Tag Archives: origin

Bunte magazine: Boerewors highlight of Cape Town’s culinary offering!

Bunter Cape Town das-mussen-sie-gesehen-haben_256410_960x644If it depends on Bunte magazine, Germany’s largest selling lifestyle magazine, the Boerewors dishes sold at Gourmet Boerie are a memorable part of a visit to Cape Town!

Guiding visitors to Cape Town, last week’s article about our city is the last substantial one since the 2010 World Cup, when Cape Town was featured in Bunte regularly.  Cape Town has fallen off Bunte‘s travel radar,  despite Germany now being the largest source country for tourists to Cape Town.

Table Mountain, Camps Bay, and Robben Island are described as the tourist classics of Cape Town.  The article advises visitors to see the city from the top of the mountain, so that one can admire the view of the city centre, the other mountains, and the ocean.  Views from Lion’s Head and Chapman’s Peak are also praised, as is what is described as one of the longest coastal roads along the Atlantic Seaboard travelling south.

A number of ‘culinary delights‘ are recommended for eating and drinking. Good coffee is recommended at Origin, roasting its own coffees, and is said in the article to be in ‘Cape Quarters’, but obviously meaning De Waterkant!  Belthazar is recommended for Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Flatteur Café in Sea Point worth flattery… or is it?!

The space that once was Gesellig on Sea Point’s Regent Road had been standing unused for a couple of months.  Now it is the home of Flatteur Café, a ‘specialty coffee shop’, according to its co-owner John du Preez, and is worthy of its name, meaning flattery in French, or so I thought on my first visit.  Unfortunately the second visit a few days later was disappointing.

John told me that they do not want to become a restaurant but that they want to focus on being a good coffee shop. They use Origin coffee and its Nigiro teas, and I enjoyed a perfectly made dry cappuccino (R20), even though they only have ‘Flat White‘ on their coffee list, yet they were happy to oblige.  The menu is short and sweet, and will change every two to three weeks. They offer a number of different coffee styles, two or three cakes daily, baked by John’s Polish partner Rafal Glenc, as well as muffins (R12), scones with jam and cream (two for R20), Danish custard slices, and a range of unusual sounding biscuits, including ginger, coconut and sultans, butternut, as well as muesli rusks.

Breakfast is served all day, a choice of scrambled eggs served with salmon and rye bread, a steal at R45, or served with mushrooms (R35); muesli, honey and yoghurt (R25); and French Toast served savory with Brie and tomato jam, or sweet, with fresh fruit and mascarpone.  On Friday I enjoyed the corn fritters with bacon and cherry tomatoes (R45).  Sandwiches are available too, on a choice of rye bread, ciabatta, and toasted croissant and cost between R45 – R55, including steak and parmesan, poached chicken breast marinated with red peppers and tapenade, and mushroom served with salsa verde and Dijon mustard.  Salads cost R45, and are a grilled Caprese, Lentil salad, and a warm winter salad with roast vegetables and couscous. A Special of the day on both days was a Feta, tomato and rocket omelette (R35).  Chef Catherine is friendly, having moved to the city after selling her Bamboo Beach restaurant in Sandbaai, outside Hermanus.  All the staff smiled, and were welcoming on the first visit.

John and Rafal lived in London for twenty years. It was John who wanted to return to his home country (he grew up in Mossel Bay), and they chose Sea Point to set up their new business, not ever having run such a business before. Rafal is a passionate baker, baking the French chocolate cake (R30), Lemon Meringue (R28), and Cappucino Cake (R40), the latter being so popular that it is sold out on most days.  They did not know predecessor Gesellig, and have smartened up the interior, with a reed ceiling, finished off the deck onto the Church Street pavement, added new wood dominant furniture on the upper level, used ‘blikborde’ decoratively on one of the walls, used wood cladding on the kitchen counter, and created a new cake and coffee counter. A large poster gives a French feel, as does the French café music.  Each table has a ‘blikbeker’ holding the sugar sticks, to continue the theme. Cutlery is by Fortis.  Books are displayed on the steps of the spiral staircase.

Flatteur Café is a friendly homely coffee shop serving excellent food at very reasonable prices.  I wrote all the above (other than the menu details) after my first visit.  When I went back on Friday it was as if the personality of Flatteur Café had changed completely. From friendly and welcoming on my first visit it was as if they did not care, with no menu brought to the table, nor order taken.  The friendly chef also wasn’t on duty, and I was horrified to see her assistant spraying a pan with what seemed half a canful of Spray & Cook. John seemed completely disinterested, working on his laptop, not checking on his two tables with customers, while the barista/waiter had his back to the coffee shop and was sharing photographs on his phone with the assistant cook, and ignoring his customers too.  I had asked John for the menu to be e-mailed, to save me writing it all down, but it never arrived, despite a follow up call.  A lovely fellow guest Jadee, who follows the Restaurant Specials on our blog, was on her first visit on Friday, but had arrived earlier. She fed back that a strange atmosphere was tangible whilst the chef had been there earlier in the morning.  It is disconcerting that Flatteur Café could have such a personality change in its first two weeks of operation.

Flatteur Café has fantastic potential, especially in Sea Point, which is short of quality restaurants and coffee shops.  One hopes that John will come out of his shell, and connect with his customers more, to make them feel welcome when they support his establishment.  Rafal and Chef Catherine add value with their special food, and the interior is attractive. Parking in the area is scarce.

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: I returned earlier this week for delicious scones, and was delighted to meet the other partner Rafal, charming, friendly, and attentive. Sadly, John ignored me completely, appearing hurt by our review above.  John and Rafal are now running their own kitchen, having let the kitchen staff go.

Flatteur Café, corner Regent and Church Street, Sea Point, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 439-3174. www.flatteur.co.za Facebook. Monday – Friday 7h30 – 18h00  Saturday and Sunday 8h30 – 18h00.  50 megabyte free wifi per visit.

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

V&A Market on the Wharf opens at the V&A Waterfront!

The long awaited V&A Market on the Wharf has opened in the historic building near the V&A Hotel in the V&A Waterfront, which once housed Planet Hollywood, David Kramer’s Theatre, and Musica, with more than fifty vendors displaying their food and beverage offerings. It is Cape Town’s first permanent market, operating from Wednesdays to Sundays, from 9h30 – 19h30.

Owned by Greg Anderson, or ‘Bubbles’ as Vaughn Johnson informed me, who took over the management of the Market when the previous operators pulled out, the Market offers a kosher deli, fresh seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables, baked ware and delicacies.  Greg impressed with his passion, and kindly offered me a V&A Market on the Wharf branded shopping bag, to ‘hide’ my Woolworths bag!  Greg is proud of the large number of new business owners that have joined as vendors, very few having been seen at any other markets in Cape Town.  V&A Waterfront tenants Vaughn Johnson and Ian Halfon had come to have a look, and we had coffee and tea together.

A last-minute building regulation hitch saw the opening of the Market delayed by two days to last Friday. The space is large, one main hall with an upstairs section housing the craft beer bar and seating for Continue reading →

Deluxe Coffeeworks expands, one of leading restaurant coffee brands!

Listening to Carl Wessel, co-owner of Deluxe Coffeeworks, it sounds as if their successful coffee roasting business has just evolved over time, with little business planning and marketing, its satisfied loyal customers doing the word of mouth marketing and being repeat buyers.  Deluxe Coffeeworks, known for its tiny outlets in Church Street in Cape Town and next to Reubens in Franschhoek, has opened its new roastery in The Yard in Gardens, in a building which will also house its head office.

It was difficult finding the new Deluxe Coffeeworks outlet, being on Roodehek Street (and not Roodehoek Terrace, where the German Club is), which connects Buitenkant and Hope Streets.  As no signage nor street number (6) is visible, one assumes that an opening down an alley must be it. Parking is almost non-existent in the street, and one should park on Buitenkant Street.  One walks through the alley, without signage guiding one, to enter the spacious Deluxe Coffeeworks with its massive coffee bar counter, made from a solid piece of bluegum, and matching wooden bar chairs, putting an alien tree to good use, Carl said.  Olaf Nel was the architect and interior designer.

Against the wall is the trademark piece of ‘art’, which is a ‘deconstructed’ motorcycle.  There are motorcycles standing around inside the warehouse-style building, appearing to be a passion shared by most of the staff. In Franschoek the space is tiny, and they have a ‘deconstructed’ bicycle on the wall, while in the Church Street branch it is a ‘deconstructed’ Vespa.  Carl and his colleagues serve clients, and he was more than willing to serve a frothy cappuccino, even though I was under the impression that this was not encouraged (it is Truth and Origin that are strict about serving a cappuccino as a flat white).  Carl told me that he had got tired of his job in the film business, and his partner Judd Francis, a New Zealander who had been involved in the coffee business while he lived there and who joined Origin when he came to Cape Town, got together, and started Deluxe Coffeeworks in Church Street.   After being quiet for 18 months (there was no marketing that one was aware of, and they are not visible on Social Media either), their business suddenly took off, with more and more restaurants serving their coffee, and more customers coming into their coffee shop, to taste their unbelievably low priced coffee – they charged R10 a cup for the first year, and now charge R12, by far the cheapest cup of quality coffee in Cape Town.

I asked about serving food, and Carl laughed, saying that his gentleman’s agreement with Judd in running their business partnership had one rule only – no food! However, on a Friday they pick up 20 croissants from Jason’s on Bree Street, and the first twenty customers get them for free.  The alley has tables and chairs, and a central food preparation area, which started off as the Dog’s Bollocks, serving only 50 hamburger portions per evening, said to be the best hamburgers in Cape Town. Nigel Wood, the owner of the whole building, of which Deluxe is using more than half of the space, has attracted two new day-time food businesses, serving ‘deconstructed’ breakfasts, in that one pays for each individual ingredient (R7 per egg, R12 for bacon, R8 for sausage and for baked beans), which is served on a ‘hubcap’ (flatbread, costing R10). From 12h00 one can order sandwiches, being a selection of world-famous mainly American-style sandwiches, it was explained (I had not heard of any of them before, but then I have not been to the USA in years). Costing R45 each, one can order Geno’s Philly Cheese Steak (from Philadelphia), or Lo Priore Bro’s Meatball Hero (from New York) sandwiches, for example. Soup costs R25 with vegetables and R30 with meat. Gilbert Plumbers is in the front of the building, and may vacate sometime, which will make more space available for related businesses.

A brightly painted coffee roaster, twice as big as the one in the Church Street branch, stands in a corner, and bags of green coffee beans lie on the floor.  The beans have been sourced from Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Burundi, and Nicaragua via a local importer up to now, but it appears that they will source and import directly soon. They will soon offer a grinding service too.  It is the ‘optimum roasting’ of the beans, small quantities at a time to keep the coffee as fresh as possible, the creation of special blends, and the method of preparation that makes one coffee better than another, Carl said.  They prepare all coffees off a double espresso base, including cappuccino, flat white, Americano, Macchiato, Decaffeinated, Latte and Piccolo Latte (the last three cost R15). Restaurants serving Deluxe coffees include Jason’s, Power & Glory, Clarke’s, Red Sofa, Pulp Kitchen, La Mouette, La Boheme, Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, Fork, Superette, El Burro, Van Hunk’s, Café Mozart, Skinny Legs & All, Tokara, Café Paradiso, Maria’s, KOS, Don Pedro, Yours Truly, Pezula Resort in Knysna, Hola Café in Plettenberg Bay, and more.

I was the only female customer at Deluxe Coffeeworks, and it has a male persona with all the motorcycle ‘props’, yet I felt at home, and enjoyed chatting to Carl, getting information from him first-hand.  He says they are not good at technology, explaining their low key Social Media presence, and Carl almost seems surprised that they are doing so well.  They have a 20% share in the Franschhoek branch, which is co-owned by Steve Grey and Jo Sinfield.  They were invited to participate in setting up a coffee roastery in the foyer of two Lux* group hotels, one each in Mauritius and Maldives, which hotel group is managed by Paul Jones, who once worked for Sol Kerzner.  This has led to the likelihood of a next project with Harvey Nichols, which company wants to set up coffee shops in Kuwait, and then expand throughout the Middle East.  They also have a partnership with a similar business called Brew Coffeeworks in Istanbul, and the Deluxe staff is regularly flying to that city to work there for short stints.

The success of Deluxe Coffeeworks clearly is focus, doing what they do well and doing it with passion. Signage is due to come next month.  They plan to print a fun little paper, which will offer Soduko puzzles. Not only is the price excellent value, explaining its popularity, but its coffee tastes good too.

Deluxe Coffeeworks, The Yard, 6 Roodehek Street, off Buitenkant Street, Gardens.  Cell 0826815740. www.deluxecoffeeworks. co.za Twitter:@CarlWessel. Also in Franschhoek, and Church Street, Cape Town. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 14h00.  Twitter:@Yard_CT

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

Restaurant Review: Burrata is unique, not Italian, nor a pizzeria!

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

Starlings Café champion of home-grown and organic produce!

It was via Twitter that I first read about Starlings Café, which had opened more than four years ago, but only became well-known when they started Tweeting about six months ago, co-inciding with their new farmer-style market they host in their garden section on Wednesdays at 16h00 – 18h00.

Focusing on home-grown produce in the preparation of its food for the small menu, owner Trish Krutz offered her suppliers a small homely space in which they could display their organic and home-grown produce to the Starlings Café clients, a win-win situation for both the Café in attracting more business, and for the product suppliers, who are part of a market growing in popularity.  Trish said she likes to stay below the radar, ‘behind the hedge’, she said.  The Café prepares all its food, only buying croissants from Cassis.

One sees the Origin coffee branded umbrellas of Starlings Café only once one steps off the pavement on Belvedere Road, and the interior feels homely, consisting of two interleading rooms and an open-plan kitchen, and then leads onto the terrace outside, which is protected against the weather.  Tables and chairs are mix and match, and each table has a different colour and pattern tablecloth.  Walls are covered with sketches, paintings, and prints, giving it a very homely feeling, as if one is visiting a friend’s parents’ house, with vases of roses and rosemary on each table.  The Willow Creek ceramic extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar containers suit the country-style restaurant, even if it is in the city, with unbranded salt and pepper grinders.  Paper serviettes have a starling printed onto them.  The menu is simply printed on white board, with a starling on it too. Its introduction states: “We love supporting local suppliers and using the best quality home grown produce we can find”. This is visible as Trish was connecting with her suppliers after the worst market buying rush was over. I tried the mozzarella fior di latte (using Puglia’s mozzarella), tomato and basil pesto salad stack (R45), with amazing wholewheat bread baked by the Café.  It was a delicious combination, not needing butter or any of the condiments.  One can also order a tart of the day; Thai chicken curry; Portabellini mushrooms, roasted tomato and artichoke risotto; or a hamburger; ranging from R45 – R65. A choice of salads is offered, including chicken caesar, and roasted vegetables (R55 – R69).   Sandwiches with roast vegetable, feta and pesto; bacon, Dalewood brie and homemade tomato chilli jam; and chicken on rye with harissa and date dressing cost R50 – R59.   Trish was extremely friendly, but her staff less so.

On a lower level to the terrace are the tables set up for the market, with nine stands, protected against the heat by trees and more Origin umbrellas.  Matt Allison is a friend from the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, and his colourful table had vegetables on it that he had picked two hours previously.  He was selling parsley, butter lettuce, carrots, red onions, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, green peppers, green beans, and more. Interesting was the Boutique Garden Honey stand, at which honey from hives set up in Cape Town gardens is sold.  I was fascinated to see the difference in the colour of the honey coming from Newlands (dark brown, a sign of fynbos, I was told) compared to that from Claremont (being far more golden) gardens.  The garden honey costs R45, while their spingflower honey from the veld costs R25.  They also sell interesting sounding honey-flavoured soaps, e.g. Rose geranium, Marigold and lemon, Myrrh and frankencense.  Pets can be treated with wheat free low fat organic treats, for sale at the market.  Simply Wholesome supplies restaurants and homes with organic and free range produce on order, with delivery, and evolved from a greater focus by the owners on eating healthily.  One can buy salted and unsalted farm butter, eggs, ‘free run’ chicken and eggs, as well as Seville orange marmalade, fig preserve, sundried tomato mustard, and strawberry jam.  The House of Pasta has a restaurant and take-away service at the bottom end of Long Street, and the owner is Italian.  His charming wife explained all the pasta types to me, including gluten-free lasagne sheets and fusille, as well as tagliarini, and spinach and butternut pasta.  The Creamery was selling delicious strawberry and lemon curd ice cream flavours.  Richard Bosman’s charcuterie products were for sale, with a new smoked bacon.  Julie Carter from Ocean Jewels Fresh Fish had a table.    Afrikara Co-op is from Wolseley, and sells organic biodynamic natural yoghurt, cream, and feta cheese (labneh too usually, but not yesterday), as well as aubergines, and whatever fruit and vegetables they produce.

Attending the market yesterday allowed me to meet Karen Welter for the first time, who does the Tweeting for Starlings Café, and her late parents-in-law were friends of my parents many years ago. Karen is busy with a dissertation on ‘Sustainable Restaurants’ at the Sustainability Institute, which is part of the University of Stellenbosch.  She is focusing on key issues for restaurants in terms of how they can operate their businesses in a more sustainable manner in terms of their energy usage, communication, sourcing products, best practice, and collaboration with others.

It was a very special experience at Starling’s Café, with friendly collaboration amongst the market stallholders evident, and friends clearly meeting there regularly.  It felt like a mini-bazaar, for a special set of persons lucky to live close by to Starlings Café to allow them to visit regularly.   It has none of the crowdedness that one experiences at the Slow Food Market at Oude Libertas or at the Old Biscuit Mill.

Starlings Café, 94 Belvedere Road, Claremont.  Tel (021) 671-6875.  Facebook Twitter:@StarlingsCafe.  Monday – Friday 7h30 – 17h00, Saturday 8h00 – 16h00, Sunday 8h00 – 12h00.  Market on Wednesday 16h00 – 18h00

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

The Mussel Bar: ‘musseling’ in on Camps Bay’s Platinum Mile!

My colleague Charmaine and I were invited by The Bay Hotel’s Sarah Martin to try the newly opened Mussel Bar in Camps Bay on Friday, and we did so in the interest of being able to inform our Whale Cottage Camps Bay guests about it, even though we both do not eat mussels.  While the small menu is very focused on mussels, there is enough to enjoy if one does not eat them, and more non-mussel items will be added to the menu over time.

The Mussel Bar space has been a street bar over the years, and attempts to be a ‘tourism bureau’ too, but it does not have any official accreditation.  The Bay Hotel belongs to Maree Brink, who also owns the large network of Village & Life properties in Camps Bay, the V&A Waterfront, Mouille Point, and De Waterkant, and therefore The Mussel Bar is one way of attracting new business.  In its favour counts the bus stop directly across the road for the Hop On Hop Off bus, and therefore we saw mainly tourists sitting there.  Bicycles are available for rent, and the operators of the cycle rentals sit at a table, hoping for business.

A water wall adds to the summery feel of the restaurant, and there are white tables and grey plastic chairs. Each table has an interesting magazine, including TIME, art magazines, etc.  A surprise was the disposable cutlery with a paper serviette.  The music was the only aspect of The Mussel Bar that we did not like, being very loud and heavy rock, not matching the light summery feel of the restaurant.

Despite not eating mussels anymore, I liked the focus of the menu on mussels, and the simple but fun menu with a large mussel, printed in black on thick brown board.  Quite simply, one can order snacks (biltong, nuts, olives and vegetable chips), at R15 – R18, and 500 gram (R75) or 1 kg (R150) of mussels.  The mussels are served with a beer sauce, hand cut fries, rosemary salt and aioli, on beautiful circular wood platters. Chef Laetitia Essau has been at the Bay Hotel for eleven years, and bakes the most delicious herb bread daily, and this costs R16, the idea being to dip the bread into the sauce.  Not listed on the menu is a daily cake and other sweet treats, which were Hertzoggies jam-packed with apricot jam and coconut, still warm as they came fresh out of the oven.

Cocktails cost R40 – R50, and we enjoyed a ‘virgin’ Strawberry Daiquiri, making it feel that we were on holiday.  Castle Lite, Windhoek and Heineken are sold for around R18, Darling Slow Beer costs R38, and five &Union Beers cost R32 – R38.  Sterhuis sparkling wine costs R40/R170.  White wines range from R30/R95 for Lands End Sauvignon Blanc – R 40/R170 for Teddy Hall Chenin Blanc; the red wine choice is Sgt Pepper Red Blend (R33/R100) and Hidden Valley Pinotage (R35/R120).  Coffee is by Origin, and The Mussel Bar staff have been for barista training.

