I cannot remember when an Eat Out Awards event was so exciting in its Top 10 countdown, with so many surprise restaurants on this year’s list, reflecting how more daring the Eat Out judging team has become, no longer playing it safe, which is highly commended. Since Chef Margot Janse took over in heading the Eat Out Awards judging panel in 2018, she has been ruthless in her restaurant recognition, which we already noticed when Eat Out announced its Top 30 nomination shortlist for this year, in some of the top restaurants it excluded! Continue reading →
Last week I found a reference to my name in a review written about author Irna van Zyl’s second book, called ‘Death Cup: Murder is on the menu’, a play on words with a mushroom by the same name, naming me as the model for one of the main characters in the book, as the writer of the ‘infamous food blog’. As I had been told this verbally on another occasion too, I had to go to Exclusive Books to buy a copy of the book. There is no mistaking the blog of the ‘food blogger’ as being my WhaleTales Blog! Continue reading →
I could not think it possible that the Eat Out Awards 2018 could be so refreshingly different, but it appears that new Head Judge Margot Janse has created a fresh new look at the restaurant judging criteria. Many of our top old-guard chefs took a severe beating at the Awards last night! Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to New Media Publishing and its Eat Out management team for doing such a good job in changing its Restaurant Awards venue 48 hours before the event (one could ask why the fly problem at Mistico Equestrian Centre was not identified in the first place!), most of the attendees being happy to not drive out to Paarl! Commendable is the questionnaire emailed last night, with 33 questions evaluating every aspect of the venue, shuttle service, Continue reading →
It could have been a disaster, changing the venue from the Mistico Equestrian Centre outside Paarl to the SunEvents Centre at GrandWest two days prior to the 17th Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards 2015 today. It turned out to be the best Friday the 13th disaster for New Media Publishing, organizers of the Eat Out Awards, described by many as the best Eat Out Awards ever! Continue reading →
* The vine growing regions in South Africa, Bordeaux, and South Australia could be affected negatively by climate change in future, due to droughts, while the Rhine region of Germany, New Zealand, the USA states of Oregon and Washington, and Mendoza are likely to benefit from climate change, writes Antonio Busalacchi, wine expert and climate scientist.
* The Eat Out Restaurant Awards will take place at The Lookout in the V&A Waterfront on 10 November, much earlier than usual. Awards to be presented are
Restaurant of the Year
Chef of the Year
Top 10 restaurants
Boschendal Style Award Continue reading →
Last year Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly introduced a new series of complementary awards to the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, having been the sole judge of both sets of awards. This year Mrs Donnelly made the fatal error of choosing UK Blogger Bruce Palling to give her credibility for her choice of Top 20 restaurants, out of which the Top 10 Restaurant list will be announced tomorrow evening. She also has named the ‘Best Of’ awards her ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards, making it clear that she is the sole judge of the awards, and that Palling had no input in these awards. We have already seen irregularities on the Top 19 Restaurant shortlist, so it will be interesting to see which of Mrs Donnelly’s favourites and friends will be rewarded in the ‘Best Of’ categories.
What is interesting this year is that the finalist restaurants in the six ‘Best of’ categories have been pre-announced, unlike last year, when only the Boschendal Style Award finalists were announced. There is one exception, being the Best Italian category, for which the finalists have not been announced. Could it mean that this category is once again reserved for Mrs Donnelly darling Chef Giorgio Nava of 95 Keerom Street, last year’s winner in this category?
Something else that is noticeable is the vast number of listings in each of the ‘Best Of’ categories, which makes one think that New Media Publishing is dreadfully short of money this year:
* they did not have enough money to put their Eat Out 2012 judge Bruce Palling into a first class seat to attend the Awards event tomorrow evening, as per Palling’s Tweet and confirmed by New Media Publishing
* advertisers were hounded to place advertisements in the new Eat Out magazine, and the rates tumbled the closer it got to the deadline date!
* even worse, the 24 reviewers were not invited to the Gala Awards dinner until a week ago, having been invited to the dinner in all the past years. They were fuming in having been left out, and many made other plans for tomorrow evening, and will therefore not be able to attend. The Eat Out Review Team is interesting in itself, with long-standing Eat Out reviewers Graham Howe, Diane de Beer, Greg Landman, and Errieda du Toit, to which have been added bloggers (but not known as restaurant reviewers on their blogs) Dax Villaneuva, Tandy Sinclair, and Ishay Govender. The remaining 17 reviewers – Carla Rossouw, Charlotte Pregnolato, Colette du Plessis, Frank Chemaly, Hennie Fisher, Janine Walker, Kate Ziervogel, Lee Middleton, Lisa van Aswegen, Louise Liebenberg, Marie-Lais Emond, Nothando Moleketi, Paula Mackenzie, Pero Lotz, Priscilla Urquhart, Richard Holmes, and Sdu Gerasch – are unknown.
* linked to the above is the vast number of ‘Best of‘ restaurants listed per category, e.g. 43 in the ‘Best Asian Restaurants’ category, 24 in the ‘Best Steakhouses’ category, 33 ‘The Best Country-Style Restaurants’, 15 ‘Boschendal Style Award’ nominations, and an astounding 52 nominations for ‘Best Bistro’, a total of 167 restaurant nominations minus some duplications! If the restaurants were to send a representative or two in the hope of winning the category award, a large number of seats for the Gala Awards dinner will have been sold!
The Bistro category sounds more like a ‘Proudly South African’ cuisine listing, and contains some odd nominations such as Hemelhuijs, Babel, Bread & Wine, Fyndraai, Gaaitjie, Ile de Pain, and many more on the list of 52! A Bistro is defined by Eat Out as offering fresh and seasonal produce, having a small kitchen, limited staff, being homely, with congenial hosts, ‘endless amounts of wine‘, ‘spectacular food’, and regular menu changes. An obvious exclusion is Bistrot Bizerca from this category, but being a Top 19 finalist may have excluded them from this category. Worthy winners would be Bistro Sixteen82, Dear Me, and The Foodbarn. The nominees are in Johannesburg (Bellagio, Coner Café and Bistro, Eatery JHB, The Leopard, Possums Deli and Bistro, Salvation Café, Tashas in Sandton, Hyde Park, Melrose, Arch, Morningside, Rosebank, Village View, Thomas Maxwell Bistro; in Pretoria (Carlton Café, Karoo Café, Silver Orange Bistro, Zest Bistro); in Durban (9th Avenue Bistro, Bellavue, Craft Trattoria, Marco Paulo, Café 1999, Unity Brasserie and Bar); in Cape Town (Bistro Sixteen82, Constantia Uitsig, Dear Me, The Foodbarn, Hemelhuijs, La Mouette, Societi Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Woodlands Eatery); in (undefined) ‘South’ (96 Winery Road, Babel, Bar Bar Black Sheep, Bread & Wine, The Burgundy Restaurant, Café Felix, The Common Room, Fyndraai, Gaaitjie, Hilda’s Kitchen at Grootte Post, Ile de Pain, The Kitchen at Maison, Pembrey’s, Reuben’s Franschhoek – not meeting any of the defined Bistro criteria – Scotty’s, Sofia’s at Morgenster, Stables at Vergelegen); in (undefined) ‘East’ (The Bistro, Gordon’s Restaurant, Haricot’s Deli & Bistro, Skye Bistro at Fordoun, Two Dogs Bistro); and in (undefined) ‘North and Central’ (Mrs Simpsons, O’s restaurant).
The Best Country-style Award nomination list includes the controversial winner of 2011, being The Table at De Meye, a regular past photographer colleague of Mrs Donnelly. Surprise omissions are The Kitchen at Maison, The Long Table, Fyndraai, The Millhouse Kitchen at Lourensford, Tamboers Winkel, Creation, Sofia’s at Morgenster, Oep ve Eet in Paternoster, and Johan’s at Longridge. A likely winner would be Mariana’s, a regular past winner of a similar award, and a regular contributor to Taste magazine, as well as Babel, the restaurant with the most nominations (on Top 19 list, as well as Style Award, and Best Bistro nominee). Defined as ‘homely, heart-warming and belly-filling kos’, food in the style of one’s grandmother. The nominees are located in Gauteng (Bellgables Country Restaurant, Die Ou Pastorie, Meadow Green, Roots at Forum Homini, The Other Side Restaurant, Monaghan Farm, The Rambling Vine); in the Western Cape (Babel, Bramon, The Country Kitchen at Mont Rochelle, Dassiesfontein on the N2 highway near Caledon, De Kaap in McGregor, Eight at Spier, Fynboshoek Cheese, Fresh, The Goatshed at Fairview, Havercroft’s, Hilda’s Kitchen, Houw Hoek Farm Stall, Karoux, Mariana’s, Mogg’s Country Cookhouse, The Stone Kitchen in Wellington, The Table at De Meye, Thyme at Rosemary’s Restaurant, Towerbosch, The Wild Apricot); and in KwaZulu-Natal (Café Bloom, Caversham Hill, Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, La Lampara, Nicolson’s Café, and Tumble Downs).
The omission of Belthazar from the Best Steakhouses category nomination list may relate to Eat Out ex-judge Bruce Palling‘s last South African dinner! This category is typically won by a Johannesburg restaurant, the city being known for its collection of good steak restaurants. Nominees are in Johannesburg (Butcher Shop & Grill, Gray, The Grillhouse, HQ, Karoo Cattle and Land, The Local Grill, Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse, Thundergun, Turn & tender, Wombles); in Mpumalanga (Pioneers Butchery & Grill); in The Free State (The Phatt Chef); in the Eastern Cape (Flava); in Cape Town (Barristers, Carne SA, Cattle Baron – The Grill House, HQ, The Hussar Grill in Camps Bay, Karoo Cattle & Land); in Durban (The Grill Room at The Oyster Box, Havana Grill, Joop’s Place, Steak & Ale); and in Pretoria (Karoo Cattle & Land).
The Best Asian Restaurants list was an easy one to fill up, and contains last year’s winner Kitima, as well as popular Willoughby’s at the V&A Waterfront, potential Top 20 candidate Indochine, and Nobu (not eligible to make Top 20 list this year, due to a chef change). The nominees are in Johannesburg (Al Makka, Dawaat Pakistan Restaurant, Ghazal North Indian REstaurant, The Good Luck Club, Koi, Kong Roast, Midori, The Red Chamber, Shanyana Vegetarian Restaurant, Sitar, Yamato); in Pretoria (Guia, Shilla Korean Cuisine, Wing Hin); in Durban (China Plate, Gounden’s, House of Curries, Mo’s Noodles, Spice); in the Eastern Cape (Just So Chinese Restaurant, Shanghai); in Bloemfontein (Nagoya); on the Garden Route (Firefly Eating House); in the Winelands (Genki, Indochine at Delaire Graff, Okamai); and in Cape Town (1890 Sushi House, Biesmiellah, Bombay Brasserie, Bukhara, Chandani, Chef Pon’s Asian Kitchen, Erawan, Haiku, Kitima, Kyoto Sushi Garden, Maharajah, Maharaj Pure Vegetarian, Nobu, Saigon, South China Dim Sum Bar, Takumi, Willoughby & Co).
Pierneef à La Motte, Makaron Restaurant, Babel, The Greenhouse, Overture, Planet Restaurant, and The Tasting Room are nominated for a Top 10 and a Boschendal Style Award. Makaron Restaurant won last year, without Mrs Donnelly disclosing her consultancy relationship with the restaurant, and her accolade about the restaurant described the M Bar of Majeka House rather than Makaron! Almost all the restaurants are more than a year old, with the exception of Burrata, a restaurant which Mrs Donnelly only got to eat at six months after it opened! The nominees are Burrata, Keenwa (odd choice), The Restaurant at Waterkloof (consolation prize for losing out on Top 20 nomination?), Craft Trattoria in Durban, Babel at Babylonstoren, Café del Sol, The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, The Greenhouse (lots of bunnies), The Walnut Grove in Sandton, The Red Chamber, Tasha’s Le Parc, The ‘Greenhouse’ (sic – actually called the Babel Tea House!) at Babylonstoren, Hemelhuijs (an Abi favourite), The Kitchen at Maison, Pierneef à La Motte, Overture (a consolation prize?), Planet Restaurant (a consolation prize?), LIFE Grand Café, and last year’s finalist Kream. Obvious omissions in this category are Casparus, Delaire Graff, and Indochine. There is no obvious winner, especially as so few of the restaurants are new, but Hemelhuijs would be a strong contender, changing its decor regularly.
We await the announcement of the ‘Best of‘ category winners on tomorrow evening with interest! It is clear that Mrs Donnelly could not have visited or eaten at each of the 167 ‘Best of’ nominated and Top 20 Finalist restaurants in the course of one year!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
The latest Opulent Living magazine, one of the best lifestyle magazines available currently, and clever about marrying the magazine with a regular e-magazine that is easy to navigate, as well as with a blog, contains an interview with three leading chefs, and all three said that restaurant awards have both negatives and positives attached to them.
The three chefs interviewed were David Higgs of Rust en Vrede, number one on the South African Top 10 Eat Out restaurant list, Margot Janse of Le Quartier Français, and Luke Dale Roberts, previously of La Colombe and now owner of The Test Kitchen and number one Eat Out Top 10 chef in 2009. All three chefs made it to the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World, Dale-Roberts’ ranking being the best ever South African performance, with his 12th position in 2010.
Acknowledging the power of restaurant awards, in terms of increased awareness and resulting in bookings, the chefs felt that it created a negative pressure on themselves and their staff prior to the awards events. “To be honest with you, the less awards, the less stars and all those things that we have to think about, the better our lives are” said Luke Dale-Roberts. He added that he thought that awarding stars was better, as it means that there are no winners and losers. Then it is no longer a competition, and one is just competing against oneself, to maintain that star. David Higgs added that awards place a lot of pressure on chefs.
David Higgs said that he felt that South African cuisine is on a par with international restaurants, but it was felt that service levels were not yet on a par with the food. All three restaurants work hard at this. Rust en Vrede is only open five nights a week, and the other days are used for training, hands-on by the chef. It was felt that South African chefs are not moulded by a particular food style as may happen in Europe, and there is more standardisation and duplication of dishes on European menus (e.g. cauliflower pureé with scallops, or foie gras). As South Africa does not have a distinctive food style, it gives chefs a far greater opportunity to experiment, and to not be pigeon-holed in their cuisine style.
All three the chefs focus on local produce, but introduce an imported product on occasion, to share a special treat (e.g. a French cheese, Kobe beef) with their patrons. The three chefs agreed to sharing supplier names, but felt weary of too much sharing as they are sometimes blatantly copied. The internet and television have added to the food knowledge of chefs and their restaurants, and David Higgs said that the public are appreciating food better.
POSTSCRIPT 15/4: It has been announced that David Higgs has resigned from Rust en Vrede, and will leave mid-June.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage