In episode nine of Koekedoor Season 2 only five contestantys out of the initial ten are left to fight out who the winner will be in the remaining five episodes. The second season has now reached the halfway mark, not in terms of the number of episodes, but in terms of the number of contestants that remain. Pre-prepared/convenience items available to bakers also formed the focus of the episode. Continue reading →
I have the highest regard for the entrepreneurial spirit of Robert Maingard, although he is not Franschhoek’s favourite semi-citizen. Mr Maingard has incredible faith in Franschhoek, judging by his investment in this village, including ownership of Dieu Donné, Le Franschhoek Hotel, Crepe et Cidre, numerous small shopping centers on the main road (one which includes a Clicks and the village’s second Pick ‘n Pay, which has had the residents up in arms), and now owner of Café Benedict and the newly opened Le Coq restaurant. I visited the restaurant three times over two days, to get a grip on this ‘schizophrenic’ restaurant, which is located in the new (as yet unnamed) centre which was built where the old Huguenot Hotel once stood.
The French rooster is the symbol of all things Gallic, Wikipedia informs, and Mr Maingard’s Mauritian roots show in his choice of name for the restaurant in this French-faux village. The rooster that graces the entrance to the restaurant was found under a table in Mr Maingard’s home, Llewellyn Lambert told me. The restaurant is huge, with an industrial feel to the space, with visible airconditioning trunking. The restaurant is divided over two levels, each seating about 60 patrons, probably the largest restaurant in Franschhoek. The upstairs level has its own Grill menu, and focuses on steak. Here too is a coldroom, so that one can see the meat hung for use for grilling, and from which meat can be sold to customers to take home. Downstairs, the menu focus is on affordable light meals.
With its French name, its interior design is a surprise, it is so bizarre! The downstairs section has a fireplace, which will be cosy in the cold Franschhoek winter, and above it hangs a Salvador Dali ‘replica’. Here is where things go dreadfully wrong with the decor, the designer being Carol Cornwall, of Cornwall Interiors in Durban, who has done all Mr Maingard’s Quarters Hotels, Dieu Donné and Crepe et Cidre. Dali was a Spanish abstract artist, now used in a French style Franschhoek family restaurant. There is another Dali ‘replica’ upstairs, a copy of the famous ‘The Persistence of Memory’ above its fireplace, the well-known pocketwatch one, hence all the clocks on the walls. Without the explanation by Lambert, I would not have made the connection. There are more ‘Dali’s’ to come, I was told!
But worse still is the lounge sections that have been created in each of the two levels, for those patrons who have to wait for a table (it will take some time to get to this stage, given that Franschhoek is already seeing its first pre-winter casualties, with restaurants and other shops closing down). The furniture for these two sections looks like it comes straight out of Joshua Doore – a white ‘plastic’ couch upstairs, and ‘velour’ high back chairs in orange and blue downstairs! Going back for the third time, I understood the decor approach, being to pick up the blue and the burnt orange from the ‘Dali’s’ for the chairs, but it is the execution that I cannot understand, in that they make the restaurant feel common and kitsch. The rest of the decor, in terms of the tables and dining chairs (white leather downstairs and beige fabric upstairs) is absolutely fine. Lambert told me that Mr Maingardis an avid antique collector, and antique sewing machines have formed the bases for the upstairs granite-top tables. One can sit outside on the terrace upstairs, with a lovely view onto the Franschhoek mountains, but also onto the large parking area below. Parking is a benefit of the new development, given that Franschhoek lacks parking on its main road.
Mr Maingard recently bought the Lecca il Gelato franchise for Franschhoek, and will be using one of his already vacated shops in the new center in which Le Coq is located for the new ice cream shop. It is so big, that he has decided to make the shop a play and activity centre for children while their parents eat at Le Coq – I could think of nothing better for a kid to play in an ice cream shop!
I could not help but think that the large industrial-style two-tier restaurant reminded me of my own joke that the two Franschhoek Pick ‘n Pays have two target markets: one serves the ‘bodorp’, and the other the ‘onderdorp’, and so too the restaurant’s upstairs grill and downstairs Light Meal section is likely to see a similar divide!
The managers are a collection of staff from Maingard properties. Lambert came from Quarters in Durban earlier this year, to open Café Benedict. Manager Nikki Leu comes from Durban too, where she did staff training for Mr Maingard’s businesses. I found it very hard to connect with her. Food & Beverage Manager Alan Smith comes from the Grill Room, opposition to Mr Maingard, previously owned by Matthew Gordon and the late Trevor Kirsten, who was also a Franschhoek property mogul, vying for the same high street properties. Chef Albert van der Loo comes from Dieu Donné. He said that running a kitchen for a 120 seater restaurant is no problem, especially as the orders are staggered over the evening, compared to the 240-seater Dieu Donné, where all guests wanted to order immediately after the sun has set, creating huge pressure on the kitchen. He has a massive downstairs kitchen for the light meals, and the steaks are prepared upstairs. Chef Albert is excited about the new challenge he has in running his own kitchen, and says he worked hard on creating the right balance of dishes for the Light Meal menu. He is bringing in a sushi chef from Japan, a relative of the sushi chef’s girlfriend from the ‘bodorp’ Pick ‘n Pay. His vision at Le Coq is to offer good quality affordable meals for Franschhoekers.
The tables do not have table cloths, but material serviettes and St Tropez cutlery. A very light weight steak knife by Victorinox seemed too light to be effective, but did a good cutting job. There are no condiments. Only a little glass candle holder is on the table. No one offered pepper on any of my three visits. My first visit was for lunch on Saturday, in the downstairs section, and I had a most delicious pea and mint soup from the Cold menu selection (good value at R35, but when Etienne Bonthuys charges R30 for the thickest and creamiest Avocado soup with prawn, it is not!). I asked the waitress whether it comes with bread, but she said it did not. I returned on Saturday evening, on my way to Stellenbosch, and tried the Tempura prawn from the Hot menu selection. I asked specifically if it is de-shelled, and the waitress checked that it would be. The tempura batter is around the prawn tail as well, and I was talking so much that I bit into the tail which did have the shell over it, which spoilt the dish for me. I had a good Cuturra coffee, with a strong coffee flavour. If one sits downstairs, one may order from the Grill menu, but one may not order from the Light Meal menu if one is sitting upstairs, which seems odd and inflexible. Other Cold Meal options (R35 – R75) are smoked salmon salad, roast beef and blue cheese salad, Caprese salad and Bruschetta of Beef Tartare. Oysters cost R90 for six. The Hot Meal menu prices range from a most affordable R60 – R75, and include mussels, fish and chips, oxtail, beef burger, Cape Malay chicken curry and penne pasta carbonara. Gelatos, jellied sparkling wine, chocolate brownies and ‘American Dreams’ cost R30 – R40.
The Grill menu has three starters: The Prawn cocktail was wonderful, with six juicy prawns, at R65, but I did suggest to Chef Albert that he take off the tails; beef carpaccio (R50), and a Chef’s salad at R55. There are seven grilled meat options, served with chips and onion rings, ranging from R75 for an Algerian spatchcock baby chicken to R105 each for a 500 gram T-bone steak, and 250 gram fillet. The weight of meat is not specified on the menu, but the waitress told me the weight when I asked her, unfortunately getting the weight of two items wrong, one of them being for the fillet I ordered. The fillet was good, served alone on a plate, and the sauce and mash came in two extra dishes. I had ordered the steak Medium Rare, but it tended to Medium, and Chef Albert (who commendably came to check after every course) explained that it has to do with the ageing of the meat, taking away some of the pink colouring of the meat. It was very tender, and Chef Albert told me that they source their meat from Tomi’s near Hermon, where they farm with Angus cows. Le Coq is the first Franschhoek client, and Chef Albert was very impressed with the marbling of their meat. Sauces cost R15, and one can choose Hollandaise, Bourbon mushroom, Classic red wine steakhouse, and green peppercorn sauces. Desserts here are simply one of four Gelato flavours, costing R35.
The menus and winelist are beautifully presented, and Chef Albert worked with photographer Eddie Wilson to create covers for them using beautiful photographs, one taken from the restaurant. The winelist covers has a photograph of three Dieu Donné wines, but has a good selection of mainly Franschhoek wines. It has a description of the wine, but no information on regions or vintages is provided. The white wines range from R30/R100 for Overhex Balance and R30/R110 for Flagstone Noon Gun, to R 380 for Graham Beck Pheasant Run Sauvignon Blanc. Other wines by the glass are Dieu Donné Chardonnay (R35/R110), Protea Chenin Blanc (R30/R90) and Ashton Kelder Chardonnay (R35/R115). Red wines start at R 30/R110 for Ashton Kelder Satynrooi and R30/R110 for Avondrood Blue Whale, up to R 500 for Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve. I was surprised to see Chocolate Block Shiraz blend charged at a pricey R390. Other red wines by the glass are Diemersfontein Pinotage (R50), Perdeberg Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon (R35/R130), and GlenwoodMerlot at R40/R165. Sparkling wines are not sold by the glass, which is a shame, and include Dieu Donné Blanc de Blanc Brut (R200), Graham Beck’s Brut Rosé (R240), Colmant (R280), and Moët “en” Chandon (R950). One can also order “Le Coq-tails” and “Le Moq-tails” at R35 – R45.
To celebrate the opening of the restaurant on Friday, live music will be played in the lower section every weekend day and evening. I found the band from Wellington terribly loud, as did the chef, and they were asked to tone things down a little. Every month there will be new groups playing.
Le Coq is a restaurant out of the usual Franschhoek mould, and one wonders if there are enough locals with families to support this large restaurant, currently being supporters of Kalfi’s, Col’Cacchio and Allora. It offers very good value for money, especially in the downstairs Light Meals section. Its staff service and training needs attention. Its French/Spanish decor conflict needs drastic help. It will survive the winter and any continuation of the downturn, as Mr Maingard is the owner of the building, so that his cost structure is different to that of any other restaurant. It needs a stronger leaderto run the restaurant. It lacks focus, trying to please too many tastes under one roof, and creates confusion with two-restaurants-within-one. It will be interesting to see if they receive the support from the anti-Clicks ‘bodorp’ Franschhoekers living in a village known for its nasty politics!
POSTSCRIPT 21/5: I popped in for a cappuccino this afternoon, and immediately noticed the addition of a massive “Dali Atomicus” print by photographer Philippe Haselman, featuring Dali, three thrown cats, and a thrown bucket of water – what a weird composition! From a Google search I learnt that the photograph took 26 takes over five It looks very impressive behind the bar, and much nicer than the Dali painting copies hung in the restaurant. The Manager Alan has already left the restaurant, for a job elsewhere.
Le Coq, 32 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-4224. No website yet. Tuesday – Sunday, lunch and dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I had invited my friend Sarah from Durban to join me for dinner, and our first reaction was one of uncertainty as to whether we would be happy there. Everything changed when the charming then-Manager David Elsbury came to the table, and took personal care of us, entertaining us with his friendly and cheerful nature. He compared Knife to Carne and HQ as competitors in terms of the quality of their steaks. David worked at Wakami previously, and helped set up the new bar for Knife. He has left to move into a non-hospitality job, for the sake of better working hours to benefit his family. JD Haasbroek is a partner with Saunders in the business, and compiled the winelist, making sure to add boutique wine farm brands. The chef Jonathan Japha moved over from Fork.
David told us that the Knife at Century City is the first of a number of franchised steak and rib Knife restaurants planned, next ones to be in Johannesburg and Durban. A Spoon restaurant may also be considered, concentrating on soups and desserts, which seemed an attractive concept, we felt.
The menu is equally “mish mash”, reflecting the interior. It offers starters, salads, burgers, fish and shellfish, steaks and ribs, and platters. A selection of sauces, including creole mayo, wholegrain mustard, blue cheese, cumin and cream, and green peppercorn and bourbon sauce, costs R25 each. Extra sides of salads and vegetables can also be ordered at R 25 each.
A 400g portion of “smoked sticky BBQ baby back ribs” costs R 80, and a 600g portion R110. The ribs are oak-smoked and marinated for 24 hours in a special BBQ marinade. Steaks are cut from Chalmar beef that has been aged for 28 days before serving. David explained that Chalmar beef is grain-fed, and has no added hormones. Sirloin and rump steak choices are offered, at an acceptable price of R95/R115 for 200g/300g rump, and R110/130 for 200g/300g sirloin. Fillet costs R 135, but the portion size is not specified. Both meat types are served with French fries and corn on the cob (for the American touch!), as well as a sauce of one’s choice. David organised that my steak came with a boiled potato. The rump steak was excellent, cooked medium rare perfectly, as ordered, and the taste of the marinade came through. Sarah ordered the vegetarian sticky sweet potato stack with mozzarella and tomato relish (R40), and felt that there was too little vegetable and too much sauce, overpowering the sweet potato. She indulged in a Rocky Road dessert (R50), finding the marshmallows quite hard, making them difficult to chew, whilst the rest of the dessert was soft, “melt-in-the-mouth”, in her words.
Starter options range from R 40 â€“ R65, and include a variety of choices, including Creole mussel curry and Cajun lamb ribs. The Caesar salad costs R50, while a Nicoise salad made from seared game fish costs R70. Burger choices included one made from chickpea (R55), and a bacon and cheese burger (R65). On the seafood side one can order Creole fishcakes (R65), sole and line fish (R90), king prawn gumbo (R110), and crayfish tails at R180. A Meat platter costs R220 for two persons, and contains a selection of ribs, chicken wings, rump steak, lamb chops and a sauce. A Seafood platter for two persons costs R240.
The winelist has 16 wines-by-the-glass, and I chose a wonderful 2004 Stony Croft Shiraz from Stellenbosch, a Platter 4 1/2 star wine, according to David, which I had not previously heard of, and which was excellent value at R32. The list is simply divided into “White” and “Red”, and then sub-divided by variety, and the vintage and region is specified, but there is no description of the wine. Champagne Henri Giraud Espirit de Giraud NV costs R500, Krone Borealis R 40/R180, and Colmant NV R240. Sauvignon Blancs offered are Badsberg (R23/R92), Reyneke Organic Reserve White the most expensive at R270. Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz 2007 costs R400.
We paid R280 for a steak, a starter, a dessert, a cappuccino and a glass of red wine. As Knife is too far away from where I live, I will only go back when next I go on a shopping trip to Canal Walk. The steak is well worth a visit, and according to David, the ribs are too.
Knife restaurant, Crystal Towers Hotel, corner Century Boulevard and Rialto Road, Century City, Cape Town. Tel (021) 551-5000 www.knife-restaurants.co.za . The website is functional, informative, has various menus – Christmas specials, kiddies menu, main menu, brunch menu, etc., lists all the reviews, and has a small gallery – more photographs would be welcome. Monday â€“ Sunday 11h00 â€“ 23h00. Weekend brunch 10h00 â€“ 15h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I had read about Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg wine estate in Constantia on Twitter, and about its Beef Tataki in particular, one of Chef Brad Ball’s signature dishes. My first visit last week was one of wow – amazement at the wonderful setting, the amazing decor, the friendliness of the staff, the wonderful food, as well as the value for money, a perfect recipe for success. I felt that the “Bistro” name, which Wikipedia defines as “a small bar serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting” is completely inappropriate for this wonderful restaurant, the restaurant underselling itself, and thereby overdelivering.
Bistro Sixteen82 opened just less than a year ago, in a new building built on the historic Graham Beck Foundation-owned wine estate, which was given to Catharina, “the widow Ras” as she was known, by Simon van der Stel in exchange for (undefined) “favours”, I was told by the charming Lida van Heerden, the Cellar Door Manager. Catharina must have been quite a lady, having had five husbands, and was the inspiration for the name of Catharina’s, the other Steenberg restaurant. With the historical heritage of Steenberg, the modern building housing the tasting room as well as the Bistro is a surprise, but fits into the environment well, probably because the building is quite a distance away from the historic Steenberg Hotel buildings. There is ample parking, and the building opens onto a well-kept lawn, which seems to melt into the vineyards on the mountain slope above. There is a lovely water feature, making it very tranquil to sit outside.
When one steps into the tasting room, which one has to walk through to get to the restaurant, one notices the dominant chandelier, made from 2700 green and red resin oval shapes, depicting grapes, with pips and all! The light was made by Carole Carr-Harris from Divali Lighting in Hermanus, and weighs a ton, needing a reinforced ceiling to hold the weight. The tasting section is a round island in a generously sized room, from which leads a lounge, at which one can taste wines too, or just enjoy sitting at the fireplace on a wintry day. The architect and interior decorator is Richard Perfect, and he certainly did a perfect job in creating an architecturally unique building inside and out.
The restaurant is a large space, with tables seating 70 patrons close together, especially against the two end walls, which have a fixed seat against the wall. The close proximity of the tables, and the fully booked restaurant, gave it a wonderful buzz and energy. It was nice to see Jenna, the hostess, who has attended one of Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings. Chef Brad was off-duty, but kept an eye on things with his staff as soon as he had read via Twitter that I was at the restaurant, and also provided the exact details of the sauce served with the asparagus starter on Twitter, even though he had the day off! A large structure made from branches is a decorative feature on the ceiling, and bunches of pin-cushion proteas presented in large glass vases give a flash of orange in an otherwise white-dominant restaurant interior, the same protea-filled vases being seen at the entrance to the building, from which can also see the steel vats of the winery. The comfortable chairs have a natural wood look, with what looks like a modern-day ‘riempie’ for the seat, matching the ceiling wood structure. The vats are also visible behind the Raw Bar, and the estate’s white and red wines are cleverly displayed on two of the walls, creating a design feature. A Raw Bar refrigerated display counter contains salamis and hams, capers as well as cheeses, with an Oyster Tank next to it. Staff look smart and professional, with white shirts, a smart slim silver tie, with a tie clip, and black slacks and black aprons.
The tables have white table cloths and impressive serviettes with the name of the restaurant embroidered on them. Cutlery and glassware is of good quality. The menu and winelist is made from black leather, and is a simple insert. The number of choices of dishes and wines is reasonable, yet very varied, making it easy to choose. The reasonable cost of the dishes impressed, Front of House Manager Jürgen Welp telling me that from the outset Chef Brad Ball wanted the Bistro to stand for value for money, both in terms of its food as well as the wines (the mark-up is no more than 25 % for the Steenberg wines, unlike some of its Constantia neighbours charging threefold for their estate wines, even if the tasting room is only a few steps away). With a corkage fee of R40, it would be more expensive for a customer to do a BYO with corkage added, compared to ordering from the winelist.
Chef Brad Ball was previously at River Cafe, Olympia Café and Pastis, while Jürgen had worked at Buitenverwachting for seven years. Both set up Bistro Sixteen82 a year ago.
Our waitress Natalie brought the bread basket to the table, consisting of a bread stick, slices of focaccia and ciabatta, with a small platter of olives and sundried tomatoes, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar served in tiny milk jugs. The Summer menu is divided into four sections, labeled as “Stimulate” for the starters, including smoked pork paté, pea and pancetta risotto and snails, costing R46 each, and mussels, slightly more expensive; “Rejuvenate” contains two dishes : Beetroot tarte tine served with smoked trout mousse (R68) and the house salad (R45/R64). “Inspire” contains the main courses, ranging from R78 for Broccoli feuillette (gorgonzola fondue) to R 120 for Franschhoek Trout and Steak au Poivre. Other mains include a pork belly ragout, line fish, a charcuterie selection and sticky pork belly. The “Indulge” selection contained five desserts, costing between R44 – R50, all interesting sounding, and a cheese platter at R48.
I ordered the Asparagus starter (R50), served with a truffle mousseline with parmesan, and decorated with tiny snippets of tomato, a lovely melody in green, yellow and red. The sauce was delicious, and overshadowed the steamed crispy asparagus, it was so special. My son had the Beef Tataki, which is seared beef fillet and then thinly sliced in carpaccio style, served with soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, chilli, sesame oil, radish, spring onions, and lime juice. It is a unique combination of ingredients causing a taste explosion, costing R49 as a starter and R 105 as a main. My (student) son could not finish the main course portion, it was so filling. I ordered the entrecote steak, simply served as two thick slices, with mash (a bit stodgy, I felt, but it was my choice – normally the steak is served with potatoes and peppercorn sauce) and steamed carrots and beans. An excellent small but effective steak knife was provided.
The Raw Bar board shows prices to be R18 for an oyster, and Gravadlax at R44. Other options are Pink Tartar, being Norwegian salmon with chilli and lime, costing R60/R105 as starter/main course, and the Red Tartar, being a tartar of Chalmar beef served with capers and a quail egg (R56/R98). The cappuccino was served with two pieces of home-made Turkish Delight.
We were offered a complimentary glass of the Steenberg Brut, made from 100 % Chardonnay, the first tasting of this bubbly, crisp and dry, and a good marriage with the asparagus. The Steenberg wine range consists of 1682 Chardonnay MCC, Sauvignon Blanc, HMS Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc, HMS Sphynx Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, 1682 Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Nebbiolo, Catharina, Magna Carta, and Klein Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and Bordeaux Blend. The Steenberg wines understandably dominate the winelist, with almost all their wines being available by the glass. The Klein Steenberg Bordeaux Red costs R24 for a 250 ml carafe and R70 for a bottle, and the most expensive is Steenberg Catharina 2007 at R77/R230. It also lists a few other Constantia wine brands, keeping it proudly-Constantia. Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve costs R 585 and the Rosé R750.
I don’t always make a point of visiting the cloakroom, and here I saw the only aspect of the decor that came across as kitsch – the cloakroom and the toilets are covered with a wall paper that is a close-up of a vineyard, making one claustrophobic. It is such a contrast to the good taste of the decor in the rest of the building.
I loved my first visit at Bistro Sixteen82, and will be back again to try some of the other dishes on the Summer menu. I felt it to be excellent value for money, and a happy and relaxed space, with very friendly staff and happy customers who did not seem to want to go home. I am very surprised that Bistro Sixteen82 did not make the Top 20 Eat Out Restaurants shortlist, but should be sure to do so in 2011. The Breakfasts, and the Eggs Benedict in particular, are legendary at Bistro Sixteen82 too.
POSTSCRIPT 22/2: A visit to my accountant in Constantia was a good opportunity to make a return visit to Bistro Sixteen82. I had an early lunch, and was served by Manager Jürgen, and was offered a glass of Steenberg Brut – I accepted a half glass. I tried two new starters on Chef Brad Ball’s menu, and absolutely loved the presentation as well as the taste of the Duck liver parfait and duck prosciutto, creating a beautiful dark/light effect underneath the mousse, and served with a small wine-poached pear. Then I had the Capellini and truffle créme, topped with chopped tomato and a poached egg, a more simple but filling and tasty dish, beautifully paired with the Steenberg Semillon.
Bistro Sixteen82, Steenberg wine estate, Constantia. Tel (021) 713-2211. www.steenberg-vineyards.co.za Twitter :@Bistro1682. Mondays – Sundays, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, 9h00 – 20h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage