Entries tagged with “Mervyn Gers”.


Even if the Cambridge English dictionary definition of a ‘Café‘ as an inexpensive (‘a restaurant where simple and usually quite cheap meals are served‘) eatery is accepted, The Granary Café still does not deserve its ‘Café‘ name, as nothing about the contemporary classic dishes served in the sophisticated dining area is ‘simple‘. It is a showcase of Executive Chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert’s playful interpretation of her favorite classic dishes.

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Ten days ago, on its third day of operation, hotelier and writer Llewellyn Lambert, architect Jan de Wet, and I went to visit The Silo Hotel in the commercial side of the V & A Waterfront. We were blown away by the luxury  of the interior decor, the generosity of spaciousness, and the extreme friendliness of the staff, hallmarks of the operations of The Royal Portfolio. I returned nine days later, to have a second lunch at The Silo Rooftop. (more…)

Marble FireAfter a number of promised opening dates, delayed due to construction hiccups, Chef David Higgs finally opens his Marble restaurant in Rosebank in Johannesburg today. (more…)

imageWhereas Koekedoor Season 2 episode eight was focused on the ‘Manne’ in that baking with beer was its focus, episode ten on Thursday evening focused on women, and the milestone events for which they bake and enjoy cakes, such as baby showers, kitchen teas, and honeymoons. The four remaining contestants were lucky that none of them were eliminated in the episode. (more…)

Boschendal Werf Paintd tile mural Whale CottageIn December I visited Boschendal Farm, to try their new Deli, and had been fortunate to be shown around the revitalised wine estate by Events Manager Aldo du Plessis and Chef Christiaan Campbell.  The highlight of what was to come was the new The Werf Restaurant, to be established in the transformed building in which the Buffet used to be served. My expectations of the restaurant were therefore high, and the disappointment great after my lunch there ten days ago.

As it was the Franschhoek Literary Festival weekend, and I expected guests to check-in, I called ahead to make a reservation for an early 12h00 lunch. I was surprised that on a Wednesday morning the phone to the restaurant was not answered, and that one had to leave a message, the answering machine informing one that the restaurant is open from Wednesdays – Sundays.  I called back (more…)

Ryan's Kitchen exterior Whale CottageRyan’s Kitchen has re-opened in Franschhoek, in a space double its former size, in Place Vendôme at the entrance to the village.  The restaurant now focuses on ‘small plates’,  even though ‘small’ is a relative term!  Chef Ryan Smith has simplified his dishes, reducing the number of ingredients, and added more spice to those on his new menu, each dish introducing itself through its fragrance before one tastes it.

For the past four years the restaurant operated from what was the breakfast room of Rusthof Guest House higher up the main road, a tiny space that could serve no more than 30 guests at a stretch, and up to 400 plates in an evening. A major blow to the restaurant in July was the sale of the guest house to Mr Analjit Singh, and (more…)

Boschendal Farm Stall & Deli Whale CottageBoschendal has been below the radar for the past year, the only news having been that the estate was closed while it transformed itself into a wedding function venue.  It appears that the wine estate is not only catering for weddings, but has a number of exciting restaurant developments up its sleeve too, some completed and some more to come.  Having new Chef Christiaan Campbell on board, formerly of Delaire Graff, the estate is transforming itself into Boschendal Farm, with a focus on ethical and sustainable sourcing of ingredients and preparation of food.Boschendal Chef Christiaan Campbell Whale Cottage

I visited Boschendal Farm yesterday, and was astounded at the energy, and part transformation which has already taken place.  Gone are the ‘cobwebs’ and the old fuddy-duddy feel which one experienced in the Buffet restaurant and the Café.  It started with me parking my car and Events and Functions Manager Aldo du Plessis (previously with La Motte and Grande Provence) driving past,  stopping immediately, and inviting me on a guided tour, an offer which I could not refuse!

We drove to the new wedding and conference venue The Olive Press, which is in a section of the more than 2000 ha farm which one has not seen (more…)

Equus Interior Whale Cottage PortfolioI had eagerly awaited the opening of the Cavalli Estate on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West,  its majestic entrance having been completed about two years ago, and having heard a number of times that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar would be heading up the kitchen in the Equus restaurant.  Its Equus Tasting Room, Gallery, Boutique, and Restaurant opened a month ago, its 54 thoroughbred saddlebred horses, and olive and vine plantation make up the Cavalli Estate.  It must be the largest Winelands tourism offering in terms of size and facilities offered.

Horses dominate everything at Cavalli, the Italian name for the animal, and the racehorse stud was developed while the Equus centre was being built.  The stud is the main reason for the estate’s existence, and one passes the large stable building as one drives to Equus, with fynbos evident in the gardens landscaped by Keith Kirsten, who also did the Delaire Graff gardens.   I had been invited to be shown around by mother and daughter Gundel and Annette Sogor from Gordon’s Bay, who had been to the tasting room before, but had not yet eaten at Equus. Arriving separately, we each shared how unprofessional the welcome at the security entrance as well as at the parking had been, and Lauren Smith, owner’s daughter, architect, and Operations Manager of the estate, made quick work in having the problem addressed and the outsourced security men replaced.

The Equus building is vast, and consists of a massive art gallery, a boutique, (more…)

Eat Out magazine cover Whale Cottage PortfolioAfter two disastrous years, New Media Publishing was brave enough to take stock earlier this year, and asked the industry what it wanted in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards.  Last night that hard work paid off, with a new venue for the event, a slick and short presentation, new Awards introduced, and three new restaurants making the Top 10 Restaurant list.  The surprise was the emotion which the chefs expressed when receiving their plaques, challenging MasterChef SA Season 2 on tears!

We were one of the interviewees, meeting with Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, its GM Aileen Lamb, MD Bridget McCarney, and Director Irna van Zyl.  We were forthright in our feedback and suggestions, including that a team of judges would be needed again (we suggested Garth Stroebel, and have yet to meet him!). We fed back that the preferential relationship with Luke Dale-Roberts in TASTE magazine (also published by New Media Publishing, and of which Abigail is the Food Editor) was unfair towards all other chefs, by featuring him every month – we were told that Woolworths had a contract with him, and therefore he received the coverage in the magazine.  This contract was terminated earlier this year, which is excellent news.  Other recommendations can be read here.  Flowing from the interviews and discussions with previous Top 20 chefs and restaurant managers, owners, and suppliers, as well as media representatives and bloggers, New Media Publishing allowed restaurants to apply to be included in the Eat Out Top 500 Restaurant List, which was selected by a (more…)

De Grendel wine estate must have the most beautiful view of all wine estates in the Western Cape, with its idyllic setting looking over Table Bay and onto Table Mountain.  Now the wine estate owned by Sir David Graaff has opened De Grendel Restaurant in its winetasting centre, not only offering a magnificent view, but also beautiful food.

I was invited by De Grendel’s Public Relations consultant Errieda du Toit to share lunch with her a week after De Grendel Restaurant opened.  I had only been to the wine estate once before, more than a year ago, with the Gastronauts, when catering had been brought in from outside.  The room was transformed in collaboration with the Graaff family, blue brought into the table legs, into the upholstery fabric of some the chairs, as well as into the magnificent underplates made by ceramist Mervyn Gers (once the head of Radio Kontrei, the predecessor of Kfm).  The underplates have the Graff family crest, showing a Paschal lamb, five stars representing the Southern Cross, flanked by the Boer farmer on the one side and a miner on the other, with three spades and armour.  The blue pattern on the rim of the plate is repeated in bowls on the tables, and matches the Delftware in the armoire in the restaurant. Matching the underplates in quality is the most stylish, classic but modern, cutlery by Robert Welch, used in Michelin-starred restaurants, we were told by restaurant owner Jonathan Davies, which he was surprised that @Home has the agency for in South Africa.  The Graaff family was awarded the baronetcy in 1911 for service rendered to the Crown in South Africa.  The first Sir David had introduced the commercial cold storage and transportation of meat in South Africa, was the Mayor of Cape Town, introducing electricity to the city, helped set up the dry dock in the Cape Town harbour, and was involved in the building of the Table Mountain cableway.  One wall has a collection of Graaff family photographs, including his son and politician Sir De Villiers Graaff dancing with the then Princess Elizabeth, now the Queen of England, on her Royal visit to Cape Town in 1947. The far end of the dining room has a glass window which allows one to look into the wine cellar, while the kitchen is visible behind a glass window on the opposite end.  The ambiance created is to make one feel as if one is dining with the Graaff family.

The involvement of Jonathan Davies raises the cuisine bar for Cape Town, given that he owns the The Crown at Whitebrook, voted the best restaurant in Wales and one of the Top 50 restaurants in the UK, and has been awarded three AA rosettes, and one Michelin star for a number of years.  He has worked at Ellerman House, and at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, and has been coming to South Africa for seven years, having married his Pretorian wife. He met the Graaff family via a Bishops function where the respective children and grandchildren are in the same class.  The deal was struck when Sir David came to have a meal at the Welsh restaurant.  Jonathan has training in both front of house and as a chef, but has decided to concentrate on the former, and has brought in Chef Ian Bergh, previously of Pure at the Hout Bay Manor, Five Flies, and La Colombe.   This exciting team has created a wonderful menu of creative dishes, and one senses that they had fun in coming up with new dishes never seen before on a local menu.  A classic was Jonathan telling us about his Brandy and Coke ice cream he is working on, having observed how popular this drink is in South Africa, and a guinea fowl burger is planned.  Jonathan says he will offer ‘fine dining’, his definition of it being that it is ‘food prepared well and with passion’.  They are also bringing the De Grendel wines into the cuisine, and are using the wines to make chocolate truffles, a weakness of Sir David, I was told.  

Chef Ian brought out four dishes to give us a taste of his menu, and Jonathan brought glasses of De Grendel wines paired with each dish.  We sat in the ‘Conservatory’, a smaller room alongside the main restaurant, overlooking a large dam, and the green fields of the farm, on which Arab horses are kept for an equine remedial therapy programme, helping children with impediments, and in which geese, goats, Nguni cattle, and sheep can be seen too, against the landmark backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain.  Grain and grapes are farmed at De Grendel.

The meal started with a slice of roast potato bread, served with home-made butter in a ceramic dish made by another top Cape Town ceramicist Lisa Firer, who also made the salt and pepper pots. The salad of fig, Buffalo Ridge mozzarella, cherry tomato and a raspberry dressing was a fresh starter, and a beautiful medley of leaves, which Jonathan paired with the 2011 De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc, the cool breeze off the sea being ideal for growing this grape variety.  The Winifred blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Semillon was paired with a pea ravioli, free range chicken, Gorgonzola spuma, and a creamy De Grendel Chardonnay sauce.  The starters range in price from R75 – R130, and other options include scallop, cob, duck liver, and squid.

The pork belly main course was superb, served with apple puree, roasted as well as pickled baby beetroot, and a sage and De Grendel Winifred jus, which Jonathan paired with the De Grendel Pinot Noir.  Other main courses are Beef onglet (a French beef cut), venison, lamb, veal, and line fish, ranging from R135 – R155, and guinea fowl with foie gras (R240).  The piece de resistance, that impressed with its beauty, creaminess, and simplicity, was the dessert, a basil panna cotta served with pomegranate (a special sweet taste, with a popping sound when one bites the kernels, and a beautiful deep red colour), served with strawberry and basil sprout. Given that Jonathan had told us about his Brandy and Coke dessert, a portion of it was made, which Errieda and I shared, being a malva pudding served with an apricot samoosa, a ball of Coca Cola ice cream, and a Brandy sauce.

For dinner a 6 – 8 course tasting menu is offered. The restaurant is child-friendly, and has sourced a children’s range of cutlery.  Children under 3 years do not pay. Child-friendly dishes can be made, or children can order smaller portions of their parents’ dishes. High-chairs will be available for children.  A range of children’s activities is planned, mainly to educate the children about vegetable growing and harvesting.  They will even be able to plant their own vegetables, and would be encouraged to return to see them grow.

I didn’t look at the winelist, but Jonathan told me that the wines are sold at cellar prices, a most commendable pricing strategy!  Errieda told me that the Graaffs started wine farming twelve years ago, making good wines at affordable prices. The farm is 350 meters above sea level and 7 km from the sea. Charles Hopkins is the Cellar master and Elzette du Preez the winemaker.  The De Grendel wine range includes MCC, Rubaiyat, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sir David has had a wine made in honour of his wife Lady Sally, called the Winifred, her second name.   They have recently launched a Sauvignon Blanc-based Noble Late Harvest. Bottled triple carbon filtered water comes from the farm, and the glass bottles are re-used. Sundays sees traditional lunch fare, and Jonathan will carve a roast or chicken for a family at the table.  The Crown at Whitebrook Chef James Sommerin, who was featured in the BBC’s ‘Great British Menu’ series, will do guest visits to De Grendel Restaurant, and will showcase some of his menu items.

De Grendel Restaurant is an exciting new addition to the Cape Town gourmet collection, combining a feeling of history and tradition on the wine estate, with the modernity and creativity of the cuisine offered in its restaurant.  I will definitely be returning.

De Grendel Restaurant, De Grendel wine estate, M14, Plattekloof Road, Plattekloof.  Tel (021) 558-6280. www.degrendel.co.za Twitter:@DeGrendelWines. Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.

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