The Sweet Service Award goes to the 14 top chefs, with their sommeliers and restaurant right hands, who made the ‘Chefs who Share’ gala dinner such a fantastic success last Thursday evening, preparing a top class dinner for 250 guests in pairs of two chefs in a temporary tented kitchen set up between the City Hall and the Woolworths head office. We salute Chef Rudi Liebenberg (Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson) who worked with a leg in plaster, as well as Chefs Margot Janse (The Tasting Room), David Higgs (five hundred), Christiaan Campbell (Delaire Graff), Bertus Basson Overture), Harald Bresselschmidt (Aubergine), Chantel Dartnall (Mosaic at The Orient), George Jardine (Jordan Restaurant), Jackie Cameron (Hartford House), Marthinus Ferreira (DW 11-13), Darren Badenhorst (Grande Provence), Chris Erasmus (Pierneef à La Motte), Peter Tempelhoff (The Greenhouse), and Reuben Riffel (Riffel Restaurants). A number of chefs traveled from afar, and all Continue reading →
A surprise addition to the V&A Waterfront is Vovo Telo, a small, boutique and petite artisanal bakery and restaurant franchise which opened its first branch in Cape Town at the beginning of this week. It is homely and welcoming, very un-V&A Waterfront and very un-franchise, and sells a range of excellent artisanal breads, as well as pastries. The essence of the brand is ‘love, bread, coffee’.
There are five branches in Johannesburg (the one in Parkhurst being the flagship), two in Pretoria, and two in Port Elizabeth. Mark Burger is the franchisee of the V&A branch, and is already eyeing other locations in Cape Town, Constantia being a potential. Mark has been in the food franchising business for the past thirty years, having started Skippers Fish & Chips and creating franchise branches, owning Debonairs, Bravo, and Fontana before selling these. He joined Famous Brands, the company which owns the Steers, Vivo Telo, Debonairs Pizza, Wimpy, Mugg & Bean, House of Coffees, and Tashas chains, and was their New Business Director when it was still called Steers Holdings. He has opened 300 – 400 franchises in the past 20 years, and is likely to be a tough-negotiating V&A Waterfront tenant. He says that they have become far more flexible already. When he signed the contract, he was not told that the V&A Food Court would be closed until November, inclusive of the seating area outside it, curtailing the traffic to his store.
To keep the business in his ‘bloodline’, he has teamed up with his nephew Jade and his wife Adele. Mark lives in Johannesburg, having a son at school there, but plans to move to Cape Town eventually. The store can seat 75 customers inside the 210 m² and outside, and has a classy yet friendly interior, with chandelier, and Persian carpets. A fun mural above the bread shelves reflects Cape Town, with Table Mountain, at which ‘table’ Queen Victoria is depicted, with a ‘I want my coffee’ tattoo on her arm. The decor is standard across all the Vovo Telo branches, done by Mary from Famous Brands. The name ‘Vovo Telo’ means ‘grandfather’s place’ in Portuguese, and comes from a holiday the three original owners spent in Madagascar, where they stayed at a Vovo Telo hotel, and saw a local with a baguette on his bicycle, igniting an interest to start a bakery named Vovo Telo in Port Elizabeth. The three original owners are still very hands-on in and passionate about their business. During the day one can sit outside in good weather, and the Marimba band performing nearby adds a good vibe. Tables are a mix of aluminium and wood, and chairs are white moulded plastic. Vovo Telo branded brown and white sugar sachets, and coarse sea salt and black pepper grinders are on the tables. The menu design mirrors the fun feel of the website. Paper serviettes are offered.
Because Vovo Telo is primarily a bakery, customers do not necessarily think that it will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as coffee and tea all day, with a selection of good pastries. I had heard on my first visit that a Master Patissier starts with the group next week, and he will be travelling between the different franchises, to do staff training on pastries, still an area with improvement potential, Mark said honestly. Part of the interior is the restaurant seating on the mezzanine level, and a few tables downstairs alongside the pastry counter and the massive bread oven. A small table has pieces of bread which one can sample with Olitalia olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread is special in that Eureka stone-ground flour is used, to which is added a special culture which is passed on from store to store. The bread dough leavens for 14 – 16 hours, to ‘ferment and rise’, I was told, and no preservatives are added. Dough is hand-rolled, making the baking artisanal. The baking staff were sent to a Johannesburg branch for training. Everything in the store is made from scratch, even the pasta, which Mark told me is already receiving rave reviews. Bread styles which are made are Ciabatta (R16), 70% Rye and 30% Italian flour (R22), Sourdough (R20), Cheese Sticks (R15), Olive breadsticks (R18), Panini (R6), Baguette (R11), and Olive Sourdough (R30). Ready-made sandwiches cost around R29, including salami, Reuben, ham, and Pastrami.
The pastry section displays whole cakes (e.g. orange almond, carrot, chocolate, pecan nut, cheesecake) available by the slice (R18 – R25), as well as pastries such as croissants (R10), berry pin wheel (R18), Pain aux Raisin (R15), Pain au Chocolate (R14), Cheese straws (R18), muffins (R18), apple tart, a delicious strawberry and fresh cream tart, and pear tart at R18. Coffee is by Ciro, and it is preferred that the cappuccino be served as a flat white (R16), but I was served a perfect dry cappuccino when I asked for it.
The menu is printed in green on cream paper, and states that any changes requested to menu items could lead to an additional 20 minute waiting time. It also states that all prices include VAT, something one does not see on other restaurant menus. All food is served on a sheet of branded paper on top of a branded wooden board. Breakfast is served until 11h30, and free-range eggs are used. Eggs can be ordered scrambled or poached (R22), with their breads, as well as a number of variations to which are added ham, cheeses, sauces, or boerewors. Croque Madame (wilted spinach, Gruyere cheese, poached egg, and sourdough bread) costs R52. Toast/croissant and jam and cheese or Nutella costs R 26/25. For the rest of the day, one can order gourmet sandwiches (R29 – R 39). Pissaladiere, being thin crust pizza bases made from ciabatta dough, range from R59 for Marinated tomatoes, and an olive and bocconcini mozzarella pizza, to R72 (ham and Brie, four cheeses, and Avocado, Gorgonzola, and Salami). I enjoyed their Classic pizza last night, with crispy Gypsy ham, feta, and avocado after (R69). ‘Handcrafted’ Tagliatella is made daily, and is served with fresh tomatoes (R48), steak (R69), zucchini and pine nuts, smoked salmon (R69), and basil pesto and pine nuts. Salads offered are green, honey mustard chicken, roast vegetables, and a harvest board, peaking at R59. No main course costs more than R82 (fillet steak), and one can also order a lamb burger (R67), salmon trout, and an antipasta platter.
To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s reign this weekend, Vovo Telo is offering an amazing value R14 offer of warm scones with mascarpone cheese, strawberry jam, and Boerenkaas for all of next week, making one ‘good to go for another 60 years!’, says its flyer. The application for the liquor licence has already been lodged, and is awaited. A small range of alcoholic beverages will be sold, including &Union beers, five or so boutique wines, and some whiskies.
For being in the V&A Waterfront, the prices of Vovo Telo are exceptionally good. The quality of the breads and the good coffee are a further reason to make a stop at this outlet. The staff is friendly, and the management is present all the time. The arrival of their credit card machine is eagerly awaited.
Vovo Telo, next to Vaughn Johnson, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-3750. www.vovotelo.com (Not much information on the website, Cape Town not yet listed). Twitter: @VovoTelo Monday – Sunday, 7h30 – 21h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The first Café Extrablatt in South Africa and only the second outlet in Africa, on Main Road in Green Point, one of a collection of 55 franchise outlets in Germany, Austria, Turkey and Morocco, opened at the beginning of the month. It offers a wide variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes and drinks, from early morning to late night, at the most reasonable prices.
Heading up the Café Extrablatt Cape Town is Guido Dierschke, a friendly proud company representative, who has worked for the company for seven or more years, in stores, in the head office management, and opening new stores. The first Café Extrablatt was opened in Emsdetten near Münster by Christoph Wefers with his brother Richard. The name relates to the Extra edition of newspapers, and a collection of Sunday newspapers was available when I visited. Magazines will be added too. The pay-off line ‘Das gewisse Extra’ (that certain extra) represents the restaurant’s ability to offer a special dish, and to have a special place in the restaurant for its customers, Guido said. In Germany there is an Italian style restaurant chain Scoozi and a Starbucks-style Voyton coffee take-away chain in the company collection, but these are not on the cards locally until the Café Extrablatt is running smoothly.
Being a franchise store, the interior decor reflects that of the German outlets. A lot of natural colours and materials are used, including leather for the chairs and couches, wood and marble for the tables, and the original wooden floors of the building have been retained to give it character. Woodbenders was used to make the furniture, and the colour palette includes leathers in orange, burgundy, green, brown and beige. Different table and seating styles are spread around the restaurant, upstairs and downstairs, to make seating sections, in which one can choose to sit, and to prevent the space from appearing as large as it is. In total the restaurant can seat 300 customers over the two levels (upstairs is for smokers), and there is seating outside on the street level and upstairs terraces too. There is a fireplace upstairs, each level having a large bar counter. The light fittings are unique to the franchise, and were made in Germany, being two styles. Downstairs in the bar area is a massive lamp made from copper pipes. On the other side of the restaurant and upstairs are ‘Tortenlampen’, designed to look like two-tier cakes. Wall lamps, with a grass look to them, are also uniquely made in Germany for the franchise outlets. There is a TV screen for matches downstairs. The location for events in the Cape Town Stadium is ideal, being across the road, and the Coldplay concert saw their first full-house. Staff wear black pants, the female waitresses white T-shirts and the males black ones, with a white apron. Cutlery is by Fortis Hotelware, cute mini salt and pepper pots are brought to the table, as are unbranded olive oil and balsamic vinegar holders, with paper serviettes.
Ryan Seale is the chef, having worked at events contract companies in the UK (Lord’s cricket ground, West Ham football ground), at Singita, and for a contract company doing the catering for the World Cup last year. His menu is largely that of the franchise, but with some additional dishes. All items on the menu are available throughout the day and night, with extremely long opening hours. A ‘German Corner’ pays tribute to the German heritage of the company, offering chicken schnitzel (excellent portion of two pieces, which I ordered with potato salad, but is listed to be served with a salad or chips, at an unbelievably low price of R35,95) and veal schnitzel at R49,95, Currywurst at R49,95, and Viennas and potato salad (made using Guido’s mother’s recipe, with apples and gherkins) at R35,95. A Breakfast Buffet with continental breakfast items, cooked breakfast as well as salads is offered at R79,95 from 8h00 – 12h00 on weekdays, and at R99,95 from 8h00 – 14h00 on weekends and public holidays. Individual breakfast items are also available, ranging from R32,95 for scrambled eggs to R45,95 for fried eggs, bacon and sausage. Many of the menu items offer a base item, with prices listed for additional extras and toppings. Bruschetta costs R 22,95 – R32,95, with tuna, ham and cheese options. Baked potato with sour cream costs R17,95, and chilli con carne, tuna mayonnaise, and salmon can be ordered as extra toppings. Pita breads with fillings cost around R40. There is meat (R45,95) and vegetarian (R39,95) lasagne, and Pick & Dips cost R11,95 – R29,95 for spring rolls, chicken strips, risotto balls and calamari. Burgers cost R39,95 – R49,95. Pizzas range from R35,95 – R67,95, and salads start at R27,95, peaking at R48,95.
Desserts are limited to Apfelstrudel at R29,95, and New York New York cheesecake from Chez Chez off Kloof Street, at R35. They also stock Eiszeit ice creams, and I had a wonderful strawberry sauce made by Chef Ryan with a yoghurt sorbet (R19 for one scoop). I had wanted to order the Apfelstrudel, but Chef Ryan came to the table, asking me not to, as he is only making his own from this week onwards. The cappuccino costs R16, and the coffee is by Hausbrandt. Asara wines (Ebony, Ivory, Fusion, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé) are offered by carafe (R32 – R38) or bottle (R90 – R120). Pierre Jourdan sparkling wine is offered by the glass (R32) or bottle (R155), as are Graham Beck (R195), Pongrácz (R175), and Veuve Clicquot (R550). Most beers cost R18, but Heineken costs R20, and beer on tap from Paulaner, Castle and Pilsner Urquell is available too. Cocktails and ‘mocktails’ are also offered.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
I had invited my friend Sarah from Durban to join me for dinner, and our first reaction was one of uncertainty as to whether we would be happy there. Everything changed when the charming then-Manager David Elsbury came to the table, and took personal care of us, entertaining us with his friendly and cheerful nature. He compared Knife to Carne and HQ as competitors in terms of the quality of their steaks. David worked at Wakami previously, and helped set up the new bar for Knife. He has left to move into a non-hospitality job, for the sake of better working hours to benefit his family. JD Haasbroek is a partner with Saunders in the business, and compiled the winelist, making sure to add boutique wine farm brands. The chef Jonathan Japha moved over from Fork.
David told us that the Knife at Century City is the first of a number of franchised steak and rib Knife restaurants planned, next ones to be in Johannesburg and Durban. A Spoon restaurant may also be considered, concentrating on soups and desserts, which seemed an attractive concept, we felt.
The menu is equally “mish mash”, reflecting the interior. It offers starters, salads, burgers, fish and shellfish, steaks and ribs, and platters. A selection of sauces, including creole mayo, wholegrain mustard, blue cheese, cumin and cream, and green peppercorn and bourbon sauce, costs R25 each. Extra sides of salads and vegetables can also be ordered at R 25 each.
A 400g portion of “smoked sticky BBQ baby back ribs” costs R 80, and a 600g portion R110. The ribs are oak-smoked and marinated for 24 hours in a special BBQ marinade. Steaks are cut from Chalmar beef that has been aged for 28 days before serving. David explained that Chalmar beef is grain-fed, and has no added hormones. Sirloin and rump steak choices are offered, at an acceptable price of R95/R115 for 200g/300g rump, and R110/130 for 200g/300g sirloin. Fillet costs R 135, but the portion size is not specified. Both meat types are served with French fries and corn on the cob (for the American touch!), as well as a sauce of one’s choice. David organised that my steak came with a boiled potato. The rump steak was excellent, cooked medium rare perfectly, as ordered, and the taste of the marinade came through. Sarah ordered the vegetarian sticky sweet potato stack with mozzarella and tomato relish (R40), and felt that there was too little vegetable and too much sauce, overpowering the sweet potato. She indulged in a Rocky Road dessert (R50), finding the marshmallows quite hard, making them difficult to chew, whilst the rest of the dessert was soft, “melt-in-the-mouth”, in her words.
Starter options range from R 40 â€“ R65, and include a variety of choices, including Creole mussel curry and Cajun lamb ribs. The Caesar salad costs R50, while a Nicoise salad made from seared game fish costs R70. Burger choices included one made from chickpea (R55), and a bacon and cheese burger (R65). On the seafood side one can order Creole fishcakes (R65), sole and line fish (R90), king prawn gumbo (R110), and crayfish tails at R180. A Meat platter costs R220 for two persons, and contains a selection of ribs, chicken wings, rump steak, lamb chops and a sauce. A Seafood platter for two persons costs R240.
The winelist has 16 wines-by-the-glass, and I chose a wonderful 2004 Stony Croft Shiraz from Stellenbosch, a Platter 4 1/2 star wine, according to David, which I had not previously heard of, and which was excellent value at R32. The list is simply divided into “White” and “Red”, and then sub-divided by variety, and the vintage and region is specified, but there is no description of the wine. Champagne Henri Giraud Espirit de Giraud NV costs R500, Krone Borealis R 40/R180, and Colmant NV R240. Sauvignon Blancs offered are Badsberg (R23/R92), Reyneke Organic Reserve White the most expensive at R270. Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz 2007 costs R400.
We paid R280 for a steak, a starter, a dessert, a cappuccino and a glass of red wine. As Knife is too far away from where I live, I will only go back when next I go on a shopping trip to Canal Walk. The steak is well worth a visit, and according to David, the ribs are too.
Knife restaurant, Crystal Towers Hotel, corner Century Boulevard and Rialto Road, Century City, Cape Town. Tel (021) 551-5000 www.knife-restaurants.co.za . The website is functional, informative, has various menus – Christmas specials, kiddies menu, main menu, brunch menu, etc., lists all the reviews, and has a small gallery – more photographs would be welcome. Monday â€“ Sunday 11h00 â€“ 23h00. Weekend brunch 10h00 â€“ 15h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
&Union Beer Salon and Charcuterie is a very trendy pub that is one of the favourite haunts of bloggers Dax of Relax-with-Dax, The Foodie and JamieWho, and they give its beer brands regular coverage via Twitter, so much so that I had to try it out – the first time about a month ago – and then I went back for the Brazil versus Portugal match last week.
To review &Union one needs to know that the owners were the founder owners of Vida e Caffe (Brad Armitage and Rui Esteves), who broke away to create &Union. &Union does not give one a Vida franchise feel at all – exactly the opposite is true, and it is commendable that the owners could start and maintain a business so radically different to what they did before. Also, untypically for Vida e Caffe, &Union has no visible exterior branding on Bree Street, but those that love the brand and share the passion, know where it is!
&Union is not a traditional pub – one sits outside on wooden tables and benches in summer, and for the World Cup a Moroccan style tent has been erected to cover all Cape Town winter weather options, with heaters if it gets cold. The tent has three strips of material on it, which are linked to a painting near the entrance, all related to the Puma Africa Unity Kit. It would be lost to most present, unless they had been invited to the launch of the new Puma beer a few days before.
