The new restaurant with a mouthful of a name to open at Constantia Fabrics, Ellen Jay Purveyors of Fine Food, Baked Goods, Pickles & Preserves, is a new Eatery operated by seasoned restaurateurs Len Straw and Johan de Villiers, operating within Constantia Fabrics. It adds a new touch of class to food offerings in the Constantia area, which I visited for the first time on Saturday 8 December. Continue reading →
The latest coffee shop/deli to open in Franschhoek is the Franschhoek Food Emporium, which opened in Place Vendôme at the entrance to Franschhoek in January. It offers a sit-down menu service, as well as a deli, with a counter of delicious treats, as well as shelves with home-made preserves, cordials, pies and many other treats.
The Franschhoek Food Emporium is managed by Danielle Rittel, the daughter of Topsi Venter, the esteemed chef who worked at Roggeland Country House for many years, before she opened Topsi’s in Franschhoek, running it until late last year, when Café des Arts took over the restaurant and changed its name. The connection to Topsi is not spontaneously mentioned by Danielle, Continue reading →
I have driven past Proviant Kaapse Tafel & Spens on Paarl’s Main Road many times, but never noticed the restaurant. I went to try out the restaurant this week for two reasons: I had read somewhere that Chef Reuben Riffel had been to eat there, and it was suggested to me when I made a comment about most Paarl restaurants, other than Bosman’s, being closed on Sunday afternoons. It is a flashback to the past, and was described by the co-owner as “Boere Nostalgia”.
My first reaction on arriving at the Victorian style house was one of scepticism – maybe it was the beige paintwork, which did not make the exterior look fresh or inviting to me. I walked into the building, and there was no staff to welcome me. On the left one enters two sections, with names at the entrance to each: “Tant Hetta se Spens” and “Negosiewinkel”. The first section has Wilson’s sweets, apricot balls and other sweets dating back to one’s childhood. This deli section has a display cabinet for home-made pies and their lovely farm breads (it is a surprise that one is not served a slice when eating there), which one can take home to buy. The menu invites one to buy from the deli, but it was very bare, as the pies and breads had not been put out in the 39°C Paarl heat. The second part of the shop had soaps and gift items to sell. Tucked away around the corner was a shelf with preserves, ginger beer, rusks, stoneground flour, and general deli items. Across the passage is Uncle Tiny’s pub, set up in honour of Tiny Neethling, who was a Springbok rugby player in the Sixties and Seventies – his rugby jersey and other memorabilia are displayed in the tiny pub. One can sit outside at the back, with a lovely view onto Paarl Mountain and vineyards adjacent to the Proviant property. It has a canvas roof, and it seemed exceptionally hot there, the heat being trapped underneath the canvas. A fine spray mist is to be introduced, to address this problem. It is a space often used for stork parties, kitchen teas, small weddings and other events. I was offered a table inside with airconditioning, but only saw a lone table from the passage, not seeing the rest of the dining room with a massive fireplace and an ox wagon wheel light, which I saw later when I was shown around by Chef Rob Hahn. The music inside reminds one of Nico Carstens, and was from a CD called ‘Trekklavier Hits’!
I chose to sit outside on the stoep (there are benches lower down too), at a ‘plaas’ wooden table and chairs, very old-fashioned, setting the scene for what was to come. There are no placemats or tablecloth, and a beige material serviette had a set of pedestrian cutlery folded in it. A little plant in a Lucky Star pilchards tin dating back many years, with a little red heart, reminded one of Valentine’s Day the previous day, as did a Boland Cellar Valentine’s Day promotion, offering their wines ranging from R 55 for their Five Climates Chenin Blanc to R78 for their mouthful of a Cappupinoccinotage! I was ignored for a long time, after having been given the menu, a typical staff scenario of one staff member thinking another was taking care of me, it emerged.
The menu holder is a cheap black plastic one, and the inside front cover states that it is sponsored by Haute Cabriere. Yet the page opposite had a full page advertisement for Boland Cellars, to encourage one to order their wines for Valentine’s Day, and I did not see any Haute Cabriere wines on the winelist. The KWV head office is close by, and its logo is visible on a number of the menu pages. The menu introduction refers to the ‘old friends’ bobotie, vetkoek, malva pudding, rusks and ‘boeretroos’ (coffee) one would have enjoyed in “Grandma’s kitchen’, the menu says, which one can expect on the menu at Proviant. Breakfast is served all day, and creative names have been chosen to describe the menu offerings, e.g. the Boland Breakfast consists of bacon, ‘skilpadjies’ (liver in ‘net vet’), sausage, minute steak, farm bread and jam, at R69; a Farmer’s Breakfast is a reduced version of this at R55. Bacon and eggs, and poached eggs cost R38, while scrambled eggs cost R45. A number of light meals are on offer, including various burgers (R45 – R55), vetkoek and curry mince (R42), fishcakes (R45), generous home-made pies (R45), and toasted ‘samies’ (R36). Starters include ‘Farmer’s Caviar”, being marrow bones (R35); bobotie springrolls (R38); a trio of patés (R49); and chicken liver peri peri, crumbed calamari and lamb kidneys, all three costing around R42.
Salads range in price from R35 – R48, and include ‘Kiep-Kiep’, with roast chicken, bacon and egg; ‘Boland Bliss’, with smoked trout, avocado and feta; and ‘B&B’ with biltong, blue cheese and brandied dried fruit. The prices of main courses hover around R100, and are mainly below this price. The list is extensive, and includes oxtail, Chakalaka rump, biltong cheddar rump, spicy lamb bunny chow, vegetarian bobotie, lamb shank, chicken schnitzel, fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, kudu loin, and a popular tourist “South African Plate” of bobotie, lamb curry and oxtail. On the table a menu notice promoted a Friday evening Seafood buffet, costing R120, which includes paella, snoek paté, curry fish, prawns peri peri, calamari, Greek salad, and mussels, and is good value for this special offer, and Proviant generally has excellent prices. In winter the Friday evening special of curries is very popular. On Sundays a 3-course Carvery buffet is served, at R105.
I ordered the crumbed pork chops (R85), and it was the home-made apple sauce that attracted me to this dish, sweetish but delicious. The plate was brought to the table by Chef Rob, and it had two chops, mash, butternut, and broccoli with a cheese sauce, all wonderful. With it was served a really serious steak knife. I had no intention of having a dessert, but when I saw the deep-fried ice cream (R25) on the menu, I had to try it. It was a tasty vanilla ice cream encased in phyllo pastry and fried. The pastry had a chewy texture to it, and was served in a caramel sauce. Other “Scale Busters”, as the menu called them, are peppermint fridge tart, Malva pudding, and Van der Hum créme brulee, also costing an unbelievably low R25. For ‘4 o’clock tea’ muffins, scones or cake are available, at R25.
I was making notes when Nicky Hahn came to me, and asked if I needed help or information, which I declined. She seemed a bit disturbed that I was copying her menu, and I explained to her that I was writing a review. All of a sudden she recognised me, from the time she and her husband Rob ran Rickety Bridge’s restaurant and guest house in Franschhoek. Rob told me that he opened Pearl Valley’s kitchen 21 years ago, and then he was part of the team opening the Park Hyatt in Johannesburg. He was one of six selected chefs leading the team of 80 chefs cooking for Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration, and he proudly showed me the certificate of appreciation which he received. Had I not been recognised, my review would have been very different, as the poor service by the waitresses had been most off-putting. It proved to me once again how important hands-on service by the owners/managers is. Needless to say the service was perfect from this point onwards. Rob and Nicky Hahn are joint owners of Proviant with Marian (Neethling) and Mark Maingard, who now live in Namibia, but are returning to Paarl shortly. Marian was the original owner of Proviant. The very Afrikaans nature of Proviant (e.g. the Afrikaans menu section is before the English one, Afrikaans names for the room sections inside, Afrikaans-only Seafood buffet offer, the waitresses address one in Afrikaans, and Afrikaans bill) is in contrast to the English sounding Rob, but it probably means that he will ensure that they do not alienate their English-speaking customers too much.
The winelist is almost proudly-Paarl. Wines by the glass include a dangerous sounding Masons “Klipkapper” Chenin Blanc at R18/R60, Masons Shiraz (R20), Nederburg Rosé (R20/R73), Protea Chardonnay from Antonij Rupert wines in Franschhoek (R25/R89), and KWV Cuveé Brut (R30/R86). A nostalgia moment was to see a full-page promotion encouraging one to drink KWV’s Roodeberg, which was a treasure many many years ago, only exported or available via farmers who were members of the co-operative. It is sold for R89. Laborie’s Brut (R125) and Shiraz (R85) are also sold.
Proviant will not be to everyone’s taste, South African English-speakers possibly finding it too Afrikaans, and younger restaurant goers finding it too old-fashioned. But it is excellent value for money, and a good plateful of food is served. Chef Rob described Proviant as serving ‘honest food’, and said that it is ‘the modern day Oom Samie se Winkel’ from Dorp Street in Stellenbosch. The bill was brought to the table in a ‘blikbeker’, demonstrating the absolute focus on the theme. The nostalgia got to me when I saw an ad for Sunrise toffees in the menu, taking me right back to my childhood. Rob sent me on my way with a massive potbrood, which he described as their “small one”, given that they sell an even larger size too, and it was a demonstration of the generosity of the ‘olden days’, when visitors were sent on their way with a gift. Proviant is now participating in the Laborie Lazy Days market on Saturdays, and sells its farm bread there.
Proviant Kaapse Tafel & Spens, 54 – 56 Main Road, Paarl. Tel (021) 863-0949. www.proviant.co.za (Website down). Tuesdays until 17h00, Wednesdays – Fridays until ‘late’, Sundays until 17h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I have enjoyed chatting to Phillip Aplas since he opened Allora Ristorante, the Italian restaurant at the entrance to Franschhoek, two years ago. He and his wife Amanda are Greek, and they have created a space on the property for The Olive Shack, which is Amanda’s dedicated focus on olives and olive oil, and is an ode to her Greek heritage.
As one drives into Allora, The Olive Shack lies directly ahead, not visible from the road. Some newly planted olive trees provide shade to tables outside the olive emporium. A central table displays all the olive oils they stock – eight brands with many flavour varieties – as well as olives, tapenades, preserves, jams, and soaps. What one can taste one can also buy. There is no charge for the tasting.
Amanda wants to present the best olives and olive oils of South Africa, but most of these are from the Western Cape, she says. She even heard of an olive oil made in the Karoo recently, so is continuously searching for new additions to her range. She only opened The Olive Shack three weeks ago. Greek delicacies such as baklava can also be bought, and a serious-looking coffee-making machine making the best Illy cappuccino in Franschhoek is in the shop.
One can sit outside on the Allora side of The Olive Shack, or be more private on the parking side, sitting under the olive trees. Amanda has also introduced a Breakfast Menu for The Olive Shack, a Greek tapas and mezze menu, and picnics are also supplied. One can order light lunches, including lasagne, cannelloni, panzerotti, mousaka, freshly-made spaghetti and fettucini, and sauces. She will add kebabs and pancakes in future.
In chatting to Phillip, it is clear that he is dedicated to his restaurants, and is hands-on, one of few restaurant owners in Franschhoek to be so. He says that they have not increased their prices since they opened, and the menu is the same as the opening one. The Allora branches in Bedfordview and Sandton have higher prices, and are run by Phillip’s brother.
The Olive Shack tables are covered in brown paper, over a white table cloth, in Greek style. They look a bit messy on the car park entrance, as the wind lifts up the paper. The menu is printed in green and laminated, and one’s first reaction is disbelief at the low prices of the mezzes. I was brought a beautifully designed glass water jug to the table, with lots of slices of lemon. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar was brought to the table, in glass bottles, and the brand of olive oil used was one I had not heard of before, being Porcupine Hills from Elgin.
While I had not ordered it, Amanda sent ciabatta made with olives to the table, as well as the three mezzes of Tzadziki (their spelling) (R10), grilled halloumi (R20) and grilled pickled octupus (R25), in addition to which came a container of olive oil as well as an olive tapenade, all served on two wooden boards. It was a feast, which cost a mere R55 in total, which Amanda did not want to take payment for, but I insisted. The squid was served chilled, which made it refreshing, not only due to its temperature but also its marinade of vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and oreganum. Other mezzes one can order out of the list of eighteen include hummus, melitzanosalata, grilled aubergine rolls stuffed with feta cheese, grilled brinjals and baby marrows, tiropita, and keftedes, all costing R20 or less. Ciabatta costs R10 for a basket. A variety of salads can be ordered, and range in price from R45 – R65. Paninis with toppings such as smoked salmon trout, roast lamb, and chicken and avocado cost between R 50 – R75. Desserts range from R25 – R42, and include baklava, chocolate mousse, fruit salad and yoghurt, and sorbets. Breakfast of free-range scrambled eggs served with salmon, cold meats or feta and halloumi costs R35, or R29 if served with bacon.
Picnic baskets can be pre-ordered, costing R105 per person for the Alfresco Picnic, consisting of a small bottle of water, dips, cold meats, olives and tapenade, Greek salad, French loaf, olive ciabatta, chicken kebabs, fruit, and chocolate brownies. A Gourmet Picnic costs R360 for two persons, which includes a Franschhoek Cellars wine, mineral water, a tapas selection, dips, smoked salmon roses, French loaf, olive ciabatta, Caprese salad, chicken and prawn skewers, a cheese platter, strawberries and chocolate brownies. Both picnic options offer a generous food selection.
A small wine list of 17 Franschhoek wines is available, and the wines are very reasonably priced. Six wines by the glass are available, and cost R28/R85 for Franschhoek Cellars Chenin Blanc, The Churchyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc; Eikehof Chardonnay; and Franschhoek Pass Rosé. The L’Omarins Protea Red costs R35/R115. Solms Astor Cape Jazz is the only Shiraz available.
I loved the informality and friendliness of The Olive Shack, the authentic Greek mezzes served, and the excellent cappuccino. It is excellent value for money. I will be back.
The Olive Shack, Allora Restaurant, 58 Main Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-4375. www.allora.co.za (No dedicated website for the The Olive Shack, and not mentioned on the Allora website). Open Monday – Sunday, 9h00 – 17h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
On a previous visit to Paternoster in January, we discovered Oep ve Eet, an informal lunch eatery as you come into the fishing village, inside the farm stall Oep ve Koep. Returning to Paternoster for a winter holiday, it was a pleasure to be spoilt at the eatery again, with interesting home-made lunches prepared with West Coast passion at the most surprisingly low prices.
Kobus van der Merwe is the owner of Oep ve Eet, and until about six months ago he was the webmaster for the Eat Out website in Cape Town. He loves his new lifestyle, being his own boss. More importantly, he is the West Coast restaurant reviewer for Eat Out, excluding Paternoster, so he is knowledgeable about food. Kobus tells me that in their household in Paternoster, his dad did a lot of the cooking, as his mom was a music teacher, and spent a lot of time away from home. Kobus is following in his dad’s footsteps, and loves baking the bread for Oep ve Koep, and making his specialities, mixed with some of the preserves and jams sold in the shop. His mom Sanita is the owner of Oep ve Koep, making this a family business.
The eatery is in an outside courtyard, surrounded by blooming bougainvilleas, and with traditional garden tables and chairs, covered with tablecloths. There are only five tables. Old ads for Pegasus and Bokomo adorn the doors one steps through into the courtyard A resident tortoise comes to greet guests on occasion. Old fishing boats make useful containers in which Kobus grows herbs for the restaurant. On rainy days, one sits upstairs, in an antique shop section of the shop.
The menu is written up on a blackboard every day, and only contains a handful of items. The menu items differ almost daily, some added, some retained. Some dishes have a strong West Coast feel to them. In the four days of lunching there, the following items were offered: Chicken pie served with a sprig of rosemary and the ‘soet’ quince jelly with Madagascar green peppercorns, and the ‘suur’ pickled cucumber, both of which are sold in the shop and adding the most wonderful contrast to the pie (R25), Cape Malay chicken curry (R 60), Vegetable lasagne (R 36), a tomato salad made especially for me, with the tomatoes marinaded in a delicious home-made dressing (R 18), Butterbean and rosemary soup (R 25), Lentil bobotie (R48), Tagliatelle with bokkoms (R30 ), Beetroot soup a la Luluraai (R25), Springbok ravioli with pan-fried quince (what a wonderful taste) and rocket pesto (R54), and Pasta-fresca with ‘duine-spinasie’ and beurre noisette (R45). It is simple uncomplicated food, yet with a ‘twist’, and one can taste Kobus’ passion for and creativity in cooking.
There is no winelist, and the eatery does not have a licence. However, Oep ve Koep has a grocer’s licence, and it sells wine.
Oep ve Eet, inside Oep ve Koep, Corner Vredenburg Road (R45) and St Augustine Roads, at entrance to Paternoster, Tel (022) 572-2105. http://blogs.food24.com/sardinesontoast Twitter @SardineToast. Open Mondays – Sundays for lunch.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com