Tag Archives: Francois du Plessis

Superwoman Chef Jenny Morris launches ‘World Atlas of Food’ and own wine range!

imageHow does Chef Jenny Morris do it? In one week she has launched her new series of Jenny and Reza’s Fabulous Food Academy on Food Network, launched her new ‘World Atlas of Food: 100 countries,  a world of flavours’, and has launched her new Jenny Morris Giggling Gourmet range of wines made Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Harvest Restaurant at Laborie Chef Matthew Gordon’s best!

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  He also had a joint ownership in The Grillroom (but not anymore), the French Connection, and Cotage Fromage (also withdrawn).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

Cape Town City Centre Restaurant Route: a collection of gems!

Whilst I dislike going into the city centre during the day, due to the irritating parking guards, I am pulled to the city centre more and more due to the ever-growing collection of good restaurants and coffee shops.  This blogpost is a summary of some of Cape Town’s inner-city highlights:

*   Hemelhuijs– owned by interior and restaurant consultant Jacques Erasmus, previously from Manna.  Emphasis is on freshness. Creative unusual menu.  Breakfast and lunch served.  Monday – Friday 8h00 – 15h00.  Saturday 9h00 – 15h00. Open for dinner on Wednesday evenings.  71 Waterkant Street. Tel (021) 418-2042.

*   Dear Me Foodworld – a hot new addition, with a Francois du Plessis decor emphasis on green (both interior colour and herbs grown from the ceiling, see photograph above) and health, with most dishes offered as lactose-free and/or sugar-free alternatives.  Menu changes daily.  Great creative chef Vanessa Marx. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 15h00.   Open for dinner on Thursday evenings.  165 Longmarket Street.  Tel (021) 422-4920.

*   Tjing Tjing Bar– when Dear Me Foodworld closes late afternoon, its upstairs Ting Tjing Bar opens, serving tapas, changes regularly. 165 Longmarket Street. Tuesday – Saturday from 16h00 until late.  Tel (021) 422-4920.

*   Escape Caffe– one of the hottest coffee shops in the city centre, featured in the media for its lemon cheese cake.  Owner Lameen Abdul-Malik has a Nobel Peace Prize for his joint efforts to ensure the safest possible use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Serves organic blend artisanal coffee from Espresso Lab.   Monday – Friday 7h00 – 16h00.  Saturday 9h00 – 12h00.  130 Bree Street.  Tel (021) 422-1325.

*   What’s On Eatery– probably the restaurant with the friendliest owner (Trevor Jordaan) in town, serves Breakfast and Lunch on weekdays from 7h30 – 16h00, and Dinner from Tuesday – Saturday.  Coffee by Origin.  Excellent value.  Exciting news is the appointment of Chef Oliver Cattermole from 1 October.  6 Watson Street.  Tel (021) 422-5652 CLOSED DOWN 2011

*   Rhubarb Room– coffee shop inside decor shop, previously in Bo-Kaap.  Serve cakes, coffee (by Deluxe), soup, quiches, and salads.  High tea offered for baby showers, kitchen teas and birthdays.    Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00.  Saturday 9h00 – 13h00.  227 Bree Street. Tel (021) 424-2004. CLOSED DOWN 2011

*   Valora– stylish new restaurant, bar and café.  Try Chef Andrew’s Two Tone soup. Extensive menu choice, includes tapas.  LavAzza coffee.  Great for late snack and drink. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 22h00, Saturday 17h00 – 23h00.  Corner Loop and Hout Street.  Tel (021) 426-1001.  CLOSED DOWN 2012

*   Skinny Legs & All – interior decorated with paintings from co-owner João Ferreira art gallery.  Emphasis on freshly made food.  Advised by Brad Ball of Bistro 1682. Run by sweet pair of twins Jamie and Jessie.   Monday – Friday 7h00 – 16h00. Saturday 8h30 – 14h00. 70 Loop Street.  Tel (021) 423-5403.

*   Roberto’s Signature Restaurant – expect interesting things to come from Roberto de Carvalho, leader of the SA chefs team in Culinary Olympics, and ex-chef at Twelve Apostles Hotel.  Simple food, mainly in Portuguese style.  Excellent Tiramisu. Located below On Broadway, so very busy between 7 – 8 pm to cater for the theatre crowd.  Tuesday – Sunday 12h00 – 15h30, 18h00 – 23h30.  44 Long Street.   Tel (021) 424-1195. CLOSED DOWN 2013

*   6 Spin Street – unusual restaurant setting inside the IDASA book shop.  Well-known for its cheese soufflé and duck.  Monday – Friday Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner from 8h30.  Saturday dinner only.  6 Spin Street.  Tel (021) 461-0666.

*   French Toast – focus on its large range of wines by the glass offered, but interesting tapas offering.  Monday – Saturday 12h00 – 23h00. 199 Bree Street   Tel (021) 422-3839.  CLOSED DOWN 2012, BUT RE-OPENED AS THE ODYSSEY IN 2013

*   Jason’s Bakery– recently opened where Jardine’s used to be, owned by Jason of ex-Jardine’s Bakery.  Bakery and Café. Sandwiches, breakfast, soul food, and vegetarian.  Monday – Friday 7h00 – 15h30. Saturday 8h00 – 14h00.  185 Bree Street.  Tel (021) 424-5644.

*   Haas Coffee – increasingly popular city hot-spot without any parking guards, and usually a parking spot available close by.  Friendly and welcoming, and part of Haas Collective decor and art.  Cakes, tarts and food menu, including cooked breakfasts.   67 Rose Street. Monday – Sunday.  Tel (021) 422-2239.

*   Piroschka’s Kitchen – Hungarian Flammkuchen with Gluehwein on cold days. Monday – Friday 11h00 – 19h00.  106 Bree Street. Tel 083 327 3203 CLOSED DOWN, NOW ONLY AT MARKETS

*   Bread, Milk and Honey – busy breakfast and lunch spot, for take-aways or sit-down.  10 Spin Street.  Monday – Friday 6h30 – 16h00.  Tel (021) 461-8425.

Il Cappero – hard-working Sicilian chef and charming husband Aldo in front-of-house.  Not-so-usual Italian and Sicilian specialities.  Monday – Friday lunch.  Monday – Saturday dinner. 3 Barrack Street.  Tel (021) 461-3168.  MOVED TO CAMPS BAY

*   Charly’s Bakeryfamous for its cake creations and cheeky cupcakes, one can also sit down for coffee, cake, pies and cupcakes.  Ample parking, no parking guards.  38 Canterbury Street.  Monday –  Saturday. Tel (021) 461-5181.

Maria’s Owners Kate and Cleon Romano are charming hosts, and the restaurant has a lovely buzz, and many tapas-like Greek dishes as well as mains.  Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner. Great lunch spot after City Bowl Market. To open for Sunday lunch soon.  Dunkley Square, 31 Barnett Street, Hatfield.  Tel (021)  461-3333.

*   Bird Café and Gourmet Eatery – Quirky milk-crate seating, decor change has opened up the kitchen, great quality food, friendly service.  New owners Keith Mink, and Leigh Trout (ex-chef at Mange Tout, Mont Rochelle Hotel in Franschhoek), opened on 1 September. 127 Bree Street.  Tel (021) 426-2534.

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

Hotel Review: Queen Victoria Hotel chic and classy – fit for a Queen!

The Queen Victoria Hotel, which opened about a month ago in the business section of the V&A Waterfront, is a chic and classy addition to the accommodation collection in Cape Town, and is a unique tribute to Queen Victoria, after whom the V&A Waterfront is named, with her son Alfred.   I felt like a queen for the stay with the royal treatment we received, it co-inciding with Mother’s Day.

A Google search led me to a review of a biography of Queen Victoria, and I learnt from it that Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 at the tender age of 18, and was a short (“less than 5 feet tall”) and feisty lady, who took to wearing “black robes with white caps and veils” after the death of her husband Prince Albert.   These two colours, to which Newmark Hotels’ consultant interior designer Francois du Plessis has added a modern silver and grey, and regal shades of lilac/purple, create the stylish interior of the hotel, developed out of the original office building of the V&A Waterfront management company by architect Tarryn Cohen of Peerutin Architects.  It is hidden to the Waterfront visitor, and that adds to its charm in not being in the midst of the V&A hustle and bustle.

One is greeted at the dramatic black marble entrance by a doorman, and the reception desks are immediately visible at the entrance.  We were welcomed by GM Bobby Pringle (ex-Oyster Box), who was the Duty Manager for the day, and we were impressed to be taken to our room by him personally.  He was meticulous in showing us the room directory, the tea/coffee facilities, the mini-bar, the bathroom amenities, telling us what one could take home, and the free internet service.  The comfortably-sized rooms (40 – 50 sq. m) have grey walls, discreet white bedding, a lilac couch, a silver headboard to the comfortable bed, beautiful silver raw silk curtains, a crystal chandelier, and black furniture, while the bathroom is in black and white, with touches of silver and grey, and quality linen bathrobes are hung here.   There are three showers in the bathroom, one over the bath and two in the shower, the hand-held one having a wonderful strong flow.  A large drawing of Queen Victoria is in every room, a clever way of communicating the hotel brand name.  Being new, everything in the room was in perfect working order. The rooms have double-glazed doors to ensure that the minimal Waterfront sound is heard in the room.  A nice turn-down touch was the colour-matched black macaroons with white filling, placed next to the beds, continuing the colour theme.

The triple-volume entrance hall is dominated by the regal purple carpet, a modern glass lift, a beautiful curved stairway made from Corian, with marble steps, and a 30 year old bonsai imported from Japan.  It leads one to the bar and lounge area, where a homely gas fire is lit on chilly nights, and from which one can see Dash restaurant, which serves the best meals in Cape Town.   The bathrooms near the bar are done in black with silver basins, one of the nicest I have seen.

Neil Markovitz, Managing Director and hands-on driving force of Newmark Hotels, is proud of his new 35-room addition to his hotel portfolio, developed at a cost of R53 million, and he has cleverly appointed Alton van Biljon (ex-Balducci) as the Food & Beverage Manager for all three his Waterfront properties (Dock House and V&A Hotel too), as well as Executive Chef Stephen Templeton.  Both are charming assets to his business, as is the creative and talented chef Oliver Cattermole. The lounge/bar at the Queen Victoria Hotel is the type of place one can pop in for a coffee, and the staff already know about my preference for frothy cappuccinos.  Outside of lunch and dinner times one can order from a 24-hour menu, which is available to the hotel guests, whether one is staying over or not.

Breakfast is served in Dash, and was a most beautiful display on a striking silver table, of fresh fruit, citrus fruit compote, berry compote, breads, salmon with capers and lemon, cold meats, cheeses, three cereals, three yoghurts, a beautiful stand with pre-made cereals, and yoghurt and custard treats, nuts, croissants and more.  In addition, an a la Carte menu is available, with interesting names of cooked dishes which relate to the Newmark Hotel properties: Royal Breakfast is salmon on a bagel; Dock House is bacon, mushroom and scrambled egg; V&A is fried egg, bacon, sausage, potato and onion rosti, and baked beans; Nautilus is poached haddock and kipper, served with poached quail eggs; Forum is a vegetarian Eggs Benedict, made from duck eggs, with creamed spinach and a herb hollandaise sauce, served on an English muffin, which we had, on the recommendation of Restaurant Manager Darren; Cape Breakfast is an omelette with a range of filling choices; and Waterfront is bacon served with raisin toast, warm maple syrup and crême fraiche.  Breakfast costs R250 for hot and cold breakfast, and R 135 for the Continental only, if one is not staying at the hotel.