We arrived just before the match starting time, and there was only a little bench available to sit on, a little removed from all the other benches, and without a table. I was impressed with Simon Wibberley, the Operations Manager, who seemed to know everyone coming into &Union, hugging and kissing (the ladies at least), and the guys all seemed to be friends. Simon stood near the entrance, and kept an eye on things continuously – no sitting back and having a beer and watch the soccer for him. It became so full that he eventually locked the gate, yet it did not feel crowded. The only problem was a lack of seating for everyone.
The beer list is an unusual brown A3 recycled sheet which shows its seven beers and tells the &Union story. The owners wanted to develop beer brands that are authentic, truthful and honest, and that stand for quality, heritage, tradition and taste. This led them to find “some of Europe’s oldest family-run breweries in search of artisan-produced beers that we are not only proud to produce for our customers but love to drink ourselves. We don’t believe we can single-handedly change the world of beer as it exists but with a little raw passion, blind optimism and reckless resolve, we can perhaps make a difference”, the beer list says.
This mission for &Union has led to the development of “luxury beers, handcrafted by our artisans from the finest natural ingredients. Our pils and amber ale are brewed using only 100% barley malt, yeast, hops, and water”. The beer is brewed for up to 8 weeks. The Pils and Amber are unpasteurised, the beer list says, to allow a “fuller, richer taste”. The passion comes from “Eating. Drinking. Living. That’s what we love. Pairing real beer with real food…”. This passion is lived in a small selection of food options, the seven beer choices, and, surprisingly, wines.
The beer list has a prominent packshot of each beer sold, and as an infrequent beer drinker and having been ignorant about the brand, the seven beer names meant nothing to me at all. The beer list is there to help, with better-than-wine descriptions of each:
* Unity Lager was developed for Puma’s “African Unity Kit” football campaign. It is “medium-bodied”, “silky smooth”, “malty”, “hints of apple and honey”, and has a “bittersweet floral finish”. It costs R40 for 500ml
* Brewers &Union Unfiltered Lager is “unfiltered, unpasteurized”, “bursting with flavour”. Cost is R 40 for 500ml
* Steph Weiss is a wheat beer, “delicate, smooth and creamy”, “aromas of vanilla and clove”. Cost is R 40 for 500ml
* Berne Unfiltered Amber is German-style, “buttery”, “toasty, bready malts”, “hints of caramel and toffee”. It costs R 40 for 500ml
* Brewers &Union Dark Lager is “beautifully hopped”, “dark roasted malt flavor” (sic). Cost is R 40 for 500 ml
* Touro Tripel Blond has a “creamy palate”, “fruity spicy malt flavour” It costs R 125 for 750ml
* Touro Tripel Amber has a “honeyed-amber malt aroma”, “hints of vanilla and caramel”. Cost is R 125 for 750ml
The menu is short and sweet: eight food options- a biltong bowl (tasted a bit vinegary) at R25; pate – made from charcuterie off-cuts and a bit too coarse for my taste – at R35; grilled weisswurst with mustard was excellent – at R60; Prego rolls cost R 60, available in beef and pork; the Charcuterie Board costs R65, and consists of coppa, parma ham and felino sausage; the “grilled juicy saucisson” board – a North African sausage made with 16 spices – costs R60; a 3-cheese board costs R65; and the salmon carpaccio board R75. Three “sweets” are offered, almond croissants (R15), Italian chocolate liqueur (made by Massimo from Hout Bay Pizza Club) at R20, and an espresso chocolate at R25. &Union also serves organic coffee. One can also have an early breakfast at &Union.
Two white and two red wines are served by the glass: Haut Espoir Sauvignon Blanc (R35) and Tamboerskloof Viognier (R40), and Landskroon and Boer & Brit ‘The General’ red blends, both costing R 40. Ten wines by the bottle start at R 130 for the Haut Espoir, and The Hedonist is the most expensive at R 210. I loved the name of the sparkling wine brand – Suikerbossie ‘Ek wil jou he’, made in Kimberley, a surprise wine region.
&Union is a refreshingly (pardon the pun) different ‘beer salon”. It cares about beer, food and its clients. It knows how to build relationships with its customers. It is not pushy nor hard-sell, maybe a little too laid back on the service, but regulars go inside and order what they want, not waiting to be served. The soccer did not have much “gees”, despite there being so many soccer fans. It is trendy, and no doubt will grow into an eatery and beer salon that will set new standards in responsible eating and drinking in Cape Town. The only dissonance for me is that wines are served (with some unfortunate typos in the wine list), given its name and beer focus. The challenge for the owners will be to keep it small and personal, the opposite to what they achieved with Vida e Caffe.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com.