Highly regarded Chef David Higgs, heading up the kitchen at Marble and the newly opened Saint, both in Johannesburg, is to launch his first cookbook ‘Mile 8 by David Higgs: A book about cooking’ in October. Continue reading →
On 23 September Eat Out will announce its Top 10 Restaurant Awards list of twenty finalists. Ten of these will be chosen by three judges (Abigail Donnelly, Peter Goffe-Wood and Arnold Tanzer), and announced at the Eat Out 2010 Restaurant Awards gala dinner at the Westin Grand Hotel on 28 November.
To live up to my reputation in having been nominated for the SA Blog Awards in the “Most Controversial Blog” category, I have done a prediction of some of the Top 20 Restaurants we might expect on the list, as well as those that will fall off the list, in my opinion. I have also predicted which restaurants will make it onto the list for the Eat Out Restaurant Awards 2011. It is important to note that Eat Out specifies that a chef must have been with a restaurant for a year, to be selected for consideration for this prestigious award, the “Oscar” of the Restaurant industry.
Top 20 list
1. Rust & Vrede (chef David Higgs) in Stellenbosch: I predict that Rust & Vrede will make the number one slot of the Top 10 list, given that Luke Dale-Roberts is no longer at La Colombe full-time. David’s food is consistently good, creative, and the restaurant made it in the top 100 on the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list earlier this year. David Higgs is one of four chefs preparing the meal for the Restaurant Awards’ dinner, and this is a sure-fire predictor of being on the Top 10 list
2. Overture (chef Bertus Basson) in Stellenbosch: Consistently good, and always re-inventing his restaurant, Bertus deserves better than joint 10th, which happened in 2009. Definitely a Top 10 contender
3. Mosaic Restaurant in Pretoria (chef Chantel Dartnall): Chantel is also a chef at the Restaurant Awards dinner, so an automatic Top 10 contender
4. The Roundhouse in Camps Bay (Chef PJ Vadal) : not everyone’s favourite due to the arrogance of the management, but the fact that the chef is cooking at the Awards dinner is a sure predictor of Top 10
5. Restaurant Christophe, Stellenbosch (chef Christophe Dehosse): no glitz or glamour in terms of its interior, yet the Spookhuis is steeped in history. Christophe is charmingly French, and is a hands-on chef both in the kitchen and inside the restaurant. His food is excellent.
6. The Greenhouse at the Cellars, Cellars Hohenhort Hotel, Constantia (chef Peter Tempelhoff) : Peter is a favourite on the Top Restaurant list, and has been on the Top 10 list twice, at the current restaurant, and at Grande Provence before that
7. Jardine’s on Bree Street, Cape Town (chef Eric Bulpitt): Eric is cooking at the Awards’ dinner, so an automatic Top 10 candidate. He is also about to return from Copenhagen, where he spent 6 weeks in the kitchen at Noma, to gain inspiration. Noma is the top restaurant of the Top 50 restaurants in the world.
8. Jordan’s Restaurant with George Jardine, Stellenbosch (chef George Jardine) – last year’s move to his new restaurant at Jordan Winery no doubt cost George Jardine a place on the Top 10 list, a shock, as he had been number 2 on the list the year before. He had announced the move to Stellenbosch for personal reasons, and the judges had clearly taken this into account. George Jardine has been on the Top 10 list for a number of years, whilst at Jardine’s. George Jardine’s food preparation is excellent, but as at Jardine’s, the restaurant interior leaves a lot to be desired.
9. Bizerca Bistro, Cape Town (chef Laurent Deslandes): Bizerca seems to be every chef’s favourite restaurant, when they are not cooking in their own kitchen. Last year the industry laughed when the restaurant received a ‘consolation prize’ Best Bistro Award, a category not announced previously, and having no competition in it (9th Avenue Bistro in Durban was also on the Top 20 list, and made Top 10)
10. Terroir, Stellenbosch (Michael Broughton): Terroir has won numerous Top 10 awards, and seems to be a favourite of the judges.
11. The Tasting Room, Franschhoek (chef Margot Janse): the restaurant seems to have a love/hate relationship with Eat Out, in that it was left off the Top 10 list for three years, from 2004 – 2007, and that it had to endure the humiliation in sharing 10th place with Overture on the Top 10 restaurant list last year (a first for Eat Out in having a joint winner), indicating that the judges did not want to offend any of the two restaurants, but it became an insult to both restaurants instead. This created a Top 12 Restaurant list in reality, and the judges will be sure to not lose face to make compromise selections again this year! The interesting contrast is that the restaurant has featured in the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list, but for the first time another South African restaurant overtook it, La Colombe making it to an unbelievable 8th place on the international list.
12. Grande Provence, Franschhoek (chef Darren Roberts): Chef Darren is a highly talented chef, and has been around the block for 20 years in South Africa alone, but has been sadly neglected by Grande Provence’s Marketing department. He has just returned from a week cooking at the Grill Room at the Hong Kong Country Club, one of the most exclusive eateries in the city, sharing his menu and the wines of Grande Provence. (POSTSCRIPT 21/9: Chef Darren says that his restaurant is not eligible for the 2010 Awards, as he only started in January, therefore not giving him a full 12 months at the restaurant, a requirement for the Awards).
13. A Durban restaurant – to not be seen to show Cape Town and the Cape as the center of the cuisine universe, a restaurant from this city is normally selected by Eat Out. The choice of 9th Avenue Bistro has raised eyebrows for its inclusion in the Top 10 list in the past, especially for its location in a parking lot. The owner/chef appears to have left in the past year.
14. To be politically correct, a Johannesburg restaurant also needs to be on the Top 10 list. Roots at the Cradle of Humankind has been a winner for a number of years.
Other potential Top 20 short-listed restaurants could include The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West, Bistro 1682 at Steenberg, Delaire restaurant at Delaire Graff, 95 Keerom Street (see why for Carne below) and Bosman’s at Grande Roche (once the top restaurant in the country, but it has been left off the shortlist for so many years now).
Restaurants not making Top 10
1. Reuben’s in Franschhoek – winning Top Chef and Top Restaurant in 2004, Reuben’s has not made it back on the Top 10 list since 2006. Too many service-related complaints have dogged the restaurant, and Reuben will have to make sure he does not stretch himself too thin when he takes on his biggest challenge yet at the One&Only Cape Town from October.
2. Carne was on the Top 20 list last year, and fortunately for Eat Out they did not select it to the Top 10 list, given our disclosure of the restaurant’s dishonest claim that all its meat is from its Karoo farm and is organic. Carne has since removed this claim from its website. However, owner Giorgio Nava is a most charming and determined man, and has a close relationship with Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, who refused to respond to our allegations about Carne’s claim, even when it was proven to be correct! I therefore predict that 95 Keerom Street will receive a ‘consolation’ Top 20 nomination in its place.
3. Cape Colony at the Mount Nelson Hotel – Chef Rudi Liebenberg made the Top 20 list two years running, whilst at The Saxon in 2008, and the Mount Nelson in 2009. It is unlikely that the restaurant can make the Top 10 list, given that it is undergoing a major renovation as well as a re-invention of its menu currently, and will only open again in November.
4. Salt restaurant – coming to the restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel in Bantry Bay, from Grande Provence, for which he received a Top 10 listing, chef Jacques de Jager’s presence is so low key at Salt that I regularly phone to check if he is still there. His wonderful cuisine hand one knows from Grande Provence does not seem to have made the journey to Cape Town yet, in that his menu and the food quality is disappointing!
5. La Colombe – given that ex-chef Luke-Dale Roberts has moved to a consulting role at La Colombe, it is unlikely that the restaurant should make the Top 10 list. This is re-inforced by Luke’s announcemnet (on 20/9) that he is to open his own restaurant The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock in November.
Bubbling under for Eat Out Top 20 in 2011
Given the new restaurant openings in the past few months, a number of exciting contenders are on the potential Top 20 list for 2011, as they will have operated for a year by then:
1. Pierneef Ã La Motte at La Motte in Franschhoek – wow, wow, wow, and that was only after having been open for 2 days! Top 10 for 2011 for sure.
2. Indochine at Delaire Graff– I thought that the original Delaire restaurant would make Top 20 this year when I first visited it a year ago. But it has lost many staff members, including a talented sommelier and Maitre’d, and service and food reports are not as positive as when it opened. The new sister restaurant Indochine has great potential, and could make the Top 20 list in a year.
3. Richard Carstens opens at Tokara Restaurant next month, and has been an Eat Out Top 10 chef six times. Hopefully he has staying power to last a year at the restaurant.
4. The Bombay Brasserie at The Taj hotel.
5. Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town – this is a ‘grown-up’ and sophisticated Reuben’s, yet has some of Reuben’s favourite dishes, such as calf’s liver.
6. The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock – given that Luke Dale-Roberts has been named the world’s 12th best chef in the world in 2010, this is a no-brainer for his new restaurant, set to open in November!
7. Grande Provence does not qualify for the 2010 Awards, as Chef Darren Roberts has not been at the wine estate for a full 12 months. He would be a natural candidate for the 2011 Top 20 shortlist.
We would love to have your nominations and predictions before 23 September, as well as comments about ours – please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTSCRIPT 15/4: It has been announced that David Higgs has resigned and will leave Rust en Vrede in mid-June.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
Five Flies restaurant in Cape Town has been around forever, and I had not been there for ages. When my friend Elisabeth Kretschmer suggested it as a city restaurant for lunch in early June, we decided to make use of the Monday-Wednesday-Friday winter special offer, a 2-course meal at R125 per person and 3 courses at R 150, inclusive of a glass of wine (the normal prices are R 200 for 3 courses, R 230 for 4 courses and R 279 for 5 courses).
The restaurant once was the home of the Dutch Club, and is a Historical Monument. It has a namesake D’Vijff Vliegen in Amsterdam. It is located on Keerom Street, home to the city’s lawyers and advocates, and probably gets a lot of business from these learned persons. The restaurant has not had an update in ages, other than having had the interior painted. It is a conglomeration of two buildings, with a central courtyard linked to interleading rooms. We could not sit in the courtyard (it was a summery winter’s day) because it is the smokers’ area. However, all the doors connecting the courtyard to the other rooms of the restaurant are wide open, contrary to the smoking legislation. The rooms are smallish, allowing one to book them for private functions. Elisabeth noticed the beautiful bunch of fresh roses in the entrance, whereas I loved the artwork which brightened the cream walls. Strangely. no one had a pricelist for these, because the walls had recently been painted, we were told, and the prices had been removed and lost in the process. The artworks are rather modern, a contrast to the historic Cape Dutch feel of the restaurant interior with the “riempies”-style chairs.
I arrived to find the hostess in the reception hall rather short and abrupt. She took me to the end room and mumbled that I could choose any table. When I chose the one nearest the window, she told me it was already booked, although none of the tables had a “Reserved” sign on them. Not a welcome start. I was given the menu/winelist, but not told that it was a Winter Specials price day, given that it was a Friday. The waitress was quick to offer the price when I asked her. I wondered if she would have told us and charged us correctly if I had not asked. The waitresses are dressed in a casual black T-shirt with the Five Flies logo on it. The hostess seemed out of place, wearing her “civvies”. The music was blaring, and I had to ask the hostess to turn down the volume.
We each chose two dishes from the menu, and realised what a problem this causes when different dishes are ordered – Elisabeth ordered a salad and a main, and I had a main and a dessert. Elisabeth loved the bread and could not get enough of it. I had to wait for Elisabeth to eat her beautifully presented salmon, rocket and dried caper salad, served with shaved parmesan and a red mustard seed dressing, which she loved the taste of, before we both received our mains together. My sirloin steak was a little chewy, and was served with pumpkin, courgettes, potato gallette, camembert (I did not taste the cheese) and Madeira wine jus. Elisabeth loved her veal escalopes with spinach fettucini, stir-fry vegetables and parmesan cream sauce. It meant that Elisabeth then had to watch me eat my dessert (delicious layers of meringue and Lindt chocolate, served with pecan nut ice cream and chocolate sauce), a waste of time for both of us working persons, given that it was lunchtime, and that our working day had not yet finished. I ordered a cappuccino to be served with my dessert, but it arrived when I had almost finished the dessert.
The winelist is short and sweet, and seems to reflect how many cash-strapped restaurant-goers choose their wines, unfortunately white and red wines mixed, in price bands of R115 (e.g. Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Leopard’s Leap Shiraz, Groote Post ‘The Old Man’s Blend’), R135, R165, R185, R205, R300, R400, R475, R550 (e.g. Vergelegen White, Cloof Crucible Shiraz, Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmonde), and R750 (includes Vilafonte Series C, Rudera Cabernet Sauvignon, Rust & Vrede, Sterhuis Astra). The champagnes and sparkling wines had no prices, and it took some time for the prices of these to be found. The Moet et Chandon costs R850 and the Louis Roederer Crystal R4500 a bottle. The Simonsig bubbly costs R180, while the Pongracz Desiderius costs R475. The free glass of white wine, which is part of the special, was an unwooded chardonnay from Leopard’s Leap, and the red was Peacon Stream Pebble Hill by Waterford. Surprisingly, one size fits all at Five Flies, in that only one size of wine glass is on the table, irrespective of one drinking white or red wine.
In a clever move to keep one coming back to Five Flies, each guest receives a R 100 voucher towards the next meal (on checking the detail, the voucher is for a table of two, and can only be used in October, November or December this year!).
The Five Flies brochure says: “It’s classic in a contemporary way. It’s a restaurant but it’s also bars. It’s got a lot of heritage but it’s very now, and it’s well worth a visit”. I am not sure if it is still “very now”. Five Flies is a professional restaurant, where things work functionally, but it lacks warmth, character, care for and interest in its patrons. No management, other than the pushy hostess, was visible or came to our table in the two hours that we were there. Yet the food was generally good, well presented, and the winter special package is excellent value-for-money.
Note: The Five Flies special has changed to two main courses for the price of one (the content of this special seems to change regularly, despite its ad in the Weekend Argus of today claiming that this has been the special since July – I have seen it advertised as 50 % off as well, which does not apply if you are a single diner), on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The special offer was sent by e-mail, but is not featured on the website.
Five Flies, 14 – 16 Keerom Street. Tel 021 424-4442. www.fiveflies.co.za (Not the most exciting restaurant website, but functionally good detail, with winelist, menu, nice photographs of dishes, but not of those that we had). Open for lunch Mondays – Fridays, and for dinner from Mondays – Sundays. Ian Bergh was the Executive Chef, who trained under Franck Dangereux of the Food Barn, but has since left. (Greg Baverstock is the new chef).
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
Christophe Dehosse is a passionate owner of his new Restaurant Christophe in the ‘Skuinshuis’ on Van Reyneveld Street in Stellenbosch, adding further weight to the prediction that Stellenbosch will soon wear the crown of the gourmet centre of South Africa His restaurant joins an illustrious collection of restaurants in this Winelands town, which includes Rust en Vrede, Overture, and Delaire Graff. The restaurant opened a month ago.
Dehosse first started cooking at Chamonix in Franschhoek, then was the chef at Au Jardin in the Vineyard Hotel, and moved to Joostenberg Deli nine years ago to join the Myburgh family he has married into, running a good value for money lunchtime restaurant there. While he was very low key at Joostenberg, JP Rossouw of Rossouws’ Restaurants awarded the restaurant his highest rating of 3 stars, awarded to such greats as Reubens, La Colombe, and Rust en Vrede. Le Quartier Francais did not even make his 3-star grade. Christophe speaks with a delightful French accent, and epitomises the French chef. What reflected his passion was that he spent more time with the patrons, after having done all the main courses, chatting at length at their tables, something rarely seen in restaurants these days. He even takes the bookings during the day. Chef Dane Newton of Allee Bleue also understands the art of connecting with his clients.
While his wife continues at Joostenberg, Christophe has set up in the building which also houses a coffee shop, and a decor shop. The transformation of the part of the building that he uses is almost unbelievable. It is a two-room restaurant, the entrance section having three tables and the other section almost three times in size, giving the restaurant the choice of where to seat the guests. Christophe proudly compliments interior designer Liesel Rossouw for the understated yet chic interior. The subtle green walls, tastefully decorated with beautiful works of art which can be bought, and shocking pink and orange chairs (with 5 colour variations) made from wine barrels especially made for the restaurant to give patrons a comfortable seat during the meal. The lamps are unusual too â€“ they are made from woven laminated ads, creating an unusual effect. A simple metal structure serves as the desk at the entrance â€“ slick and simply designed.
It having been a 42C day, and still hot at mid-30C in the evening, all patrons chose to sit outside. The tables were beautifully laid with white tablecloths, silverware, and glassware, and each table had a fresh rose on it. A lovely flower arrangement, in white and pink flowers, was the first statement the restaurant made on arrival. A single palm tree towers above the courtyard, and an almost wild bougainvilla hedge in shocking pink complements the pink and orange chairs.
Darren is the Manager, and he was very friendly in welcoming us, and patiently answered all the questions. He is from Birmingham, and last worked at Umami in Stellenbosch. He served all the tables.
The menu is very simply typed on a piece of paper, and looks unpretentious, and almost contradicts the lovely interior and special food served. It is short, offering four starter choices: quail salad (R 65), seafood salad (R 65), foie gras with Noble Late aspic (R130), and marinated vegetables and goat’s cheese (R 50). The foie gras was outstanding, and a surprise was the complimentary glass of Joostenberg Nobel Late Harvest, served well-chilled with it.
Five main courses were Cape Salmon (R 95), yellowtail (R 95), Bouillabaisse (R 110), beef fillet (R 135), and roast duck jambonette (R 110). The steak was pronounced to be excellent, while the duck was disappointing, probably due to a duck lover’s experience of ˜roasted’ being different to that served. The dessert choice costs R 45, and was apricot and almond tart, chocolate biscuit, and chilled fresh fruit soup, which would have been ideal for such a hot evening, but space did not allow it. A cheese selection is available at R 60. The fruit soup was a berry berry nice lunch the following day. The menu changes every two weeks.
The winelist is equally printed on white paper, and is unlikely to win a mention in the Diner’s Club winelist awards as far as presentation is concerned. It is very understated, yet offers a good selection of South African and even some French wines. A full page is devoted to sparkling wines, Graham Beck supplying the least and most expensive bottles, at R 150 – R 290. It can also be ordered by the glass, in a price range of R 22 – R 35. The Joostenberg wines appear in almost every category, as does a brand not commonly known, called MAN, named after three Myburgh ladies: Marie, Annette and Nicky. Jose Conde’s wines also feature on the wine list, as do Thelema (R 600 for Cabernet Sauvignon) , Klein Constantia, Kanonkop (Pinotage at R 480), Veenwouden (Merlot at R 420), Hartenberg (Shiraz at R 490), Hamilton Russell (Chardonnay at R 350), Paul Cluver, Simonsig and Villiera.
Restaurant Christophe, Skuinshuis side entrance, Van Reyneveld Street, between Nook Eatery and the synagogue, Stellenbosch, tel 021 886-8763. On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: Restaurant Christophe has been named a Top 20 Eat Out Restaurant Awards finalist.
POSTSCRIPT 1/6: It was sad to receive the fillowing e-mail from Chef Christophe today, announcing the restaurant’s closure later this month: “It is with regret that I wish to inform you that due to insufficient trading in the last 18 months, I have made the decision to close down Restaurant Christophe as of the 25th of June 2011. I want to take the opportunity to thank long time and new clients as well as friends who have supported me in the last 18 months. I will again be based full time at Joostenberg from the beginning of August. Hope to see you there in the future.”
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com