Parking is available inside the Waterfront business area.   Anything one may need, that the hotel may not have, can be sourced from one of the two other Newmark Hotels’ properties in the Waterfront – for example, I wanted firmer pillows, and these were made available from the V&A Hotel.  The hotel check-in form gave me a fright, when I saw seven clauses in literal fine print, written in heavy legalese, which would no longer be acceptable in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. I panicked when I was asked by the receptionist to hand over my credit card for a R500 pre-authorisation for ‘incidentals’.  I wasn’t planning on having any extras, was staying for one night only, and paid for my dinner at Dash immediately, so this request was waived.  I was staying at the hotel on a complimentary basis, having attended an invited media lunch at the V&A Hotel OYO restaurant  last summer, and all guests were given a voucher for a one night stay at the Queen Victoria Hotel.   I was impressed with a feedback card which was placed in the room, signed by Markovitz and which one posts to him, providing feedback on Reception and Porterage, Room appointment and Housekeeping, the Restaurant, Bar and Room Service, and the Spa and Gym facilities (one goes to Dock House for these).

I feel at home at the Queen Victoria Hotel, being a frequent visitor to its lounge already, and am made to feel very special every time I am there.  I predict Dash will become an Eat Out Top 10 restaurant in 2012.  The hotel is offering a winter and opening rate until 31 July, at R1875 per room, including English breakfast, an amazing price when one sees that many other 5-star Waterfront and Cape Town hotels charge more than double this rate. 

Queen Victoria Hotel,  Portswood Close, Portswood Ridge, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-1466.  www.queenvictoriahotel.co.za

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

Restaurant Review: KOS Coffee & Cuisine new green gem!

It was a surprise to walk past a waitress of the newly opened KOS Coffee & Cuisine on Regent Road in Sea Point on Thursday, standing at the entrance to the building in which this coffee shop is located, and I decided to check it out.  I knew that it would serve cappuccinos, as the owner of the neighbouring Wild Flour had told me that she would not be serving them, due to the opening of the new coffee shop.  It was the best cappuccino I have had in a long time, and certainly the best on the Atlantic Seaboard.

When I first saw the name KOS I thought of the Greek island by the same name, until I clicked that it is the Afrikaans name for food.  It is very green in colour, and reminded me of Dear Me from the colour, only to hear from the owner Phillipp Oosthuizen that he is a friend of Francois du Plessis, who is the interior designer for Dear Me.  Phillipp is proud that almost everything in his coffee shop is ‘recycled’, meaning that it was previously used.  All the chairs have been painted green, plants demarcate the coffee shop space, scatter cushions are in green fabric, and green branding all add life to a most unusual restaurant space, being the lobby of The Regency, a largely unlet ‘self-catering hotel’, I was told.  Despite the lobby being open to the street, KOS is set away from the street, and I was not cold at all on a wintry day.  I saw one gas heater, which would be too few as winter progresses.  The perspex ceiling retains the heat of the sun, which may become a problem in summer, in making it too hot.  

My table had a table cloth, but others did not.   Salt and pepper grinders are on the table, and the fresh rose was a special touch, not seen often any more.  The menu is printed on an A4 sheet of paper, and is short and sweet.  It does not list the prices of the coffee and cakes, the latter visible in a cake display cupboard.  An unlisted special offers a cup of coffee and a slice of cake for R35, I was told verbally.   Before Phillipp could confirm it, I guessed that he had raided his mom’s crockery cupboard and cutlery drawer, and picked the most lovely collection of English china plates, cups, saucers, and sugar bowls, giving the restaurant a sophisticated feel.  Nothing matches crockery-wise, but it does in terms of the era.  I liked that the butter was served in a little milk jug!

Angie is the manager, and was really sweet, looking a bit nervous about what to do with me.  She was obliging in selling me a chicken breast to take home, and asked me to make her an offer.  She accepted the Woolworths price of R10.  She also gave me a proscuitto roll to take home, because I had to wait for Phillipp to arrive.  She sweetly asked me if I had to pay, when I told her about the blog, as she asked why I was taking photographs and asking her questions.  I said that I pay for every meal, except those that I am invited to, and these are declared.  Angie and Phillipp run a fitness studio in Mouille Point, called Body Vision.  Phillip has been a Springbok triathlete, and  said that he has had the studio for quite a while, and was looking for a new challenge in opening KOS, brave for this time of the year.  Neither Phillipp nor Angie have any restaurant experience, perhaps refreshing in not having any preconceived ideas about running a restaurant.   The barista  Xolisa is charming, and proudly told me that he learnt the art of coffee-making at Conrad Gallagher’s Sundance coffee shop on Buitengracht Street.  His Deluxe-coffee specially created KOS blend cappuccino (R18) was excellent, at double strength.  The staff wear black, with a black and white check apron, and Angie and Phillip wear a cheeky-looking cap.  Green aprons are on their way, Angie told me.   

I love that KOS serves an all-day breakfast, and I ordered a scrambled egg (R25), and returned for a plain omelet (R35) the following day, which I chose to have with toasted 100 % Swedish Rye bread, which they source from The Real Bread Company in Fish Hoek.  The Breakfast menu offers oats porridge ar R25, served with a choice of fruit, cinnamon or peanut butter!  Eggs are served scrambled, fried or poached, and cost R35 with bacon, and R40 with salmon.  For lunch one can order a selection of salads costing R45 – R50, with smoked salmon, Haloumi cheese, or free-range Chicken Breast.  Sandwiches are also available, at R40 – R50, being very generous sized rolls with fillings such as chicken, proscuitto, figs, mozzarella and avocado.  Angie said that they will work on the menu, and adapt it as they go along.

The service is still slow, and Angie did apologise, as they have only been open for a week.  The staff and management are very friendly.  A number of Sea Point residents came by to have a look, all taking a menu home with them, and promising to come, happy that they have a new place to go to.  I liked the sweet touch of presenting the bill in a bowl with rose petals.  There is no signage on Regent Road yet, but they can be found next door to Clicks.  I’ll be back, for the excellent cappuccino alone.

POSTSCRIPT 11/5: Lovely vegetable soup, in a beautiful plate.  Linen overlay on table from Phillip’s mom’s linen cupboard.

KOS Coffee & Cuisine, The Regency, 90 Regent Road, Sea Point, between Clicks and Wild Flour, close to La Mouette.  Phone not yet connected – Angie 072 246 6945.  No website.  Tuesday – Sunday, 7h00 – 16h30.

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

Restaurant Review: Dinner at Queen Victoria Hotel’s Dash is dashing!

I was invited to try out the 34-seater Dash restaurant in the Queen Victoria Hotel, which only opened in the Waterfront on Saturday, last night.   Chef Steven Tempelton is the leader of a creative team at Dash, whose food not only was visually appealing, but excellent too, and was responsible for a most dashing dinner.  Dash is one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Cape Town, and an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant coontender for 2012.

The 35-bedroom Queen Victoria Hotel, previously the V&A Waterfront company head office, cost R53 million to transform into 5-star luxury, and the interior decor was done by master ‘craftsman’ Francois du Plessis, who has also just done Dear Me restaurant.  Cleverly, Newmark Hotels MD Neil Markovitz has arranged for the nearby Everard Read gallery to hang some if its artists’ works in the hotel, benefiting both parties. Dash has been honoured by a dominant work by Beezy Bailey.  The work is called “The Storm has passed”, and reflects the style of food created at Dash.  The back of the painting has a poem by Bailey:  “As the storm cleared/The dove escaped the cat’s claws/While the blueberry elephants passed by./As God’s tears hit the sky,/they turned into flowers”.

I was welcomed on arrival in the lobby, in which the 30-year old bonsai imported from China holds centre court, by Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon, whom I had already seen in action last week, when I popped in for a tour around the hotel, led by Markovitz and the hotel’s PR consultant Ian Manley.  Alton has always been a most charming host when he worked at Balducci in the past four years, and has impressed with his knowledge of and passion for wine.  He started his career in retail. He moved into hospitality, and worked at Belthazar and Poplars before managing Balducci.

Chef Stephen Templeton grew up in Somerset West, and has been the Executive Chef at Sun City and the Mount Nelson Hotel.  He also was head of a team of 47 chefs at Harrods, the largest Food & Beverage operation in Europe, he said.  After a four year period in running Four Oaks guest house and restaurant in Montagu, he had an opportunity to sell it, and move back to Cape Town. It was in this time that he was approached by Newmark Hotels to become Group Chef, mainly responsible for their restaurants at the V&A Hotel, Dock House and Queen Victoria Hotel, all in the V&A.  Chef Stephen says that he was hands-on in the development of Dash, in sourcing its crockery, cutlery and glassware, in developing a fine winelist, and creating the unique menu.   The name for the restaurant was the result of a five hour brainstorm with the hotel’s executive team, and it was Ronan Jackson from the design agency that suggested the name, after Queen Victoria’s spaniel.  Chef Stephen and Francois du Plessis worked together to create a ‘New York sexy’ interior and menu that complement each other, and Du Plessis has said that it is the first time that his decor has been so well matched by a menu.  Chef Stephen is aiming at presenting ‘sophisticated, stylish, contemporary yet simple food’ at Dash, which he more than achieves.  He wants the food’s personality to shine through, not that of the chef.  Chef Stephen has an interesting team of nine chefs in the kitchen, with an average age of 24 years.   We laughed when we discovered that there is a Chef Jamie and a Chef Oliver in the kitchen.  I met Chef Oliver Cattermole, who created the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’ of vegetables that is served with the beef fillet.  He worked at one-Michelin-star Novelli, and at The Ivy in London.  All staff have been taught to make coffee, and have tested the menu, to allow everyone to assist guests, as if one were in a guest house and not in a hotel, Chef Stephen said.  The waitress looking after me was Coral, and was honest in saying that she has just finished studying, and that Dash is her first job.  She was sweet, willing to execute every request, but still lacked some knowledge on how the magic is created in the kitchen.  She went to ask the kitchen all my questions. The staff wear a white shirt with the Queen Victoria Hotel logo on it, black pants and a white Dash-branded apron.

The welcome was warm, with Alton taking me through to the lounge, where I was invited to have a drink.  I chose a coffee.  Chef Stephen was happy to hear that I had starved during the day, in anticipation of the dinner.  Vegetable crisps were brought to the table as a snack.  I asked Chef Stephen what would happen if the 34-seater would run out of space in the 35-room hotel, and he assured me that they would pass the business on to the other Newmark Hotel restaurants in the Waterfront. Chef Stephen sees Dash operating in the league of The Roundhouse, The Test Kitchen and Aubergine

The restaurant has a black tile floor, an impressive black marble surround fireplace dividing the lounge/bar area from the restaurant, beautiful silver curtains, and a wonderful view onto Table Mountain.   The Beezy Bailey is the only colour splash in the room.  The tables are black metal, made by ‘in’ designer Gregor Jenkin I was told by Francois du Plessis, with white leather chairs.  There are no table cloths, but a good quality serviette, with very heavy and solid Sambonet cutlery imported from Germany, the first time I have seen this locally.  The glassware is excellent.  There is a little candle, and rather ordinary tiny white salt and pepper cellars, probably superfluous anyway, given the excellent food, not requiring seasoning.  The only criticism I shared with Alton was the music selection, being heavy jazz initially, and sounding hotel-like generally.  I reminded him of the great music one hears at Belthazar and Balducci.  The bar is lit with purple lighting at night, and bounces off the bar chairs, creating an interesting visual affect as one enters the bar area.  The colour of the lighting changes throughout the day.

I chose a starter of confit of crayfish on a cucumber sockle with a coriander and paw paw salad (R145).  The impressive part of its presentation was the paw paw crisp, creating a centerpiece to the starter, and tasting sweet and crispy.  Chef Stephen explained that paw paw is liquidised, then glycerine is added, it is baked for nine hours, and then thin slices are cut to create the crisp.  The cucumber was as fresh as could be, as was the salad, the paw paw in it echoing the crisp.  Sorrel foam completed the presentation.  No sauces got in the way of the natural fresh taste of the elements of the dish. No fish knife was served with this starter.  Other starter choices, ranging in price from R55 – R145, include beetroot cured salmon, oysters served on seaweed, wild mushroom ragoût, Ceasar salad, seared foie gras, and caviar (SQ).  The surprise was the most amazing sorbets that were served, and I was allowed three: I chose the Tomato Granite, to which Coral added vodka; a most refreshing Lime & Lemon; and the most amazing Rose, complete with its own rose petals dipped in egg white and crystallised.  The sorbets cost R25 for a choice of three.

The main course choice of Grilled fillet of beef with herb mash and spinach purée with vegetables and port jus (R140) has created a stir.  This menu description does not do justice to the amazing creation that arrived – three slices of fillet on mash, but it was the presentation of the vegetables that created the ‘wow’ response, dubbed by the staff as the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’, an amazing symphony of carrot, tomato, mushrooms, orange-coloured mini corn-cob, baby radish, baby aubergine, baby turnip, sheets of cauliflower stalk, and tomadillo (tasting of tomato with the texture of aubergine, looking like a green gooseberry), so beautifully presented.  Chef Oliver called it ‘psychedelic vegetables’, and told me that he sources them from the Magic Man in the Karoo.  Main courses are reasonably priced, some being cheaper than the starters, and range from R95 to R145 for roasted sea bass, lobster tortellini, venison, tomato and beetroot tart, scallops, lamb noisette, and duck confit risotto.  The dessert list consists of four options, ranging from R50 – R70, in addition to a Cape cheeseboard (R115), and I chose the Pimms jelly, mint bavois and strawberry sauce, beautifully presented with a long elegant spoon, and well paired with a glass of Silverthorn The Green Man sparkling wine (made by Steenberg GM John Loubser in his private capacity). Other dessert options are chocolate fondant, coconut panacotta, and liquorice macaroons.  Coral brought a cappuccino made with Origin coffee to have with the dessert, and a sweet touch was a jug of extra froth, showing that Alton must have read a Tweet of mine a few days ago about the extra froth a waiter had brought me at Salt Deli, also a Newmark Hotel property.

Alton indulged my love for Shiraz, and poured a glass of Quoin Rock 2006 (R208 per bottle), with violet notes.  Coral brought tap water with an ice bucket and slices of lemon.  The winelist is impressive, bound in grey leather, with the hotel logo on it.  Champagnes and MCC sparkling wines are at the back of the winelist, normally found at the front.   Each wine variety is described, and the origin and vintage of each wine is presented, as are the tasting notes for each wine, generated from a tasting panel’s evaluation of each of the about 100 wines listed.  This is a future Diner’s Club Diamond Award winelist candidate.  The champagnes start at R 940 for Guy Charbaut Select Brut NV, going up to R3500 for Dom Perignon Vintage. Veuve Cliquot Rosé, Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve, and Pol Roger Brut Reserve are also available.  MCC’s start at R200 for Moreson Solitaire, with High Constantia Clos Andre costing R445.  Shiraz choices start at R 205 for Raka Biography, up to R 1390 for Saxenburg SSS Shiraz 2005. The wine-by-the glass policy is interesting – there are no prices for these, but one can order any wine on the list by the glass, within reason, and then Alton and his staff will try to sell the rest of the bottle to other guests.

If there is one taste at Dash that I will never forget it is that of the Rose sorbet – a taste I have never experienced before.  Dash is excellent, and perfect, and I know that the music selection will be addressed, as will the waiters’ food knowledge evolve.  They are so many items on the menu to return to, to try out.  From photographs of the other menu items it is evident that each dish is a work of art in presentation alone. The kitchen closes at about 22h30, but one can pop in at the 24-hour Dash bar for a drink, a coffee or even a dessert, ordered from the room service menu, after the kitchen has closed.  After being a loyal V&A Waterfront shopper for twenty years, it is refreshing to have such an excellent quality restaurant so close by, yet away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial Waterfront area.  I salute Newmark Hotels’ MD Neil Markovitz and his team in creating such an exceptional restaurant.

POSTSCRIPT 14/4: I went back to Dash for a quick coffee and more sorbet, and to show my colleague the Queen Victoria Hotel and Dash restaurant.  Restaurant Manager Darren looked after us, and organised the extra cappuccino foam on the side, from reading this review.  The hotel is almost booked out with delegates from Brazil attending a Tupperware conference.

POSTSCRIPT 8/5: Staying over at the invitation of the Queen Victoria Hotel presented an opportunity for me to introduce my son to Dash, which he was very impressed by.  Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon was most generous in offering us a bottle of Hartenberg The Stork Shiraz 2005, knowing my love for an old-style shiraz.  The chef sent out two complimentary dishes to those we had ordered: the appetizer was a tomato, basil, and mushroom dust, served on a heavy slate plate, reminding me of the work of Eric Bulpitt, previously of Jardineand now at The Round House.  We both ordered a filling starter of wonderful wild mushroom ragout in puff pastry, served with green beans and bearnaise (R65).  Alex had the beef fillet with the ‘Alice in Wonderland vegetable garden’, while I ordered Springbok loin, carrot purée and turnip gratin (R135).   We shared a trio of Rose, Lemon and lime, and Orange and citrus sorbets (R25).   The chef sent out a complimentary pannacotta and lemon sorbet for usto share.   A wonderful evening, once again with an excellent meal, and charming and highly-impressive service by Alton.

POSTSCRIPT 15/5: I returned to Dash with Carole, my colleague in Hermanus, and we were well looked after by Restaurant Manager Darren and Chef Oliver Cattermole.  I tried the Duck Confit Risotto with citrus and herb potpourri, the potpourri containing tea, dried duck (tasting like biltong) and herbs, and served in a separate bowl, which I sprinkled over the risotto.  Carole had the Beef fillet and the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vegetable garden.  For dessert we had the Chocolate Fondant, which oozed Valrhona chocolate sauce when we opened it, with orange ice cream, a beautiful presentation.  I had my cappuccino with a jug of extra foam, always a nice touch! It was great to meet One&Only Cape Town Hotel Executive Chef Jason Millar, who was celebrating his anniversary at Dash, and to hear a chef’s reaction to the food of another chef – he was most complimentary.  Chef Oliver Cattermole is the driving force in the Dash kitchen, in my opinion, and has created a vegetable and herb garden on the roof of Newmark Hotels’ V&A Hotel, from which he will harvest for his kitchen in future.  

POSTSCRIPT 25/5: Another lovely lunch with excellent service at Dash today, spoiling my friend Jenny to a birthday lunch.  She was surprised to receive a birthday card from the hotel, and a surprise chocolate fondant dessert with her cappuccino.  Jenny’s Beetroot cured salmon with horseradish apple slaw was beautifully presented.

POSTSCRIPT 1/7: Today I took Trevor Jordaan for a birthday lunch at Dash.  I ordered a Cape Malay butternut velouté, while Trevor had a chicory and pickled pear salad, both beautifully presented.  Happy to hear how well the restaurant is doing, and has appointed an Assistant Manager Andrea.

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: Sadly, Restaurant Manager Darren Morgan left the hotel on Monday.  F&B Manager Alton van Biljon has taken a leave of absence, and his return date is uncertain, if he returns at all.  Andrea confirmed this evening that lunch will not be served at Dash for the time being.

POSTSCRIPT 12/8: I had the Mushroom Ragout again this evening, and the pastry casing was tough, and the size of the dish has definitely shrunk.  No Andreas Shiraz was available, which I had tried at Dash for the first time a month ago, when Michael McKenzie and I popped in. The waiter asked how I enjoyed the dish.  I said I didn’t, due to the shrunk size and tough pastry, to which he confidently retorted that the perfect pastry casing is tough! Chef Jamie was in the kitchen this evening. I shared the problem with Hostess Connie, and she apologised.  The waiter told me that the kitchen was sending out a second Ragout, but Connie arrived with the bill, having taken the Ragout off it, saying that the waiter had told her I didn’t want the replacement Ragout.  I got up and left in disbelief at this comedy of errors, the first evening of serious dissatisfaction at Dash.

POSTSCRIPT 25/9: We had a ‘last supper’ at Dash this evening, one of the last nights that Chef Oliver Cattermole will be in the Queen Victoria Hotel kitchen, before he starts at What’s On Eatery on Saturday.  I chose the Foie gras with apple, excellent, but pricey as a starter at R140.  My son enjoyed his Duck risotto (R125).  The Rose sorbet no longer is dark pink, as photographed above, and doesn’t taste as amazing as I remember it. Service efficient but functional, and the personal touch has gone. Excellent Andreas Shiraz 2008 now my favourite Shiraz.  Sad to see us being only one of two tables.  Despite being told in early days that all wines on the winelist are available by the glass, the limit is that only bottles under R300 may be opened for wines by the glass.

Dash Restaurant, Queen Victoria Hotel, Portswood Close, Portswood Ridge, V&A Waterfront.   Tel (021) 418-1466.   www.queenvictoriahotel.co.za (The Dash menu and winelist are now listed on the website, but the Image Gallery does not contain enough photographs to reflect the amazing creativity of the Dash chefs).

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

Restaurant Review: Dear Me is green and blooming impressive!

I was not sure what to expect from Dear Me restaurant, which opened about three weeks ago in the city centre, from its name.  When it got a thumbs up from Michael McKenzie, whose judgement I value, we decided to have lunch there last week. 

From outside on Longmarket Street one cannot appreciate what creativity is inside the three storey building, having a demure canopy with the Dear Me branding on the outside, and that is it.  One enters a spacious open plan restaurant, which leads to a small deli space as well as the counter on which the coffees are made by barista Nash.  The overall colour scheme is green, with green plastic moulded chairs, and a fun green flower pattern running from the bottom of the wall, even painted over mirror tiles.  Magazine and newspaper holders have been erected onto the columns, a clever use of space.   Even more interesting are the herb holders attached to the ceiling, each holder with a different herb, which can be pulled down, and watered every 10 days or so, the holders being cleverly designed in that they have their own irrigation system.  Similarly chef Vanessa Marx can cut some herbs for her dishes from these holders.  This clearly is a ‘green’ restaurant in more ways than one.  The wall alongside the staircase is a rough brick one, the unplastered effect adding an unusual dimension to the restaurant.

Dear Me and its upstairs bar Tjing Tjing belong to ex-accountant Ilze Koekemoer, very humble about her ownership of this beautifully restored 181 year-old building, which is predominantly painted in grey.  Ilse utilised South Africa’s übermaster interior decorator Francois du Plessis (he does all Newmark Hotel properties, for example, the Queen Victoria Hotel being his latest project).  Ilze says she always wanted to have a restaurant.  She said that she can cook, but that Vanessa does it better.   On the second floor is a little seating area with couches, as well as a boardroom table, with chairs as well as a couch around it for seating, over which a collection of plates has been hung. A large function room in white, including the flooring, the curtaining and walls, leads off the landing.  It is used for Thursday evening dinners, and for events such as wine tastings and art exhibitions.  I loved the crispness of the green chairs, the same as in the restaurant, in contrast to the white.  On this level is a most impressive large painting by Matthew Hindley, which one sees as one comes up the staircase.  Hindley is a graduate of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, and spends time in Berlin regularly.  He has been a disciple of ‘Gesamtkunst’, combining painting, sculpture and drawing, writes Wikipedia.   I was particularly impressed by a smaller painting by the same artist, which was hung in an alcove which was unpainted and looked unfinished, but so by design, and brought out the best of the painting.  On the third level is the Chinese-inspired Tjing Tjing bar, which opens at 16h00, and at which tapas dishes are served when the roller doors of Dear Me have closed after the lunch service.  Clients access the bar from the restaurant entrance, by going upstairs.  The Tokyo wall in this room attracts attention, filled with photographs of a recent visit to Tokyo by Ilze and her husband, and over a part of which the designer has placed a logo.  This loft room is open plan, and has an interesting wood ceiling.  It opens to an outside balcony, with pizza oven, and here one can sit on warm evenings.  The name Tjing Tjing is a ‘South Africanised’ version of the words one uses to toast one’s friends when having a drink, Ilse explained.

There is a strong presence of ex-staff from Caveau in Newlands: Chef Vanessa’s ex-link to this restaurant is a surprise, given the poor image Caveau has, and her wonderful creativity at Dear Me.  She worked for Pete Goffe-Wood previously at his PGW Eat and Kitchen Cowboys, and then worked in Europe as well as in London.  Returning to Cape Town, she worked at Cassia on Nitida wine estate, before joining Caveau.  What is interesting is that Vanessa is a diabetic too, and is working closely with the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital just up the road in the setting up of a Diabetes Unit.  What was impressive is that the menu offers Dear Me guests vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free and starch-free options, and diabetics can be catered for as well, if Vanessa is informed.   The very efficient waitress Rumby, and the very knowledgeable wine hostess Ronel, are from Caveau Newlands too.  The waitress wore a grey overall with yellow piping and pockets, a refreshing break from the black and white waitress dress one normally sees.  I liked Ilze’s pants, fitting into the decor theme both in terms of design and colour.

The menu feels crisp and new, and this is because the menu is changed daily, with the date identified.  It has a full page introduction of its ethos: “Our aim is to provide you with high quality food reflecting our core values of integrity, respect and diversity in an informal and accessible environment”.  Recognising that not all patrons have the same requirements in what they eat, Dear Me states that “our menu is designed to be flexible enough to always provide options for individual dietary requirements and our kitchen has a can-do flexible attitude”, which we experienced on our visit.  Only fresh and seasonal produce is used, and they follow “artisanal principles and will prepare all our food naturally to ensure maximum benefit to our customers”, preserving nutrients and ensuring goodness of the food that is served.   Dear Me has chosen smaller suppliers who share the commitment of Ilse and Vanessa to ‘sustainable and ethical food production practices’.  The sustainability extends to another ‘green’ side of the restaurant, and it is conscious of its carbon footprint and impact it may have on the environment, and “wherever and whenever we can, we reduce, reuse and recycle our waste”.

The last sentence in the introduction explains the origin of the unusual name of the restaurant: “You should be able to eat with us every day and never feel guilty about compromising your personal food value and beliefs – the ideal was the inspiration for our name, Dear Me”.

The wooden tables have no table cloths, but quality material serviettes.  The cutlery is by Pintino from Italy.  I loved the presentation of the wholewheat and sourdough bread, wrapped in a napkin and held together with an old-fashioned wooden peg, presented on a beautiful green lotus-shaped plate. Nine main courses were offered, and six of these could be ordered as starter portions too.  Each item on the menu, bar the soup, had a wine suggestion, with a bottle and wine-by-the-glass price. Six of the dishes were indicated as having a health alternative.  Michael ordered the roast sweet potato, caramelised onion and goats chevre tart (R45) as a starter portion, very creamy, and the salad served with it had a good dressing, while I had organic Elgin tomato soup, basil and pecerino croute (R35) to start, perfect for a rainy day. 

For his main course Michael had grilled spatchcock quail (R110), and proclaimed it to be delicious, to be full of flavour, and none of the flavours jarred, he said.  I had slow roasted free-range pork loin served with butternut fritters, wilted greens, crispy sage and cooked apples (R98), the pork being somewhat chewy.  It was served with a very serious looking knife.   Other menu options were organic baby fig and shaved bresoula salad (R58/R78); home-cured trout gravadlax (R65/R85); grilled aubergine, curried split pea vinaigrette and feta salad (R46/R66); seared Lourensford trout (R105); and Chalmar beef sirloin (R125).

I could not resist trying the desserts, even though they are relatively expensive compared to the good value starter/main course prices.  I managed to encourage Michael to share a quince and apple crumble topped with shaved almonds, with almond milk ice cream and walnut praline (R50).  We were surprised to be generously served a dessert each, but to be charged for one only, mine coming with diabetes-friendly ice cream, proactively organised by Chef Vanessa, without us having asked for it.  I found the crumble to be a little dry, but liked the quince and apple combination to which raisins had been added, and the ice cream tasted as good as that which Michael would have been served.  Other dessert options were a chocolate torte (R60), lemon posset (R45), rhubarb soft-serve (R35), a selection of local cheeses (R65), and chocolate truffles can be ordered at R10 each.  Nash came to our table once I received my cappuccino (R16), and he spontaneously talked to us about the coffee, which comes from the Espresso Lab at the Old Biscuit Mill, where he did his barista training.  My cappuccino was made from a blend of organic coffee beans from Ethiopia, Brazil and Panama.   He said that the blend makes a full-bodied, distinctive tasting coffee, as the beans are not over-roasted, comparing it to food that should not be overcooked.  There are no additives or pesticides used in the production of the coffee beans, Nash assured us.

The two-page Breakfast menu looks wonderful, and is presented on a pay-for-what-you-choose basis, which is innovative and rarely offered.  Different muesli options, including the wonderful Bircher muesli, cost R 30, and one can add fruit (R18), and/or lactose-free or low lactose yoghurts at R8 each.  A fruit plate costs R35.  Porridge costs R18, to which can be added seeds or nuts (R8), or fruit (R18). French Toast comes in three options, ranging from R35 – R50. Boiled eggs and soldiers cost R22, to which can be added bacon and vegetables, costing R18 each.  Poached eggs cost R45, to which can be added hollandaise sauce (R8). Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and truffled scrambled eggs are also available, the latter costing R70.  Plain scrambled/boiled/poached/fried eggs cost R10 only, while a basic omelette costs R15, to which one can add bacon, charcuterie, smoked trout, anchovies, mushrooms, spinach, capers, avocado and more, the cost of each specified.

Dear Me offers its patrons free filtered tap water.  I liked the wine storage area underneath the staircase, and the attractive impactful storage containers. The wine prices range from R20/R77 for Cape Atlantic Sauvignon Blanc 2010, to R68/R270 for Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2009 on the menu.  The winelist is bound in a leather holder, and looks impressive.  Each page has the Dear Me logo on it.  There are eight MCC’s, ranging from R43/R170 for Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel to R455 for the Cederberg Blanc de Blanc.  Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R49/R195) and Colmant Brut Reserve (R65/R260) are also served by the glass. There are five Shiraz choices, Rickety Bridge costing R42/R165 and Migliarina R300.  Tamboerskloof Shiraz is also available by the glass, at R49/R195.

Dear Me is one of a number of new exciting restaurants to open, where the focus is strongly on the interior, making a strong visual impression, and allowing one to escape from a busy and stressful outside world.   There was nothing to fault at Dear Me at all, and one could not believe that the restaurant had only been open for two weeks when we ate there.  While it is the type of brasserie at which one would want to pop in regularly, parking (or lack of) during the week is a deterrent, but one is advised to park in the Netcare hospital parking garage on Loop Street.  Dear Me is refreshingly different, admirably green, admirably health-conscious, good value for money, and very friendly and welcoming.

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: I returned to Dear Me today, to finalise the winelist and Breakfast write-up, which I had missed last week, probably in talking too much!   I have added it above.  I had Chef Vanessa’s refreshing Caprese Salad starter portion, with Buffalo Mozzarella and fresh basil (R55).

POSTSCRIPT 14/4: I returned for Thursday dinner, with my colleague Marianna, so that she can recommend it to our guests.  Interior designer Francois du Plessis was having dinenr there, and came for a chat. He told me that Gregor Jenkins made the dining table upstairs, and he also crafted the tables at Dash restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel.  One pays R 240 for three courses, which is excellent value, as an amuse bouche and a palate cleanser are brought to the table as well, making it a five-course meal in fact.  If wine is added per course, it costs R 350.  Five courses cost R 350, and R 480 paired with wine.  Ronel looked after us most of the time, the first time that I had met her. Four choices of starter and main course are offered, and three desserts.  For her starter Marianna had the Tataki of yellow-fin tuna with pickled cucumber and ginger, oshi toshi and soy, while I chose the Wild mushroom risotto with parmesan and truffle oil, both outstanding.  The palate cleanser was a thick and creamy ginger and fig sorbet.  Marianna’s main course was Asian broth, kob, shitake mushrooms, noodles, lemongrass, ginger and chilli, a colourful and tasty dish.  I was most impressed with my Chalmar beef fillet, tender to cut, loved the crisp green beans and sand-less spinach with the most unusual glühwein-poached pears.  I didn’t like the gorgonzola cream on the steak, finding it too overpowering and rich.  Marianna had Buttermilk panna cotta with roasted rhubarb compote for dessert, while I chose the cheese platter, which I was less happy with, mainly due to the very dry and hard Melba toast.  I enjoyed a glass of Rickety Bridge’s Shiraz 2008 for R42, and had a small taste of port with the cheese, with the compliments of the restaurant.   The service was attentive and informative. A surprise was the noisiness of the downstairs restaurant, which Francois said he is working on to contain.

POSTSCRIPT 16/2: I have received an e-mail, announcing a new Pantry addition to Dear Me, with home-made breads, also available in wheat-free and gluten free variations, diabetic-friendly treats, relishes, cookies, buttermilk rusks, muffins, almond torte, and macaroons

Dear Me restaurant, 165 Longmarket Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021)  422- 4920. www.dearme.co.za (The website reflects the green interior design theme, and contains the most current menu.  There is no Image Gallery to reflect Chef Vanessa’s lovely food.  The winelist is not on the website.  There is no information about the Tjing Tjing Bar).   Twitter: @DearMeFoodWorld.  Monday – Friday 7h00 – 15h00, dinner on Thursday evenings.  Tjing Tjing opens at 16h00, until late.

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