JAN the JOURNAL has published its second volume of 2018, just before the year closed. It has taken me almost two months to look at it after buying a copy at Woolworths, the 297 page manuscript of The Jan Hendrik Group (PTY) Limited being more than intimidating in thickness, and time required to do it justice in reading it. Despite having an editor for the publication, one wonders how Chef Jan-Hendrik manages to find the time to collate such a heavy-weight Journal in his role as Editor-in-Chief, given his commitment as chef to his one Michelin star restaurant JAN in Nice, and his regular trips to Cape Town and SA. Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to the Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay, for the fantastic service in allowing me to write in their Café Grill last Sunday when the fibre internet was not working in our section of Camps Bay. As I was writing about the Eat Out Awards event, and already had not been able to Instagram from GrandWest, as the WiFi was hopelessly overloaded and not working at all, it was a very long evening, finishing off writing at the hotel at 3h00, it being fortunate that the Continue reading →
Last Saturday I had to be in the ‘Deep South’ of Cape Town, attending a media breakfast at the new Tintswalo at Boulders in Simonstown, so decided to have lunch at Stargarden Boutique Café in Fish Hoek whilst I was in that part of our city. The ‘Boutique Café’ descriptor in the name gives it away, a creative Eatery serving creative dishes. Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to Woolworths in the Waterfront, and its Manager Warren Sitzer. I received poor service in looking to buy wine glasses in the Homeware department, so poor that I went to buy some at @Home instead. At Country Road inside the Woolworths store I wanted to pay for a top, but there was no staff member to be seen. I wanted to relate both service issues to a manager, and Warren listened, apologised with charm, and brought me some roses. He said he remembered my son and I shopping at the Paarl Mall branch more than ten years ago, when we lived in Franschhoek. He also shared the amazing developments lying ahead for this Waterfront branch. He invited me to chat to him at any time that I experience any problems at this branch. Wow!
De Grendel wine estate must have the most beautiful view of all wine estates in the Western Cape, with its idyllic setting looking over Table Bay and onto Table Mountain. Now the wine estate owned by Sir David Graaff has opened De Grendel Restaurant in its winetasting centre, not only offering a magnificent view, but also beautiful food.
I was invited by De Grendel’s Public Relations consultant Errieda du Toit to share lunch with her a week after De Grendel Restaurant opened. I had only been to the wine estate once before, more than a year ago, with the Gastronauts, when catering had been brought in from outside. The room was transformed in collaboration with the Graaff family, blue brought into the table legs, into the upholstery fabric of some the chairs, as well as into the magnificent underplates made by ceramist Mervyn Gers (once the head of Radio Kontrei, the predecessor of Kfm). The underplates have the Graff family crest, showing a Paschal lamb, five stars representing the Southern Cross, flanked by the Boer farmer on the one side and a miner on the other, with three spades and armour. The blue pattern on the rim of the plate is repeated in bowls on the tables, and matches the Delftware in the armoire in the restaurant. Matching the underplates in quality is the most stylish, classic but modern, cutlery by Robert Welch, used in Michelin-starred restaurants, we were told by restaurant owner Jonathan Davies, which he was surprised that @Home has the agency for in South Africa. The Graaff family was awarded the baronetcy in 1911 for service rendered to the Crown in South Africa. The first Sir David had introduced the commercial cold storage and transportation of meat in South Africa, was the Mayor of Cape Town, introducing electricity to the city, helped set up the dry dock in the Cape Town harbour, and was involved in the building of the Table Mountain cableway. One wall has a collection of Graaff family photographs, including his son and politician Sir De Villiers Graaff dancing with the then Princess Elizabeth, now the Queen of England, on her Royal visit to Cape Town in 1947. The far end of the dining room has a glass window which allows one to look into the wine cellar, while the kitchen is visible behind a glass window on the opposite end. The ambiance created is to make one feel as if one is dining with the Graaff family.
The involvement of Jonathan Davies raises the cuisine bar for Cape Town, given that he owns the The Crown at Whitebrook, voted the best restaurant in Wales and one of the Top 50 restaurants in the UK, and has been awarded three AA rosettes, and one Michelin star for a number of years. He has worked at Ellerman House, and at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, and has been coming to South Africa for seven years, having married his Pretorian wife. He met the Graaff family via a Bishops function where the respective children and grandchildren are in the same class. The deal was struck when Sir David came to have a meal at the Welsh restaurant. Jonathan has training in both front of house and as a chef, but has decided to concentrate on the former, and has brought in Chef Ian Bergh, previously of Pure at the Hout Bay Manor, Five Flies, and La Colombe. This exciting team has created a wonderful menu of creative dishes, and one senses that they had fun in coming up with new dishes never seen before on a local menu. A classic was Jonathan telling us about his Brandy and Coke ice cream he is working on, having observed how popular this drink is in South Africa, and a guinea fowl burger is planned. Jonathan says he will offer ‘fine dining’, his definition of it being that it is ‘food prepared well and with passion’. They are also bringing the De Grendel wines into the cuisine, and are using the wines to make chocolate truffles, a weakness of Sir David, I was told.
Chef Ian brought out four dishes to give us a taste of his menu, and Jonathan brought glasses of De Grendel wines paired with each dish. We sat in the ‘Conservatory’, a smaller room alongside the main restaurant, overlooking a large dam, and the green fields of the farm, on which Arab horses are kept for an equine remedial therapy programme, helping children with impediments, and in which geese, goats, Nguni cattle, and sheep can be seen too, against the landmark backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain. Grain and grapes are farmed at De Grendel.
The meal started with a slice of roast potato bread, served with home-made butter in a ceramic dish made by another top Cape Town ceramicist Lisa Firer, who also made the salt and pepper pots. The salad of fig, Buffalo Ridge mozzarella, cherry tomato and a raspberry dressing was a fresh starter, and a beautiful medley of leaves, which Jonathan paired with the 2011 De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc, the cool breeze off the sea being ideal for growing this grape variety. The Winifred blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Semillon was paired with a pea ravioli, free range chicken, Gorgonzola spuma, and a creamy De Grendel Chardonnay sauce. The starters range in price from R75 – R130, and other options include scallop, cob, duck liver, and squid.
The pork belly main course was superb, served with apple puree, roasted as well as pickled baby beetroot, and a sage and De Grendel Winifred jus, which Jonathan paired with the De Grendel Pinot Noir. Other main courses are Beef onglet (a French beef cut), venison, lamb, veal, and line fish, ranging from R135 – R155, and guinea fowl with foie gras (R240). The piece de resistance, that impressed with its beauty, creaminess, and simplicity, was the dessert, a basil panna cotta served with pomegranate (a special sweet taste, with a popping sound when one bites the kernels, and a beautiful deep red colour), served with strawberry and basil sprout. Given that Jonathan had told us about his Brandy and Coke dessert, a portion of it was made, which Errieda and I shared, being a malva pudding served with an apricot samoosa, a ball of Coca Cola ice cream, and a Brandy sauce.
For dinner a 6 – 8 course tasting menu is offered. The restaurant is child-friendly, and has sourced a children’s range of cutlery. Children under 3 years do not pay. Child-friendly dishes can be made, or children can order smaller portions of their parents’ dishes. High-chairs will be available for children. A range of children’s activities is planned, mainly to educate the children about vegetable growing and harvesting. They will even be able to plant their own vegetables, and would be encouraged to return to see them grow.
I didn’t look at the winelist, but Jonathan told me that the wines are sold at cellar prices, a most commendable pricing strategy! Errieda told me that the Graaffs started wine farming twelve years ago, making good wines at affordable prices. The farm is 350 meters above sea level and 7 km from the sea. Charles Hopkins is the Cellar master and Elzette du Preez the winemaker. The De Grendel wine range includes MCC, Rubaiyat, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sir David has had a wine made in honour of his wife Lady Sally, called the Winifred, her second name. They have recently launched a Sauvignon Blanc-based Noble Late Harvest. Bottled triple carbon filtered water comes from the farm, and the glass bottles are re-used. Sundays sees traditional lunch fare, and Jonathan will carve a roast or chicken for a family at the table. The Crown at Whitebrook Chef James Sommerin, who was featured in the BBC’s ‘Great British Menu’ series, will do guest visits to De Grendel Restaurant, and will showcase some of his menu items.
