The competition catered for wines, beers, and ciders, entered by large, small and Continue reading →
On Thursday evening my friend Bettie Coetzee-Lambrecht and I attended Fine Brandy Fusion at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, having been invited by Manley Communications. Fine Brandy Fusion is a fine showcase for the local brandy industry, the Bisquit cognac with South African links being our highlight.
At the registration desk we received a goody bag, and a booklet of coupons, to allow us to taste brandy cocktails and taste some of the 50 fine brandies neat. Immediately on entering we passed a smallish restaurant, catered by the Convention Centre kitchen. The food quality of the Convention Centre has been poor at every exhibition attended in the past, but picked up when its new Chef Warwick Thomas arrived a year ago, reaching a new low at World Travel Market Africa last month. I was immediately sceptical, but the food options which were displayed in a refrigerated unit looked better (just from the plating) than I have ever seen there before. We received two food coupons each, which Bettie used for linefish and I ordered tasty calamari rings, Bettie saying that it would be important to line our tummies for the brandy tasting to come. We both ordered a cheese platter as well. The service was excellent and professional, and the prices very reasonable at about R50 each. We felt severely under-dressed when a fashionista wearing fur and her partner shared our table! Continue reading →
On Friday a number of writers was invited to to the launch of Gentleman Spirits, a German-speaking trio of three gentlemen who are producing spirits of the highest quality, led by Master Distiller and alchemist Hubertus Vallendar from Germany, on the Blaauwklippen wine estate, its Managing Director and Winemaker Rolf Zeitvogel being one of the spirited trio. Nine products have been launched initially.
Rolf shared over lunch that he met Hubertus, a leading distiller with 25 years experience and a string of awards, as well as Swiss citizen Urs Gmür, a Pinot Noir collector and a connoisseur of wines, two years ago at a dinner party in Germany. Hubertus had travelled to South Africa regularly since 1999, and loves our country, having had two associations with local distillers Wilderer and Continue reading →
It is very bold to close down two restaurants in Stellenbosch, and to start from scratch in Cape Town. This is what Sarah and Dup du Plessis have done, moving their two Café Dijon restaurants on Plein Street and at Zorgvliet in Stellenbosch into a most beautifully decorated space in the Rockwell Centre on Napier Street in Green Point, serving excellent Bistro food, one of the best French style restaurants in Cape Town.
When I first heard that Café Dijon was moving into the Rockwell Centre, my heart sank for the new venture, thinking that they were taking the space of Camil Haas’ Bouillabaisse, which closed down two years ago. But the Rockwell Hotel that operates from the building has made that space its bar, and created a small restaurant in the ex-Crepe Suzette space.
Café Dijon is in a space that once was a decor shop, facing Anatoli’s. Using In House designer Lawrence Holmes, the restaurant sports three ‘palm tree’ wood-cladded pillars, which not only add a most stunning decor imprint, but also hold downlighters, having a functional role too. The original marble topped bar counter was transported across from the Plein Street branch, as were the bistro-style tables and chairs. In raised sections near the stackable sliding doors new tables have been added, made from beautiful wood with an extra black section added, to make it look like slate. Here the bistro chairs have red striped or black and white check upholstery. A couch with blue and white striped upholstery provides seating for the tables in the lower section. The tables are allowed to show off their beauty and not hidden by a table cloth, but material serviettes and St Tropez cutlery add quality. Cape Herb & Spice Atlantic Sea Salt and Extra Bold Pepper grinders are on each table. Laminated floors look like they are made from wine vats, with names of wine varieties. At the entrance is a wooden structure, partly a ‘canopy’ containing downlighters, as well as a section in which wines can be stored, similar to the racking used to make champagne. Near the bar small white and black floor tiles give an aged Bistro effect. Bunches of San Pellegrino bottles with LED bulbs also create lighting, as do wine bottle-shaped lights hanging over the bar counter. Interesting is a wall with names, which the designers created to honour some of the special people in Dup and Sarah’s life, with some French names added, e.g. Le Roux, Olivier, Du Buisson, and Mouton, to suit the theme of the restaurant. The wall even contains the Zondernaam name, a brand name which Tokara owner GT Ferreira had to kill because it became more popular than its first brand, Dup told me. The walls have a green paint effect. Black canopies with the Café Dijon branding are due to be erected on the two sides of the restaurant. I loved the big black table outside, which has been built around a tree.
The owners of Café Dijon are not French at all, but locals. Johan (’Dup’) du Plessis grew up in the Banhoek valley, and his wife Sarah comes from Somerset West. Sarah trained at Silwood Kitchen and then worked in Monaco for Sir David Brown of Aston Martin fame. Dup grew up in a household in ‘which real men don’t cook’, but he did learn to, and they met at Deltacrest outside Franschhoek. When it burnt down, they decided to open a ‘Thirties style bistro in Stellenbosch, opposite the Town Hall, offering classic French dishes and comfort food, which suited the design of the venue perfectly. Sarah and Dup started Café Dijon four years ago, and chose a cat for their logo, many Bistro’s having an animal name, explained Sarah. In Stellenbosch an edict had banned cats in restaurants in the 1950’s, and Rose Jordaan’s grandmother had a black cat statue erected in front of the Stellenbosch library. They live outside Franschhoek, and both are in the restaurant, Sarah looking after the kitchen until after lunch, while Dup stays on until they close in the evening. Dup had a visitor when I ate there on Thursday, while Sarah was an excellent hostess, checking on her customers regularly.
A blackboard at the door advertised the specials: Angus beef burger R50; seared tuna with basil pesto R120; and the cheese of the day being Dalewood Brie at R60. The menu is printed on cream paper, and one is advised that food allergies should be shared with the waiter, as many dishes contain shellfish, garlic, dairy, or nuts, something one rarely sees on menus of late. Dup is very proud of the Toulouse sausage which they make themselves from pork shoulder, nutmeg, garlic, and white wine, and he insisted that I try it as a starter. Amazingly, Sarah remembered how much I had enjoyed their duck liver paté at their Zorgvliet restaurant more than a year ago, and sent out a taster of it with home-baked ciabatta. The sausage has a very mild taste, in contrast to the strong bite of the Dijon mustard. The sausage dish is usually a Bistro main course, two sausages served with pommes frites, a tomato and onion salad, and Dijon mustard, costing R70. The paté is part of a charcuterie platter, served with parma ham and Felino salami, costing R65. Other starters range from R55 – R 70, including steak tartare, calamari, trout, tomato tart, and marrow bones. Seven salad options include roasted beetroot, a classic Caesar, poached egg and bacon lardons, pear and Parma ham, grilled steak and rocket, and smoked duck breast, none costing more than R75.
Fish dishes are restricted to squid linguine (R75), and steamed West Coast mussels served with a white wine garlic, cream, and parsley sauce (R95). For the main course I ordered from the Bistro section, being pork belly with pommes purée, puy lentils, a pork croquette, an apple and grain mustard jus, and pea shoots (R115), which I had not seen for some time. The Bistro section also offers French onion soup, snails Bordelaise and chicken melanzane (R52 – R76 price range). Duck a L’Orange, served with confit duck leg, cabbage, bacon lardons, and an orange and Van der Hum sauce, sounds delicious, and good value at R120. A number of steak options are also offered, ranging from R115 for 200g Angus beef to R130 for fillet. One can order sauces, vegetables, and salads as extras.
Desserts are very inexpensive at R35, and include Crème Brûlée, caramelised lemon tart, strawberry meringue (Eton Mess style), and chocolate profiteroles with caramel cream. I had a baked apple tartlet with almonds and honey, with a LavAzza cappuccino. The cheese of the week costs R60.
The winelist offers three or four options per varietal, and it is disappointing that vintages are not specified on the paper winelist, which can easily be updated should the vintages run out. Moët et Chandon NV and Veuve Clicquot cost around R550, while Pongracz, Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, and Graham Beck Brut cost R175. Four Shiraz options are offered, ranging from Thelema’s Elgin Sutherland at R150, to Rust en Vrede at R375. The winelist is dominated by Stellenbosch wines.
Café Dijon will become a welcome stop not only for lunch and dinner, but also in-between meals for a coffee, drinks, and tapas outside, which will be introduced shortly. Ample parking is available underneath the building, on the opposite side. The service from Eric was very good, and there was not one sign that this restaurant had only been open for one week when I ate there. The prices are very reasonable, and Dup and Sarah are hands-on, a definite plus.
POSTSCRIPT 5/9: I popped in for a coffee and a Strawberry Meringue after a concert this evening, and was delighted that the restaurant was so busy. Yet a party of four left angry, saying that the food order was not brought to the table correctly, and that they had been overcharged. The owners had left early, the manager had the night off, and the chef had turned ill, leaving the busy restaurant in the hands of a junior team. This is the second angry complaint we have received in the past week, in both instances the owners not being there. Best is to check if one or both owners will be there when booking.
Café Dijon, Rockwell Centre, Napier Street, Green Point. Tel (021) 418-3910. www.cafedijon.co.za Twitter: @CafeDijonCT Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Sweet Service Award goes to the V&A Waterfront, for their surprise gift box, to publicise their festive season gift ideas. The box contained a number of personalised, specially selected, gifts which the V&A Communications Manager Donoven Gloy thought I would enjoy: the book “Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad” by Lillias Campbell Davidson, a bottle of Graham Beck Brut, and two champagne flutes from Spilhaus. Gift ideas for the outdoor lover, the sophisticate, the foodie, the homemaker, the chic sailor, the jet setter, the summer lover, the patriot, the singleton, the young intellectual, the trendster, the little dreamer, the mini crafter, the sporty kid, and the summer baby are presented, with V&A Waterfront outlet names at which they can be obtained. The Waterfront website www.festive.waterfront.co.za has an innovative gifting service, in that it generates gift ideas when one types in the age, gender and interests of the person one is shopping for.
The Sour Service Award goes to the Cape Town city centre parking marshalls, who seem to think that being rude to and harassing their ‘customers’ will intimidate them into paying up. Yesterday I popped back to the Christmas Market of the Freeworld Design Centre, to return a book to Neil Stemmet, and to see the stalls that had not opened the day before due to the poor weather, and told the marshall that I would pay on my return. He started shouting at me, and immediately threatened to call the traffic police if I did not pay him R10 for an hour or longer upfront. I had no intention of staying for that long, and I was sure that he would not refund me should I have stayed for half an hour or shorter.
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at email@example.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.
I had read about What’s On Eatery on Watson Street in the city centre on Twitter, with Hennie Coetzee (@Batonage) and Maggie Mostert (@BlackDelilah) recommending the new restaurant highly. I was welcomed warmly by co-owner Trever Jordaan from the minute I stepped into the restaurant, and I felt completely at home in the elegant interior that has been created in the double story building that once was Platinum restaurant. What’s On’s promise is “Food l People l Passion”, with a ‘fusion of family & friends’, and this is what I experienced last Friday evening. It offers very good value food (the starters and desserts in particular) and wines.
Watson Street connects Bree and Loop Street, one block from Buitensingel Street. I found parking easily, and a canopy identifies the eatery, and what it stands for. One enters the attractive light grey Deli and Breakfast space, which doubles up as the bar, with wines stored on shelves, and a glass counter containing salads, pies and sandwiches during the day, with croissants, cakes, pastries, and other sweet bakery treats available too. Trevor led the way to the restaurant upstairs, and showed me the private dining room, which can be used for functions with up to 10 persons. The restaurant has ten tables, and the walls are a stronger grey colour. There are lovely wooden floors, interesting paintings by Joseph Lucaks, beautifully upholstered chairs, and wallpaper on some walls, all creating a warm, homely and elegant space. One wall has quirky-shaped mirrors on it. Trevor and his partner clearly have a good decor hand. The highback chairs are attractive, and reminded me of those at La Mouette – in fact the hearty welcome was reminiscent of La Mouette when it first opened. The light was soft, created with a mix of candles, lamps and modern downlighters. The tables have a white table cloth, and the white serviette had a silver pattern running through it. Glassware is good, the cutlery is by Maxwell Williams, and the food is served on white plates and bowls, some of them not holding the cutlery, in that they slide into the plate, a common restaurant problem. A Woolworths salt and pepper grinder are on the table, as was a vase with real roses. What made an impression in being so unusual yet clever was a card with “Thank You” lying on the serviette, continuing as follows: “…for sharing our dream…please spread the news to family & friends and join our facebook group on our website…”.
Trevor is a most amazingly warm person, who clearly loves people and his new restaurant. He was hands-on throughout the evening, asking for feedback continuously. He was receptive to hearing my opinion and suggestions, and I was impressed by his positive reception thereof, and his immediate implementation of changes. He joined Twitter immediately and is planning to start a blog too. Trevor was previously a guest house owner, and that is probably why we connected so well. His goal is to make his guests feel at home, as if they are visiting his home, and he wants to get to know his guests better, as he does not want any ‘strangers’ in his home, he said. Trevor’s partner and co-owner is Chris Mears, but is not involved in the running of the restaurant. I was served by Nina, previously with Col’Cacchio in town, and she was friendly and looked attractively dressed in a white shirt and black slacks, with a branded apron from Vrede & Lust. Uri from Jardine, which closed down at the end of February, now works at What’s On. The chef is Kerin D’Offize, previously with the Foodlovers’ Market in Claremont and Harbour Rock in Hermanus.
The menu, winelist and bill holders have the same blue-green cover, with branding in white. The pages are neatly affixed to the cover, but can be easily removed when any pages have to be updated. Nina brought a plate of delicious freshly-baked olive bread to the table, which was more-ish. I ordered the duck liver parfait, served with morello cherry sauce and garlic crostini (R40). I felt that the garlic and parfait were fighting each other, the garlic being overpowering. The cherry compote was an unusual but good marriage with the parfait. Other starter options ranged in price from R35 – R 45, and included braised leek and gorgonzola tartlet, springbok bobotie spring rolls, smoorsnoek and feta crepes, black mussels, and baked camembert fondant. Unusual is that all salads can be ordered in half-portions too, at R 40 – R60 per half portion, and R60 – R80 for a full portion, probably meant to be shared. Interesting sounding salads are the rooibos-smoked chicken salad; steamed prawn and baby calamari salad; and biltong, mango and feta garden salad. I was surprised when a complimentary wild mango, mint, melon and vanilla pod sorbet palate cleanser was served. I loved the taste combination, and never eat mango usually.
The Beef Wellington main course I ordered had porcini mushrooms, garlic and bacon in the pastry casing, but no chicken liver paté (R135). It was served in two halves, the fillet perfectly prepared medium rare as ordered, with roasted beetroot ‘chips’, mash and butternut. It was served with a green peppercorn Bordelaise sauce, which I found too sharp and salty. Other main course options are oxtail, line fish and calamari, confit of lamb rib, roulade of chicken and spinach, venison fillet, sole, rib eye steak, tiger prawns, ostrich burger, and a grilled wild mushroom risotto, ranging from R 85 – R145. Side dishes are available at R15 each. I didn’t have a dessert, but the options are a chocolate and hazelnut fondant, a trio of sorbet, crème brûlee, chocolate truffle and espresso tart, and honey and almond cheesecake served with basil and chilli ice cream, ranging in cost from R40 – R50. I had a foamy cappucino (R17), made with Tribeca coffee, and I liked Trevor’s description of the foam looking like a meringue!
The winelist is introduced as follows: “This list has been prepared to showcase the very best wines to complement our culinary concept. We constantly search and hand-pick the perfect selection of wines so that you, as our guest, experience ultimate wine and dining at What’s On”. The list specifies the regions from which the wines come, but there are no vintages for most of the wines listed. The wine-by-the-glass choice is restricted to one white and one red, and my recommendation to Trevor was to expand the selection. I had a generous glass of Vrede & Lust’s Boet Erasmus Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot blend, at R45 a glass/R265 per bottle, and I was allowed to taste the wine first. I am not one for blends usually, but this was an excellent wine. The white wine-by-the-glass is Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc (R35/R140). Sparkling wines include Graham Beck Brut MCC (R185) and Boschendal Brut Rosé (R195). Shiraz options are Brampton (R100), Graham Beck (R135) and Bernard Series Basket Press (R215). A number of ‘cellar selection’ wines are also available, such as Kanonkop Pinotage 2008 (R440), Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2006 (R565) and Hamilton Russell Chardonnay (R475). Corkage costs R30.
Breakfast choices include French Toast; omelets; flapjacks; oats; muesli, fruit and yoghurt; and a cooked breakfast, none of these choices costing more than R32. Lunch options include a variety of fillings on ciabatta (R39 – R55), salads (R45), beef fillet (R65); prawn, chorizo and saffron risotto (R65); chicken breast (R48); and chicken roulade (R55).
The bill says “Thank you for visiting us at What’s On. We look forward to have you back ‘home’ soon”. It is so refreshing to see a restaurant thanking its clients on arrival and on their departure. I felt at home, and Trevor has found an opportunity to ‘chat’ by e-mail almost every day since I went to What’s On, and he is a strong relationship builder, something many restaurants fail at, taking one’s custom for granted. As I did for La Mouette when they first opened last May, I spent time with Trevor to run through Social Media Marketing with him subsequent to my dinner.
POSTSCRIPT 19/5: Food bloggers and clients of What’s On Eatery were invited to try out the new winter menu this evening – two courses cost R125, 3 courses R150. One can also order off the menu, at R 39 for a choice of nine starters (including grilled brown mushrooms – left, stuffed calamari tubes, tempura snoek and prawn); R98 for one of eleven main courses (including Duck la orange – right, Coq au vin, Beef Wellington, Beef fillet, Karoo lamb shank); and R40 for one of five desserts. The winter menu is good value for money, and the portion sizes are very generous.
POSTSCRIPT 16/9: Exciting news is that Chef Oliver Cattermole from Dash Restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel will start as Chef at What’s On Eatery from 1 October.
What’s On Eatery, 6 Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-5652. www.whatsoneatery.co.za (The homepage on the website has attractive food photographs, which will make one want to come to What’s On Eatery, but these are not carried over to the Image Gallery, which has more photographs of guests than of the food. The menu is on the website). Twitter @WhatsOnEatery. Deli open Monday – Friday 7h30 – 16h00. Restaurant open Tuesday – Saturday evenings.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
* Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz Wine Estate, Franschhoek: Picnic at R295 per couple, including bottle of Rosé; 3-course dinner with glass of Rosé R200 per person. Tel (021) 876-2729
* La Mouette in Sea Point: 4-course dinner R290, or R420 with wine. Tel (021)433-0856
* Café Chic, Breda Street, Gardens: 3-course dinner R225. Tel (021) 465-7218
* Allée Bleue, Franschhoek. 3-course dinner (set menu) and performance by Nianell, Sunday 13 February 18h00, R350 per person. Tel (021) 874-1886
* Cosecha, Noble Hill Wine Estate, Paarl: Valentine’s Day picnic for two costs R218 on 14 February. 3-course set menu on 13 and 14 February with bottle of Noble Hill Chardonnay, R168 per person. Tel (021) 874-3844.
* Brunia Wines, Stanford: 3 course dinner, dance and welcome glass of sparkling wine, R180 per person. 12 February. Tel 028 341-0432.
* Five Flies, Keerom Street: 3 courses and a glass of sparkling wine R250 per person. Tel (021) 424-4442.
* Warwick Wine Estate, Stellenbosch: Picnic basket for 2 plus bottle of Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc R 375 per couple. 13 and 14 February Tel (021) 884-3144
* Salmon Bar, Franschhoek: cocktail and 3-course meal plus Porcupine Ridge wine “gift pack”, 14 February. R 265 per person. Tel (021) 876-4591
* Pappa Grappa, Paarl: 4 course meal plus grappa and ‘mystery gift’, R 245 per person. Tel (021) 8633 555
* Laborie, Paarl: Picnic plus Casablanca movie screening 12/2 R400 per couple; “Phantom of the Opera” theme, rose, glass of Rosé, 4-course dinner 14/2 R 315. Tel (021) 807-3390
* Buitenverwachting, Constantia: 3-course dinner R295, 5 course R 375, includes glass of sparkling wine. Tel (021) 794-3522
* Catharina’s, Steenberg Hotel, Constantia: Seafood grill for two R1400; 5-course dinner R695 per person 14/2 Tel (021) 713-2222
* Grand Daddy Hotel Rooftop, Long Street: Picnic basket with romantic movie R190 per person, add R50 for bottle of Beyerskloof sparkling wine. Tel (021) 424-7247
* French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar: 7 Tapas and glass of Graham Beck Brut Rosé R470 per couple. 14 February. Tel (021) 422-3839
* Rick’s Café, Gardens: 1 course R125, 2 courses R150, 3 courses R175 + glass of Pongracz Rosé. Tel (021) 424-1100
* Cape Town Hotel School, Mouille Point: 3-course dinner R250 per person. Tel (021) 440-5736
* Trees Restaurant, Townhouse Hotel: Glass of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel and 3-course meal R180 per person
* Rickety Bridge, Franschhoek: 3-course gourmet lunch, R200 per person. 13 February. Tel 083 377 4103
* The Square Restaurant, Vineyard Hotel: Glass of sparkling wine, red rose, 3-course dinner, departure gift R295. Dinner at Liesbeeck River R425 per person. Tel (021) 657-4500
* 1800 Degrees, Cape Royale Luxury Hotel: Glass of sparkling wine, amuse bouche, 3 courses R250 per person. 14 February. Tel (021) 430-0506.
* Cuvée Restaurant, Simonsig wine estate, Stellenbosch: Candlelit 3-course dinner outdoors, bottle of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, and box of chocolates. 14 February. R 350 per person. Tel (021) 888-4932
* Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, Stellenbosch: 6-course Tasting Menu and ‘lots of bubbly’. R1200 per couple. 14 February. Tel (021) 881-3612
* Ken Forrester Vineyards, Stellenbosch: Glass of sparkling wines plus 3-course dinner R 295 per person. 14 February. Tel (021) 855-2374
* Morgenhof, Stellenbosch: “Under the Stars Dinner Concert” – glass of wine and port, 5-course dinner, live music R 295. 14 February. Tel (021) 889-5510
* Hartenberg, Stellenbosch: 3-course dinner, with wine paired per course. R280 per person. Tel (021) 865-2541
* Adega, Willowbridge: Glass of sparkling wine, 3-course meal, Don Pedro, R 275 per person. Tel (021 914-5091
* Planet Bar, Mount Nelson Hotel: 12 oysters and bottle of Pongracz Brut Rosé R 220. Tel (021) 483-1948
* Planet Restaurant, Mount Nelson Hotel: 4-course dinner R 395 per person. Tel (021) 483-1948
* Il Cappero, Barrack Street: Glass of bubbly plus 3-course dinner R 300 per couple. 12, 13, 14 February. Tel (021) 461-3168
* Cognito Restaurant, Stellenbosch: 3-course dinner R 160. Tel (021) 882-8696
* Glenwood wine estate, Franschhoek: Bring your own picnic, taste wine R30, wine and sweets R50, cheese platter R60, play boules. Sunday 13 February. Tel (021 876-2044
* Pure Restaurant, Hout Bay Manor: 4-course dinner R440. 14 February. Tel (021) 790-0116
* Cafe Max, De Waterkant: Glass of bubbly and 3-course dinner R 220 per person. 14 February. Tel (021) 425-5102.
* Bovlei Valley Retreat, Wellington: 4-course dinner R 200 per person. 14 February
* Diemersfontein, Wellington: Glass of bubbly, picnic basket and bottle of wine R R450 per couple, lunch and dinner, 14 February
* Krugmann’s Grill, V&A Waterfront: Glass of bubbly, 4 prawns, 200g steak and strawberry daiquiri R 95 per person. 14 February. Tel (021) 418-9393
* Blakes, Gardens: Masquerade theme evening – glass of bubbly, DJ, platters of tapas. R120 (webtickets.co.za) or R150 at door. Tel (021) 426-2369
* Pavilion at The Marine, Hermanus: 3-course dinner, glass of sparkling wine, 2 oysrters and ‘sweet treat’ R 320. 14 February. Tel (028) 313-1000.
* Seafood at The Marine, Hermanus: 3-course dinner, glass of sparkling wine, 2 oysters, ‘sweet treat’, R295. 14 February. Tel (028) 313-1000.
* Café Benedict, Franschhoek: Glass of Dieu Donné sparkling wine and 5 course dinner R 200 per person. 14 February. Tel (021) 876-4404
* Trinity, Bennett Street: 3-course dinner R300 per person. Tel (021) 418-0624
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I had not been to Mange Tout Restaurant at Mont Rochelle Hotel in Franschhoek for a number of years, and with the appointment of the new chef Leigh Trout seven months ago, I felt that it was time to pay the restaurant a visit again. There is no mange tout on the menu, but Chef Leigh Trout serves a good trout! Service remains a weakness in this restaurant of the five-star Mont Rochelle Hotel.
Security is an issue when one arrives at Mont Rochelle, yet it isn’t when one uses the magic password “Restaurant”, despite not having pre-booked, and the boom was lifted without question nor details taken. I was welcomed by a very confident security guard when I parked my car, and he offered his services to make my booking, as he felt that there would be a table available for me. This meant going to the receptionist, who nodded her head, and did not bother to show me the way to the restaurant (had I been a first-time guest). When asked, she said just go left and then right, and did not walk me to the restaurant. The entrance to the restaurant is not clear, and what is intended as the main entrance door is rarely used, judging by what I observed. Most guests go to the terrace, and use that door to enter.
The previous restaurant, called La Couronne (also the name of the hotel at that time), was reinvented after a renovation following a fire, when the hotel changed its name to Mont Rochelle, and the restaurant had its own stand-alone name Mange Tout for the first time.
I arrived at 19h30, and it was still light enough to see the lovely view the restaurant has on the Franschhoek mountains and the valley below. The restaurant has two sections, the view one being filled first. It was noticeable that the hotel guests (four tables) are seated at the window with the view, and the non-hotel guests were seated away from the windows. This section has a lovely fireplace, which makes the restaurant very cosy in winter. The second section of the restaurant has no view at all. The space is airy, and the thatched roof ceiling, the large tables with white table cloths and a mixture of light green and beige chairs create a light and attractive interior. Most interesting is the ‘handbag’ tables next to each table, which allows the ladies to store their bags on a place other than the floor, something only a lady could have thought of! Big candle holders are on the non-view tables, while the view tables have American-style table lamps. A large daisy is presented in a square glass container, filled with glass balls. There are candelabras and candles on the fireplace mantelpiece, creating a romantic atmosphere as the sun sets.
A massive chandelier dominates the room, as does the white piano, played by Mont Rochelle legend Alfio, for whom guests return year after year. I found the 90 minutes of continuous piano playing beyond irritating, and would not return if I knew it was still going. But I was in the minority, the mainly British guests loving it, and even starting to sing along! Alfio is such an institution that he has a sign with his name on the piano, and a dessert named after him (Alfio’s Duet). Before he started playing, Kfm-like music was ‘broadcast’, and when Alfio finished playing, there was deathly silence, relative to the piano ‘noise’, until somebody remembered to put on more of the ‘Kfm’ music. I do love listening to Kfm’s music in my car, but not at a 5-star hotel restaurant.
Despite it being over 30°C in Franschhoek, all the windows of the restaurant were closed and the airconditioner had not been switched on. It became increasingly hot, and I had to ask for a window to be opened. I was really pushing the limits when I asked for another window to be opened, and the permission of other guests had to be requested. The tables have good quality napery, contemporary cutlery – with a butter knife on the side plate – and good glassware. There are no condiments on the table, clearly signifying that the chef feels he can prepare a meal without the need for anything to be added. The menu is printed on good quality green A4 paper, with the Mange Tout name very low key on it. It contains an introduction by chef Leigh, a new trend that I have picked up: “Welcome to Mange Tout! Our Menu is an ever evolving work in progress, wherever possible focusing on the finest seasonal ingredients available. We whole heartedly (sic) endorse environmentally friendly farming practices as well as humane free range animal rearing and much of our produce used reflects this”. The last sentence seems quite a mouthful, sounding correct, but somehow artificial, in my opinion. The five course degustation menu is on the front page, while the a la carte menu is on the reverse side. The chef is flexible, and one may chop and change the items between the two menus. The tasting menu costs R430 for 5 courses, but in reality these were 7 courses, with an amuse bouche and a palate cleanser as well. The a la carte menu costs R240 for 2 courses (although not specified on the menu), R 280 for 3 courses, R360 for 4 courses and R430 for 5 courses.
The waitress brought the bread basket to the table, and rattled off the contents as being focaccia, “stick bread” and “rye bread”, the latter being ciabatta in fact. Commendably the breads were served warm, but I had a bite of each, and could not eat more, finding them so below average per se, and even more so for a fine dining restaurant. The focaccia ingredients included mushroom, olives and goat’s cheese, but I only learnt this from the manager Roelof later on, while the ciabatta was hard and tasteless. I found the quality of the waitresses far below par for a 5-star restaurant, and they come across as ‘robotised’, in rattling off a menu they had to learn but do not really understand, the Manager Roelof being the only person offering quality service, and explaining the dishes. One particularly gruff waitress, who looks intimidatingly bossy and made no attempt to make eye contact or even smile, has been at Mont Rochelle for 10 years. Another waitress I asked has been there for two years, yet was unable to explain the dishes when brought to the table, just saying “trout”, for example. I had asked for a jug of ice water, but received a glassful, and had to request it to be topped up every time. It became warm over the course of the evening, and I had to request ice to cool it down again. There is no proactive service.
I had no intention to, but landed up having the Tasting Menu, mainly because it was too hard to choose what to leave out. Chef Leigh cleverly has chosen favourite dishes for his menus, including foie gras, asparagus, kingklip, tiramisu, souffle (which I was told is a signature dish of the hotel, preceding Chef Leigh) and of course ……. trout! The amuse bouche was a rather unattractive looking dark green asparagus velouté and oyster escalope, the waitress rattled off. When I asked her what was hiding under the daisy, she had to find out from the kitchen, and said that ‘the black things’ were caviar! I am often disappointed by amuse bouches, as many chefs get them wrong, as being an opening shot at what they are capable of in the kitchen. The batter-covered fried oyster was very unusual, but the velouté was bland. The foie gras starter was beautifully presented, and Chef Leigh likes his greens and oranges in food colour presentation. He used peach for colour, served au natural and as a mousse, with two tiny triangles of ‘dark chocolate brioche’, not enough to have the foie gras on, so Roelof brought a few more to the table – the bread basket offering would not have been suitable to have with the foie gras at all. A chocolate bean on each foie gras slice was unusual. The steamed garden asparagus was a crispy composition in green, with fashionable micro herbs, and contrasted with two dots of yellow created with quail eggs. Other starter options are springbok carpaccio, cauliflower soup and “Walvisbaai Red Crab Tortellini”.
I couldn’t miss out on the seared Franschhoek Trout, and Chef Leigh did his namesake proud. My dish was served with ‘cucumber noodles’ (lovely thin strips of cucumber) and pea mousse. The palate cleanser was apple sorbet, four balls being too much for what is intended. I was looking forward to the kingklip for the main course, but was disappointed with it, having a hard crust, and the chef’s sprinkling of coarse salt on top of the fish, something one cannot see until one takes a bite, making the mouthful taste too salty. It was served with braised fennel, an unfortunate combination, I believe, as the vegetable has a very dominant taste, and it was not well washed, still having sand in it. Miniature sweet potato gnocchi was tasty, but very salty, and looked like little dog food pellets in colour and shape. Orange and miso completed the composition. Other main course options on the a la carte menu were lamb puttanesca, lemon chicken ballottine, and beef tenderloin.
I loved the principle of the ‘deconstructed’ Tiramisu, which consisted of marsala sabayon (tasted warm and uninteresting), the mascarpone mousse piped on the plate, a wonderfully delicious coffee and savoiardi biscuit ice cream, and the cutest mini meringues, over which was presented a work of sugar art, which was ‘overkill’, as far as I was concerned. A peppermint parfait, the soufflé, Alfio’s Duet and a Vineyard Cheese Platter are other dessert alternatives.
Somehow the colour co-ordination went terribly wrong with the winelist, given the gentle white, beige and green tones of the restaurant interior and menu, with its blood red cover. The winelist is a collection of mainly Mont Rochelle wines, and also describes the Winery, and the sister restaurant Country Kitchen. The first page lists all the Mont Rochelle wines, and these are the only ones that one can order by the glass. The Rosé costs R26/R100, and white wines include a Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (R49/R194), an Unwooded Chardonnay (R44/R173) and Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (R54/205). The Miko Chardonnay sur Iie costs R509. The red wines include a 2004 Merlot (R58/R231), Miko Cabernet Sauvignon (R546), Artemis (R56/R200) and the Syrah at R75/R289, which had the following description “smokey nose with black pepper, plumbs (sic) and black berries”. I commented on the coldness of the Syrah, and I was told that it was chilled at 14°C. I prefer a warmer red wine. An impressive list of champagnes contains sixteen options, starting at R385 for Tribaut Tradition, and peaking at R2450 for Krug Grand Cuvée. Eight MCC sparkling wines are listed, starting with Villiera (R194), while a Graham Beck Brut Rosé is charged at R310. Two to three wines from other wine estates are featured per variety, each variety broadly described. Wines from Austria, Germany and France are also available. The Shiraz section includes two Franschhoek brands: Stony Brook 2006 (R176) and Boekenhoutskloof 2008 (R546).
Roelof was receptive to my feedback about the disappointing quality of the bread (surprisingly the pastry chef comes from the One&Only Cape Town) and the waitresses, and he is aware of the problem with the latter. He is working on a programme with Chef Leigh to improve their knowledge and service. The bill arrived as duplicate slips, and I asked Roelof why that was, and he said one copy is for them. It was hard to read in the low light. The bill was ‘served’ with chocolate friandes, not very exciting.
Even though Chef Leigh tried very hard to make his food look amazingly good, it fell short on the delivery, especially the bread, kingklip, and friandises. Maybe he is trying too hard. The service deficiency relative to the quality of the food and the hotel star grading is a serious deterrent to going back, as is the piano! The restaurant has such amazing potential, but it seems as if an ‘old’ La Couronne is fighting a new Mange Tout, with old habits resisting and disturbing the good work Chef Leigh and Manager Roelof are trying to do. It was disppointing that Chef Leigh did not come out of the kitchen and greet his guests.
Mange Tout Restaurant, Mont Rochelle Hotel, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2770. www.montrochelle.co.za (the website seems to be down – the restaurant has one page only, and contains the menu – which is the same one as for the evening when I dined there last Thursday – and has a few shots of the interior, but only one food shot). Wednesday – Sunday dinner, and Saturday and Sunday lunch.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Café Paradiso re-opened three weeks ago under the new hand of Richard Griffin, the fourth restaurant in his Cape Town collection, which now also incorporates the Bombay Bicycle Club, The Sidewalk Café, and Café Mozart. We wrote recently about Griffin’s talent in turning around existing restaurants, and giving them his restaurant magic.
Café Paradiso has no apparent Griffin decor quirks to make it appear different or improved – it has the most beautiful landscape of all in its dramatic view onto Table Mountain from the outside terrace area, fully occupied last night with more patrons queuing for tables. We were extremely grateful to Peta, the manager of Café Mozart, who happened to arrive at the same time as we did, and who helped to wave her magic wand to organise a table for us with Myra, the Spanish hostess. And what a table it was outside. The infamous Cape Town Southeaster was an angel, and stayed away, making it a magical evening. Griffin has turned the previous smoking-area of the restaurant into the new kitchen, while the old kitchen at the back is a Madame Zingara test kitchen, bakery, an home-made pasta section, of which Angus is in charge, as well as a section in which butter is made. Whilst I was wandering through inside the restaurant, the Executive Chef Heinrich came up to me to say hello (this is how friendly the staff are), and told me that he was the chef at the original Café Paradiso ten years ago. He looked very happy to be back “home”. So what has changed? Not much, other than the kitchen changes – there seem to be more tables outside than I can recall. The pin oaks in the courtyard have grown, offering excellent shade. The lighting inside was far darker than I recall it. Surprisingly, there was no music, a missing finishing touch, in my opinion. I was bowled over when the hostess Myra welcomed me by name, remembering me from the Madame Zingara restaurant in Loop Street more than five years ago!
Our waiter John brought the jug of water, which looked extra refreshing with orange and lemon slices and ice, as well as the creamish A4 paper menu and winelist printed on reverse sides of the sheet. The table cloth is a material one, and therefore the paper serviettes were a disappointment. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are from Olyfberg. The restricted menu and winelist choice makes it easier to choose what to order. The menu starts with “Beautiful Day” and ends with “Beautiful Night”, and states that “This store lovingly created by The Royal Countess Madame Zingara”, clearly a ‘promotion’ for the Madame! John brought two beautiful slices of home-baked wholewheat seed-topped bread, and I was lucky enough to get the end crust. The menu starts with the breakfast collection (served until a respectable midday), and as at Café Mozart, there are some quirky sounding items on the breakfast list, including scrambled egg with rosti, feta, avocado and tomato; and French toast with grilled haloumi, basil pesto and tomato, both R45. I’ll be back for the poached eggs with spinach, hollandaise sauce and smokehouse salmon (R55). There is a choice of four sandwiches, and the young ones are not neglected, with chicken nuggets and lasagne, and “fish fingers royale”.
Antipasti can be ordered, at R60 for one, or shared at R90 for two, either a meat/cheese one (proscuitto, coppa, salami felino, pecorino, bocconcini, with olives, caperberries and rocket) or a vegetarian one. Starters include mussels, squid, haloumi, and black risotto with chorizo, none costing more than R50. Salads (R45 – R60) sound unusual and interesting, the Greek salad being the only standard. Eight pasta dishes are offered, in a range of R 50 – R65, even with a ‘Ravioli del giorno’, which was filled with wild mushrooms last night, sprinkled with olives, pinenuts, rocket, and parmesan shavings, and served with a tasty white wine sauce. There are only five main course choices: rack of veal stuffed with four cheeses at R145; an ‘organic sirloin’ at R135; “feathered steak” (as I understood it, parma ham is beaten onto the surface of the steak to make it as flat as a feather and then flash fried) at R90; linefish at R89; and a most generous charred lemon and rosemary chicken-half, served with a colourful collection of root vegetables, including sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and turnips (R85). A range of familiar sweet treats, cakes, scones, muffins, ice creams, and desserts are offered, costing R25 – 45. I couldn’t get John to get a frothy cappuccino from the kitchen, but it did come with a biscuit on the side, and the word ‘smile’ on the foam. The cappuccino seemed somewhat more expensive than the going rate, but this is a small price to pay for the excellent value for money of the rest of the meal.
We were bad news for the sommelier Eron, in not ordering any wines, both being on medication. He was not switched off, and treated us as long-term customers, and gave us some of his background. I asked him to consider stating vintages of the wines on offer and the region from which they originate, as well as offering more wines-by-the-glass (there are only two white and two red, and one bubbly by the glass). The housewine is called Paradise on the menu, costing R22/R85 for the red and the white, but when Eron brought a bottle to the table, it was a label-less bottle, with a neck label stating the name “Unbelievable”, the wines made especially for Café Paradiso by Mount Vernon in Klapmuts. Fifteen red and white wines each are on offer, a mix of varieties, peaking in price at R175 for Jordan Chardonnay and R210 for Hartenberg “Cabernet”. Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel costs R30/R155, Graham Beck Brut R185, and Moét & Chandon R650.
Café Paradiso is a new affordable friendly ‘home from home’ at any time of the day and evening when one is in town, especially on a gorgeous wind-free Cape Town day. I’ll be back.
Café Paradiso, 110 Kloof Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 423-8653. www.cafeparadiso.co.za (website goes to www.madamezingara.comsite, listing all the Griffin ventures, each with their own page – not containing much information, and with few photographs, but the menu and winelist are featured). Monday – Saturday 8h00 – 22h00, Sunday 8h00 – 14h30.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I had the pleasure of rediscovering Buitenverwachting about three weeks ago, having been invited to try their Sunday buffet lunch. Whilst there, I had experienced chef Edgar Osojnik’s excellent cuisine, and therefore decided to return to try the Asparagus Menu, which runs until the end of November.
It was a lovely summer’s day and we sat on the terrace outside the restaurant, facing the Courtyard. It was much quieter than on my previous visit, yet noisy from a field close by, where a sport’s day was being held.
The Courtyard menu cover is made from black leather, is branded, and contains only a few pages, with four pages dedicated to the Asparagus special menu, costing R 260 for a 3-course meal plus a glass of Buitenverwaching Sauvignon Blanc or the Meifort. It also contains a one-page Courtyard menu, being a mix of starters, mains and desserts, thus giving only a few options per course for non-asparagus eaters.
The Asparagus menu offers two standard asparagus dishes that one can order on an a la carte basis, either as a starter (R82) or as a main (R104) course. Two choices are offered : with vinaigrette, offering olive oil, balsamico or truffle oil, and a baguette; and with a selection of sauces, being hollandaise, butter, Mornay, or BÃ©arnaise, with parsley potato. Other asparagus starter options range from R75 – R110, and are asparagus served with potato and an onion salad; asparagus served with quail; asparagus with parma ham; and asparagus with baby chicken. Main courses are expensive, ranging between R145 – R165, and choices are asparagus served with salmon trout gnocchi, hanger steak, veal involtini, ravioli espuma, or with grilled line fish. One of the desserts is served with asparagus, also containing rhubarb and strawberry gratin, and is served with saffron honey ice cream, at R69.
I could not get the waitress to explain to me exactly how the asparagus and linefish dish is served, and the French restaurant hostess came to assist, being very professional with her care of our table. The waitress, by contrast, sulked the minute we said that we did not understand her reply about how the asparagus is served. The hostess was able to offer a compromise, and Chef Edgar made a special dish with a most wonderful firm piece of kingklip, a parsley potato, and crunchy steamed white and green asparagus topped with the most outstanding deep yellow Hollandaise Sauce, at R156. I savoured it slowly, to enjoy every bit of the wonderful taste.
My son is not an asparagus fan, and ordered the Entrecote steak with porcini dauphinoise at R152, and proclaimed it to be excellent, tender, and with a wonderful taste due to the shallot sauce on the steak. Asparagus is one of the vegetables that comes with the dish, and a large thin fried potato slice added a lovely design touch to the presentation.
Other Courtyard menu options are a caeser salad served with anchovies and salmon (R95), a vegetable tian served with sorbet, smoked onion puree and crostini (R73), and Sissy’s open sandwich (R44). We were served an amuse bouche, which looked very attractive in its presentation, but was not really special in terms of its content, being two minute slices of Buffalo Mozzarella (looking like a quail egg slice at first, being so tiny) and a grapeseed Peperonata terrine with a minute panfried crostini, on top of which was a tiny drop of chippollini puree – a mouthful of a description for something that wasn’t! Dessert options are rhubarb and ice cream, and Kardinalschnitte, a mousse cake slice.
If one chooses to sit inside, or comes for dinner, one is offered the Nuptials Menu, a very clever name for the menu which pairs food and wine, but is even more expensive. The menu is a very restricted one in terms of number of choices, but is beautifully presented, in a black leather cover too, with cards that can be changed as the menu changes. So, for example, a starter Buffalo Mozarella and peperonata terrine is paired with Buitenverwachting’s Buiten Blanc at R20 per 125 ml glassful. A Curry Leaf pan-fried langoustine-scallop starter at R 195 was paired with a Jordan Riesling at R25. A veal main course costs R215, and is paired with Whalehaven Pinot Noir at R35. A Raspberry soufflÃ© costs R55 and a chocolate variation R85, both paired with Buitenverwachting 1769 at R35 for 75ml.
I was shocked at the wine prices, not having seen them on my last visit. While the Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc costs R45 in the wine shop a few meters away, it costs R120 on the winelist, and R40 per 250ml glassful; the Chardonnay costs R85/260; the Sauvignon Blanc R60/R180; the Meifort R60/R175; the Merlot R65/R195; the Cabernet Sauvignon R80/R245, and the Christine R160/R485. The Buitenverwachting Buiten Brut costs R272, and other MCC brands appear very expensive, with Pierre Jourdan Belle RosÃ© costing R383, Graham Beck Brut R474 and High Constantia Clos AndrÃ© Cuvee Brut R479. MoÃ«t & Chandon costs from R990, Veuve Cliquot R1020 and Krug Grand Cuvee R2335. Imported wines are from France (R761 and up), Italy (including a Barolo at R1218), and Australia, the USA and New Zealand (more reasonably priced between R342 – R583). Shiraz wines on the winelist are Boland at R279, Glen Carlou (each vintage costing a different price, most expensive being 2004 at R410), Kevin Arnold at R320, Anatu at R280 and The Foundry at R301.
When I saw the bill, and the cost of the cappuccino in particular, at R26, it really hit home to me how expensive Buitenverwachting is. I have not drunk such an expensive coffee elsewhere in Cape Town. Buitenverwachting cannot be faulted in terms of its gourmet cuisine, but one pays a high price for it, positioning it at the well-heeled Constantia set as well as international tourists. The Sunday Buffet lunch is however excellent value at R240 for the four course meal.
We popped into the wine shop/wine tasting room after the lunch, and in fact did not see that its entrance was in the Courtyard. It was quite disappointing – it is quite a large room with comfortable seating, looking much like someone’s lounge but not with much class, and display cases for the wines, as well as jewellery made by the wife of the Buitenverwachting GM Lars Maack. Given the quality of the wines and the restaurant, I was shocked to see the chap behind the counter wear a Billabong T-shirt and what looked like a swimming costume. I left with a bottle of Buitenverwachting Meifort wine, having tasted it at the Sunday Buffet lunch, at a cost of R60.
Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia Road, Constantia, www.buitenverwachting.com. Tel (021) 794-3522. Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner, Sunday Buffet lunch. Corkage R55.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage