I had read about What’s On Eatery on Watson Street in the city centre on Twitter, with Hennie Coetzee (@Batonage) and Maggie Mostert (@BlackDelilah) recommending the new restaurant highly. I was welcomed warmly by co-owner Trever Jordaan from the minute I stepped into the restaurant, and I felt completely at home in the elegant interior that has been created in the double story building that once was Platinum restaurant. What’s On’s promise is “Food l People l Passion”, with a ‘fusion of family & friends’, and this is what I experienced last Friday evening. It offers very good value food (the starters and desserts in particular) and wines.
Watson Street connects Bree and Loop Street, one block from Buitensingel Street. I found parking easily, and a canopy identifies the eatery, and what it stands for. One enters the attractive light grey Deli and Breakfast space, which doubles up as the bar, with wines stored on shelves, and a glass counter containing salads, pies and sandwiches during the day, with croissants, cakes, pastries, and other sweet bakery treats available too. Trevor led the way to the restaurant upstairs, and showed me the private dining room, which can be used for functions with up to 10 persons. The restaurant has ten tables, and the walls are a stronger grey colour. There are lovely wooden floors, interesting paintings by Joseph Lucaks, beautifully upholstered chairs, and wallpaper on some walls, all creating a warm, homely and elegant space. One wall has quirky-shaped mirrors on it. Trevor and his partner clearly have a good decor hand. The highback chairs are attractive, and reminded me of those at La Mouette – in fact the hearty welcome was reminiscent of La Mouette when it first opened. The light was soft, created with a mix of candles, lamps and modern downlighters. The tables have a white table cloth, and the white serviette had a silver pattern running through it. Glassware is good, the cutlery is by Maxwell Williams, and the food is served on white plates and bowls, some of them not holding the cutlery, in that they slide into the plate, a common restaurant problem. A Woolworths salt and pepper grinder are on the table, as was a vase with real roses. What made an impression in being so unusual yet clever was a card with “Thank You” lying on the serviette, continuing as follows: “…for sharing our dream…please spread the news to family & friends and join our facebook group on our website…”.
Trevor is a most amazingly warm person, who clearly loves people and his new restaurant. He was hands-on throughout the evening, asking for feedback continuously. He was receptive to hearing my opinion and suggestions, and I was impressed by his positive reception thereof, and his immediate implementation of changes. He joined Twitter immediately and is planning to start a blog too. Trevor was previously a guest house owner, and that is probably why we connected so well. His goal is to make his guests feel at home, as if they are visiting his home, and he wants to get to know his guests better, as he does not want any ‘strangers’ in his home, he said. Trevor’s partner and co-owner is Chris Mears, but is not involved in the running of the restaurant. I was served by Nina, previously with Col’Cacchio in town, and she was friendly and looked attractively dressed in a white shirt and black slacks, with a branded apron from Vrede & Lust. Uri from Jardine, which closed down at the end of February, now works at What’s On. The chef is Kerin D’Offize, previously with the Foodlovers’ Market in Claremont and Harbour Rock in Hermanus.
The menu, winelist and bill holders have the same blue-green cover, with branding in white. The pages are neatly affixed to the cover, but can be easily removed when any pages have to be updated. Nina brought a plate of delicious freshly-baked olive bread to the table, which was more-ish. I ordered the duck liver parfait, served with morello cherry sauce and garlic crostini (R40). I felt that the garlic and parfait were fighting each other, the garlic being overpowering. The cherry compote was an unusual but good marriage with the parfait. Other starter options ranged in price from R35 – R 45, and included braised leek and gorgonzola tartlet, springbok bobotie spring rolls, smoorsnoek and feta crepes, black mussels, and baked camembert fondant. Unusual is that all salads can be ordered in half-portions too, at R 40 – R60 per half portion, and R60 – R80 for a full portion, probably meant to be shared. Interesting sounding salads are the rooibos-smoked chicken salad; steamed prawn and baby calamari salad; and biltong, mango and feta garden salad. I was surprised when a complimentary wild mango, mint, melon and vanilla pod sorbet palate cleanser was served. I loved the taste combination, and never eat mango usually.
The Beef Wellington main course I ordered had porcini mushrooms, garlic and bacon in the pastry casing, but no chicken liver paté (R135). It was served in two halves, the fillet perfectly prepared medium rare as ordered, with roasted beetroot ‘chips’, mash and butternut. It was served with a green peppercorn Bordelaise sauce, which I found too sharp and salty. Other main course options are oxtail, line fish and calamari, confit of lamb rib, roulade of chicken and spinach, venison fillet, sole, rib eye steak, tiger prawns, ostrich burger, and a grilled wild mushroom risotto, ranging from R 85 – R145. Side dishes are available at R15 each. I didn’t have a dessert, but the options are a chocolate and hazelnut fondant, a trio of sorbet, crème brûlee, chocolate truffle and espresso tart, and honey and almond cheesecake served with basil and chilli ice cream, ranging in cost from R40 – R50. I had a foamy cappucino (R17), made with Tribeca coffee, and I liked Trevor’s description of the foam looking like a meringue!
The winelist is introduced as follows: “This list has been prepared to showcase the very best wines to complement our culinary concept. We constantly search and hand-pick the perfect selection of wines so that you, as our guest, experience ultimate wine and dining at What’s On”. The list specifies the regions from which the wines come, but there are no vintages for most of the wines listed. The wine-by-the-glass choice is restricted to one white and one red, and my recommendation to Trevor was to expand the selection. I had a generous glass of Vrede & Lust’s Boet Erasmus Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot blend, at R45 a glass/R265 per bottle, and I was allowed to taste the wine first. I am not one for blends usually, but this was an excellent wine. The white wine-by-the-glass is Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc (R35/R140). Sparkling wines include Graham Beck Brut MCC (R185) and Boschendal Brut Rosé (R195). Shiraz options are Brampton (R100), Graham Beck (R135) and Bernard Series Basket Press (R215). A number of ‘cellar selection’ wines are also available, such as Kanonkop Pinotage 2008 (R440), Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2006 (R565) and Hamilton Russell Chardonnay (R475). Corkage costs R30.
Breakfast choices include French Toast; omelets; flapjacks; oats; muesli, fruit and yoghurt; and a cooked breakfast, none of these choices costing more than R32. Lunch options include a variety of fillings on ciabatta (R39 – R55), salads (R45), beef fillet (R65); prawn, chorizo and saffron risotto (R65); chicken breast (R48); and chicken roulade (R55).
The bill says “Thank you for visiting us at What’s On. We look forward to have you back ‘home’ soon”. It is so refreshing to see a restaurant thanking its clients on arrival and on their departure. I felt at home, and Trevor has found an opportunity to ‘chat’ by e-mail almost every day since I went to What’s On, and he is a strong relationship builder, something many restaurants fail at, taking one’s custom for granted. As I did for La Mouette when they first opened last May, I spent time with Trevor to run through Social Media Marketing with him subsequent to my dinner.
POSTSCRIPT 19/5: Food bloggers and clients of What’s On Eatery were invited to try out the new winter menu this evening – two courses cost R125, 3 courses R150. One can also order off the menu, at R 39 for a choice of nine starters (including grilled brown mushrooms – left, stuffed calamari tubes, tempura snoek and prawn); R98 for one of eleven main courses (including Duck la orange – right, Coq au vin, Beef Wellington, Beef fillet, Karoo lamb shank); and R40 for one of five desserts. The winter menu is good value for money, and the portion sizes are very generous.
POSTSCRIPT 16/9: Exciting news is that Chef Oliver Cattermole from Dash Restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel will start as Chef at What’s On Eatery from 1 October.
What’s On Eatery, 6 Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-5652. www.whatsoneatery.co.za (The homepage on the website has attractive food photographs, which will make one want to come to What’s On Eatery, but these are not carried over to the Image Gallery, which has more photographs of guests than of the food. The menu is on the website). Twitter @WhatsOnEatery. Deli open Monday – Friday 7h30 – 16h00. Restaurant open Tuesday – Saturday evenings.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage