Entries tagged with “Guardian Peak”.


Veritas Wine top achieversKWV, Spier, and Nederburg are our country’s top three wine estates based on the number of Double Gold and Gold Awards they received at the 2014 Veritas Awards Gala Dinner at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Saturday evening, making up almost half the 51 Double Gold awards. The Veritas Awards are viewed as the ‘Oscars of the South African wine industry‘, with close to 1800 wines entered, a slight decrease on the number of 2013 entries.

KWV was announced as the Best Wine Producer for the fourth year running, and increased its Double Gold awards from four last year to seven this year.  KWV also won 2 Double Golds for its Brandy.  Spier has greatly enhanced its Veritas performance, with 7 Double Gold awards, compared to only one last year. Nederburg increased its Double Gold tally from four last year to six.  Flagstone won Best Performer in the less than 10 wines entered category, and the KWV won in the 11+ wines entered category.

Four wine industry legends Danie de Wet of De Wetshof, Diaan de Villiers, Professor Diko van Zyl (author of historical works on (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  MailOnline has written a flattering article about Franschhoek in the main, entitled Touring South Africa… one sip at a time. Discover a wine taster’s paradise on a trip to Cape Town and Franschhoek‘.  The writer shares her experience on the hop-on hop-off Franschhoek Wine Tram, sampling the wines of Mont Rochelle, La Couronne, and Môreson, eating at The Tasting Room, lunching at La Petite Ferme, and visiting Delaire Graff with its diamond boutique and Tretchikoff’s ‘Chinese Girl‘ (which she defines as being in Franschhoek too!).  In Cape Town she stayed at both the Cape Grace and Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, went up Table Mountain and to Robben Island, lunched at Baia in the V&A Waterfront, had afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson, bought art at Ebony, and dined at The Pot Luck Club.

*   The Top 12 Shiraz wines have been announced in the 2014 Shiraz Challenge, organised by Shiraz SA, an association which promotes the image of our local Shiraz, and its blending potential.  A total of 191 Shiraz wines was evaluated, and the process audited.   The Top 12 Shiraz list is Black Elephant Vintners Amistad Syrah 2012, Boschkloof Louis 57 Syrah 2012 and its Syrah 2012, (more…)

Tasha's Fruit and lights Whale Cottage PortfolioMy friend Whitney and I decided to give the new Tashas in the V&A Waterfront a try, after we had both heard good things about the restaurant, which opened in the previous Mugg & Bean space a month ago. It was a poor experience, leaving a bad taste in our mouths, both Whitney and I getting ill from the food.

The owner and chef Raynne Roll told us that each of the eleven Tashas created around the country over the past eight years is themed decor wise, and has signature dishes and specialist wines to tie in with the theme. The theme of the WaterfrontTasha's Rayne Roll Whale Cottage Portfolio branch is Spanish, and hence the additional Tapas menu and Spanish style cakes, which are unique to the branch. Bowls and paella pans have been bought in from Spain for the new restaurant.  Tashas Constantia is French Country inspired, Pretoria is South African, Melrose Arch is ‘Sushi, Oysters and Champagne’, Rosebank in Johannesburg is New York, and the Nicolway branch is Portuguese.

I arrived before Whitney did, and walked in from the mall entrance, where the branding is so small that it is easy to miss.  The iron gates do not look relevant to a

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Oneiric Chardonnay Whale Cottage PortfolioI spent a wonderful afternoon in the middle of nowhere yesterday at Oneiric Wines, 5 km off one of the Elgin roads, spoilt by Chef Bertus Basson of Overture, who set up a pop-up restaurant for 30 guests at the homestead of the owners overlooking the beautiful valley.

Shan Pascall did not tell me about the road I would be travelling to get to the homestead, which is beyond their tasting room, with steep inclines and declines, but she had ‘incentivised’ me by saying that not only would Chef Bertus be cooking, but that her friend David Bullard of former ‘Out to LunchSunday Times column fame would be there too.  I was shaking a little on arrivalOneiric Welcome Whale Cottage Portfolio, after the drive, so had to refuse the Sauvignon Blanc which was offered as a welcome drink.

David and I were introduced to each other where Chef Bertus was cooking, and we did a quick run through of our favourite restaurants in the Cape.  David writes for Prestige magazine, and moved to Somerset West six months ago.  I was surprised about the choice of the town, but he raved about the Croydon estate in which he lives, which is a producing vineyard with its own wine label, the Oneiric David Bullard Whale Cottage Portfoliowines being made by Beyers Truter of Beyerskloof. The 200 houses on the estate are separated by vineyards, so that one is hardly aware of one’s neighbours.  The residents are very social, finding any opportunity to meet for some wine, lovely resident Claudine Wheeler told me, sitting next to her and her husband Francis.  David’s restaurant favourites so far are The Long Table, Equus at Cavalli, Guardian Peak, Overture, Indochine, Avontuur, and Tokara.  It was hard to photograph David in serious mode, as he isn’t, so we settled on a ‘silver spoon in mouth’ portrait! (more…)

Haiku Kitchen Whale Cottage PortfolioNot having been to Haiku in three years, and attending a concert close by in the Old Town House two weeks ago, I booked a table at what was once my favourite restaurant. While its prices have settled, service remains a problem, unforgivable after being in business for seven years already.  Food presentation was most disappointing, and the food quality has declined.

It is seven years ago that Haiku opened to hype and fanfare.  It was the bees knees of restaurants, becoming cult almost immediately, helped along by the difficulty in getting a table.   It won Eat Out Best New Restaurant six months after opening, a category never awarded since.  Those days are long past, the arrogant waitrons losing business for the restaurant, with patrons going elsewhere to get their Asian food fix.  It was easy to book the table for a Saturday night, yet when I returned from the concert the restaurant was almost full.  The loud disco-style music does not match the Asian theme of the restaurant nor makes it easy for one to communicate at the table and with the waitrons, and one wonders why they need to put up the volume.  I remember this as a past irritation, introduced more recently.  I was interested to know how the opening of the V&A Waterfront branch a few months ago had affected business in the original branch, and perhaps predictably the waitress said it had not at all.   The manager told me later that their best chefs and waitrons had been transferred to the Waterfront, so it would be worth trying this branch too. The standard of the staff was evidenced by two incidents of clanging glasses, falling on the floor and breaking, for all to hear!

I was shown my table by the hostess, booked as a table for one, only to be asked in a most irritating manner by the waiter if I was on my own.  He then wanted to clear the table of superfluous dishes, rather than bring the menu.  He is one (more…)

I would not have known about Sage restaurant at Chabivin Champagne and MCC House on the Blaauwklippen Road in Stellenbosch had I not received an e-mail from its Chef Jan Kruger, alerting me to their move to their new home.  The restaurant also manages the tasting of the Chabivin Methode Cap Classique (MCC) wines, and its imported French champagne Guy Charbaut range, a sparkling pairing.

I arrived on a chilly and grey autumn day, but chose to sit outside to enjoy the peaceful garden with a view onto the Helderberg mountains.  The garden is surrounded by bluegums, and has as its centrepiece a most unusual wire ‘tree’ which has bottles attached to it.  Bistro style chairs at wooden tables reinforce the Bistro nature of this eatery, being a small restaurant with a MCC and champagne bar, its modest prices, and its French style cuisine.  The restaurant is named after sage, one of the oldest culinary and medicinal herbs.

I met the owner Alison Cronje and Chef Jan in the lounge section inside the restaurant, with three comfy couches and a massive fireplace for the cold winter to come.  They moved Sage to Chabivin a month ago, having experienced some problems from the authorities with their previous venue at Sweetwell Farm, which belongs to Alison’s husband Hendrik, who has been running a piggery at the R44 smallholding for 27 years, and supplies Sage with pork and beef. The predecessor to Sage at Sweetwell Farm was Nice, which was run by the very nice Anne and her late husband Chef Chris de Jager.  To accommodate Sage, the Chabivin tasting room was transformed into a restaurant, and sommelier Justin does the Chabivin MCC and Guy Charbaut champagne tasting at the tables of their Sage guests, to bring out the pairing between the Sage dishes and the sparkling wines and champagnes.  Justin was once a construction worker, became a barrista at the previous Sage, and completed his sommelier course at the Cape Wine Academy last year.  Chef Jan started his cooking career at a kibbutz after school, returning to Johannesburg to work at Ile de France with Chef Marc Guebert (he now owns Le Souffle), who taught Jan to cook in the French style, and the importance of sauces. In the Cape he worked at 96 Winery Road and Eatwell in Stellenbosch, before joining Sage three years ago.  I liked Chef Jan’s explanation of the restaurant operating seven days a week, saying that he did not want to confuse his diners in having to remember on which days they are open, a problem diners face with most restaurants!  His policy is to offer ‘quality finer dining‘.  He will be starting a vegetable and herb garden at Chabivin. Currently he sources from Wild Peacock, Nouvelle Mushrooms, and Steve the Magic Man.  While the menu is changed regularly, some standards are never removed, so that the diners referred by others will get to try the favourite dishes.

