Chef Mike has been at Myoga for eight years, having opened the restaurant after leaving Ginja, at which he worked with a number of younger chefs who have Continue reading →
Restaurant Openings Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to KwikSpar next to Ultra Liquors in Green Point, and its manager Marius de Beer. For a while I have received less than satisfactory service at this outlet, yet I have returned due to its convenient location and ease of parking. Unfortunately I tend to go there in the afternoons or evening, when Marius is not on duty (he does mornings). After a really bad incident, I called him and shared my experience, and told him that it is a recurring problem. Marius asked me to e-mail the details, and promised to speak to the duty manager concerned and to send him on a customer care course. When I next went to the store, the Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to Eso juice bar in the Cape Quarter, and its owner Ahmed for his service recovery. I had ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice, costing R30. I asked for a serviette, but was told by the two staff members that they had run out of them, and had been out of stock for a number of days. I felt that the owner should know, but the staff initially refused to provide his details. The more senior of the two staff ignored my questions, just walking away from me. The owner was Continue reading →
Gorry Bowes-Taylor has built up a loyal following of book lovers as well as book launch lunch lovers on behalf of Wordsworth. The launch of Tony Leon’s latest book, ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, which was released two weeks ago, was sold out at Myoga on Saturday, not only due to the witty smart speaker but also the excellent menu offered by Chef Mike Bassett for the event.
The book, Leon’s second (the first was ‘On the Contrary‘), tells the story of Leon’s retirement from DA (Democratic Alliance) opposition politics after twenty years, and taking up an appointment as ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, ‘jumping before I was pushed’ from his party, as good politicians should do, he said. The book launch made it clear that politicians have the gift of the gab, and Leon is no exception. He is an excellent salesman for his book, attracting one’s attention with a provocative question – e.g. how does the previous Leader of the DA promote an ANC government in South America – and then encourages one to buy the book without answering his question, so as to not do Wordsworth (and himself of course) out of revenue!
Leon names-drops a lot – he is a close friend of Joost van der Westhuizen, and Pieter-Dirk Uys’ Evita Bezuidenhout is quoted too: ‘As a fellow accidental ambassador, reading Tony Leon’s adventures in the land of the original Evita and the gauchos, reminded me there are reasons to be grateful we live in South Africa after all‘. Even ex-President Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying about Tony Leon: ‘Your contribution to democracy is enormous. You have far more support for all you have done than you might ever read about‘, high praise indeed!
Myoga is located in the Vineyard Hotel grounds, and there was a severe traffic jam in getting to park on the property, given a huge exodus of a church group with had used the conference hall, made worse by a hotel security person who could not cope with this nor speed things up. All 100 guest had pre-booked, and were seated according to a plan. The seat at the table that I was allocated to had two adjoining table legs where one’s own legs were meant to be, making it impossible to sit there. The manager Shameemah was most unhelpful, saying that she could do nothing at all, and that is how it is! Eventually she made a plan by offering a seat at a table with the most friendly ‘Wordsworthians’, who were delighted I had taken the last seat at the table, as it prevented someone else whom they had experienced at the previous lunch from sharing the table with them. One of the table companions is a regular blog reader, and she quoted reviews she had read on our blog. Ingrid Crowther and her mother were lovely guests too, and we shared notes about restaurant experiences.
Most of the guests at this table attend each of Bowes-Taylor’s Wordsworth book launch lunches, not necessarily because they like the author, will buy the book, or are avid readers, but because they get to experience new restaurants, meet nice people, eat good food, taste unknown wines, and are entertained by the authors talking about their new books, all at the cost of R250. The ‘Wordsworthians’ were more than delighted with the Tony Leon book launch lunch, as it ticked all the right boxes, despite some problems experienced in making the bookings! The disasterous Penny Vincenzi book launch lunch at Sevruga three years ago got the restaurant removed from the Bowes-Taylor list, while De Grendel restaurant appears to be one of the popular venues.
Chef Mike and his team put on a lunch of note, which was paired with the wines of the Hemel en Aarde Valley’s Domaine des Dieux. Shane Mullis introduced the wine estate, each guest having received a glass of Rose of Sharon MCC 2008 as a welcome drink, made of 75% Pinot Noir and 25 % Chardonnay, and which spent 42 months on the lees. The boutique wine estate name means ‘place of the gods‘, and is owned by Sharon Parnell. At 320 meters above sea level, the wine estate is one of the highest in the country. It is particularly known for its sparkling wines, the Claudia MCC 2007 being made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Other wines in the range are the Chardonnay 2010, and Josephine Pinot Noir 2010.
The ‘Tantalizer’ was a superb starter of pan fried prawns with the Myoga signature sweet chili, crowned with coriander infused cream, which was paired with the Domaine des Dieux Sauvignon Blanc 2009, with asparagus notes and ripe fruit aromas. The sauce was so delicious, that everyone at our table requested a spoon, to finish every last drop! ‘The Main Event‘ was a sous-vide beef fillet, which was served with crispy potatoes, pan fried mushrooms, smoked bordelaise jus, and finished off with a sun-dried tomato mousse. The main course was paired with an excellent Domaine des Dieux Syrah/Mourvédre 2010. A perfectly made dry cappuccino accompanied ‘The Crowning Glory’, a refreshing dessert of golden tart, which was filled with lemon custard on peach jus, complemented with a most unusual goat’s cheese ice cream.
Leon concluded that if one was not interested in reading his book for the South African or Argentinian politics, one could buy it for the handy tips of where to shop and what to see in Buenos Airies, which his wife Michal had written for the book. His time in South America showed him that Argentina is even more corrupt than South Africa. He said it was sad to see how Argentina, once the seventh largest economy, now has a smaller economy than that of South Africa. He says the country is very focused on its past rather than on its future, and mocked it for representing a ‘vote for a better yesterday‘! The decline of the country appears to have been triggered off by the death of ex-First Lady Eva Duarte Perron in 1952. Leon also told the story of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who would not set foot in the cathedral of Buenos Aires, as its Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had criticised her government. Yet she traveled to Rome to attend his investure as the new Pope Francis earlier this year! He referred to other famous Argentinians: soccer star Lionel Messi and new Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Leon took his post in 2009, and the forthcoming soccer World Cup in South Africa helped him to leverage off big events, including rugby. The book details what happens in an embassy, his budget of about R20 million employing 27 staff per year. Leon told a funny story about his lunch with ex-South African Nobel prize winner JM Coetzee, who had been painted as being a recluse. Coetzee was participating in a Literary Festival in Buenos Aires, and Leon mistakenly invited him to the city’s best steak restaurant, the writer being a strict vegetarian! Leon found him to be anything but reclusive. Leon said that one should live in another country to appreciate one’s own country!
As an ambassador, Leon spent a lot of time in restaurants, and at dinners and cocktail parties at other embassies, and at the homes of Argentian contacts he got to know in his three years. He raves about the typical Asado barbeque, and the steaks served in the ‘parillas’, their meat cuts differing to ours. His guests will have been served samoosas, bobotie, and malva pudding, he shares. Funny is his chapter in not being able to find any Big Macs in Buenos Aires, the world famous burger being the benchmark for the real value of country’s currencies as measured by The Economist, as it would have shown up Argentina’s high inflation rate (of about 25%). No mention is made by him of any South African wines or the role they may have played in enhancing trade and cultural relations between South Africa and Argentina! He did visit Mendoza, the Argentinian wine region, on a number of occasions, but does not reveal which Malbec wines appealed to him.
Leon is articulate as a speaker and as a writer too, and the book is easy to read and hard to put down. One senses that he must have bitten his tongue on numerous occasions about his host country and his home country in the three years of his ambassadorship, having ended his latest career a year early, not explaining clearly why he did not end the term of his post. He now is a consultant, writer, and speaker.
Tony Leon: ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, Picador Africa, 2013. www.tonyleon.com Twitter: @TonyLeonSA
Myoga, Vineyard Hotel, 60 Collinton Road, Newlands, Cape Town. Tel (021) 657-4543. www.myoga.co.za Twitter: @MyogaRestaurant
Domaine des Dieux, Hemel en Aarde valley, Hermanus. Tel (028) 313-2126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Haute Cabrière wine cellar and restaurant are an institution in Franschhoek, having opened sixteen years ago, with a location on the slopes of the Franschhoek Pass that has one of the best views of the village. Chef Matthew Gordon’s departure earlier this year allowed the Von Arnim family to take over the management of the restaurant, creating an opportunity for the restaurant interior to be redone, and for new chef Ryan Shell to be appointed, re-opening on 1 September.
The best part of the refurbishment is that the restaurant has received permission from the powers-that-be to serve guests outside, to capitalise on the beautiful view over the Franschhoek valley, which one does not see much of when sitting inside. Winetasting too can now be done outside at special tables and chairs, outside the next-door cellar, home to the Saturday morning 11h00 cellar tour which ends with the Sabrage highlight. Christiane von Armin, daughter-in-law of flamboyant legend owner Achim von Arnim, took on the restaurant project, and her first step was the furnishing. She has added the most comfortable white leather chairs, and two white couches with a coffee table with a vase of deep red roses are a friendly homely welcome as one enters through the massive glass doors. Achim is a painter too, and his works are hung in the restaurant and the wine cellar. New chandeliers have been added, the glass crystals having an almost identical shape to the chair backs. The winetasting room and restaurant are now visibly connected, in that a new window allows each side to see the other, and creates a display space for all the Haute Cabrière wines, best known for the Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines. Tables have white table cloths, and the abundance of white in the restaurant makes it look fresh. French-style café music plays in the background.
Having tried to eat at the restaurant on Thursday evening (they only open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday in September), I returned yesterday for lunch and arrived just as Achim’s wife Hildegard, son Tamo, Christiane, Jos Baker, and Ian and Lise Manley arrived, and I was privileged to be spontaneously invited by Christiane to join their table. The Manleys have been appointed to handle the publicity for Haute Cabrière. Jos Baker was the first shareholder of the wine estate, and was a good friend of ‘Omi’ Theodora von Arnim, Achim’s mother, and Tamo regaled us with stories about what sounded like a wonderful colourful character. Jos still judges the San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants, and is off to Europe shortly to do her judging. I got to know Jos as a member of Cape Town Slow Food, and she was the most creative planner of exciting events for the club. Sadly she is no longer involved.
Exciting is the young chef Ryan Shell, who will position the Haute Cabrière restaurant as one of Franschhoek’s best again. Chef Ryan left the Prue Leith Chef’s Academy as a lecturer, and has worked in Franschhoek before, with Chef Margot Janse at Le Quartier Français, with Chef Chris Erasmus (now at Pierneef à La Motte) when at Ginja, and with Mike Bassett at Myoga. He has also worked at the Michelin-starred Longueville Manor on the Isle of Jersey. His inspiration to cook came for his aunt, who encouraged him to go to chef’s school. Ryan says he is part of a team of eight making the cuisine magic happen, and that it is easy to do so in the beautiful cave-design building, to which guests come because they want to be there, making them easy to please. His menu will evolve, much like the wines in the cellar next door, he says, and he has made three changes to the menu in the past ten days already, ensuring that it remains fresh. Zelda Oelofse-Cornthwaite is the manager, and she has retained most of the previous Haute Cabriére restaurant staff, and has added Desiree, the previous manager of Bouillabaisse. Staff wear white shirts and black pants, with a strongly branded red Haute Cabriére apron. Their service is friendly and efficient.
The menu and wine list are presented in a black leather holder. The menu introduction refers to the changes that have taken place in the restaurant, but that it is still committed to established traditions and the ‘true marriage between food and wine, setting the scene for our food to dance with our wines for your enjoyment’. What was started by Chef Matthew Gordon has been carried on by Chef Ryan, in that almost all dishes, even the desserts, are available in full and half portions, allowing one to taste a larger number of dishes, and making eating at the restaurant cost-effective. Most of the Haute Cabrière wines are available by the glass too. The table setting has a glass of sparkling wine on each table, and probably would make one order a glass of bubbly as a start. We were offered a glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose. The menu has a wine pairing recommendation for each dish, and dishes containing nuts are marked.
Chef Ryan impressed by coming to the table, to introduce his amuse bouche of a trio of roast tomato soup, prawn beignet, and buffalo mozzarella, tomato and onion salad. His lovely freshly-baked bread was quickly finished. The starter choices are Malay curried butternut soup with a lime prawn mousse and coconut (R30/60), very yummy duck liver parfait (left) served on blueberry toast, and a celery and orange salad (R45/65), confit lamb terrine filled with apricot (R40/60), and pickled beetroot salad (R35/55). The six main courses offer a variety of choices, including meat, fish and vegetarian: braised pork belly is served with peach pommes puree, roasted porcini and a peanut froth (R60/R100), Beef Wellington (R76/R125), a beautiful light and healthy lasagna of Franschhoek salmon trout (right) with orange-buttered baby vegetables (R65/110), tomato and buffalo mozzarella tart (R50/90), crown roasted chicken breast with sweet corn couscous (R65/110), and porcini-crusted wildebeest loin served with a bitter chocolate jus (R75/145).
It is on the dessert side that Chef Ryan’s creativity really comes to the fore, in the elements the desserts are composed of. I chose lemon thyme panna cotta, for its unusual addition of butternut anglaise, and was served with a blueberry tuille and grilled vanilla chiffon (R40/55). Other options are bitter chocolate crème brûlee served with banana and rosemary beignets, mint syrup and sour cherry sorbet (R40/60); Pierre Jourdan poached pears served with molasses pudding and vanilla and rooibos ice cream (R30/55); and strawberry and champagne jelly served with spicy walnut ice cream (R40/60). Coffee is by LavAzza.
The Pierre Jourdan Cap Classiques Brut, Cuvée Belle Rose, Brut Savage, and Blanc de Blanc range in price from R32/R129 to R42/R169. The Cuvée Reserve is only available by the bottle, at R264. Pierre Jourdan is honoured in the brand name, having been the first owner of the Cabriére wine estate. Haute Cabriére Chardonnay/Pinot Noir 2010 (R27/109), Unwooded Pinot Noir 2011 (R30/119), Pinot Noir 2011 (R47/189); Pierre Jourdan Tranquille lower alcohol wine (R21/82); Pierre Jourdan Ratafia (R16/129) and Fine de Jourdan potstill brandy (R27/R219) are also offered, all at very reasonable prices.
Haute Cabriére Cellar Restaurant is an exciting reinvented rediscovery, and Chef Ryan is a breath of fresh air in this well-established restaurant. It offers a good variety of creatively prepared dishes as well as wines at affordable prices.
POSTSCRIPT 30/10: Lovely lunch at Haute Cabriere today, and well looked after by Desiree and her staff. Spoilt with glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose. Excellent tender fillet in Beef Wellington (starter portion), and interesting sour cherry sorbet, with cherry and cinnamon soup for dessert.
Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, Franschhoek Pass, Monday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner (in September, from October lunch and dinners daily). Tel (021) 876-3688. www.cabriere.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
My favourite lifestyle magazine is House and Leisure, and I have subscribed to it for years. In fact, it is the only magazine (I don’t classify Noseweek as a ‘magazine’ as such) that I subscribe to. Its new brand extension launched earlier this week is a great disappointment.
I had read the pre-publicity about the new House and Leisure Food, described by editor Naomi Larkin as an “inaugural collectors’ issue”, and was excited about the idea of the publication. I chased after the issue at Exclusive Book’s when it hit the street on Wednesday, having to have it, and being sure that subscribers would not be sent a copy. In fact, nowhere in the latest House and Leisure issue was there any reference to the new publication, which is silly in marketing terms, as current subscribers to House and Leisure should be the most obvious priority target market.
In her Editor’s Letter Larkin drools: “Whether you’re seduced by the mouthwatering food pictures or enchanted by the beautiful lifestyle images – designed to get you in the mood – there really is something for everyone”.
Oh my gosh, what a let down, when I paged through the magazine. Here’s why:
1. A big song and dance is made about the chefs that have ‘contributed’, and the names that are dropped are Chefs Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen, Bertus Basson of Overture, Richard Carstens of Tokara, Mike Bassett of Terroir, Clare and Fiona Ras of Sprigs in Durban, and Jackie Cameron of Hartford House, as well as cookery school owners Marlene van der Westhuizen, Andrea Bergener, Toni Scorgie and Susan Greig. The main contributors to the magazine are billed as Jules Mercer and Sarah Matsuhara, both names I have never heard of before. Yet, none of the names of the chefs or their photographs are to be seen on any page, except in the Editor’s Letter. The content of the magazine is purely a recipe book of 75 recipes, not one recipe attributed to any of these named chefs! I have tried to re-read and re-read the Editor’s Letter, and I can only assume that House and Leisure Food is a rehash of previously printed recipes from past issues of House and Leisure.
2. An even bigger flop is the ‘Connoisseurs’ picks of top South African wines to match”, as shouted on the front cover, and the editorial page proudly highlights the names of Wade Bales, Michael Brampfield-Duggan, Michael Olivier, Thato Goimane, David Cope and House and Leisure wine writer Leigh Robertson as “Wine Connoisseurs”! A “connoisseur” is defined “a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgement” or “a discerning judge of the best in any field”. Most of the ‘connoisseurs’ are not widely known, and some may argue that they may not all be ‘connoisseurs’ either! There is not one wine pack shot in the magazine, except in the few paid-for advertisements for Reyneke, Robertson Winery, Barista, and Krone. The wine recommendations are featured in the smallest possible type size underneath the title of each recipe! There is no description of each wine’s taste and flavour, no motivation for the match, nor is a vintage recommended. Only the initials of the “wine connoisseur” is indicated, and is most often those of Leigh Robertson!
3. But the biggest disappointment of all is the endless 130 pages of 75 recipes, interspersed with a handful of advertisements, the Paul Kovensky Restaurant Collection being the largest advertising supporter, advertising its Kove, Zenzero, Paranga and Pepenero restaurants. Not all food lovers cook, and many may have liked to see interviews with chefs, cooking hints and tips, chef profiles, and even restaurant reviews and profiles. The Indochine Restaurant page is a paid-for promotion, but would have made good editorial, in the way the chef Jonathan Heath is profiled and one of his dishes is featured, with an interior shot of the restaurant at Delaire Graff. In this regard the magazine fails badly.
4. The magazine is divided into four sections, and the recipes are spread over these. The categories are “Easy Living”, “Summer”, “Winter Warmth” and “Luxury”, not sounding a logical delineation, and the first and the last of these categories not clearly defining which types of recipes one might expect. The magazine index does list which recipe is in which section.
5. Even worse, is the most irritating “talking ad” for Cell C, as one turns the pages. The spokesperson Trevor Noah never gets to say more than “Welcome to the world of Cell C. The power is in your hands”.
Credit must be given for some excellent food styling and photography, and the photographers’ and stylists’ names that are mentioned are Russell Smith, Retha Erichsen, Julia Stadler, and Elsa Young. Some lifestyle photographs break the monotony of the recipe pages.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Col’cacchio is collaborating with six top chefs in raising funds for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. For every â€˜designer’ pizza sold, created by a different chef each month, R 5 goes to the Hospital fund.
Franschhoek chefs who are supporting this worthy cause are Reuben Riffel (in July) and Margot Janse from Le Quartier Francais (in August).
Other top chefs include Philippe Wagenfuhrer, chef patron of Top Ten restaurant Roots in Johannesburg; Mike Bassett, owner of Myogo, Ginja and Shoga restaurants in Cape Town; Citrum Khumalo (owner and chef at Asidle catering in Johannesburg); and Rudi Liebenberg (new executive chef at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town).
Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com