It is becoming trendy for chefs to become consultants (Chef Reuben Riffel is a past master at this), and Chef Bertus Basson, a friend of Brink, was a consultant to the development of the Mussel Bar.  Chef Brian Smit, who started at Tides Restaurant a month ago and helped set up the Noisy Oyster in Paternoster five years ago, came to say hello, and brought us sample menus of the restaurant, which he changes daily. The Manager Carolyn was very efficient, coming to the tables all the time, checking that all is well.  She has worked at numerous restaurants, including the Sand Bar and La Vie.

The Mussel Bar, Bay Hotel, 69 Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 438-4612. www.themusselbar.co.za Twitter: @MusselBar  Monday  – Sunday, 11h00 – 23h00

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

Crush! 6 is more ‘less is more’, design still inconsistent

I have written about Crush! 1, Crush! 2, Crush! 3 and Crush! 4 and 5, the food and wine digital magazine, and had not yet got around to reading  Crush! 6, when a follow-up e-mail arrived last week, requesting me to read it.  The publishers must be able to track who has read the latest issue, and who has not, in sending out reminder e-mails.  I was pleasantly surprised that great improvements have been made to the presentation of the content.  Overall, it is evident that the Crush! designers are starting to understand that ‘less is more’ design is more attractive and efficient in getting one to read what is presented.

The cover page is the best of the six issues, with a beautiful salmon dish photograph, and because the Crush! designers have finally learnt that one cannot place text on top of visuals, a fundamental design rule in making copy readable.  The salmon colour has inspired a strong orange masthead, making it striking and attractive, and making one want to read the content. 

Advertising support has shrunk to Old Mutual, with two ads, and Fairview, with a ‘talking’ ad.   Pack recognition on the ‘Essentials’ page is far improved, the brand names being far easier to read, with typed names alongside, and this also applies to the ‘Quaff Now’ page.  Yet it fails on the ‘High Five’ page, on which the labels are barely legible.  The child-like banner for the ‘Tomato and Veg pasta’ recipe below the ‘Essentials’ feature attracts attention away from the featured products on the same page, a ‘conflict of interest’.   The Fairview feature is introduced through an illustration, which appears to look similar to the design of its ad, but uses two light blue banners that are barely legible, and one of these is obscured by a goat.   It is not immediately clear that one must click onto each of the flags/banners, to get a full overview of Fairview.

I loved the page by Meeta K. Wolff, whose name I have seen on Twitter, but about whom there is no introduction.   The photograph of her ‘Carrot and Red Soup with a hint of cumin’ makes one want to eat the page!  I am happy that editor Michael Olivier has accepted our suggestion to use a selection of talented food bloggers locally and even from overseas (Wolff lives in Germany).   The Creative Pot blogger Marisa Hendriks also has a double page, previously that of Andy Fenner/JamieWhoSA?, the same irritating shaking flashes containing the links to her five stories on Vanilla Rose ‘Pana Cotta’, ChilliJammer, Mushroom and White Rock Flatbread, 5 Ways with Beets, and the Wild Peacock Food Emporium.

The ‘Breakfast with Brad at Bistro 1682’ is very stylish-looking, the most stylish article I have seen of all in the Crush! issues, and the restaurant deserves it.   The photography of the egg dishes is excellent.   Following this is the rather pedestrian and boring looking ‘Quick and Delicious’ Monday – Sunday recipe suggestions, a complete contrast to the style and quality of the two pages that had preceded this section.   The ‘Four ways with Salmon’, with food preparation and styling by Sophia Lindop, and photography by Russel Wasserfall, is excellent, the salmon colour used to its best photography advantage.  Luisa Farello is a clever food stylist too, and this is the third Crush! issue for which she has worked.  Her Formal Dinner page, with Weltevrede MCC, looks beautiful and good enough to eat.  Pick ‘n Pay has a ‘Green Zone’ page for the first time, and is intended to reflect its environmental conscience, including the SASSI code fish that they sell.

Five unknown food bloggers are ranked in a ‘Rate Your Recipe’ feature, and these differ per issue.  It is unfortunate that the writers are not introduced.   An oddly designed feature on the Robertson Small Hotel uses the block number system, and one has to click on a series of these to get a good overview of the featured product, many readers probably opting out before opening each block.  An interview with Boets Nel of De Krans also uses the block method, and I doubt if readers will open all 16 of these blocks.

The messiest and poorest page in the issue is that by David Cope, The Foodie blogger, whose rambling on about a Bachelor Party is boring and not easy to read on a dirty-looking red-and-white check background, with black and white photographs, an absolute no-no when writing about wine or food.  His story on the Coffee Revolution is far better in presentation, but again is so superficial in only featuring Truth and Origin, when there are so many exciting new coffee suppliers opening, including the Haas Coffee Collective, and is therefore not comprehensive.  Another messy page is the ‘Fine Print’ book review page – eight books fight for attention, and one does not comprehend any of them, as the page is too busy. The classified ‘Crushifieds’ page is much simpler and more readable.

Rudi Liebenberg, Executive Chef at the Mount Nelson Hotel, is featured, also in a classy design, but there is almost no photography of his food at Planet Restaurant, and too many black and white photographs of Rudi and his chefs.   The feature does not inspire one to eat at the Planet.  

‘Less is more’ is a good design principle, and fewer, rather than more, design bells and whistles will make Crush! close to perfect.  I am happy to see how the ‘bells and whistles’ have been reduced drastically over the six issues.   Now all Crush! needs is greater design consistency throughout the whole magazine – one could think that each feature has been designed by a different designer, not what the magazine needs!   

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

Restaurant Review: French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar also serves …. French Toast!

French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar opened about ten days ago, and is a homely cosy wine lounge that has been created in what was previously a warehouse in Bree Street.   It is the type of place that one would pop in to for a drink before or after a function, and have a bite to eat.  It has one of the largest collections of wines-by-the-glass in Cape Town, with over 108 choices of local and international wines.   It is not cheap to eat and drink there, and portions are small, but it does offer a good selection of price options.

French Toast has a heavyweight management.   Owner John Harrison was a stockbroker on the Paris Bourse, and told me that the French bug bit him there, hence the French feel through the name and the café style music that is played.  John was the CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company for many years, and built up its business and introduced the new cable cars during his management of the company.  He was a client of my then-PR company many moons ago.   He spoke passionately about his new project, and how they renovated the double story building in an unbelievable three months, being hands-on in the renovation.   Raw brick walls give it a warm feeling, blackboards communicate the wine and food specials, and windows have been built to add light upstairs. There is a bar counter upstairs and downstairs, and the downstairs one will probably be the more popular one in winter, with its massive fireplace.  The upstairs section is huge, with seating for at least 80-100 persons.  A small boardroom downstairs can host meetings and functions of up to 10 persons, Shane told us.   The decor is upmarket, but the food is not fine dining, with an emphasis on wines, explained Shane.   The cutlery is shiny and new, the glassware is good, but only paper serviettes are supplied.

Karen Visser is a partner in French Toast with John, was a bio-kineticist, and is a passionate golfer and winelover, studying at the Cape Wine Academy.   She compiled the winelist in the main, and has no previous restaurant experience.  GM of the new wine lounge is Gidi Caetano, who was the GM of Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, and also oversaw the opening of Salt Deli and Salt Vodka Bar until recently.   She also worked at The Showroom and was a hospitality trainer.   The Manager Shane has an interesting undefinable accent, having grown up in Hawaii, and lived in the UK before moving to South Africa.  He previously worked at the Protea Hotel Victoria Junction, the Devon Valley Hotel, and the 0932 Belgian restaurant in Green Point, which has since closed down.  Chef Jannie Mellis owned East London’s best restaurant, he says, the Two Dogs Bistro, and was at Bushmanskloof Lodge prior to that.  He said he came back to Cape Town “to get into the hub of food again”, a nice compliment for Cape Town. The staff are smartly dressed in black shirts and pants, a French Toast branded apron, and a turquoise tie.

We found it terribly chilly upstairs, but Shane assured me that the airconditioning was not on.  When we moved from table to table, to find the warmest spot, we discovered that a sliding door had been left wide open.  When it had been closed, all was fine.   The music was rather loud when we arrived, but seemed to have been turned down a little while we were there.  

The wines are closed with a wine preservation system Le Verre du Vin, being special rubber wine and sparkling wine bottle stoppers, allowing opened wines to be kept for up to three months.  I chose the same glass of wine I had a week ago, the Mullineux Shiraz 2008, at R83 for a 150ml glass.  The wine has the characteristic of an old-fashioned smoky shiraz, my favourite, but the very chilled serving, at 13°C, was too cold to my liking.  Four Cap Classiques are available, ranging from R44/R195 for Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel to R 81/R380 for Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc.   Seven champagnes can be ordered, Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc costing R135/R650, and the most pricey is Dom Perignon, sold by bottle only, at R3000.   They also stock Veuve Cliquot, Billecart Salmon Rose and Guy Charbaut.  Seven Sauvignon Blancs are stocked, that of La Motte costing R31/R130, and the Cape Point Vineyard Reserve is the most expensive, at R57/R260.   Seven Shiraz/Syrah wines are served, starting with Rickety Bridge at R35/R165, and Haskell Vineyards is the most expensive at R111/R530.   Imported wines from France, Italy and Germany are also available, and range from R33/R142 – R153/R740.   The branded winelist provides information about the vintage and origin of each wine, but has no descriptions of the wines or the varieties.

The menu, on a laminated sheet without any branding, is broken down into Snacks, Tapas, Charcuterie, Cheese Platters and Desserts, and has a Mediterranean feel to it.   Snacks include olives, almonds, chillies (R30 each) and oysters (R10 each).    The Tapas selection of 16 dishes range in price from R30 – R50, with empanadas, prawns, smoked salmon trout, caprese skewers and more.   The charcuterie platter allows one to select three of a choice of imported meats, including chorizo, parma ham, salami and jamon serano, for R50.  Similarly, one can choose three cheeses for R55, from a selection of six.  Breads come from Jardine Bakery, a few meters away, and sometimes from Knead.   Chef Jannie makes his own preserves and pasta.

There is not much attention paid to the presentation of the dishes, I felt, being functionally presented on white plates.   I had the calamari and lemon (R38), and asked Chef Jannie not to add the chilli.   My (student) son had the delicious herb and pecorini croquettes (R35), as well as the parma ham and mozzarella aroncini fried stuffed rice balls (R45), but was still starving after the two tapas dishes, and therefore ordered patatas bravas with a homemade spicy tomato sauce (R45), which he proclaimed to be excellent.  I had to have the French Toast, after which the restaurant is named, one of the three desserts on the menu (R40), two tiny baguette slices served with not-so-nice almond ice cream. The cappuccino (R16) made from Origin coffee was excellent.   The specials board advertised white anchovies, Pisto bruschetta, and cheddar and rice balls.   Chef Jannie said that from the feedback received to his dishes since opening, he will be amending his menu next week. 

In general the tapas portions are small, and therefore French Toast is not the place to have a meal, but rather a glass of wine with a tapas snack.  We paid R385 for five tapas dishes and two glasses of red wine. 

POSTSCRIPT 15/1:  I have returned to French Toast a few times since I wrote the review two months ago.  Every time I have been warmly received by the management team.   Today I returned for a late Saturday afternoon cappuccino, and was impressed with the new summer menu.   My eye caught the asparagus tapas, at R35, crispy and crunchy, simply served with lemon, the best asparagus I have tasted.   Then I saw a Seafood salad advertised on a Specials board, for R55, and had to have it, when the Manager Gidi explained that it contained steamed prawns and crayfish, with bisque aïoli, beautifully presented, which had been a criticism I had expressed previously.  I felt that Chef Jannie has progressed by leaps and bounds, not only in terms of his menu selection, food preparation, but also in terms of the food presentation.  On the wine side an innovate wine trio 50 ml flight is offered for Sauvignon Blanc (Delaire, Hillcrest and Reyneke Organic), at R40 for the three wines;  the Sparkling wine flight is Steenberg 1682, Teddy Hall,  and Sterhuis, at R65, or R100 if served with a trio of oysters; and the Shiraz flight is from Eagle’s Nest, Haskell Aeon, and La Motte Shiraz Viognier, costing R80.

French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, 199 Bree Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-3839. www.frenchtoastwine.com (website still under construction).  Twitter @FrenchToastWine. Monday – Saturday 12h00 – 23h00.  No BYO allowed, the winelist says.

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