Tag Archives: wine cellar

SA wine drinkers should thank winemakers for their affordable and quality wines!

Welcoming the guests attending the Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report 2013 at Burrata on Thursday, sponsor Sanlam Private Investments CEO Daniël Kriel said that South African wine drinkers should thank our winemakers for producing such good quality wines at affordable prices. It was the second year in which the Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report was presented.

Kriel said he had done a Google search about Cabernet Sauvignon, and to his surprise found that Wikipedia did not mention South Africa in its first paragraph.  He learnt about the wide range of terroirs and climates in which the grape variety is grown, from Canada down to the 15° latitude in Argentina.  South Africa is only referred to in the New World wines section, and then only Stellenbosch and Constantia are mentioned.  He referred to the markets being in terrible chaos on Thursday, and he was happy to escape the office to not see what was happening on his computer screen.  Having recently been to New York, and paying $89 for a reasonable Californian, he said that we should be grateful for the affordable and good quality wines which our winemakers produce.  He justified the investment by Sanlam Private Investment in The Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report in that their clients love wine and have a passion for them, as do the leaders of businesses!

Christian Eedes thanked the wine writers present for spreading the word about his 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Report, allowing him to renew the relationship with his sponsor.  Using the same judges Roland Peens of Wine Cellar and James Pietersen of Balducci’s, sixty Cabernet Sauvignons were evaluated.  He announced that Wade Bales has put together a special Cabernet Sauvignon Top 10 pack, based on Eedes’ Report results. Bales could not tell me how much he will charge for the special pack.

In introducing the Top 10 list, Eedes said that the 5 point scale had been used for the ratings (instead of the 100 score which he has recently moved to for his wine evaluations), and that within a star band, the estates are listed alphabetically on his Top 10 list. The panel had found the local Cabernet Sauvignons, the second most planted varietal locally, ‘on the whole, very impressive in quality…characterised by richness and weight‘.  He added that while Cabernet Sauvignon ages well mainly due to its high level of tannins, wine drinkers are placing less value on this characteristic. ‘Winemakers seem to be going to great lengths to emphasise fruit and the resulting wines are tending to be ever riper, sweeter and more alcoholic.  The best examples display fruit concentration but retain shape and form’.  The panel had found some ‘clumsy addition of tartaric acidity‘, done to add freshness, but it resulted in sourness in some instances.

The Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report 2013 Top 10 list is as follows:

*   5 stars:   La Bri 2009 (Irene Waller was the proud recipient), and Le Riche Reserve 2010.

*   4,5 stars:   Graham Beck The Coffeestone Cabernet 2011, Guardian Peak Lapa 2010, Rickety Bridge Paulina’s Reserve 2010, Rudera 2011, Springfield Méthode Ancienne 2006, Thelema 2009, and Waterford 2009.

*   4 stars:   Rust en Vrede 2010.

Burrata served a selection of tasty canapés, including porcini and cheese sticks; sirloin and radicchio crostini; fried crumbed smoked mozzarella, short rib and red pepper risotto balls; and toasted brioche with chorizo, green olive and mint purée.  The restaurant had been cleared of all its table and chairs, to allow the top ten Cabernet Sauvignons to be set up for tasting after the announcement of the top achievers.

It was a treat to catch up with a small select group of ten winemakers, and share their news.  Erika Obermeyer was still excited about her recent trip on the Queen Mary 2 from Durban to Cape Town, spending one day giving lectures to the cruise guests. Irene Waller was excited for Franschhoek (she heads up the local Vignerons association) that two of the top 10 Cabernet Sauvignons are from the wine valley, which is receiving increasing recognition.

Disclosure: We received a bottle of Graham Beck The Coffeestone Cabernet 2011 as part of the media pack.

The Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report, www.whatidranklastnight.co.za Twitter: @ChristianEedes  www.sanlamprivateinvestments.co.za

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.

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

Fine wine is a good financial investment! SA’s Top Cabernet Sauvignon wines a good investment!

Whilst many wine farmers may not feel that they make money out of their wines, Sanlam Private Investments Director of Investments Alwyn van der Merwe said that one can make money by investing in fine wines, quoting a 6,5 % return on 2006 wines. The Livex Fine Wine 100 index, tracking a hundred of the world’s most desired wines, has increased by 40% since 2006. There is a good supply of quality wines, with heritage, a legacy, and with craftmanship.  Creating successful wines are the ‘passionate people of the industry’.  It was on this note that the Christian Eedes Top Ten Cabernet Sauvignon wines for 2012 were presented on Thursday, sponsored by Sanlam Private Investments.

Whilst being a judge in a number of wine competitions, including Veritas Awards, Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, and Platter’s Wine Guide, Christian Eedes remarked that he is ‘bemused at the state of wine competitions in South Africa’,  and he said that some of their results ‘are curious’.  He feels that wine competitions should be held for ‘talent spotting’, to identify the ‘best of a bunch’, especially the undiscovered wines, and to recognise those wines that deserve to be at the ‘top of the pile’.  ‘Cabernet Sauvignon is a much-loved variety, and a category in which South Africa traditionally does well’, and this led Eedes to choose this variety for evaluation, showcasing the ‘potential of this variety to produce wines that can compete with the world’s best’. It is the second most planted variety locally, at 12%, but is often overlooked against other varieties, he feels.

Eedes therefore invited 50 Cabernet Sauvignon wine producers to participate in his competition, and this grew to 60 after he received requests by others to be included too. He explained the methodology as being blind tasting of the wines, a responsibility which he shared with Roland Peens of Wine Cellar and James Pietersen, the Group Sommelier of Belthazar and Balducci restaurants. The winning wines were rated on points out of 20/stars out of 5, as per the Platter rating system. The majority of winning wines were 2009 vintages. The list of Top 10 Cabernet Sauvignons was announced as follows:

Delaire Reserve 2009 (5 stars)

De Trafford 2009 (5 stars)

Graham Beck The Coffeestone 2009 (5 stars)

Tokara 2009 (5 stars)

Cederberg Five Generations 2009 (4,5 stars)

Rickety Bridge Paulina’s Reserve 2009 (4,5 stars)

Stark-Conde 2009 (4,5 stars)

Stark-Conde Three Pines 2009 (4,5 stars)

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2007 (4 stars)

Louis 2008 (4 stars)

The function was held at French Toast wine and tapas bar, and they served a selection of tapas dishes including goat’s cheese tomato tarts, chicken empanadas, and a prawn and calamari dish.

Eedes highlighted the role of Social Media, praising the ‘mutually supportive ethos amongst Bloggers and Tweeters’, especially as he comes from a print media background (past editor of Wine) which still is cynical towards the ‘New World’ communication style.  Eedes has left the print media world, and has embraced Social Media, writing the BlogWhat I drank last night’, Tweets (@ChristianEedes), and Facebooks.  He added that his Social Media colleagues have ‘exceeded his expectations‘.

DISCLOSURE: We received a bottle of Graham Beck The Coffeestone 2009 with our media pack.

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

Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant breath of fresh air, exciting new chef

The Haute Cabrière wine cellar and restaurant are an institution in Franschhoek, having opened sixteen years ago, with a location on the slopes of the Franschhoek Pass that has one of the best views of the village.  Chef Matthew Gordon’s departure earlier this year allowed the Von Arnim family to take over the management of the restaurant, creating an opportunity for the restaurant interior to be redone, and for new chef Ryan Shell to be appointed, re-opening on 1 September.

The best part of the refurbishment is that the restaurant has received permission from the powers-that-be to serve guests outside, to capitalise on the beautiful view over the Franschhoek valley, which one does not see much of when sitting inside.  Winetasting too can now be done outside at special tables and chairs, outside the next-door cellar, home to the Saturday morning 11h00 cellar tour which ends with the Sabrage highlight.  Christiane von Armin, daughter-in-law of flamboyant legend owner Achim von Arnim, took on the restaurant project, and her first step was the furnishing.  She has added the most comfortable white leather chairs, and two white couches with a coffee table with a vase of deep red roses are a friendly homely welcome as one enters through the massive glass doors.  Achim is a painter too, and his works are hung in the restaurant and the wine cellar.  New chandeliers have been added, the glass crystals having an almost identical shape to the chair backs.  The winetasting room and restaurant are now visibly connected, in that a new window allows each side to see the other, and creates a display space for all the Haute Cabrière wines, best known for the Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines. Tables have white table cloths, and the abundance of white in the restaurant makes it look fresh.  French-style café music plays in the background.

Having tried to eat at the restaurant on Thursday evening (they only open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday in September), I returned yesterday for lunch and arrived just as Achim’s wife Hildegard, son Tamo, Christiane,  Jos Baker, and Ian and Lise Manley arrived, and I was privileged to be spontaneously invited by Christiane to join their table.   The Manleys have been appointed to handle the publicity for Haute Cabrière. Jos Baker was the first shareholder of the wine estate, and was a good friend of ‘Omi’ Theodora von Arnim, Achim’s mother, and Tamo regaled us with stories about what sounded like a wonderful colourful character. Jos still judges the San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants, and is off to Europe shortly to do her judging. I got to know Jos as a member of Cape Town Slow Food, and she was the most creative planner of exciting events for the club.  Sadly she is no longer involved.

Exciting is the young chef Ryan Shell, who will position the Haute Cabrière restaurant as one of Franschhoek’s best again. Chef Ryan left the Prue Leith Chef’s Academy as a lecturer, and has worked in Franschhoek before, with Chef Margot Janse at Le Quartier Français, with Chef Chris Erasmus (now at Pierneef à La Motte) when at Ginja, and with Mike Bassett at Myoga. He has also worked at the Michelin-starred Longueville Manor on the Isle of Jersey.   His inspiration to cook came for his aunt, who encouraged him to go to chef’s school. Ryan says he is part of a team of eight making the cuisine magic happen, and that it is easy to do so in the beautiful cave-design building, to which guests come because they want to be there, making them easy to please.  His menu will evolve, much like the wines in the cellar next door, he says, and he has made three changes to the menu in the past ten days already, ensuring that it remains fresh.  Zelda Oelofse-Cornthwaite is the manager, and she has retained most of the previous Haute Cabriére restaurant staff, and has added Desiree, the previous manager of Bouillabaisse.  Staff wear white shirts and black pants, with a strongly branded red Haute Cabriére apron.  Their service is friendly and efficient.

The menu and wine list are presented in a black leather holder.  The menu introduction refers to the changes that have taken place in the restaurant, but that it is still committed to established traditions and the ‘true marriage between food and wine, setting the scene for our food to dance with our wines for your enjoyment’. What was started by Chef Matthew Gordon has been carried on by Chef Ryan, in that almost all dishes, even the desserts, are available in full and half portions, allowing one to taste a larger number of dishes, and making eating at the restaurant cost-effective.  Most of the Haute Cabrière wines are available by the glass too.  The table setting has a glass of sparkling wine on each table, and probably would make one order a glass of bubbly as a start.  We were offered a glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose.  The menu has a wine pairing recommendation for each dish, and dishes containing nuts are marked.

Chef Ryan impressed by coming to the table, to introduce his amuse bouche of a trio of roast tomato soup, prawn beignet, and buffalo mozzarella, tomato and onion salad.  His lovely freshly-baked bread was quickly finished.  The starter choices are Malay curried butternut soup with a lime prawn mousse and coconut (R30/60), very yummy duck liver parfait (left) served on blueberry toast, and a celery and orange salad (R45/65), confit lamb terrine filled with apricot (R40/60), and pickled beetroot salad (R35/55).   The six main courses offer a variety of choices, including meat, fish and vegetarian: braised pork belly is served with peach pommes puree, roasted porcini and a peanut froth (R60/R100), Beef Wellington (R76/R125), a beautiful light and healthy lasagna of Franschhoek salmon trout (right) with orange-buttered baby vegetables (R65/110), tomato and buffalo mozzarella tart (R50/90), crown roasted chicken breast with sweet corn couscous (R65/110), and porcini-crusted wildebeest loin served with a bitter chocolate jus (R75/145).

It is on the dessert side that Chef Ryan’s creativity really comes to the fore, in the elements the desserts are composed of.  I chose lemon thyme panna cotta, for its unusual addition of butternut anglaise, and was served with a blueberry tuille and grilled vanilla chiffon (R40/55).  Other options are bitter chocolate crème brûlee served with banana and rosemary beignets, mint syrup and sour cherry sorbet (R40/60); Pierre Jourdan poached pears served with molasses pudding and vanilla and rooibos ice cream (R30/55); and strawberry and champagne jelly served with spicy walnut ice cream (R40/60).  Coffee is by LavAzza.

The Pierre Jourdan Cap Classiques Brut, Cuvée Belle Rose, Brut Savage, and Blanc de Blanc range in price from R32/R129 to R42/R169.  The Cuvée Reserve is only available by the bottle, at R264.  Pierre Jourdan is honoured in the brand name, having been the first owner of the Cabriére wine estate.  Haute Cabriére Chardonnay/Pinot Noir 2010 (R27/109), Unwooded Pinot Noir 2011 (R30/119), Pinot Noir 2011 (R47/189); Pierre Jourdan Tranquille lower alcohol wine (R21/82); Pierre Jourdan Ratafia (R16/129) and Fine de Jourdan potstill brandy (R27/R219) are also offered, all at very reasonable prices.

Haute Cabriére Cellar Restaurant is an exciting reinvented rediscovery, and Chef Ryan is a breath of fresh air in this well-established restaurant.  It offers a good variety of creatively prepared dishes as well as wines at affordable prices.

POSTSCRIPT 30/10: Lovely lunch at Haute Cabriere today, and well looked after by Desiree and her staff. Spoilt with glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose.  Excellent tender fillet in Beef Wellington (starter portion), and interesting sour cherry sorbet, with cherry and cinnamon soup for dessert.

Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, Franschhoek Pass, Monday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner (in September, from October lunch and dinners daily).  Tel (021) 876-3688. www.cabriere.co.za

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

Restaurant Review: Glen Carlou Restaurant full spectrum, from grapes to wine!

I experienced one of the cleverest wine marketing ideas when I had lunch at Glen Carlou Restaurant on Friday.  The Restaurant Manager Janine came to each table with a washed bunch of freshly picked Malbec grapes, so that one can experience the taste of a more unusual grape variety.   This brought the vineyard, in which we could see the Glen Carlou staff picking grapes below us, straight to the table, and stimulated an interest in tasting the wines after the lunch, even though I had decided against wine-tasting initially.

Glen Carlou has been owned by  Donald Hess for the last six years, and he is an entrepreneur with international interests, such as we have seen at Delaire Graff and Grande Provence – international owners of multiple properties around the world, and lovers of and investors in art.  Janine reminded every table about the Hess Collection art gallery, which is behind closed doors in an airconditioned room, containing some interesting works of art – not the place to bring one’s teenage daughter!   Hess has wine interests in Argentina, California, Australia and in South Africa.   The Hess Family Estates had its first beginnings in Switzerland in 1844,  when Johann Heinrich Hess founded a brewery in Berne.  The current owner Donald Hess grew the company, in that it diversified into mineral water, Valser Water becoming Switzerland’s leading water brand.  He loves wine and art, and married these two passions with his first wine estate purchase on Mount Veeder in the Napa Valley in 1978.  Then followed wine estates in Argentina (the highest vineyard in the world), in Australia, and then in South Africa, with the purchase of Glen Carlou (making wines since 1985).   Hess is one of the world’s major collectors of contemporary art representing the last fifty years, and his collection includes 1000 works by 65 international artists.  Hess only acquires pieces that challenge or touch him personally.  “When I have seen an art piece which keeps me awake over several nights, I know that this art piece has touched me deeply and this is one of my most important criteria to buy an art work”, he says in a profile on the Hess Art Collection.

The building is an all-in-one wine cellar (on the lower level) and one can see very little of the wine production side, save for a glass floor section allowing one to see some barrels below, tasting room, art gallery and restaurant.   One enters a lovely air conditioned room, which has the wine tasting counter closest to the door, and the rest of the space is taken up by a very spacious restaurant, with a small lounge section too.   It has a homely thatched roof ceiling.  The terrace has shading so that one can sit outside and enjoy the lovely view onto the vineyards below and the Paarl Mountains in the distance.  I could have sworn that I saw a little buck dashing from one vineyard to the other.  There is attractive white garden furniture outside, with a glass top and aluminium table.  The cork placemats and the old-fashioned wooden salt and pepper grinders seemed out of place with the international character of the wine estate (Peugeot is very in, I have noticed on my restaurant travels), and there is no table cloth, yet there is a material serviette, into which is rolled two forks and two knives, on the assumption that one will have a starter and a main course.  Two big glass containers contain olive oil (from House of Olives down the road) and balsamic vinegar (from Serena, according to the waiter).

I was seated by Janine, who was very friendly, but I felt her Capri pants to be out of character with the stature of this Hess winery.  The chef Hennie van der Merwe has been at Glen Carlou for about two years, and previously owned The Red Hen restaurant on Wildebraam outside Swellendam.   He has also worked at Umami in Stellenbosch, on the QE2, and on the Queen Mary.  I was surprised (and impressed) that I was welcomed by Georgie Prout, the Public Relations Manager, who recognised me from the Winestyle launch at Warwick a few months ago, she said.  She was very helpful in providing information about the other Hess wine farms. 

The menu is presented in a black leather menu holder, and in fact there are two menus.  While I had a look through the menus, introduced two weeks ago, the waiter brought two bread rolls (looked like mosbolletjies to me, but topped with sesame seeds), which again did not match the stature of the wine estate, in my opinion.  Each item on the menu has a Glen Carlou wine recommendation.   As I was just passing through, I ordered two starters, the first being a Caprese salad with Bocconcini (an imported buffalo mozzarella,  I was told), ‘baby plum tomatoes’, tiny drops of basil pesto, and rocket – the chef seems to like rocket, as both starters had lots of it on the plate, and it had a really bitter taste (R40).   It was served with two tiny triangles of toast (what is it with tiny toast triangles?  I had them at Mange Toute as well), which were not enough to eat with the cheese.  I would have preferred the basil fresh and not in pesto form.  Much more exciting was the seared duck breast served with duck liver mousse, and I loved the orange honey sauce that was served with it (R60).  I thought the rocket and grapefruit distracted from and clashed with the lovely duck and sauce, both being too bitter, even though they added colour to the starter.  I would like to see this dish become a main course, so good was the duck and sauce.  The duck liver mousse was on another tiny toast triangle.  Starters cost between R 40 – R65, and other options include smoked trout and asparagus, mussels, and an interesting sounding trio of Kudu carpaccio, steak tartar with poached quail egg and rooibos smoked springbok loin. 

Main courses are reasonable in price, costing R85 – R105, and include roasted pork fillet and mushroom fricassee, sirloin steak, roasted quail, kingklip, duck, and trout.   Georgie told me that Chef Hennie is known for his wonderful sauces.   The second menu has further options, mainly salads and burgers, costing R60 – R85.  The cappuccino (R16) took long to bring to the table, but was in a large cup, and very foamy.   It was while I was waiting for the coffee that Janine came with the bunch of grapes, so it served as a dessert.   Dessert choices are Malva pudding, Crème Brulee, and chocolate mousse, all costing a most reasonable R30,  ice cream at R12 a scoop, and a Boland cheese platter at R85 – they are not on the menu one receives on arrival, but on a menu list which includes side orders, drinks other than wines, and the Kiddies Menu.  

I had a large jug of farm water and lemon to drink, and was surprised at the saltiness of the water.  The waiter said something about putting lemon into the water because of that, but I did not understand this.  The wines are listed in a similar black leather holder.   I was very impressed that there was no mark-up on the Glen Carlou wines on the winelist at all!  This makes them very reasonable to order : Sauvignon Blanc (R18/R65), Tortoise Hill White (R12/R42),  Chardonnay (R25/R90), Quartz Stone Chardonnay (R25/R90), Pinot Noir (R36/R130), Tortoise Hill Red (R16/R49), Syrah (R34/R120), Zinfandel (R36/R130), Cabernet Sauvignon (R25/R90), Grand Classique (R34/R120), Gravel Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon (R80/R375) and The Welder (R22/R89).  In addition, one can buy Hess wines from Argentina (Colomè), Peter Lehmann (Australia) and the Hess Collection from California, ranging in price from R140 – R 395, at Glen Carlou.  I was encouraged via Twitter to try Glen Carlou’s Zinfandel, and having been to a Blaauwklippen Zinfandel tasting a week ago, I tried a small glassfull, and liked it very much.  Janine wanted me to know that the Zinfandel is seen as a ‘hobby wine’, and only 6000 bottles are produced.   She said that the Hess Zinfandel from Napa has a very different character to that of Glen Carlou, even though both have 15 % alcohol.   I then tried a small glassful of the 2006 Shiraz, and it is one of my favourites.  The winemaker is a low profile Arco Laarman, whose name I did not know – Janine said he worked alongside the previous cellarmaster David Finlayson, and has been at Glen Carlou for ten years.

The invoice came in a soft black leather holder, and I was irritated when the waiter came to my table with the credit card machine – I had not put down my card, was still having my grapes and water, did not show signs of leaving, and had no intention to pay by card.

As I drive past Glen Carlou whenever I go to Franschhoek, I will certainly pop in for lunch again.  I used to love their prawn salad, but that dish is not on the new menu.  There are a number of interesting dishes to try at Glen Carlou on future visits.  

Glen Carlou Restaurant,  Simondium Road (R 45), Klapmuts.  Tel (021) 875-5528.     www.glencarlou.co.za  (The new menu is not yet on the website.  Innovative is that recipes are listed on the website, but they are for dishes no longer on the menu).  Tuesday – Sunday.

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

Pub Review: Watching the World Cup at Pure, Hout Bay Manor

Having seen two World Cup matches at Paulaner Braeuhaus in the Waterfront, I was looking for a new venue to see the match between Germany and Ghana in the past week.   I had heard good things of Pure at the Hout Bay Manor Hotel, and its German chef and GM Alex Mueller, so chose this as the venue. I had not been there in years, not since Rick and Collette Taylor owned the hotel.

What a mistake I made to choose the venue, as far as World Cup “gees” goes, as I was the only person in the hotel watching the match on the massive screen filling the whole wall of the lounge.    Only one couple was dining in Pure restaurant.

On arriving outside the Hotel, a security guard followed me into the hotel, and appeared quite unwelcoming and confrontational, asking me what I wanted at the hotel!  She disappeared, so I settled down in the lounge.  I had seen the photographs on the hotel’s website, and was told that the decor had been done by Block & Chisel.   It is hard to describe, other than that the lounge decor is very busy, with a dominant African design feel to it.   For me, the oranges and pinks in the upholstery clashed with the red and white curtains, and while I liked the African dress hanging on one wall, I thought a lot of it was very forced.   The African decor flows through all the way to the bar counter and reception, but the decor tone changes completely in Pure restaurant, which is very earthy (screen made from ‘interwoven’ branches, marine touches added on the tables, hanging crystal stands, again feels overdone).

Generously sized couches and armchairs in the lounge, where the TV was set up, had an English feel.  The coffee table was very low, making it uncomfortable to eat and to make notes at.  I struggled to get comfortable in the armchair throughout my two-hour visit, even adding a scatter cushion, but nothing helped.   The “pub” part of the hotel is nothing more than some bar stools at the bar counter in an open-plan room coming out of the reception, on the way to the restaurant. 

The waiter brought three white leather bound documents, but did not explain the difference between them. One was Pure restaurant’s a la carte menu, not an option due to the uncomfortable table.  The full winelist was brought as well.  The bar menu was difficult to fold open, due to the way it is bound, making it difficult to read the prices.  It had a very small selection of ten food choices, reminding me of a room service menu.  One can order two portion sizes (quantity not specified) of tartar of tuna and spring rolls for R 70 or R 90, a herb salad with mozarella for what sounds like an expensive R 95, croque monsieur costs R 60, and focaccia with a choice of salmon, chicken or parma ham costs R 75.  The Hout Bay Manor sandwich, which includes roast beef and bacon, costs R 75, while the Hout Bay Manor Burger can be ordered for R 75 – it also can be ordered with foie gras, at double the price.   From the menus I could see the ‘Pure’ and ‘Hout Bay Manor’ brands fighting each other, the former young and modern, and the latter old fashioned and steeped in history. 

I chose the croque monsieur, which was just the right snack after a long day, and the presentation of the food on a large white dish was creative, with chips stacked neatly – they were hot but not crisp.  What was a cute touch, but may have just been my imagination, was a decorative touch of aubergine, red pepper and yellow pepper, creating the German flag colours!  Unfortunately they were over-salted, but the idea behind it was much appreciated. The cutlery looked brand new, and was elegant, and a good quality material serviette was offered.  I was a little annoyed when the waiter seemed very anxious to remove my plate and glass so quickly, but this may have been intended as good service.  

The bar list offers two Methode Cap Classiques sparkling wines by the glass, from Ambeloui, which I did not know but discovered to be from Hout Bay, according to a Google search.  Olga costs R 50, and her ‘sister’ Roseanne R56.  Amstel costs R20, Castle R18, Heineken R 20, Savanna R22, and Windhoek R18.   An extensive list of 43 spirits and liqueurs is on offer, and includes Wilderers Grappa, Bols, Cointreau, Butlers, and a further list of cocktails.  The cappuccino I ordered was a lovely foamy one, served with a meringue on the side. 

This review would have been very different had it not been for the wonderful sommelier Tatiana Marcetteau, previously from Delaire Graff.  She recognised me from past visits there, and the level of service rose dramatically, with her checking regularly on my well-being, reminding me very much of Aleks’ care and service at Salt Vodka and Champagne Bar the week before.   Unasked, Tatiana offered to show me a guest bedroom in the half-time, as well as the Pure restaurant.  She also proudly showed me her wine cellar. The receptionist offered me a copy of the hotel’s book, including a book sticker that one can write one’s name into, and detailing the history of the hotel (built in 1871), yet reflecting the colourful decor of the interior.  A photo album feel is created by a swatch of curtaining material, and photographs look as if they have just been glued into the book.   Each of the 21 bedrooms is different, and one can choose the Zulu, the Xhosa or even the Sangoma room!   The book ends off with two pages of photographs, presented as if they are postage stamps.  This is one of the most creative hotel promotional documents I have ever seen.

I would not watch another World Cup match at the hotel again, despite the lovely service from Tatiana, given the lack of guests to watch the soccer with, and the lack of ‘gees’.  But the visit has definitely whet my appetite to visit Pure restaurant, and to try Chef Alex Mueller’s cuisine after the World Cup.  The prices are not cheap, but the restaurant is running a winter special at the moment.   My croque monsieur was better value than a horrid pizza I had eaten at Foresters Arms earlier in the day (review to follow).

Pure at Hout Bay Manor, Baviaanskloof, off Main Road, Hout Bay.  Tel 021 790 0116. www.houtbaymanor.co.za (The website design does not reflect the design of the beautiful hotel book, and appears hard sell in having an accommodation booking window open on every page, even if unrelated to accommodation.  The Home page looks cluttered, and the Blog, Facebook and Twitter links are made very prominent – only problem is that the last post on the blog is dated 12 May, and the hotel tweets about once a month, making its social media marketing tool symbols look like window-dressing!).  Open Tuesdays- Saturdays.

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