Through a stroke of luck I was invited to visit Santiago in Chile for four days, and in this time I was able to drink some Chilean wines. I also visited Casablanca, a wine region outside Santiago, with my friends Guy and Pia, who live near Casablanca. Continue reading →
It was at a dinner with Katie Friedman of Urban Lime that I heard about the opening of Victoire, a French Boulangerie, Pâtisserie, and Bistro in the newly redeveloped Speakers’ Corner building on Church Square in Cape Town. I attended the opening, as well as had breakfast at Victoire the following day. Continue reading →
The Leeu Collection announced yesterday that its Le Quartier Français hotel has closed its Garden Room and Bar, to make way for Protégé, a new casual-style Eatery managed by Chef Scot Kirton, who already owns Le Petite Colombe restaurant in the Franschhoek hotel. The new restaurant and bar is set to open in late October. Continue reading →
A visit to Europe became more exciting when I decided to add a visit to France, dining at one Michelin star JAN restaurant in Nice, and continuing my World’s 50 Best Restaurants journey, eating at Mirazur in Menton (6th best), and at L’Arpège (19th best) and Septime (50th best) in Paris. Mirazur is the most highly ranked French restaurant, and has two Michelin stars. Mirazur means ‘look at the blue sea’. Last year I ate at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in New York, and in London. Continue reading →
Last week Eat Out dropped the bombshell that it is changing its ‘Best Of‘ awards, awarding an award in 10 categories (five of them new), in each of our country’s provinces, making it a total of 90 ‘Best of‘ awards! The method of selecting the ‘Best of‘ winners has changed dramatically, making the new winners of 2015 incomparable to those of the past four years! It appears to stem from Eat Out‘s desperation to be national, and not to be criticized for being so Cape-dominant in its awards. It makes a mockery of what the Eat Out awards stand for!
Almost three weeks ago Eat Out announced the shocking news that it had separated the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards from the ‘Best Of‘ awards, the latter awards to be presented in October already, in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. Given the news of the award base of what they are now calling Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Best Everyday Eateries Awards Continue reading →
* The French association of travel agents and tour operators has written to the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Tourism, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, requesting an improvement regarding the new Immigration Regulations regarding children traveling to our country. The association points out that tourism to our country will be harmed, by up to 40% they warn!
I drive down Rose Street in Bo-Kaap almost every day, and have been watching the slow progress made in a restaurant opening in what was one of my favourite coffee stops. After about six months of Haas having moved out, Batavia Café opened two weeks ago.
Old Haas fans may be disappointed with the lightweight decor, and design items for sale, following a similar concept as Haas in promoting not only its food at the Batavia Café, but also design in the Batavia section, by Cape Town designers such as Issa leo (menswear), Lazuli (womenswear), BO.NE nature made (African animal skulls), work by artists Annette Visser and Ina Grobbelaar, Gruparte (graphic posters and prints), and Oh dear Megan (jewellery designer). The first floor which housed the Haas ad agency has been let. The seating area in the little courtyard offers the most privacy. Many mixed-colour bunches of flowers, or a single stem in a Continue reading →
It was lovely to escape to Mauritius with the Top 7 Finalists of Season 3 in episode 12 last night, and one could almost smell the mix of African, Chinese, Indian, and French spices which characterises Mauritian cooking. Sparkling spicy Mauritian MasterChef UK 2012 winner Shelina Permalloo was the visiting judge, and broke the monotonous three-male-judges team we have experienced for all three seasons of MasterChef SA!
Shelina took the seven finalists to the fruit and vegetable market in Mauritius capital Port Louis. She spoke to them about the food heritage of the country, and how it inspired her cooking and success. Many of the fruit and vegetable items stocked in the market were unfamiliar to our South African Continue reading →
A unique magical musical and dinner show has opened at The Rainbow Room in Mandela Rhodes Place, in time for the festive season, as well as for tourists arriving in Cape Town. It is a unique way in which the his(story) of the establishment of Cape Town until the present day is told via music, dance and food.
Conceptualised by dynamic event co-ordinator Alison McCutcheon of event company Rainbow Experience Marketing, written by Deney Willie, directed by Godfrey Johnson (known for his Brel productions) and choreographed by ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ Didi Moses, the Cape Town Show is a â€˜Marvellous celebration of the people of the Cape, their history, freedom and magnanimous spirit of Ubuntu”. Talented young 19 and 20 years olds have been selected into The Rainbow Academy, and trained for the show. The Rainbow Academy allows its students “to earn while they learn” The show is hosted in a large space, perhaps too large initially until the audience size builds up, and is complemented with audio-visual images screened alongside the stage â€“ the vibrancy of the performers attracts one’s attention to the stage, so that one does not pick up much of the additional information on the screens. Images of Nelson Mandela flank the screens. The show with a three course dinner costs R295, and without dinner it costs R 120.
Prior to the first act one is served the starter, which is the most more-ish French-inspired Lavache crisp bread coated with black and white sesame seeds, served with hummus and a real Cape delicacy Cape snoek fish patÃ©. The first act focused on the arrival of the first visitors to the Cape, going as far back as 1488, with first arrival Bartholomew Diaz making a stop on his way from Portugal to the East. The cultures of the Dutch, German, French, Malaysian, Northern African peoples and other settlers is described, and the historical events of occupations and settlements, as well as the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 and of the Republic of South Africa in 1961 is narrated and sung. The songs chosen to tell the story were not all known, and included a David Kramer/Taliep Pietersen song from their musical â€˜Goem’, a very vibey 1930’s â€˜Get Happy’, and the emotive â€˜Meadowlands’. A Klopse scene includes standards such as â€˜Suikerbossie’, ‘Vat jou goed en trek Ferreira’ and more. District Six also makes an appearance in the show.
In the break, the main course is served, the orders for which are taken prior to the start of the show. Whilst not typically Cape, we ordered the dukkah-crusted beef fillet served on mash and spinach, with a very strongly spiced chakalaka sauce. The fillet was served perfectly as ordered, medium and medium rare for my colleague and for me, respectively. One has two other choices for the main courses, which are more Cape-like: vegetarian curried lentil cottage pie, and Cape butter chicken curry served with a homemade roll and sambas.
The second half of the show focused on the impact of the apartheid laws, the defiance of the population affected by them, and the freedom achieved for the nation, with soundbites of then-President FW de Klerk announcing the scrapping of all laws of segregation, and Nelson Mandela’s speech after his release from Victor Verster prison, saying that all South Africans have the “right to human dignity in our rainbow nation”. The show ended with the celebration of freedom and the spirit of Ubuntu. The music chosen for the second act included the well-known â€˜Pata Pata’, made famous by Miriam Makeba; Jeremy Taylor’s â€˜ Ag Pleez Deddy’ brought back nostalgic memories of a by-gone era of drive-in movies, popcorn and bubblegum!; â€˜Gimme Hope Jo’anna’; â€˜Paradise Road’ by Eddie Grant; and the national anthem â€˜Nkosi Sikelelel iAfrika’, presented in a vibey way.
Dessert is a sweet treat trio of a mini-koeksister, melktert and chocolate brownie. I had it with an excellent LavAzza cappuccino, a surprise, in that I was wondering where I would have to go to find one close by after the show. The catering is done in-house, with a contracted chef doing a great job in a tiny kitchen, we were told. The Beverage list is short and sweet, especially on the wine side, and very inexpensive. Wines-by-the-glass offered are M’Hudi Rea Dry at R20/R90, M’Hudi Kwea Red at R20/R90, and Excelsior Pure Bred Red R25/R100. No Shiraz is offered, with only one or two Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinotage options. Pongracz Brut costs R150, and 2 Oceans RosÃ© R 20/R90. Amstel, Castle, Windhoek Lager and Windhoek Lite all cost R16; Heineken, Peroni and Millers, Hunter’s Dry and Savannah cost R17; and Jack Black costs R20.
A surprise was when the cast came back on the stage for an un-announced encore, singing real Cape classics such as â€˜Daar kom the Alabama’, â€˜Dina Dina Oh’, as well as Ipi Tombi.
The Cape Town Show is a great way for locals to be reminded of the colourful and often painful history of the Cape, and the rich heritage it has. It is also a quick way for tourists to learn about the history of our country, and have a memorable evening, enjoying Cape culture and food. The audience enjoyed the enthusiasm of the performers, and were captivated by the music. There are a few teething problem, like waiter training and understandability of all the words in the spoken story, but as it is early days for the show, they are sure to be addressed.
Disclosure: As a member of the Food & Wine Bloggers” Club, having attended the October meeting which was hosted by the Rainbow Experience, we received complimentary tickets to the Cape Town Show.
Cape Town Show, The Rainbow Room, Mandela Rhodes Place, Wale Street, Cape Town. Tel 072 875 9723. Book at www.webtickets.co.za. Wednesday and Friday evenings. Doors open at 19h00, show starts at 20h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Hidden in the suburb of Paradyskloof (meaning “valley of paradise”) outside Stellenbosch, opposite the Stellenbosch Golf Course and on the road to the Vriesenhof wine estate, is Majeka House, a 5-star Boutique Hotel, with a top class French-style restaurant, a cuisine paradise, blessed with a creative young chef Anri Diener.
Co-owner Karine Dequeker is French, having studied at the Lausanne Hotel School, and worked at the Grand Roche Hotel, Lanzerac Hotel and Table Bay Hotel as Banqueting Manager, and it is her heritage that comes to the fore in the French-style menu of the Restaurant at Majeka House. Her husband Lloyd van der Merwe comes from the corporate hotel route, having worked at Protea Hotels and Holiday Inn, and at SETA, the hotel industry training body, before he became a training consultant. Majeka House previously was the private home of Karine’s father, and she and her husband set about a redesign of the property, spread over three erfs, to make it an 18-bedroom Hotel, opening 18 months ago. The property is spacious, and the bedrooms, swimming pool, parking area and restaurant all are generously sized. One would not know about the restaurant if one drove past the Hotel, as it is not separately branded nor visible. The Majeka name comes from the first two letters of the names of three of the owners of the property.
The invitation to review the Restaurant at Majeka House came from the Van der Merwes, who read this blog regularly, and from my son, who is one of the managers of the Hotel. I accepted the invitation, with their understanding that the review would be written objectively and critically, as always.
An interesting introduction to the Majeka House restaurant is the arrival of an amuse bouche in one’s bedroom at 18h00, whether one eats at the restaurant that night or not. I received a salmon roll and a butter pan-fried prawn on greens, a lovely way to make one look forward to dinner.
The Majeka House restaurant can seat about 30 diners, and leads to the bar and library. It has a large fireplace, with two interesting paintings by Vicky Sander on each side of it. The dominant wall has trendy wallpaper in gold and black, the curtains are silk-style in a golden/cream colour, the chairs are suede-style, with Persian carpets scattered on the wooden floor. Chandeliers add the French touch. The staff uniforms are Africa-inspired, in blue and cream, perhaps a contradiction to the French feel. The dark wood tables have a cloth over the centre, set with fine glasses and cutlery. What was unusual was the homely touch of a massive serviette in a serviette ring, lying at an angle across the diner’s eating area, as opposed to the left, or on the side plate, as is the norm. The fresh rose from the garden and a flower-inspired candle holder rounded off the table decor. Most of the crockery used is from Wonkiware, which adds a design touch to the dishes presented, the chef being minimalist as far as garnishing goes.
Music-wise a piano can be seen, but luckily there is no pianist tickling the keys (the Mount Nelson Cape Colony’s pianist does not stop playing, and it became irritating eventually). I found the French-style rock music too loud and too heavy, and was delighted when Hotel Costes was eventually played.
The Tasting Menu’s four courses are listed from 1 – 4 in French, reinforcing the French style of the restaurant. One has a choice of two dishes per course, and it costs R250, or R400 with a wine paired with each course. The lovely waitress Phelisa brought an unusual glass plate with what looked like a tablet – a small round white ‘something’ with the word WOW on it. She poured warm water over it, and it rose and expanded immediately, to become a cloth with which one can wipe one’s hands before starting to eat. I had never seen this before, and it was a nice unusual touch. Warm bread was served with butter.
The menu is not branded, and the items are printed on a patterned sheet of cream paper presented on a brown leather menu holder (as are the winelist and the a la carte menu), in quite small type, making it difficult to read, especially the wine that is paired with each dish, as it is in an even smaller type size.
I started with Chicken liver parfait, very creamy and soft, served with melba toast on a port jelly, its sweetness an interesting contrast to the parfait. The alternative was a Potato veloute, with fennel and smoked salmon fritters. I chose to drink a glass of Tamboerskloof Syrah 2006 with the first three courses, although I could have had a different wine with each course. The second course was a beautifully presented Mushroom risotto served on butternut puree, with a crisp parmesan wheel. The mushrooms were minute and delicate, the risotto perfect, and the food colours on the plate necessitated minimal garnishing. The alternative option was Pan-fried quail with a crayfish and saffron sauce with fresh gooseberries, a most interesting sounding combination.
The Beef fillet was a touch too close to the rare side, rather than the medium rare that I had ordered for the third course, served on celeriac puree, with oven roasted shallots and port jus. This made it difficult to cut the steak slices with the non-serrated knife provided. The alternative choice was a Buttered Kabeljou, served with a mussel and oyster mushroom ragout and Parisienne gnocchi. The highlight of the menu was the Millefeuille of chocolate mousse, served with a rectangular-shaped flat coffee meringue and citrus fruit, absolutely yummy and a chocoholic’s dream. The alternative Pear crumble with vanilla creme never stood a chance as a dessert choice. As if the four courses and the amuse bouche were not enough of a delight already, a plate with a homemade marshmallow, coffee meringue and truffle was presented with the perfectly made cappuccino.
The a la carte menu offers five options per course. Starters start at R50 (Tomato tarte tatin), and include Pan-fried scallops (R65), Tempura prawn salad (R65) and De-boned quail (R90). Main course prices peak at R180 for Seared Springbok loin, but Beef fillet (R140), Lamb cutlets (R150), Spinach ravioli (R95), and Poached linefish served with a lobster broth (R100) are also offered. For dessert Creme Brulee, Hibiscus granite and a trio of sorbets cost around R50, and a soft-centered mini chocolate cake and a cheese selection cost R80.
Chef Anri is a protege of Etienne Bonthuys of ex-Tokara, having worked for him for more than five years. She helped open the Delaire restaurant in chef Christian Campbell’s kitchen, and felt that Majeka House offered her an exciting challenge, in making the switch. She has the most exciting prospect of working at the Michelin 3-star restaurant L’Esperance in Saint-Pere-sous-Vezelay in Burgundy for two months. The Van der Merwes have developed an exchange programme with the restaurant, having welcomed its Senior Sous Chef at Majeka House earlier this year.
The winelist presents a good selection of wines predominantly from the Stellenbosch region, and one imported champagne (Pol Roger Brut at R760). Each wine is described briefly and commendably vintages are provided. Wines-by-the-glass are between 2 – 5 years old, and very reasonably priced (R26 for Dalla Cia Chardonnay, R20 for Villiera Chenin Blanc, R24 for Dalla Cia Sauvignon Blanc, R18 for Land’s End Rose, R30 for Villiera Tradition sparkling wine, R28 for Marklew Merlot, R39 for Dalla Cia Cabernet Sauvignon, R43 for Rainbow’s End Cabernet Franc, R31 for Bilton Pinotage, R34 for Tamboerskloof Shiraz, and R38 for Warwick 3 Cape Ladies blend).
The Restaurant at Majeka House is a treat, especially if one decides to spend a night of paradise in Paradyskloof at Majeka House too, and not drive back to Cape Town. The chocolate mousse is an absolute must! Not being very well-known yet, Majeka House could do well to embrace Social Media Marketing, in starting a Blog, tweeting more regularly, building the profile of Chef Anri, and perhaps consider an independent name for its restaurant.
The Restaurant at Majeka House, 26 – 32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 880- 1512. www.majekahouse.co.za (Both the a la carte and the Tasting menu are listed. The Image Gallery does not have a page dedicated to the restaurant, and has few food photographs) Twitter @Majeka_House. Monday – Sunday. On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.
POSTSCRIPT 22/11: Following the advice in our review, Majeka House has announced that its restaurant will be called Makaron Restaurant from now onward.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com