The restaurant interior is painted purple, perhaps a colour symbolising sage.  A parrot in a cage and dried flowers in the lounge section jarred in what could become a popular restaurant, given its excellent cuisine, and MCCs and champagnes.  The restaurant seats 45 inside and 30 outside. Tables are laid with table cloths and material serviettes inside, while there are no tablecloths outside.

Bread is brought to the table in a woven basket, both unexciting.  The menus and the winelist are typed on cream paper, and laminated.  The Breakfast menu sounds delicious, with dishes costing R60 – R70, and including rosti, egg and bacon; a poached Frankfurter and eggs; Eggs Benedict; and Français Pain Grillé, with smoked bacon, avocado and honey. The A3 lunch menu is sectioned as ‘start…’, ‘inspired’, and ‘end…‘.   Starters cost R45 – R55, and include ostrich carpaccio, Tunisian pork on bruschetta, Cape Malay curried yellowtail, and crumbed calamari. None of the main courses cost more than R120, and a mix of fish, meat, and vegetarian dishes are offered.  Two pork dishes are available, the meat coming from Sweetwell Farm. The tender pale pink pork fillet I ordered was delicious, made so by the unusual brandy, cream and raisin sauce in which it was poached, topped with pea shoots, and I requested a spoon to finish every last drop.  The shoestring fries were not fully cooked and were too strongly drizzled with truffle oil for my taste.  Pork belly is served with a sundried tomato cream served with basil pesto couscous, which sounds delicious too. Other main courses are seared tuna, lamb burger on brioche, kingklip, chicken, duck, and rib eye steak.  The apple flan dessert was made with the lightest pastry and sliced apples, dusted with castor sugar and sprinkled with almond flakes, was served with an unusual basil ice cream.  Being a cold day, the ice cream could have been replaced with cream, to make the flan the hero, as the basil was fighting with it.  Crème brûlée, chocolate fondant, meringue, and a cheese board are other dessert options, costing R50.

The Chabivin vines were planted two years ago. The estate currently buys in grapes locally, and its sister Guy Charbaut champagnes are made from grapes from three farms in France.  Guy Charbaut’s sister Brigitte and her husband Jean-Pierre Abiven are the local owners, and the name of the wine estate came from an amalgamation of the two surnames.  The prices of the Chabivin MCC and Guy Charbaut champagnes are the same in the restaurant as they are for sales via the Tasting room, a commendable pricing policy.  Most of the wines are available per glass too.  The Chabivin bubbles ‘linger for longer’, Chef Jan said.  There are three Chabivin MCCs: The Mademoiselle Megane NV is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, is bottle fermented, matured for 48 months, has a light sweet taste, and costs R30/R120.  The Jean-Michel 2008 costs R35/R150, and is made from equal quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, on the lees for 48 months. The Acléméé Semillon 2005 is unusual in being made from Semillon grapes only, and is bottle fermented and matured before degorgement for 72 months (R45/R210).  There are five Guy Charbaut champagnes: Selection Brut NV is made from Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, lying on the lees for 36 months (R60/R380); Rose Premier Cru NV is 100% Pinot Noir lying on the lees for 36 months (R70/R410); Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru NV is 100% Chardonnay, and is aged on yeast for 48 months (R70/R440); Millesime 2000 Premier Cru, with 67% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay, is left on the yeast for 48 months (R80/R500); and Memory 1998 Premier Cru is made from 100% hand selected Chardonnay grapes (R1000).  The Blanc de Blancs and Millesime are available in a 375 ml bottle too, costing about R200, and as magnums. Commendable is that ‘Chabivin friendly‘ wines from the neighbourhood are also offered on the wine list, including Meinert, Guardian Peak, Ernie Els, Peter Falke, and Waterford Estate.  Winemaker Hendrik Snyman came to say hello.  He has worked for the family business since 2007, first in France, and now locally.

Sage is well hidden, creating peaceful country bliss with heavenly French-influenced cuisine and a good MCC and champagne range at affordable prices.  I will go back to Sage, as Chef Jan is clearly a talented saucier!

POSTSCRIPT 25/4: We received this refreshing e-mail from Chef Jan in response to our blogpost about sage: ‘I just want to say A HUGE THANK YOU for the wonderful article you wrote & posted on Whale Cottage Blog.  I saw it Tuesday morning and I was blown away by the in-depth writing and analysis. It was a true pleasure to have met you and I hope we cross paths in the continuous future.  Thank you for honest comments; both the critical and the complimentary. Kind Regards. Jan Kruger.  Sage Restaurant’

Disclosure: Chef Jan refused to accept payment for my meal and the MCC tasting.

Sage Restaurant, Chabivin Champagne and MCC House, Blaauwklippen Road, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 880-1643.   Sage Facebook page www.chabivin.co.za Twitter:@Chabivin  No Twitter page for Sage.  Breakfast and Lunch Mondays – Sundays, dinner by appointment.

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

Rhapsody’s opened in Green Point last week, where Doppio Zero used to be, perfectly positioned for business when the Cape Town Stadium hosts events, and for locals in general.  It is the first full-scale restaurant of this Pretoria-based franchise group in Cape Town, and the 12th for the group, which has ambitious restaurant opening plans for next year.  It was chatting to the Executive Chef Claire Brown, previously of Pierneef à La Motte, and some of the passionate managers that gave me confidence that this restaurant won’t be another franchise restaurant, but one that wants to make a difference for Capetonians.

I was intrigued when I first saw the logo on the boards outside the restaurant when I visited neighbouring Café Extrablatt about a month ago, and they told me the name of the restaurant.  The franchisor of the group and owner of the Cape Town branch is Michalis Xekalos, who opened his first Rhapsody’s branch in Menlyn, Pretoria ten years ago.  There are Rhapsody’s restaurants in Ghana, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, and Bedfordview, and an ambitious expansion plan for next year includes (more…)

One of the cleverest ideas for a new restaurant and champagne bar is MCC Franschhoek, and it is appropriate that its opening co-incided with the Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival this weekend.  MCC Franschhoek is a showcase of 34 Franschhoek sparkling wines of 14 Franschhoek producers.

The brainchild of Philip and Christy Harrison, previously managing De Huguenot Estate, MCC Franschhoek allowed the couple to work with a beverage they love best. Christy told me that Philip loves cooking,  having started to do so in Majorca, after studying accountancy. Both Philip and Christie owned a Weatherspoons outlet in Heathrow, but moved back to Cape Town thirteen years ago, Philip managing The Galley in Fish Hoek. They moved to the design of wedding stationery, and it is Christy who designed the stylish logo for MCC Franschhoek.  Due to the closure of the De Huguenot restaurant and Harry Q Bar at De Huguenot Estate (to be run as a wedding and event venue only in future), Philip and Christie took part of their share of the venture in kind, and therefore they have the stylish silver-upholstered chairs, black bar chairs and tables, and couches from De Huguenot restaurant, which are spread out in the courtyard of the Village Square. Each table has the MCC range and price list, and a perspex salt and pepper grinder stand.  Quality material serviettes and Fortis cutlery are stylish.

Alleé Bleue (Brut Rosé), Boschendal (MCC Le Grande Pavillion Brut Rosé, MCC Grande Cuvée Brut), Cape Chamonix (MCC Blanc de Blancs), Colmant (Brut Reserve, Brut Rosé, Brut Chardonnay), Dieu Donné (Maingard Brut, Rose MCC), Franschhoek Pass Winery (Morena Brut, Brut Rosé, Cuvée Catherine, Malabar Shiraz), Graham Beck (Brut, Brut Rosé NV and 2008, Bliss Demi Sec, Brut Blanc de Blancs, Zero), GM & Ahrens (Cap Classique), Hauté Cabriere (Pierre Jourdan Brut, Cuvée Belle Rose, Brut Sauvage, Blanc de Blancs, Cuvée Reserve), La Motte, Môreson (Miss Molly, Solitaire, Gala, Pink, One), My Wyn, Stony Brook (The Lyle), and Topiary (Blanc de Blancs Brut) sparkling wines are sold by the bottle, while a select number of bubbly brands can be bought by the glass, advertised on a blackboard.  Prices start at R110 for Miss Molly, peaking at R650 for the GM & Ahrens.  Surprisingly (given its name), a number of wines are offered too, and many are non-Franschhoek. Protea Sauvignon Blanc, Glenwood Sauvignon Blanc, Haute Cabrière Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, Beyerskloof Pinotage Rosé, Glenwood Shiraz Merlot blend, Graham Beck Game Reserve, and Guardian Peak Shiraz are all available by the glass, reasonably priced in a range from R20 – R35.

MCC Franschhoek opens from 8h00, and serves well-priced breakfasts, one paying per item (e.g. 2 eggs, bacon and toast costs R47); muesli, yoghurt and berry coulis, and a croissant with cheese and preserves cost R20 each.   There is no breakfast cut-off time.  The ‘Bites’ menu has a mix of salads (R45 – R65), sundowner platters (R50 – R75, and includes oysters, cheese, cold meats, and biltong), main courses, and desserts (R35 – R45), which can be ordered throughout the day.   I ordered a perfectly prepared Franschhoek salmon trout served with boiled potatoes, and a crispy fresh asparagus salad (R75).  Other main course options are sirloin steak and prawns in a beer batter, also costing R75.  One can also order beef lasagne, mussels, an open chicken Satay burger, and two tarts.  The menu will be updated and amended regularly.

