Yesterday I visited the Carrol Boyes head office in Paarden Eiland, and was shown around its extensive and impressive Showroom, and Chocolate and Sugar Confectionery production facility by its CEO Craig Ludwig. Continue reading →
One of Franschhoek’s most popular festivals take place this weekend , on Saturday and Sunday 29 and 30 November, ending off a year of festivals which Franschhoek is so good at organising. The MasterCard Franschhoek ‘Magic of Bubbles’ Cap Classique Champagne Festival is a mouthful of a title, but the 22 Méthode Cap Classiques (MCCs) and champagnes make the pilgrimage to Franschhoek worth while.
Taking place in a marquee close to the Huguenot Monument, top South African MCCs and imported champagnes are available to taste. Bubbly brands available to taste are Pierre Jourdan, Morena, Môreson, La Motte, Boschendal, Leopard’s Leap, Noble Hill, Plaisir de Merle, Anthonij Rupert Wines, JC le Roux, Krone, Pongracz, Steenberg, Continue reading →
Emily’s restaurant is 21 years old, and has recently opened at its third home on Kloof Street, having spent ten years each in Woodstock and in the V&A Waterfront. The restaurant has lost all of its previous charm, and its main attraction (Chef Peter Veldsman) is nowhere to be seen. It has sold its soul to Coca Cola, its branding seen throughout the restaurant, not befitting an establishment of the stature of Chef Peter and his partner Chef Johan Odendaal.
Chef Peter once was the most high profile food editor of Sarie magazine, and was known and loved by all, the doyen of food writers in his heyday. He has written eleven cookery books, and has contributed to many others too. He has won numerous food awards. He started the Culinary Arts Institute of Africa Restaurant School at the same time as opening Emily’s restaurant in Woodstock in 1994, long before the suburb became trendy, and it was extremely popular for a decade. I remember its quirky decor, inside an attractive building, and being particularly popular amongst Afrikaans Capetonians, it being their first real Afrikaans restaurant. Chef Johan ran the cookery school, and his students were the servers.
Surprisingly Emily’s moved to the V&A Waterfront, badly Continue reading →
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’
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
The Cap Classique and Champagne Festival is one of the highlights of the Franschhoek calendar, and its contribution to tourism is in the league of the Bastille Festival and Franschhoek Literary Festival. In the next two days 51 Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) and Champagne producers will be offering their bubblies for tasting, at marquees alongside the Huguenot Monument. Thirteen MCC producers are from Franschhoek. The dress theme is ‘Black and White’ with an emphasis on ‘Birds and Bows’, and the Festival is open from 12h00 – 17h00. Entrance costs R200.
The bubbly producers are as follows: Colmant, Graham Beck Wines, Krone, La Motte, Morena, Môreson, Pierre Jourdan, Simonsig, Steenberg, Allée Bleue, Avondale, Bon Courage, Boschendal, Bramon, Cederberg, Chabvin, De Wetshof, Dieu Donné, Domaine des Deux, Francois La Garde, Villiera, Genevieve, GM & Ahrens, Guinevere, Groote Post, JC le Roux, Kumkani, Laborie, L’Omarins Anthonij Rupert, My Wyn, Plaisir de Merle, Pongracz, Quion Rock, Rickety Bridge, Ross Gower, Saltare, Saronsberg, Silverthorn, Sterhuis, Stony Brook, Tanzanite, Villiera, Weltevrede, Wonderfontein Paul René, Woolworths, Billecart Salmon, Tribaut, Guy Charbaut, Claude Beaufort, Follet-Ramillon, Therry Lesne, and Veuve Clicquot.
Food and other beverages will be offered for sale by Franschhoek restaurants, including Café Bon Bon, Deluxe Coffeeworks, Chamonix, Haute Cabrière is offering salads, Huguenot Fine Chocolates, Jessie’s Ice Cream, Le Franschhoek Hotel is offering pork pies and macaroons, Le Quartier Français, Bread & Wine, Mont Rochelle, Roca Restaurant, Salmon Bar, with Wild Peacock selling oysters.
POSTSCRIPT 2/12: The Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival has just endeded, a highly successful event. The best dressed stand, in our opinion, was Morena from Franschhoek, always looking classy. Graham Beck was the best branded stand.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
I was invited by Katie and Jonny Friedman to dinner at Kitima in Hout Bay, an icon of Asian cuisine in Cape Town, and winner of the Best Asian restaurant in South Africa in the Eat Out Restaurant Awards in November. It was a most interesting evening, not only experiencing the good value food, but also hearing the story about Elsa’s Table, named in honour of one of Hout Bay’s longest standing ‘residents’!
The Friedmans own Orphanage on Bree Street, and we got to know each other at their cocktail emporium when it opened earlier this year. They have done so well with Orphanage that they are linking it to a double story behind the existing building, with an entrance on Orphan Street, adding another bar downstairs, and creating the Orphanage Club upstairs in which 1920’s style jazz, blues, and other music will be performed live. Reservations must be made, and it is planned to serve canapés with the drinks, served by the bottle in this venue. The Friedmans live in Llandudno, and love Kitima, usually eating there once a week. They were surprised that I had never been, and wanted to share one of their favourite restaurants with me.
Kitima is close to the Imizamo Yethu township in Hout Bay, but one feels very secure, as one is guided into the parking by their security staff, and shown the entrance to the building. The old Cape Dutch building, originating from 1670 when it was a manor house on the first farm in Hout Bay, and having been a National Monument for more than 50 years, is called The Kronendal, and is a tasteful marriage of its untouched historic Dutch origin with Thai decor touches added. The building relives the history of the Cape via the Dutch East India Company, which connected Europe, the Cape, and Siam (now Thailand). There are two generous bars, with lounge seating at one, and bar seating at the other, serving fresh ‘Thai and Western cocktails’ , which are prepared by mixologists. I had a taste of Katie’s Strawberry Rose Martini, a delicious cocktail with a minute rose, and it was actress Halle Berry’s favourite when she ate there while filming in Cape Town two years ago. It was amusing that my simple request for a medium cream sherry appeared a more exotic order than the martinis which Katie and Jonny ordered. There are three rooms (Bangkok, Boat, Temple) and the VIP Room, in which the restaurant patrons sit, up to 160 in winter and about 220 in summer, when they can expand outside. Tables are placed quite close to each other, yet one does not hear the other patrons. Tables have white tablecloths, and the chairs are upholstered in a black and grey/silver fabric.
Waiting for the Friedmans to arrive, I was shown around the restaurant by host Stian, and our first stop was at Elsa’s Table in the entrance hall, the only table in this large space, and which attracted my attention with its plates of food on the table, with a glass each of red and white wine, and a vase with red roses. It looked like a table at which a very special event was about to be celebrated, one assuming that the couple had temporarily vacated the table to go to the bar. It was quickly explained that this is Elsa’s Table, Elsa having been the daughter of one of the first Dutch owners of the building, Sir Abraham Josias Cloete, who lived there with his family between 1835 – 1849. Elsa fell in love with a British soldier. Their union was not sanctioned by her parents, so he committed suicide at the oak tree outside the restaurant building. It is said that Elsa died of a broken heart. Since then her ghost has regularly been seen in the building on moonlit nights, and her existence felt inside the building. In accordance with Thai culture, the table laid for Elsa and her soldier is a blessing, and has been prepared in honour of the spirits. Since Kitima has opened and dedicated the table to her, there has been minimal activity and no more sightings of her ghost, I was told. Our waiter was kind enough to check which dishes were served at Elsa’s Table that evening, and his list was Pad Pak Rum (seasonal vegetables wok-fried with a garlic and oyster sauce), Pla Neng Ma Nao (steamed kingklip), steamed rice, and Crêpe Suzette. The dishes served at Elsa’s Table are changed daily. The red wine was a Barista Pinotage, but the white wine was an artificial liquid, he said, and the roses plastic. I was reprimanded for putting my handbag on one of the chairs to make a note about a piece of information, reflecting how serious the restaurant is in honouring its previous resident.
The restaurant is named after its owner Kitima Sukonpongpao, who arrived in Cape Town from Thailand ten years ago. She opened Kitima five years ago, specialising in Asian cuisine, including Japanese, Chinese, and Thai. Ten ‘5-star Thai chefs’ run the kitchen. Chef Kent came to the table, telling us that he had just returned from Thailand, but that he was teaching students at the University of Thailand about restaurant service and food preparation, an honour to do this for the King of Thailand, only seeing his mother for two days, and barely having a break. Thai cooking is characterised by its use of herbs, and lemongrass in particular, I was told, but its true recipe to success is its service, making it unique, and therefore better than Nobu and Haiku, said the restaurant host. The restaurant is so popular that one must book ahead. The website introduces the philosophy of the restaurant: ‘Only passions, great passions, elevate the soul to great things’.
The brown covered menu is the largest I have seen, even more extensive than that of Haiku. It is neatly organised into Appetisers, Soups, Salads, Sushi and Sashimi, Dim Sum, Soup, Salads, Seafood, Duck and Chicken, Beef, Pork and Ostrich, Curries, Vegetables, Rice, and Noodles, each section offering a large selection of options. The first observation was how inexpensive Kitima is, when compared to Haiku, Nobu, and Willoughby’s, for example. The waiter told us immediately that most of the Dim Sum was not yet available, needing a few days to be prepared after the restaurant re-opened from its winter break. When Katie wanted to order the tuna, she was told that it was out of stock too. One is served a spoon and fork, and chopsticks, and I asked for a knife for both the starter and main course. I ordered Ebi (R40), which is a prawn, avocado and Japanese mayonnaise handroll, as a starter, beautifully presented on a stand. Appetisers include oysters (R15 each), a number of spring roll options, including duck, cheese, vegetable, and prawn, and prawn cakes cost R45 for three. The sushi selection is extensive, tuna and salmon sashimi, and prawn, tuna and salmon Nigiri costing about R15 each. Platters of eight pieces of sushi range from R38 – R55, a number of handroll and fashion sandwiches are offered, and salmon roses cost R52 for four. Dum Sum is defined as ‘little treasures’, and include a number of ingredient combinations, including prawns, pork, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, ginger, and chives, at a price range of R33 – R40. The well-known Thai Tom Yum Goong prawn soup with mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass and coconut milk, topped with fresh coriander (R39), and traditional Japanese Miso soup with tofu and spring onion (R25), are included in the soup list. Numerous salad options are available, including beef, prawn, chicken, duck, fish, seared tuna, and vermicilli, costing between R50 – R70.
For the main course I tried my Haiku favourite, being Duck à L’Orange. Katie told me that the duck comes from Thailand, as they were not happy with the quality that they source locally. The duck dishes cost R105 – R125, while the chicken dishes cost around R65. Seafood main course options are dominated by prawns, including a prawn basket, and sweet and sour prawn. Kingklip, salmon, and Bluenose (not on the SASSI list) can be ordered, steamed, fried with batter, or wok-fried. All the beef, pork, and ostrich dishes are wok-fried, and cost about R75, with the exception of the ostrich, which is a little more expensive. Red and green chicken and seafood curries, chicken and beef peanut curries, and lychee duck curry are some of the curry options. For vegetarians there are a selection of choices, including a green or red vegetable curry, costing about R55. Steamed rice costs R12, but one can also order egg fried, vegetable fried, or prawn fried (R49) rice. Noodle dishes are served with chicken, prawns or vegetables.
For dessert Katie and I shared Crepe Suzette, which was served with ice cream (R45), and I had a cappuccino (R18) with it. The other dessert options are more Western, including Crème Brûlée, Bread and Butter pudding, deep fried bananas, chocolate or fruit spring rolls, lychees, sorbets, and ice creams, inexpensive at R28 – R45.
The Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz (R270) was decanted, and was a good choice for our meal. The winelist recommends the pairing of Riesling for medium-spiced and steamed dishes; Sauvignon Blanc for chicken, fish, and seafood; Chardonnay for milder dishes and sushi; Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for pork, duck, and spicy beef dishes; and Pinot Noir for more subtle-flavoured beef dishes. The rules are quite strict, with corkage costing R35 for local wines and R50 for champagne. However, one may not bring any brands that are on the restaurant’s winelist. Disappointing is that no vintage information is provided, and that there are typing errors, unforgivable for a restaurant that has invested in an extensive wine, spirit, and liqueur offering. A list of 13 champagnes is offered, ranging from R110/R660 per glass/bottle of Guy Charbaut Selection Brut to R3200 for Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1998. Other champagne brands include Bollinger, Ayala, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon, and Billecart Salmon. Only seven MCCs are available, starting at R35/R140 per glass/bottle of Beyerskloof Pinotage Brut Rosé, peaking at R 490 for Steenberg 1682 Pinot Noir Brut. A wide selection of varieties is offered. The Shiraz prices start at R33/R90 for Arabella by glass/bottle, and include the excellent Andreas, as well as Holden Manz.
For a first time visitor Kitima feels overwhelming, both in terms of its size, and its extensive winelist and menu. One could go back week after week, as the Friedmans do, and try something different each time, the variety offered being so extensive. The prices are unbelievably good for having received the Eat Out accolade of the best Asian restaurant in South Africa. Service is very attentive, polite and correct, starting when one parks on the property, and one is guided by attendants. A nice touch was the chef’s visit to the table. I will certainly be back, to try more of the menu. I loved the story of Elsa’s Table, and the respect that is paid to this spirit.
Kitima, 140 Main Road, Hout Bay. Tel (021) 790-8004. www.kitima.co.za. Twitter:@_Kitima. Tuesday to Saturday dinner, Sunday buffet lunch. Booking recommended.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I was invited to try out the 34-seater Dash restaurant in the Queen Victoria Hotel, which only opened in the Waterfront on Saturday, last night. Chef Steven Tempelton is the leader of a creative team at Dash, whose food not only was visually appealing, but excellent too, and was responsible for a most dashing dinner. Dash is one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Cape Town, and an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant coontender for 2012.
The 35-bedroom Queen Victoria Hotel, previously the V&A Waterfront company head office, cost R53 million to transform into 5-star luxury, and the interior decor was done by master ‘craftsman’ Francois du Plessis, who has also just done Dear Me restaurant. Cleverly, Newmark Hotels MD Neil Markovitz has arranged for the nearby Everard Read gallery to hang some if its artists’ works in the hotel, benefiting both parties. Dash has been honoured by a dominant work by Beezy Bailey. The work is called “The Storm has passed”, and reflects the style of food created at Dash. The back of the painting has a poem by Bailey: “As the storm cleared/The dove escaped the cat’s claws/While the blueberry elephants passed by./As God’s tears hit the sky,/they turned into flowers”.
I was welcomed on arrival in the lobby, in which the 30-year old bonsai imported from China holds centre court, by Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon, whom I had already seen in action last week, when I popped in for a tour around the hotel, led by Markovitz and the hotel’s PR consultant Ian Manley. Alton has always been a most charming host when he worked at Balducci in the past four years, and has impressed with his knowledge of and passion for wine. He started his career in retail. He moved into hospitality, and worked at Belthazar and Poplars before managing Balducci.
Chef Stephen Templeton grew up in Somerset West, and has been the Executive Chef at Sun City and the Mount Nelson Hotel. He also was head of a team of 47 chefs at Harrods, the largest Food & Beverage operation in Europe, he said. After a four year period in running Four Oaks guest house and restaurant in Montagu, he had an opportunity to sell it, and move back to Cape Town. It was in this time that he was approached by Newmark Hotels to become Group Chef, mainly responsible for their restaurants at the V&A Hotel, Dock House and Queen Victoria Hotel, all in the V&A. Chef Stephen says that he was hands-on in the development of Dash, in sourcing its crockery, cutlery and glassware, in developing a fine winelist, and creating the unique menu. The name for the restaurant was the result of a five hour brainstorm with the hotel’s executive team, and it was Ronan Jackson from the design agency that suggested the name, after Queen Victoria’s spaniel. Chef Stephen and Francois du Plessis worked together to create a ‘New York sexy’ interior and menu that complement each other, and Du Plessis has said that it is the first time that his decor has been so well matched by a menu. Chef Stephen is aiming at presenting ‘sophisticated, stylish, contemporary yet simple food’ at Dash, which he more than achieves. He wants the food’s personality to shine through, not that of the chef. Chef Stephen has an interesting team of nine chefs in the kitchen, with an average age of 24 years. We laughed when we discovered that there is a Chef Jamie and a Chef Oliver in the kitchen. I met Chef Oliver Cattermole, who created the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’ of vegetables that is served with the beef fillet. He worked at one-Michelin-star Novelli, and at The Ivy in London. All staff have been taught to make coffee, and have tested the menu, to allow everyone to assist guests, as if one were in a guest house and not in a hotel, Chef Stephen said. The waitress looking after me was Coral, and was honest in saying that she has just finished studying, and that Dash is her first job. She was sweet, willing to execute every request, but still lacked some knowledge on how the magic is created in the kitchen. She went to ask the kitchen all my questions. The staff wear a white shirt with the Queen Victoria Hotel logo on it, black pants and a white Dash-branded apron.
The welcome was warm, with Alton taking me through to the lounge, where I was invited to have a drink. I chose a coffee. Chef Stephen was happy to hear that I had starved during the day, in anticipation of the dinner. Vegetable crisps were brought to the table as a snack. I asked Chef Stephen what would happen if the 34-seater would run out of space in the 35-room hotel, and he assured me that they would pass the business on to the other Newmark Hotel restaurants in the Waterfront. Chef Stephen sees Dash operating in the league of The Roundhouse, The Test Kitchen and Aubergine.
The restaurant has a black tile floor, an impressive black marble surround fireplace dividing the lounge/bar area from the restaurant, beautiful silver curtains, and a wonderful view onto Table Mountain. The Beezy Bailey is the only colour splash in the room. The tables are black metal, made by ‘in’ designer Gregor Jenkin I was told by Francois du Plessis, with white leather chairs. There are no table cloths, but a good quality serviette, with very heavy and solid Sambonet cutlery imported from Germany, the first time I have seen this locally. The glassware is excellent. There is a little candle, and rather ordinary tiny white salt and pepper cellars, probably superfluous anyway, given the excellent food, not requiring seasoning. The only criticism I shared with Alton was the music selection, being heavy jazz initially, and sounding hotel-like generally. I reminded him of the great music one hears at Belthazar and Balducci. The bar is lit with purple lighting at night, and bounces off the bar chairs, creating an interesting visual affect as one enters the bar area. The colour of the lighting changes throughout the day.
I chose a starter of confit of crayfish on a cucumber sockle with a coriander and paw paw salad (R145). The impressive part of its presentation was the paw paw crisp, creating a centerpiece to the starter, and tasting sweet and crispy. Chef Stephen explained that paw paw is liquidised, then glycerine is added, it is baked for nine hours, and then thin slices are cut to create the crisp. The cucumber was as fresh as could be, as was the salad, the paw paw in it echoing the crisp. Sorrel foam completed the presentation. No sauces got in the way of the natural fresh taste of the elements of the dish. No fish knife was served with this starter. Other starter choices, ranging in price from R55 – R145, include beetroot cured salmon, oysters served on seaweed, wild mushroom ragoût, Ceasar salad, seared foie gras, and caviar (SQ). The surprise was the most amazing sorbets that were served, and I was allowed three: I chose the Tomato Granite, to which Coral added vodka; a most refreshing Lime & Lemon; and the most amazing Rose, complete with its own rose petals dipped in egg white and crystallised. The sorbets cost R25 for a choice of three.
