Tag Archives: Marc Kent

40th edition of Platter’s by Diners Club International 2020 South African Wine Guide launched, with a record of 125 5-star wines!

On Friday evening I attended the launch of the 40th edition of the Diners Club International 2020 South African Wine Guide, at the Table Bay Hotel in the Waterfront, an event that is pretty much the same in format every year, yet was different this year, in the interest of making the event shorter.   

More than 8000 wines from more than 900 producers were rated for the 2020 Platter’s Wine Guide edition. Of the 125 5-star wines awarded, 26 went to Chenin Blanc brands, 18 to Shiraz/Syrah, and 11 to Chardonnay brands. 

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Hermanus FynArts 2017: Rosa Kruger Tutored Tasting of exceptional ‘Old Vine’ wines!

Yesterday I attended a Tutored Tasting of some of our country’s exceptional wines, which had in common that they were made from vines many decades old. The Tasting was led by South Africa’s leading expert on Old Vines, Rosa Kruger being a passionate pioneer for the preservation of our country’s vintage vines.  Continue reading →

Is this the new home of Reuben’s Franschhoek 2016?

imageIt never fails to astound me how much changes regularly in Franschhoek as far as restaurants are concerned. I had heard some time ago that Reuben’s Chef Reuben Riffel will not renew his lease next year, and yesterday I was shown the building that he is said to have bought (above).
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WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 8 July

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Award-winning winemaker Gottfried Mocke of Chamonix is to move to Boekenhoutskloof in September, joining Marc Kent and his team, writes Tim James. Assistant winemaker Thinus Neethling will take over from Mocke.

*   Tomorrow the Provincial Regulating Entity will consider verified Uber license applications, which have been supported by the City of Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 13 – 16 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Greg Lambrecht has created the Coravin device, to draw a glassful of wine from a bottle without removing the cork, thereby preventing oxidisation, and thereby keeping the bottle drinkable for another few months.

*   e-Tourism is on the up, says SafariNow, a local booking portal.  Due to the weak exchange rate, making international travel expensive, more locals are choosing to travel locally, choosing less expensive accommodation options, spending on average R2300 per day. Social Media is vital, the company says, becoming an electronic word-of-mouth, which is driving the choices of travellers.

*   Not one of South Africa’s many steak restaurants have made the e-Turbonews’ world top twelve restaurants for meat Continue reading →

RE•CM 10 Year Old Wine Awards honour Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2003 as the best!

RE•CM (standing for ‘Regarding Capital Management‘) is a wealth management company based in Cape Town, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Wine writer Christian Eedes encouraged the company to celebrate this anniversary with a ten year old wine awards competition. Out of the top three entered finalist wines, Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2003 achieved the highest rating by the judges.

The event was held at The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenhort on Thursday evening, a hotel that is Relais & Châteaux certified, but has the most inefficient ‘boomsman’ who ultimately allows one to drive through anyway after a long story, does not offer enough parking for larger functions, has ineffective signage as to the whereabouts of the different buildings and venues inside them on the property, and has staff that has no interest (nor knowledge) in directing one to the function venue.  A pre-dinner glass of sparkling wine on the manicured lawn, and a few canapés that did not reach many of the guests, highlighted that a large number of the guests were writers.  We discovered later at the table that the other guests were clients of RE•CM who had supported the company since its inception, as well as staff of the investment company.  I sat next to Daniel Malan, Investment Director of the company, who shared two or three sentences throughout the whole evening! A charming table neighbour and client guest on the other side was Chris van Wyk, once a top executive at Sanlam, and who has more recently been involved with PSG Consult in its Hermanus branch.  RE•CM is a ‘privately-owned, independent asset management company that follows a bottom-up value approach based on thorough, fundamental research’, the brochure we received states. Commendably there was no hard sell during the dinner at all, and the focus was purely on the 10 year old wine awards.

After welcoming the guests, RE•CM Executive Chairman Piet Viljoen quickly handed over to Eedes, who provided the background to the competition. He said that like investments, wine requires patience for its quality and value to emerge over time.  He deplored that wine libraries do not exist in South Africa, in which the top wines are stored.  For the competition wine estates were invited to submit their best ten year old wines, and had to be able to provide 24 bottles for the tasting and to be served at the dinner. A total of 73 entries was received from 39 wineries. Judging was done blind by wine educator and entrepreneur Nkululeko Mkhwanazi, sommelier Jörg Pfützner, and Eedes, pictured here with Boekenhoutskloof’s Marc Kent.   All wines were scored out of 20.  Eedes writes in his report about the wines of 2003: ‘2003 was a cracking vintage, described in Platter’s 2013 as “(o)utstanding, especially for reds – concentrated and structured, and often slow to show their best”’.

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2003 was the only wine that achieved a 5 star (‘extraordinary, profound‘) score from the panel, and Eedes describes it as follows: ‘From a single vineyard in Wellington. Matured for 27 months in only used French oak. Hugely complex showing red and black fruit, floral perfume, crushed herbs, spice and some pepper. Pure and fresh with fine tannins. Still remarkably primary with great flavour intensity – a very precise offering’. After the judges had tasted this wine, there was a ‘moment of silence’, and it was the most impressive wine of all, Eedes shared.

Rudera Syrah 2003 achieved a score of 4,5, and Eedes described it as: ‘From Faure and Koelenhof vineyards. Matured for 11 months in French oak, 20% new. The nose shows red and black fruit, some floral character but also earthy, malty notes. Pleasantly sweet on entry but offset by fresh acidity. Has a noble rusticity about it – powerful but not at the expense of complexity’. Equally Remhoogte Estate Wine 2003 achieved a 4,5 rating, and it was described as follows: ‘59% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Pinotage. Matured for 22 months in French oak, 40% new. Upfront red and black fruit (cherries, cassis) offset by some herbal and spicy notes. Oak smartly used adding just a hint of dark chocolate. A carefully assembled wine which appears medium bodied with well integrated acidity and fine tannins’.  Other 4,5 score wines were Tokara 2003, Morgenster 2003, and Chamonix Troika 2003.

The food at Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant The Greenhouse is always a treat, and assured the hosts an excellent attendance. Chef Peter Tempelhoff was in attendance in the kitchen, we were told, but he did not come into the restaurant. The menu had been prepared to pair with the three top ten year old red wines.  A bread basket was brought to the table, with a variety of bread styles, with two tiny glass bowls with soil, avocado, and miniature vegetables from the hotel garden, to share amongst a table of twelve.  The amuse bouche was a West Coast lobster and bisque poured into the plate at the table, which was served with a sweet corn and roast garlic espuma, and crispy leeks, paired with Villiera Monro Brut 2007.

Springbok tataki was served with a fig and almond pesto, honey roasted figs, almond crumble, celeriac remoulade, and a shiraz gel, and was paired with the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2003, which everyone at our table wanted more of.  A course of Beetroot Risotto was served with cepe purée, mushroom fricassee, fresh baby peas, and a parsley and pecorino sauce, and was paired with the Rudera Syrah 2003.

The main course was a combination of lamb loin and braised shank, which was accompanied by artichoke dauphinoise, smoked aubergine purée, black olive jam, and tomato fondue, which was paired with Remhoogte Estate Wine 2003.  The tiniest dessert/palate cleanser was a pineapple compote with foam, and buchu ice cream, sprinkled with chocolate. We loved the petit fours that were served with the coffee, and how they were served, our table ordering seconds because they were so delicious, being chocolate truffles and nougat.

The evening ended far too quickly, and the reality of a working day lying ahead sent us home.  Good food (although quite uncharacteristic of The Greenhouse I felt, but perhaps they have special menus for corporate functions and to assist the kitchen with a small pass in coping with preparing the food for close to 60 guests), excellent wines, and the good company of Chris van Wyk and his wife and Hennie Coetzee and Maggie Mostert of Batonage Blog made it a special evening.

Disclosure: We received a bottle of Remhoogte Estate Wine 2007 with our media pack.

RE•CM, Tel (021) 657-3440. www.recm.co.za Twitter: @RECM_Online

The Greenhouse, The Cellars-Hohenort, 93 Brommersvlei Road, Constantia.  Tel (021) 794-2137.   www.collectionmcgrath.com/cellars/the-greenhouse/ Twitter: @GreenhouseCT

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

Franschhoek pulls out all the corks for top German winemaker Bernhard Huber!

About two weeks ago German wine writer Mario Scheuermann put out an appeal to his local connections, requesting that top Pinot Noir winemaker in Germany, Bernhard Huber of Weingut Huber in Breisgau in Baden, be looked after over his two week holiday in the Winelands.   We offered to show off Franschhoek, and Bernhard and his wife Barbara were blown away by the quality of the wines in Franschhoek, and the generosity and friendliness extended to them. The flagship wine of Weingut Huber, in a region that has a 700 year history of growing Pinot Noir, is their Pinot Noir, of which only 2500 bottles are produced, and sell at €120 each.

We started our journey at our Whale Cottage Franschhoek with a glass of sparkling wine, explaining some background to the village and the influence left by the French Huguenots, in naming their farms after the towns and districts they had come from in France, and planting the first vines in the valley.  Restaurant recommendations were provided, should the Hubers have time to come back for another visit to Franschhoek.   We talked through the Platter guide, which Bernhard knew, but he had not seen the 2013 edition, so we gave him our copy as a present, to accompany him on the remainder of his holiday.  We described how Franschhoek’s reputation as a wine-producing region has grown, having been mocked until a few years ago for having such poor terroir that farmers had to buy in grapes to make excellent wines, to now having a Platter Winery of the Year in the valley two years running!

We visited Boekenhoutskloof first, the Platter Winery of the Year 2012, and having collected the most 5-star wines of all the Franschhoek wine estates over the history of the Platter guide. The wine farm is one of the oldest in Franschhoek, having been awarded in 1776.  Innocent Mpahleni was our host, and led a winetasting for the Hubers, pulling out a number of wines, including Boekenhoutskloof wines, which are rarely offered in a tasting.  Innocent did a Cape Wine Academy course while he worked at Caroline’s, and has been at Boekenhoutskloof for five years already, he shared proudly. Boekenhoutskloof produces a total of 4 million bottles per year, of which 4% are made from grapes grown in their own 22 ha vineyard in Franschhoek.  The wine estate was bought in 1992 by six directors from the marketing industry, and its winemaker Marc Kent was added as the seventh director, explaining the seven chairs on the label.  Between 1994 – 1997 the fruit trees were removed from the farm, and vines were planted, pears, apples, oranges, limes, and stock farming having been practised before.  The Wolftrap is the entry level wine (with a range consisting of Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Grenache Blanc blend; Rosé; and a Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier blend), and is named after the jackals, lynx, leopards, and wolves believed to have been responsible for the loss of cattle on the farm, necessitating a trap.   The farm is home to porcupines, and the farm tagged some of these and one can track their movement on their website. Porcupine Ridge is the mid-range wine range of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Grenache Blanc blend, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Syrah/Viognier blend.   The Chocolate Block is a blend made of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsaut, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier grapes coming from different vineyards. Wolftrap and Porcupine Ridge are made at the Helderberg Winery, which belongs to Boekenhoutskloof too. The Chocolate Block and Boekenhoutskloof wines are made on the Franschhoek farm.  They have recently started making the Porseleinberg Shiraz, which is exported to Sweden, and has a label made to resemble porcelain, receiving acclaim at CapeWine 2012 last September.  We found some bottles of a new brand Le Cap Maritime, made from grapes from the Hemel en Aarde valley, at Lizette’s KItchen in Hermanus, which is an airline brand too.

In 1996 the first 6000 bottles of Boekenhoutskloof were produced, from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes brought in from Eikehof in Franschhoek, and from Syrah grapes bought from Schalk Burger Snr’s Welbedacht in Wellington.  In 1997 the first Semillon was produced, the grapes coming from bushvines planted in 1899 at Eikehof.  Two years ago Marc uprooted most of his vines, and planted new ones, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Merlot, and Viognier being planted in the lower sections of the farm, and more planting to be done of Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier higher up on the farm.  The grapes are grown organically, but not marketed as such due to the mix with grapes from other wine estates.

We tasted the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, and Innocent described it as ‘one of the best selling Sauvignon Blancs in the country‘, and as a ‘poolside drink’, drunk young. The grapes come from Robertson, Citrusdal, Malmesbury, and Franschhoek. One million bottles are made in the Porcupine Ridge range. They made a Viognier Grenache blend four years ago for the first time, sourcing the Viognier from Malmesbury and the Grenache from Citrusdal, and being oaked for 13 months.  Next up was The Wolftrap, a blend of 46% Viognier from Malmesbury, 28% Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, and 26% Grenache from Citrusdal, 600 litres of each being matured in their 24 cement egg tanks, as well as in French oak.  Chocolate Block was first produced in 2002, a mere 12 barrels, and its current production has grown to 1432 barrels, or 400000 bottles in 2011.  Grapes are hand picked, and they use interns, mainly from overseas, for the picking. Innocent said it is the ‘best selling wine in the country’ in terms of the speed at which it sells out, five months after production.

Innocent told us that the Boekenhoutskloof annual production of 6000 bottles is sold out in advance, and initially he received no stock for the tasting room.  That has changed, and he has at least one bottle in the range to offer for tasting every day.  Every year one can order one or more of the 2000 mixed Boekenhoutskloof cases of 3 Semillon, 3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 3 Syrah, and one The Journeyman (a Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend), at R4000.  The bulk of the Boekenhoutskloof wine production goes to Caroline’s, Vaughn Johnson’s Wine Shop, La Cotte Wine Sales, and the directors of Boekenhoutskloof.  All labelling is hand applied, and the best quality cork and bottles are used.  The Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon cost R380 each, and 1100 and 1500 cases are made annually, respectively.  The Syrah grapes are hand picked over four days, and the wine spends 27 months in Barrique barrels, and egg white is added. 2400 bottles of Noble Late Harvest are produced, spending 30 months in new oak. Innocent shared that a Pinot Noir is planned.

We had time for a quick stop at Haute Cabriere, and Hildegard von Arnim impressed in juggling a tasting in French with French winelovers, whilst paying attention to the Hubers in German, sharing that her husband Achim had studied winemaking at Geisenheim, and had pioneered growing Pinot Noir locally. Over a glass of Pinot Noir 2009 (R160 per bottle), she animatedly told the story of how Achim had started a revolution in vinegrowing in our country. Together with a number of winemaking colleagues, including Hungarian Count Desiderius Poncrácz, they worked around a government quarantine of 9 – 12 years of imported grape varieties, to prevent importing viruses.  They decided to smuggle in some Pinot Noir on a truck via the then Rhodesia, and were eventually reported to the authorities by a ‘colleague’.  Before they got to court, Pongracz died in a car crash, leaving Achim and the other farmers to face the judge. He was a ‘good judge‘, Hildegard said, finding for the wine farmers, and instead of having them locked up, he had the quarantine law changed!

We were invited for lunch by Hannelie and Hein Koegelenberg at their new The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap (photograph above), which has a salad bar made from vegetables and herbs picked fresh out of their garden, to which one can add a wrap, a piece of chicken, and/or pork.  Chef Pieter de Jager sent a new creation to the table, beef topside rolled with a feta and pesto filling, which met with approval.  We tasted a Leopard’s Leap unoaked Chardonnay, of which 120000 bottles are made annually, by winemaker Eugene van Zyl, with grapes from Robertson, spending three months on the lees, and costing R42.  Hein explained that Leopard’s Leap was a second label for left-over Rupert wine estate grapes, but since 2005 it is a stand alone brand. They produce 4,2 million bottles in total, and export to 40 countries. L’Huguenot is a brand which was created for their alliance with Perfect China, and 3 million bottles are exported to that country, representing 50% of our country’s exports to Asia.  Having created a tasting room for the Leopard’s Leap brand just over a year ago, Hein feels that he needs one for L’Huguenot too, for Asian visitors, 600 – 1000 expected annually via an incentive program.  Hein shared that the market in Europe is difficult currently, with consumers buying down.  They are selling La Motte at €9.99 and Leopard’s Leap at €4.99.  The increasing excise duty, in the UK in particular, influences wine sales, representing R5,70 per bottle in that country.  The Leopard’s Leap Merlot is made from grapes coming from Agter Paarl and the Swartland, 60% being barrel fermented in French oak, and 80000 bottles are produced annually.  Organic farming at La Motte commenced ten years ago, which has brought balance to their vines, the acid is stable, the pH is low, they use less sulphur, and their yield is lower, reducing their carbon footprint.  Hein enthused about the 2013 vintage, given the winter rains, and the long late start to summer.  The Koegelenbergs and Hubers will see each other at ProWein in Düsseldorf in March, agreeing that it is the best wine show in the world.  We ended off the lunch with a tasting of the recently launched Leopard’s Leap MCC from the new Culinaria Collection, a 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir blend.  Hein shared that Chile and Argentinia are fierce competition to South African wines internationally, given that their price points are lower.  Given the small harvests in Europe, South Africa will be pushed to export more of its bulk wine this year.  Bernhard said that 85% of wines drunk by Germans is from Germany, the balance being from Italy and France.  Bernhard was astounded at the volumes Hein was sharing about Leopard’s Leap, compared to his own small production runs.

The generosity of time astounded the Hubers, as Hein had returned to the office from holiday that morning, and was flying out to London that evening, generously spending time with us for the lunch, and then personally taking us around La Motte and doing a tasting of their wines.  The wine farm was awarded to a French Huguenot in 1695, and the original wine cellar and manor house were built around 1750.  La Motte is 169ha in size, of which about half is planted to vine. In relaunching La Motte, they built a new winetasting centre, a museum, and a farm shop, as well as the Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, starting with 3000 visitors a month, which has grown to 8000 – 10000 per month now.  Hein shared the link to late artist JH Pierneef, whose family collection hangs in the museum, and after whom the Pierneef à La Motte restaurant was named, and their new vegetable and herb garden, their policy being to source organic and free range meat too.  We were shown the separated red and white wine facilities, 600000 cases of red wine being produced.  They double sort their grapes, and have a mobile bottling plant which can do 3600 bottles per hour.  The barrels are kept at low temperature and high humidity.  The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 production is just over half a million bottles per year and is the focus of the white wine winery, and 30 – 40% of the fruit comes from La Motte, the balance coming from Nieuwoudtville, Lutzville, Elands Bay, Elgin, Darling, Bot River, and Elim.  We then tasted the Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2012, an organic wine, made from Bot River grapes.  Its production of 36000 bottles sells out quickly on allocation.  The Chardonnay is made from Franschhoek grapes, and 18000 bottles are produced. The Millenium 2010 is a Bordeaux Blend to which they have added Shiraz, 180000 bottles being produced. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 is made from grapes coming from the Swartland, Bot River, and Darling. The Shiraz 2009 is an excellent vintage, with just over 100000 bottles produced.  Grapes come from La Motte, Bot River, Agter Paarl, and Elim, and the wine reflects the La Motte style of red berry and black berry, with white peppery spices.  The La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier 2009 is more feminine in character, Hein said, and its production of 36000 bottles is therefore made in a lighter and lower alcohol style.  Grapes come from Bot River and La Motte.  Only 12000 bottles of the La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Grenache 2008 were produced, the Grenache coming from 30 year old bush vines in Darling, and is more masculine in character. The Hannelie R is the pinnacle of their range, being ‘the best wine which we can make’, Hein said.  It is released five years after it is made, and only when the fruit is excellent. So far the wine has been made in 2005, 2007, and in 2009.  Only 3000 bottles are produced, the wine spending 48 months on wood and a year in the bottle. Each production sees a change in the blend composition.  Michael Fridjhon and Carrie Adams (of retailer Norman Goodfellows) sit on a panel to help decide which fruit should go into the blend, Hein shared.  It is sold at $100 per bottle.  Hein presented the Hubers with a copy, signed by Chef Chris Erasmus, of their ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ cookbook.

We made a quick stop at Grande Provence, showing the Hubers the impressive tasting room, restaurant and art gallery.  We were delighted to bump into GM Karl Lambour, and to discover that Grande Provence makes a Pinot Noir too, which he invited the Hubers to taste.

Our final stop was at Platter Winery of the Year 2013 Chamonix, an interesting experience.  Winemaker Gottfried Mocke was still on leave, but maverick owner Chris Hellinger welcomed us in his recently opened safari lodge perched high up the Mont Rochelle mountain overlooking Franschhoek, being 540 m above sea level.  The lodge was filled with stuffed animals which Mr Hellinger has hunted around the world.  We were invited to taste the noble 5-star Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 (costing R240 per bottle), the only Pinot Noir to achieve this quality in Franschhoek.  Mr Hellinger has been in South Africa for 44 years already, and bought Chamonix in 1991, a farm of 265ha, of which 55ha has been planted to vines, and also contains a game nature reserve. Mr Hellinger explained that their wines have become consistently better, and their higher vines get the sun later in the morning, and the temperature is cooler in the afternoon. Their use of compost is minimal. The farm had fruit trees, which they removed to plant vines.  They only make wines from their own grapes. He has invested R40 million in his estate.  Mr Hellinger said that they will work on reducing their wine range, but there is another ‘more exclusive wine to be created’‘.   He praised his winemaker, who has been with him for more than ten years, and he gives him a free hand in what to grow and to produce.  They use cement egg fermentation tanks too.

We received feedback subsequently that the Hubers thoroughly enjoyed their day in Franschhoek, and they graciously handed over a bottle of their noble Pinot Noir to each wine estate that hosted them.  We thank Boekenhoutskloof, Haute Cabriere, Leopard’s Leap, La Motte, Grande Provence, and Chamonix for their time and information shared with this important winemaking couple from Germany, and for growing my own knowledge about the Franschhoek Wine Valley too.

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

Restaurant Review: The Stall is Proudly Franschhoek!

The Stall opened in Franschhoek at the beginning of this month in the old Pippin Farm Stall at the entrance to Franschhoek, alongside Franschhoek Cellars.  It is an informal eatery, serving only Franschhoek wines, and is decorated in French colours.

Owned by Tim Adams, the owner of Essence higher up on the main road, The Stall attracted attention during its renovations.   The building belongs to Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, and it was rumoured a few years ago that Chef Reuben Riffel would make a steakhouse of it.  The builders shared that three potential tenants had been to see the building: Chef Reuben, Tim, as well as the owner of Kalfi’s.   Whilst Essence concentrates on Breakfast, light lunches and cakes, The Stall is open for lunch and dinner.

There is ample parking, especially in the evening when the Franschhoek Cellars is closed, and outside seating is provided, with a play area for the children.  The branding is not very prominent from the R45, but most of the locals should know where it is by now, many having been invited to attend the opening function, at which a selection of the restaurant’s foods were offered.  The interior is plain, with white Greek style chairs and wooden top tables. A Brugge sign brightens up the interior, Tim not knowing why Marc added this decor touch, not really making sense.  A fireplace will be cosy in winter.  Vases of fresh flowers on the window sills are a nice touch.  One long table with red chairs is for larger groups.  A surprise is material serviettes, with red stitching.   The walls are painted white, and the kitchen wall is tiled in the French colours of blue, white and red, covered with racks for the glasses.  The cutlery is very basic, as are the salt and pepper cellars.

The chef is Marilie van Niekerk, previously of Van Hunks in Cape Town, at the Tsitsikamma Lodge and at Storms River. She is bubbly, and a very good hostess.  On the day we returned to eat there, some of the staff had not arrived at work due to the farmworker unrest outside Franschhoek, for which Chef Marilie apologised profusely, yet the service was good. Her biggest excitement is that the country’s Eat Out Chef of the Year, Margot Janse of The Tasting Room, had been to eat at the restaurant three times already.  Chef Marilie has a herb garden she is developing in wine barrels outside the restaurant. The menu is simple, focused on flat-based pizzas, with interesting topping combinations, such as a delicious spinach, bacon and avocado (R75); an unusual roast lamb, mint, caramelised onion, grilled aubergine and feta (R79); and white anchovy, capers, olives and oregano (R65).  The pizza base is very thin, and I found some of the shards when cut to be very sharp.  For starters one can order a selection of salads, ranging from R49 for Greek salad to R72 for a carpaccio salad.  A variety of burgers is available, made with beef, chicken, vegetables, lamb, and cheese, ranging in price from R65 – R75. Platters are available: cheese with preserves and nuts (R90), antipasti (R120), and mezze (R95).  For the main course one can order a 250 g rib-eye steak with pepper sauce and chips at R95; grilled baby calamari (R85); and pasta dishes. I ate the best ever Tiramisu at The Stall, served in an Illy branded cup, and being thick and creamy (38).  One can also order chocolate pudding, banana split with butterscotch sauce; and pecan nut flap jacks, the dessert prices ranging from R32 – R45.

It is not a surprise that the Wolftrap wine by the glass comes from landlord Boekenhoutskloof, inexpensive at R15 per glass/R65 per bottle for the White, Red, and Rosé.  The sparkling wines offered are a 375ml Graham Beck Cuvee Brut (R110) and Brut Rosé (R180), as well as Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Brut (R150).  No vintages are listed for the wines.  White wines range up to R 160 for the Stony Brook Cask Selection Semillon, and to R280 for Boekenhoutskloof’ The Chocolate Block for the red wines.   The Stall offers a good opportunity to taste a cross-section of wines from fifteen Franschhoek wine estates, including award-winning Chamonix, Glenwood, Lynx, La Bri, La Petite Ferme, and Holden Manz.

The Stall is a friendly, casual, and inexpensive eatery in Franschhoek, likely to be attractive to locals in particular, and to tourists with children.  I have already returned for the Tiramisu!

The Stall, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4497. Website and Social Media to come.  Monday – Sunday, 12h00 – ‘late-ish‘ (closed on Sunday evenings).

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

Restaurant Review: Lizette’s Kitchen brings a touch of Asia to Hermanus!

I had heard about new restaurant Lizette’s Kitchen in Hermanus from a review by JP Rossouw and tried it a week ago with my colleague Carole.  It is a refreshing addition to what is generally an average collection  of restaurants in this seaside village.

The restaurant opened three months ago, and  is cleverly located on the traffic circle as one enters Voëlklip, a historic house built around the 1920s and was the first farmstead in Voëlklip, which everyone who has been to Hermanus will know.  It is a large property, which was lovingly renovated by Lizette Crabtree and her fiancé Scott, following prescriptions of the Heritage Council.  They did not use any decor design service, they said proudly, and it is one of the smarter restaurant interiors we have seen in Hermanus. The building is also the home of Scott and Lizette, laughingly telling us that they sleep in the garage.  The off-street parking area is neat and spacious.  The seating space is large, inside and outside, and the doors are stacked back so that the two merge.  One faces the traffic circle, with greenery behind it, and it has a very peaceful aura.  The roof has been newly thatched, and some interior walls must have been removed to create the open space.  One section has a bar counter, and further down one can see a lounge area with a fireplace.   At the till there is a Buddha, next to a vase of proteas.  There is a lot of wood – on the floors, the table tops, and the (rather uncomfortable) café style chairs.  Outside sheets of corrugated iron have been cleverly used to make planters in which jasmine is growing.  The waiters wear black shirts and pants, with a Hermanuspietersfontein branded apron.

Scott and Lizette met in Vietnam, where she worked in the kitchen of a large top hotel. They managed a $10 million boutique chain resort, but decided to come back to Lizette’s home country, although she never previously lived in Hermanus.

Outside a bar counter has been made from wooden crates, and Creation gets a plug, its branded crates having been used.  We were told that three wine estates have a special home at Lizette’s Kitchen, Boekenhoutskloof being prominent, its winemaker Marc Kent having a soft spot for the restaurant, and he has made umbrellas and other support available to the restaurant.  Interesting was a new Boekenhoutskloof brand Le Cap Maritime, which we heard about from Scott, which is served in Business Class on Emirates flights, and is now available (Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – at an inexpensive R25 per glass/R90 per bottle, and Shiraz 2010 – at R25/R100) at the Hermanus restaurant, having been made from grapes from Hermanus, and the label describing the brand as ‘A coastal venture by Boekenhoutskloof’. Lizette had met Marc a number of years ago, having worked as chef in Franschhoek at La Petite Ferme, and at Monneaux Restaurant, when Chef Reuben Riffel had left to open a restaurant in the UK. Lizette left for Vietnam, taking 20kg of Springbok as her luggage, and a case of wine each from eight Franschhoek Vignerons was shipped over. She hosted a South African promotion in that country, most of these wines now selling well in Vietnam.  Other favourite wine brands the restaurant supports are Creation, and Hermanuspietersfontein.

We were welcomed by the waiter Astin Jangle, and I asked him if he could print out a copy of the menu,  so as to not have to write down the whole menu.  He seemed very unsure about my request, and had to call on Scott for permission.  Scott initially was hesitant, saying we should see the menu on the website, as it changes so often.   When I mentioned the Rossouw review, he opened up, and told me that they did not know when JP visited the restaurant. They appeared annoyed that he had called it a Vietnamese restaurant, not having got the concept right, they felt.  Our Franschhoek connection, and knowing Boekenhoutskloof, helped to relax Scott, and he relented on providing a copy of the menu.   The menu is described as being Afro-Asia fusion, to describe Lizette’s South African roots and the influence that Asia, and more specifically Vietnam, has had on both their lives.

A nice touch was the rolled facecloths brought to the table, with a fresh fragrance, which the waiter could not identify.  Carole and I were both undecided about what to order, and had a lot of catching up to do, so Lizette volunteered to bring three courses to the table, our only proviso being that it should not contain chilli or be too hot.  Lizette suggested that we share the three dishes. Commendable was the black material serviette, although there are no table cloths, with only a cheap-looking place mat.  Carole ordered an alcohol-free Mojito, the Mosquito looking beautiful with a slice of watermelon and a piece of sugarcane.  We started with Saigon Summer Spring Rolls (R65), a combination of fried spring rolls with a bite, and fresh (i.e. raw, as we discovered, and therefore tasteless) rice paper rolls, served with three dipping sauces, being chilli jam, peanut, and Hoisin.   This was followed by the best dish, being Paprika Squid served with Tabbouleh, which was sautéed with lemon, and was served on broken wheat salad with Spanish onion and tomato (R65).

The third dish was Bun Cha, a traditional North Vietnamese dish offering three variations of pork, being pork rashers, pork patties, and (once again) pork spring rolls, with which came cold rice noodles, fresh herbs, and the Hoisin dipping sauce again (R75).  This was the order we had placed, and therefore we asked for the bill. The waiter begged us to try the dessert, being a very delicious lemon curd served with home-made shortbread and a slice of apricot (R30), even though we had not ordered it, and made it sound as if it was a special ‘gift’ offered by Chef Lizette.  Only when checking the bill that evening did I see that we were charged for this ‘gift’!

The menu introduction explains that it is varied, reflecting ‘our journey from Africa to Asia’, and that ‘the flavours are fresh and pronounced’, and that only the best local produce is sourced.  The Asian dishes are made using traditional recipes, and no seasoning has been added commendably, allowing the diner to add fish sauce, herbs, sprouts, soya, lemon, and more, to suit one’s preference of a sweet, sour, or salty taste.  One is wished ‘Chuc ngon mien’, a wonderful meal.   Most dishes are Vietnamese, but with some Thai and North African dishes too.  There is a bread and cheese section, a plate of mezzes costing R75; Pita wraps are available with fillings of beef, chicken and lamb, at R55; Artisan Flatbreads are served with options of chicken, pork ribs, lamb, goats’ cheese, and tiger prawns, at R52 – R65; salads are unusual, including Lamb Kofta, and Moor Lamb Kibbeh, both containing lamb patties (R78);   Noodle Bowl dishes, served with prawns or beef red curry, cost around R75; Tom Yum soup is R70 and a Vietnamese Pho Bo beef broth R50; Moroccan lamb shanks cost R130, and are served with Tabbouleh and a Greek salad; Thai style steam mussels in coconut and sweet chili cost R70; linefish steamed in bamboo, prepared with sesame, ginger and soya, costs R84; and a Vietnamese Heo Kho To interestingly contains braised pork belly stew with quail eggs R75.  The dessert list contains a mix of very basic South African treats (ice cream and Bar One sauce, brownies, cake) as well as Che Chuoi, a traditional Vietnamese warm sago, banana and peanut pudding, all very reasonable priced in a range of R22 – R35.

The wine list is part of the menu, and wines are listed under quirky headings, more creative than those used in the 100 Women 100 Wine’ so-called competition! So, for example ‘Refreshing, zingy wines’ are La Petite Ferme’s Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (R165) and Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc 2011 (R200). ‘Rosé, not just for the girls’ lists Hermanuspietersfontein’s Bloos 2012 at R108, and Sir Robert Stanford Rosé 2012, at R135. The ‘Fat Cat Selection’ offers the Sir Robert Stanford Shitaz 2009 at R195, Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block at R320, and Bouchard Finlayson’s Hannibal 2008 at R350. Wines by the glass are very reasonably priced, ranging from R21 for Sir Robert Stanford’s Cutter’s Cove Chenin Blanc  and Helderberg Wijnmakerij Cabernet Sauvignon at R21, to Creation’s Syrah/Grenache R35/R145.  ‘Bubbles’ by the glass are by Krone (R30/R160), and Domaine Des Dieux Rose of Sharon (R150), and Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut NV costing R850 are also on offer.

While the waiter was very helpful and friendly, he disappointed when we wanted to leave in a hurry, to make a 14h00 meeting, and he told me that he could not bring the credit card machine to the table due to the portable one not working, which meant that I had to go to the bar counter.  When I got there, an older lady expressed surprise, saying that the credit card machine had been fixed that morning, and should have been brought to the table.   The duplication of foods in what we were offered, the raw spring roll, and the forced acceptance of a dessert we did not order were off-putting. The presentation of the dishes is very attractive. Conservative Hermanus and tourist palates may find the menu too Asian, with too few familiar dishes.  The venue itself is attractive, barring the bathroom, offers enough parking, and is not as crowded as the seafront restaurants in the village.  The food and beverage prices are reasonable, and it would be a great meeting place for out of town visitors to Hermanus, staying in Voëlklip in particular.

Lizette’s Kitchen, 20 on 8th Street, Voëlklip, Hermanus.  Tel (028) 314-0308.    www.lizetteskitchen.com. Daily from 11h00, lunch and dinner.

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