De Grendel Restaurant is an exciting new addition to the Cape Town gourmet collection, combining a feeling of history and tradition on the wine estate, with the modernity and creativity of the cuisine offered in its restaurant. I will definitely be returning.
De Grendel Restaurant, De Grendel wine estate, M14, Plattekloof Road, Plattekloof. Tel (021) 558-6280. www.degrendel.co.za Twitter:@DeGrendelWines. Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter@WhaleCottage
A Twitter friendship with co-owner Wilhelm Kuehn, and a challenge from him to visit the restaurant to do a review, was the reason for returning for a meal at Jardine Restaurant in the Cape Town city centre, after 18-months since the previous visit.
Jardine Restaurant makes me think that it is somewhat ‘schizophrenic’ – a fine-dining ex-Top 10 restaurant, which also has an informal take-away at its Jardine Bakery section, and an informal sit-down lunch at tables and benches outside the door on the pavement. Restaurant founder and co-owner George Jardine has opted out of city living, to start a new country restaurant on Jordan wine estate in Stellenbosch, and now only cooks at Jardine Restaurant “2 or 3 times a week”, I am told, but the restaurant still carries his name. Wilhelm tells me that Waterkloof and Tokara were alternate options George Jardine had evaluated for his new restaurant.
Jardine has handed over the chef reins to Eric Bulpitt, who has worked at the Winchester Mansions Hotel, The Showroom, Ledbury in London, and at Jardine Restaurant with George. Kuehn was a lawyer, and now is the General Manager, keeping a fine eye on things upstairs, walking the floor to check that all runs smoothly.
Jardine Restaurant had to face the humiliation of falling from 3rd place in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list of 2009 to between 12 – 20th place last November. One does not know if the judges felt that things had slipped, or because they felt that an award cannot go to a chef when he is not cooking there all the time any more – Jardine’s move to the winelands had been widely announced. Kuehn says the Top 10 award result last year created introspection, but Bulpitt’s new menu for the restaurant is drawing in regulars. I heard tourists, and recognised Howard Godfrey, MD of @home, as patrons, on an almost-full Thursday evening.
When one arrives one is met by Johan. I had not booked, but he made a plan to make a table available. I told him I would be out by 9 pm, but Jardine is not for fast in-and-out dining, mainly because the menu requires one to have a minimum of two courses, and I therefore only left after about two hours.
The downstairs section has never made an impact, and is set up as a bar and lounge. Upstairs the restaurant space has a central middle area, and tables against the windows, separate from the rest. It is not a particularly attractive space decor-wise, only a pop-art painting by Richard Scott on the far wall creating a splash of colour, one of a few artworks on the walls, coming from Worldart. A functional shelf holds functional cutlery holders and crockery. Close by, an old-fashioned cash register has an untidy collection of paperwork next to it. The tables have white tablecloths, and attractive and comfortable brown leather chairs. I sense a woman’s hand is lacking in the decor of the room (as I did at the Warwick tasting room recently) – all is very functional here. The chef and his kitchen crew of five work in a very small space, preparing each dish. Chef Eric is in the centre, finishing things off.
Wilhelm comes to chat and we talk about Twitter, other restaurant Twitterers, and the soon-to-open nearby Cookery School. A waitress brings the menu, printed on strong board, and it changes day by day. One chooses two (R 230) or three courses ( R 260), a 5 course chef’s menu (R 400) or a wine pairing menu (R350), the last two options not being explained by the waitress. A side salad is specified as costing R 45 extra, and other (unspecified) sides at R 35.
The menu choice was five starters and mains, and four desserts. The starters seemed esoteric (‘Evita and Princess figs’ -two varieties of figs, I was told and ‘vegetable patch’) or too fishy (oysters, mussels and salmon) for my taste. Main choices were line fish, Frazerburg lamb leg, seared Kroondal duck breast, rump, and grilled elf mushrooms.
An amuse bouche is served, almost over the top and ‘airy-fairy’, very foamy in general, and is meant to be an olive tapenade covered by a “tomato spoon” (missed the tomato taste), white pepper and a basil leaf. It is extremely light and aerated, and I am brought another because the air will have escaped while Wilhelm and I talk too much. I love duck, and was surprised when it was served – I call it “deconstructed”, with four little bits of duck, and little portions of “parfait en croute, celeriac, pomegranate and shallot” spread out on a wooden platter. The tiniest of tiny flowers, nuts and other ingredients are sprinkled across the plate. Had I not ordered a side of the most wonderful crunchy green beans sprinkled with flaked almonds, I would have still been hungry after the main course. The parfait is outstanding, the little that is offered.
The dessert options were chocolate torte, citrus tomato minestrone, pineapple souffle flambe, and a selection of South African cheeses (gorgonzola, camembert, labare-style cheese, ash-rind goat’s cheese and gruyere served with walnut toast and watermelon konfyt). The cheese platter, served on an extremely heavy granite slab, was an excellent choice, and was an enjoyable slow eat. It was decorated with the finest apple slices, always great with cheese, and slices of strawberry and raspberries, as well as nuts and blueberries.
The waitress was very efficient in explaining the menu items, but each item has so many components, that when the dish is brought to the table, one has long forgotten what exactly the chosen dish entails (Opal Lounge has the same problem). But the waitress was patient in running through the ingredients again. One irritation is the waitress offering her personal recommendation of the duck – I know that many restaurants do not allow their staff to eat the restaurant’s food, so I always reject such “recommendations”, as tastes do differ. I chose the duck, because I love duck, not because she recommended it.
The winelist is attractively presented in a brown leather cover, matching the chairs. It is an extensive list, separating bubblies, whites and reds, each sub-divided into varietals and blends, followed by two pages of mainly French and some Spanish wines. Wines by the glass are reasonably priced – a Villiera by-the-glass costs R 40, a Tribout R 120. A Jardine (made by Paradyskloof) Unwooded Chardonnay costs R 25, a Lammershoek Roulette Blanc R 40. The La Motte Millenium and Sterhuis cost R 45 each (for 125 ml). For the tasting menu one can order 60 ml portions of wines too. Billecart-Salmon champagne is served in various options, ranging from R 950 – R 7 000 a bottle. Two Graham Beck Cap Classiques cost R 410, the VIlliera R 190. Red wine options number 35, and range from R 95 for a MAN Shiraz to R 990 for a Muemve Raats De Compostella 2006; 27 white wine options range from the Jardine Unwooded Chardonnay at R 100 to R 780 for the Platter 2010 White Wine of the Year, the Sadie Palladius. French wines start at R 1 600 per bottle, to R 8 600 for a Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild 1995.
The sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn is told that I have ordered a glass of La Motte Millenium 2007, and that I would like it poured at the table (I distrust wine-by-the glass service). Johan tells me that they have actually found a bottle of 2006 – what luck! Koelewijn comes to the table, does not show me the bottle, as I ask of him twice, and just carries on pouring the small portion. I ask him if I may not taste the wine. He retorts that he has done so already! There was no “hello, my name is Jaap, I am the sommelier, let me tell you some more about the La Motte Millenium…” from him. Why is that sommeliers have such attitude and arrogance (like at Bosman’s and Reubens in Franschhoek)? The minute I started the cheese platter, he was back to offer me another top-up of the wine or a port. No question was asked whether I had enjoyed the first glassful. The empty glass was probably taken to communicate that it was good! I had to ask for a cappuccino to accompany the coffee, as this was not offered as a beverage option.
The lunch menu changes regularly too, and that of 11 March had four starters (oysters and mussels as per the dinner menu) and two salads, 3 mains (line fish, rump and mushrooms, as per the dinner menu), and 3 desserts (chocolate torte and cheese as per the dinner menu). Here the prices look reasonable, and one can order per dish. The sums do not add up if you see the lunch prices for individual menu items, compared to paying for 2 or more dinner courses. Wilhelm says the lunch menu dishes are simpler.
If Wilhelm had not come to chat, I would have left without the “connection” to Jardine Restaurant. There is some very soft music, so soft that it is inaudible. It gets progressively hotter in the room, as the airconditioning is on but the windows are open, defeating the function of the aircons. A fan is brought from around the corner, and makes a difference.
Jardine Restaurant, corner Bree and Bloem Street, Cape Town. Tel (21) 424-5640. www.jardineonbree.co.za. Twitter @JardineCapetown. Open for dinner Monday – Saturday evenings, lunch is served Wednesdays – Fridays.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com