Entries tagged with “South Hill”.

As writers we are invited to many events. I have attended the FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 Awards over a number of years, but none have been as much fun as the one I attended at The Franschhoek Cellar on Thursday!  (more…)

imageCornuti has been synonymous with Plettenberg Bay, being one of the longest established restaurants in the seaside town, having opened 19 years ago and especially known for its pizzas. After a renovation closure of eight months, the restaurant re-opened in mid-December, and has confused everyone in the town as well as past visitors with the branding change (more…)

Chalk & Cork logo Whale CottageI was bombarded with a barrage of Tweets when the new owners of Mozzarella Bar on Kloof Street first opened in July, having bought the business from ‘Mr Charm’ Giorgio Nava.  Nava must have sold the owners Amy and Marc Botes a good dose of rudeness and cheek too, which is what I experienced when I popped in at the now renamed Chalk & Cork, waiting for my car to be washed at the Engen garage nearby, earlier this week. I enjoyed going to the Mozzarella Bar, with its charming Italian manager Simone, previoulsy.

I photographed the counter as one enters (there is no signage at the entrance, but only on the low wall of Chalk & Cork Interior Whale Cottagethe outside seating, visible to all passing on Kloof Street (the patrons that is, and not the branding)!  The waitress could not tell me why the restaurant is named Chalk & Cork, other than to say that they have a lot of wine on the winelist!  She could not explain the ‘Chalk‘ part.   There is a cork collection building up on both sides of the front door.  The downstairs entrance doesn’t appear to have changed much, although there is more equipment against the back wall behind the counter compared to the Mozzarella Bar.  The Pizza oven is still there, as is the drinks fridge. They are no longer selling Mozzarella, which will be available at Piazza Italia, up the road on Park Road.  Upstairs they can seat 30 patrons.  On a rainy day they have next to no business, the upstairs seating not being visible nor known.  (more…)

Living on the Atlantic Seaboard, I do not get out to Durbanville very often.  Errieda du Toit, PR consultant for the Durbanville Wine Route, is determined to change that, and invited me to visit Altydgedacht, the second oldest wine estate (after De Grendel) on the Durbanville Wine Route (then called Tygerberg, having been handed over to the first owner Elsje van Suurwaarde in 1698 by the Dutch East India Company) last Thursday. The wine estate has been owned by the Parker family for the last 160 years, and its rustic Eat @ Altydgedacht restaurant was named one of the Top 10 Winelands restaurants by Wine Tourism SA last month, published in Oprah magazine.

Bubbly restaurant owner Sharon Kriel showed us the original cellar at Altydgedacht, which is used for seating for her restaurant when it is cold outside, decorated with fairy lights and the original wine vats, which are over 100 years old. She showed us the plans which have just had drawn up, to show how the cellar grew from the original 1702 building to its current shape, last added onto in 1941.  Using a Bedouin canopy, Sharon has increased the size of her popular restaurant, which she started at Altydgedacht in 2009, and on good weather days one can sit outside at wooden tables and those made from wine barrels, or even on a blanket on the lawn, in picnic style.  The restaurant can seat 95 guests.

The Parker family is the fifth generation to own the farm, and its matriarch Jean Parker is a character at 87 years, I was told. Her sons John and Ollo run the farm, John being the Viticulturist, and Ollo the Cellarmaster, working with their winemaker Etienne Louw. It was a stop in Cape Town of the ship carrying the Parker forbears to Australia that made 13 year old Ralph Parker stay behind, find a job as an apprentice with Mr Chiappini, after whom a city centre street is named, marry his daughter, and buy Altydgedacht a few years later.  The history of the farm and of the Parker family is captured in the very rustic tasting room, which has a very old workbench, in which historical farm tools are still to be found in its drawers, and on which the Altydgedacht wines are displayed.  The Tasting Room has a wall with some of the original ‘koffieklip‘ from which the walls were built still showing.  The farm is 415 hectares in size, of which 180 ha is under vineyards and 30 ha is dedicated to a Fynbos and Renosterveld reserve. The farm was managed by Jean Parker when her husband died at the age of 29 after a shooting accident, with the help of their long-standing farm manager Hennie Heydenrych. John and Ollo both went to the University of Stellenbosch to study wine management and winemaking, respectively, and both worked on wine estates in California. Ollo also spent time in New Zealand and in Australia. Their initial grape production of 500 tons, from which the wine made was sold to the Castle Wine & Brandy Company and to Monis, for the production of fortified wines. When Distell set up Nederburg, incorporating Monis, in the ‘Sixties, they bought grapes from Altydgedacht, and the farm stopped making wines. In 1980 Altydgedacht was registered as a wine estate, and they started making their first red wine a year later, called Tintoretto, a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz, Barbera, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1985 they bottled the first wines, including the Tintoretto, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, and Bukettraube.  Their grape planting increased to 1700 tons (now reduced down to 1400 tons) of which they bottle 10% and sell the remainder of the grapes to Nederburg.  The farm produces 14 grape varieties for winemaking and two table grape varieties.  The current Altydgedacht wine range includes:

*   Sauvignon Blanc (R60)

*   Gewürztraminer (made in the French Alsace style, R60)

*   The Ollo (blend of Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Viognier, R75)

*   Rosé (made from Cabernet Franc, R35)

*   MCC (made in 2008 for the first time, and now in 2012, R100)

*   Semillon Noble Late Harvest (R65 for 375 ml)

*   Merlot (R75)

*   Shiraz (R75)

*   Cabernet Sauvignon (R75)

*   Pinotage (their flagship, having made ABSA Top 10 in 2008 and 2009, R85)

*   Tintoretto (R125)

*   Barbera (R95)

*   Ralph Parker Cabernet Sauvignon (wine with a more pronounceable name for export).

*   Dry Red (R35)

It was explained that the Durbanville area is very suitable for grape production for winemaking, as the air cools down at night, coming off the Atlantic Ocean 15 km away after the hot summer days, which prolongs the ripening process. Durbanville is the reigning Terroir Award holder for fine red wines.  The eleven farms on the Durbanville wine route work well together, and ‘speak as one voice’, but are in healthy competition with each other.  Etienne said that winemaking should be ‘analog from the vineyards’, in that the more one leaves the wines alone, the better the wine that is made.

Sharon has no idea when Wine Tourism SA came to evaluate the lunch, to award it the listing in the Top 10 Winelands Restaurant list (alongside Babylonstoren, Jonkershuis, Jordan Restaurant, South Hill, Creation, The Kitchen at Maison, Black Oyster Catcher, Mulderbosch, and The Stone Kitchen).

Sharon brought us the soup of the day, which was a roast red pepper cream soup with basil pesto. Sharon explained that her menu is small, focusing on quality rather than quantity.  Platters are available, which one can make up by marking the elements one wishes to eat on the menu, including bread slices, cheeses, dips, olives, preserves, cold meats, and salads, or one can order prepared platters of cheese (R110), ‘Eat at the Farm Platter‘ for two persons (R175), and a Meze Platter (R60).

For the main course I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie (R85), the restaurant’s signature dish, which contains chicken, mushrooms, and carrots in a creamy sauce, topped with puff pastry, and served with delicious potatoes wedges ‘like my mom used to make‘  Sharon said, and a vegetable mix. Sharon is very good at including the Altydgedacht wines into her dishes, so her Pot Pie of the Day last Thursday was a Pinotage Steak one.  Her Barbera Burger has the Italian-style wine included in the beef patty (R75).  Her Bacon Quiche (R62) is the favourite of Ollo and Etienne.  Salmon on Rye with dried capers and dill cream cheese (R80), and two pasta dishes (R62 and R80) are also available. For dessert three of us shared the baked cheesecake, chocolate brownie, and apple pie, all generously served with ice cream, each costing only R30. Sharon emphasised that they subscribe to the Slow Food movement, preparing all food fresh, on order, so it takes a little longer to receive one’s order.

Eat @ Altydgedacht offers extremely friendly service and good value home-cooked meals on a wine estate that marries longstanding traditions and modern methods to create wines of quality and character.

Disclosure: I received a gift pack of Altydgedacht wines.

Eat @ Altydgedacht, Altydgedacht wine estate, Durbanville.  Tel (021) 975-7815. www.altydgedacht.co.za Twitter: @EatAltydgedacht  Monday – Saturday Breakfast and Lunch.

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

For all the doom and gloom in the hospitality industry at the moment, it is refreshing to discover a new restaurant in the center of town, that has raised the bar with a slick and chic new establishment. Valora Café, Restaurant and Bar opened on Monday, where L’Aperitivo used to be, next door to Skinny Legs & All.  Valora means ‘brave’ in Latin, and is one of a number of exciting city centre restaurants to open in the past few months, which include Roberto’s, Dear Me, and What’s On Eatery.

I had noticed the sudden closure of L’Aperitivo a month ago, often driving down Loop Street.  I stopped to have a chat to Chef Andrew Mendes, while the renovations were taking place.  He told me that the restaurant would open on 1 August, and it did!  L’Aperitivo had a large counter, which took a lot of the relatively small space. The Valora counter is smaller, positioned at the back of the restaurant, and has a far more spacious feel about it.  One part of a wall is rough brick, and the rest of it is painted a light gold yellow, the back wall behind the bar is a deep burgundy, while the other two sides have glass windows, letting the welcome winter sun in on a very chilly day, with snow on Table Mountain.  I liked the interior design, understated, chic, with dark wood-top tables, chairs with a white/silver fabric, and bar chars in a light rose burgundy colour. The bar counter has gold design tiles on it.  The decor reminds one of What’s On Eatery and La Mouette. There is no clutter. The shopfitting and interior design was done by Ricci Cinti, who remembered me as his first boss of many years ago. His partner in Epic Ark designed the logo, which has a similarity to that of the Queen Victoria Hotel, giving it a classy feel.  Outside, modern grey garden couches, with a rope to demarcate the Valora space on the pavement, add further class to the establishment.  The owner wanted to create an interior that was ‘sexy and modern, finer dining, offering value for money’. The floor is a laminate that looks like it is made from old wine barrels.  I found it very hot inside, and the waitress switched off the heaters.

Valora has been opened by Mike Mouneimme, who was the operator of Caprice in Camps Bay for ten years, and is the cousin of Caprice owner David Raad.  The family is Lebanese, and this reflects in the Mediterranean style restaurant, which consists of a collection of Lebanese, Italian and Greek dishes.  Chef Andrew worked at Tuscany Beach for more than three years before joining Valora, and prior to this at the previous Avontuur restaurant in the V&A Waterfront, and at Superior Catering, which did the private catering for the Atlantic Beach Golf Club as well as for Pearl Valley.  He was not given much creative freedom at Tuscany Beach, and he is excited about the freedom to develop the menu. Andrew laughed when he said that the restaurant name comes from the bravery in opening a restaurant in these challenging times, and for the small kitchen space he has to cook in.

The cutlery is smart, being Fortis Hotelware, and I loved the special edition LavAzza Calendar 2011 cups with a gold design on them.  The Fortis salt and pepper containers have a yin/yang design, and a ceramic hurricane candle holder was on the table.  The paper serviettes do not match the interior quality, and Manager Lisa said that she is working on getting these changed to material ones.

The menu/winelist has a golden cover, with the logo, and looks inviting and classy.  Inside the pages are in burgundy.  The menu offers an extensive range of items.  For Brunch one can order a baked bagel with salmon and scrambled egg, French Toast, a health breakfast, or toasted Focaccia, all at about R50.  The salad choice includes Lebanese Tabbouleh and Fattoush salads, as well as Tuna, Greek, chicken, and beef salads, ranging from R58 – R78.   Roast beef, cheese and tomato, and spicy chicken sandwiches made with home-made bread cost about R60.  Eleven mezze choices range in price from R12 – R40, and include Lebanese flat bread, Baba Ganoush, aubergine, and Lebanese Kefta kebabs.  Starters included a beautifully presented Two Tone soup, recommended by Chef Andrew, being a clever design of two soups, presented in a yin yang shape, with a rich dark beef soup sprinkled with biltong powder, and a light truffle cream with a hint of chilli, with two prawns, which was served with toasted brioche, costing R50. I enjoyed the deep fried crispy Patagonian calamari rings served with a separate bowl of lemon butter sauce, slices of lime and a sprig of origanum (R40).  Other starters include snails, spicy chicken livers, and stuffed mushrooms, all costing under R50.  Six main courses include a 350 gram rib eye steak (R135), Turkish spiced fillet (R125), beef ragout (R98), Psarri Plaki line fish (R105), chicken Parmagana (R75), and grilled Patagonia calamari (R70).  Pasta includes wild mushroom, ravioli bolognaise, seafood pasta, and Namibian desert truffles, ranging between R70 – R110. The Valora burger costs R55, and a Prego Roll R75.  Desserts cost R50 and less, and include chocolate baklava, berry panna cotta and chocolate truffles.

A small number of wines is offered, with a selection of cocktails.  Dom Perignon costs R2750, Veuve Cliquot R 750, Moet et Chandon R700, and Boschendal Brut R195. Brampton white (R25) and red (R28) is served by the glass.  White wines are by Lammershoek (R165), Ernst Gouws & Co, South Hill, Rickety Bridge, Seven Steps and Waverley Hills (R95).  Red wines come from the same wineries (R120 – R210), with the exception of Seven Steps, as well as Kanonkop Paul Sauer at R650.  The LavAzza cappuccino costs R17.

I was impressed by the classy feel of Valora, the smooth running of the restaurant on its fifth day, the creativity of Chef Andrew’s menu and food presentation, the wide choice offered, and the reasonable prices.  I was not charged for the Two Tone soup, Chef Andrew saying that he wanted me to try it.  Valora is a perfect spot to pop in before or after a concert or a show.  The service was attentive, and Lisa kindly went to have the menu copied at a nearby shop. Parking is a challenge during the day. The menu and beverage list contains a number of spelling errors. The business cards match the menu in gold and burgundy.  A cool unique touch was the stick of chewing gum which came with the bill, in a deep red wrapper with the Valora logo, although I am not sure if the Valora target market is into chewing gum!  I’ll be back to try more of Chef Andrew’s cooking creativity.

POSTSCRIPT 3/6/12: Valora has closed down.

Valora Café, Restaurant and Bar, Shop 70, corner Loop and Hout Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 426-1001.  www.valora.co.za (The website is still under construction).  10h00 – 22h00 weekdays, 17h00 – 23h00 on Saturdays.

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

I recently received a call from Ian Halfon, co-owner of the Waterfront-based Belthazar Restaurant and Wine Bar (and Balducci), telling me about their new Alfresco Value Lunch, which is available every lunchtime.   It is an amazingly affordable offering of good value dishes, and even some wines, from a restaurant that has been known for excellent but expensive steak in the past.

The full menu and winelist is still available, but the Alfresco Value Lunch menu was brought to the table when I asked for it.  It is an A4 page, in the same design style as the larger standard menu, and is divided into Starters, Burgers, Wet and Dry Aged Beef, Salads, Fish, Desserts and the Value Wines.   The menu also refers to the new “Instore Biltong Bar”, beef, ostrich, kudu and “other rare South African game” biltong being available for sale at the Reception desk inside the restaurant. 

Co-owner Doron Duveen came to say hello, and told me what a difficult year it has been for business across the board, and how clients are trading down in terms of food and wines, and cutting out starters and desserts.   Their response has been the recent introduction of the Alfresco Value Lunch, with a good number of options to choose from.   Initially I declined Doron’s offer to have a glass of wine, but his sommelier-in-training Luke Ericson was better able to twist my arm to have a small taste of a wonderful 2006 Rijk’s Shiraz.   The glass was served with a tag, denoting the name of the wine, the variety, and its vintage.

I chose to sit outside, under the Nederburg branded umbrellas, surrounded by tourists.  The staff look smart, with a white branded Belthazar shirt, black pants and white apron, and a smart-looking black bow-tie.   All staff smile, and check regularly if all is in order.  The Belthazar staff have always impressed me with their professionalism, and those with attitude do not seem to work there anymore!  The bread plate, consisting of a large roll, butter hygienically protected with a branded paper cover, and a pork and beef sausage in a Napolitana-style sauce, was brought to the table, whether one orders from the standard or the Alfresco Value Lunch menu, a mini-meal in itself.   A standard as well as a steak knife is automatically set on each table, with a material serviette.   Even though I only used the fork for the bread and sausage, the whole sideplate and its cutlery was replaced in preparation for the main course.   No fish knife was offered for my choice of main course.

While I associate Belthazar with steak, I chose to have calamari served in a pan – usually it is served with chilli and garlic, but I asked for the former to be removed – and with chips or a baked potato, which the waitress was willing to have changed to rice.   The pan looked brand new and shiny, and came with Patagonian calamari tubes, the rice, and a generous lemon-half, excellent value at R89, and surpassing my benchmark of the best calamari which I usually have at Willoughby’s.   Linefish costs R99; Burgers cost R65 for a classic pure beef burger, up to R85 for a “Double Whopper Beef Burger”, served with two patties; Steak Roll and chips costs R89; a 200 gram sirloin and chips costs R99; and salads range from R55 for the Alfresco Salad to R85 for a Smoked Tuna Salad.  For Starters one can order Biltong (R75) or Droëwors (R 65) – the weight served is not specified; a cured meat platter with olives and bread for two costs R120; and Smoked tuna carpaccio costs R 85.   A Value Seafood platter filled with linefish, calamari, prawns, and mussels served with rice or chips and a sauce costs R265 for two persons to share.   Three desserts are offered, ice cream or sorbet at R40, and Ice Cream Sundae and Malva Pudding at R49 each. I had a lovely frothy Illy cappuccino, costing R20.

Three wines are offered as Value Wines: Koelenbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2010, South Hill Rosé, and Morgenhof Fantail Pinotage 2008, all three costing R99 a bottle.

I will come back to Belthazar for a lunch stop when at the Waterfront, knowing what a nice selection of light lunch options they now serve at affordable prices.

Belthazar Restaurant and Wine Bar, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 421-3753.      www.belthazar.co.za  (The website is functional, with the standard menu, Alfresco Value Lunch menu and winelist, but few food photographs).   Monday – Sunday lunch 12h00 – 16h00 for the Alfresco Value Lunch, standard menu available lunches and dinners, seven days a week.

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