Tag Archives: Eetrite cutlery

Reuben’s & Co Café far more than a Café, the Val De Vie resident dining room!

It must be fabulous living in the country estate of Val de Vie, with fantastic sport facilities and country living, equidistant from Paarl and Franschhoek, and not too far from Cape Town, and now have Reuben’s & Co Café open its doors, alongside the gym and largest swimming pool in Africa, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner!  Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: DISH has dishy food, but service is not!

I had recently been to the Le Franschhoek Hotel, after an absence of more than a year, to try out its Afternoon Tea.  I met Chef Daniel Botha, and was impressed with the menu for DISH, which I asked to see while I was there.  I liked the look of the Chicken liver cognac parfait (R55) so much that I took some with me, and vowed to return for dinner at DISH as soon as I returned to Franschhoek over the Franschhoek Literary Festival weekend.  It was interesting to hear that the restaurant had changed its name from Relais Gourmand, and allegedly faces legal action from Relais & Châteaux, which appears to have trademarked the word “Relais”!

I arrived without making a booking, and the restaurant only had three tables occupied other than mine, out of the 14 in the restaurant – two tables were hotel guests and another was a 10-person party of media from China, hosted by Eben Lassen, GM of the Le Franschhoek Hotel, and Jenny Prinsloo, the CEO of the Franschhoek Wine Valley tourism association.  For the 17 patrons in the restaurant in total, the service from the 4 – 5 waiters and Restaurant Manager Ruaan Spencer should have been far better than that which I experienced on Thursday evening, especially given the fine food that is offered at DISH.

The Customer Services gentleman of the hotel recognised me, and immediately told me that he had passed my feedback form from my Afternoon Tea, where there was a service issue, on to his boss Mr Lassen.  He escorted me inside the restaurant, and asked his colleagues to organise a table for me.  Ruaan brought the menu and winelist, and asked me to choose between still or sparkling bottled water, and I opted for the fresh Franschhoek version, as I always do.  He then told me about two main course specials, but forgot to tell me that they had run out of duck for the main course, which I was told at a later stage by the waitress.  Busi was the waitress that came to my table the most, and we discussed the wines by the glass, a disappointingly small selection, none being a Shiraz.  Busi wanted to please, and said she had an open bottle of Zandvliet Shiraz 2008, from which she could pour a glassful at R40, and I accepted her offer.  She came to the table with a bottle of Nederburg Manor House 2006 Shiraz, telling me that she had discovered that the Zandvliet had run out, and she was therefore offering me the Nederburg in its place, but at R90 a glass!   I felt this to be unfair, and so she kept the charge at the originally promised R40.  The wine was outstanding.  I was not asked if I wanted to order another glassful when I had finished the first! 

The DISH dining room is large, and the tables are far apart from each other, creating a lack of cohesion and atmosphere.  The lighting from the overhead lamps is very low, but there are a number of candelabras which make the room look very romantic.  In the middle of the restaurant was a portable gas ‘fireplace’.  Each table had a tall candlestick on it, but my candle had been exposed to too much sun, and had become bent, and I could not straighten it.  The tables are covered with a table cloth, and material serviettes and Eetrite cutlery is provided.  My table was not laid with sideplates, and none was brought when the rather ordinary looking home-made white and brown bread was brought to the table.   When the food was served, an impressive heavyweight set of Maxwell Williams salt and pepper grinders was brought to the table.  I missed the touch of flowers on the table, or in the restaurant in general, which could come from the hotel grounds that are blessed with flowers.  Decor is bare in this large room, with only one picture of an angel in one lone corner, and a piano, that luckily was not played.  There was no dishy looking food photography or artwork to link to the restaurant name.   Music was typical hotel-like.

There are about ten starters and ten main courses to choose from.  I started with smoked salmon tartar, which was topped with a quail egg, and was served with two minute slices of ‘fennel and orange rye’ – the punctuation in this description led me to expect fennel and I was not sure about the colour of the rye, but I was told that the rye bread was topped with fennel seeds and orange zest.  It was a small portion for R65, not good value, and the strong onion and salmon tartar did not taste as good on the bread when the toast ran out.  The other starter choices include Pernod shellfish bisque and buttered crayfish and prawn tail, Thai chicken noodle soup, Carpaccio of springbok, Caprese salad, and Duck Rillette salad (R85), all costing around R60, with the exception of the duck salad.  For the main course I ordered Green Pea and Fennel Risotto (R95), that was oddly presented on spinach, with a spoonful in the centre of the plate, and another three around this, making the presentation look messy and clumsy.  I wasn’t expecting tomato in the risotto from the menu description, and cooked tomato is one of the food items I do not enjoy eating.  The risotto was topped with two prawns, and I felt it too saucy, and expensive, yet it was filling.   Other main courses include butternut tagliatelle (R95), Glazed Norwegian salmon (R125), Braised lamb shank (R155), Beef fillet stuffed with wild mushroom and camembert (R145), Thai Green chicken and prawn curry (R170), and Glazed Confit duck with Van der Hum jus (R130).  Desserts cost around R55, and one can choose between Hot chocolate fondant with Romanoff parfait and berry compote, Belgian white and dark mousse with Cape Gooseberry compote, Date stuffed poached pear and almond tart served with a Chardonnay wine sauce (but which had run out, I was told), Baked Mascarpone cheesecake, and Cappuccino crusted Amoretti parfait served with Grand Marnier Sabayon and a raspberry and orange salad, which is what I ordered.  I am not sure where the ‘cappuccino’ was in this dessert, and I thought the fruit salad an odd marriage to an otherwise nice dish.  The cappuccino I had with the dessert was made with Avanti coffee, which I had not heard of before, and was served in a cup with a logo that looked suspiciously similar to that of LavAzza.

The focus of the kitchen was to serve the media table of ten, and the Restaurant Manager never came back to the table again, except to wish me ‘Bon Appetit’ when I started eating the main course.  He did not check on the enjoyment of the starter.  He had company, it appeared, and sat himself at a table in the restaurant to chat, rather than focusing on what was happening, or rather not happening, in the restaurant.  At this stage Mr Lassen came over to introduce himself, and he said that he had not been given my Afternoon Tea feedback form.  He asked if all was okay. My feedback must have led him to address the Restaurant Manager, and he was far more attentive thereafter, even spontaneously coming to stabilise my table, but I had not felt it wobbling at all.  Ruaan told me that he grew up in Malmesbury, where his family owned the local Wimpy, and felt that he had experience in the hospitality industry from this.  He went to the UK, where he worked and then studied Tourism at Bournemouth University, he told me, and then returned to work at Beluga, for only six months, due to the poor treatment of the staff by its owner Oskar Kotze.  From there he moved to DISH a year ago.

The light was so low in the restaurant, that I asked the staff to let me photograph the dishes at the serving area.  It was hilarious that the staff let me carry my plates for both the starter and the main course to my table, and I felt like a waiter!  The GM and the Restaurant Manager were in the restaurant all the time, and did not react to this.  The waitress had no idea what the Cappuccino dessert consisted of, and went back to the kitchen twice to check with the chef (unfortunately chef Daniel had the day off) how this dessert was made.   I don’t think she had been asked so many questions before, and said that this dessert was a recent addition to the menu.  

The winelist cover is black leather, and it has no link to the starter/main course and dessert menus in preparation or look.  The winelist is printed on nice silver paper, but the pages are heavily worn.  What I loved about it, but it seemed an odd place to see these, was the old black and white photographs of the hotel, when it was still called the Swiss Farm Excelsior, and I remembered it fondly from many visits there in my childhood.  On the first page of the winelist is a wax seal of the Three Cities hotel group logo, the management company that runs the Le Franschhoek Hotel.  None of the wines have a vintage provided, but the region it comes from is specified, as is the Platter star rating.  The seven wines by the glass are inexpensive, and include Haut Espoir Sauvignon Blanc, Dieu Donné Unwooded Chardonnay and Dieu Donné “Cab/Shiraz” (all three at R25), Beyerskloof Pinotage R32, Pinehurst Cabernet Sauvignon (R36), Pierre Jourdan Brut (R43), and Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc (R45).  It must be noted that the hotel belongs to Mr Maingard, who owns a number of hospitality interests in Franschhoek, including Dieu Donné. Ten champagnes are offered, starting at R340 for Tribaut Brut, up to R3000 for Veuve Cliquot La Grand Dame.  MCC’s start at R170 for Pierre Jourdan Brut, up to R420 for Graham Beck Rosé Brut.  There are about eight wines offered per variety, and the Shiraz selection starts at R125 for Vrede en Lust, up to R290 for Glen Carlou Syrah.

Busi was willing to do what she could for me, but her knowledge about the menu was constrained, and her training poor, as she stretched in front of me regularly to add or remove cutlery, even when I asked her not to.  The final service failure was my request for the bill at the time that my dessert and cappuccino were brought to the table.  I finished both, and it still had not arrived.  My waitress had disappeared from the restaurant, and I asked another waiter to bring it.  The waitress reappeared, left again, and in irritation I got up to look for the bill.  The Restaurant Manager had left, it appeared, and my irritation showed when I waited for the bill at the entrance to the restaurant, the GM coming to see if he could help.  Then the portable credit card machine had to be fetched from somewhere else.  I felt that the waitress was completely out of her depth, and she received no support from her Restaurant Manager.  Mr Lassen did invite me to share a cup of coffee with him when next I am in Franschhoek, and he did offer to comp the meal due to all the service problems, but I refused his latter kind offer.  

I could not help but to compare DISH with Le Bon Vivant in Franschhoek, where both restaurants have quality chefs working hard in creating above average cuisine, but the service from the waiters destroys all this hard work.  It is such a shame, as DISH has good potential.

DISH, Le Franschhoek Hotel, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8900.  www.lefranschhoek.co.za. (The website is very disppointing in respect of DISH, it mentioning that it has a winelist, but there is no link to it.  There is no mention of the menu at all, and a mix of photographs of the venue and the food at La Verger and DISH restaurants can be seen,  The site is generally out of date, a section referring to events for 2010).  Dinners only, Monday – Sunday.

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

Restaurant Review: Tokara’s creative cuisine chemistry is SA’s El Bulli, Richard Carstens our Ferran Adria!

El Bulli was the world’s top S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants  for a number of years, and its chef/owner Ferran Adria has been saluted as one of the world’s most creative chefs, who closed his restaurant near Roses in Spain for a number of months every year, to try out new recipes in Barcelona.  Whilst he will close down his restaurant for an undefined period later this year, he remains a cuisine guru.  For Tokara chef Richard Carstens Adria has been an icon chef, and Chef Richard has been following and has been inspired by Adria since 1999, buying Adria’s recipe books that he publishes annually, yet he has never eaten at El Bulli.  After an invitation to try out Tokara’s new winter menu on Tuesday, I could not help but associate Tokara with El Bulli, and Chef Richard with Ferran Adria, always searching for a higher level of cuisine creativity.

Chef Richard showed me the five volume ‘Modernist Cuisine’, which he bought recently, and is edited by Nathan Myhrvold from America.  This chef was an academic wizard, worked for Stephen Hawking and Microsoft, and moved into cuisine, one of his passions.  The books document the newest ideas and techniques in cuisine, being modern interpretations of classical cuisine.   Chef Richard described the movements in cuisine, from Auguste Escoffier, to Nouvelle Cuisine, to Deconstruction (now renamed Techno-Emotional, Chef Richard told me!) led by Adria, to Modernist Cuisine.  Adria was the first chef to blur the definition between savoury and sweet, by creating savoury ice creams, for example.

Chef Richard has received six Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards in his career, whilst he was at Le Provencal (previous name of Grande Provence), Bijoux and Lynton Hall, and may have had more, had he stayed at past restaurants for longer than a year.   He seems really happy and at home at Tokara, having been given the freedom to experiment and create, whilst serving food that the Tokara guests appreciate.   Tokara Restaurant owner Wilhelm Kuhn wrote about Chef Richard: “Richard is a supremely talented chef and a real inspiration to the chefs in the kitchen.  I haven’t met such a nurturing, creative and intelligent chef before.  A lot of things that some chefs have cottoned on to recently, he was doing more than 10 years ago.  He has an encyclopediac knowledge of food, techniques and the industry, local and international.   It was overdue that someone gave him a chance to really show his mettle. I am sure he’ll be as much part of Tokara’s legacy as Etienne Bonthuys before him and winemaker Miles Mossop.”

I visited Tokara just after Kuhn and Carstens took over Tokara in October last year, and it was good to see that there were familiar waiters from then, and from Jardine, which Kuhn closed down in February.  It being a cold wintry day, I was happy to sit at the table close to the massive fireplace.  In the past few months the restaurant has had a make-over in terms of a new carpet, softening the sound in the room and the interior, and the chairs have been upholstered in an attractive blue fabric.  Each of the chairs has the name of a wine cultivar on it, bringing the wine estate into the restaurant.  New lights have been added too.  Wooden tables and chairs fill the restaurant, and I liked the design of the half-round tables placed against the glass doors, seating couples. There is no table cloth, but material serviettes, Eetrite cutlery and good stemware. The Tokara tasting room is in the same building, a large room with a massive fireplace, that was buzzing with tasters.  The cloakrooms are shared with the tasting room, and are a modern combination of stainless steel basins set in wood.

In the tasting room a specially designed William Kentridge drawing for his “The Magic Flute” opera and Tokara wine series hangs over a display of Tokara wines.  In the restaurant a Kentridge tapestry called ‘The Porter and the Bicycle’, inspired by the Second World War and hence the map of Europe forming the background to the tapestry, Manager Johan Terblanche explained, dominates the interior, the only artwork in the main restaurant.  It was specially made for Tokara owner GT Ferreira.   A Jacqueline Crewe-Brown painting is in the second room, and a second is to come.  Art is an important part of Tokara Winery, and they regularly exhibit art made from wine.  An extensive collection of art is displayed in the passages leading to the restaurant and tasting room, and even in the cloakrooms.  At the entrance to the building, a fascinating tree-shaped ‘sculpture’ attracts attention, a modern statement of what is lying inside the building.

Chef Richard came to welcome me at the table, and had prepared a special 10-course menu of small dishes to try, consisting of some of the starters, main courses and desserts on his new winter menu.  He told me that he and his team try to take the menus one step higher.  He invited me to come to the kitchen at any time, to see him and his team prepare the dishes, which offer I took up, and immediately another little dish of smoked salmon ice cream topped with caviar and served with a colourful citrus salsa was made for me to try.  After the restaurant re-opens after a week’s break from 2 – 9 May, a Chef’s Menu will be introduced, consisting of three courses plus an amuse bouche and a palate cleanser, at an excellent price of R 225 (their 8-course degustation menu cost R400 in summer). 

Staff look neat in white shirts and black pants.  They exude efficiency and all are knowledgeable about Chef Richard’s dishes, one needing a good memory to remember all the ingredients that make up his masterpieces.  Even Jaap-Henk Koelewijn, the sommelier, was perfectly at ease in explaining what was in the dishes that he brought to the table, helping the waiter Ivan on occasion.  I made Jaap-Henk’s job difficult, in limiting my wine drinking over lunch, and stating my preference for Shiraz.  He started me off with a Tokara Zondernaam Shiraz 2009,  and told me that the ‘Zondernaam’ will be phased out in future vintages, due to the improved quality of the winemaking, and all wines will be marketed under the Tokara name in future.  The wine was chilled to 16°C, quite cold for a red wine I felt, but Jaap-Henk explained that a colder temperature helps to temper the tannins in a red wine. This was followed up with a Sequillo Shiraz and Grenache blend, made by Eben Sadie.

I started with a beautifully presented and colourful hot butternut soup, thick and creamy, and served in a glass bowl, to which Chef Richard had added a smoked snoek croquette, which gave the soup an unusual distinctive taste. To this he had added shaved almonds and salted apricots, and drizzled it with coriander oil.  On the winter menu this starter costs R60.   This was followed by a calamari risotto, and its lemon velouté came through distinctly  to enhance the calamari.  It costs R65 as a starter, and was decorated with rice crisps and toasted brioche that had been dyed black with squid ink.  A beautiful autumn-inspired dish contained beetroot, and leek which had been dyed a reddish colour using beetroot juice.  It contained a number of interesting ingredients, including a Gewürztraminer-poached pear, gorgonzola balls, a ball each of yellow pepper and beetroot sorbet, pear compressed into small squares, and hazelnut.   This starter costs R65 on the winter menu.  

Another starter dish, costing R75 on the winter menu, was a chicken, crisp pancetta and prawn stack, served with an egg prepared at 62°C to get the white of the egg to set whilst keeping the yolk runny.  It also contained almonds, and was served with a Spanish Sofrito smoked paprika sauce.  This is a cold starter.  So too was the starter of fig, teriyake glazed tofu, goat’s cheese, orange slices, hazelnuts and a tatsoi sauce.  This starter does not appear on the winter menu, but was very popular on the summer menu, Chef Richard said.   A palate cleanser of rose geranium sorbet (surprisingly white but tasting heavenly, more subtle in taste than that at Dash restaurant) and a pickled ginger sorbet (surprisingly pink) was a refreshing break on my culinary journey. 

The first main course was a herb-crusted rainbow trout served on mash and wilted spinach, courgette and pine kernels, with a lovely violet beurre rouge, which costs R120 as a main course on the winter menu.  As the eighth course, I could not finish all of the peppered springbok, which Chef Richard said he sources from Graaff Reinet, and this is one of his best sellers, costing R155.  It was served on parsnip purée, with beetroot and croquettes, decorated with slices of plum, and served with an hibiscus jus.

The desserts were too delicious to refuse, and I had a wonderful strong cappuccino (R20) made from Deluxe coffee with each.  The first dessert had no colour at all other than white, unusual given Chef Richard’s colourful dishes that had preceded the desserts.  It consisted of a refreshing lemon mousse, mascarpone mousse, white chocolate sorbet, pieces of white chocolate and of meringue, and an almond financier, a type of sponge, cut into blocks.  It costs R50 on the winter menu.  The final course was a dessert (R55) made with hazelnut ice cream, pistachio sponge, aerated chocolate, coulant (a mini chocolate fondant), honeycomb and hazelnut streusel.  As if there was not enough food already, the cappuccino was served with a coconut chocolate and two mini-meringues held together with chocolate.   

The winelist and the menu are both presented in beautiful small black leather-covered holders, with the Ferreira family crest on them.  The winelist states that BYO is not allowed.  Cigars and cocktails are offered, as are 100 wines.  Wines by the glass include Colmant Brut (R55/R290), Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R85/R430), Pol Roger Brut (R180/R890), and Sterhuis Blanc de Blanc (R50/R250).  Seven red wines are offered by the glass, ranging from R60 for Hartenberg Merlot 2008 to R125 for Raats Cabernet Franc 2008.  Tokara Zondernaam Cabernet Sauvignon (2008) and Shiraz (2009) cost R35.  Ten white wines by the glass include seven Tokara ones, including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, ranging in price from R25 – R55. Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé costs R1500, its Elisabeth Salmon 1996 R3000, and its Clos Saint Hilaire 1998 R7000.  Steenberg 1682 Brut costs R290.  Five Shiraz choices are offered, starting at R135 for Tokara Zondernaam 2009, to R1400 for Hartenberg’s Gravel Hill 2005.  French wines dominate the imported wine section, with 38 choices, ranging from R600 for Château Margaux 1996, to R8500 for two wines: Chambertin Armand Rosseau 1995, and Le Musigny Comte George de Vogue 1995.  

The only downside of the lunch was the number of noisy children running around, despite the menu not catering for children at all – half-portions of the linefish of the day and of steak are served with chips for children.   I was impressed with the tolerance and patience shown to the children by the waiters, when stepping into the fireplace, for example.

Chef Richard Carstens is a definite Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant contender for 2011.  He is constantly reinventing himself, not happy to just stay with one cuisine style, but looking to challenge himself and his menu regularly.  He is hungry for new knowledge and inspiration, finding it in music, in fashion, in nature, and in books.  His food is colourful, and incredible attention is paid to creating a dish consisting of a number of unusual elements, many of them having undergone prior work to add to the palette on the plate.  When I first visited the new Tokara in October, Chef Richard sent out a carpaccio as an amuse bouche, and my son and I struggled to identify what it was made from, having quite a wild taste – we could not believe that it was made from watermelon, an idea that he had picked up from Mugaritz, now third ranked on the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, but that he had executed completely differently.  Chef Richard has a passion for his craft, commendable from a chef who has been around for longer than most in the Cape, and it shows in his creative cuisine.  I felt very privileged to have been invited by him to try his new winter menu.

Tokara Restaurant, Tokara Winery, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch, Tel (021) 885-2550.  www.tokararestaurant.co.za (The website is disappointing for a top restaurant, only containing the address, telephone number, and Facebook and Twitter links.  There is no menu, no winelist nor Image Gallery.  Twitter: @Tokara_  @RichardCarstens. Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.

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

Restaurant Review: Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet is a ‘Boere Bistro’!

Café Dijon has operated in Stellenbosch for about three years, and its operation there did not impress me.  On hearing the praise heaped upon the Stellenbosch restaurant by Michael McKenzie as well as restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, I decided to try the recently opened Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, on a wine estate at the foot of the Helshoogte Pass.  The co-owner of Café Dijon called it a ‘Boere Bistro’, given its local touch to a French-style bistro, with a seasonal country kitchen.

I had never been to Zorgvliet before, only having read about it in Noseweek in two respects – the neighbours being up in arms about the loud music when they host weddings on the wine estate, and that Nedbank forced the previous owner into an auction, which was to his financial disadvantage.   One drives past the function rooms when one arrives, and then down a romantic tree-lined lane, with a lovely fresh country smell that reminded me of mushroom picking on Paarl Mountain as a child.  One passes the winery, and the coffee shop and picnic building, around which there are lovely lawns.  A little further along is a Cape Dutch building, previously the manor house which housed the Herenhuis restaurant, but now is the Zorgvliet tasting room.   Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet has opened in the building that was previously the tasting room, its owners having found the manor house too stiff for the more casual and relaxed atmosphere they wish to create. 

The owners of Café Dijon are not French at all, as I thought, but locals.  Johan (‘Dup’) du Plessis grew up on a neighbouring farm and his wife Sarah comes from Somerset West.  Sarah trained at Silwood Kitchen and then worked in Monaco for Sir David Brown of Aston Martin fame.  Dup grew up in a household in ‘which real men don’t cook’, but he did learn to, and they met at Deltacrest outside Franschhoek.   When it burnt down, they decided to open a ‘Thirties style bistro in Stellenbosch, opposite the Town Hall, offering classic French dishes and comfort food, which Sarah said suits the design of the venue perfectly. 

The restaurant interior is very large, and looks like a tasting room, with barrels on the walls and still having the tasting counter.   It was much nicer sitting outside on a lovely pre-winter Saturday afternoon,  and here seating is very casual at long green benches and tables, and a few small café-style tables and chairs.  Cheap striped placemats are on the table, with Eetrite cutlery.  There are no table cloths. French music plays inside, and when I heard Françoise Hardy singing it brought back nostalgic memories of seeing her concert in Cape Town about forty years ago.  She is one of Dup’s favourites.

Almost all the waiters were previously employed by the Zorgvliet restaurant, and Wilma was friendly and efficient.  It was odd to see a manager hiding inside the restaurant, when all the patrons were sitting outside.  She only checked on one’s satisfaction after each course was served, but did not stay outside to check on things generally.  Wilma had to ask Sarah some of my questions, so she came to chat, sitting down at the table, and I found her to be very charming, down to earth and passionate about what she is developing at Zorgvliet.  She showed me a patch that is to become their vegetable garden, visible from the outside seating.  She wore a House & Garden apron, and both she and Dup cook, meaning that one is assured of the best.

There is no printed menu, but a blackboard lists the menu items, which means that what is offered can be changed regularly, depending on what the chefs have in stock.   The menu has mainly starter type items, and I chose two of these – a generous serving of duck liver paté (R50), served with redcurrant jelly and toasted baguette, which unfortunately was burnt, so I asked for more of the crispy untoasted baguette, which had been brought to the table with Olyfberg olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  This was followed by Norwegian salmon on which was placed a tian of fennel avocado, cucumber and prawn (R60), a lovely fresh summer treat.  Other starters include fior de latte caprese, venison springrolls, three-cheese-tartlet with salad, parma ham and melon, and chicken and mango salad, ranging in price from R50 – R65.  Sirloin and fillet cost R115, Karoo lamb R130, pork belly R100, braised veal short ribs R110, butternut ravioli and gnocchi bolognaisse (R80), and vongole linguini R90.  Desserts cost R30 – R35, and include chocolate mousse, creme brûleé, and home-made ice cream (flavours on Saturday were coffee, condensed milk and Frangelico with walnuts).

The winelist is in a brown plastic cover, and only Zorgvliet wines are available, under the Zorgvliet (R145 for whites and R150 for the reds) and Silver Myn (R110 for whites, R125 for reds) brand names, the latter wines being offered by the glass too, at R25 for the whites and R28 for the red wines.  One can order Zorgvliet White, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the Richelle 2005, which costs R500.  The Silver Myn is available in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.  The vintages are listed on the winelist.

The opening of the new Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet has created confusion, with some readers of the restaurant write-up in The Month thinking that the Stellenbosch branch has closed down, Sarah said.  They have a good team there, and Sarah and Dup will be mainly based at Zorgvliet, being closer to their home. The menu is similar but not identical at the two Café Dijons. 

I was impressed with the food served at Café Dijon @Zorgvliet, but found the venue too large for the few guests.  It was lovely sitting outside, and I am not sure how the large venue will work with inside seating on winter days.  Chatting to Sarah made all the difference to my enjoyment of being there, and she is a valuable asset that should be connecting to her guests, as she is a good people’s person, and as her manager is not fulfilling this role.

Café Dijon @Zorgvliet, Banhoek Valley, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-2580.  www.cafedijon.co.za  (The new Café Dijon @Zorgvliet is not yet on the website).  Wednesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.

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