At the end of a Garden Route tour with my Parisian friend last week, we spent one night at Temenos in McGregor. As Tebaldi Restaurant at Temenos was fully booked, we chose to eat at Open Kitchen, a restaurant which opened in winter last year, but which I had not experienced previously. It serves good steak and Tapas, but the service is very slow! Continue reading →
A year ago I was introduced to the Rare Grill in Kenilworth, after it was named Best Steakhouse in the country in the Wolftrap Steakhouse Championship, as well as Eat Out Best Steakhouse in the Cape in its Everyday Eateries awards, the latter accolade repeated this year. On Saturday evening I spontaneously popped in at the steakhouse, and found its service and steak to be as good as a year ago, and its desserts even better! Continue reading →
Newly appointed Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards international judge Bruce Palling left Cape Town on Monday, ‘after stupendous fortnight of feasting and tasting in South Africa…’, he Tweeted. His Tweets caused a stir when he arrived in Cape Town, and he left on a poor note, in criticising his meal at Belthazar at the V&A Waterfront with an unfair and misleading Tweet about his last dinner in Cape Town!
As we have written, food blogger Palling was invited to the country to restore Eat Out’s reputation after last year’s Awards were judged solely by its editor Abigail Donnelly, leading to controversial decisions. Palling had to confirm Mrs Donnelly’s Top 20 finalist list, revealed yesterday after Palling had left Cape Town, assist her in the ranking of the Top 10 restaurants, and assist in the decision as to which restaurants would receive the category awards for Best Bistro, Best Italian Restaurant, Best Asian Restaurant, Best Country-Style Restaurant, Best Steakhouse, and receive the Boschendal Style Award.
Palling set about ‘feasting and tasting’ his way around our country, and seems to have done 26 lunches and dinners in Cape Town predominantly, with only a lunch at DW Eleven-13 in Johannesburg on Saturday, and Pretoria and Durban not appearing to have featured on his travel agenda, judging by his Tweets. Anyone following Palling’s Tweets would have picked up that he was censored by his hosts, as he was revealing too much about the dishes he was eating, especially the Springbok, which he ate on at least three occasions and was less than complimentary about initially, so much so that he had to apologise to our national game dish: “Take back Springbok being boring/bland – had 2 non sous vide versions which lean + voluptuous helped along by Raats Cabernet Franc 08″‘! One senses from his Tweets prior to his arrival in Cape Town that he loves to Tweet what he eats (we know the feeling!), but he must have been most frustrated in not being able to do so locally, so he had to resort to Tweeting photographs of wine bottles instead, which were clues as to his whereabouts in themselves.
Of his 26 lunch and dinner opportunities in Cape Town, only two were deemed ‘private’, which meant that he could provide their names, and Tweet about them. His Tweet about Biesmiellah in Bo-Kaap was an a-palling example of poor journalism, riddled with typing errors: “Taking a break at Biedmiellah (sic) – Babotie (sic) and Denning Vleis (sic)”. Poor quality writing, not what one would expect from a ‘journalist’! The photograph he Tweeted (right) was most unappetising.
It was his last Cape Town dinner at Belthazar that caused outrage, at the unfair attack in a Tweet on what is judged by most as the city’s best steak restaurant: “Private dinner @ Belthazar – first steak so dry had to send it back – then rare fillet still chilly inside – what’s problem? -v frustrating”. As Belthazar is not on Twitter, we contacted the restaurant to check what had happened, given its good reputation. We discovered an a-palling misrepresentation by Palling in the Tweet, reflecting his unprofessionalism. We spoke to Executive Chef Gracious Phakamani, the Sommelier Bantu Masseti, the junior manager Serge Kabuya, and the waiter Hassan, all of whom had been on duty that evening, and the following emerged about Palling’s dinner at Belthazar: Palling arrived alone, and the first thing he told the Sommelier was that he is a ‘restaurant reviewer’, but that he was not reviewing Belthazar, something no professional reviewer would do, and was unnecessary as he was eating there ‘privately’! He then showed the Sommelier a list of wines he was interested in tasting, and not all were available by the glass, so Sommelier Bantu suggested alternatives that were close to the ones Palling wanted to try. Palling drank a glass of Tokara Director’s Reserve 2004 (yet Tweeted a photograph of the 2008 bottle) at R165, a glass of Bellingham The Bernard SMV at R150, and a glass of Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz at R110. As a starter Palling ordered a 700g Chicago Cut steak (R310), which he ordered rare, but was advised by the waiter to order medium rare, which he was happy with. Not having eaten enough (despite an earlier two course lunch at a restaurant on the Top 20 list) and the 700g steak, he decided on eating a 250 g fillet steak (R169) too, which he ordered rare. He sent it back, saying it was cold inside. Chef Gracious put it back on the grill, and the now Medium Rare steak was returned, judged by Palling as still being too cold inside. The Chef prepared a fresh steak for Palling, again prepared Rare, and the third time round he was happy with it. Chef Gracious has been at the Slick Group of restaurants (owning Belthazar and Balducci’s) for fifteen years, and rarely has had a steak returned, let alone two by the same customer, he related. There was no feedback to the Belthazar staff about the steak being too ‘dry’. Palling had such a good time at the restaurant that he gave his newly acquired Mount Nelson ballpoint pen to the waiter as a present, tipped the waiter R160 (15%) on the R1086 bill, and told the Manager Serge that he had an enjoyable evening, and that he would return to the restaurant in November, when he returns to Cape Town for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards evening. All four Belthazar staff were shocked when they read Palling’s Tweet about his dinner, not reflecting the events truthfully, and he was even mis-steak-en about the sequence of the orders and the nature of his four steaks!
Palling also showed up Mrs Donnelly, in saying in a Cape Talk interview last week that two of the potential Eat Out Top 20 restaurants which he had to judge were ‘ghastly‘, although he did acknowledge that a ‘couple could rank in the top 10 -12 in the world‘. He admitted that he is ‘keen on wine’, and this seemed to be a greater focus of his eating than the food, reflected in his Tweets too. In the radio interview Palling also said in general there was too much of a preamble about the dish when it was served, when ‘it is already described in detail on the menu’. He admitted that he had not understood springbok initially, ‘but now I like it’! He found that our restaurant dishes are too busy, with 6 – 9 ingredients on the plate, which he called ‘confusion food‘, and advised chefs to simplify their dishes, to ‘focus on what is good’.
Seeing the very safe and predictable Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Awards Finalist List yesterday, despite some controversy, one can ask whether Mrs Donnelly made a mis-steak in involving Palling in judging the Top 20 Restaurants, as she could quite safely have chosen the same list without Palling’s help. Palling has been a bolshy visitor to Cape Town, embarrassed himself and his host New Media Publishing in being a very rude and defamatory Tweeter, had to be reined in about his Tweeting so as to not give away where he was eating, kicked off his visit with controversy about his springbok and race-insensitive Tweets, and ended off his visit with a dishonest Tweet disparaging Belthazar! No matter how much Eat Out has puffed up Blogger Palling’s profile to justify its choice of him as a judge, it appears to have been a mis-steak!
POSTSCRIPT 19/9: Mr Palling has retaliated nastily to this blogpost with a number of Tweets: ‘@GrandDedale @WhaleCottage @Eat_Out Belthazar sommelier nice guy, though only 1 of 10 wines I enquired was available but steaks the problem’; a more nasty one: ‘@GrandDedale @WhaleCottage @Eat_Out Confucius say : Always let lying dogs sleep’; and even worse, disparaging both Belthazar and ourselves ‘Avoid Belthazar in Cape Town – not only are their steaks unrested tough + tasteless, they discuss your incompetent meal with cetacean trolls’; and the fourth insult ‘@Konfytbekkie Tks for sharing – Belthazar meal v depressing but even more that they reveal all details of guests dinner to serial trivialist’. Palling himself Tweeted the content of his Belthazar dinner! The fifth missile he fired was aimed at ourselves too, showing he does not understand the role of Social Media: ‘ @Konfytbekkie Tks for sharing but must say the blogger so insignificant that her absurd mentions are never noticed by my Google Alert’. One wonders how New Media Publishing must be feeling about their offensive Eat Out judge! The stream of Tweets is continuing from a-palling Mr Palling: ‘@Gabbles17 @GrandDedale @WhaleCottage @Eat_Out A liar too – chides me for tweeting wrong wine pix when I spelt out that it was different one’; and ‘@MarinaOLoughlin Stalked by moronic lying troll while in SA – loves shit-stirring and will report this to my employers and demand retraction’.
POSTSCRIPT 19/9: Despite Mr Palling’s assistance in the compilation of the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Finalist List, it did not prevent Mrs Donnelly from showing her bias yet again, by having included The Pot Luck Club, a restaurant which has not been operating for a full year. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts withdrew his newer restaurant from the Top 20 list today, which means that both Mr Palling and Mrs Donnelly, with Eat Out and its publishers New Media Publishing, have lost face completely, and that the Eat Out Restaurant Awards have become a farce! This is how Eat Out ‘packaged’ the announcement: ‘Our original communication listed The Pot Luck Club as one of the nominees. However, on discussion with chef Luke Dale-Roberts, we discovered the restaurant only opened in December 2011, and not in November 2011. (One month short of the cut-off.) Therefore, as per our judging criteria, The Pot Luck Club is not eligible for the awards this year. Luke fully supports our decision and we wish him all the best with the restaurant for 2013!’
POSTSCRIPT 21/9: We have been alerted to a glowing review of Belthazar, written by JP Rossouw in Business Day on 14 September, just two days prior to Palling’s visit to the restaurant, and which confirms the stature of this steak restaurant.
POSTSCRIPT 26/9: Michael Olivier conducted an interview with Bruce Palling via Skype, after his visit to South Africa, which he published on his blog yesterday. The interview provides some more insights into Palling. He has no culinary background, his first exotic food encounter being with the avocado pear. He emphasised that he is a ‘food writer’, and not a restaurant reviewer or food critic! Palling looks ‘to have fun’ in a restaurant, ‘it’s not an intellectual exercise’. He likes to be ‘made to feel special’, recommending ‘make celebrities feel like ordinary people, and ordinary people like celebrities’. The 2005 and 2007 Vriesenhof Pinot Noirs were the most interesting that he drank whilst in South Africa, recommended to him by Majeka House. He admits to eating burgers. The Platter South African Wines 2012 is one of the books on his bedside table, most others being food related, but none from South Africa.
POSTSCRIPT 5/11: It would appear that the question we asked in the headline of this blogpost was apt, as Bruce Palling Tweeted today that he will not be attending the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards Gala Dinner on 25 November: “Sorry to announce that will not be attending Eat Out Awards ceremony – due to “unforeseen circumstances” New Media won’t provide me a ticket”. Eat Out and its publisher New Media Publishing have not responded, and the magazine website does not provide any information about this turn of events. At all times blogger judge Bruce Palling was going to attend the Gala Dinner! We have called Stephanie from Eat Out PR company Mango, and she said that they are in discussion with their client. She could not confirm whether a media statement will be issued. We have requested a statement from New Media Publishing MD Bridget McCarney.
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
A restaurant that opened in October last year when the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and Residence opened in Green Point is 1800°, named after a special New York-style griller which grills steaks from the top at 1800 degrees F (982° C), our waiter Emmanuel told us on arrival at the table. The restaurant has established itself for its excellent steaks.
Given the 5-star grading of the Hotel, the interior decor of the restaurant is disappointing, it being ‘all over the place’ – tables are placed next to each other, but separated by cane screens, which means that you can hear every word the couple next door says, but you cannot see them at all, much like sitting in a confession box! The benches at the walls of the restaurant are covered in a brown fabric, with random white stripes, and garish plastic-like yet fresh orange/yellow flower arrangements above each. The restaurant is very brightly lit, and the music cannot be heard, as the noise level of the patrons rises as the evening wears on.
Emmanuel introduces the restaurant by telling us where the cloakrooms are located, an interesting but important touch. He talks us through the menu, describing almost every dish as “lovely”, and recommending all of them highly. Yet, he feeds back that the chef is not recommending the sirloin on the particular evening, as it is too tough – 10/10 for this honesty! He explains about the flavoured salts, “infused with herbs”, that one can select from a list, to enhance the steak, and brings a sample of three salts to the table. A selection of sauces – Argentinian, German mustard, Italian mushroom and herb – and more can be ordered with the steak, and a starch comes with the dish. A side salad and vegetables can be ordered, at a most reasonable R 16 each. The fillet steak costs R 130 for 200 grams, 300 grams cost R 160 and 400 grams cost R 190, while the 200 gram rump costs R 120 and 300 gram R 140. A discount of 10 % off the price of the steaks is running in August, but the waiter does not tell us that.
Starters are mainly soups and salads, and cost R 35 – R 60. The linefish of the day costs R 97, and other main courses are reasonably priced. Desserts cost R 37 – 48, and are predictable – chocolate bomb, coconut pannacotta, lime tart, creme brulee, ice cream and sorbet.
The Manager Lauren arrives at the table soon after we arrive, to check on things, but as we have not received anything yet except the winelist and menus, we cannot answer her question as to how we are doing.
The restaurant fills up quickly on a Friday evening, and soon the waiter is hardly to be seen. The wait for the steak is quite long, but worth it, as both the fillet and the rump are outstanding. The flavoured salt does little to add to its delicious taste, and the sauces are excellent.
On tasting the 2007 Brampton Shiraz, the customer proclaims that it needs a lot of breathing. The bottle of wine is placed on a nearby table, and the customer only sees that the screwtop has been placed back on the bottle by Emmanuel when he pours more wine in the glasses. This is a serious deficiency in Emmanuel’s training.
Lauren, the Manager, is very attentive as the evening wears on, and comes to the rescue in describing the ingredients and preparation of a chocolate dessert special. While the customer does not choose the chocolate dessert, the chef sends a complimentary slice to the table anyway. The chef sends his business card too, asking for feedback of his food.
The bill arrives with a spoonful of chocolate truffle for each diner, almost as if the bill has to be sweetened. The automatic deduction of the 10 % discount off the cost of the steaks is commendable, as it was not mentioned during the evening – the steak special is printed on a piece of paper, and lies at the reception desk.
On paying at the reception desk, due to the wait to have the payment taken, Cheny at the front desk asks the “plastic” question as to how the customers enjoyed the “experience”! The customer asks what ‘experience’ she is referring to, as it is a restaurant much like any other, just lacking in atmosphere.
Underground parking is available for free, and can be arranged with the doorman on arrival.
The total cost for 2 steaks, one dessert, the bottle of Brampton Shiraz and a cappuccino was R 405.
Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
A novel restaurant opened in Cape Town 7 months ago, serving no starter and only one cut of steak as its main course. HQ in Heritage Square is no dining option for vegetarians, for restaurant patrons who like a choice of dishes or for those that like to choose when they wish to arrive at the restaurant!. Luckily the dessert and the wines are not prescribed, in that a choice is offered!
With a loft-like yet very simple decor, it has wooden tables covered with brown paper “tablecloths”, which state clearly that one can have anything to eat as long as it’s steak. It also serves as a data record, in that one is requested to add one’s name, e-mail address and cell number.
The waitress was efficient but did not connect with her customers. She explained that they only serve sirloin, and that it is “35-year matured”, getting her years and days confused. Asking about the origin of this unique restaurant concept, she explained that it is based on Cafe’ de Paris in Geneva, which has operated for 75 years offering only one dish: Entrecote Cafe’ de Paris. The famous entrecote is served with a sauce of which the recipe is a trade secret, but it is thought to be made from chicken livers, fresh thyme, cream, white Dijon mustard and butter, according to Wikipedia.
A green salad with parmesan shavings and pine nut kernels is served as a starter – tough if you do not eat salad, as few men are wont to do! One is told that the chef recommends the steak to be prepared medium rare, and this is marked as such on the “tablecloth”. The steak arrived absolutely rare, which is the trade mark of Cafe’ de Paris as well. On checking and receiving the feedback, the waitress took the plates back to the kitchen. They came back to the table completely overcooked. The steak is served with chips. The cost of the salad bowl, steak and chips is a pricy R 140. Desserts are more reasonably priced at about R 25 each.
The winelist is unpretentious and will not win an award. It lists the wines under “Red”, “White” etc, but does show the vintage of each of the wines. The most astronomically priced wine is a Schalk Burger, at R 1 400 a bottle or R 350 a glass!
One may not arrive after 19h30, we were told, yet many patrons were only seated at 20h00 or even later.
The entrance on Buitengracht Street is recommended, as parking is freely available there. Tables near the bar area are very draughty, as the door to Heritage Square is open. Request a table closer to Buitengracht Street.
Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com