Invited guests included the Top 20 Finalists for the awards, and tasting tables had been set up to allow the twenty Finalist wines to be tasted. No one knew who would make the Top 10 list. A shelf had been set up to display all top twenty Continue reading →
* Our economy is struggling, business confidence having fallen to its lowest level in 16 years. The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Confidence Index fell from 88 in July to 84 in August! This scenario may cost the country’s workers 60000 jobs.
* Given that the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held in Durban, Continue reading →
Published by Quivertree Publications, a publisher which is known for its quality books, the book consists of ten articles which Chef Pete wrote for GQ in the past 10 years, each article paired with dishes, and recipes provided. The photographer was Craig Fraser, with styling by Hemelhuijs’ Jacques Erasmus. The foreword is written by Michelin star restaurant Chef Michel Roux Jnr of La Gavroche in London, who calls himself a friend, praising Chef Pete as a ‘true gent’, but also as a ‘very gifted chef’.
Chef Pete admits that he had no family inspiration to become a chef. In his digs in Cape Town he offered to do the cooking as he hated washing dishes. He had worked as a waiter at the Balalaika Hotel on weekends as a teenager, but Continue reading →
The Finalists for 2014 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year, in the category of Dry White Wine Blends, are: Continue reading →
The inaugural Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge winners were announced yesterday at a cosy function on a wet Winelands day at the ever smart Delaire Graff. The function and competition, combined with the recent three-year sponsorship by Standard Bank of the Chenin Blanc Challenge, are giving Chenin Blanc the recognition it deserves, said Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association. ‘Chenin Blanc is a wine whose time has come’, he said, adding that ‘Chenin Blanc is THE white wine of South Africa‘!
A total of 126 wines was entered for the Challenge, and assessed blind by a panel of judges which included chairman Christian Eedes, Jamie Goode, Alan Mullins, Carrie Adams, and Higgo Jacobs. Interviews were conducted with the judges, Allan Mullins of Woolworths saying that Chenin Blanc has been underrated for so long. He lauded Standard Bank for the support of the competition, and as Chenin Blanc drinks so well, it should be drunk by all. It is a gem of a wine variety, and ranges in price between R25 – R 300 in retail outlets. British wine writer Jamie Goode said that our country has a variety of Chenin Blanc styles, ‘ranging from the ‘VW Beetle to a ‘Rolls Royce’! Eedes said that he was honoured to chair the judging panel, and while he may be ‘shot down‘ for the results, having the auditors made the results indisputable. Out of the wine Continue reading →
I felt honoured to have been invited by Errieda du Toit to attend the Cape Town launch of ‘MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook’ at Exclusive Books at Tygervalley on Thursday evening. With a number of the finalists present, it was impressive to see how much camaraderie there is between the Finalists, even though the filming for the series ended more than six months ago. The Cookbook documents the journey of the MasterChef SA finalists, in addition to their best recipes.
Published by Human & Rousseau, the text for the book was written by Errieda, the food was styled by Jacques Erasmus of Hemelhuijs, and photography of the food was done by Myburgh du Plessis, all under the editorship of Daleen van der Merwe, and is the ideal keepsake for everyone who loved MasterChef South Africa. Errieda said that MasterChef SA was a landmark program, which changed the face of food in South Africa. Even children are becoming excited about cooking.
The book profiles each contestant and judge, and summarises each episode, sharing the best recipes of each contestant, e.g. Deena Naidoo’s prawn curry, Thys Hattingh’s Cherry Frangipane tart, Sarel Loots’ Boerewors with Polenta and butternut mash, Khaya Silingile’s Chicken Ballotine, Sue-Ann Allen’s Oysters with horseradish mayonnaise, Lungi Nhlanhla’s pork tails, Jade de Waal’s warm Cape berry chocolate tart with pistachio and cardamom ice cream, and Samantha Nolan’s Dutch croquettes. Recipes for traditional South African dishes such as koeksister, koesiesters, denningvleis, tripe and phutu pap, Waterblommetjiebredie, and chicken pie, are also offered. The book culminates in the Grande Finale, and Deena winning the title of first MasterChef SA.
Each page offers a tip or hint, or an interesting comment, by one of the MasterChef SA finalists. There are guidelines to sustainable cooking, food and wine pairing suggestions by sponsor Nederburg, and Le Quartier Français Chef Vanie Padayachee’s tips for cooking curry. Visiting chefs Peter Tempelhoff from The Greenhouse, Coco Reinharz from Le Petit Sel and Sel et Poivre in Sandton, Michel Roux Jnr from La Gavroche in London, Margot Janse at The Tasting Room, Michael Broughton from Terroir, Reuben Riffel from Reuben’s, and Lorraine Meaney from the Cape Grace hotel, are captured in the Cookbook, and most have a recipe included in the book.
The book also provides background information on how many kilograms of butter (100), cheese (250), litres of fresh cream (100) and milk (600), 215 kg fresh herbs (no Robertsons spices were used, as they are not stocked by Woolworths, despite the joint sponsorship of MasterChef SA), and vegetables (200 kg onions, and a further 3 tonnes for the bootcamp, 100 kg mushrooms, and 250 kg avocado), 57 kg prawns, 165 kg chicken, 400 kg lamb, and more than 2500 eggs were used!
A number of the Cape-based MasterChef SA Finalists attended the book launch, including Sue-Ann (now a private chef, with her own demonstration kitchen at the newly opened V&A Market on the Wharf, Ilse Fourie (now a private chef), Guy Clark (now a private chef, having left the Madame Zingara group), Samantha, Charles Canning, Jade (who has recently published ‘Luscious’ vegetarian cookbook), and Lungi (now Deputy Food editor of Drum magazine). Ilse and Sue-Ann have signed a book deal for ‘Gourmet Sisters’ for next year. Sarel Loots travelled all the way from Sabie to be present, and Chef Pete Goffe-Wood also attended.
As MC, Errieda asked the Finalists how their lives had changed in the past year. Sarel related that he did not expect to be moved emotionally, and to cry about food! He also shared that he was mobbed at the Good Food & Wine Show in Johannesburg. Sarel is about to launch a range of Boerewors with fruit chutney, in conjunction with a spice company, first in Mpumalanga, and then nationally. Lungi shared that she has always been creative, and being creative about food was a further extension, showing who she is. Chef Pete said that he was seen to be ‘insensitive’ and tough, but he knew how much was at stake for each contestant, and how much they had given up in their professional and family lives to be there. Chef Pete was chased by a traffic cop for making a call on his cellphone – when they recognised him, the traffic cop told him he wanted to share how much he enjoyed MasterChef SA! The traffic cop opened the highway for Chef Pete, so that he could get to his function on time, referring to this as ‘culinary corruption’! Sue-Ann said that she is cooking for 120 guests with ease now, and that her knowledge of food and wine has improved dramatically. Ilse said that she has learnt knife skills, and how to eat and cook, yet stay small, being a ‘plus size model’. The finalists were most gracious in signing the book, and writing personalised messages.
Food trends for 2013 are Refined (beautiful plates of food, even if one is making it for oneself), Clean (in its content and origin), and Considerate (evaluating its impact on the environment), said Sue-Ann. Chef Pete added Sustainability, seeing this as THE food trend for the next ten years. Consumers are becoming more aware about environmental responsibility, both in supermarkets and in restaurants.
A dinner at Zibaldone in the Tygerberg Waterfront after the launch was even more special, as it allowed one to get to know Lungi, Sue-Ann, Sarel, and Ilse even better, and provided interesting behind the scenes MasterChef SA information: The contestants stayed at the guest farm in Paarl for up to 10 weeks (Sue-Ann and Deena), and were cut off from all communication (no cellphones or internet connection was allowed, with only a few calls to their families). They shared rooms. There was a ghost in one of the accommodation buildings, which frightened Sue-Ann and Ilse, especially when most of the other contestants had been sent home. They got home late at night, and had to get up at 6h00 to be back on set. They made their own food at night when they got back to the guest farm. They were provided with loads of cookbooks. The judges brought their own clothes, Woolworths not using the opportunity to market their clothing lines. Sue-Ann and Deena had to buy their own clothes for the Grande Finale dinner cooked for them at Montecasino in Johannesburg, and bumped into Ilse at Canal Walk by absolute coincidence on that day, not being allowed to tell her anything. Not shown on the program, but shared with Sue-Ann, was that good performance was rewarded with a shopping pass, which allowed her time off to shop at Paarl Mall! Almost all the contestants got on like a house on fire. Some of the male finalists were like naughty boys, dropping insects on Ilse, who is petrified of them, and other even worse pranks. Charles was the ‘papa bear’ and Samantha the ‘mama bear’ of the group. It was 54° C in Zanzibar, the heat and humidity affecting everyone badly, even the judges. A large number of the MasterChef SA team got food poisoning from eating the food at the Zanzibar night market, due to the food having been exposed to the heat throughout the day. The Finalists were not allowed wine.
The two owners of Zibaldone, brothers Adriano and Roberto Pietrella originally from Umbria, were extremely generous, in sending antipasta to the table, including Vitello Tonnato (veal with tuna sauce), Coppa ham with a spelt, tomato and mozzarella salad, lamb tortellini, Veal Romana, and ending off with Tiramisu. I was impressed with Sarel’s love for food, so many months after the reality TV series, spending more time with the owners in the kitchen than at the table with us, always keen to learn something new.
The MasterChef SA interviews we had done during the season one series, and the book launch, showed how the Finalists have bonded, and become friends for life, it would seem, some becoming like brothers and sisters to each others. All the Finalists seem to have remained humble, even though they are instantly recognisable wherever they go. They will become famous in the United Kingdom, the UK TV channel soon flighting our MasterChef SA series, Chef Pete announced on Thursday. I asked Ilse, Sarel and Sue-Ann how they felt about season two of MasterChef SA, and each of them had a different reaction: Sarel said he is already working on building more Twitter followers, Ilse said she is concerned, while Sue-Ann said it will have no effect on them, as they were the first Finalists in the first MasterChef SA program in our country. Season two of MasterChef SA has commenced, the cold tests completed, and the hot dish tests are underway. Filming at Nederburg will probably start late in January, and flighting will be twice a week, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, from about end March. Chef Pete said that the quality of the contestants is of a very high standard, having learnt a lot from MasterChef SA season one. The new ‘MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook’ is compulsory reading for all MasterChef SA hopefuls, and for the fans of the TV series.
MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook, Human & Rousseau. www.mnet.co.za/masterchefsa Twitter: @MasterChef _SA Available at leading booksellers. R350 recommended price.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Neil Pendock, writing on his blog yesterday, knocked bloggers and food writers by applauding their absence at the inaugural Fleur du Cap 100 Places to Eat Cape Town 2011: “What made the awards cocktail party unusual was that the usual cast of thousands – journos, hacks, bloggers, twits and hangers on – was conspicuous by its absence..” Yet the ‘Awards’ were organised by ‘little Irish devil‘ (his words) blogger Clare (‘Mack’) McKeon-McLoughlin! How embarassing for sponsor Fleur du Cap, wishing to gain support from the media and bloggers for its brands, given that Pendock no doubt had an organising hand in the ‘Awards’!
Neil Pendock can be a really nice guy, as I experienced at the Compass Box Whisky Co tasting and blending afternoon a week ago. But he has a nasty side too, as poor Su Birch of WOSA well knows, being the target of regular attacks in his Pendock Uncorked Sunday Times blog. We can attest to his fierce loyalty to McKeon-McLoughlin, as he has blocked us on Twitter, due to our criticism of Cape Town Tourism’s involvement in his and McKeon-McLoughlin’s organisation of the frivolous ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ in August.
Now poor Abigail Donnelly is the next target, being the sole judge and editor of the Eat Out DStv Food Network Top 10 Restaurant Awards for the first time. This year the judging committee of Pete Goffe-Wood, Anna Trapido and Arnold Tanzer, who received a substantial remuneration, it is said, fell away, and whilst there has been some muttering about this, I have not heard any chef denigrate Mrs Donnelly because of the organisational change. The Top 20 Eat Out finalist list has been announced, and the only rumblings about it is that Rust en Vrede is not on the list, having been the winning restaurant on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list last year, but its Chef David Higgs left mid-year, and that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar has not been at Azure Restaurant of the Twelve Apostles Hotel for a full twelve months, which is what the Eat Out rules dictate.
On Sunday McKeon-McLoughlin had invited some of the Fleur du Cap ‘Top 100’ restaurants and announced the following (alphabetically listed) restaurants to be the Top 10 Restaurants in Cape Town, out of an initial list of 100:
95 Keerom – Giorgio Nava.
Aubergine – Harald Bresselschmidt
Bizerca – Laurent Deslandes
Dear Me – Vanessa Marx
The Foodbarn – Franck Dangereux
The Greenhouse – Peter Templehoff
Hemelhuijs – Jacques Erasmus
Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson – Rudi Liebenberg
Societi Bistro – Stefan Marais
The Test Kitchen – Luke Dale Roberts
If one compares the list to the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Top 20 Finalist list, Azure at the Twelve Apostles Hotel, The Round House, and Nobu at the One&Only Cape Town are obvious exclusions, while The Test Kitchen, The Greenhouse, and Planet Restaurant also feature on the Eat Out Top 20 list. What makes the list above lose all credibility is the inclusion of Societi Bistro – whilst very popular amongst bloggers, who are regularly invited for lunch or dinner, and appears to be the McKeon-McLoughlin’s permanent dining room, it certainly does not feature on anyone’s top restaurant list for Cape Town! Amusing is that Aubergine fell off the Eat Out Top 20 Finalist list, whilst having been an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant last year, and appears on the above list! A number of restaurant lovers queried its Eat Out inclusion last year. Hemelhuijs and Dear Me Foodworld are great lunch venues, but only open in the evening once a week, and therefore are not in the same league as the other restaurants on the list, which serve lunch and dinner.
Ironic too is that Cape Town has lost its reputation as a top restaurant city, this accolade now having moved to the Winelands, Stellenbosch in particular, and therefore a list focusing on Cape Town only is like only handing out a second prize! Pendock writes about the judges Bianca Coleman, Jos Baker and Anna Trapido that they are the ‘biggest culinary cannons’, an extreme exaggeration! Trapido lives in Johannesburg, and hardly would have been able to judge all 100 Cape Town restaurants, especially given the short time between conceptualisation and execution of the Fleur du Cap Restaurant list.
A request sent to Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly for a list of the finalists in the new categories of the Eat Out Awards has surprisingly been declined, even though some restaurants on the list are ‘bragging’ about their inclusion. All eyes will be on Eat Out and Abigail Donnelly on 20 November, when the country’s Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants will be announced, in ranked order!
POSTSCRIPT 8/11: Interestingly, the Fleur du Cap website has no reference to the Top 100 Cape Town Restaurants list, nor to the Top 10 Cape Town Restaurants. The media release issued by the Fleur du Cap PR consultancy GC Communications oddly does not provide any quotes by nor contact details for the Fleur du Cap Brand Manager Danelle Kietzmann!
POSTSCRIPT 8/11: This evening I chatted to Jos Baker, one of the four judges of the Fleur du Cap Top 100 and Top 10 Places to Eat Cape Town 2011, at the Platter’s launch. I asked what the criteria for inclusion were, and she said it was to find restaurants that would ‘not be intimidating‘, ranging from the top-end to the ‘hole-in-the-wall’, to give a good spread! She told me that most of the judges’ deliberations were done via e-mail. When I asked her about Eat Out having one judge only, she said ‘no comment’. When I asked her if further regional lists would be published, she gave me a look that confirmed this, without answering directly.
POSTSCRIPT 9/11: One would have thought that the Mount Nelson Hotel’s marketing department would have known better than to have described their inclusion in the Fleur du Cap Top 10 Places to eat list as ‘a most sought after achievement’ in their November newsletter today!
POSTSCRIPT 10/11: Food24 has included a link to this blogpost in its newsletter today.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Whilst I dislike going into the city centre during the day, due to the irritating parking guards, I am pulled to the city centre more and more due to the ever-growing collection of good restaurants and coffee shops. This blogpost is a summary of some of Cape Town’s inner-city highlights:
* Hemelhuijs– owned by interior and restaurant consultant Jacques Erasmus, previously from Manna. Emphasis is on freshness. Creative unusual menu. Breakfast and lunch served. Monday – Friday 8h00 – 15h00. Saturday 9h00 – 15h00. Open for dinner on Wednesday evenings. 71 Waterkant Street. Tel (021) 418-2042.
* Dear Me Foodworld – a hot new addition, with a Francois du Plessis decor emphasis on green (both interior colour and herbs grown from the ceiling, see photograph above) and health, with most dishes offered as lactose-free and/or sugar-free alternatives. Menu changes daily. Great creative chef Vanessa Marx. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 15h00. Open for dinner on Thursday evenings. 165 Longmarket Street. Tel (021) 422-4920.
* Tjing Tjing Bar– when Dear Me Foodworld closes late afternoon, its upstairs Ting Tjing Bar opens, serving tapas, changes regularly. 165 Longmarket Street. Tuesday – Saturday from 16h00 until late. Tel (021) 422-4920.
* Escape Caffe– one of the hottest coffee shops in the city centre, featured in the media for its lemon cheese cake. Owner Lameen Abdul-Malik has a Nobel Peace Prize for his joint efforts to ensure the safest possible use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Serves organic blend artisanal coffee from Espresso Lab. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 16h00. Saturday 9h00 – 12h00. 130 Bree Street. Tel (021) 422-1325.
* What’s On Eatery– probably the restaurant with the friendliest owner (Trevor Jordaan) in town, serves Breakfast and Lunch on weekdays from 7h30 – 16h00, and Dinner from Tuesday – Saturday. Coffee by Origin. Excellent value. Exciting news is the appointment of Chef Oliver Cattermole from 1 October. 6 Watson Street. Tel (021) 422-5652 CLOSED DOWN 2011
* Rhubarb Room– coffee shop inside decor shop, previously in Bo-Kaap. Serve cakes, coffee (by Deluxe), soup, quiches, and salads. High tea offered for baby showers, kitchen teas and birthdays. Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00. Saturday 9h00 – 13h00. 227 Bree Street. Tel (021) 424-2004. CLOSED DOWN 2011
* Valora– stylish new restaurant, bar and café. Try Chef Andrew’s Two Tone soup. Extensive menu choice, includes tapas. LavAzza coffee. Great for late snack and drink. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 22h00, Saturday 17h00 – 23h00. Corner Loop and Hout Street. Tel (021) 426-1001. CLOSED DOWN 2012
* Skinny Legs & All – interior decorated with paintings from co-owner João Ferreira art gallery. Emphasis on freshly made food. Advised by Brad Ball of Bistro 1682. Run by sweet pair of twins Jamie and Jessie. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 16h00. Saturday 8h30 – 14h00. 70 Loop Street. Tel (021) 423-5403.
* Roberto’s Signature Restaurant – expect interesting things to come from Roberto de Carvalho, leader of the SA chefs team in Culinary Olympics, and ex-chef at Twelve Apostles Hotel. Simple food, mainly in Portuguese style. Excellent Tiramisu. Located below On Broadway, so very busy between 7 – 8 pm to cater for the theatre crowd. Tuesday – Sunday 12h00 – 15h30, 18h00 – 23h30. 44 Long Street. Tel (021) 424-1195. CLOSED DOWN 2013
* 6 Spin Street – unusual restaurant setting inside the IDASA book shop. Well-known for its cheese soufflé and duck. Monday – Friday Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner from 8h30. Saturday dinner only. 6 Spin Street. Tel (021) 461-0666.
* French Toast – focus on its large range of wines by the glass offered, but interesting tapas offering. Monday – Saturday 12h00 – 23h00. 199 Bree Street Tel (021) 422-3839. CLOSED DOWN 2012, BUT RE-OPENED AS THE ODYSSEY IN 2013
* Jason’s Bakery– recently opened where Jardine’s used to be, owned by Jason of ex-Jardine’s Bakery. Bakery and Café. Sandwiches, breakfast, soul food, and vegetarian. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 15h30. Saturday 8h00 – 14h00. 185 Bree Street. Tel (021) 424-5644.
* Haas Coffee – increasingly popular city hot-spot without any parking guards, and usually a parking spot available close by. Friendly and welcoming, and part of Haas Collective decor and art. Cakes, tarts and food menu, including cooked breakfasts. 67 Rose Street. Monday – Sunday. Tel (021) 422-2239.
* Piroschka’s Kitchen – Hungarian Flammkuchen with Gluehwein on cold days. Monday – Friday 11h00 – 19h00. 106 Bree Street. Tel 083 327 3203 CLOSED DOWN, NOW ONLY AT MARKETS
* Bread, Milk and Honey – busy breakfast and lunch spot, for take-aways or sit-down. 10 Spin Street. Monday – Friday 6h30 – 16h00. Tel (021) 461-8425.
* Il Cappero – hard-working Sicilian chef and charming husband Aldo in front-of-house. Not-so-usual Italian and Sicilian specialities. Monday – Friday lunch. Monday – Saturday dinner. 3 Barrack Street. Tel (021) 461-3168. MOVED TO CAMPS BAY
* Charly’s Bakery – famous for its cake creations and cheeky cupcakes, one can also sit down for coffee, cake, pies and cupcakes. Ample parking, no parking guards. 38 Canterbury Street. Monday – Saturday. Tel (021) 461-5181.
* Maria’s – Owners Kate and Cleon Romano are charming hosts, and the restaurant has a lovely buzz, and many tapas-like Greek dishes as well as mains. Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner. Great lunch spot after City Bowl Market. To open for Sunday lunch soon. Dunkley Square, 31 Barnett Street, Hatfield. Tel (021) 461-3333.
* Bird Café and Gourmet Eatery – Quirky milk-crate seating, decor change has opened up the kitchen, great quality food, friendly service. New owners Keith Mink, and Leigh Trout (ex-chef at Mange Tout, Mont Rochelle Hotel in Franschhoek), opened on 1 September. 127 Bree Street. Tel (021) 426-2534.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Cuvée Restaurant opened on Simonsig wine estate nearly three years ago, and its interior curation by Neil Stemmet put him on the map, with its unusual marriage of old and new. Cuvée Restaurant is a sparkling complement and compliment to the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Simonsig is on the Kromme Rhee Road, one I had never previously driven, connecting the two roads to Stellenbosch via Klapmuts and Joostenberg. There is ample parking, and one sees the modern oddly shaped posters within red frames outside the tasting room and restaurant entrance. Dirk the waiter told me that Strijdom van der Merwe, co-owner of Casparus restaurant and nature artist, had prepared the curved large metal posters on the lawns outside to commemorate the 350th anniversary of winemaking in South Africa for Simonsig last year, a very modern statement for a long established wine estate owned by the Malan family. The late Frans Malan, with Spatz Sperling of Delheim and the late Neil Joubert of Spier, was one of the trio establishing the Stellenbosch Wine Route, which itself celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The Simonsig 210 hectare farm has been farmed by the Malan family for ten generations, and the late Frans Malan was a pioneer in creating the first Méthode Cap Classique, being their Kaapse Vonkel. The Malan brothers Pieter (Marketing), Francois (CEO and Viticulturist), and Johan (Winemaker) run the farm. In addition to the Kaapse Vonkel, there is a Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé, Cuvée Royale, and Encore Vin Sec. Other wines in the Simonsig range include Vin de Liza noble late harvest, Chenin avec Chéne, Chardonnay, Sunbird Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Tiara Bordeaux blend, Frans Malan Cape blend, Redhill Pinotage, Merindol Syrah, Labyrinth Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr Borio’s Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, Shiraz Mouvèdre Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot.
The tasting room and restaurant are design extremes, the tasting room being part of the historic building, with traditional sash windows, yet it has a modern crockery and sparkling wine glass chandelier made by Jacques Erasmus of Hemelhuijs, and Tord Boordje paper curtains, one of only three establishments to have these designer curtains in Stellenbosch! The restaurant appears to be a building addition, with more modern architecture but with classic interior touches added by Stemmet. The room is on two levels, the lower one having a very dominant thick black and white striped wallpaper, with black, brown and white striped curtains, modern crystal chandeliers, a riempiesbank hanging from the ceiling, a red painted wall, and glass doors facing the vineyard. A massive fireplace ‘divides’ the room into two. The higher level appears more modern, with a raw concrete ceiling, one wall painted in a deep grey, and another left in rough brick. At the back end, or entrance to the restaurant, is a modern black bar counter, behind which the wines are stored across the length of a wall. Above the bar counter are large ‘Fifties style black and silver round lights. One wall has seating as benches against the wall, and there is a small lounge area. The tables are black stained wood with glass tops. There is a large Persian carpet in each of the sections, adding a homely touch. Contrasting the more modern furniture is the traditional yellowood and stinkwood heritage furniture, such as a bakkis, and an amoire. Modern perspex lamps and shades are spread around the restaurant, and there are bold white leather pouffes near the fireplace. An interesting Ikebana tree, with coloured silk wrapped around it, is a ‘small wishing tree’, Dirk explained. Classical music chosen by Stemmet rounded off the quality impression. I would have loved to walk through the restaurant with Stemmet, to hear the ‘story’ about his curation.
Each table has a ceramic vase with a red protea, with cutlery by Arthur Krupp, and a most impressive serviette which has a crown logo and 1971 date embroidered on it, to attract attention to the October 40th anniversary celebrations of the Cap Classique at Simonsig. The bread knife is by WMF. Three types of bread, beautifully folded into a serviette, were brought to the table. Coarse salt and pepper were brought in small bowls, with a spoon. Stemmet dictated the crockery and cutlery, and it reflects class. Staff wear black T-shirts and trousers, with a black apron. Dirk showed me the Van Niekerk Room upstairs, a special events function room for about 20 guests, which also has strong elements of black and white stripes, with red leather chairs around a large table. Mr van Niekerk was the father-in-law of the late Frans Malan, whose family is now at the nearby Knorhoek, on which wine estate Stemmet did the interior curation for their Towerbosch restaurant.
I met the new chef Lucas Carstens, who had moved across from Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town at the begining of the month. He has introduced some of his own dishes on the new menu, and kept other favourites. He previously worked at Terroir restaurant and at the Kleine Zalze Lodge. Dirk Smit, ex-Tuscany Beach, is the new Restaurant Manager, but was not on duty on Saturday.
The menu is A3 size on white board and well-presented, each item having a Simonsig wine suggestion. The Black pepper-seared tuna (R85/R140), with a Kaapse Vonkel pairing recommendation, is printed in gold, with the logo for the 40th Cap Classique celebration on it in gold too. Starters and mains are not separated on the menu, as most dishes can be ordered as a starter or a main portion. Not listed on the menu, but offered was fresh oysters at R12,50 each. I chose a starter portion of pan-fried kingklip, a smallish but very juicy thick piece of fish, served with asparagus (not specified on the menu and offered as a replacement for artichoke, but was served with artichoke too), braised fennel, slices of naartjie, and a most unusual citrus butter sauce. With this was served an apple salad with a good dressing, not mentioned on the menu, making the R70 (R130 for full portion) charge good value. Other interesting starter/main course options are Wild mushroom soup (45), Warm green bean and tomato salad (R50/R90), Tomato tartlet (R50/R90), Kleinrivier Gruyère soufflé (R85), Cape Malay butter chicken with Basmati rice (the restaurant smelt of this lovely curry when I arrived, and will be my first choice for my next visit, at R100), Grilled Mocambique prawns (R70/R140), Bobotie (R90), Joostenberg pork neck (R60/R110), Lamb shank (R140), Venison and wild mushrooms (R80/R150), and Flame-grilled beef fillet with Café de Paris sauce (R85/R160). I had the Valrhona 66% chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream (substituted for a red wine and cherry ripple ice cream), baked in a white dish, and thick and creamy inside (R60). Crème Brulée, pecan nut tart, malva pudding served with Amarula and rooibos ice cream, and White chocolate panna cotta cost between R45 – R55. A South African cheeseboard with preserves sounded expensive at R150, but I did not see it to judge the price.
The winelist is a folded A3 board, listing only Simonsig wines. Kaapse Vonkel, the Brut Rosé, and Encore Vin Sec cost R27/R135, a R45 surcharge on the bottle price in the Tasting Room. I had a glass of the Brut Rosé, and it was a good match to the kingklip. Cuvée Royale costs R54/R270. The Mr Borio Shiraz costs R18/R90, and the Merindol Syrah R66/R330. No vintages are listed for the wines, but the Platter star rating and awards won are denoted.
I almost felt sorry for Cuvée that such an excellent restaurant is so hidden away in the Winelands. It has a dramatic ‘Cape Dutch modernism’ interior, excellent food, and stands for quality in everything that it does, much like its excellent sparkling wines. I will go back, now that I know where it is.
Cuvée Restaurant, Simonsig, Kromme Rhee Rhee Road, between R44 and R304, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 888-4900. www.simonsig.co.za (The website contains the menu and winelist, but still has details of the previous chef. Few of the many photographs in the Image Gallery are of the food). Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage