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 →
South African chefs have done our country proud, with five of the ten semi-finalists in the S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 for the Africa – Middle East region coming from our country. Unbelievable is that three of the five local finalists are from The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West, a huge feather in the cap of Executive Chef Gregory Czarnecki, currently the S. Pellegrino Eat Out Chef of the Year! Continue reading →
Exciting news from Franschhoek is that Chef Scot Kirton’s La Colombe team will take over the current The Tasting Room space at Le Quartier Français when Chef Margot Janse leaves The Tasting Room at the end of April next year. The new restaurant will open in August next winter with an as yet undisclosed name, after renovations have been completed. Continue reading →
Today culinary history is made with Chef Margot Janse of The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, now part of the Leeu Collection, celebrating her 20th anniversary at the same restaurant! There is no Fine Dining chef in our country who has worked in the same Continue reading →
Cape Town has just been ranked third Best Food City in the World by Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards 2014. Taste of Cape Town 2015, running at the Green Point Cricket Club until the end of today, gives locals and visitors a taste of what makes our city so special as a food destination.
Hosted for the eighth year in Cape Town, and run by food editor and stylist Justin Drake, Taste of Cape Town has settled in at the cricket club venue after venue changes in early years. Taste of Cape Town is a festive and fun way to eat and drink one’s way around one venue, showcasing not only restaurants and wine estates in Cape Town, but also those in the Winelands.
I was invited by Errieda du Toit PR to attend the Taste of Cape Town, and was joined by Continue reading →
Eat Out has just announced its Top 20 list, communicated very oddly (and inconveniently) by individual Tweet to each of the Top 20 restaurants. As can be expected, there are some surprise additions and omissions on the list. Stellenbosch and Cape Town are in direct competition, with six Top 20 Finalist Restaurants each. The 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Top 10 Restaurant Awards will be presented on Sunday 16 November.
New entrants to the list are La Mouette, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson, The Pot Luck Club, and The White House at Dear Me. The latter restaurant’s addition to the list is a surprise, given that it is only open twice a week, on Thursday and Friday evenings. Eat Out judge Andy Fenner supplying the restaurant from his down-in-the-dungeon Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants ‘butchery‘ on Church Street makes this nomination a conflict of interest!
Returnees to the list, after being eliminated last year, are Mosaic at The Orient and Terroir.
Omissions from the list, surprisingly, are Burrata (Best Italian restaurant last year), Indochine (very good score in Top 20 last year), Azure at The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Equus at Cavalli, The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Springfontein Eats, and for many, The Foodbarn.
* Ineligibilty due to chef changes are Delaire Graff Restaurant, Camphors at Vergelegen, Mondiall, Pierneef à La Motte, Hartford House, and Babylonstoren, as well as La Colombe, due to its venue change and long closure as a result.
Last month we asked if Eat Out had enough Top 20 Chefs to fill its list, given that six previous Top 20 restaurants have had chef changes in the past few months.
The Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant list is as follows: Continue reading →
Piazza Italia appeared on our latest list of Restaurant Openings, and it was a Facebook message from Davide Ostuni, Puglia Cheese mozzarella producer by day and Chef at Piazza Italia by night, that encouraged me to try it out last night. The restaurant has two Italians in the kitchen, a genuine Italian menu (without pizza), and Italian patrons eating there, a vote of confidence in a restaurant which has only been open for a month.
The restaurant belongs to Theresa Pearman, who comes from the jewellery industry, and fashion designer Pietro Giannuzzi, who had a dream to open a restaurant in which they could welcome and entertain their friends, bringing their dining room to the restaurant. Neither of them have prior restaurant experience, giving them a refreshing approach to owning the business, and not having any preconceived ideas about restauranting. Pietro only recently met Davide, and Theresa described the two men as being ‘soul brothers’, having a ‘bromance‘ about Italian food. I have only met Davide briefly at Burrata some time ago, and have been to see the Puglia Cheese factory, shown around by Davide’s wife Ursula. I had forgotten that Davide and Ursula owned five Italian restaurants in London, before moving to Cape Town, Continue reading →
It is very bold to close down two restaurants in Stellenbosch, and to start from scratch in Cape Town. This is what Sarah and Dup du Plessis have done, moving their two Café Dijon restaurants on Plein Street and at Zorgvliet in Stellenbosch into a most beautifully decorated space in the Rockwell Centre on Napier Street in Green Point, serving excellent Bistro food, one of the best French style restaurants in Cape Town.
When I first heard that Café Dijon was moving into the Rockwell Centre, my heart sank for the new venture, thinking that they were taking the space of Camil Haas’ Bouillabaisse, which closed down two years ago. But the Rockwell Hotel that operates from the building has made that space its bar, and created a small restaurant in the ex-Crepe Suzette space.
Café Dijon is in a space that once was a decor shop, facing Anatoli’s. Using In House designer Lawrence Holmes, the restaurant sports three ‘palm tree’ wood-cladded pillars, which not only add a most stunning decor imprint, but also hold downlighters, having a functional role too. The original marble topped bar counter was transported across from the Plein Street branch, as were the bistro-style tables and chairs. In raised sections near the stackable sliding doors new tables have been added, made from beautiful wood with an extra black section added, to make it look like slate. Here the bistro chairs have red striped or black and white check upholstery. A couch with blue and white striped upholstery provides seating for the tables in the lower section. The tables are allowed to show off their beauty and not hidden by a table cloth, but material serviettes and St Tropez cutlery add quality. Cape Herb & Spice Atlantic Sea Salt and Extra Bold Pepper grinders are on each table. Laminated floors look like they are made from wine vats, with names of wine varieties. At the entrance is a wooden structure, partly a ‘canopy’ containing downlighters, as well as a section in which wines can be stored, similar to the racking used to make champagne. Near the bar small white and black floor tiles give an aged Bistro effect. Bunches of San Pellegrino bottles with LED bulbs also create lighting, as do wine bottle-shaped lights hanging over the bar counter. Interesting is a wall with names, which the designers created to honour some of the special people in Dup and Sarah’s life, with some French names added, e.g. Le Roux, Olivier, Du Buisson, and Mouton, to suit the theme of the restaurant. The wall even contains the Zondernaam name, a brand name which Tokara owner GT Ferreira had to kill because it became more popular than its first brand, Dup told me. The walls have a green paint effect. Black canopies with the Café Dijon branding are due to be erected on the two sides of the restaurant. I loved the big black table outside, which has been built around a tree.
The owners of Café Dijon are not French at all, but locals. Johan (’Dup’) du Plessis grew up in the Banhoek valley, and his wife Sarah comes from Somerset West. Sarah trained at Silwood Kitchen and then worked in Monaco for Sir David Brown of Aston Martin fame. Dup grew up in a household in ‘which real men don’t cook’, but he did learn to, and they met at Deltacrest outside Franschhoek. When it burnt down, they decided to open a ‘Thirties style bistro in Stellenbosch, opposite the Town Hall, offering classic French dishes and comfort food, which suited the design of the venue perfectly. Sarah and Dup started Café Dijon four years ago, and chose a cat for their logo, many Bistro’s having an animal name, explained Sarah. In Stellenbosch an edict had banned cats in restaurants in the 1950’s, and Rose Jordaan’s grandmother had a black cat statue erected in front of the Stellenbosch library. They live outside Franschhoek, and both are in the restaurant, Sarah looking after the kitchen until after lunch, while Dup stays on until they close in the evening. Dup had a visitor when I ate there on Thursday, while Sarah was an excellent hostess, checking on her customers regularly.
A blackboard at the door advertised the specials: Angus beef burger R50; seared tuna with basil pesto R120; and the cheese of the day being Dalewood Brie at R60. The menu is printed on cream paper, and one is advised that food allergies should be shared with the waiter, as many dishes contain shellfish, garlic, dairy, or nuts, something one rarely sees on menus of late. Dup is very proud of the Toulouse sausage which they make themselves from pork shoulder, nutmeg, garlic, and white wine, and he insisted that I try it as a starter. Amazingly, Sarah remembered how much I had enjoyed their duck liver paté at their Zorgvliet restaurant more than a year ago, and sent out a taster of it with home-baked ciabatta. The sausage has a very mild taste, in contrast to the strong bite of the Dijon mustard. The sausage dish is usually a Bistro main course, two sausages served with pommes frites, a tomato and onion salad, and Dijon mustard, costing R70. The paté is part of a charcuterie platter, served with parma ham and Felino salami, costing R65. Other starters range from R55 – R 70, including steak tartare, calamari, trout, tomato tart, and marrow bones. Seven salad options include roasted beetroot, a classic Caesar, poached egg and bacon lardons, pear and Parma ham, grilled steak and rocket, and smoked duck breast, none costing more than R75.
Fish dishes are restricted to squid linguine (R75), and steamed West Coast mussels served with a white wine garlic, cream, and parsley sauce (R95). For the main course I ordered from the Bistro section, being pork belly with pommes purée, puy lentils, a pork croquette, an apple and grain mustard jus, and pea shoots (R115), which I had not seen for some time. The Bistro section also offers French onion soup, snails Bordelaise and chicken melanzane (R52 – R76 price range). Duck a L’Orange, served with confit duck leg, cabbage, bacon lardons, and an orange and Van der Hum sauce, sounds delicious, and good value at R120. A number of steak options are also offered, ranging from R115 for 200g Angus beef to R130 for fillet. One can order sauces, vegetables, and salads as extras.
Desserts are very inexpensive at R35, and include Crème Brûlée, caramelised lemon tart, strawberry meringue (Eton Mess style), and chocolate profiteroles with caramel cream. I had a baked apple tartlet with almonds and honey, with a LavAzza cappuccino. The cheese of the week costs R60.
The winelist offers three or four options per varietal, and it is disappointing that vintages are not specified on the paper winelist, which can easily be updated should the vintages run out. Moët et Chandon NV and Veuve Clicquot cost around R550, while Pongracz, Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, and Graham Beck Brut cost R175. Four Shiraz options are offered, ranging from Thelema’s Elgin Sutherland at R150, to Rust en Vrede at R375. The winelist is dominated by Stellenbosch wines.
Café Dijon will become a welcome stop not only for lunch and dinner, but also in-between meals for a coffee, drinks, and tapas outside, which will be introduced shortly. Ample parking is available underneath the building, on the opposite side. The service from Eric was very good, and there was not one sign that this restaurant had only been open for one week when I ate there. The prices are very reasonable, and Dup and Sarah are hands-on, a definite plus.
POSTSCRIPT 5/9: I popped in for a coffee and a Strawberry Meringue after a concert this evening, and was delighted that the restaurant was so busy. Yet a party of four left angry, saying that the food order was not brought to the table correctly, and that they had been overcharged. The owners had left early, the manager had the night off, and the chef had turned ill, leaving the busy restaurant in the hands of a junior team. This is the second angry complaint we have received in the past week, in both instances the owners not being there. Best is to check if one or both owners will be there when booking.
Café Dijon, Rockwell Centre, Napier Street, Green Point. Tel (021) 418-3910. www.cafedijon.co.za Twitter: @CafeDijonCT Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Chef Rene Redzepi’s noma restaurant won the World’s 50 Best Restaurants for the third time last night, the tenth year that the Awards ceremony has been held. The event was sponsored by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, was held at The Guildhall in London, and was attended by 600 of the world’s top chefs and restaurant judges. A shock was that, for the first time in many years, no South African restaurant made it onto the Top 50 list.
The Top 20 World’s 50 Best Restaurants are the following (with last year’s ranking in brackets), from The Telegraph :
1 (1) Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
2 (2) El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
3 (3) Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
4 (7) D.O.M., Sao Paolo, Brazil
5 (4) Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
6 (10) Per Se, New York, USA
7 (6) Alinea, Chicago, USA
8 (8) Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
9 (-) Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London, UK
10 (24) Eleven Madison Park, New York, USA
11 (22) Steirereck, Vienna, Austria
12 (14) L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Paris, France
13 (5) The Fat Duck, Bray, UK
14 (34) The Ledbury, London, UK
15 (9) Le Chateaubriand, Paris, France
16 (19) L’Arpege, Paris, France
17 (16) Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, France
18 (13) L’Astrance, Paris, France
19 (18) Le Bernardin, New York, USA
20 (57) Frantzen/Lindeberg, Stockholm, Sweden
France narrowly leads with seven awards on the top 50 list, followed by six for the USA, five for Spain, and three each going to Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Italy.
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français fell to its lowest ranking, at number 57, after a ranking of 36th last year, and 31st in 2010. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen made 74th position – two years ago he reached the astounding 12th place whilst still at La Colombe. Last year La Colombe made 82nd position, but did not make the top 100 list this year. Last year Chef David Higgs’ Rust en Vrede achieved a ranking of 61st, but sadly he left the restaurant two months later.
The Award-winning restaurants were evaluated by 27 panels around the world, each with 30 members. In South Africa the panel is chaired by Tamsin Snyman, stepping into the shoes of her late mother Lannice Snyman. Members of the local panel are known to include Jos Baker, MasterChef SA Judge and Chef Pete Goffe-Wood, and owner of GOLD restaurant Cindy Muller. Panel members had to evaluate four restaurants in their own country and three elsewhere in the world in the past eighteen months.
William Drew, editor of Restaurant magazine, organisers of the awards, said that the trend was to ‘much more diversity, both geographically and in terms of style. We’ve seen twin trends. There’s globalization, in the sense that if someone in Japan is doing something interesting now, someone in South America may know about it quickly. Yet at the same time there’s a move toward local cooking’.
Attending the event was Ferran Adria of El Bulli, which he closed down last year. The restaurant was named the World’s 50 Best Restaurant five times in the past ten years. He said of the award: “There is no doubt the World’s 50 Best Restaurants has changed the history of gastronomy“.
In addition to announcing the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (and the 51 – 100 restaurants bubbling under), three additional awards were made last night. Elena Arzak from Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian in Spain was named as Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef. Thomas Keller, founder of Per Se and French Laundry in Yountville in California, won the San Pellegrino Lifetime Achievement Award. The Slow Food UK Award went to Steiereck in Vienna, awarded for the first time last night.
What has been interesting over the past years has been the disparity between the performance of South Africa’s best restaurants on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants and on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant lists, Le Quartier Français always performing better on the international than on the local restaurant awards list.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
On Sunday the long-awaited Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards will be presented at the Bay Hotel’s Rotunda in the presence of 360 chefs and restaurant lovers. This year sees a number of changes in the Awards, with the Top 10 name having fallen away as a generic title, due to the introduction of additional categories which have been judged, and the controversial sole judging of the winning restaurants in each category by Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly.
As we have done before, we predict the following restaurants to make the Top 10 Restaurant list, based on write-ups we have seen, our own experience, and patron talk. No offence is intended to the chefs we have not included. The list is not intended as a ranking. Not knowing the Johannesburg, Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal restaurants, we are guessing those:
* We have previously predicted that Chef Richard Carstens at Tokara will be Top Chef/Best Restaurant, for his creativity in food preparation and presentation, for continuously re-inventing himself and his dishes, for his quest to learn new things, and for the amazing El Bulli tribute dinner he prepared on 30 July. The restaurant has just been selected by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network as the best Winelands restaurant in the country.
* The Test Kitchen‘s Luke Dale-Roberts is most foodies’ prediction for Top Chef, and he does feature often in TASTE, the magazine that Mrs Donnelly is Food Editor of. She told me recently that Woolworths chose Luke for a Christmas range, and that is why he receives so much coverage.
* The Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenhort Hotel, with Chef Peter Tempelhoff, who has just been honoured as Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef, the first in Cape Town, and only the third in South Africa.
* Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine is a stalwart, and while its restaurant building is not the greatest and grandest, George gets on with what he is excellent at, without any PR hype
* The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais with Chef Margot Janse cannot be excluded from the list, for its listing as the only South African restaurant on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
* DW Eleven-13 with Chef Marthinus Ferreira in Johannesburg was a Top 10 restaurant last year. The only criticism I have seen about this restaurant is its location.
* Hartford House in KwaZulu-Natal, with Chef Jackie Cameron, regularly on the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list, the best that this province has to offer.
* Chef Bertus Basson of Overture is another chef who reinvents himself and his food, and gets on with what he does well. No PR hype.
* Pierneef à La Motte with Chef Chris Erasmus has all the elements to make Top 10, but recently the food and service quality has started to slip. The estate has been selected as top South African wine estate in the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. Excellence drives everything that this estate does.
* Babel is extremely trendy right now, and I hear lots of ooo’s and aaa’s about it, and is heavily booked, but it has only been open for lunch in its first year of operation. Chef Darren Roberts of Grande Provence is a chef who gets on with things, quietly and creatively, and would be a more deserved Top 10 restaurant, this restaurant making the Top 10 every second year to date.
For the first time, Eat Out has introduced new Restaurant Award categories. The Best Steakhouse Award could go to one of 29 steakhouses listed by Eat Out, and this may be where Johannesburg could have a winner, known to have a selection of good steakhouses, and making up almost half the Eat Out Steakhouse list. In the Cape, Carne, Belthazar, and HQ are some of the steakhouses which feature on the list.
There are 18 finalists for the Boschendal Style Award, and this may be a little bit of a consolation prize for not making Top 10, and also gives newer restaurants which have not been open for a full year a chance at winning something. The nominees for this category include Hemelhuijs, The Saxon, The Test Kitchen (an odd choice), Planet Restaurant, Thomas Maxwell Bistro in Johannesburg, Woodlands Eatery, Pierneef à La Motte, Kream, Makaron (at Majeka House, a consultancy client of Mrs Donnelly), Babel, Overture, The Grand Café and Beach (very odd!!), Rust en Vrede, Central One Restaurant (in the hotel at which David Higgs is the chef now), Dear Me Foodworld, Craft Trattoria, Pure, and Indochine. If Babel falls out of the Top 10, it may win this award.
The Best Bistro Award finalist list has 43 nominees, and feels a little like a listing of every other restaurant which did not make the Top 10 finalist list. Odd is how broad the ‘Bistro’ name has been stretched to include some restaurant nominees! Bistro Sixteen82 should win this award, but stiff competition could come from Bizerca Bistro, Ryan’s Kitchen, Cuvee@Simonsig, The Common Room at Le Quartier Français, The Foodbarn, Dear Me, Franschhoek Kitchen, and Bread & Wine. Odd is to see Reubens Franschhoek on the list, which has continuous negative feedback.
I have not seen the Best Italian Restaurant nominee list, but Giorgio Nava’s PR machine has announced that 95 Keerom Street is one of the nominees. He is a likely winner, embodying ‘Italianess’, but without charm! The Best Asian Restaurant and Best Country-Style Restaurant nominee lists have also not been seen, and Mrs Donnelly did not wish to release the nominee lists.
Interesting is how the Eat Out Awards dinner has grown to 360 attendees. If one calculates that each of the Top 20 Restaurant finalists will take a table, that leaves another 160 seats, not all filled yet, judging by e-mail reminders about the event. With so many finalists and nominees, there will be many disappointed empty-handed chefs and restaurant owners on Sunday evening!
POSTSCRIPT 17/11: This Eat Out article has an interesting analysis of past Top 10 Restaurant/Chef winners, and some demographic break-downs of chefs as well.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage