Entries tagged with “Maxwell Williams”.


imageLast Saturday evening my friend Giulio Loggerian and I dined at La Sosta restaurant in Swellendam, which won Eat Out Best Italian restaurant in 2014. It was an unusual experience in a number of respects, especially in that the owners themselves describe La Sosta as an ‘Italian restaurant with a twist’! (more…)

imageChef Julia Hattingh hosted a media launch at her brand new Reverie Social Table Restaurant in Observatory last night, serving a four-course dinner for a table of 18 guests imageahead of the official opening on 1 October.

My Google Maps App became confused with the one-way streets of Observatory, but I found the restaurant on Lower Main Road, a well-lit restaurant with a collection of guests being visible from the street.

One notices the table for 18 on entering the restaurant, (more…)

Seafood at The Marine interior Whale Cottage PortfolioAfter seeing a Tweet by The Collection by Liz McGrath Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff about the new interior of SeaFood at The Marine earlier this week, I decided to lunch there yesterday, being in Hermanus for the day.  It was a most disappointing experience, given the five star and Relais & Chateaux status of the hotel.

The Marine hotel has a long heritage and was bought by Mrs McGrath a number of years ago. and sat on its own on the cliffs overlooking Walker Bay, technically a magnificent location, but little is made of the beautiful view.  A recent flurry of development across the road from the hotel has given it a lift.  Mrs McGrath appears to be like Le Quartier Français owner Susan Huxter who renovates her establishment annually.  Mrs McGrath did the latest interior design of SeaFood at The Marine, her staff told me.  The colour scheme now is grey, with grey chairs, grey tables, and grey (more…)

We were invited to try the new themed Tapas dinners at Steenberg’s Bistro Sixteen82, my first evening visit to one of my favourite restaurants headed by one of the nicest and most honest chefs.  We enjoyed a tantalising ‘Taking Tapas to Turkey’ evening, which was the theme for June, and for the last few days of July.

On entering the wine tasting area the striking chandelier attracted my attention once again, in symbolising red and white grapes, making a powerful statement.  The restaurant was cosy, being brightly lit, with modern gas heating, and had a buzz from the patrons having arrived at the early dinner time.  A shock was the new grass green colour of the ladies’ cloakroom, which Chef Brad Ball agreed was extreme, but better than the ‘prison orange’ in the gents’ loo, and the shocking pink of the disabled loo, being the choice of interior designer Richard Perfect, Brad said!  However, compared to the other Constantia Valley Wine Route estates we had visited earlier that day, surprising in their ordinariness, Steenberg is by far the most attractive and professional of all the Constantia wine estates.

While the Bistro is more relaxed than its sister restaurant Catharina’s at the Steenberg Hotel, the neat presentation of the side plate with a material serviette embroidered with the restaurant name and good cutlery give a classy impression, as does the beautiful display of the Steenberg wines on both sides of the restaurant.  A modern Maxwell & Williams salt cellar adds a sophisticated touch.  Flower arrangements have always been striking in the building, with proteas in tall glass vases. (more…)

MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have ten more gripping episodes to look forward to in the next two months. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 18.

We are also running a weekly lucky draw for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be booted out of the MasterChef SA every week.  For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 9 today (15 May), Burrata has generously offered a restaurant voucher to the value of R400 to the winner.

The opening of Burrata at the Old Biscuit Mill (in the previous B-Lounge) in March had been eagerly awaited, with its owner Neil Grant coming from 2011 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Rust en Vrede (he was the sommelier when he ran the restaurant with chef David Higgs).  Burrata is not a pizzeria, and it’s not an Italian restaurant. It is a unique, friendly, and welcoming restaurant which, with its neighbours The Pot Luck Club and The Test Kitchen,  makes the Old Biscuit Mill and Woodstock an exciting restaurant destination.  The red pizza oven imported from Naples catches one’s eye immediately, unlike any seen locally, with a more modern design.  The pizzaiolo pizza makers use peels imported from Italy to stretch the pizza, to create the correct shape and to place it in the oven, and to turn the pizza around once it is in the oven, to ensure that the pizza is equally cooked.  Burrata backer Barry Engelbrecht is a pizza aficionado, and has attended pizza-making courses around the world, and he trained the staff in pizza-making.

The red pizza oven creates the decor foundation, and the use of red and black extends into the staff uniforms, Maxwell Williams salt and pepper grinders, material serviettes into which the Forum cutlery is rolled, the sugar bowls, and on the menu and winelist covers.  Beautiful Italian Luigi Bormioli glasses made in Parma enhance the special wines served. A special state-of-the-art red hand meat slicer has a place of honour inside the restaurant. The kitchen is open plan, behind glass, and visible to diners. Charming front-of-house hostess is Swiss Isabella Immenkamp, who was a sommelier at Grande Roche previously.  She is very attentive, and European in her service delivery. Chef Annemarie Steenkamp comes from Le Quartier Français, where she spent five years.  The menu has a collection of delectable pizzas, as well as Chef Annemarie’s creations, including pork belly, roasted rib eye, a selection of pasta dishes, and risotto with caramelised onion.  The service and personal attention is exceptional, the best experienced in a very long time. The wine list is comprehensive, reflecting Neil’s passion. Burrata is friendly and welcoming, with reasonable prices. As Chairman of the South African Sommeliers’ Association, Neil has prepared a 50 hour wine appreciation program for the MasterChef South Africa winner on behalf of Nederburg, for its parent company Distell.

Tweet your prediction of which of the 11 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or e-mail it to whalecot@iafrica.com. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 15 May at 19h30, at the start of episode 9.  The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. There will be a weekly Restaurant Voucher prize draw per episode for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA, and voting for the following episode can start as soon as that day’s episode has been aired. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize is rolled over to go to another week.

POSTSCRIPT 15/5: A surprise elimination in the Three Times Cheese Soufflé was Guy Clark.  Once again, it appears that the wrong selection was made, Tweeters feeling that Jade de Waal should have been eliminated, given that her soufflé was not cooked properly.  There was no correct prediction today, many incorrect guesses having been received.

Burrata, Old Biscuit Mill, Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 447-6505.  www.burrata.co.za Twitter: @BurrataSA   Tuesday – Saturday, Lunch and Dinner.

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

MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have 13 more gripping episodes to look forward to in the next three months. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 18.

We are also running a weekly lucky draw for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be booted out of the MasterChef SA every week.  For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 6 on 24 April, Burrata has generously offered a restaurant voucher to the value of R400 to the winner.

The opening of Burrata at the Old Biscuit Mill (in the previous B-Lounge) last month had been eagerly awaited, with its owner Neil Grant coming from 2011 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Rust en Vrede (he was the sommelier when he ran the restaurant with chef David Higgs).  Burrata is not a pizzeria, and it’s not an Italian restaurant. It is a unique, friendly, and welcoming restaurant, which with its neighbours The Pot Luck Club and The Test Kitchen makes the Old Biscuit Mill and Woodstock an increasingly exciting restaurant destination.  The red pizza oven imported from Naples catches one’s eye immediately, unlike any seen locally, with a more modern design.  The pizzaiolo pizza makers use peels imported from Italy to stretch the pizza, to create the correct shape and to place it in the oven, and to turn the pizza around once it is in the oven, to ensure that the pizza is equally cooked.  Burrata backer Barry Engelbrecht is a pizza aficionado, and has attended pizza-making courses around the world, and he trained the staff in pizza-making.

The red pizza oven creates the decor foundation, and the use of red and black extends into the staff uniforms, Maxwell Williams salt and pepper grinders, material serviettes into which the Forum cutlery is rolled, the sugar bowls, and on the menu and winelist covers.  Beautiful Italian Luigi Bormioli glasses made in Parma enhance the special wines served. A special state-of-the-art red hand meat slicer has a place of honour inside the restaurant.  The kitchen is open plan, behind glass, and visible to diners. Charming front-of-house hostess is Swiss Isabella Immenkamp, who was a sommelier at Grande Roche previously.  She is very attentive, and European in her service delivery. Chef Annemarie Steenkamp comes from Le Quartier Français, where she spent five years.  The menu has a collection of delectable pizzas, as well as Chef Annemarie’s creations, including pork belly, roasted rib eye, a selection of pasta dishes, and risotto with caramelised onion.  The service and personal attention is exceptional, the best experienced in a very long time. The wine list is comprehensive, reflecting Neil’s passion. Burrata is friendly and welcoming, with reasonable prices. As Chairman of the South African Sommeliers’ Association, Neil has prepared a 50 hour wine appreciation program for the MasterChef South Africa winner on behalf of Nederburg, for its parent company Distell.

Tweet your prediction of which of the 15 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or e-mail it to whalecot@iafrica.com. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 24 April at 19h30, at the start of episode 6.  The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. There will be a weekly Restaurant Voucher prize draw per episode for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA, and voting for the following episode can start as soon as that day’s episode has been aired. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize is rolled over to go to another week.

POSTSCRIPT 24/4: Lwazi Mngoma was sent home in episode 6 last night.  There was no correct prediction of his departure, so the Burrata voucher rolls over to another week.

Burrata, Old Biscuit Mill, Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 447-6505.  www.burrata.co.za Twitter: @BurrataSA   Tuesday – Saturday, Lunch and Dinner.

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

Twice in one day I chatted to bubbly Betsie van der Merwe, new owner of Manna Epicure, meeting her for the first time on Thursday, and I loved her energy, homeliness, and friendliness.  We had connected via Twitter previously, but it was the first time we met at her restaurant on Kloof Street. She highly recommended I  my Laundry, and told me that she would be doing a function with them that evening, where I saw her again, after receiving an invitation via Twitter to attend.  The function at I my Laundry was a wine tasting by Arnold Vorster of Graham Beck Wines, and a tasting of Manna Epicure breads.

I my Laundry opened a week ago, after a month-long transformation from what was previously the Sundance coffee shop, which had belonged to notorious Conrad Gallagher. The back section of the space is on two floors, and contains the laundry, with washing, dry cleaning with a four-hour turnaround time, ironing, and collection/delivery (within the City Bowl initially) services offered, not visible from the coffee shop/restaurant on the ground floor.  It has been beautifully transformed, with a 14-seater silver grey concrete table top resting on steel legs, most comfortable white and black high-back chairs, a wooden counter on which Betsie had displayed her breads, and some wooden shelving.  On the mainly rough brickwork walls are displayed artworks, which will be rotated over time. There were orange serviettes, and beautiful brand new cutlery.  I loved the stylish Maxwell Williams water jug.

The inspiration for the name and concept for I my Laundry, which is co-owned by Clayton Howard and Mico Botha, comes from The French Laundry in New York, which was first started by a husband and wife team, running a restaurant and a laundry first as two outlets next door to each other, and then opened up to become one entity.  The Buitengracht branch is the third to open in the past four months, with branches in Durbanville and Kenridge too.  Clayton has extensive experience in the hospitality industry, having worked at Ellerman House, the Twelve Apostles Hotel, The Table Bay Hotel, The Pepper Club Hotel & Spa, Arabella Sheraton, The Mount Grace Hotel, and The Cellars Hohenhort Hotel.  Mico also has a hospitality background, having last worked for Bidvest’s Cleaning Division, but also worked for Outsourced Labour, and is developing the Visual Training TV company.

Free wifi is offered, and a coffee machine makes perfect cappucinos from Brazilian-imported beans by Joga Joga Café, exclusively stocked in South Africa by I my Laundry.  Cupcakes from Manna Epicure will be for sale.  An exciting subsidiary business is I my Wine, for which Clayton and Mico will host interesting corporate events in which they bring together an alcoholic beverage supplier and a chef or restaurant to create a magical evening, as we experienced on Thursday evening. Last night a corporate client held a Dim Sum evening, with Chef Steven from Beluga doing the food for the group.  At the Thursday evening function not everyone knew everyone attending, and so the introductions around the table were a taste of the personalities of the guests.  The I corporate name has many legs, and exciting new projects are certain to develop.  One of these is I my Linen, which is the sale of an organic bleach. Another brand is I my Art,  and currently Irish photographer Niall Molloy is displaying his work, while Von Deen’s wooden hearts can also be bought.

Betsie and her baker Josh introduced their wonderful breads to us – Country rye bread, Rosemary and date sourdough, Ciabatta, and Cranberry and hazelnut rye.  The breads are available from Manna Epicure, and freshly baked by Josh from 5h00 onwards. Manna Epicure opened in 2005, driven by Maranda Engelbrecht (now driving Babel at Babylonstoren) and Jacques Erasmus of Hemelhuijs.  The restaurant is homely, flavourful, aromatic, natural, and no-fuss, Betsie said of her eatery. The breads can be bought in half sizes too, for ‘bachelors and bachelorettes’.  Betsie had brought along a lovely selection of Fairview cheeses, including Chevin goat’s cheese, blue cheese, cranberry and white rock, and apricot and white rock.  Parma ham from the Wild Peacock Emporium; chorizo, fig and rosemary mixed in a sauce; cashew nuts; apricot chips; and dried cranberries, eaten with the Manna Epicure bread without butter, was a feast.

I have previously attended a tasting of Graham Beck Wines conducted by Arnold Vorster, and he has a relaxed way of introducing the excellent wines in the company’s portfolio.  We were spoilt by tasting a  Graham Beck Brut Non Vintage on arrival, a classic 50%/50% Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend.  The Game Reserve is an unwooded Chenin Blanc.  This was followed by a 2009 Chardonnay, with grapes coming from Robertson, giving lemon and lime notes.  The Graham Beck Shiraz 2008 is made in older barrels, from grapes which come from the Stellenbosch Graham Beck Wines farm.  The William 2007 is a Cape blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and a little drop of Shiraz, the wine being named after the grandson of the late Graham Beck.  Our special tasting was concluded with the Bliss Demi-Sec sparkling wine.  Graham Beck MCCs can now be tasted at its dedicated Gorgeous bubbly bar at the Steenberg Hotel, next door to its Catharina’s restaurant.

We were sent home with a gift bag of a 375 ml bottle of Graham Beck MCC and a packet of Manna Epicure’s melba toast, beautifully gift-wrapped, having enjoyed a wonderful evening.  I was lucky to sit opposite Cliff Jacobs, owner of Villa Belmonte in Oranjezicht, who himself has been the host of magnificent gourmet evenings, and we were able to share common experiences about the highs and lows of the hospitality industry of the past few years.  We both enjoyed the cappuccino.  Most guests present knew Clayton, the hospitality industry featuring strongly in the guest list, and all enjoyed a wonderful evening, meeting ‘colleagues’ from the industry.

I went back for another great cappuccino yesterday afternoon, and while the city centre was extremely busy, parking was available outside the shop.  Clayton and Mico were both there, and felt like old friends already, 24 hours later!

POSTSCRIPT 7/4: I attended a Wildekrans grappa and GaBoLi grappa chocolate tasting at I my Laundry today.  I am super impressed with all the ideas bubbling out of co-owners Clayton and Mico, for example, they are thinking of starting Fondues.  On Fridays, from 5 – 7 pm, they will host free Laundry Parties, at which one can taste wines.

I my Laundry, 59 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town.  Tel 084 660 0777 (Clayton)/083 6020291 (Mico) www.Ilovemylaundry.co.za Twitter:@ILovemyLaundry, Monday – Sunday, 7h00 – 19h00.

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

The opening of Burrata at the Old Biscuit Mill (in the previous B-Lounge) at the beginning of the month had been eagerly awaited, with its owner Neil Grant coming from 2011 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Rust en Vrede (he was the sommelier when he ran the restaurant with chef David Higgs).  Burrata is not a pizzeria, and it’s not an Italian restaurant, and not all its dishes contain Burrata mozzarella! It is a unique, friendly, and welcoming restaurant, which with its neighbours The Pot Luck Club and The Test Kitchen make the Old Biscuit Mill and Woodstock an increasingly exciting restaurant destination.

At night, most of the restaurant is not brightly lit, and therefore the red pizza oven imported from Naples catches one’s eye immediately.  It is unlike any pizza oven seen locally, with a more modern design, weighing 2,6 tons, and having necessitated the widening of the doors to get it inside the restaurant.  It is lower in size, concentrating and therefore intensifying the heat inside the oven, at about 460°C.  Logs are stored inside the black-tiled pizza oven stand, as well as against a window in another section of the restaurant, creating an interesting circular design effect, letting in light from outside, but giving diners inside some privacy. The pizzaiolo, one of the new names I learnt, being the male pizza makers, use peels imported from Italy: the loading peel is used to stretch the pizza, to create the correct shape and to place it in the oven; the turning peel turns the pizza around once it is in the oven, to ensure that the pizza is equally cooked, explained Cameron.  Burrata backer Barry Engelbrecht is a pizza aficionado, and has attended pizza-making courses around the world, and he trained the staff in pizza-making, none of them having come from a pizza restaurant.  Interesting were the wine bottle lights, with LED lighting inside, which Neil had made from a design he had seen overseas.

Mozzarella, and the Burrata (a mozzarella which is shaped into a pouch filled with left-over bits of mozzarella and cream), are sourced from local Italian-owned Puglia Cheese, the cuputo pizza flour and tinned tomatoes are imported from Italy, the prosciutto comes from a  Johannesburg supplier and Neil Jewell in Franschhoek, and other ingredients are sourced from the Wild Peacock Food Emporium in Stellenbosch. The pork belly came from Sachs butchery.

The red pizza oven creates the decor colour foundation, and the use of red and black extends into the staff uniforms, Maxwell Williams salt and pepper grinders, material serviettes into which the Forum cutlery is rolled, the sugar bowls, and on the menu and winelist covers.  Beautiful Italian Luigi Bormioli glasses made in Parma enhance the special wines served. A red meat slicer has a place of honour inside the restaurant.  The kitchen is open plan, behind glass, and visible to diners.  There seemed to be a large staff complement, almost as many staff as diners.  A charming front-of-house hostess is Swiss national Isabella Immenkamp, who was a sommelier at the Grande Roche previously (her partner Joakim Hansi Blackadder recently won the Bollinger Sommelier competition, and has taken Neil’s job at Rust en Vrede).  She was very attentive, and European in her service delivery.  Neil came to the table regularly, almost timed to coincide with a next question I had! Chef Annemarie Steenkamp comes from Le Quartier Français, where she spent five years.

The menu and winelist are each bound in fine Burrata branded black leather, printed on quality paper, with the striking red Burrata branding.  Starters start at R28 for olives marinated with oregano, garlic and chilli, peaking at R125 for a shared antipasti platter served with pizza bread.  My son ordered  bruschetta with prosciutto, rocket and grated walnut (R58), and the two slices were generously covered with the ham.  Puglia burrata is served with olive oil, oryx desert salt with crostini (R55).  The four pasta options are unusual, and range in cost from R78 (fried auricchio gnocchi with peas, fine beans, green olives and baby spinach) – R98 (pappardelle slow cooked short rib, roasted red pepper and crispy onion).  Five main courses include risotto with caramelised onions, bone marrow, and lemon (R68), pan seared line fish (R125), roasted rib eye (R135), chicken polpette (R84), and the most tender Tuscan-spiced braised pork belly with butter roasted cauliflower and glazed brussel sprouts (R115), but which did not overwhelm me, from its lack of colour and taste.

Pizzas make up almost half the menu.  They are introduced as follows: ‘at Burrata, we strive to create the best possible neapolitan style pizza.  this style of pizza has a puffy, flame blackened crust with a light crispness.  we use only the the very best quality ingredients including flour and tomatoes exclusively imported from Italy. our italian oven cooks our pizzas at 480°C in less than 90 seconds.  The menu explains that to maintain quality standards, ingredients cannot be changed nor ordered ‘half-and-half’. The ingredients are interesting. Tomato-base pizzas start at R52 (Marinara, with garlic, oregano and olive oil), and the Di mare pizza costs R109, with prawns, squid, garlic with coriander and chilli aioli. The prosciutto e arugula pizza sounds good too, with fresh mozzarella, parmagiano reggiano, prosciutto and rocket. Pizza bianca (i.e.without tomato sauce base) include Ficci (mozzarella, gorgonzola, fresh figs and prosciutto), Delre (with a truffle spread, mozzarella, mushroom, and prosciutto), at R98.  My son’s Delre pizza base was burnt, and Isabella immediately offered to redo it.  It was much better the second time around.  Four dessert options are peach and amaretto tart (R42); Lime Zabaglione with fresh strawberries and blueberries was served with Madeira cake which jarred in its dryness (R44) and a most attractively designed Forum spoon; sweet honey pizza with ricotta, caramelised apple, honey and roasted almonds sounds delicious and costs R58; while cioccolato pizza comes with a homemade chocolate and hazelnut spread, banana and treacle sugar (R64).  Coffee is by Origin.  Burrata’s lunch menu is slightly reduced relative to the dinner menu, with one item removed per section.  No pasta dishes are available over lunch.

Tap water is served in a wine bottle, a clever touch. The winelist is extensive, and lists very neatly the region, country, and vintage of each of the roughly 100 wines served by the bottle, with an additional 14 wines by the glass. Grant writes in his introduction to the winelist: “welcome to burrata, where we pay mutual respect to food and wine. you will notice that our wine list does not contain any descriptive notes. one of our sommeliers will gladly assist you throughout your experience with us.  i hope you will take pleasure in browsing through the list and please feel free to ask any questions you may have”.  Champagne brands Pol Roger, Philipponat, Salon, Torresella, Billecart Salmon, and Jean Veselle range in price from R195 – R3500.  Only two local MCC’s are served: Silverthorn (R60/280) and Colmant (R230).  White wines by the glass cost R30 – R45, and red wines R33 – R68.  About ten wines per variety are offered. Shiraz prices range from R195 (2008 Tamboerskloof) to R950 (2008 De Trafford).  The winelist cautions that wines and vintages ‘are subject to availability‘.

Burrata is friendly, welcoming, with reasonable prices, and a most impressive winelist.  After eight days since opening, things ran smoothly, with the exception of the pizza.  The service and personal attention is exceptional, the best we have experienced in a very long time.  There were speakers on the wall, but no music, which would have been a good finishing touch.  The very new team, who have never worked together before, will gel over time, and the menu will evolve.  The dissonance between menu and wine list will probably be reduced over time, the exceptional and extensive wine selection dominating the relatively more ordinary menu.

POSTSCRIPT 7/4: Enjoyed the mozzarella, fig and prosciutto pizza at Burrata on a rainy pizza-eating Easter weekend Saturday, the best pizza I have ever eaten!  The pizza base is good enough to eat without the topping.  Exciting news is that a 3-course food and wine pairing menu will be launched in the next two weeks.

POSTSCRIPT 14/4: Back at Burrata, and tried the Delre pizza, with prosciutto, mushrooms, and mozzarella. It became a three hour lunch, in the (unplanned) company of Ursula and Davide Ostuni of Puglia Cheese.  They supply Burrata with mozzarella cheeses, and were most complimentary about the pizzas at Burrata.

POSTSCRIPT 21/6: Lovely evening at Burrata, with guest house colleagues Rainer and Greg. The charcuterie and cheese platter was a good match with the pizzas.  Delicious chocolate mousse, vanilla panna cotta and lime.

POSTSCRIPT 9/7: What amazing news: after only having been open for 4 months, Burrata has been named the Middle East/Africa winner of the Birra Moretti Best Emerging Italian Restaurant Award, ahead of Ristorante Armani in Dubai and Carne, also in Cape Town!  What makes the Award even more prestigious is that it is affiliated to the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.

Burrata, Old Biscuit Mill, Albert Road, Woodstock.  Tel (021) 447-6505.  www.burrata.co.za Twitter: @BurrataSA   Tuesday – Saturday, Lunch and Dinner.

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

A new service which Liam Tomlin Food is introducing at its new Leopard’s Leap venue is a series of Chef’s Table lunches, allowing one to experience first-hand not only the cooking methods and recipes of international Chef Liam Tomlin, but also to eat his food.

Liam Tomlin Food Culinary Studio opened about a month ago, and has a state of the art demonstration kitchen for 24 students at a time.  It also has ample seating for about 50 food lovers, who can follow what the demonstration chef prepares on TV screens above the work counter. Cooking classes and food demonstrations have been scheduled, as have a number of  Chef’s Table events, both at which Chef Liam will prepare meals which are paired with Leopard’s Leap wines.

The Chef’s Table food preparation is interactive, allowing participants to ask questions, and they will receive recipes for the dishes which the chefs prepared.  On scheduled weekdays a 90 minute 3-course lunch will be offered, at R250, and on weekends a 2 ½ hour 4-course lunch costs R350. The programme for the first quarter of next year is as follows:

13 January:  Italy (11h00 – 13h00)

20 January:   Gourmet Fast Food (11h00 – 13h00)

27 January:  Chinese New Year (11h00 – 13h00)

3 February:  Cape Winelands Cuisine cookbook demonstration with Pierneef à La Motte Chef Chris Erasmus and writer Hetta van Deventer

4 February:  Grape, focusing on which food one should pair with which wines (11h00 – 13h00)

10 February:  Poultry (11h00 – 13h00)

24 February:  Feasting on a budget (11h00 – 13h00)

2 March:  Gone Fishing (11h00 – 13h00)

9 March:   Vegetarian (11h00 – 13h00)

16 March:  France (11h00 – 13h00)

23 March:   Meet the Meats (11h00 – 13h00)

30 March:  Spanish Fiesta (11h00 – 13h00)

Cooking classes and food demonstrations have been scheduled for the first three months of 2012, many of the four-hour classes falling on Saturdays, but some on weekdays too. Participants receive a recipe folder. The programme is as follows:

14 January:   Around the World: Italy, 9h30 – 13h30, R650

21 January:   Gourmet Fast Food, 9h30 – 13h30, R450

28 January:   Chinese New Year, celebrating the Year of the Dragon, 9h30 – 13h30, R650

8 February:   Valrhona Chocolate Valentine’s Day Dessert with Vanessa Quellec, 9h30 – 13h00, R700. Includes plating, tempering chocolate, the emulsion method, pastry dough, and ice-cream making and churning.

11 February:  Poultry, demonstrating how to use every part of a bird, how to make duck confit, tunnel boning and stuffing the legs, and making savoury mousse, 9h30 – 13h30, R650

14 February:   Valentine’s Couples Evening, with Chef Liam preparing a 4-course meal built on indulgence, including oysters, caviar, strawberries, and chocolate, paired with sparkling wine, 18h30 – 21h30, R650

18 February:  Knife skills for slicing, dicing, and chopping, 9h30 – 13h30, R400

25 February:   Feasting on a budget, providing handy tips on how to stretch core ingredients, 9h30 – 13h30, R400.

29 February, 7 March, 14 March, 21 March, and 28 March: Back to Basics on Stocks, Soups and Consommé, Savoury Sauces and Compound Butters, Meat and Poultry, and Desserts, 9h30 – 13h30, R3000 for the five courses.

3 March:  Gone Fishing, providing guidance on how to scale, fillet, trim, portion and prepare fish. 9h30 – 13h30, R650.

10 March: Vegetarian, 9h30 – 13h30, R650

17 March: Little Chefs: Learning to Bake, for 8 – 12 year olds, 10h00 – 13h00, R200.

24 March:   Meet the Meats, 9h30 – 13h30, R650

31 March:  Around the World: Spain, 9h30 – 13h30, R650.

Liam Tomlin Food also has a Chef’s Store, selling kitchen equipment, appliances, crockery, cutlery, glassware, knives, utensils, spices, chocolate, teas, and preserves.  Gift vouchers, gift wrapping and a wedding registry service is also offered. The Store will be selling fresh produce from the Winelands next year, and we were told yesterday that Chef Liam will prepare a number of food items that can be bought to enjoy at Leopard’s Leap.  A new rotisserie has been installed, and one will be able to buy roast chicken too.  Chef Liam will only make a certain number of items per day.  Picnics will commence in the summer of 2012/2013.  Brands stocked in the Chef’s Store include Valrhona, De Villiers chocolate, Staub, Lavazza, Bamix, Scanpan, Riedel, Maxwell & Williams, Wüsthoff, Bodum, Nielsen & Massey, Krups, Kitchen Aid, and Le Creuset.

Liam Tomlin’s Banc Restaurant was named Sydney’s best in 2001.  He is a member of the British Airways Taste Team, and moved to Cape Town in 2004, initially as a consultant to hotels, restaurants, and wine estates.  Last year he opened the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town. He has written a number of cookery books, including ‘A Season to Taste’.

POSTSCRIPT 8/1: We have added a new Chef’s Table lunch for 3 February to the list above.

POSTSCRIPT 13/1:  We received an e-mail today, announcing that all but one of the Chef’s Tables on Fridays have been rescheduled for 11h00 – 13h00, to accommodate Franschhoek mothers having to fetch their children from school.

Liam Tomlin Food, Leopard’s Leap Vineyards, Main Road/R45, outside Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8822. www.liamtomlinfood.com. Twitter: @LiamTomlinFood

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

Reuben’s Franschhoek and our Whale Cottage Franschhoek both opened seven years ago, and I fell in love with Reuben’s when I first stumbled upon it in 2004.   It was fresh and different, with a unique menu, the service was outstanding with Maryke Riffel heading front of house, a young French sommelier was charming, and Chef Reuben Riffel cooking and often coming out of the kitchen to chat to his guests.  Despite the last visits having been disappointing, we kept supporting his restaurant, well positioned for our guests to walk to in Franschhoek.  We have reached the end of our tolerance of poor service and mediocre food at Reuben’s Franschhoek.

Reuben Riffel had opened a restaurant in Cambridge for friends when Boekenhoutskloof directors Tim Rands and Marc Kent invited him to come back to his home town to open a signature restaurant on the main road.  Reuben had started working as a barman at Chamonix in Franschhoek, and started cheffing when a chef did not come to work.  He loved it so much that he developed himself without any formal chef training. Reuben’s fame in Franschhoek was instant, with an Eat Out Top 10 award in 2004 for Best Restaurant and Best Chef, a mere 6 months after opening, something that had never occurred before.  Reuben’s opened a branch at the Robertson Small Hotel, owned by Rands, about three years ago, and last year it was a huge honour for him to have been invited by Sol Kerzner to open a branch at the One&Only Cape Town.  It was obvious that the food and service quality would suffer as Reuben tried to stretch himself across his three restaurants, and it is in Franschhoek that we have heard other locals complain, and other guest houses too no longer send business there.  Chef Reuben tried to get help, having chefs Richard Carstens and Camil Haas working with him in Franschhoek, but both left him at short notice.

The main restaurant interior is large, with a separate room for functions or more guests, and an unpopular passage close to the noisy kitchen.  The bar has an interesting counter made from a plane wing.  Reuben’s has a large fireplace, making it warm and cosy, but it was smoky at times, due to the heavy wind on my last visit.  Tables are wooden, with the Reuben’s name engraved into the top, with white leather chairs, and a bench against the wall.  The managers sit behind a counter, in front of a Reuben’s branded wall, and it looked rather untidy from my angle, with a silver handbag on the floor, and boxes visible.   A bowl of fruit was on the counter, looking more like a hotel dining room reception than that of a restaurant,  with no flowers at all, as they used to have.  Each table has a little ceramic jar of coarse salt.  No pepper grinder is on the table, nor is it offered for any dish. Cutlery is by Maxwell Williams. Staff wear white shirts, and black pants and aprons.  There are no tablecloths on the tables.

When I popped in at Reuben’s, just wanting something warm but light, after a long two and a half hour concert in the church, a table was available, after a five minute set-up, in a still busy restaurant.   I was handed the standard menu, and saw with a shock that it has changed: individual prices have been removed, and the prices are listed as R220 for 2 courses, R268 for 3 courses, and R315 for 4 courses, which was not what I was looking for.  I asked about the winter special, but the Manager Carmen, Chef Reuben’s sister, looked at me as if I had lost it.  The Winter Special (3-courses for R150) is no longer available, she said. She then fetched the Street Smart special menu, which ran until the end of last week in honour of all the Street Smart restaurants collecting monies to help street children rebuild their lives, with a voluntary R5 donation at 57 participating restaurants, which offered four courses for R195.  This is also not what I had in mind.  I was then told by Carmen that locals are allowed to order individual items off the menu, at R65 per starter, R 120 for a main course, and R65 for a dessert.  Somehow the maths did not add up, in that a starter/dessert and main would only cost R185, instead of the quoted R220.  I also want my guest house guests to enjoy a meal without the pressure of having to order for a minimum of R220 per person, given the tight financial times.  As guest house owners we were not informed by Reuben’s that this had changed.

In the confusion of the two menus presented and the price issue, I chose the Street Smart option, and Carmen kindly allowed me to replace the oxtail main course with a steak.  It was the worst ever dining experience at Reuben’s Franschhoek (our previous dinner on 24 April coming a close second, with the fireplace not lit on a chilly night, two wines on the list being out of stock, no vintages specified for the wines by the glass, the lunch menu still on the blackboard at dinner, very expensive wine by the glass, messy pouring of the wine, kingklip served for the ‘tuna pickle’ and blamed on a typing error, no cheese on the French Onion soup, and very slow service in a long wait for the main course).

Reuben’s brother Jevon was the waiter, and brought two slices of dry-looking wholewheat bread, the nice bread tray with a choice of breads baked by Chef Reuben’s mother clearly no longer being offered.  Jevon ‘wipped’ when I asked him to remove the bottled water he brought to the table without checking with me.  I only drink fresh Franschhoek water!  After bringing a jug of water, and pouring a glassful, he did not top it up again.  Chef Reuben was not on duty, and it was Chef William Carolissen doing the honours in the kitchen.

The only Shiraz by the glass available was a Reuben’s house wine made by Goose wines, at R45, which I declined.  It surprised me that Reuben is not Proudly-Franschhoek in his choice of branded wine. The ‘pre-starter’ was a French Onion soup, with epoise toast and gruyere, nothing special at all.   Of the four courses, I enjoyed the Warm duck salad the most, a rather busy collection of shredded duck, toasted cashews, avocado slivers, papaya, orange, sprouts, radishes, cucumber, served with a cinnamon soya dressing and miso honey.  Listing the ingredients, only two or three items of each, seemed an overpromise, and perhaps more of fewer ingredients would have been better.  The biggest disappointment was the grilled Chalmar beef sirloin, served with what was called ‘glazed vegetables’, but were steamed mange tout and green beans, ‘swimming’ in a port and mushroom ‘jus’!  In a separate bowl came the worst ever chips, thick cut, over-dosed with salt and pepper, and raw inside.  I asked Carmen if it is customary to bring chips, as the menu did not state it, and she said it was.  I suggested that she check with clients about the choice of starch, as I am not a chip eater and would have preferred something healthier and saltless.  She ‘wipped’ and did not respond to my feedback, nor to my returned bowl of chips!  The steak was more medium than the ordered medium-rare, and the very heavily salted and liquid ‘jus’ spoilt it completely.   Things looked up with the attractive dessert, being Apple tarte tatin (delicious), apple panna cotta (nice green colour but bland and tasteless), and a most odd-tasting green vanilla Calvados sorbet, the description sounding better than the actual dessert.

Wishing to understand why Reuben’s had changed the menu to a non-price one (not seen in seven years), and how I could still bring my guests to the restaurant with responsible pricing, I spoke to Carmen once more.  She showed her irritation, stating that no one else had complained about it (neither had I – I was just trying to understand it), and that if guest house guests arrived, they would offer them the local price choice as well.  What she did not know was that the Pohl family of four staying with us over the same weekend had reserved a table directly on the same evening, on our recommendation.  They were not offered any special pricing on the a la carte menu, nor the Street Smart menu.  Carmen became more and more defensive about the menu, and said that I should question Reuben about it, as he had designed it.  She could not explain the rationale for such an expensive winter menu, but she did tell me that individual prices will be added to the menu in summer again, which confused me even further! I was struggling to pick up 3G for Twitter inside the restaurant, and when checking this with Martell Smith, the Deli Manager who doubles up as a hostess in the restaurant at night, she assured me that the internet was switched on.  When I stepped outside, the internet worked perfectly, as it did when I returned inside the restaurant.  Martell seemed to ‘wip’ about this.  Martell had come to the table to check on my satisfaction with the steak (no other course was checked), and it was so bad that I just shook my head, not wanting to have anyone else ‘wipping’ around me if I were to express what I was feeling!

Reuben’s brother Jevon had worked for us a good six years ago, and had run off in a huff and a puff without giving notice when he was reprimanded for making a costly error.  He has never served me at Reuben’s previously.   He did not speak a word to me, just being a ‘fetcher and carrier’, except at the end, when he demanded that I sign the credit card slip.  When I questioned his lack of communication, he walked off while I was speaking to him, throwing a ‘wip’ with his colleague.  When he walked past my table, I asked him why he had walked away, and I received a rude torrent of abuse from him, which was completely uncalled for. I told Carmen about Jevon’s rudeness, and she then lashed out at me, saying that I should speak to Reuben, as Martell had called Reuben, complaining to him about our interaction about the internet, and then she walked off while I was speaking to her!

The menu has shrunk in size to A4, with many more menu items that on the previous A3 menu we had.  I was surprised to see advertising on the menu for Reuben’s recycled ‘stemware’, as well as for Moniki chocolates from Tulbagh, when Franschhoek has the excellent Cafe Le Chocolatier and Huguenot Fine Chocolates!  The menu no longer lists the who’s who of the kitchen.   The menu is changed daily, Carmen told me.  On the evening that I was there, the soup choices were French Onion, mushroom, and rich cauliflower.  Eleven starters included the signature squid, blue cheese and onion tart, salmon sashimi, chicken liver parfait, mussels, oysters, and a butternut salad.  There were 10 main courses, including chicken and prawn curry, pork belly, sole, gnocchi, oxtail, springbok steak, calf’s liver (always been my favourite), and beef tartar.  Ten dessert options included lime creme brûlee, Valrhona chocolate pave, carrot cake pudding, poached pears, and a cheese platter.   Sides of vegetables can be ordered at R35.

For the seven years of daily business sent to Reuben’s in the summer months, with regular problems tolerated over the years in making bookings with Reuben’s staff telephonically, the last dinner was a sad one, as it appears that Reuben’s staff feel that they can lash out at customers.  The service standard is inconsistent, as I have had nothing but excellent service from another Manager Raymond, and from Jessica, a long-standing waitress.  It is sad that Chef Reuben’s family members should have been the rudest of all the staff on Saturday, and disappointing was his nepotistic “my staff are perfect” response to an e-mail I sent after the dinner, informing him that I no longer felt comfortable in sending guests to the restaurant after the rudeness I had experienced.  There was no apology nor thanks for all the business that we had sent there over the years, nor acknowledgement of our almost evangelical promotion of what was a favourite restaurant for a long time.

It would appear that Reuben realises that he has grown too big, and he has bought a building up the road from Place Vendome, to which he will move his restaurant in November, being a smaller sized 50-seater, with space for an extra venue at which he can do cooking demonstrations, to keep business going in winter, and ensuring a big saving in rent, he told me at the Mandela birthday meal media conference at the Drakenstein Prison a few weeks ago.  His Manager Raymond told me that both Franschhoek restaurants will run concurrently until the lease of the current restaurant expires, meaning that Reuben will have four restaurants for at least another year, which can only mean further service problems. Talk about Reuben trying to get out of his contract at the One&Only Cape Town continues to circulate in Franschhoek, despite his denial, but then he blatantly denied that he was opening at the One&Only Cape Town a year ago!

Reuben’s Franschhoek is not worthy of an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant nomination any more.  If one dares to pass on any feedback to the staff, one might be reported to ‘headmaster’ Chef Reuben, and be abused by the staff!  Reuben has lost the passion for his business, and the Franschhoek restaurant needs a professional full-time Manager who can go beyond the Groendal-syndrome.  Reuben has to be at the One&Only Cape Town restaurant three times a week, appears in Robertson’s spice advertising, does cooking demo’s, and increasingly appears to be ‘commercialising’ himself, losing touch with what is going on in his restaurants as a result!  The current pricing policy is cheeky, and communicates that Reuben’s does not seek the support of locals.  We wish Reuben well in balancing all his balls!

POSTSCRIPT 8/8:  We are delighted to hear from our guests who went to Reuben’s on Saturday evening that the 2-, 3-, and 4-course price option has been dropped, and that each item on the menu is back to being individually priced!  They found the food excellent, especially the bean soup, but were disppointed that the waitress had no knowledge about the wines on the board at all.

POSTSCRIPT 7/9: We have heard that the sale of the building that Reuben’s was buying in Franschhoek fell through.  They may be considering another option close by.

Reuben’s Franschhoek, 19 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. Tel (0-21) 876-3772.  www.reubens.co.za (The website contains an Image Gallery, but one must click onto thumbnails to view them.  The menu is an out of date one for 11 August of last year.  A Winter 2011 Special menu, looking very similar to the Street Smart one, is listed!).  Monday – Sunday Lunch and Dinner.

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