I was impressed with the scale of the Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival in showcasing the leading bubbly brands for sale in this country.  It is held at the Huguenot Monument, which attracted 2000 bubbly-lovers yesterday, and more are expected today between 12h00 – 17h00.  Eight champagne brands (Billecart Salmon, Champagne Guy Charbaut, Claude Beaufort, Follet-Ramillon Brut Tradition, Piper Heidsieck, Thierry Lesne, Tribaut Brut Tradition, and Veuve Clicquot) presented their precious bubbles, as did 37 local sparkling wine producers. Staff representing the local brands Allée Bleue, Avondale, Bon Courage (in beautiful Carrol Boyes coolers), Boschendal, Bramon, Chabivin, Colmant, De Wetshof, Dieu Donné, Domaine Des Dieux, Francois la Garde, Genevieve MCC, The House of GM & Ahrens, Graham Beck, Groote Post, JC le Roux, Krone, Laborie, La Motte, Nicolas Feuillate Champagne for Woolworths, Morena, Môreson, My Wyn, Namaqua Wines (Guinevere very deep pink, with 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, all 3000 bottles exported), Pierre Jourdan, Pongracz, Quoin Rock, Rickety Bridge (new 2010 release, 50% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with only 3500 numbered bottles produced from Franschhoek grapes), Ross Gower, Saltare, Silverthorn, Simonsig, Steenberg, Sterhuis, Villiera, Weltevrede and Woolworths Wines all looked chic in their black and white outfits, the dress code of the Festival, which most attendees honoured too.  There were surprisingly few Franschhoek restaurants represented (Le Quartier Français, Mont Rochelle Country Kitchen, Haute Cabrière, Roca Restaurant, and the Salmon Bar), and the food was generally of a disappointing quality, given the theme of the Festival.  An exception was the sushi, salmon and other canapé platters made by new Le Franschhoek Hotel chef Oliver Cattermole.

MCC Franschhoek, 3 Village Square, 53 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel 083 772 9449/083 391 3869. No website.  Twitter: @MCCFranschhoek  Wednesday – Monday, 8h00 – until late, weather dependent.

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

I was invited by Manley Communications to try out the new The Marianne restaurant, which opened on Saturday on the De Huguenot Estate, almost two weeks ago.  While the property was not yet ready to receive guests at that time, the lunch gave us a good indication of the good things to come.

The 2,8 hectare De Huguenot Estate was bought by Tom and Marianne Gray about five years ago, previously having owned Highlands Guest House in Kenilworth.   The property is located alongside a wall that was built in the past year, whilst the road repairs in Pniel were done, with the Johannesdal name on it.  Tom told me that Johannesdal was a block of eight plots that was allocated to freed slaves, who settled in Pniel, and they named their joint land Johannesdal.  De Huguenot Estate is one of the blocks, and has the most magnificent view onto the Groot Drakenstein mountains.  De Huguenot Estate has one of the oldest buildings in Pniel, in which the Grays live, previously having been a stable and which was built in 1820, about twenty-five years before Pniel was founded.  We couldn’t have chosen a better sunny winter’s day, which enhanced the enjoyment.  In the distance we were shown the recently acquired 550 hectare property of Dick Enthoven, owner of Spier, which stretches all the way to Boschendal, and where he will set up polo grounds.

The property has four luxury suites, one of them a Honeymoon Suite, and will be looking to attract wedding business.  It has the Harry Q Bar (at which Chef Tanja will be serving what she calls “Floating Food”, being reasonably priced ‘sharing’ tapas with a difference) and Fraîche Deli and Café (to serve freshly baked breads, pastries, scones, quiches, and cakes, as well as all day breakfasts, and other lunch and treat options), and The Marianne restaurant.

The Marianne is a generously sized room with a fireplace, facing the mountains, and looks onto a massive oak tree, the valley and the mountains.  The walls are painted a soothing grey, and this is the colour of the staff uniforms too, apt given the owners’ surname!   For the lunch we were seated at one long table, being a collection of wedding planners, event co-ordinators, and writers.   Antique furniture is married with modern.  The impressive star heading up the kitchen is Chef Tanja Kruger, a talented winner of the Chaine de Rotisseurs Young Chef of the Year 2008, and a member of the South African Culinary Olympic Team, who moved from Hunter’s Country House in Plettenberg Bay, having worked at Lanzerac, the Radisson Hotel and Five Flies before.  Her Sous Chef is Christo Pretorius, 2010 Unilever Young Chef of the Year.  The patissier is Olga Puru, who will be doing the baking, and will make the wedding cakes too.  A vegetable garden has been established, and Chef Tanja will be focusing on using the freshest produce to prepare her food on Slow Food principles. Marianne Gray is charming, and she made us laugh when she said she is the owner of the wonderful new property, but cannot cook an egg nor does she drink alcohol!  But it is clear that she loves people and is a good entertainer and hostess.  We were welcomed with a glass of Colmant sparkling wine, and I enjoyed the Thelema Red wine.

Our menu was printed on classy silver paper, and was representative of the food to be served at The Marianne, with prices indicative of what will be charged.  We were offered a choice of seven starters, nine main courses and eight desserts, and we could see each others beautifully presented dishes as they came out of the kitchen.  I chose Rabbit for the starter, my first ever, a pistachio crusted saddle of rabbit and bacon pressed flank, served with liver parfait, an apple and raisin chutney, pickled shimiji and succotash (a corn, bean and tomato stew), which will cost R75.  Other starter choices are a Baby Iceberg salad, and Cauliflower custard and sweetcorn velouté (R40), Oxtail ravioli and Fairview Chevin and apple terrine (both R55), Quail curry (R65), and Pan seared scallops served with black pudding and sugar snap pesto (R75).

Main courses range from R80 – R135, and I chose the Sticky pork belly, which was served with apple and sweet potato puree, celeriac remoulade, apple crisps, roasted root vegetables and honey cider jus (R120).   It was hard to choose a dish out of the list of beautifully presented options, and I look forward to coming back, to try some of the other main courses, including Asparagus and mushroom bolognaise; a Caramelized onion, olive and Brie tart; an interesting sounding “Exploration of fish pie”; Prawn laksa, served with basmati rice and a laksa curry sauce; Roast rack of lamb; Chalmar beef sirloin; and “Hot smoked free range baby chicken”. For dessert, which all cost R45, I chose the Valrhona dark chocolate fondant, which oozed thick rich chocolate, and was served with honeycomb, milk chocolate ice cream as well as chocolate soil.   Other choices were a passion fruit soufflé; Orange crème caramel; poppyseed pannacotta; banana split, which was a deconstructed collection of deep fried banana custard, macerated cherries, caramelised banana, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and nut brittle; Sticky toffee pudding; and Blue cheese trifle.  What impressed was the Cheese board, which one can make up from a selection of eight cheeses, including an aptly named Huguenot, each costing R20, and to which one can add homemade watermelon preserve.

The Marianne Restaurant adds another fine dining restaurant to the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route, and adds another splendid restaurant to the Helshoogte Pass area, which includes Tokara and Delaire Graff.  I will be trying out the other dishes at The Marianne, and also Fraîche.  I liked the friendliness of the owners, and know that De Huguenot Estate will become a new food lovers’ destination in what is now South Africa’s new gourmet centre.

POSTSCRIPT 14/7:I returned this evening, to try the Harry Q bar for tapas – good quality, and value for money Seafood pops (hake and prawn tempura) at R45, Chicken Satay (R35), and home-made Marshmallow with a Valrhona chocolate ganache dip (R40).  Other tapas one can order include soup, mini Caesar salad, Caprese salad, ‘nude oysters’, Franschhoek salmon fish cakes, smoked gnocchi, pea and ham risotto, Aubergine Roulade, Pepperdew poppers, Spiced pork riblets, Fried Fairview Crotin, Beef short rib croquettes, and venison boerewors. Sweet tapas range in price from R30 – R40, and include homemade chocolate brownies, truffles and fudge, macaroons, and strawberries, all of which can be ordered with Valronah ganache or toffee sauce, at R10 each.

Manager Philip told us that owner Marianne has protested about the use of her name for the restaurant, and therefore it is now called de Huguenot.

POSTSCRIPT 7/8: I had my first lunch since the opening of de Huguenot to the public today, struggling to book telephonically earlier in the morning, but managing to do so by Twitter.  The restaurant was heavily booked, and had a nice smoky smell from the lit fire.  The restaurant windows allowed one to see the snow-topped Franschhoek mountain peaks in the distance.  A vase with daffodils and anenomes was on the table.  Fortis Hotelware cutlery was laid on the table, on a quality white table cloth.  The serviette was forgotten.   The menu has not changed from the one we saw at the launch lunch, as written about above.   A bread plate with a home-made seed loaf and two rolls were brought to the table with parsley-topped butter a minute before the food was served.  I loved the seedloaf so much that Manager Philip sold me the left-over loaf.  I ordered Asparagus and Mushroom bolognaise, made with lime spaghetti, a tomato sauce, and topped with parmesan shavings (R75).  It probably was not the best representation of Chef Tanja’s culinary skills.  Much more interesting was the Banana Split, which was a deconstructed dessert with slices of banana, a deep fried banana custard, macerated cherries, nut brittle, chocolate sauce, and a ball of chocolate (R45). The waiter that served me lacked polish and experience, and his service was not reflective of the quality of Chef Tanja’s food. The winelist look rather weathered from heavy use. MCC’s offered are Moreson’s Miss Molly (R150), Colmant Brut Reserve (R35/R195), and Graham Beck Brut (R235).  White wines by the glass are Thelema Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc (R25/R99), and Ken Forrester Petite Chenin (R25/R99).  Red wines by the glass are Thelema Mountain Red(R25/R99), and Ken Forrester Petite Cabernet/Merlot and Petite Pinotage (R25/R95).  Six Shiraz options are offered, ranging from R145 for a 2010 Guardian Peak to R325 for Hartenberg 2007.

POSTSCRIPT 14/10: Sadly the De Huguenot Restaurant will close down on 31 October.  Fraîche is no longer happening, and the Harry Q bar will become a breakfast, lunch and dinner venue.  The venue will focus on weddings and events.

POSTSCRIPT 2/3: Sadly, De Huguenot Estate will be auctioned on 14 March.

de Huguenot Restaurant, Fraîche Deli and Café, and Harry Q Bar, De Huguenot Estate, R310, Helshoogte Road, Johannesdal, Pniel, between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.  Tel 021 885-1240.  www.dehuguenot.co.za (Website still under construction).  Open ‘360°’, as Chef Tanja put it, Mondays – Sundays for breakfast and lunch, and eventually for dinner.

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

I had heard about the Long Table Restaurant and Cafe on the Haskell Vineyards outside Stellenbosch on Twitter, and tried it out recently.  I left overwhelmed by the unexpected quality of the food, matching the stature of the wine estate.  However, not all is perfect.  With some better-polished service staff, and some attention to its table presentation and housekeeping, it can rank with the best Stellenbosch restaurants.

Haskell Vineyards is at the end of the Annandale Road near Mooiberge Farmstall, high above and beyond Rust en Vrede.    I was impressed how three competitive wine farms (Rust en Vrede, Haskell and Bilton) have a collegial co-existence in sharing the security for the communal entrance to their farms. 

One cannot see the entrance to the restaurant from the parking area, as the restaurant signage is set back too far above the entrance door.   One enters a reception area, that of the restaurant on the left, and that of the winery on the right.   I was greeted by Corli as I entered, but I did not realise that she was the chef.  Using the bathroom first (door lock does not work on the middle door), I then connected with Werner Els, who does the wine tasting and sales, and he answered my question about the relationship between Dombeya and Haskell.

Dombeya was originally the name of the farm, and was known as a mohair wool farm and factory.  It also had grapes, and the wines made were branded Dombeya, a Latin family name for the wild pear, which is found on the farm.  Preston Haskell bought the farm earlier this decade, and introduced the Haskell wine label from 2007, when highly regarded winemaker Rianie Strydom started making the wines.   The Haskell wines are super-premium ones, selling at high prices.  The wine estate also represents PHD Wines, selling their Australian and New Zealand wine brands from the wine estate and from select retailers such as Caroline’s Fine Wines and Norman Goodfellow’s.   Werner told me that the new restaurant is pulling in feet through the door, and leading to wine sales since it opened five months ago.  Previously one had to make an appointment to taste the estate’s wines.

Werner showed me around the restaurant, demonstrating the collegiality that exists between the restaurant and wine sales, and I only learnt afterwards that Corli Els (no relation) is the chef and owner of Long Table, and leases the restaurant space from the winery.  The long table is in the last section of the restaurant, a beautiful wooden table that can seat about 20 persons.  Here they host regular Winemakers’ lunches.   Blackboards list the wines and menu items inside.   I noticed some odd looking lampshades, made from beads, but preferred to focus on the view from the terrace outside on a lovely summery winter’s day.

The outside area is large, with many tables and chairs, the trees providing shade if required.   The wooden tables and chairs are garden furniture, and the waiter brought a cushion for my chair after I had sat down. The waiter was an irritation – he kept wanting to talk to me in Afrikaans.  I found him extremely lightweight, and not a credit to the restaurant nor the wine estate.  I found it hard to understand what he was trying to tell me, and the pork belly which I ordered without chickpeas was served with chick peas!  It took him forever to bring the bill (there were only 2 tables in total booked for lunch).

Chef Corli was previously from Pretoria, and last worked at Ernie Els’ (no relation) Guardian Peak restaurant close by.  She has also worked at Hazendal, and owned the Fusion Cafe’s in Observatory and in Stellenbosch, but sold them.

Corli bakes her own bread (I loved the whole wheat bread), and is excited that the farm is creating an organic vegetable and herb garden for her.   I ordered the Avocado and papaya salad served as a stack with Black Forest ham, with a yummy dressing, and finished off with a pansy – I have not seen one on food for years.  I loved the salad, and the look of it, and I would come back again just for it alone!     The main course choice was pork belly, costing R98, served with a generous portion of creamy mash, crispy fresh vegetables, a tangy orange sauce and fine orange rind (and the unwanted chickpeas!).

The menu and winelist are attached onto unattractive clipboards, and could be more attractively presented.  The menu has an eclectic mix and a good number of dishes to choose from.  For Starters one can have beef carpaccio; lamb kidneys; fresh corn, or pear and camembert soup; a “super foods” salad or crunchy Caprese parcels, costing between R 50 – R60.  There are 14 “Light Meals and Main Courses”, in what seems a waste to have all ingredients available for so few people.  One can have a chicken salad; Beef Burger (with all sorts of yummy-sounding additions like wild mushrooms, prosciutto, onion confit, mustard bearnaise, for R70); beef strips; cajun chicken sandwich; farfalle pasta;  mushroom ravioli; lamb medallions; duck breasts; spiced quail; fresh linefish; grainfed sirloin steak;  Moroccan lamb shank, and oxtail braised in red wine.  All of these range from R 59 to R 105 for the last two dishes.   Two specials were also available, kingklip at a reasonable sounding R85, and Springbok at R108.  When speaking to Corli, she told me that preparing venison is one of her food favourites.   I did not have a dessert, but will do so on a next visit, most costing a reasonable R35.  Chocolate fondant, pecan nut praline cheesecake, confit apple tart and malva pudding are some of the options.  There is a Kiddies Menu, with “Foodies”, and “Goodies”(the sweets) to choose from.  The menu is changed every 2 -3 months.

The winelist is disappointing, only having one page of local wines, with unforgivable vintage corrections made by pen (commendably though the vintages have been changed to older rather than younger ones!).  “Riesling” is incorrectly spelt.  The remainder of the five pages lists imported wines, which are the Australian and New Zealand PHD wines.   The Australian wine brands are Hoddles Creek, Kalleske, and Spinifex, and are in line with South African prices, the Spinifex Shiraz Viognier being most expensive at R 435.  The New Zealand wines sold are Craggy Range, Felton Road, Lawsons Dry Hills and Wild Rock, the prices not being unreasonable – the Craggy Range The Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend the most expensive at R475. No vintages are specified for the PHD wines.   Dombeya wines can be bought from R60 upwards (Sauvignon Blanc), the Shiraz being most pricey at R 96.  The Haskell wines are far more expensive, the Aeon Syrah costing R 290, and the Pillars Syrah R 400, both being 2007 vintages.  The Dombeya wines are marked up by R20 each in the restaurant, the Haskell ones are not.  A glass of Dombeya Sauvignon Blanc costs R25, and the Samara costs R30.

The “Cafe” part of the restaurant name refers to the freshly baked cakes, muffins, scones and tarts that are served before and after lunch.

I will come back in a flash for the Avocado and papaya salad, and was most impressed with Chef Corli’s food, and good value.  I found a number of dissonances between the high quality of the Haskell Vineyards’ brands and the image they are creating, and Long Table’s far more casual decor, the laid back and less than adequate service from the waiter, the lack of table coverings, and the unattractive and unprofessional winelist, making the Long Table feel amateurish in almost all respects, other than in the high quality of Chef Corli’s food.

Long Table Restaurant and Cafe, Haskell Vineyards, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021)  881-3746. www.longtable.co.za. (The website is a model website for a restaurant – lots of beautiful photographs create appetite appeal and demonstrate Chef Corli’s food presentation skills, winelist and menu available, and I even saw some recipes on the Haskell website.  Beautiful presentation of information – a pity this appetite appeal is not reflected in the actual menu and winelist).   Tuesday – Sunday 8h00 – 17h00.  Breakfast and Lunch.   On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

POSTSCRIPT 8/8:  I returned to the Long Table for lunch today.  Disappointingly, the winelist still has handwritten changes, and the Avocado & Papaya Salad did not have the salad dressing, which made the salad so tasty on my last visit.   I had a taste of the Mushroom Ravioli, which was outstanding, and I loved the presentation and taste of the Apple Tart, even though the portion was small.  The winelist did have vintages for the imported wines offered today, but the copy I saw on my first visit did not.

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