The main course choice of Grilled fillet of beef with herb mash and spinach purée with vegetables and port jus (R140) has created a stir. This menu description does not do justice to the amazing creation that arrived – three slices of fillet on mash, but it was the presentation of the vegetables that created the ‘wow’ response, dubbed by the staff as the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’, an amazing symphony of carrot, tomato, mushrooms, orange-coloured mini corn-cob, baby radish, baby aubergine, baby turnip, sheets of cauliflower stalk, and tomadillo (tasting of tomato with the texture of aubergine, looking like a green gooseberry), so beautifully presented. Chef Oliver called it ‘psychedelic vegetables’, and told me that he sources them from the Magic Man in the Karoo. Main courses are reasonably priced, some being cheaper than the starters, and range from R95 to R145 for roasted sea bass, lobster tortellini, venison, tomato and beetroot tart, scallops, lamb noisette, and duck confit risotto. The dessert list consists of four options, ranging from R50 – R70, in addition to a Cape cheeseboard (R115), and I chose the Pimms jelly, mint bavois and strawberry sauce, beautifully presented with a long elegant spoon, and well paired with a glass of Silverthorn The Green Man sparkling wine (made by Steenberg GM John Loubser in his private capacity). Other dessert options are chocolate fondant, coconut panacotta, and liquorice macaroons. Coral brought a cappuccino made with Origin coffee to have with the dessert, and a sweet touch was a jug of extra froth, showing that Alton must have read a Tweet of mine a few days ago about the extra froth a waiter had brought me at Salt Deli, also a Newmark Hotel property.
Alton indulged my love for Shiraz, and poured a glass of Quoin Rock 2006 (R208 per bottle), with violet notes. Coral brought tap water with an ice bucket and slices of lemon. The winelist is impressive, bound in grey leather, with the hotel logo on it. Champagnes and MCC sparkling wines are at the back of the winelist, normally found at the front. Each wine variety is described, and the origin and vintage of each wine is presented, as are the tasting notes for each wine, generated from a tasting panel’s evaluation of each of the about 100 wines listed. This is a future Diner’s Club Diamond Award winelist candidate. The champagnes start at R 940 for Guy Charbaut Select Brut NV, going up to R3500 for Dom Perignon Vintage. Veuve Cliquot Rosé, Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve, and Pol Roger Brut Reserve are also available. MCC’s start at R200 for Moreson Solitaire, with High Constantia Clos Andre costing R445. Shiraz choices start at R 205 for Raka Biography, up to R 1390 for Saxenburg SSS Shiraz 2005. The wine-by-the glass policy is interesting – there are no prices for these, but one can order any wine on the list by the glass, within reason, and then Alton and his staff will try to sell the rest of the bottle to other guests.
If there is one taste at Dash that I will never forget it is that of the Rose sorbet – a taste I have never experienced before. Dash is excellent, and perfect, and I know that the music selection will be addressed, as will the waiters’ food knowledge evolve. They are so many items on the menu to return to, to try out. From photographs of the other menu items it is evident that each dish is a work of art in presentation alone. The kitchen closes at about 22h30, but one can pop in at the 24-hour Dash bar for a drink, a coffee or even a dessert, ordered from the room service menu, after the kitchen has closed. After being a loyal V&A Waterfront shopper for twenty years, it is refreshing to have such an excellent quality restaurant so close by, yet away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial Waterfront area. I salute Newmark Hotels’ MD Neil Markovitz and his team in creating such an exceptional restaurant.
POSTSCRIPT 14/4: I went back to Dash for a quick coffee and more sorbet, and to show my colleague the Queen Victoria Hotel and Dash restaurant. Restaurant Manager Darren looked after us, and organised the extra cappuccino foam on the side, from reading this review. The hotel is almost booked out with delegates from Brazil attending a Tupperware conference.
POSTSCRIPT 8/5: Staying over at the invitation of the Queen Victoria Hotel presented an opportunity for me to introduce my son to Dash, which he was very impressed by. Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon was most generous in offering us a bottle of Hartenberg The Stork Shiraz 2005, knowing my love for an old-style shiraz. The chef sent out two complimentary dishes to those we had ordered: the appetizer was a tomato, basil, and mushroom dust, served on a heavy slate plate, reminding me of the work of Eric Bulpitt, previously of Jardineand now at The Round House. We both ordered a filling starter of wonderful wild mushroom ragout in puff pastry, served with green beans and bearnaise (R65). Alex had the beef fillet with the ‘Alice in Wonderland vegetable garden’, while I ordered Springbok loin, carrot purée and turnip gratin (R135). We shared a trio of Rose, Lemon and lime, and Orange and citrus sorbets (R25). The chef sent out a complimentary pannacotta and lemon sorbet for usto share. A wonderful evening, once again with an excellent meal, and charming and highly-impressive service by Alton.
POSTSCRIPT 15/5: I returned to Dash with Carole, my colleague in Hermanus, and we were well looked after by Restaurant Manager Darren and Chef Oliver Cattermole. I tried the Duck Confit Risotto with citrus and herb potpourri, the potpourri containing tea, dried duck (tasting like biltong) and herbs, and served in a separate bowl, which I sprinkled over the risotto. Carole had the Beef fillet and the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vegetable garden. For dessert we had the Chocolate Fondant, which oozed Valrhona chocolate sauce when we opened it, with orange ice cream, a beautiful presentation. I had my cappuccino with a jug of extra foam, always a nice touch! It was great to meet One&Only Cape Town Hotel Executive Chef Jason Millar, who was celebrating his anniversary at Dash, and to hear a chef’s reaction to the food of another chef – he was most complimentary. Chef Oliver Cattermole is the driving force in the Dash kitchen, in my opinion, and has created a vegetable and herb garden on the roof of Newmark Hotels’ V&A Hotel, from which he will harvest for his kitchen in future.
POSTSCRIPT 25/5: Another lovely lunch with excellent service at Dash today, spoiling my friend Jenny to a birthday lunch. She was surprised to receive a birthday card from the hotel, and a surprise chocolate fondant dessert with her cappuccino. Jenny’s Beetroot cured salmon with horseradish apple slaw was beautifully presented.
POSTSCRIPT 1/7: Today I took Trevor Jordaan for a birthday lunch at Dash. I ordered a Cape Malay butternut velouté, while Trevor had a chicory and pickled pear salad, both beautifully presented. Happy to hear how well the restaurant is doing, and has appointed an Assistant Manager Andrea.
POSTSCRIPT 3/8: Sadly, Restaurant Manager Darren Morgan left the hotel on Monday. F&B Manager Alton van Biljon has taken a leave of absence, and his return date is uncertain, if he returns at all. Andrea confirmed this evening that lunch will not be served at Dash for the time being.
POSTSCRIPT 12/8: I had the Mushroom Ragout again this evening, and the pastry casing was tough, and the size of the dish has definitely shrunk. No Andreas Shiraz was available, which I had tried at Dash for the first time a month ago, when Michael McKenzie and I popped in. The waiter asked how I enjoyed the dish. I said I didn’t, due to the shrunk size and tough pastry, to which he confidently retorted that the perfect pastry casing is tough! Chef Jamie was in the kitchen this evening. I shared the problem with Hostess Connie, and she apologised. The waiter told me that the kitchen was sending out a second Ragout, but Connie arrived with the bill, having taken the Ragout off it, saying that the waiter had told her I didn’t want the replacement Ragout. I got up and left in disbelief at this comedy of errors, the first evening of serious dissatisfaction at Dash.
POSTSCRIPT 25/9: We had a ‘last supper’ at Dash this evening, one of the last nights that Chef Oliver Cattermole will be in the Queen Victoria Hotel kitchen, before he starts at What’s On Eatery on Saturday. I chose the Foie gras with apple, excellent, but pricey as a starter at R140. My son enjoyed his Duck risotto (R125). The Rose sorbet no longer is dark pink, as photographed above, and doesn’t taste as amazing as I remember it. Service efficient but functional, and the personal touch has gone. Excellent Andreas Shiraz 2008 now my favourite Shiraz. Sad to see us being only one of two tables. Despite being told in early days that all wines on the winelist are available by the glass, the limit is that only bottles under R300 may be opened for wines by the glass.
Dash Restaurant, Queen Victoria Hotel, Portswood Close, Portswood Ridge, V&A Waterfront. Tel (021) 418-1466. www.queenvictoriahotel.co.za (The Dash menu and winelist are now listed on the website, but the Image Gallery does not contain enough photographs to reflect the amazing creativity of the Dash chefs).
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I had heard about Bella Lucia Ristorante Italiano, which had opened in chic Chelsea in Wynberg in April, from my friend Mark, who raved about the new Mediterranean restaurant. It serves excellent food and wines at very reasonable prices, and is an asset for the Southern Suburbs, which is not blessed with many good restaurants.
The restaurant belongs to Nicola Gross, who bought the restaurant when it was called Lippo’s. She named the restaurant after her beautiful daughter Lucia. She added the space of a neighbouring hairdresser, doubling the size of the restaurant, and added a deck section upstairs which will become home to a cocktail bar in the next two weeks. The restaurant looked as if it had only two tables when I first peeked through the door, in-between its lunch and dinner opening times. The second section is much larger, and a total of 60 patrons can be seated. Decor is minimalist, and I loved the large decorative silver knife, fork and spoon on the wall, embodying in a focused manner what the restaurant is all about. The words COOK and EAT on the wall are part of the decor, and there is nothing else on the walls.
The restaurant has a clean, smart yet friendly look to it, all in white furniture with red seating, and white tablecloth-covered tables. Elegant olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottles are on the tables. The cutlery and glassware is of good quality, but the paper serviette was a disappointment. The waiter Keith was most friendly, and very proactive – he noticed a slight wobble of the table, due to the grooves between the floor tiles, and brought a remedy to stabilise it.
The menu is a mix of Mediterranean dishes, and others. The starters are mostly Italian, including parma ham wrapped quail (R70), mozzarella and artichoke salad (R65), potato gnocchi with pear, blue cheese and leeks (R60), and duck risotto (R65). Mains range in cost from R70 – R105, commendable in keeping so close to the R100 mark, and include confit duck leg, sirloin streak, braised lamb shank, fish and chips, a Bella Lucia Pie, and more. I ordered the wonderful Wild Mushroom sauce and homemade Pappardelle pasta, drizzled with truffle oil, and presented with rocket and large shavings of Parmesan cheese (R65). I was in-between appointments, and had been badly held up by road works on the M3, and therefore time did not allow me to have anything additional than a perfect frothy cappuccino, at a total cost of R 81. Desserts include Amarula pannacotta, tiramisu, chocolate pot with mascarpone, caramelised lemon tart and more, none costing more than R50. A new lighter summer menu will be launched next week.
David Winton is the chef, and was previously at Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel. David told me that the neighbourhood is very supportive of the restaurant, and that an increasing number of regulars come back to host special celebrations at the restaurant. David and his team are offering good food and a relaxed atmosphere.
The winelist is on the reverse of the laminated menu, and simply classifies the wines as “Bubbles”, Whites, Reds, and Dessert wines. Vintages are specified but the region of origin is not. Bubblies range from Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage (R205) to Guy Charbaut Premier Cru (R650). Seven wines-by-the-glass range from a reasonable R35 (R90-95 per bottle) for Petit Chenin Ken Forrester, Waterford Pecan Stream, Groote Post Old Mans Blend and Slow Wine RosÃ©, to R60/R150 for the Constantia Uitsig Unwooded Chardonnay. A good and very reasonably priced red wine selection is available, with six wines-by-the-glass (Waterford Pebble Hill, KC Cabernet Merlot, Landskroon Paul de Villiers Shiraz, Beyerskloof Pinotage, Sterhuis Merlot and Terre del Capo San Giovese) ranging in price from R40/R95 – R50/R140. It clearly is better value to order a bottle than a glass of wine at Bella Lucia.
I cannot wait to go back in two weeks’ time, when I return to the Southern Suburbs, to try the new summer menu.
Bella Lucia Ristorante Italiano, 19 Wolfe Street, Chelsea, Wynberg, Cape Town. Tel (021) 762-3855. www.bellalucia.co.za (The website is as minimalist as the restaurant decor, but has lots of lovely photographs in its Gallery, and contains the menu as well as winelist. It is the perfect benchmark for a restaurant website). Tuesdays – Saturdays. 11h30 – 14h30 and 16h30 – 21h30.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar opened about ten days ago, and is a homely cosy wine lounge that has been created in what was previously a warehouse in Bree Street. It is the type of place that one would pop in to for a drink before or after a function, and have a bite to eat. It has one of the largest collections of wines-by-the-glass in Cape Town, with over 108 choices of local and international wines. It is not cheap to eat and drink there, and portions are small, but it does offer a good selection of price options.
French Toast has a heavyweight management. Owner John Harrison was a stockbroker on the Paris Bourse, and told me that the French bug bit him there, hence the French feel through the name and the café style music that is played. John was the CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company for many years, and built up its business and introduced the new cable cars during his management of the company. He was a client of my then-PR company many moons ago. He spoke passionately about his new project, and how they renovated the double story building in an unbelievable three months, being hands-on in the renovation. Raw brick walls give it a warm feeling, blackboards communicate the wine and food specials, and windows have been built to add light upstairs. There is a bar counter upstairs and downstairs, and the downstairs one will probably be the more popular one in winter, with its massive fireplace. The upstairs section is huge, with seating for at least 80-100 persons. A small boardroom downstairs can host meetings and functions of up to 10 persons, Shane told us. The decor is upmarket, but the food is not fine dining, with an emphasis on wines, explained Shane. The cutlery is shiny and new, the glassware is good, but only paper serviettes are supplied.
Karen Visser is a partner in French Toast with John, was a bio-kineticist, and is a passionate golfer and winelover, studying at the Cape Wine Academy. She compiled the winelist in the main, and has no previous restaurant experience. GM of the new wine lounge is Gidi Caetano, who was the GM of Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, and also oversaw the opening of Salt Deli and Salt Vodka Bar until recently. She also worked at The Showroom and was a hospitality trainer. The Manager Shane has an interesting undefinable accent, having grown up in Hawaii, and lived in the UK before moving to South Africa. He previously worked at the Protea Hotel Victoria Junction, the Devon Valley Hotel, and the 0932 Belgian restaurant in Green Point, which has since closed down. Chef Jannie Mellis owned East London’s best restaurant, he says, the Two Dogs Bistro, and was at Bushmanskloof Lodge prior to that. He said he came back to Cape Town “to get into the hub of food again”, a nice compliment for Cape Town. The staff are smartly dressed in black shirts and pants, a French Toast branded apron, and a turquoise tie.
We found it terribly chilly upstairs, but Shane assured me that the airconditioning was not on. When we moved from table to table, to find the warmest spot, we discovered that a sliding door had been left wide open. When it had been closed, all was fine. The music was rather loud when we arrived, but seemed to have been turned down a little while we were there.
The wines are closed with a wine preservation system Le Verre du Vin, being special rubber wine and sparkling wine bottle stoppers, allowing opened wines to be kept for up to three months. I chose the same glass of wine I had a week ago, the Mullineux Shiraz 2008, at R83 for a 150ml glass. The wine has the characteristic of an old-fashioned smoky shiraz, my favourite, but the very chilled serving, at 13°C, was too cold to my liking. Four Cap Classiques are available, ranging from R44/R195 for Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel to R 81/R380 for Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc. Seven champagnes can be ordered, Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc costing R135/R650, and the most pricey is Dom Perignon, sold by bottle only, at R3000. They also stock Veuve Cliquot, Billecart Salmon Rose and Guy Charbaut. Seven Sauvignon Blancs are stocked, that of La Motte costing R31/R130, and the Cape Point Vineyard Reserve is the most expensive, at R57/R260. Seven Shiraz/Syrah wines are served, starting with Rickety Bridge at R35/R165, and Haskell Vineyards is the most expensive at R111/R530. Imported wines from France, Italy and Germany are also available, and range from R33/R142 – R153/R740. The branded winelist provides information about the vintage and origin of each wine, but has no descriptions of the wines or the varieties.
The menu, on a laminated sheet without any branding, is broken down into Snacks, Tapas, Charcuterie, Cheese Platters and Desserts, and has a Mediterranean feel to it. Snacks include olives, almonds, chillies (R30 each) and oysters (R10 each). The Tapas selection of 16 dishes range in price from R30 – R50, with empanadas, prawns, smoked salmon trout, caprese skewers and more. The charcuterie platter allows one to select three of a choice of imported meats, including chorizo, parma ham, salami and jamon serano, for R50. Similarly, one can choose three cheeses for R55, from a selection of six. Breads come from Jardine Bakery, a few meters away, and sometimes from Knead. Chef Jannie makes his own preserves and pasta.
There is not much attention paid to the presentation of the dishes, I felt, being functionally presented on white plates. I had the calamari and lemon (R38), and asked Chef Jannie not to add the chilli. My (student) son had the delicious herb and pecorini croquettes (R35), as well as the parma ham and mozzarella aroncini fried stuffed rice balls (R45), but was still starving after the two tapas dishes, and therefore ordered patatas bravas with a homemade spicy tomato sauce (R45), which he proclaimed to be excellent. I had to have the French Toast, after which the restaurant is named, one of the three desserts on the menu (R40), two tiny baguette slices served with not-so-nice almond ice cream. The cappuccino (R16) made from Origin coffee was excellent. The specials board advertised white anchovies, Pisto bruschetta, and cheddar and rice balls. Chef Jannie said that from the feedback received to his dishes since opening, he will be amending his menu next week.
In general the tapas portions are small, and therefore French Toast is not the place to have a meal, but rather a glass of wine with a tapas snack. We paid R385 for five tapas dishes and two glasses of red wine.
POSTSCRIPT 15/1: I have returned to French Toast a few times since I wrote the review two months ago. Every time I have been warmly received by the management team. Today I returned for a late Saturday afternoon cappuccino, and was impressed with the new summer menu. My eye caught the asparagus tapas, at R35, crispy and crunchy, simply served with lemon, the best asparagus I have tasted. Then I saw a Seafood salad advertised on a Specials board, for R55, and had to have it, when the Manager Gidi explained that it contained steamed prawns and crayfish, with bisque aïoli, beautifully presented, which had been a criticism I had expressed previously. I felt that Chef Jannie has progressed by leaps and bounds, not only in terms of his menu selection, food preparation, but also in terms of the food presentation. On the wine side an innovate wine trio 50 ml flight is offered for Sauvignon Blanc (Delaire, Hillcrest and Reyneke Organic), at R40 for the three wines; the Sparkling wine flight is Steenberg 1682, Teddy Hall, and Sterhuis, at R65, or R100 if served with a trio of oysters; and the Shiraz flight is from Eagle’s Nest, Haskell Aeon, and La Motte Shiraz Viognier, costing R80.
French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, 199 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-3839. www.frenchtoastwine.com (website still under construction). Twitter @FrenchToastWine. Monday – Saturday 12h00 – 23h00. No BYO allowed, the winelist says.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage