Tag Archives: Lammershoek

Restaurant Review: Oteque (100th Best, one Michelin Star) Restaurant in Rio de Janeiro offers uncomplex Tasting Menu, with excellent wines!

On my recent trip through a number of South American countries, I booked to eat at each of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants operating in the cities I visited, and at which I was able to make a booking. Oteque in Rio de Janeiro was the final restaurant I ate at a day before my departure back to Cape Town. Oteque is number 100 on this eminent restaurant ranking list, and has a Michelin star, both achievements acquired within 18 months of the restaurant opening in Rio de Janeiro, its owner and Chef Alberto Landgraf having previously owned a restaurant in São Paulo.  I found it to be far better than Lasai restaurant, also in Rio de Janeiro, which is ranked 74th Best on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant, at which I had eaten two days prior. 

Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 6/7 September

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy’s response to the axing of Virgin Atlantic’s London – Cape Town flights is embarrassing and appears unprepared, with poor wording, likely to have been a telephonic interview: ‘The slight (sic) cuts will definitely impact on tourism to the destination, especially if you look at Summer where the demand for Cape Town is quite great (sic), especially from the UK market’ !

*   ‘Chefs who Share’ is adding two further Auction lots for its charity Gala Dinner on Thursday 11 September, the culinary highlight of the year in Cape Town.  The proceeds go to the MAD (Make a Difference) Charity and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The additional Auction lots are attendance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at pit lane level, and VIP tickets to attend the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai. (received via media release from Amplicon PR)

*   Col’Cacchio is again giving back to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital this year, in donating R 5 of sales per pizza in its Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Chalk & Cork dirty, average food, with abusive Chalk & Cheek!

Chalk & Cork logo Whale CottageI was bombarded with a barrage of Tweets when the new owners of Mozzarella Bar on Kloof Street first opened in July, having bought the business from ‘Mr Charm’ Giorgio Nava.  Nava must have sold the owners Amy and Marc Botes a good dose of rudeness and cheek too, which is what I experienced when I popped in at the now renamed Chalk & Cork, waiting for my car to be washed at the Engen garage nearby, earlier this week. I enjoyed going to the Mozzarella Bar, with its charming Italian manager Simone, previoulsy.

I photographed the counter as one enters (there is no signage at the entrance, but only on the low wall of Chalk & Cork Interior Whale Cottagethe outside seating, visible to all passing on Kloof Street (the patrons that is, and not the branding)!  The waitress could not tell me why the restaurant is named Chalk & Cork, other than to say that they have a lot of wine on the winelist!  She could not explain the ‘Chalk‘ part.   There is a cork collection building up on both sides of the front door.  The downstairs entrance doesn’t appear to have changed much, although there is more equipment against the back wall behind the counter compared to the Mozzarella Bar.  The Pizza oven is still there, as is the drinks fridge. They are no longer selling Mozzarella, which will be available at Piazza Italia, up the road on Park Road.  Upstairs they can seat 30 patrons.  On a rainy day they have next to no business, the upstairs seating not being visible nor known.  Continue reading →

Has the Good Food & Wine Show become the (Italian) Cook Show?

Good Food & Wine ShowCarlo Cracca. Antonio Carluccio. Gennaro Contaldo. Katy Ashworth. Emma Dean. Vichit Mukura. These are the ‘top international chefs’ Cape Town food lovers are being exposed to at the Good Food & Wine Show at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, augmented with a handful of light-weight (with the exception of Chef David Higgs) mainly TV cooking program local cooks!   As Cape Town is the centre of gourmet gastronomy, surely exhibition organisers Fiera Milano could have done better?

Christine Cashmore has organised the Good Food & Wine Show for years, and sold her company to Fiera Milano last year.  She is certainly still involved, as I saw her at the show yesterday.  She is tough to deal with, changing PR companies every year!  Every year the criticism about the Show has grown, the big food producers no longer bothering to participate, and sample their products.   The emphasis this year was clearly TV cooking shows, and the invited chefs (mainly) had a link to a TV program, in cooking at the Celebrity Chefs Theatre (how did Kamini Pather slip in here, as controversial winner of MasterChef Season 2?), the kykNET Kook Teater, the Spar Food Theatre, and the Selati Sweet Treats Theatre. Continue reading →

WOSA Sommelier World Cup clever way to market South African wines!

WOSA Sommelier Cup Will Predhomme Whale Cottage PortfolioYesterday I spent a most entertaining afternoon at the Grande Roche hotel in Paarl, to observe the last phase of the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) Sommelier World Cup competition, the announcement and evaluation of the Top 3, and the awarding of the prize to the winning sommelier Will Predhomme.

The invited guests were the twelve finalists for the Sommelier World Cup, media representatives from the USA (I sat next to Rebecca Canan from the Terroirist Blog), Sweden, and Belgium, local writers, the local and international sommelier judges, and WOSA staff from its international offices as well as from its head office in Stellenbosch.   After a welcome glass of wine, we sat down for lunch at Bosman’s, and it was clear to see why this Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Valora brave new city class!

For all the doom and gloom in the hospitality industry at the moment, it is refreshing to discover a new restaurant in the center of town, that has raised the bar with a slick and chic new establishment. Valora Café, Restaurant and Bar opened on Monday, where L’Aperitivo used to be, next door to Skinny Legs & All.  Valora means ‘brave’ in Latin, and is one of a number of exciting city centre restaurants to open in the past few months, which include Roberto’s, Dear Me, and What’s On Eatery.

I had noticed the sudden closure of L’Aperitivo a month ago, often driving down Loop Street.  I stopped to have a chat to Chef Andrew Mendes, while the renovations were taking place.  He told me that the restaurant would open on 1 August, and it did!  L’Aperitivo had a large counter, which took a lot of the relatively small space. The Valora counter is smaller, positioned at the back of the restaurant, and has a far more spacious feel about it.  One part of a wall is rough brick, and the rest of it is painted a light gold yellow, the back wall behind the bar is a deep burgundy, while the other two sides have glass windows, letting the welcome winter sun in on a very chilly day, with snow on Table Mountain.  I liked the interior design, understated, chic, with dark wood-top tables, chairs with a white/silver fabric, and bar chars in a light rose burgundy colour. The bar counter has gold design tiles on it.  The decor reminds one of What’s On Eatery and La Mouette. There is no clutter. The shopfitting and interior design was done by Ricci Cinti, who remembered me as his first boss of many years ago. His partner in Epic Ark designed the logo, which has a similarity to that of the Queen Victoria Hotel, giving it a classy feel.  Outside, modern grey garden couches, with a rope to demarcate the Valora space on the pavement, add further class to the establishment.  The owner wanted to create an interior that was ‘sexy and modern, finer dining, offering value for money’. The floor is a laminate that looks like it is made from old wine barrels.  I found it very hot inside, and the waitress switched off the heaters.

Valora has been opened by Mike Mouneimme, who was the operator of Caprice in Camps Bay for ten years, and is the cousin of Caprice owner David Raad.  The family is Lebanese, and this reflects in the Mediterranean style restaurant, which consists of a collection of Lebanese, Italian and Greek dishes.  Chef Andrew worked at Tuscany Beach for more than three years before joining Valora, and prior to this at the previous Avontuur restaurant in the V&A Waterfront, and at Superior Catering, which did the private catering for the Atlantic Beach Golf Club as well as for Pearl Valley.  He was not given much creative freedom at Tuscany Beach, and he is excited about the freedom to develop the menu. Andrew laughed when he said that the restaurant name comes from the bravery in opening a restaurant in these challenging times, and for the small kitchen space he has to cook in.

The cutlery is smart, being Fortis Hotelware, and I loved the special edition LavAzza Calendar 2011 cups with a gold design on them.  The Fortis salt and pepper containers have a yin/yang design, and a ceramic hurricane candle holder was on the table.  The paper serviettes do not match the interior quality, and Manager Lisa said that she is working on getting these changed to material ones.

The menu/winelist has a golden cover, with the logo, and looks inviting and classy.  Inside the pages are in burgundy.  The menu offers an extensive range of items.  For Brunch one can order a baked bagel with salmon and scrambled egg, French Toast, a health breakfast, or toasted Focaccia, all at about R50.  The salad choice includes Lebanese Tabbouleh and Fattoush salads, as well as Tuna, Greek, chicken, and beef salads, ranging from R58 – R78.   Roast beef, cheese and tomato, and spicy chicken sandwiches made with home-made bread cost about R60.  Eleven mezze choices range in price from R12 – R40, and include Lebanese flat bread, Baba Ganoush, aubergine, and Lebanese Kefta kebabs.  Starters included a beautifully presented Two Tone soup, recommended by Chef Andrew, being a clever design of two soups, presented in a yin yang shape, with a rich dark beef soup sprinkled with biltong powder, and a light truffle cream with a hint of chilli, with two prawns, which was served with toasted brioche, costing R50. I enjoyed the deep fried crispy Patagonian calamari rings served with a separate bowl of lemon butter sauce, slices of lime and a sprig of origanum (R40).  Other starters include snails, spicy chicken livers, and stuffed mushrooms, all costing under R50.  Six main courses include a 350 gram rib eye steak (R135), Turkish spiced fillet (R125), beef ragout (R98), Psarri Plaki line fish (R105), chicken Parmagana (R75), and grilled Patagonia calamari (R70).  Pasta includes wild mushroom, ravioli bolognaise, seafood pasta, and Namibian desert truffles, ranging between R70 – R110. The Valora burger costs R55, and a Prego Roll R75.  Desserts cost R50 and less, and include chocolate baklava, berry panna cotta and chocolate truffles.

A small number of wines is offered, with a selection of cocktails.  Dom Perignon costs R2750, Veuve Cliquot R 750, Moet et Chandon R700, and Boschendal Brut R195. Brampton white (R25) and red (R28) is served by the glass.  White wines are by Lammershoek (R165), Ernst Gouws & Co, South Hill, Rickety Bridge, Seven Steps and Waverley Hills (R95).  Red wines come from the same wineries (R120 – R210), with the exception of Seven Steps, as well as Kanonkop Paul Sauer at R650.  The LavAzza cappuccino costs R17.

I was impressed by the classy feel of Valora, the smooth running of the restaurant on its fifth day, the creativity of Chef Andrew’s menu and food presentation, the wide choice offered, and the reasonable prices.  I was not charged for the Two Tone soup, Chef Andrew saying that he wanted me to try it.  Valora is a perfect spot to pop in before or after a concert or a show.  The service was attentive, and Lisa kindly went to have the menu copied at a nearby shop. Parking is a challenge during the day. The menu and beverage list contains a number of spelling errors. The business cards match the menu in gold and burgundy.  A cool unique touch was the stick of chewing gum which came with the bill, in a deep red wrapper with the Valora logo, although I am not sure if the Valora target market is into chewing gum!  I’ll be back to try more of Chef Andrew’s cooking creativity.

POSTSCRIPT 3/6/12: Valora has closed down.

Valora Café, Restaurant and Bar, Shop 70, corner Loop and Hout Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 426-1001.  www.valora.co.za (The website is still under construction).  10h00 – 22h00 weekdays, 17h00 – 23h00 on Saturdays.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Restaurant Review: The Power & The Glory too laid back, no power, no glory!

The Power & The Glory is a most unlikely name for a restaurant/bar, and does not reflect anything about this new eatery and bar belonging to talented interior decorator Adam Whiteman.   The restaurant name is also the name of a Graham Greene book, written in 1940, and refers to words in the Lord’s Prayer.  Not surprisingly, Greene’s novel was controversial.   The Power & The Glory is an easy-going laid back place to stop and have a bite to eat and a beer, if one can find parking on this busy intersection on Kloofnek Road and Burnside Road, below Rafiki’s Bar, but don’t expect any service efficiency or much friendliness.  

Whiteman’s design teeth were cut in The Grand Café and Rooms in Plettenberg Bay, where he and his mom Gail Behr created a rich plush Moroccan style red velvet palace of rooms and a restaurant.  When his mother sold the Grand Café to Susie Main, he was contracted to do the decor for the Grand Cafés in Camps Bay and then The Grand on the Beach.   I was a very regular guest at The Grand Café and Rooms in Plett, and Adam’s brother Steven was hands-on in running the business, with Adam living in Cape Town. Given that Whiteman is the owner of The Power & The Glory, I had to come and try it out.

After only being open for a week or two, it was full already, but then it only has four tables, and some bar stools on the inside and outside of its windows, at which counters have been constructed.  I was told that a scooter outlet and a laundromat previously operated in this space.  The lower level has a huge counter that has a weathered look about it, with a busy collection of things on top of it, and a selection of beers, wines, ready-made sandwiches, a bowl of eggs, rosemary sprigs, natural yoghurt, Toulouse sausages, containers of muesli, and more inside it.   Breads lie on the counter, which make one think that one can buy them, but they are for use in the restaurant, and are supplied by Marcelino’s Bakery in Loop Street.  The patterned stainless steel counter was made by Gregor Jenkins, to the design of Whiteman, and has an aged look, and is duplicated in the Black Ram Bar.  Generally, the interior has a neglected and used look, but I am sure that is completely by design. 

In this lower section are the bar stools and window counters, the only seating.  In the upper section are the tables and chairs, and through this section is the bar.   I was standing at the counter to write down the details and prices, and Whiteman was putting change into his till.   I connected with him when he and I arrived simultaneously.  I chatted to him over the counter and asked him questions, but he looked stressed, and soon snapped at me, saying that he was busy, and that he only had half an hour before he had to go – an hour later he was still there.   He barely spoke to anyone, except to his staff.  He was up and down in the restaurant, and looks like an introvert, and one of those owners that should be in the back room, and let his relatively friendly staff (those on the early shift, at least) run the show.   I saw a Tweet by Andy Fenner that was less than flattering about the treatment Fenner’s wife received at the mouth of Whiteman the previous day. 

The rest of the information that I needed I obtained from a waitress, who stood behind the counter most of the time, as do the rest of the staff.  The tables are not cleared quickly, to allow the restricted seating to be made available to the stream of new arrivals.   Crockery is ordinary and white, and cutlery pedestrian.  Serviettes are tiny brown ones, but have a commendable recycled stamp on them.  The staff that made my cappuccino (coffee beans are from Deluxe) (R16) and Caprese salad (R48) seemed relatively more organised, but a shift change took place, and new staff stood behind the counter, with no carry over to existing clients – there was no record of what I had ordered, when I asked for the bill.  The waiter that brought it to me had a top on that was torn and it was held together with a big safety pin.   He was decidedly unfriendly, somewhat similar to his boss!

The menu is divided into three sections, and is only visible on boards above and alongside the counter.  No paper version is available.  The sign at the counter says that one must place one’s order at the counter and pay when ordering, but I was not given a bill, until I asked for it on my departure.  The “Morning Food” is available all day, and includes granola and yoghurt (R32), boiled eggs and toast (R26) or served with anchovy mayonnaise on toast (R36), goat’s milk cheese on rye toast (R36), croissants cost R16, and sticky pastries R18, a rather unusual breakfast choice.  Don’t expect a cooked breakfast – the food preparation area is directly behind the counter, and there is no space to cook anything.  From midday one can order sandwiches: gammon, chicken or sirloin (R36 – R42), Danish hot dogs (R30), “Saucissonn” (sausage) and bread (R28), chicken salad (R36), and sirloin salad (R38), a very small selection of easy-to-prepare dishes.   I had a wonderful Caprese salad, and it took me straight to Italy, served with a ball of mozzarella, quarters of tomato, sprigs of fresh basil, and drizzled with olive oil, which came with a large thin slice of rye toast (but which I had to ask for twice).   “Night Food” is a simple choice of Hot Dogs (R30) and sandwiches, as per the lunch menu.

One helps oneself to cold water in two jugs on a table, with attractive slices of orange. The wine prices are listed on a separate board, but the beer prices are not listed at all.  The waitress seemed uncertain about these, but gave them to me as R28 for a large Darling Brew, and R19 for a small one, Black Jack costs R19, Heineken and Windhoek R16.  De Morgenzon, Hermit on the HIll, Lammershoek, “Ernst & Gouws” and Black Pearl wines are sold, and range in price from R30/R110 – R46/R180.

What I did love, and what brought back memories of The Grand in Plett, was the music, more jazz initially, but becoming quite heavy rock.   Whiteman was the compiler of the iPod which The Grand played, and it was what made the restaurant such an amazing success, creating a tremendous atmosphere, and changing in its type and tempo throughout the day.   

Having had a far better and friendlier reception at Caffe Milano earlier that day, I don’t think I’ll be back to The Power & The Glory in a great hurry, given that one will be likely to wait for a table, and has to tolerate variable service levels, even though the salad I had was excellent and I enjoyed some of the music.   This is a ‘man’s man’s’ place, and too laid back and unfriendly for my liking.  

The Power & The Glory, corner Kloof Nek and Burnside Roads.  Tel (021) 422-2108.   No website. Monday – Saturday 8h00 – 22h00 for meals, and Bar 17h00 – “late”.  A sign on the door says “Ons praat Afrikaans”.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Restaurant Review: Raphael’s Restaurant at Asara almost starting again!

The 5-star and recently accredited Relais & Chateaux Asara Hotel outside Stellenbosch has a beautiful location, with a dam at the edge of the restaurant, and the Stellenbosch mountains as a backdrop.  I had visited Asara Hotel in its early days, but had not been back in over a year.   When I was sent information about a recent refurbishment of Raphael’s Restaurant by the Hotel’s PR agency, it was a good opportunity to invite my friend Geraldine for lunch, as she lives close by.   The restaurant’s recent make-over is not only decor-wise, but also in terms of management.   The pay-off line “Ordinary is everywhere but here”, printed on the menu and which is visible on every page of the website, currently is an overpromise, in terms of what we experienced yesterday.

The Asara Hotel has belonged to Markus Rahmann, an Austrian whose Germanic hand seemed stronger in the past, for close to ten years.  The Hotel has seen a number of senior staff changes this month, with GM Horst Frehse, who was at the hotel for about a year and implemented the Relais & Chateaux accreditation, leaving ahead of his departure date of January, and he will start at the Twelve Apostles Hotel as GM in February.  No one wanted to elaborate on the early departure.  Frehse was particularly well-known as the cigar-smoking GM of the Grande Roche in Paarl, and then went to Singita, before joining Asara Hotel.   We were told that the Restaurant Manager as well as the F&B Manager had joined the hotel in the last two weeks, as has the new GM, Pete Gottgens, who has spent the last 19 years in the UK.  Gottgens comes from a hotelier family, he says, and he proudly told us that his dad was the first FEDHASA member while he was at the Edward Hotel in Durban.   Gottgens cut his teeth in South Africa, amongst others at Mike’s Kitchen in Tyger Valley and at the Heerengracht Hotel, and then left the country to open Fish Hook and Springbok Café in London.  He also was responsible for all catering for then-President Nelson Mandela when he was on state visits in the UK and Europe.   He also established a hotel in Scotland seven years ago.   A yearning to return to South Africa led him to accept Asara’s offer.  Gottgens was honest about all not being perfect at Asara, and has made some immediate marketing changes – all focus will be on the domestic market, and the R3 million international marketing budget will be redirected to domestic marketing.  He has also decided that the premium top of the range market is not what they are aiming for anymore, and he even hinted that they may drop the Relais & Chateaux accreditation when I asked him, due to the cost perception that it is associated with.   I admired Gottgens for his honesty, as he did not know who we were.  He wants to move the association with Asara from “not great value for money” to “exceptional value”.    His mantra will be to under-offer and over-deliver, the smartest approach to customer relationship development.  He understands the value of Word of Mouth, and that the local visitors will recommend Asara to international visitors if they have had a good experience.   He wants to offer Asara wines below R100 a bottle in his restaurants on the estate.   He understands the value of Social Media, and Asara is on Twitter, and Gottgens will start a blog in the new year.   Gottgens also says that too many staff were appointed (mainly from Spier and Lanzerac, when the hotel first opened), and that he will be changing this to fewer but higher quality staff.  A lovely concept he plans is the appointment of the farmworkers’ wives to start a fruit and vegetable co-operative on the estate, so that the hotel can buy all their fresh ingredients from their own workers, thereby enhancing their incomes.   Gottgens gave me a feeling of complete professionalism, and of comfort that a number of the rough edges that we observed and experienced will be taken care of and fixed.  Gottgen’s goal is to ‘improve the game by 40%’, he said.  

Raphael’s is a large space, and one can sit outsideto be close to the dam.  We had not booked, so accepted an inside table, but it was probably for the best, as the South Easter was pumping.  Crystal chandeliers dominate, and some chairs are in a deep violet upholstery.  Glass screens give some privacy to the entrance.  I saw a piano, and wondered about its use, having recently applauded the Mount Nelson Hotel for having got rid of its piano in the new Planet Restaurant.   The tables have excellent quality napery on them, and cutlery is by WMF, which is also sold in the Asara shop on the estate.   Our champagne glasses did not ‘ping’ when we toasted our getting together, and sounded like plastic, even though they were not.   The jug for my water was a very ordinary one, not in keeping with the rest of the glassware in the restaurant or in the shop.   The salt and pepper holders were tiny and ordinary.   The architect for the Asara Hotel building and its restaurants was Ray Killian, and Arctic Circle was the interior design company for Raphael’s, a name I know as the design company for Tourism Grading Council plaques.

One of our biggest problems was with waitress Martha, and even though she tried very hard, and grew on us in the three hours that we spent at Raphael’s, she reflected the lack of management in the restaurant.  She had a shirt on that was too tight, and one of the buttons had popped open.  She had a spot of dirt on the white shirt and her black apron had a big dirty mark on it.   She had been outside in the wind, we think, judging by her hair.  She told us that she had worked at Grande Roche previously, and at the end of our meal she had the confidence to tell us what every employer would fear – that Raphael’s is not five-star standard as far as the staffing goes, that there are too many inexperienced staff members working in the restaurant, who are unable to do justice to the good quality food served.  The irony was that Martha herself was an example of what she was referring to.   She also stated that ‘her’ 5-star restaurant should not be serving guests coming in with shorts, casual shirts and slip-slops, examples of which we saw, and with crying babies, which we heard too.  

As Martha handed us the leather menu holder, she matter-of-factly told us that they were out of oysters, Chateaubriand, and haloumi cheese for the Baby Leaf salad starter.  This gave us a bad feeling about the restaurant and the hotel, and its professionalism.  We were later told that the kitchen had done 120 covers for lunch (we only arrived at 13h30), had a wedding later that day, a private dinner for 60 persons, and the normal dinner service.   Geraldine and I skipped the starters, as we wanted to try the Asara ice cream sold in the shop on our departure.  Geraldine ordered the Beef Fillet (R180) and I had the Kingklip (R135). The Beef Fillet was ordered Medium and was very tender, and was topped with herb-crusted oxtail ragout, rich in taste, she said, and was served with cauliflower mash, dauphinoise potatoes and port wine jus.   My oven roasted kingklip was meant to be served with a horseradish and vanilla sauce, but was replaced with a white wine foam, with Martha’s help, and tasted slightly salty.  I enjoyed the kingklip served with baby asparagus and parsley mash.   Other main courses are Duck breast, Duo of pork, Impala, and Quail, all at R165, as well as Rack of lamb (R175).  The Chateaubriand costs R340, a 400 gram serving for two.   Wild mushroom risotto and home-made ravioli filled with ratatouille both cost R70.  A delicious sounding butternut and coconut soup costs R55.   Starters start at R45 for Chicken bobotie in rooti, up to R95 for grilled tiger prawns and scallops.  A trio of oysters costs R85, and an interesting sounding “foie gras crème brûlée and ice cream”, as well as a smoked salmon trout terrine cost R85 and R65, respectively.   Due to having the ice cream in the shop, we skipped the desserts, which cost between R45 for three scoops of ice cream to R65 for a Kaiserschmarrn Austrian soufflé.

Head Chef Carsten Härtel came to say hello, and invited us to visit his kitchen, only the third such invite I have received (Tokara and Societi Bistro), and is a special honour. The Asara kitchen is massive, and incredibly hot, so much so that we felt sorry for the 40 or so kitchen staff, of whom 23 are chefs.  Chef Carsten came to Asara directly from Germany, and has been at the hotel for two years, enjoying the good weather, even though he stays in touch with Germany via his DEUKOM German TV channel subscription.  We were impressed by the different sections in the kitchen, including the bread and roll baking, as well as the ice-cream and chocolate-making sections.  A hotel kitchen is not a romantic place at all, looks very industrial, and we saw the photographs of the chef’s plating directives per dish.    

I do not know the Asara wines, and do not recall ever drinking any.  My Platter’s 2011 does not rate them too highly, mainly around the 3-star mark, with only the Spirit of Chenin achieving a 4-star Platter rating.  The winelist is extensive, and every page has the Relais & Chateaux logo prominently displayed.  It is much more discreet on the menu.  The winelist has a leather cover too, and is an extensive document, tracing the history of Cape Vintages from 1990 until 2010;  a brief history of South African wines is sketched; a map of winegrowing areas is provided; and food and wine pairing suggestions are presented by type of food.   The Asara wine range features extensively on the winelist, especially for the wines-by-the-glass.  Five Asara white wines range in price from R28 per 175ml glass for the Ivory, up to R63 for their Chardonnay Reserve.  Seven Asara red wines are offered, starting at R33 per glass for the Cape Fusion, peaking at R110 per glass for their Bell Tower. Their Rosé costs R28, and the Noble Late Harvest R30.   We had a glass of Villiera Tradition Brut each, at R45, and Peter van Staden, the Restaurant Manager, refilled one of our glasses when it was knocked over in error, without charging extra for the refill.   Poor Peter seemed uncomfortable and very hot in his black jacket and tie.   I have never seen champagnes referred to as “Champenoise” on a winelist before, and 375 ml Laurent-Perrier costs R440 and Moet & Chandon R575.  Pommery Pop Blue costs R385 for 200ml.   A section focuses on the “Sommelier’s Rare Selection”, which starts at R135 for the Vondeling Babiana Nortiflora, up to R 655 for the Deetlefs Family Semillon; and at R185 for the Lammershoek Red Blend (R185) – R1100 for the Ernie Els Red Blend.   The Asara Sauvignon Blanc costs R140 per bottle, and Iona costs R240.  The Asara Shiraz costs R190, while that by Saronsberg costs R300.  A vertical collection of Vin de Constance is also offered, something I had seen recently on the Planet Restaurant winelist at the Mount Nelson Hotel.   A change from my last visit is that the room underneath Raphael’s is now called the “Vinoteque”, and is the area in which one can taste wines, and buy branded Asara promotional clothing, as well as order tapas dishes.

Geraldine and I ended off our long and relaxed lunch with a strong cappuccino served in an attractive cup and saucer, and was made with Genovese, a brand of coffee I have not heard of before.   We had kept the best for last, by walking through the shop, which sells WMF cutlery sets and kitchenware, Le Creuset pots in many shapes, sizes and colours, lovely hand-made chocolates, at R45 per 100 gram, and ice-cream scoops at R10 each.  One can choose between Vanilla, Stracciatella, Chocolate and Hazelnut flavours.   We sat in the courtyard, enjoying our ice cream, and watched a bridal couple being photographed.

Our food was excellent, but GM Gottgens has a huge task to almost start from scratch to train up his staff and managers to the level that is befitting the standard of the hotel, and to meet his admirable goals.   It will be interesting to see how things have improved at Asara and Raphael’s in a few months from now.

Raphael’s Restaurant, Asara Wine Estate and Hotel, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 888-8000.     www.asara.co.za   (The website covers all aspects of the Asara wine estate and hotel.   For Raphael’s the menu is available, but there are not many food photographs on the page.  There is no restaurant winelist on the website).  Open Monday – Sunday for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @Whale Cottage