Tag Archives: Simone Rossouw

Reverie Social Table restaurant gets social in Observatory!

imageChef Julia Hattingh hosted a media launch at her brand new Reverie Social Table Restaurant in Observatory last night, serving a four-course dinner for a table of 18 guests imageahead of the official opening on 1 October.

My Google Maps App became confused with the one-way streets of Observatory, but I found the restaurant on Lower Main Road, a well-lit restaurant with a collection of guests being visible from the street.

One notices the table for 18 on entering the restaurant, Continue reading →

Babylonstoren celebrates 3rd anniversary with Long Table in the Garden!

Babylonstoren Long Table early Whale Cottage PortfolioThe invitation I received from new Babylonstoren Food & Beverage Manager Simoné Rossouw did not reveal what a special honour it was to be invited to the third anniversary celebration of the innovative wine estate, with a top restaurant, boutique hotel, wellness spa, wine tasting and shop, and retail outlet.

We met outside the retail area, which has been expanded to add the shop which originally was located opposite Babel restaurant.  Owner Karen Roos (with husband Koos Bekker) has created the most amazing transformation of the wine estate, which had commenced behind the scenes three years prior to their opening, with their GM Terry de Waal and his team planning and implementing their future direction. Karen is one of the most stylish South Africans, having won most stylish dress awards when they were still awarded, and having been the editor of  Elle Decor.

We were welcomed with three drink options, being home-madeBabylonstoren Bread Sticks Whale Cottage Portfolio ice tea with waterblommetjie, mint and lime; melon and mint cordial with fresh thyme; and strawberry and rose geranium with lavender and lime.  Alternatively one could drink the Babylonstoren wines.  On the table was the most interesting ‘pick up sticks’ presentation of smoked salmon and Serrano ham bread sticks.  The new Spa will be the reason for a future visit, as I never saw it, being distracted with the extensions to the retail building. Continue reading →

Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Awards 2014 shortlist: a prediction!

MasterChef-2-14-Chef-David-dish-Whale-Cottage-Portfolio-300x225It’s that time of the year again, and this week Eat Out will announce its shortlisted Top 20 Restaurants for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards 2014.  The judges have been furiously eating their way around the country, and top restaurants are licking their lips in the hope of cracking the Top 20 list, from which the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants will be announced at the gala dinner in the V&A Waterfront on 10 November.

Given the turmoil in the judging of our country’s Top 10 restaurants in the past two years, Eat Out publisher New Media Publishing communicated with the industry, and invited past Top 20 chefs and some restaurant owners to chat about what they want in restaurant awards.  The overwhelming majority of respondents requested a panel of South African judges (British blogger ‘judge’ Bruce Palling used last Continue reading →

Oldenburg Vineyards paired with Institute of Culinary Arts at Stellenbosch Wine Festival Summer Soiree!

On Friday I attended the Summer Soiree gourmet evening as a guest of Raymond Noppe, Oldenburg Vineyards Regional Sales Manager: Sub-Sahara, as part of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival program.  The gourmet delights were prepared by three talented graduates (in March) of the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA), which is based just down the road in the Banhoek valley.  Guests attending paid R450 per head.

The tables were beautifully set, with glass bowls of proteas, which are grown in the valley, and dry ice, which came to effect when we sat down for the dinner, creating steam when the hostesses from the Alheit Academy poured water over it.  Oldenburg Wines does not have a restaurant, so the dinner was even more special as it was a one of a kind.  On arrival we were offered a glass of Simonsig MCC, sparkling wines not forming part of the Oldenburg repertoire yet.

The menu leaflets provided background to the two pairing partners.  Oldenburg Vineyards is a premium boutique winery which produces small quantities of wines, its vineyards being managed to the full potential of their terroir.

The ICA was established eighteen years ago by Letitia Prinsloo, and has trained many of our country’s top chefs, including Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet, and Simone Rossouw of Babel. It is deemed to be one of the best restaurant and chef training schools in the country.  The course covers Advanced Cooking & Pâtisserie, business development, food theatre, research and marketing, product development, media communication, artistry, food science, and wine. Third year students have to prepare a business plan for a new or relaunched fine-dining restaurant.  The focus of the chef training is the ‘global trend of molecular gastronomy’. Food science is an important subject to help the students understand the growing international gourmet trend to modernist cuisine. The dishes we were served were some of the dishes prepared for the final practicals by three ICA graduates, the students’ practical work being evaluated by the likes of Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, The Greenhouse Chef Peter Tempelhoff, The Tasting Room chef Margot Janse, as well as food journalists.

The ICA works closely with the Alheit Academy, a relationship of four years seeing the ICA training front of house service staff about cooking, wines, front of house, and more, the students receiving a City & Guilds certificate after three years of study.

I missed the first canapé of ‘Olive T(h)ree’, which was served as thin layers of olive oil biscuit topped with olive tapenade, and olive oil sugar bells on olive soil, which was paired with my favourite Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2009. All three the canapés were prepared by Inne-Marie Rabie, who started working at Rooi Rose after graduating at the ICA at the end of last year, working with Food Editor Vickie de Beer in doing research for a new book, I was told by Laetitia.  Inne-Marie’s dill and garlic Beef Tartare was served en croute, finished off with a deep fried quail egg, and a garlic and caper foam, which was paired with the Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.  Raymond told us that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety on the estate, and is a ‘powerful wine’ matured for 12 months in 300 litre barrels, to reduce the oak influence.  It is a big wine, with a higher alcohol content of 14,5%, which they are increasing to 15%.  The wine has notes of cedar wood, pencil shavings, black currant, and cassis.  The third canapé was Vanilla poached pork belly, which was served with a pear purée, and finished off with a rosewater praline, paired with Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011. The Chardonnay grapes will be the first to be picked at Oldenburg, the harvest commencing this week, and the wine is matured for 11 months.  The wine was described as having ‘wooden butteriness‘, creamy vanilla, white pear and peach notes, as well as citrus aromas.  It was scored by Robert Parker at 93.

The amuse bouche was a jasmine poached Scented Salmon served with pickled cucumber, crackling crumble, and pancetta shard, finished off with a cucumber foam and granadilla sauce. This dish was prepared by Monché Muller, who already has a column in Taste magazine, and now works at The Test Kitchen.

Inne-Marie prepared the Exotic Mushrooms dish, tagliatelle served on a mushroom cream and sautéed wild mushrooms, with potato soil and garlic roasted walnuts.  The dish was also paired with the Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011.   Monché returned to present her ‘Homebrew Kudu Loin’, which had been marinated in coffee mud, and was served with cauliflower risotto, roasted lemon chutney, kale pesto, and marinated baby brinjals, which she finished off with a pine nut crust and a stout sauce.  This dish was paired with the very smooth Oldenburg Syrah 2009, which was matured in oak for 15 months, and has coffee and mocha tones. Raymond described it as being ‘plush‘, having soft tannins, and offering good drinkability.  We laughed when he said that it has won no awards yet it is their largest seller.

The Oldenburg Vineyards pricing policy is to charge at two price points only: R118 for their Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and R 182 for their Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.  Later this year Oldenburg is introducing Rhodium, which Raymond summarised as follows: “Rhodium is a chemical element that is a rare, silvery-white, hard, and chemically inert transition metal and a member of the platinum group. It has the chemical symbol Rh and atomic number 45, and is one of the “noble metals.   Our first release will be the 2010 vintage, and will consist of 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Malbec. The blend proportions and varietals used for the 2011 vintage was substantially different, although Cabernet Franc will always be the backbone and biggest contributor.  We plan to release it within the next 2 months, and it should sell for around R330/bottle. Each bottle will be individually wrapped and packed in its own specially printed box.  We are hoping that this new premium offering will live up to its name of being noble in all respects and help to establish us further as one of the top premium producers in South Africa.”

Dorothy, the maternal grandmother of Oldenburg Vineyards’ owner Adrian van der Spuy came to South Africa in the ‘Fifties, and met Helmut Hohmann, the owner of the Ivy Knowe farm, over the neighbouring fence, so to speak.  He bought the neighbouring Rondekop farm on auction in 1955, consolidated it with his existing farm, and changed the name of the two farms to Oldenburg, after his hometown in Germany. They planted deciduous fruit originally in the ‘Sixties, and then added grapes, with were sold to SFW and to the KWV initially.  The farm was placed in a trust by Van der Spuy’s grandmother when Hohmann died, which Van der Spuy bought out of the trust in 2003.  Simon Thompson is the viticulturist at Oldenburg, and also its winemaker.  The first wines were made in 2007.  The Oldenburg wines are made at Glenelly presently, but an Oldenburg cellar is on the cards in the next five years.  (Van der Spuy’s paternal grandmother is the late Una van der Spuy, who was a well-known landscaper, and lived at Old Nectar in Stellenbosch).

The highlight dish of the evening was Nico Meyer’s Southern Reef, a marine-inspired dessert, with a coral made from ginger and chocolate, which was served in an oyster shaped chocolate shell in which a chai tea sphere was placed, for one to sip off the shell as one would an oyster, releasing a burst of flavour once in one’s mouth. The dessert creation was placed on flavoured soil, with foam, to complete the marine theme. Each guest had the choice of pairing the dessert with Oldenburg’s Chenin Blanc 2011 or Merlot 2010.  The Merlot 2010 maiden vintage has just been launched by Oldenburg.  Nico now works at Apprentice, the ICA restaurant in Stellenbosch, and is their head chef. The dessert was followed by friandise of chocolate fondant, baklava, and melon coated in mint jelly, served with coffee.

All three the ICA graduates were very creative, and had taken a lot of trouble to create the perfect dishes to bring out the best in the Oldenburg wines.  One certainly will get to hear more about these fledgeling chefs as they develop in their careers.   Oldenburg Vineyards and the ICA demonstrated true neighbourliness in their food and wine pairing Summer Soiree gourmet evening.

Oldenburg Vineyards, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-1618. www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter: @OldenburgWines  Monday – Friday.

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

Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant 2012 Awards: some predictions!

We have predicted the Eat Out Top restaurants in the past few years, and this year we are presenting three Eat Out Top 10 list options, based on Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly’s potential approaches to selecting the award-winning restaurants, which she had rubber-stamped by now ex-judge UK blogger Bruce Palling!

The judging criteria are clearly specified on the Eat Out website: the restaurant must have operated for 12 full months (this is why The Pot Luck Club had to be dropped off the Top 20 list!), and the same chef must have run the kitchen for the period; the owners and the chef should show an absolute passion for their business;  they should be dedicated to uplifting the industry (an odd criterion, not being clear if this is meant to be staff upliftment, or sharing with chef colleagues?);  chefs should care about sourcing quality produce; and consistency and excellence must shine through every aspect of the business.  The judging score is out of 100, of which 70%  goes to Food, its website says, but the figures don’t add up, in that 15 points go to menu composition and seasonality (defined as ‘choice, cooking techniques, dietary requirements, local ingredients, choice of fish, out-of-season ingredients‘), 15 points go to presentation (defined as ‘visual appeal, fits description, use of plate, garnishes’), and 25 points go to taste (defined as execution of dish, balanced, flavours complimentary, texture’), totalling 55 out of 70.  The missing 15 points are not clarified, but some must be the non-food aspects, as they add up to 100!  In addition, wine is evaluated out of 10 points (defined as ‘choice, other beverages offered, staff knowledge, pairing and value for money‘), Value for money scores out of 5, Service is evaluated out of 20 (defined as ‘reservation, arrival, staff attitude and knowledge, specials, wine matching, dietary requirements, extra mile, billing’), and ambiance is scored out of 10 (defined as ‘comfort level, cleanliness, cutlery, music and bathrooms‘).

To recap, the following Top 19 Restaurants are in the running for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list:

Cape Town:  Bistrot Bizerca, The Greenhouse, La Colombe, Planet Restaurant, The Roundhouse, The Test Kitchen

Stellenbosch: Delaire Graff, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, Makaron Restaurant, Overture, Rust en Vrede, Terroir, Tokara

Franschhoek:  Babel, Pierneef à La Motte, The Tasting Room

Other: DW Eleven-13, Hartford House, Restaurant Mosaic

We called our first Top 10 Restaurant list the Taste Monitor, doing a count of the number of times a Top 19 Eat Out restaurant has been featured in Taste magazine this year, of which Mrs Donnelly is the Food editor, to show which chefs she is partial to.  It is no surprise that Chef Luke Dale-Roberts wins, having been featured in every issue, and he would be the only restaurant on the Top 10 list on this basis, all other Top 19 restaurant contenders having only been featured once or twice, if at all, in the past year. Advertising for La Motte, Delaire Graff, and Makaron restaurants has appeared in the magazine this year, as well as a promotion for Delaire Graff.

Another criterion would be the Trend to Foraging, Ethical sourcing, and Vegetable and Herb Gardening, and the following restaurants would feature on this list, in no particular order, based on our knowledge and what the restaurant websites claim:  Pierneef à La Motte, Delaire Graff, Overture, Babel, The Tasting Room, The Greenhouse, Planet Restaurant, Makaron, and Hartford House.

To compile the Top 10 Restaurant List, we have had to put ourselves into Mrs Donnelly’s shoes: she will have chosen her favourites and those that she has had links to, having shown her bias in judging restaurants this year and last year.  The hardest part is to decide which of her existing Top 10 favourites will have to fall off the existing Top 10 list to make way for others. No offence is meant by any exclusions, and is purely based on speculation:

*  The Test Kitchen – there is no doubt that The Test Kitchen will be named Top Restaurant and Luke Dale-Roberts as Top Chef, on the basis of the monthly shoot at his restaurant for Taste magazine alone. 74th position on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Speaker at Eat Out Conference. Restaurant booked up to 3 months ahead. Oddly described as serving Tapas by Eat Out, maybe confusing it with The Pot Luck Club?

*   Pierneef à La Motte Chef Chris Erasmus showed that he strives for excellence in spending one month working at Noma, the world’s best restaurant, has the most fabulous vegetable and herb garden filled with unusual vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers, collegially sharing the produce with other restaurants in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, has excellent wines on its winelist, and proudly focuses on local cuisine. Superb interior, reasonable value.  Culinary Manager Hetta Van Deventer-Terblanche is speaking at the Eat Out Conference, and La Motte has advertised in Taste magazine. Service deficiencies would lose the restaurant some points.

*   Makaron Restaurant Chef Tanja Kruger is a member of the SA Culinary Olympic Team, spent a month working at Michelin-star L’Apèrge restaurant in Paris this year, has a vegetable and herb garden at Majeka House, and sources meat from Farmer Angus at Spier. Mrs Donnelly was a consultant to the restaurant, designing its first menu last year, and named the restaurant the inaugural winner of the Boschendal Style Award 2011, making it a model Eat Out restaurant!  Sommelier Josephine Gutentoft adds to the quality offering. Good ambiance.  Placed advertisement in Taste magazine this year.

*   Babel at BabylonstorenConsultant Maranda Engelbrecht has created a restaurant that is booked out two months in advance, and has created a most unusual food concept of same-colour salads, consisting of fruit, vegetables and herbs, grown in their enormous French-inspired garden. Chef Simone Rossouw worked at a Dutch restaurant for a while earlier this year. Owner Karen Roos has impeccable decor taste, very less-is-more.  First wine vintage launched, and very Proudly Simonsberg wines.  Good value, service strained when busy.

* Tokara Chef Richard Carstens deserved a Top 10 place last year, but was shockingly left off the list, perhaps because there was a fear that he would not last at the restaurant. He has proven Mrs Donnelly very wrong. One of our most creative chefs, and constantly reinventing himself and his team.  Seasonal focus.  Exceptional presentation.  Very professional service, with sommelier service.  Winner of best Winelands Restaurant in Great Wine Capitals Global Network awards second year running.

*   The Greenhouse Chef Peter Tempelhoff is understated and low key, just getting on with what he does best. Own vegetable garden on the hotel estate, knowledgeable about wines, Chef Peter making wines with Adam Mason.  One of only two Relais & Châteaux Grand Chefs in South Africa, awarded to Chef Peter earlier this year. Named Top Eat Out Restaurant last year.  Service can be arrogant. Fun interpretation of restaurant name in dishes. Expensive. Sommelier service. Innovative 7-course Dom Perignon Tasting Menu introduced today.

*   La Colombe – Chef Scot Kirton worked with Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, and has proven that he can do it with his own team too.  Best winelist and sommelier in the country in Diner’s Club Winelist Awards this year.

*   DW Eleven-13 – we know that Bruce Palling flew to Johannesburg to judge the restaurant.

*  Delaire Graff Chef Christiaan Campbell has strong ethical food principles, sources from Farmer Angus, his own vegetable garden, as well as from La Motte, seasonal menus, good plating, exceptional setting with its view on to the Simonsberg, outstanding service, exceptional decor with artworks by top local artists, very expensive.  Placed advertisement and ran promotion in Taste magazine this year.

*   The Tasting Room – Best placed South African restaurant on The World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, even though it slipped badly to 57th position this year, Chef Margot Janse sourcing herbs and vegetables from the La Motte garden, and meats from Farmer Angus at Spier.  Very expensive. Service and wine list is criticised.  New decor by Chef Margot’s brother. Speaker at Eat Out Conference.  Loses points for banning customers.

We have excluded Bistrot Bizerca because of its move to new premises while the 2012 Eat Out edition was being printed; Terroir, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, and Rust en Vrede for being under the radar; The Roundhouse, for Chef PJ Vadas leaving during the course of the year, which should have disqualified the restaurant from being on the Top 20 list;  Hartford House and Restaurant Mosaic, for judge Bruce Palling not having visited, as far as we can tell from his Tweets;  Planet Restaurant, for not yet shaking off its hotel connection and what that entails, despite Chef Rudi’s impressive sourcing of produce and their excellent sommelier; and Overture, whose Chef Bertus Basson may have been burning the candle at both ends this year with his Amazink, Die Wors-Rol, The Ultimate Braaimaster, and consulting contracts.

We look forward to the Eat Out DStv Food Network Top 10 Restaurant Awards, to be held at The Westin hotel on Sunday evening.

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

Babel Restaurant: a fabulous fresh feast!

I went to the Babel restaurant at Babylonstoren just after it opened over a year ago, and was in awe with it, but never wrote about it at that time.  Hearing about the opening of the Babel Tea House, it was a good opportunity to return to Babylonstoren, and I was lucky to obtain a table outside for lunch after visiting the Babel Tea House on Sunday.

Babylonstoren was awarded to ‘vryburgher’ Pieter van der Byl in 1690, and he started planting vineyards on the farm.  The current gardens were inspired by the Company Gardens, which Jan van Riebeeck had developed to supply ships of the Dutch East India Company, and ‘hales back to the mythical garden of Babylon’, its website says.  Patrice Tarravella from France, who owns a property with a garden layout which impressed the owners Karen Roos and Koos Bekker, was contracted to do the garden layout at Babylonstoren. The massive garden contains about 350 fruit and vegetable varieties.

The menu is most unusual – first, in terms of its presentation, written on a tiled white wall with a bull’s head painted on the side.  It is also available in printed form for those patrons sitting outside, and the paper looks recycled, in a beige colour, added as a loose sheet within a cover with a decorative drawing of vegetables. The same drawing is also on the billfold.  Second, the menu has two sections, one more traditional, in offering main course and dessert options, and the other something one has never experienced before, salads forming the base of the meal, to which one can add smoked trout (R45), home-made yoghurt cheese (R25), warm smoked chicken (R35), or cured moist biltong (R40).  The Green salad costs R50, and contains green kohlrabi, green beans, cucumber, fennel, pear, celery, avocado, asparagus, and garden greens, served with a mint geranium and yoghurt dressing.  The Red salad costs R55, and contains beetroot, watermelon, strawberry, radishes, plums, bloody sorrel, tomato berries and garden greens, served with a strawberry, pink peppercorn and rose dressing.  The Yellow salad costs R60, and contains, carrots, granadilla, pineapple, paw paw, apricots, corn, butternut, gooseberry, melon, nectarines and garden greens, with a nasturtium, mustard and verjuice dressing.  The menu introduction states: “At Babylonstoren we have luxury offerings of freshly picked fruit & vegetables, as nature intends, from our gardens.  We would like to inspire you with our menu suggestions. Our gardeners will introduce you to new cultivars and our chefs will offer you new, exciting flavour combinations”.

The more standard menu contains main courses only, the idea being that one orders a salad as a starter, one assumes, and the choices are lightly smoked Franschhoek trout with strawberry and lemon thyme crème fraiche served with a strawberry and Babylonstoren viognier drizzle (R125).  What the menu does not state is that the very large portion of trout is served with bowls of delicious and crispy hand cut chips, tzatziki and carrots, a tamarillo (which is a tree tomato but tastes of peach too), a baked onion topped with herb pesto, cauliflower in the most delicious goat’s cheese white wine cream sauce containing shredded roasted hazelnuts, herb pesto, and two slices of bread, an absolute feast and far too much to eat.   There is also a choice of 300 gram of sirloin (R135) or fillet (R155), served with calamata olive and shiraz butter sauce and olive salt.  Lamb cutlets served with gooseberry, lemon, caper and mint pesto and fresh pear julienne cost R140 for 300 gram. An artichoke tart with tamarillo, caramelised onion, chevin, fresh bloody sorrel and basil costs R85.  For dessert one chooses between a type of taste: Bitter is a white chocolate and bay leaf crème brûleé with warm almond brittle and almond wafer (R50); Sour is an apple, lime, yoghurt, mint and pea popsicle with radish carpaccio (R35); Savoury is a gorgonzola soufflé, served with beetroot infused cream, fresh apple and walnut as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon drizzle (R45); Sweet is a chilled plum soup served with beetroot sorbet and crystallised basil (R40). Wines by the glass are the first Babylonstoren wines, at R20 for Chenin Blanc and Dry Rosé, R33 for Shiraz, and R40 for Viognier.

On Friday and Saturday evenings dinner is served, at R300 per head for a 4-course meal, and the menu is varied for each dinner.  If the restaurant picks up that one has been there for dinner before, they will make sure that the menu is different to the one experienced on the previous visit.  The dinners appear to be excellent value, and Chef Simoné Rossouw printed out three past dinner menus, to give me an idea of what she serves: a ‘petal salad’, and a starter of beetroot carpaccio with goat’s cheese mousse and yellow plum relish, or even a nectarine-poached crayfish tail with cauliflower and vanilla puree, mizuna and crisp leeks.  For the main course a choice of meat (probably a 300 gram steak, or lamb shank), fish (trout with Kei apple hollandaise and eureka lemon) and vegetarian (Gorgonzola soufflé with apple and walnut relish, or grilled parsnip with poached duck egg and gratinated blue cheese) are offered.  For dessert one could expect a nectarine and smoked chilli tart tatin, a plum sorbet, scarlet peach mousse and an almond crisp; or a peach brioche with cardamom and citrus-scented ice cream; or a hazelnut meringue with Port-poached plums, white chocolate yoghurt and fresh berries.  It is the innovative dinner menu that could earn Babel its first Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant listing in 2012.  Chef Simoné sat with me for a short while, being very busy, and explained that they serve ‘honest food’ at Babel, their menus designed around what they can harvest from the garden, and even having to buy in produce on occasion, if the garden produce is not yet ripe.  She sources her meat from Tomi’s abattoir in Hermon, and they have their hens laying eggs, but not enough to meet their demand.  Babel Restaurant is ‘inspired’ by ‘food fundi’ Maranda Engelbrecht, who previously owned Manna Epicure on Kloof Street, says the Babylonstoren website.

I sat outside in the courtyard, these tables being unreserved, and arrived early enough to book one last-minute. A cooling water spray system has been installed, helping to cool one off on the hot Boland days. The Reserved sign was put in a wreath made of woven twigs, no doubt from the farm, and they are sold in the Babylonstoren shop too. The shop stocks an interesting collection of Panama and crocheted hats, fig and brandy paste, spiced plum jam, yellow plum chutney, strawberry and sage jam, scented candles, books (including the book ‘South’ by Karen Roos and Annemarie Meintjies, beautifully ‘wrapped’ with a ribbon), wines from the Simonsberg terroir, toffees, rusks, fresh produce from the Babylonstoren garden (carrots, rhubarb, beetroot and cauliflower), green fig preserve, Boeremeisjes, strawberry and lemon cordial, pickles, and lots more.  Next to the shop is the Library, a quiet space in which one can sit and read or page through the extensive collection of books.   The bathroom is done in cream tiles with a green line, and reminded me of my school facilities, yet the basins are very modern.

The service was slow, with the waiter serving outside struggling to serve all our needs. It was noticeable how many group tables of 6 – 10 guests there were, so the service speed probably was less important to them. The serviette was tiny, compared to the generous size of the serviettes at the Babel Tea House. Impressive was the waiter’s knowledge about the exotic fruit and vegetables served, the preparation thereof, and of the garden.  The visit to Babylonstoren was memorable, in seeing the new Babel Tea House, meeting up with Koos Bekker again, also chatting to the very humble Karen Roos, and enjoying the outstanding food at Babel Restaurant.

Babel Restaurant, Babylonstoren, R45, next to Backsberg on road to Franschhoek. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter: @Babylonstoren Wednesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.  R10 entrance fee.

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

Babel Tea House: a refreshing new stop in the gardens of Babylonstoren

Babylonstoren is the flavour of the year, and is on everyone’s lips.  Just over a year after opening, the hotel has made the Conde Nast Hot 100 list, and Babel Restaurant the Eat Out Top 20 shortlist.  Now the owners Karen Roos and Koos Bekker have opened the Babel Tea House on the impressive property, as a refreshment stop for visitors to their garden.

Designed to emulate a Victorian ‘kweekhuis’, the glass conservatory is positioned under oak trees about 400 meters from Babel Restaurant.  To get there, one must walk through the massive 1,2 km x 700 meter 3,5 ha fruit and vegetable garden, with 350 species, which was designed by Patrice Tarravella, who has a  Relais & Chateaux property about two hours south of Paris, which is well-known for its garden.  The Bekkers contracted Patrice to design their garden in the same style, with a lot of trellising of roses in-between the vegetables, and especially along the pathway.  One needs a hat, and comfortable walking shoes to walk on the part stony and part peach-pip path to the Tea House.  Tables with a collection of colourful chairs are set up under the trees outside the Tea House.  Inside the Tea House one can sense the decor style of Karen Roos – a collection of flowers, including blue lillies, just lying as if they are still to be put in a vase.  Another table has a collection of vegetables on a table, making a decor statement.  A third table has herbs from the garden, with Nigiro glass tea pots and warmers.   One can choose one’s herb from a collection from the garden – e.g. rose geranium, sage, mint, lavender – and have one’s own tea made, at a mere R10 a cup.  Cupcakes were also on display.

When one arrives one receives a brochure with the layout of the grounds, and of the vegetable garden specifically.  I heard that a guide can take one through the garden, but this is not communicated on arrival nor when one is at the Tea House.  Some interesting sounding garden sections include the prickly pear maze, the historical mulberry, ‘mulberry meditation’, the citrus block, the ‘guava avenue’, and many more.

It is very ‘gesellig’ at the Tea House, as a number of visitors came to say hello, including radio man Nico de Kock, the F&B Manager Annelle van Tonder, who brought me a Winner plum as a welcome, and both Karen Roos and Koos Bekker.   Karen Roos is a very private person, and had her own decor magazine ‘Red‘ many years ago, and ended her editorship of Elle Decoration, no doubt to devote more time to her new project.   She has won awards for her stylish dressing, and her impeccable taste shows in her understated decor at Babylonstoren.  Koos Bekker and I have crossed paths three times – as members of the editorial team for Die Matie whilst we were students at the University of Stellenbosch; as a client when I was seconded from Y&R Johannesburg to work with him as a market researcher when he set up M-Net 25 years ago; and as a research consultant to M-Net a few years later. Now he is the CEO of Naspers. Koos’ touch is evident in the Chinese on the signage, with English or Afrikaans, and his company has lost a lot of money there, he told me. He is still very active in China, having returned from a trip to there the day before, he told me. Babylonstoren must be the only South African tourism player that is recognising the potential power of the Chinese market. Admirably he has taken Mandarin lessons, to master this difficult language.  Koos looked like a country gentleman, with a Panama hat, was friendly and relaxed (he is an extreme work-a-holic), and he even brought me a hat to protect my face from the sun.  He has invested an inordinate amount of money in Babylonstoren, one assumes.  Koos told me that they will start producing their first wines next year in their 300 ton cellar, Charl Coetzee, previously of Clos Malverne, being their winemaker.  In the meantime they are selling wines drawn from the terroir surrounding the Simonsberg in their shop and in the restaurant.  I have read elsewhere that a tasting room for these Simonsberg terroir wines is on the cards at Babylonstoren, with a deli selling cheeses too.

The GM Terry de Waal also came to introduce himself, and told me that his background is industrial engineering and not hospitality at all.  He was the project manager when Babylonstoren was first developed, and now takes overall responsibility for the estate.   His industrial engineering skills were useful when the Tea House was designed, working with Patrice, Koos, and Karen to come up with the design of the building. I saw Terry being hands-on, carrying food boxes from the kitchen to clients.

Water is offered for free in branded bottles, and must be from the farm. Cutlery is the most stylish patterned perspex.  The food is served in a branded wooden box.  The paper table cloth is also branded, with a Delft plate, which has become a new symbol for Babylonstoren, remnants of which have been found on the grounds during the renovations.  The table cloth states that it is recycled, going into the compost after use. The concept is very simple – from a blackboard choose for a ‘sandwich’ a bread style (ciabatta, wholewheat, rye, farmstyle white), a cheese (Dalewood Huguenot, Gorgonzola, goat’s cheese, pecorino), and/or a charcuterie item (Black Forest ham, smoked chicken, soft cured biltong, smoked trout).  The cost of both the meat and cheese sandwich is R65, and R55 for either the one or the other.  A fresh garden salad with herbs is served in a separate glass jar, and there are two further jars: one with plum relish with granny smith apple and pineapple sage, and the other with a mixed herb oil. My rye ‘sandwich’ was a roll, and was rather tough, filled with the ham and cheese, and wrapped in branded paper, with the perspex cutlery tied to it with a serviette.  I took my roll home with me, and only had the salad, spontaneously booking for lunch at Babel restaurant.  I am not sure how one would eat the ‘sandwich’ without having a plate, the wooden box in which it was served possibly serving this purpose. Chef Simone Rossouw confirmed that the cakes and cupcakes are made for them by Kelly in Franschhoek, who transforms the produce they have in abundance into cake.  I took a chocolate cupcake (R25) home with me, and it was wrapped in the branded paper, with six cherries giving it a beautiful finishing touch. Slices of cake cost R45, and the selection includes lemon meringue, carrot cake and chocolate cake.  Cappuccino costs R18; red, yellow or green juices cost R20, homemade iced tea R25; homemade ginger beer R16 and lemonade R20; Marriage Freres teas cost R30.

Service is slow, but Babylonstoren is not the place to go to if one is in a hurry, and the service should improve as the Tea House settles in.  Neither the blackboard nor the staff explain clearly how the sandwiches work, and what the prices are.   One needs a hat and comfortable shoes.  I was disappointed that they buy in the cakes, and do not make them on the farm. But the overall delight of walking through the gardens, of getting an opportunity to experience a taste of Babylonstoren without pre-booking Babel Restaurant, and of seeing style personified makes the food disappointment secondary.

Babel Tea House, Babylonstoren. R45 to Franschhoek, next to Backsberg. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter:@Babylonstoren.  Wednesday – Sunday. 10h00 – 16h00. No reservation required.  R10 entrance fee to the estate.

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

La Motte ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ cookbook a winning recipe!

The launch of the new cookbook ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ at La Motte wine estate yesterday was characterised by the professionalism and excellence that this Franschhoek wine estate has become known for, and demonstrated the leadership of La Motte in proudly promoting the cuisine heritage of the Cape Winelands.

From the time that the restaurant Pierneef à La Motte opened over a year ago, Cape Winelands cuisine has formed the foundation of its menu, its Culinary Manager Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche having researched a collection of recipes that originated from the Dutch, German, French, Flemish, and British settlers that came to the Cape more than 300 years ago, and a selection presented in the restaurant, with a modern twist.  The collection of recipes has been captured in the new book, which La Motte CEO Hein Koegelenberg describes as follows: “What really makes this book so special is that it is the first time in the history of South Africa that such a complete and detailed traditional recipe book with historical, scientifically based recipes is published”. The book ‘unlocks the history of food in South Africa and serves as a valuable guide to treasured food knowledge that was almost lost by our generation’, said the La Motte media release.

The 288-page book, with photography by Micky Hoyle, contains more than a hundred recipes.  A limited number of copies of the book was flown in from overseas for the launch function, so we were not able to page through the book.  The book should be widely available from November.  An unusual launch approach was used, by having a panel discussion with Hein and Hanlie Koegelenberg, Chef Chris Erasmus, and Hetta about the book, led by Rooi Rose food journalist and cookbook writer Mariette Crafford, asking interesting and challenging questions about the book, the history of Cape Winelands cuisine, and the cuisine policy of Pierneef à La Motte.  Chef Chris said his ‘roots are here‘ (in the Winelands), and highlighted that it is important to go back to celebrating South African food. There is a move away from deconstruction, to go back to serving food that reflects the season and the region.  People want food like they had at home, like mother used to make, which was like a ‘liefdesbrief’, often the favourite dish of each family member being made for Sunday lunches.  So the book contains something for everyone, it was said. Pairing the flavours in wines with those in foods makes the eating and drinking experience special, said Hein.  La Motte has started planting trees with traditional fruits, to harvest from in future, including guavas, figs and quinces, and they have started planting herbs and vegetables, for use in the restaurant kitchen. All chefs seek to be self-sustaining as far as supplies go, but there are some limitations, such as the local supply of venison and ‘heirloom vegetables’, Chef Chris mentioned.  Hein emphasised that La Motte is a family business, with family values.

The most impressive part of the launch function, over and above the lovely lunch at which we tasted some of the recipes contained in the book, was the recognition that all restaurants in the area should stand for and support Cape Winelands Cuisine, an unselfish promotion of the cuisine wealth of the region. A number of chefs were invited, including Margot Janse from The Tasting Room, Ryan Shell from Haute Cabriere, Topsi Venter, Neil Jewell from Bread & Wine, Christophe De Hosse from Joostenberg Deli, Neethling du Toit from La Petite Ferme, Marianna Esterhuizen from Marianna’s, Abie Conradie from Noop, Leana Schoeman from the Salmon Bar, and Simone Rossouw from Babel at Babylonstoren. Suppliers of Pierneef à La Motte were invited too, a nice touch, as were a number of bloggers and print media food journalists.  Restaurants and wineries from the area were encouraged to help market the book.

The lunch menu detailed the background to the items we were served, which has become characteristic of the menu at Pierneef à La Motte.  Each table was served a selection of starter dishes on a wooden board, to be shared, reflecting the ‘family’ feel one gets when one visits the restaurant.   The selection consisted of the signature Cape Bokkom salad (predicted by the restaurant to become a classic such as the Waldorf salad, Caeser salad, and Salad Niçoise), pickled fish with capers (its origin being Arabia), offal brawn (introduced by the French Huguenots), Rolpens (stuffed stomach, introduced by the Dutch), and pickled tongue, served with wholewheat farm bread from the La Motte Farm Kitchen.  This was paired with La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2011.  For the main course, the menu listed sweet and sour pumpkin and lamb stew, and pan-fried Franschhoek trout on a sweetcorn fritter with red wine sauce and turnip dauphinoise.  Interestingly, we were not asked our preference, and every alternate guest was served one of the two main courses.  Again, as a ‘family’ of guests Spit or Swallow’s Anel Grobler and I shared our main courses.  I had the trout, and the menu stated that serving fish with a red wine sauce will have originated from the Dutch, but had been found in historic German and French cookbooks too.  It was paired with the La Motte Chardonnay 2009.  The stew recipe, paired with La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier 2008, has its origin in Arabia, and was written about by a Cape traveller venturing into the African interior.

The dessert was a refreshing summer sweet soup with fresh berries, and a ball of fruit sorbet delicately balanced on two biscuit sticks over the bowl.  Sweet soups came from Holland, but probably have their origin in Italy.  A lovely pairing with this dish was the La Motte Méthode Cap Classique 2008.  More treats were served with the coffee, a collection of biscuits, Cape fruit tartlets, macaroons (not a modern dish, but one that was originally called ‘makrolletjies’, made then with desiccated coconut, or almonds), apple marmalade, ‘kwartiertertjies’ (‘samoosa’ triangles, with an origin in Persia), ‘oblietjies’ (waffles) with cream, and cheese-tart with preserves.

The interesting and unusual launch of the book via the panel discussion in the historic wine cellar, the lovely lunch at Pierneef à La Motte paired with excellent La Motte wines, the friendly ‘family’ collection of guests, and the professional packaging of media information, with recipe postcards presented in a wax-sealed envelope with the La Motte emblem, is a recipe for success for the new cookery book, and for Pierneef à La Motte, which has been nominated as an Eat Out Top 20 restaurant, and is certain to make the Top 10 list on 20 November.

‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’, Human & Rousseau, R450. Available at bookshops from November, and at the La Motte Farm Shop already.  Tel (021) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com

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

The Big Easy Sweet and Darling Music Experience Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award goes to the Manager of The Big Easy restaurant in Stellenbosch, for making space for a table of two on Valentine’s Day, when the hostess had declined the request initially, even though only half the tables were occupied at the time.   The service and meal were excellent.   It transpired during the evening that a party of 22 had booked, and that the hostess did not want to burden the kitchen, or the new chef Simone’ Rossouw.  Shockingly, the large party did not honour their booking!

 

The Sour Service Award goes to the Darling Music Experience, for the organisation of an event at the Groote Post wine estate outside Darling.   After a long journey from Cape Town, driving on a poor quality gravel road to get to the farm, the attendees of the lunch session had to listen to a talk by German pianist Andreas Kern about music, concerts, etc, and only got to hear one short piece played by him!   All the attendees at the lunch table complained about their expectation of a concert, as it was that that had attracted them to attend.  Lunch was then served at Hilda’s Kitchen restaurant, and was most disappointing:  a salmon salad with potatoes as a starter, a slice of mixed vegetable quiche for the main!!!, and a lovely pavlova.   If it had not been for the long journey lying ahead to travel back, and the lovely persons at the table, one would have chosen to return immediately.  The cost of R 250 per head felt like a rip-off, and was used as a sales opportunity for the Pentz family for their wines rather than as a musical experience for the attendees.   Feedback received from the Darling tourism bureau was dismissive and unsatisfactory, although they did offer an invitation to attend a concert two days later.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Franschhoek goes to Cape Town!

Well-known Franschhoek tapas restaurant Bouillabaisse is to open a sister restaurant in the new Epicurean Food Emporium in Cape Town next month.  Chef and owner Camil Haas previously owned Klein Oliphantshoek, the guest house at which he and his wife Ingrid prepared award-winning tasting menu meals for their guests. 

Not only will a new Bouillabaisse open in Cape Town, but a new restaurant Crepe Suzette will also be opened by the Haas duo.

The Epicurean Food Emporium has been designed by Conrad Gallagher Consulting, and will open in The Rockwell, an apartment building in De Waterkant.    It will be set up as a neighbourhood food market, with 15 food and beverage stores selling freshly baked bread, homemade jam, chutney, pesto, olive oil, wine, gourmet sandwiches, chocolates, ice cream, confectionery and cheeses.  It is to become a one-stop market synonomous with fine food, outstanding service, quality and food trends, reports Supermarket & Retailer.   Further restaurants, in addition to Bouillabaisse and Crepe Suzette, are set to open.

Other restaurant news is that onewaterfront, the restaurant in the Cape Grace Hotel in the Waterfront, which became famous when Bruce Robertson was the chef, is changing its name to Signal, reports eatout, in honour of Cape Town’s traditional noon day gun on Signal Hill.   The restaurant will serve Cape food, reflecting the French Huguenot, British, Dutch and Asian heritage of the Cape.

Bruce Robertson, now the owner of award-winning and Top 10 restaurant The Showroom, is opening another restaurant, located in the Grand Daddy Hotel, previously The Metropole Hotel, in Long Street, called theshowroomcafe, reports eatout.   The menu will be casual, local and “unfussy”, and the chef is Simone Rossouw.

Richard Carstens, top 10 restauranteur when he was at Lynton Hall in KwaZulu-Natal and Bijoux in Franschhoek, is not moving to Franschhoek, as speculated, but is relaunching Relish in New Church Street, and is now called Nova, reports eatout.    A tasting menu (at R 325 per person) and an a la carte menu will be offered.