On 23 September Eat Out will announce its Top 10 Restaurant Awards list of twenty finalists. Ten of these will be chosen by three judges (Abigail Donnelly, Peter Goffe-Wood and Arnold Tanzer), and announced at the Eat Out 2010 Restaurant Awards gala dinner at the Westin Grand Hotel on 28 November.
To live up to my reputation in having been nominated for the SA Blog Awards in the “Most Controversial Blog” category, I have done a prediction of some of the Top 20 Restaurants we might expect on the list, as well as those that will fall off the list, in my opinion. I have also predicted which restaurants will make it onto the list for the Eat Out Restaurant Awards 2011. It is important to note that Eat Out specifies that a chef must have been with a restaurant for a year, to be selected for consideration for this prestigious award, the “Oscar” of the Restaurant industry.
Top 20 list
1. Rust & Vrede (chef David Higgs) in Stellenbosch: I predict that Rust & Vrede will make the number one slot of the Top 10 list, given that Luke Dale-Roberts is no longer at La Colombe full-time. David’s food is consistently good, creative, and the restaurant made it in the top 100 on the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list earlier this year. David Higgs is one of four chefs preparing the meal for the Restaurant Awards’ dinner, and this is a sure-fire predictor of being on the Top 10 list
2. Overture (chef Bertus Basson) in Stellenbosch: Consistently good, and always re-inventing his restaurant, Bertus deserves better than joint 10th, which happened in 2009. Definitely a Top 10 contender
3. Mosaic Restaurant in Pretoria (chef Chantel Dartnall): Chantel is also a chef at the Restaurant Awards dinner, so an automatic Top 10 contender
4. The Roundhouse in Camps Bay (Chef PJ Vadal) : not everyone’s favourite due to the arrogance of the management, but the fact that the chef is cooking at the Awards dinner is a sure predictor of Top 10
5. Restaurant Christophe, Stellenbosch (chef Christophe Dehosse): no glitz or glamour in terms of its interior, yet the Spookhuis is steeped in history. Christophe is charmingly French, and is a hands-on chef both in the kitchen and inside the restaurant. His food is excellent.
6. The Greenhouse at the Cellars, Cellars Hohenhort Hotel, Constantia (chef Peter Tempelhoff) : Peter is a favourite on the Top Restaurant list, and has been on the Top 10 list twice, at the current restaurant, and at Grande Provence before that
7. Jardine’s on Bree Street, Cape Town (chef Eric Bulpitt): Eric is cooking at the Awards’ dinner, so an automatic Top 10 candidate. He is also about to return from Copenhagen, where he spent 6 weeks in the kitchen at Noma, to gain inspiration. Noma is the top restaurant of the Top 50 restaurants in the world.
8. Jordan’s Restaurant with George Jardine, Stellenbosch (chef George Jardine) – last year’s move to his new restaurant at Jordan Winery no doubt cost George Jardine a place on the Top 10 list, a shock, as he had been number 2 on the list the year before. He had announced the move to Stellenbosch for personal reasons, and the judges had clearly taken this into account. George Jardine has been on the Top 10 list for a number of years, whilst at Jardine’s. George Jardine’s food preparation is excellent, but as at Jardine’s, the restaurant interior leaves a lot to be desired.
9. Bizerca Bistro, Cape Town (chef Laurent Deslandes): Bizerca seems to be every chef’s favourite restaurant, when they are not cooking in their own kitchen. Last year the industry laughed when the restaurant received a ‘consolation prize’ Best Bistro Award, a category not announced previously, and having no competition in it (9th Avenue Bistro in Durban was also on the Top 20 list, and made Top 10)
10. Terroir, Stellenbosch (Michael Broughton): Terroir has won numerous Top 10 awards, and seems to be a favourite of the judges.
11. The Tasting Room, Franschhoek (chef Margot Janse): the restaurant seems to have a love/hate relationship with Eat Out, in that it was left off the Top 10 list for three years, from 2004 – 2007, and that it had to endure the humiliation in sharing 10th place with Overture on the Top 10 restaurant list last year (a first for Eat Out in having a joint winner), indicating that the judges did not want to offend any of the two restaurants, but it became an insult to both restaurants instead. This created a Top 12 Restaurant list in reality, and the judges will be sure to not lose face to make compromise selections again this year! The interesting contrast is that the restaurant has featured in the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list, but for the first time another South African restaurant overtook it, La Colombe making it to an unbelievable 8th place on the international list.
12. Grande Provence, Franschhoek (chef Darren Roberts): Chef Darren is a highly talented chef, and has been around the block for 20 years in South Africa alone, but has been sadly neglected by Grande Provence’s Marketing department. He has just returned from a week cooking at the Grill Room at the Hong Kong Country Club, one of the most exclusive eateries in the city, sharing his menu and the wines of Grande Provence. (POSTSCRIPT 21/9: Chef Darren says that his restaurant is not eligible for the 2010 Awards, as he only started in January, therefore not giving him a full 12 months at the restaurant, a requirement for the Awards).
13. A Durban restaurant – to not be seen to show Cape Town and the Cape as the center of the cuisine universe, a restaurant from this city is normally selected by Eat Out. The choice of 9th Avenue Bistro has raised eyebrows for its inclusion in the Top 10 list in the past, especially for its location in a parking lot. The owner/chef appears to have left in the past year.
14. To be politically correct, a Johannesburg restaurant also needs to be on the Top 10 list. Roots at the Cradle of Humankind has been a winner for a number of years.
Other potential Top 20 short-listed restaurants could include The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West, Bistro 1682 at Steenberg, Delaire restaurant at Delaire Graff, 95 Keerom Street (see why for Carne below) and Bosman’s at Grande Roche (once the top restaurant in the country, but it has been left off the shortlist for so many years now).
Restaurants not making Top 10
1. Reuben’s in Franschhoek – winning Top Chef and Top Restaurant in 2004, Reuben’s has not made it back on the Top 10 list since 2006. Too many service-related complaints have dogged the restaurant, and Reuben will have to make sure he does not stretch himself too thin when he takes on his biggest challenge yet at the One&Only Cape Town from October.
2. Carne was on the Top 20 list last year, and fortunately for Eat Out they did not select it to the Top 10 list, given our disclosure of the restaurant’s dishonest claim that all its meat is from its Karoo farm and is organic. Carne has since removed this claim from its website. However, owner Giorgio Nava is a most charming and determined man, and has a close relationship with Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, who refused to respond to our allegations about Carne’s claim, even when it was proven to be correct! I therefore predict that 95 Keerom Street will receive a ‘consolation’ Top 20 nomination in its place.
3. Cape Colony at the Mount Nelson Hotel – Chef Rudi Liebenberg made the Top 20 list two years running, whilst at The Saxon in 2008, and the Mount Nelson in 2009. It is unlikely that the restaurant can make the Top 10 list, given that it is undergoing a major renovation as well as a re-invention of its menu currently, and will only open again in November.
4. Salt restaurant – coming to the restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel in Bantry Bay, from Grande Provence, for which he received a Top 10 listing, chef Jacques de Jager’s presence is so low key at Salt that I regularly phone to check if he is still there. His wonderful cuisine hand one knows from Grande Provence does not seem to have made the journey to Cape Town yet, in that his menu and the food quality is disappointing!
5. La Colombe – given that ex-chef Luke-Dale Roberts has moved to a consulting role at La Colombe, it is unlikely that the restaurant should make the Top 10 list. This is re-inforced by Luke’s announcemnet (on 20/9) that he is to open his own restaurant The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock in November.
Bubbling under for Eat Out Top 20 in 2011
Given the new restaurant openings in the past few months, a number of exciting contenders are on the potential Top 20 list for 2011, as they will have operated for a year by then:
1. Pierneef Ã La Motte at La Motte in Franschhoek – wow, wow, wow, and that was only after having been open for 2 days! Top 10 for 2011 for sure.
2. Indochine at Delaire Graff– I thought that the original Delaire restaurant would make Top 20 this year when I first visited it a year ago. But it has lost many staff members, including a talented sommelier and Maitre’d, and service and food reports are not as positive as when it opened. The new sister restaurant Indochine has great potential, and could make the Top 20 list in a year.
3. Richard Carstens opens at Tokara Restaurant next month, and has been an Eat Out Top 10 chef six times. Hopefully he has staying power to last a year at the restaurant.
4. The Bombay Brasserie at The Taj hotel.
5. Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town – this is a ‘grown-up’ and sophisticated Reuben’s, yet has some of Reuben’s favourite dishes, such as calf’s liver.
6. The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock – given that Luke Dale-Roberts has been named the world’s 12th best chef in the world in 2010, this is a no-brainer for his new restaurant, set to open in November!
7. Grande Provence does not qualify for the 2010 Awards, as Chef Darren Roberts has not been at the wine estate for a full 12 months. He would be a natural candidate for the 2011 Top 20 shortlist.
We would love to have your nominations and predictions before 23 September, as well as comments about ours – please e-mail me at email@example.com
POSTSCRIPT 15/4: It has been announced that David Higgs has resigned and will leave Rust en Vrede in mid-June.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com