Last Friday my French housemate and I went to eat lunch at Osteria Tarantino, the tiniest Italian restaurant in Cape Town, seating no more than 32 pax inside and outside. We had both wanted to try it, based on word of mouth, but were disappointed with our experience, and found it to be exceptionally expensive. I question whether any of the dishes are freshly made for diners. Continue reading →
Yesterday I met Urban Lime Marketing Director and friend Katie Friedman for lunch at Kleinsky’s, a New York Deli-style, kosher-style, Jewish cuisine eatery on Church Square, being developed as an exciting new inner-city food hub. Kleinsky’s is the second Delicatessen to be opened in Cape Town, its Sea Point branch having opened two years ago. Continue reading →
On Friday I tried the new Winter Menu at Terroir, it being anything but wintry weather-wise. The lunch was set up at short notice by Eske of Manley Communications, who had extended the invitation on behalf of the restaurant, as my planned trip to Greyton was confirmed that morning. 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 →
Prior to going to the Women’s Day Divas Unite concert last Sunday, my friend Jenny and I had lunch at the new Rustica restaurant in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel. We experienced a restaurant that serves inexpensive ‘Italian-inspired‘ home-style comfort food.
The restaurant space used to be half of The Banting Kitchen, which closed down before I could write the review, riding the Banting craze last year. The other half will become Café Royale, which opens tomorrow, serving the hotel (and outside) guests breakfast and lunch, as well as cakes and coffees, which responsibility is that of Rustica until the end of today. Continue reading →
I had been invited to try Seelan Restaurant & Bar a few days after it opened in March, and it was still in set-up phase at that time, a number of dishes on the menu not yet available, the menu and winelist not being perfect, and the service still needing to be streamlined. The restaurant’s new PR company Communication Services Africa invited me for a return evaluation, yesterday being a perfect day to do so, to enjoy the good weather at the outside seating, and the generous lunch.
Beverage Manager Dominic remembered me from the previous visit, and provided a media release which PR executive Kyle Krok had left for me, and copied the wine list for me. He went through the ‘menu’ I would be served, but came back after the first course, to tell me that Chef and owner Seelan Sundoo was preparing a special ‘adventurous’ menu for me. I was looked after with excellent service by Marilyn Baardman, whose late father had worked for Seelan. She is the best water topper-upper I have ever experienced, and was excellent in ‘reading’ me and my requirements. The multilingual front of house hostess Goshia, whom I met at the opening, has since left while Justin Paul Jansen is still there, but was not on duty yesterday.
Dominic told me that the Oakhurst olive oil they have on the table comes from an award-winning farm in Tulbagh, and judged as one of the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oils in the World recently. The Aceto Balsamico di Modena balsamic vinegar is imported from Continue reading →
The space that once was Gesellig on Sea Point’s Regent Road had been standing unused for a couple of months. Now it is the home of Flatteur Café, a ‘specialty coffee shop’, according to its co-owner John du Preez, and is worthy of its name, meaning flattery in French, or so I thought on my first visit. Unfortunately the second visit a few days later was disappointing.
John told me that they do not want to become a restaurant but that they want to focus on being a good coffee shop. They use Origin coffee and its Nigiro teas, and I enjoyed a perfectly made dry cappuccino (R20), even though they only have ‘Flat White‘ on their coffee list, yet they were happy to oblige. The menu is short and sweet, and will change every two to three weeks. They offer a number of different coffee styles, two or three cakes daily, baked by John’s Polish partner Rafal Glenc, as well as muffins (R12), scones with jam and cream (two for R20), Danish custard slices, and a range of unusual sounding biscuits, including ginger, coconut and sultans, butternut, as well as muesli rusks.
Breakfast is served all day, a choice of scrambled eggs served with salmon and rye bread, a steal at R45, or served with mushrooms (R35); muesli, honey and yoghurt (R25); and French Toast served savory with Brie and tomato jam, or sweet, with fresh fruit and mascarpone. On Friday I enjoyed the corn fritters with bacon and cherry tomatoes (R45). Sandwiches are available too, on a choice of rye bread, ciabatta, and toasted croissant and cost between R45 – R55, including steak and parmesan, poached chicken breast marinated with red peppers and tapenade, and mushroom served with salsa verde and Dijon mustard. Salads cost R45, and are a grilled Caprese, Lentil salad, and a warm winter salad with roast vegetables and couscous. A Special of the day on both days was a Feta, tomato and rocket omelette (R35). Chef Catherine is friendly, having moved to the city after selling her Bamboo Beach restaurant in Sandbaai, outside Hermanus. All the staff smiled, and were welcoming on the first visit.
John and Rafal lived in London for twenty years. It was John who wanted to return to his home country (he grew up in Mossel Bay), and they chose Sea Point to set up their new business, not ever having run such a business before. Rafal is a passionate baker, baking the French chocolate cake (R30), Lemon Meringue (R28), and Cappucino Cake (R40), the latter being so popular that it is sold out on most days. They did not know predecessor Gesellig, and have smartened up the interior, with a reed ceiling, finished off the deck onto the Church Street pavement, added new wood dominant furniture on the upper level, used ‘blikborde’ decoratively on one of the walls, used wood cladding on the kitchen counter, and created a new cake and coffee counter. A large poster gives a French feel, as does the French café music. Each table has a ‘blikbeker’ holding the sugar sticks, to continue the theme. Cutlery is by Fortis. Books are displayed on the steps of the spiral staircase.
Flatteur Café is a friendly homely coffee shop serving excellent food at very reasonable prices. I wrote all the above (other than the menu details) after my first visit. When I went back on Friday it was as if the personality of Flatteur Café had changed completely. From friendly and welcoming on my first visit it was as if they did not care, with no menu brought to the table, nor order taken. The friendly chef also wasn’t on duty, and I was horrified to see her assistant spraying a pan with what seemed half a canful of Spray & Cook. John seemed completely disinterested, working on his laptop, not checking on his two tables with customers, while the barista/waiter had his back to the coffee shop and was sharing photographs on his phone with the assistant cook, and ignoring his customers too. I had asked John for the menu to be e-mailed, to save me writing it all down, but it never arrived, despite a follow up call. A lovely fellow guest Jadee, who follows the Restaurant Specials on our blog, was on her first visit on Friday, but had arrived earlier. She fed back that a strange atmosphere was tangible whilst the chef had been there earlier in the morning. It is disconcerting that Flatteur Café could have such a personality change in its first two weeks of operation.
Flatteur Café has fantastic potential, especially in Sea Point, which is short of quality restaurants and coffee shops. One hopes that John will come out of his shell, and connect with his customers more, to make them feel welcome when they support his establishment. Rafal and Chef Catherine add value with their special food, and the interior is attractive. Parking in the area is scarce.
POSTSCRIPT 14/6: I returned earlier this week for delicious scones, and was delighted to meet the other partner Rafal, charming, friendly, and attentive. Sadly, John ignored me completely, appearing hurt by our review above. John and Rafal are now running their own kitchen, having let the kitchen staff go.
Flatteur Café, corner Regent and Church Street, Sea Point, Cape Town. Tel (021) 439-3174. www.flatteur.co.za Facebook. Monday – Friday 7h30 – 18h00 Saturday and Sunday 8h30 – 18h00. 50 megabyte free wifi per visit.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @Whale Cottage
It was on a visit to Birds’ Café about three months ago that I noticed the papered-up space two doors away, and heard from Birds’ Café that a restaurant was to open. I was lucky to meet Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room owner Lyndall Maunder, who has worked with David Higgs and George Jardine, was ex-Superette chef, and has been an avid visitor of the USA, in the about-to-be renovated restaurant space, which previously housed a motorcycle repair shop. An unbelievable renovation relative to what the space looked like before has created a buzzing and busy American-style hamburger joint on Bree Street, named after Lyndall’s mother’s maiden name.
The restaurant is L-shaped, one entering into a front section with a massive metal-top counter at which one can sit on wooden bar stools and see the three chefs prepare the dishes in rapid succession, and the waitron staff prepare the drinks. Lamps are industrial, funky globes unhidden by any lampshade. One non-descript artwork is too small to make any impact on the large wall, and there is a photograph of the motorcycle mechanics at the entrance. Plants in terracotta pots line the shelves, even in front of the windows of a back section, adding a green touch to an otherwise white interior. On Saturday over lunchtime there was only space available at the counter, and Lyndall had her hands full in preparing all the food with her two assistants, one of them Chef Marcel, not stopping for one minute, not even having time to greet any customers or at least nod in recognition. The busy restaurant is an amazing feat for a city which is quiet on weekend days, and which only really got going a week ago, having closed over the festive days after its early December opening, as business in the city centre was so quiet. Sebastian was the most communicative staff member I spoke to, but appeared to know very little about his boss and the motivation for her American-themed diner, not even being able to obtain this information from his boss! The rest of the restaurant has tile-topped tables with wooden chairs. A paper serviette and Fortis cutlery is pre-set at the tables and on the counter, with bottles of Heinz ketchup, salt cellars, and pepper grinders.
Not American at all is the concept of a ‘Stammtisch’, a German tradition of regular guests having their ‘own’ table, with their name on it, which one can be requested to vacate if the Stammgäste arrive, the menu explains, and requests one not to be offended if this should happen.
As I sat down Sebastian brought a glass of water, without knowing me or asking for it, probably an American touch. The menu is a very simple laminated white sheet, which is easy and cheap to update, even having a space for specials to be written onto it. Unfortunately there are a number of typing errors on the menu. On Wednesdays – Fridays the menu says that the restaurant stays open until ‘late’, which could be as late as 2h00, Sebastian told me, depending on demand. The customer profile to date is a mix of businessmen from nearby, coming in for the all-day breakfast or lunch, or they are ‘poppies coming to be seen’, he said. From the menu one can see that Lyndall is a no-nonsense type of lady, with every menu category having serving times specified, e.g. Breakfasts are served until 17h00, salads and sandwiches from 11h00 – 17h00, burgers and sides from 11h00 until late, wine and beer are served from 10h00 until they close, and hot and cold drinks are served throughout the day and night. The menu also has a ‘note on Clarke’s’, explaining ‘you may pick up from our menu that we’ve got a thing for that lump of land across the pond called the US of A – what with burgers, cheese fries, Reubens, Cobb Salad…They may have cursed us with the atrocities of fast food but the humble beginnings of their cuisine certainly wasn’t ill-intended and they have some cool, tasty as hell stuff that’s a lot of fun. If you do it right and with great produce you can end up having the greatest meal you ever ate’. The suppliers are named, being Bill Riley Meats’ free-range beef, burger buns come from Trevor Daly in Worcester, coffee comes from Deluxe (supplying the machine as well as a full-time barista), breads come from the Bread Company in Muizenberg, Juicebox supply the juices, and from The Creamery comes a selection of four artisanal ice creams. In my experience on Saturday, the last sentence in the welcome and introduction was not evident at Clarke’s: “We love being here and we love having you, so please enjoy your time with us and visit again soon”. I popped in to say hello at Bird’s Café afterwards, and the warm welcome from Chef Leigh Trout was a delight, compared to what I had experienced at Clarke’s.
Breakfast options include a Fruit Cup, and raisin and pecan nut bread with maple butter, costing R20 – R25. Cooked breakfasts range from R40 – R55, and one can order scrambled egg with sausage, mushrooms and a muffin; eggs, bacon, sausage and mushrooms; hashed browns with poached eggs, asparagus and hollandaise; Huevos Rancheros, being refried beans, eggs, and avocado; omelette stuffed with spinach, smoked aubergine and goat’s cheese; and French Toast, sounding absolutely indulgent in consisting of a Nutella and banana-stuffed croissant with bacon, fruit, crème fraiche, bacon, and caramel Turtles, and Mrs Butterworth’s syrup. Sandwiches cost R25 – R45, and include grilled cheese, a pulled pork sub, ‘chicken parm’ sandwich (with tomato ragout and Colby cheddar), a Reuben (brisket, braised cabbage, Emmental, blue cheese dressing), and a pressed vegetable sandwich. For brunch one can have a Caesar or Cobb salad, smoked tomato soup, and macaroni and cheese, costing around R 40. I never eat hamburgers, but decided to order one as I believe this to be the essence of Clarke’s. One can order any type of burger, as long as it is a Cheeseburger or Veggie Burger, at R50, with extra for bacon and fries. The Cheeseburger was served in a big toasted bun, in a papered green plastic basket, with a tiny portion of pickled cucumber and onion relish on the side. I missed a slice of tomato and gherkin. The patty was prepared rare-ish, and one is not asked how one would like it. While one knows that the meat quality is excellent, it seemed expensive for what one got (without chips). For dessert one can order a ‘sweet pie’ of the day, or three scoops of The Creamery ice cream, from a choice of peanut butter, natural, cardamom, and coffee, at R35. No cappuccino is specified on the beverage list, and probably the American equivalent is the Flat White, at R16.
Beer is served in quarts at R28, or at R16 – R20 for Corona, Savanna, Hunter’s Dry, Amstel, Windhoek, Black Label, and Tafel beer. Surprising is that there is no craft beer, given the restaurant’s proximity to AndUnion. The wine selection is disappointingly small for a ‘Bar’, with four options (no vintages specified), but at least each is available by the glass, for Groote Post Old Man’s Blend, Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc, Springfield Life from Stone, and Fat Bastard Shiraz, in a range of R 25/R95 – R 40/R150.
Clarke’s is a great new addition for the city centre for a drink, a bite to eat, or a coffee, given its excellent opening hours and easy-to-park convenience after hours and on weekends. Owner Lyndall can be a caring person, as experienced at Superette, but needs to let go as chef and take on the role of owner, to connect with her customers, so that she can build relationships with them, to ensure that they return.
Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room, 133 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-7648. www.clarkesdining.co.za Twitter: @ClarkesDining. Monday – Tuesday 7h00 – 18h00, Wednesday – Friday 7h00 – late, Saturday 8h00 – 15h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Rhapsody’s opened in Green Point last week, where Doppio Zero used to be, perfectly positioned for business when the Cape Town Stadium hosts events, and for locals in general. It is the first full-scale restaurant of this Pretoria-based franchise group in Cape Town, and the 12th for the group, which has ambitious restaurant opening plans for next year. It was chatting to the Executive Chef Claire Brown, previously of Pierneef à La Motte, and some of the passionate managers that gave me confidence that this restaurant won’t be another franchise restaurant, but one that wants to make a difference for Capetonians.
I was intrigued when I first saw the logo on the boards outside the restaurant when I visited neighbouring Café Extrablatt about a month ago, and they told me the name of the restaurant. The franchisor of the group and owner of the Cape Town branch is Michalis Xekalos, who opened his first Rhapsody’s branch in Menlyn, Pretoria ten years ago. There are Rhapsody’s restaurants in Ghana, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, and Bedfordview, and an ambitious expansion plan for next year includes Continue reading →
Yesterday I revisited Laborie wine estate in Paarl, to try their new Harvest restaurant which opened almost a month ago, and which has now been taken back by property owner the KWV. I found it vastly improved, and to be the best of all the restaurants in which Chef Matthew Gordon is or has been involved.
Chef Matthew has been synonymous with restaurants in Franschhoek, and attracted attention when he had three restaurants in the village, when other chefs (e.g. Reuben Riffel, Camil Haas) went outside the village boundary when they expanded their restaurant portfolio. It was a shock to hear earlier this year that he had not renewed his lease at Haute Cabriere, a restaurant he started 16 years ago. He also had a joint ownership in The Grillroom (but not anymore), the French Connection, and Cotage Fromage (also withdrawn). In Cape Town he consulted to Vanilla in the Cape Quarter. One did not expect him to pop up in Paarl, but his mother Penny told me a month earlier that he would be opening the restaurant at Laborie. The lease of the previous Laborie restaurant operator had expired and the KWV had chosen to not renew it. Whilst the food was good, its service was not, I found on my visit earlier this year.
The unfriendly service at the security boom unfortunately has not changed, and I laughed when the new Manager Yolanda Prinsloo told me that it is the same company that Grande Roche uses for its security, the security staff providing the worst and rudest security service I have ever experienced. They were true to form yesterday, being pedantic about why they were asking where I was going on the property, and then justifying at length why they had to ask, rather than opening the boom! One parks at the back of the building, and I immediately noticed that the terrace has been built up and extended out, with its beautiful view onto the Drakenstein mountain. I also walked past the very newly planted herb garden, and saw the vegetable garden behind the parking area after it had been pointed out to me. Being a lovely Cape summer day, I chose to sit outside, as did all other patrons.
The restaurant interior looks lighter and whiter, and Yolanda told me that it was the work of restaurant decorater Francois du Plessis (who also did Dash and Dear Me Foodworld). It was a surprise, given the less-is-more and low key decor, mixing most of the old and adding little new, retaining the (rearranged) brown leather furniture inside, the flow of the long room divided by serving tables, with new white curtains with a hessian ribbon. White-painted branches of a fruit tree were the wall decor, with little vases attached holding fresh white rose buds and rosemary. More and more Winelands restaurants are using interestingly shaped vine pieces on their walls (Johans@Longridge doing it best, but also at Creation), but I thought the Laborie ones odd, white against white not working very well. The walls are filled with rather heavy-looking Cecil Skotness paintings and while valuable and belonging to the KWV, they did not match the name of the restaurant or its interior at all. The Skotness exhibition has been spread across to all the Laborie buildings. Most odd was the decor touch in the bathroom, with three white clipboards to which had been clipped cut-out pictures of women from magazines! On the terrace modern white LED-lit pots have been added to the terrace edge, planted with white roses. The outside tables are less attractive with wooden tops and heavy metal bases, with an uncomfortable bar midway. The chairs are light aluminium frames with black cane. Grey couches and a table divide the outside seating area. I sat next to an old oak tree, in which someone had put their cigarette ‘stompie’, which had not been picked up by staff. My waitress seem quite disinterested when I passed on this feedback to her. Disappointing by contrast to the decor is the lack of a table cloth on the outside tables, and the unbranded little perspex salt and pepper grinders. Cutlery and crockery is by Fortis, and a material serviette is supplied. The restaurant seats 80 patrons inside and 100 on the terrace.
Yolanda told me that she had started her career as a waitress at the Grande Roche, working her way up to Deputy GM in the twelve years that she worked there. She then moved to the Three Cities Group, and worked at The Rex and Plettenberg Park on the Garden Route. She came to check that everything was in order regularly, and I admired her patience when a pushy German supplier came to peddle his wares during lunch service. All the staff of the previous restaurant operator have left, which is an improvement for the restaurant, now falling under the estate manager Cobus van Graan, who was dining at a table next to me. Geraldine White is the Head Chef, previously having worked at The Grillroom. Chef Matthew acts as Consultant Chef, and came to say hello, a nice touch. He told me that they were expecting 700 people for the Carols by Candlelight last night, and that they were preparing picnics for it. Laborie branding comes through on the black aprons worn by the waiters, and umbrellas on the terrace.
Yolanda introduced the menu to me as being ‘South African contemporary cuisine’, serving ‘organic and free range produce’. It is presented on A3 board, and the waitress showed me all the headings on the menu which I could order from, which I told her I could read. She told me that the mussels had ‘sold out’ (at 12h45), that creamy spinach is served with all main courses, and that the specials of the day were a free-range chicken burger and marinated porcini mushroom salad, both at just over R60. The problem with French menu names (such as potato dauphinoise) is that the staff cannot pronounce them, and my waitress really struggled with this word. Disappointingly ordinary Ciabatta slices were brought to the table with old-fashioned butter balls, and little milk jugs of olive oil and balsamic. I ordered Kingklip when I was told that it was the linefish, and Chef Matthew served it with mash as they do not serve rice, as well as with a tomato, onion and bean salad which covered the fish, giving the dish a nice colour touch, and fennel adding to the enjoyment. It was one of the best kingklip dishes I have tasted. Disappointing was that it was not served with a fish knife. Other main course options include a Karoo lamb burger (R68), and a selection of steaks ranging from R90 for 180g fillet to R118 for 250g fillet. With these can be ordered sauces and butters (e.g. Café de Paris) at R18 each. The menu specifies that the sirloin, rump and prime rib are free-range and come from the Weltevrede farm in the Free State ‘when available’. One worries about the carbon footprint of getting the steak to the Cape, when there are other very good sources of meat closer by. Steaks are vacuum-packed and aged for at least two weeks, the menu states.
For dessert I chose fresh summer berries served with a Sabayon sauce made from Laborie Chardonnay the waitress said, although the menu describes it as a Late Harvest. It was served in a beautiful glass dish. Most desserts cost around R40, and other options are an Apple and boerejonggens tart served with a Marula anglaise and homemade gingerbread ice cream, a chocolate tart with a hazelnut and chocolate spring roll and homemade Kit kat ice cream, crème brûlée, and cling peach cheesecake with pistachio anglaise and balsamic syrup. I liked the touch of the coffee bean on top of the well-made cappuccino.
The menu introduction sounded a little corny and is partly misleading: “What makes us stand out from the crowd… is it,(sic) the catch of the day delivered fresh this morning, our genuine Karoo lamb and beef (the beef comes from the Free State the menu says lower down), fresh produce from our veggie patch (but I saw the truck delivering many pockets of potatoes), herbs from our garden or the fact that we use free-range and organic where possible? The answer… all of the above, plus fun and fresh in everything we do. Harvest, a haven for good times, friends and fun for the whole family. Are you ready to experience the difference?” . The media release states that ‘Matthew sources produce locally from the Paarl region’.
The lunch and dinner menus differ in that sandwiches and salads feature strongly on the Lunch menu. The Dinner menu has interesting starters and main courses, including a duck parfait (R48) starter, and mains of ‘Tooinjies River’ quail risotto (R110), springbok fillet (R135), rack of Karoo lamb (R125), and duck served with Van der Hum sauce (R125). The winelist has predominantly KWV and Laborie wines, but a few other wines are listed too. Wines by the glass cost only R20 for Laborie Cap Classique Brut 2008 (R90 per bottle), Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Chardonnay 2010, and KWV Classic Pinotage Rosé. Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut costs R80 per glass and R750 per bottle. Laborie Shiraz 2010 costs R120, and other brands offered are Landskroon, the KWV Cathedral Cellar, Laborie Jean Taillefert 2009, and KWV Mentors 2009 (at R310).
I refused the offer to have the meal comped, as I had not been invited and had chosen to come for lunch, but appreciated the offer. Harvest staff needs waiter training, but the improved standard of the new restaurant and its quality food makes it a viable alternative to Bosman’s at Grande Roche, the only other restaurant worth considering in Paarl.
Harvest Restaurant, Laborie, Paarl. Tel (021) 807-3095. www.laboriewines.com. Monday – Sunday lunch, Saturday breakfast, Wednesday – Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage