Entries tagged with “Greek”.

On Friday I needed to travel to Hermanus, and stopped at Terra Madre in Elgin, being overwhelmed by the energy of owner Chef Nicole Precoudis, and her organic-style home-prepared produce, which can be purchased on their farm, online, as well as at an increasing number of outlets in Cape Town, or one can have it delivered weekly to one’s home. Terra Madre is true to its promise of ‘Handcrafted with Love’. (more…)

I have enjoyed chatting to Phillip Aplas since he opened Allora Ristorante, the Italian restaurant at the entrance to Franschhoek, two years ago.   He and his wife Amanda are Greek, and they have created a space on the property for The Olive Shack, which is Amanda’s dedicated focus on olives and olive oil, and is an ode to her Greek heritage.

As one drives into Allora, The Olive Shack lies directly ahead, not visible from the road.  Some newly planted olive trees provide shade to tables outside the olive emporium.   A central table displays all the olive oils they stock – eight brands with many flavour varieties – as well as olives, tapenades, preserves, jams, and soaps.  What one can taste one can also buy.  There is no charge for the tasting. 

Amanda wants to present the best olives and olive oils of South Africa, but most of these are from the Western Cape, she says.  She even heard of an olive oil made in the Karoo recently, so is continuously searching for new additions to her range.   She only opened The Olive Shack three weeks ago.   Greek delicacies such as baklava can also be bought, and a serious-looking coffee-making machine making the best Illy cappuccino in Franschhoek is in the shop. 

One can sit outside on the Allora side of The Olive Shack, or be more private on the parking side, sitting under the olive trees.   Amanda has also introduced a Breakfast Menu for The Olive Shack, a Greek tapas and mezze menu, and picnics are also supplied.   One can order light lunches, including lasagne, cannelloni, panzerotti, mousaka, freshly-made spaghetti and fettucini, and sauces.  She will add kebabs and pancakes in future.

In chatting to Phillip, it is clear that he is dedicated to his restaurants, and is hands-on, one of few restaurant owners in Franschhoek to be so.   He says that they have not increased their prices since they opened, and the menu is the same as the opening one.   The Allora branches in Bedfordview and Sandton have higher prices, and are run by Phillip’s brother.

The Olive Shack tables are covered in brown paper, over a white table cloth, in Greek style.   They look a bit messy on the car park entrance, as the wind lifts up the paper.   The menu is printed in green and laminated, and one’s first reaction is disbelief at the low prices of the mezzes.   I was brought a beautifully designed glass water jug to the table, with lots of slices of lemon.   Olive oil and balsamic vinegar was brought to the table, in glass bottles, and the brand of olive oil used was one I had not heard of before, being Porcupine Hills from Elgin.  

While I had not ordered it, Amanda sent ciabatta made with olives to the table, as well as the three mezzes of Tzadziki (their spelling) (R10), grilled halloumi (R20) and grilled pickled octupus (R25), in addition to which came a container of olive oil as well as an olive tapenade, all served on two wooden boards.    It was a feast, which cost a mere R55 in total, which Amanda did not want to take payment for, but I insisted.   The squid was served chilled, which made it refreshing, not only due to its temperature but also its marinade of vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and oreganum.  Other mezzes one can order out of the list of eighteen include hummus, melitzanosalata, grilled aubergine rolls stuffed with feta cheese, grilled brinjals and baby marrows, tiropita, and keftedes, all costing R20 or less.   Ciabatta costs R10 for a basket.  A variety of salads can be ordered, and range in price from R45 – R65.   Paninis with toppings such as smoked salmon trout, roast lamb, and chicken and avocado cost between R 50 – R75.   Desserts range from R25 – R42, and include baklava, chocolate mousse, fruit salad and yoghurt, and sorbets.   Breakfast of free-range scrambled eggs served with salmon, cold meats or feta and halloumi costs R35, or R29 if served with bacon.

Picnic baskets can be pre-ordered, costing R105 per person for the Alfresco Picnic, consisting of a small bottle of water, dips, cold meats, olives and tapenade, Greek salad, French loaf, olive ciabatta, chicken kebabs, fruit, and chocolate brownies. A Gourmet Picnic costs R360 for two persons, which includes a Franschhoek Cellars wine, mineral water, a tapas selection, dips, smoked salmon roses, French loaf, olive ciabatta, Caprese salad, chicken and prawn skewers, a cheese platter, strawberries and chocolate brownies.  Both picnic options offer a generous food selection. 

A small wine list of 17 Franschhoek wines is available, and the wines are very reasonably priced.  Six wines by the glass are available, and cost R28/R85 for Franschhoek Cellars Chenin Blanc, The Churchyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc; Eikehof Chardonnay; and Franschhoek Pass Rosé.  The L’Omarins Protea Red costs R35/R115.   Solms Astor Cape Jazz is the only Shiraz available.

I loved the informality and friendliness of The Olive Shack, the authentic Greek mezzes served, and the excellent cappuccino.   It is excellent value for money.   I will be back.

The Olive Shack,  Allora Restaurant, 58 Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4375.  www.allora.co.za (No dedicated website for the The Olive Shack, and not mentioned on the Allora website).  Open Monday – Sunday, 9h00 – 17h00.

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

A mid-winter break in Paternoster had to include a repeat visit to Gaaitjie – Salt Water Restaurant, a restaurant with the most stunning setting on the rocks overlooking the bay, and one of the best restaurants on the West Coast. 

Suzi Holtzhausen is the owner of Gaaitjie, and moved to Paternoster from Johannesburg, where she had a cookery school, six years ago.  She started off setting up the Salt Coast Inn, offering self-catering accommodation, followed by the Eatery, which offered breakfasts, “lite meals and sweet treats”, the business card says.   Here I once had a bizarre cheese omelet (ordered as such) drowned in a boerewors and onion sauce for breakfast.  Suzi ran cookery courses.   Suzi’s mother ran the Eatery when Suzi opened Gaaitjie six months ago, but it has been closed down now.

Gaaitjie probably is better suited to a summer visit – in the early summer evening it is still light enough to sit on the terrace outside (I learnt that it is important to book the exact room you want to sit in), and to enjoy the beautiful view onto the sea, and to hear the waves crashing.  Blankets are provided should it become chilly once the sun sets.  For lunches outside it is perfect.  In winter customers have to sit inside, and this makes space restricted, and last-minute bookings hard to make.  The best tables in the main restaurant room, with a fireplace, are the first to go.  I thought I had done well with a booking five days ahead, but other bookings had been received a month ago, I was told, making my power to change my table allocation close to zero.   I was seated furthest from the action, in a room that only had a very smelly gas heater, so I asked to be moved to the main restaurant room.  This is when I learnt of my low rank from Camilla.  The best she could do was to seat me in the entrance room, which has one table, but also a fireplace.   For a single diner it is a very lonely place, but Susan, the manager for the evening and a good friend of Suzi, kept me company as she was buzzing along, checking on everyone.  She is an absolute natural at customer care and friendliness, unlike Camilla, who looked unfriendly.  A new waitress struggled with a simple order for cold water.  She received training behind the counter, which I could hear. Given the stature of Suzi’s cooking, the new waitress was not yet an asset to the restaurant.  She was allocated to my table – again I felt to have hit rock bottom.

Gaaitjie is the name of the building which Suzi rents from the local Sea Fisheries’ department, and they renovated it to her requirements. It looks like a Greek cottage, as do most of those in Paternoster.  One can only see the signage from the road, as the restaurant is so low down, at close to sea-level.   The kitchen is in the middle of the building, and one has to walk through it to get to the main restaurant room and terrace.   The generator for the fridge ticks away, and evokes a farmhouse memory.   The ceiling is covered in reeds, giving it a further Greek feel.   The doorways are low, especially for tall gentlemen passing through them.   The walls have framed yellowing newspaper clippings with general articles about Paternoster.  The cutlery is nothing special, but the serviettes are made from material, with a shell forming a serviette ring.  Here and there a fishy decor touch can be seen – an ashtray filled with shells, a fish-shaped water bottle, and a ceramic fish on the bar counter.

Gaaitjie’s menu is restricted to seven starters and mains each, and four desserts.  Each one of Suzi’s dishes are unique, and her stature as a chef comes from her marriage of ingredients, often demanding a brave palate from her patrons in trying unusual ingredients or combinations.   The paper menu starts with the sentence: “Taking time to prepare the best of what’s around the West Coast area, served by the people of Paternoster”.  The menu can change daily, depending on the produce that Suzi can get hold of.  Gaaitjie is not inexpensive, and hence it is mainly Capetonians and other out-of-town visitors who eat there.  I recognised a fellow Slow Food Cape Town member arriving with a party of six others.

I chose the mielie chowder with scallop and green pea wontons, at R 50, an ideal dish for the first chilly night of the winter.   The wontons were deliciously crispy, and the chowder very filling, topped with green beans, and I regretted having it before the main course, both being very filling dishes.   My pork belly choice was stated on the menu as requiring 45 minutes’ preparation time, so the chowder was a good way to pass the time, giving little action on Twitter that evening.   The chowder was served with the most unusual muffin-shaped bread with an onion marmalade centre and crowned with black sesame seeds and fresh herbs.   It was served with an anchovy, garlic and olive tapenade.   Anchovies are one of few things I do not eat, so I was presented with a slice of butter, beautifully served with a twig of chive balancing on top of the slice standing on the plate, so simple but so attractive.   Other starter options were angelfish bobotie spring roll on coconut and bean sambal; chicken liver peri peri vetkoek with creme fraiche and roasted chilics; spinach and curd samoosas on hot tomato and basil salad; grilled pear and deep-friend labna cheese salad; and a house salad of greens, feta style cheese, cucumber, tomato and seeds, all costing between R45 – R55. On a summer visit I had eaten the chilled pea and fresh crayfish soup, at R75, which was outstanding, but there was no crayfish on the menu as the season closed a month ago. 

The main courses range in price from R110 for the snoek lasagne to R125 for a braised lamb shank and butter bean pie with mint and pumpkin broth.  Other mains were yellowtail fillets simmered in curry leaf masala and lentil rice; a stew of black mussels, baby calamari, sweet pepper and spicy sausage; the crisp pork belly (and crisp it was, with the most delicious crackling, which I left for last) served with an unusual leek mash; roasted quail on a hot beetroot salad; and chicken breast with pesto pasta.

Dessert choices were preserved naartjie and ginger praline cheesecake; malva pudding topped with molten local blue cheese and melon preserve;  baked custard with Witblitz-soaked Cape gooseberries; and rich chocolate mousse with salt dust (I wanted to order the mousse, but could not get a good description of its ingredients, as it was new on the menu that evening – the fact that part of the mousse was white chocolate which contained passion fruit made me decide against it, and none of the other dessert options attracted me).

The winelist is on a separate sheet of paper, and is introduced as follows: “We keep waste to a minimum and km’s travelled low so choices are local and small”.  For this reason most wines are from the West Coast.  Each wine is briefly described, and the wine estate it comes from mentioned.  Corkage is charged at R 40.  One sparkling wine (Kasteelberg) is offered at R 135, five white wines range from R 95 for a Kloovenburg Chardonnay and an unknown La Capra Chenin Blanc from Fairview, to R 145 for Fryer’s Cove Bamboes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, and The Ollo from Altydgedacht.   Four red wines include two Shirazes (Spice Route at R 165 and Nieuwedrift at R 95), an unsual sounding Cappupino Ccinotage (R105) and Cloof Inkspot R 105.  The wine-by-the-glass choice is limited to Cloof (white and rose’ at R 25), and MAN Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 at R 30.  

I left with mixed feelings, having enjoyed my two previous dinners at Gaaitjie more.   The food is outstanding, but one must make a lot of allowances in the other things one expects from a restaurant in terms of decor, service and wine selection.   Suzi strikes me as one of a rare breed of restaurateurs who believes that a focus on food is of paramount importance in a restaurant, and that little else matters. 

Gaaitjie – Salt Water Restaurant, off St. Augustine’s Road, Paternoster. Tel 022 752 2242.  www.saltcoast.co.za/gaaitjie (page does not open).  Open for lunch and dinner on all days except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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

A spontaneous invitation to join Cormac Keane, previous owner of Portofino, for dinner at one of his new favourite restaurants, led to the introduction to Sloppy Sam on Somerset Road in Green Point, Cape Town.   While its name may put one off from trying the restaurant, it is anything but sloppy.  Sloppy Sam is a most warm and welcoming restaurant.   Its business card promises “Simple Food Cooked Well”.

The charming Persian owner and hands-on chef Hooman Saffarian spent time at our table, always a plus when the owner takes the time and trouble to meet his customers.   Equally impressive was waiter Bradley, who had the right balance of attentiveness, service, and friendliness, and clearly loves his job.  He proudly said that he has worked at the restaurant for a year, and would not easily move, even if he were to be paid more somewhere else.

Sloppy Sam is a Cape Town institution, having been established on Glengariff Road in Sea Point as a milk bar in 1935.   In 1984 Saffarian bought the restaurant, only the fourth owner in the 75 year history of the restaurant.   He sold the restaurant in 1993, but he and his family missed the restaurant so much that he bought it back.  Four years ago the restaurant moved to its current location, previously the home of “The Restaurant”, whose owner Graeme Shapiro emigrated to Australia.   Sloppy Sam has a namesake in Rome, we are told.

The first impression of Sloppy Sam on entering is that it is a Greek restaurant, as the music sounds Greek.   It has Greek style chairs, in a Greek-blue, and has a homely feel from its cluttered yet neat look – crates of bottled water, wine, and Persian delicacies stand on the floor, and add to the decor.   Shelves are filled with imported jams, pomegranate juice, and pickled garlic.   A bowl has an attractive collection of red onions, lemons and aubergines.  Persian rugs hang over the balcony and on the wall, and they, together with the works of art, are for sale out of the restaurant.   Saffarian sells antiques as well, Bradley tells us.

The menu and winelist are in one document, a no-nonsense plastic folder with information.   The menu has mediterranean Mazzehs, which include tarama, tzatziki, dolmek, kuftek (meatballs) and bademjan, all at R 35, served with pita bread, a little over-toasted for my liking, making it tough.  Feta, olives and humus cost R 38. Spanakopita, sardines and tuna carpaccio cost around R 39, and two salads cost R 47.   All main courses have been kept under R 100, at R 99 for the lamb shank, roasted lamb neck and pepper steak, and the lamb ribs,lamb chops, moussaka, beef and chicken kebabs, calamari and tuna are cheaper.   The pan-fried calf’s liver is R 75.   I love liver, and while it was not as thick-cut as I like it prepared, it was certainly tasty.  The potato mash could have been creamier, and not feel as if it was just compressed potato.  The tzatziki and humus were excellent.   Keane enjoyed his chicken kebabs with a spicy tikka.  Desserts cost between R 25 – R 33, for baklava, halva and malva pudding.

Bradley offered me a choice of two wines in dinky bottles – I have not seen these in a restaurant for years!   I choose the 2006 Blaauwklippen Cabernet Sauvignon, and was allowed to taste it without asking!   The wine list has a small selection of inexpensive wines: Chardonnays range from R 120 for Hartenberg to R 165 for Springfield Wild Yeast; white blends from R 95 for the Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc to R 120 for a Haute Cabriere Chardonnay/Pinot Noir; Rose’s cost R 69 for the Nederburg and R 85 for the Boschendal Blanc de Noir; Fleur du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon costs R 120, while the Springfield Whaleberg costs R 229; Beyerskloof Pinotage is R 99, while the Hartenberg costs R 130; the Villiera Merlot costs R 115, the Bilton costs R 140; the Bellingham Shiraz costs R 120 and the Diemersdal R 135.

The restaurant has the cutest website ever seen (restaurants generally are not well-known for their marketing), which looks like a picture book, and makes a sound when you turn the pages.  It opens on the Homepage with a proud shot of Saffarian, with loud middle-Eastern music.  It warns one not to expect “blitz cooking” at the restaurant.   We will definitely return to Sloppy Sam.

Sloppy Sam, 51a Somerset Road, Green Point, tel 021 419-2921, www.sloppysam.co.za.  Open Mondays – Saturdays, evenings only.

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