Tag Archives: Vaughn Johnson

Sparkling lunch at Burrata to launch latest Pol Roger vintages!

I was first introduced to Pol Roger champagnes at Rust en Vrede a number of years ago, poured by then sommelier Neil Grant, at the insistence of a guest house friend who had invited us to dinner. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of twelve (mainly wine) writers to celebrate the launch of the latest Pol Roger vintages at Burrata, of which Neil is now the co-owner.  As Burrata is one of my (few) special restaurants, and the champagne brand impressed me then, I needed no encouragement to accept the invitation!

I had met the charming Johannesburg-based Derek Kilpin (right), General Manager and co-owner of Great Domaines, the importers of mainly French wines, at a French-themed evening last year at Wild Peacock in Stellenbosch, and was lucky enough to sit next to him then.  He introduced each of the five Pol Roger champagnes which we tasted, but encouraged everyone to relax and to enjoy the champagnes and lunch, superbly prepared by Chef Annemarie Steenkamp and her team.  A surprise was meeting Barry Engelbrecht (left), a very reclusive Burrata co-owner and pizza master chef, who was at the pizza oven.  I am unable to resist the prosciutto and fig pizza at Burrata.

We received a glass of Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut on arrival, Derek introducing the Pol Roger range to us, and sharing that Great Domaines has been distributing the brand for the past six years. He praised Neil for his knowledge of and loyalty to Pol Roger, a brand which was first launched in 1849, and of which 1,5 million bottles are produced annually (compared to 35 million bottles of Möet et Chandon, for example). A Non Vintage champagne is hardest to make, he explained, in that it has to be consistent with that of previous years, given that three different grape varieties (equal portions of Pinot Noir for structure, Pinot Meunier for the fruit taste, and Chardonnay for the elegance) from 140 different vineyards are used to make this champagne, which costs around R550.  The vintage champagnes cost about R750.  Derek shared that even year vintages since 2000 have been particularly excellent.  The champagne house only makes vintage champagnes if the grape quality is good enough, and therefore has skipped all the uneven years in the past twelve years.  Derek shared that Pol Roger employs four of only ten certified riddlers left in Champagne, who turn about 60000 bottles per day in the 7km of caves below the winery.

I enjoyed speaking to Tracy van Maaren, an independent distributor in the Cape, also representing the Great Domaines brands, and she told me that she focuses on small specialist retailers such as Caroline’s and Vaughn Johnson, and that Pol Roger is served in restaurants such as Burrata, Rust en Vrede (serving it by the glass too), Terroir, Tokara, The Test Kitchen, and Aubergine. An increasing number of champagne brands are being made available in our country, she said, making it a very competitive market.

The Pol Roger Brut 2002 is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, and was on the lees for nine years (the minimum requirement in Champagne is three years), fermentation having taken place in stainless steel tanks, giving it a clean and precise character, and was described as ‘spectacular’ by Derek.  It was paired with a starter with a name that was mouthwatering in itself, being a rich and creamy Tokai Forest porcini mushroom risotto.  The mushrooms were foraged for Chef Annemarie by Ross. This was followed by a perfectly pan-seared kingklip, which was served with saffron potatoes, fennel, capers, and sultanas, and was paired with the Pol Roger Blanc de Blanc 2002, made from 100% Chardonnay, one of the more popular champagnes, in part due to 2002 being such a good year.

The third course of a delicate duck breast, with toasted almonds, cavatelli (a non-egg pasta made from semolina, Chef Annemarie explained), chestnut crema, maize, and roast Jerusalem artichokes, was paired with Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2000. It spent eleven years on the lees and is predominantly made from Pinot Noir.  It was released (initially in magnum size) in 1975 in honour of the British Prime Minister, seventeen years after his death. Sir Winston became a close friend of Odette Pol-Roger and was a passionate drinker of a bottle of Pol Roger a day, loving the tipple so much that he named one of his racehorses after the brand! The friendship was so close that all Pol Roger labels had a black border around them when the statesman passed away. The dessert was a colourful sour cherry spuma, served with poached rhubarb, pomegranate, marshmallow, and vanilla ice cream, which was paired with the Pol Roger Rosé 2004, made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, to which still wine was added to give it colour, Derek explained.

The superb lunch paired with the superb Pol Roger champagnes proved how effectively each course of a meal can be paired with champagnes.

Disclosure: We received a gift pack of two champagne glasses and a 375ml bottle of Pol Roger Réserve Brut.

Burrata, The Old Biscuit Mill, 373 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 447-6505. www.burrata.co.za Twitter: @BurrataSA   Monday – Saturday, Lunch and Dinner.

Great Domaines, Tel (011) 778-9355.  www.greatdomaines.co.za Twitter: @GreatDomaines @Pol_Roger

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

V&A Market on the Wharf opens at the V&A Waterfront!

The long awaited V&A Market on the Wharf has opened in the historic building near the V&A Hotel in the V&A Waterfront, which once housed Planet Hollywood, David Kramer’s Theatre, and Musica, with more than fifty vendors displaying their food and beverage offerings. It is Cape Town’s first permanent market, operating from Wednesdays to Sundays, from 9h30 – 19h30.

Owned by Greg Anderson, or ‘Bubbles’ as Vaughn Johnson informed me, who took over the management of the Market when the previous operators pulled out, the Market offers a kosher deli, fresh seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables, baked ware and delicacies.  Greg impressed with his passion, and kindly offered me a V&A Market on the Wharf branded shopping bag, to ‘hide’ my Woolworths bag!  Greg is proud of the large number of new business owners that have joined as vendors, very few having been seen at any other markets in Cape Town.  V&A Waterfront tenants Vaughn Johnson and Ian Halfon had come to have a look, and we had coffee and tea together.

A last-minute building regulation hitch saw the opening of the Market delayed by two days to last Friday. The space is large, one main hall with an upstairs section housing the craft beer bar and seating for Continue reading →

Wild Peacock Food Emporium dîner with French food and Great Domaines wines!

Wild Peacock Food Emporium hosted a lovely homely evening on Thursday, with 24 food and wine lovers spoilt with a French themed dinner, and a tasting of six French wines led by Great Domaines’ Derek Kilpin.

Costing R250, the French evening was attended by representatives of Waterkloof and L’Omarins wine estates, and Den Anker restaurant, amongst others.  Creating 2 adjacent long tables covered with red and white check table cloths, there was a cosy atmosphere and buzz.

Derek grew up on an apple farm in Elgin, and studied B.Sc at Stellenbosch University.  He worked at Waterford and Asara wine estates before moving to Dublin, to run a wine shop belonging to Vaughn Johnson. From there he moved to London, working at Fine and Rare Wines, and thereafter at Decorum Vintners.  The weather made him move back to his home country, and he joined Great Domaines in Johannesburg, a company importing French, Italian, and Spanish wines.

The white wines we tasted were

*   William Fevre Chablis 2010: Derek said this is one of the most respected domains in Chablis, and is excellent when paired with summer seafood, oysters in particular. The price is R229.

*   Bouchard Pere et Fils Bourgogne Chardonnay 2010:  This wine has been fermented in stainless steel, with only 15 % in barrels.  The producer is a big company, having invested heavily in a new cellar, and has ‘revolutionised‘ the quality of its wines, according to Derek.  The price is R 189.

*   Bouchard Pere et Fils Meursalt Les Clous 2010:   This wine is fermented in wooden barrels. Cost is R429.

The starter course was a lovely French onion soup served with crusty bread, prepared by new Wild Peacock chef Liesel Potgieter, previously with Knights Catering. She has most recently been a menu consultant to a clinic for eating disorders.

The French red wines we tasted were:

*  Bouchard Pere et Fils: Bourgogne Pinot La Vigne 2009:  Derek said that 2009 was one of the best vintages in Burgundy in the past ten years. Matured in stainless steel. Strawberry flavour.  R209 per bottle.

*   Domaine de Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2010: The 15th generation of the family owns this estate, wines matured in old cement vats, ‘fresh pure Shiraz’.  Costs R195.

*   Domaine La Roquète Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009: a blend of 70 % Grenache, 20 % Shiraz, and 10% Mourvèdre, costing R439.

A Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend is made of up to 18 varieties, including Piquepoul Blanc, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Roussane, Cinsaut, Terret Noir, Counoise, Muscardin, Piquepoul Noir, Vaccarèse, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche,  Clairette Rose, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Picardin, and Piquepoul Gris. Grenache Noir is predominantly used in red and white wine making in this appellation, about 3000 hectares in size, according to Wikipedia.

Great Domaines supplies Wild Peacock, Aubergine, The Saxon, Rust en Vrede, amongst others.  Derek spoke about ‘value for quality’, saying that below R150 per bottle South African wines offer exceptional value. However, above the R250 price point French wines often offer better value.

The enjoyable evening ended off with the French staple Beef Bourguignon and mash.

Wild Peacock Products was established 21 years ago as ‘purveyor of fine foods to the hospitality industry’ by Sue Baker, as a wholesale supplier of restaurant delicacies, starting with oysters initially. The company stands for offering ‘Fine Food, Fine Quality, Fine Service’, sources sustainable products, and builds long term relationships with its suppliers and clients. It now supplies leading restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands with duck, pigeon, guinea fowl, quail, charcuterie, cheeses, Valrhona chocolate, rock lobster, mussels, salmon trout, caviar, snails, truffles, Italian pasta, olives, olive oils, farm butter, and much more. Two years ago they opened the Wild Peacock Food Emporium, run by daughter Sarah, stocking similar products to buy over the counter, as well as wines. They also serve breakfast, lunch, and snacks throughout the day, and dinner on Friday evenings.

Wild Peacock Food Emporium, 32 Piet Retief Street, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 887-7585. www.wildpeacock.co.za Twitter: @WildPeacock  Monday – Friday 7h30 – 18h00 (dinner Fridays), Saturday and Sunday 7h30 – 15h00.

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

Restaurant Review: Vovo Telo brings artisanal baking to the V&A Waterfront!

A surprise addition to the V&A Waterfront is Vovo Telo, a small, boutique and petite artisanal bakery and restaurant franchise which opened its first branch in Cape Town at the beginning of this week.  It is homely and welcoming, very un-V&A Waterfront and very un-franchise, and sells a range of excellent artisanal breads, as well as pastries.  The essence of the brand is ‘love, bread, coffee’.

There are five branches in Johannesburg (the one in Parkhurst being the flagship), two in Pretoria, and two in Port Elizabeth.  Mark Burger is the franchisee of the V&A branch, and is already eyeing other locations in Cape Town, Constantia being a potential.  Mark has been in the food franchising business for the past thirty years, having started Skippers Fish & Chips and creating franchise branches, owning Debonairs, Bravo, and Fontana before selling these.  He joined Famous Brands, the company which owns the Steers, Vivo Telo, Debonairs Pizza, Wimpy, Mugg & Bean, House of Coffees, and Tashas chains, and was their New Business Director when it was still called Steers Holdings. He has opened 300 – 400 franchises in the past 20 years, and is likely to be a tough-negotiating V&A Waterfront tenant.  He says that they have become far more flexible already. When he signed the contract, he was not told that the V&A Food Court would be closed until November, inclusive of the seating area outside it, curtailing the traffic to his store.

To keep the business in his ‘bloodline’, he has teamed up with his nephew Jade and his wife Adele. Mark lives in Johannesburg, having a son at school there, but plans to move to Cape Town eventually. The store can seat 75 customers inside the 210 m² and outside, and has a classy yet friendly interior, with chandelier, and Persian carpets. A fun mural above the bread shelves reflects Cape Town, with Table Mountain, at which ‘table’ Queen Victoria is depicted, with a ‘I want my coffee’ tattoo on her arm. The decor is standard across all the Vovo Telo branches, done by Mary from Famous Brands.  The name ‘Vovo Telo’ means ‘grandfather’s place’ in Portuguese, and comes from a holiday the three original owners spent in Madagascar, where they stayed at a Vovo Telo hotel, and saw a local with a baguette on his bicycle, igniting an interest to start a bakery named Vovo Telo in Port Elizabeth.  The three original owners are still very hands-on in and passionate about their business.  During the day one can sit outside in good weather, and the Marimba band performing nearby adds a good vibe.  Tables are a mix of aluminium and wood, and chairs are white moulded plastic.  Vovo Telo branded brown and white sugar sachets, and coarse sea salt and black pepper grinders are on the tables.  The menu design mirrors the fun feel of the website.  Paper serviettes are offered.

Because Vovo Telo is primarily a bakery, customers do not necessarily think that it will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as coffee and tea all day, with a selection of good pastries.  I had heard on my first visit that a Master Patissier starts with the group next week, and he will be travelling between the different franchises, to do staff training on pastries, still an area with improvement potential, Mark said honestly.  Part of the interior is the restaurant seating on the mezzanine level, and a few tables downstairs alongside the pastry counter and the massive bread oven.  A small table has pieces of bread which one can sample with Olitalia olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread is special in that Eureka stone-ground flour is used, to which is added a special culture which is passed on from store to store.  The bread dough leavens for 14 – 16 hours, to ‘ferment and rise’, I was told, and no preservatives are added.  Dough is hand-rolled, making the baking artisanal.  The baking staff were sent to a Johannesburg branch for training. Everything in the store is made from scratch, even the pasta, which Mark told me is already receiving rave reviews.  Bread styles which are made are Ciabatta (R16), 70% Rye and 30% Italian flour (R22), Sourdough (R20), Cheese Sticks (R15), Olive breadsticks (R18), Panini (R6), Baguette (R11), and Olive Sourdough (R30).  Ready-made sandwiches cost around R29, including salami, Reuben, ham, and Pastrami.

The pastry section displays whole cakes (e.g. orange almond, carrot, chocolate, pecan nut, cheesecake) available by the slice (R18 – R25), as well as pastries such as croissants (R10), berry pin wheel (R18), Pain aux Raisin (R15), Pain au Chocolate (R14), Cheese straws (R18), muffins (R18), apple tart, a delicious strawberry and fresh cream tart, and pear tart at R18.  Coffee is by Ciro, and it is preferred that the cappuccino be served as a flat white (R16), but I was served a perfect dry cappuccino when I asked for it.

The menu is printed in green on cream paper, and states that any changes requested to menu items could lead to an additional 20 minute waiting time.  It also states that all prices include VAT, something one does not see on other restaurant menus.  All food is served on a sheet of branded paper on top of a branded wooden board.  Breakfast is served until 11h30, and free-range eggs are used.  Eggs can be ordered scrambled or poached (R22), with their breads, as well as a number of variations to which are added ham, cheeses, sauces, or boerewors.  Croque Madame (wilted spinach, Gruyere cheese, poached egg, and sourdough bread) costs R52. Toast/croissant and jam and cheese or Nutella costs R 26/25.  For the rest of the day, one can order gourmet sandwiches (R29 – R 39). Pissaladiere, being thin crust pizza bases made from ciabatta dough, range from R59 for Marinated tomatoes, and an olive and bocconcini mozzarella pizza, to R72 (ham and Brie, four cheeses, and Avocado, Gorgonzola, and Salami).  I enjoyed their Classic pizza last night, with crispy Gypsy ham, feta, and avocado after (R69). ‘Handcrafted’ Tagliatella is made daily, and is served with fresh tomatoes (R48), steak (R69), zucchini and pine nuts, smoked salmon (R69), and basil pesto and pine nuts. Salads offered are green, honey mustard chicken, roast vegetables, and a harvest board, peaking at R59. No main course costs more than R82 (fillet steak), and one can also order a lamb burger (R67), salmon trout, and an antipasta platter.

To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s reign this weekend, Vovo Telo is offering an amazing value R14 offer of warm scones with mascarpone cheese, strawberry jam, and Boerenkaas for all of next week, making one ‘good to go for another 60 years!’, says its flyer.  The application for the liquor licence has already been lodged, and is awaited.  A small range of alcoholic beverages will be sold, including &Union beers, five or so boutique wines, and some whiskies.

For being in the V&A Waterfront, the prices of Vovo Telo are exceptionally good. The quality of the breads and the good coffee are a further reason to make a stop at this outlet.  The staff is friendly, and the management is present all the time. The arrival of their credit card machine is eagerly awaited.

Vovo Telo, next to Vaughn Johnson, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-3750. www.vovotelo.com (Not much information on the website, Cape Town not yet listed). Twitter: @VovoTelo  Monday – Sunday, 7h30 – 21h00.

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

Hot new Cape restaurants opening: Burrata, Orphanage, Bruce’s Boat House, and more!

Our list of latest restaurant openings and closures fortunately lists more openings than closures, and will be updated continuously, as we receive information.

Cape Town

*   Neil Grant, ex-sommelier of Rust en Vrede, has opened Burrata, a new restaurant in the Old Biscuit Mill.  They will introduce a new 3-course food and wine pairing menu at the end of April.

*   Luke Dale-Roberts, Eat Out Top Chef, is to open a real test kitchen, called The Kitchen of Dreams, a private experimental place to develop new recipes, at the Old Biscuit Mill in June

*   Chef Bruce Robertson (ex-The Showroom) has opened Bruce’s Boat House for lunches, in Scarborough

*   La Belle Café & Bakery has opened in the Alphen Boutique Hotel.

*   5 Rooms Restaurant has opened at the Alphen Boutique Hotel

*   Sabrina’s, which opened about two months ago where Depasco was, at the corner of Kloof and Long Street, has also closed down

*   Chef Craig Paterson has started as Executive Chef at Dash (Queen Victoria Hotel), the V&A Hotel, and Dock House

*   Mitico has opened a pizzeria and ’spaghetteria’ on Kloof Street, where St Elmo’s used to be (son of the original Luigi from Hout Bay)

*   Don Pedro’s in Woodstock has re-opened, under Madame Zingara management

*   Myög has opened as a frozen yoghurt outlet, at 103 Kloof Street

*   Thai Café has opened in the old Cape Quarter

*   On a Roll has opened in Mowbray as a gourmet hot dog restaurant

*   The Dog’s Bollocks has opened as a burger pop-up restaurant

*   Jackal & Hide has opened on Kloof Street

*   Graham Beck’s Gorgeous bubbly bar has opened at Catharina’s at Steenberg.

*   Col’Cacchio is opening new outlets in Claremont and Westlake

*   Dale Thebus is the new chef at Salt restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel.

*   A new Vida é Caffe is opening on Prestwich Street

*   A  cupcake shop is said to be opening on Ebenezer Street, next to T & Co/Table 13, in Green Point

*   Il Cappero is moving from Barrack Street to Fairway Street in Camps Bay, opening on 2 June.

*   Saints on 84 Kloof has opened on Kloof Street

*   Sushibox has opened at Newlands Village

*   Richard’s Supper Stage & Bistro has opened on Main/Glengariff Roads in Sea Point, as a dinner theatre (from May), and Bistro restaurant, owned by Richard Loring and Roland Seidel

*   ‘I my Laundry restaurant has opened on Buitengracht Street

*   West Street Café has opened in the new Woodstock Foundry, owned by Chef Alan West

*   Orphanage has opened as a cocktail and tapas emporium on Bree Street

*   Valora on Loop Street has closed down

*   ACT Restaurant and Play Bar at the Baxter Theatre closed down

*   Philip Arno Botes is the new Chef at Pure Restaurant at Hout Bay Manor.

*   Maz Sushi has closed down on Main Road Sea Point

*   Planet Green Salad Bar has opened on Kloof Street

*   Vanilla in the Cape Quarter has closed down.

*   Madame’s on Napier has opened in De Waterkant

*   Moyo is to open where the Paulaner Braühaus was in the V & A Waterfront.

*   Sinn has closed down its Deli at Wembley Square

*   Table Thirteen is closing down in Green Point and moving to Paarden Eiland at the end of May

*   Slug & Lettuce has opened on Kloof Street, where Mason was.

*   Pizza Vezuvio has opened in the Tygervalley Waterfront

*   Bistrot Milano has opened on Blaauwberg Road, Table View

*   Forneria Italia has opened in the Bayside Centre, Table View

*   Maharajah is selling food at the Baxter Theatre on a take-away basis prior to shows.

*   Hussar Grill is to open at Steenberg

*   Chef Fred Faucheux is the new Executive Chef at Nobu.

*   Cassis is opening a new Salon de Thé in the Gardens Centre in May

*   De Grendel has opened De Grendel Restaurant, with Chef Ian Bergh and owner Jonathan Davies

*   Toro Wine and Aperitif Bar has closed down

*   Piroschka’s Kitchen has moved from Bree Street to Waterkant Street, De Waterkant.

*   Honest Chocolate is opening a second outlet with a ‘production kitchen’ in the Woodstock Industrial Centre next month

*   The Fez is reopening as a nightclub on Friday, to be called Sideshow

*  MasterChef SA finalist Guy Clark, who was eliminated in episode 9, has started as a chef at the Madame Zingara restaurant group next week.

*   Josephine’s Cookhouse is to open in Newlands, where Caveau at Josephine’s Mill used to be, belonging to Societi Bistro owner

*   A new Vida e Caffe is to open on Maindean Place in Claremont.

*   Vovo Teli has opened in the V&A Waterfront, in half of the original Vaughn Johnson shop. They have branches in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg already.  The name is Portuguese, and means ‘grandfather’s place’.

*   Orinoco has opened on Bree Street, serving Mexican and Venezualean food

*   Rotisserie 360° has changed its name to Café Frank

*   Gesellig on Regent Road in Sea Point is standing empty, closed down or undergoing a major renovation

*   Sapphire has closed down in Camps Bay

*   A new McDonalds is opening in the Sanlam Centre

*   Salt Deli has chanegd its name to Salt Café

*   Keenwa has opened the P.I.S.C.O Bar above its restaurants, open Thursdays – Saturdays from 5 pm

*   Characters has opened on Roeland Street

*   TRUTH Coffee has opened on Buitenkant Street

*   The V&A Food Court is closed for renovations until November.  A sign outside the construction area lists the following businesses moving into or returning to the area: Primi Express, Anat, Carnival, Nür Halaal, Royal Bavarian Bakery, KFC, Boost Juice, Simply Asia, Steers, Debonairs, Subway, Marcel’s, and Haagan Dazs.

Franschhoek

*   Leopard’s Leap has opened its Tasting room and Liam Tomlin Food Studio and Store outside Franschhoek, and the new Deli will open at the end of June

*    Reuben’s, which was said to be opening a Franschhoek branch in a building off the main road, when his Huguenot Road branch lease expires this year, appears to now be looking for an alternative restaurant venue on the main road, as the building purchase close to Place Vendome appears to have fallen through.

*   Donovan Dreyer is the new Restaurant Manager of Indochine at Delaire Graff.

*   Cheyne Morrisby is the new chef at the Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz

*   Chef Vanie Padayachee has joined Le Quartier Français

*   Chef Darren Roberts is leaving Grande Provence for a new appointment in the Seychelles at the end of April.  Chef Darren Badenhorst steps into his shoes.

*   Alton van Biljon has been appointed as Restaurant Manager at Haute Cabriere.

*  Wicked Treat has opened.

*   FEAST is to open where Franschhoek Food Emporium was, in Place Vendome

*   Deluxe Coffeeworks has opened, where the Reuben’s Deli used to be.

*   The bubbly Inge Hoffman has left Leopard’s Leap, and is the new Brand Manager for Boekenhoutskloof

*   Ryan’s Kitchen is now offering cooking classes on Friday mornings, starting on 1 June

*   Okamai Japanese restaurant has opened at Glenwood wine estate

*   Chef Shaun Schoeman of Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms Delta has the amazing honour to be working at Noma in Copenhagen for two weeks in July.  He also shared that Fyndraai will move to another building on the wine estate in November, and will offer fine dining.  The current restaurant will serve light lunches and picnics.

*  Taste South Africa, belonging to Cybercellar, has closed down in The Yard off the main road. They have Tweeted that they are looking for new premises.

Stellenbosch

*    Cavalli restaurant is said to open on the stud farm on R44, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, this year or next

*   Dorpstraat Deli has opened, where Cupcake used to be.

*   De Oude Bank Bakkerij has opened a bar, serving Bartinney wines, and craft beers.

* David Higgs has resigned as Executive Chef from Radisson Blu Gautrain in Johannesburg (previously with Rust en Vrede).  He starts at The Saxon in Johannesburg in May.

*   Slug & Lettuce is to open where Beads is on Church Street

*   Stables at Vergelegen Bistro has opened as a lunch restaurant in Somerset West.  Its Lady Phillips Restaurant is being given a make-over by Christo Barnard, and will open in June, with a new name called The Vergelegen Restaurant.

*   Warwick wine estate’s new chef is Dane Newton (ex-Chamonix, Cascade Manor).

*   Chef Bjorn Dingemans is to open up The Millhouse Kitchen restaurant on Lourensford wine estate in July

*   Chris Olivier has opened SimpliciTea Deli in Somerset West

*   Chef Jonathan Heath has left Indochine, and will be opening a restaurant at Coopmanshuijs on Dorp Street in June.

*   A new Hussar Grill is said to be opening in Stellenbosch

Wellington

*   Chef Johan van Schalkwyk has left the Stone Kitchen at Dunstone Winery.  He opens his own restaurant Twist Some More in Wellington in July.

Hermanus/Overberg

*   Rivendell Estate and Bistro has opened as a restaurant and winetasting venue on the road between Hermanus and the N2, near the Kleinmond turn-off.

*  Grilleri (ex-Mediterrea) has closed down, and Chef Shane (ex-La Vierge) is now heading the re-named La Pentola restaurant.

Riebeek Kasteel

*   Mama Cucina has opened

Robertson

*   Emile Fortuin has been appointed as Executive Chef at Reuben’s Robertson

Garden Route

*   Katarina’s has opened at the Kurland Hotel.

Restaurant breaks

*   La Colombe is closing for renovations from 17 May – 16 June.

*   Constantia Uitsig is taking a winter break from 25 June – 24 July.

*   The River Café is closing for a winter break from 13 August – 4 September.

*   Tokara closes for a winter break from 22 April, re-opens on 4 May

*   Nguni in Plettenberg Bay closes from 1 May – 31 July

*   The Foodbarn will be closed for renovations on 7 and 8 May

*   Bientang’s Cave in Hermanus is closed for renovations until 21 June.

*   The Kove in Camps Bay will be closed from 1 May – 30 August

*   The Test Kitchen will be closed from 13 – 28 May

*    Burgundy in Hermanus will be closed for dinners until 17 June

*   Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House will be closed in June

*   Olivello at Marianne Estate will be closed from 30 July – 21 August

*   Grande Provence is closing on Sunday evenings until the end of September.

*   Pierneef a La Motte will be closed from 18 June – 13 July.

*   The main Delaire Graff restaurant closes from 3 -24 June, but Indochine continues to trade.

*   Blues will be closed from 1 – 30 June

*   Waterkloof in Somerset West is closing for all June.

*   The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz is closed for all of June

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

Restaurant Review: Rebel restaurateur at Portofino a hit!

A week ago I heard about Portofino opening in the ex-Showroom space at a dinner party, and all I could find out was that an unknown Irish 30-something, with no previous restaurant experience, by the name of Cormac Keane, was opening the restaurant.   I googled his name, and there were no entries for him.  I bumped into Vaughn Johnson, and he told me that he is doing Portofino’s winelist.   The opening date was vague, being sometime this week.

On Thursday evening I drove by, coming from a concert close by, at 10 pm.  The security guard assured me that the restaurant was open.  I went in, unsure if it had indeed opened, and whether I would be welcomed at that time of night.   The door was opened by Keane himself, and I received a most hearty welcome.   He was intrigued about what I had heard about him, and sat down to chat, sharing some of his story with me.   I noticed his red sneakers immediately and told him that they reminded me of David Kramer’s red velskoens, but he had not heard of Kramer.   The shoes stand out in the otherwise white interior. 

Whilst Keane has had an interior decorator attend to his restaurant, few changes are visible.  The ghost chairs of The Showroom are still there, giving the restaurant a familiarity if one has been there before.   White curtains separate the restaurant from the luxury car showroom next door, and help to protect oneself against its bright light.   Noticeably, the counter is uncluttered, relative to its predecessor, and the chef, Stephen Kruger, previously working alongside Richard Carstens, is very clearly to be seen and willing to assist customers.

Keane grew up in Ireland, with a teacher father and principal mother, but says he was not a good scholar, and never wrote any exams.   He did not do anything after finishing school, except fly around the world with a friend in that person’s private jet, partying for three years all over the world.   Despite his lifestyle he did not have a cent to his name, he says.  Returning to London, he was headhunted to become the social secretary of Oleg Deripaska, a close personal friend of Putin, Russia’s richest man, and 9th on the Forbes international billionaire’s list, with a worth of $ 40 billion prior to the credit crunch, created mainly from aluminium.   Keane worked for him for a year, and rubbed shoulders with Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair, Putin and Roman Abramovich.   A six-month stint working for an American hedge fund investor living in London followed.   In this time he discovered Cape Town, and came to Cape Town regularly.

No matter how little money he had, Keane has never cooked food for himself, and has been eating out since he was 17, he says.   “I have never cooked a meal in my life, and I have no fridge, and no ‘cooker’ in my home”, he says with pride.   This has made him an astute restaurant-goer, who knows what he wants, and is not afraid to ask for it, and to express his dissatisfaction, having been thrown out of restaurants as a result.

His view on other local restaurants is interesting, and he has a few favourites – Bizerca is his top favourite, but he also rates the Foodbarn, Manna, and Table 13.    He does not like La Colombe.

Opening a restaurant is something Keane feels he can do well.  He is hands-on, changing a table cloth, welcoming guests arriving even later (the ambassador to the United Nations, who lives in the apartment block above the restaurant).   He put the menu together himself, buying the best Italian cookbooks in London, and choosing recipes that he likes for his menu.

The prices are reasonable, with starters ranging from R 40 – R 85, pasta dishes at R 50 – R 85, mains mainly costing R 105, and desserts at R 40 each.

Generously Keane offers me a glass of Bruce’s Merlot, which is still in the restaurant.  He is selling off the old Showroom wine stock, so that he can bring in new wines, as per Vaughn Johnson’s recommendation.   He has the staff bring a platter of dessert samplers, including a pure pannacotta, a mint pannacotta, a delicious Lindt chocolate mousse cake, and an unusual tiramisu.  The honey and mustard pork fillet is tasty, and I particularly liked the pumpkin and potato mash and green beans.

Portofino is Cormac Keane, and he is a most amusing host.  He is who he is – cross him in his own space, and you stand the chance of being thrown out.   Should he not be there, it may not be the same experience.  He is irreverent, and a rebel, and has the confidence to believe in his new project and in himself, and to not have to compromise on what he is and what he wants from his staff and his clients.   He feels like a friend already, something one does not experience in restaurants easily.

I felt at home at Portofino, and will definitely go back.

Portofino menu 

Antipasti

Bruschetta x 3 – fresh tomato and basil, griddled courgettes and mint, chicken livers R55
Antipasti plate (for 2) – chilli salt squid, marinated vegetable rolls, Parma ham, salami, olives R85
Beef carpaccio – watercress, parmesan shavings, olive oil and lemon R 60
Melanzane all parmigiana – layers of griddled aubergine, mozzarella tomato, basil R45
Tuscan minestrone soup R45
Orange, almond, parmesan and goats cheese salad with lemon dressing R 45
Seasonal salad R 40
Pumpkin, goats cheese and pumpkin seeds salad with honey mustard dressing R 45

Pasta

Risotto of the day R75
Warm risone with pancetta, peas, asparagus, porcini mushrooms with truffle infusion R70
Fresh gnocchi of the day R60
Lasagna alla Bolognese R70
Spaghetti Carbonara R65
Broccoli and anchovy pasta R65
Penne Arrabbiata – fresh tomato and chilli R60
Butternut and ricotta ravioli with pine nut butter R55
Tagliatelle with fresh mussels R85

Mains

Veal parcel filled with pesto and buffalo mozzarella and ricotta and butternut stuffed ravioli R 105
Grilled fish of the day R105
Honey and mustard pork fillet – pumpkin and potato mash, green beans R 90
Lamb cutlets with rosemary jus – cannellini bean puree, vegetables R 105
Grilled baby chicken marinated in olive oil, garlic and chilli with baby pesto potatoes R 105

Desserts

Pistachio andalmond cake with yoghurt and honey sorbet and mint pannacotta
Homemade lemon tart with lemon ice cream
Ricotta and honey tart
Lindt Nemesis cake with honeycomb ice cream
Portofino Tiramisu
Selection of ice creams or sorbets
R40

Portofino Bar & Restaurant

Harbour Edge, 10 Hospital Street, Green Point

tel : 021 418 4500
info@portofinoct.co.za

POSTSCRIPT: Portofino closed its doors on 10 April 2010.

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