. Cutlery is the most stylish patterned perspex. The food is served in a branded wooden box. The paper table cloth is also branded, with a Delft plate, which has become a new symbol for Babylonstoren, remnants of which have been found on the grounds during the renovations. The table cloth states that it is recycled, going into the compost after use. The concept is very simple – from a blackboard choose for a ‘sandwich’ a bread style (ciabatta, wholewheat, rye, farmstyle white), a cheese (Dalewood Huguenot, Gorgonzola, goat’s cheese, pecorino), and/or a charcuterie item (Black Forest ham, smoked chicken, soft cured biltong, smoked trout). The cost of both the meat and cheese sandwich is R65, and R55 for either the one or the other. A fresh garden salad with herbs is served in a separate glass jar, and there are two further jars: one with plum relish with granny smith apple and pineapple sage, and the other with a mixed herb oil. My rye ‘sandwich’ was a roll, and was rather tough, filled with the ham and cheese, and wrapped in branded paper, with the perspex cutlery tied to it with a serviette. I took my roll home with me, and only had the salad, spontaneously booking for lunch at Babel restaurant. I am not sure how one would eat the ‘sandwich’ without having a plate, the wooden box in which it was served possibly serving this purpose. Chef Simone Rossouw confirmed that the cakes and cupcakes are made for them by Kelly in Franschhoek, who transforms the produce they have in abundance into cake. I took a chocolate cupcake (R25) home with me, and it was wrapped in the branded paper, with six cherries giving it a beautiful finishing touch. Slices of cake cost R45, and the selection includes lemon meringue, carrot cake and chocolate cake. Cappuccino costs R18; red, yellow or green juices cost R20, homemade iced tea R25; homemade ginger beer R16 and lemonade R20; Marriage Freres teas cost R30.
Service is slow, but Babylonstoren is not the place to go to if one is in a hurry, and the service should improve as the Tea House settles in. Neither the blackboard nor the staff explain clearly how the sandwiches work, and what the prices are. One needs a hat and comfortable shoes. I was disappointed that they buy in the cakes, and do not make them on the farm. But the overall delight of walking through the gardens, of getting an opportunity to experience a taste of Babylonstoren without pre-booking Babel Restaurant, and of seeing style personified makes the food disappointment secondary.
Babel Tea House, Babylonstoren. R45 to Franschhoek, next to Backsberg. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter:@Babylonstoren. Wednesday – Sunday. 10h00 – 16h00. No reservation required. R10 entrance fee to the estate.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage