SA Tourism cannot wish for better marketing than having a movie made which predominantly features beautiful spots in our country, and not have to pay for its production! German movie ‘Der Geilste Tag‘ features award-winning actors, and launches in German cinemas Continue reading →
* SATSA CEO David Frost is concerned about the Department of Home Affairs misleading the tourism industry with incorrect arrival statistics from Statistics South Africa. The Department is using apple-and-pear data (2013 figures inclusive of transit passengers and 2014 figures excluding them), to try to prove that factors other than the new Continue reading →
* Sir David Graaff, owner of De Grendel wine estate and farm, passed away this past weekend.
* SAA claims to be the first airline to offer a credit card payment system in the sky, with its new locally-developed Satellite Authorisation System. The system also will offer an airline tracking service. It will be implemented on all its international flights over time.
* Statistics South Africa has promised to have 2014 tourism arrival statistics available by the end of March. It Continue reading →
I had not been to Fyndraai at Solms-Delta for a while, and an invitation to join a Franschhoek friend in celebrating her birthday was an excellent way to try out the new winter menu of Chef Shaun Schoeman. Exciting news is that the restaurant is raising its bar, with a location move on the wine estate and opening for evening fine dining from November.
The Fyndraai winelist and menu are impressive in their design – they are large (A3) with black and white covers with beautiful photography, and a mix of colour and black and white photographs inside. Immediately the menu gives the restaurant a classy image. The positioning of Fyndraai serving ‘food of origin’ is proudly placed on the menu and winelist covers, and refers to its focus on local South African food, the only restaurant with such a specific focus in Franschhoek.
Chef Shaun Schoeman came to say hello, despite a photo shoot taking place, and we laughed at his response when my friend asked him if he would become the next Chef Reuben (Riffel) of Franschhoek, when he told us about the restaurant move and opening in the evenings, and wanting to compete with the best restaurants in Franschhoek. His spontaneous reply was: ‘No, I will never use Robertsons’, without him knowing what we have written about Chef Reuben’s endorsement of Robertsons! The restaurant is to move to the building in the Oesfees section of the wine estate, and is set to open on 18 November. The most interesting news for the restaurant is that Chef Shaun will be spending two weeks at the end of this month at Noma in Copenhagen, the number one World’s 50 Best Restaurants for the third year running, a tremendous honour. It is a restaurant at which Solms-Delta co-owner Professor Mark Solms, who recently won an international award in New York for his contribution to psychoanalysis, has eaten a number of times.
We were offered ‘roosterbrood’ with wild garlic and farm butter whilst studying the menu. My friend enjoyed her Kingklip topped with ‘suurlemoen pelargonium‘ crust, served with a crushed potato and crab meat salad, drizzled with a slow roasted tomato and olive dressing (R98). The Karoo Lamb Wellington was delicious, served with a mushroom and asparagus sauté, steamed spinach, and a wild herb sauce to which the Solms-Delta Africana flagship wine had been added, excellent value at R98. The dish was one of two options on a specials board. Every dish on the menu has an Afrikaans word or more, emphasising the South Africanness of the menu. Solms-Delta has been clever in giving its wines predominantly Afrikaans names. Starters cost about R45, and include pan-fried pickled ox tongue, bobotie springrolls, West Coast mussels cooked in a Cape Malay ‘tamatie bredie’, and baked Camembert salad with a ‘pers vye salsa‘. Scallops cost R78. The Fyndraai tapas platter sounds delicious, a selection including ‘bloukaas tert’, ‘boerewors’ roll, olives, ‘bokkom‘ salad, a vegetable pancake, ‘droëwors’, and biltong, served with ‘blatjang‘ (R98). Main courses start at R92 for a wild mushroom and ‘knoffel’ risotto, and the ‘bokmelkkaas’ wrap is under R100 too. Other options are grilled calamari (R119), free range chicken and tiger prawn masala (R122), ‘Wilde roosmaryn’ crusted Karoo lamb rack (R132), ‘Wildsbok-skenkel’ (R127), and grilled beef rib-eye steak (R142). Desserts range in price from R39 – R48, and each sounded delicious: ‘yskas tert’ with a ‘koeksister’ and melon ice cream; ‘heuningbos’ cheesecake; ‘Rooibos’ panna cotta; cocoa coupe with mango, Amarula and strawberry ice cream; and the most delicious and refreshing orange blossom flavoured crème brûlée, served with chilled fruit stew, and a lemon and rose petal sorbet. Cappuccino was served in a Terbodore branded cup, an excellent coffee brand roasted outside Franschhoek. Picnics cost R145 per head, and are a collection of local treats, including a shared bottle of Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn. Half a page of the menu is a glossary of culinary terms, each of the Afrikaans terms translated for non-local visitors.
Only Solms-Delta wines can be ordered, at very reasonable prices. White wines range from R25 per glass/R75 per bottle for the Solms-Astor Vastrap 2011 to R43 per glass/R130 for a 500 ml bottle of Solms-Delta Koloni 2010. Red wines range from R25/R75 for Solms-Astor Langarm 2011 to R74/R220 for Solms-Delta Africana 2010. The Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn 2010 Rosé costs R28/R82. Under the heading ‘Innovative’, three wines are listed: Solms-Astor Cape Jazz Shiraz NV (R26/R78); Solms-Delta Gemoedsrus 2010, a port-style wine (R40/R240); and Dik Delta! Karri 2010, a Khoe fermented honey beverage (R26/R78).
The excellent quality of the food served at Fyndraai and its presentation in the menu unfortunately is not matched by the table settings – a blue plastic placemat, a paper serviette, no table cloth, and ordinary cutlery – but once the restaurant moves into the fine dining arena this may improve. The service was very friendly, with a collection of staff coming to check on our well-being. The working visit to Noma by Chef Shaun, and the growth of the restaurant into a fine-dining one, will make this a restaurant to watch for the 2013 Eat Out Top 10 restaurant awards.
Fyndraai Restaurant, Solms-Delta, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-3937. www.solms-delta.co.za Twitter: @Solms_Delta Monday – Sunday Lunch. Dogs allowed.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Episode 5 of MasterChef SA seemed all over the show last night, incorporating a Harvest Celebration lunch for 40 Nederburg staff, a Franco-African gourmet lamb dish, interspersed with a quick visit by Chef Michael Broughton, challenging a broad spectrum of cooking skills of the Finalists, and resulting in the elimination of Berdina Schurink. The episode lacked the tension of the previous four, and it was described as ‘boring’ and an ‘embarrassment‘ by some viewers after the show. This episode allowed one to see and hear more of the Finalists.
The Harvest Celebration lunch was a nice idea, given Nederburg’s sponsorship of MasterChef SA, and it allowed filming on the wine estate, and for the lunch to be served outside the striking historical Cape Dutch manor house. The 16 Finalists were divided into the Red and Blue Team, last week’s winners Manisha Naidu and Samantha Nolan having been elected as team leaders, and each choosing seven Finalists for their teams. The brief was to prepare two courses, the Blue Team led by Manisha, serving a Tapas starter, quail (stuffed by Lwazi Mngoma, something he’d never prepared before, he said), ostrich, and chicken (rolled by Mmutsi Maseko, who held up the pace) served with a mushroom and white wine sauce. The Red Team led by Samantha prepared a pork shoulder (which Chef Pete Goffe-Wood did not allow to be served initially as it was not cooked on the open fire for long enough), an Asian sauce, asparagus custard, as well as a pear and peach tart in phyllo pastry, made by Thys Hattingh. Both teams had two hours to prepare their dishes, and the Red team ran a little late in their preparation. Khaya Silingile poured the wine and served the food for the Blue team, and her Marketing profession showed in the ‘marketing’ of her teams’ dishes for votes, while Sarel Loots introduced the Red team’s work in Afrikaans, a clever move, given that most of the Nederburg staff were probably Afrikaans-speaking. The guests had to vote by placing a basket of grapes on a trailer representing their vote, and the first team to reach 21 votes was declared the winner, being the Red team. Thys’ dessert probably clinched the winning vote for the team.
Michael Broughton is an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant chef at Terroir at Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch, and his involvement in the program was not pre-announced. He was the ‘reward’ for the Red team for winning, and he conducted an exclusive Masterclass for the team, styling a beautiful dessert, and showing them how to prepare fish, presented very quickly. The take-out for the Finalists was that ‘keeping it simple and making it look beautiful is enough’, said Sue-Ann Allen.
Pre-announced was the participation of Chef Coco Reinarhz of Sel et Poivre and Le Petit Sel Bistro in Johannesburg, cooking Franco-African fusion cuisine, and proudly promoting the ‘unique beauty, fine flavours and unsurpassed richness of African cuisine‘, the restaurant’s website states. He has co-authored a cookbook about African Cuisine with Anna Trapido. Chef Coco originates from Burundi. He spoke with a beautiful French accent, and was firm in his evaluation of the food prepared for him. Nice was the collegiality from the other Finalists, giving tips from above, for example how to get to the heart of the artichokes. The judges discussed that cooking to time is a reality for restaurants, always under time pressure. Chef Pete looked smart in a white hat while the Harvest Celebration was filmed, and even wore a suit for Michael Broughton’s visit, not suiting his more relaxed lifestyle. For the first time Chef Andrew Atkinson looked more relaxed, and did not wear a jacket nor a waistcoat.
Out of the losing Blue team of eight, team leader Manisha was asked to chose the three ‘weakest’ members of her team for the Harvest Celebration lunch to go into the ‘Pressure Test‘, and she chose Berdina (for having done the least in preparing the lunch, she said), Mmutsi (for having been slow in preparing the chicken rolls), and most commendably, demonstrating her leadership skills, she volunteered herself, for being the team leader and therefore responsible for the outcome. Chef Coco showed the three ‘Pressure Test’ Finalists his perfectly plated and cooked rack of lamb, with artichokes, breadcrumbs and baba ganoush, and they were given 90 minutes to replicate his dish. Berdina had cooked a perfect lamb dish for her Hot dish audition, but she seemed distraught at having to go into the ‘Pressure Test’ for the second time. She approached her meat ‘like a skillful surgeon’, commented Deena Naidoo, the other 13 Finalists watching from above. Berdina said confidently that she had prepared many a rack of lamb before, but she spent too much time on its preparation, and too little on its cooking, it being underdone and ‘disappointing‘, said Chef Pete Goffe-Wood, especially relative to her perfect Hot Dish audition. They loved her plating (photograph below), it looking very similar to that by Chef Coco, reminding the Finalists that one eats ‘with one’s eyes too’. Manisha admitted that lamb is not her strength, and that she was not confident in its preparation, having ‘a history of overcooking’ her meat. She was mocked by Chef Coco when she said that she had not tasted her lamb before serving it, it being the main element of her dish. The look of her dish was described as a ‘bit rustic’, the breadcrumbs were judged to be too chunky, as was the baba ganoush, but the sauce was nicely reduced. Mmutsi likes to cook meat ’till I kill it’, and preparing it medium was a new way to cook meat for her. The judges were complimentary about her dish, praising her well seasoned lamb and great jus.
Berdina was eliminated by the judges, and she wept when she said that she had sacrificed so much to be at MasterChef South Africa, and is determined to be a chef. She was encouraged to keep cooking, to ‘express her amazing passion’, and was told that her cooking journey is only beginning now. On Twitter many viewers expressed that it was unfair that Berdina was eliminated.
Being largely a group exercise in episode 5, there was no Finalist that stood out in this episode in terms of cooking skills, making the question as to who will be MasterChef South Africa still unpredictable at this stage.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
It was guests that fed back to me that they had been warned that the recession had made itself felt in South Africa, in that service levels in general, and in restaurants particularly, had declined. Making recent calls for restaurant reservations made me think about what they had said, and restaurant reservation experiences appear to support their observation as far as bookings go.
The telephone is the first connection that the guest has with the restaurant, and this is where the image damage is most severe, to the detriment of the restaurant, no matter how good the chef is. One top restaurant has an automated answering telephone system, that requests the caller to press a code for different departments. However, when the restaurant is busy, its staff do not answer the phone. We have experienced one of two results – it just rings and rings and rings, or it picks up an automated message, requesting one to leave a message, so that one can have the call returned ‘as soon as possible’, but it is most likely to be the following day only. No e-mail address is offered and no pre-recorded message about the restaurant availability for that day or the next day is provided on the answering machine message. The slow response time is a bad reflection on the guest house manager, whose guests are eager to hear that the booking has been made, so that they can plan the rest of their restaurant programme for their stay in the Winelands. Often this restaurant is fully booked anyway, and then all the frustration has been for nothing. Another large wine estate also has an automated telephone system, that is not answered on weekend days, and calls are returned after the time that one wanted to eat there!
Another top restaurant has a waitress answering the phone, and she showed more irritation than appreciation for the reservation call, and called across the restaurant to a colleague to find out which time slot was still available for the dinner booking, without asking the caller at what time the guests would like to come for dinner. The owner of the best country-style restaurant is a photographer on weekdays, and he takes bookings via his cellphone. However, when he is on a shoot, he does not have his restaurant bookings book with him, and cannot commit to a booking when one calls, having to call back at the end of the day. Another once-top restaurant provides a booking reference number, which is an irritation and creates extra admin, when they could just take the guest surname.
The top restaurant in Cape Town takes bookings via its hotel switchboard, and asks one to call back when they cannot get through to the restaurant! A property with two restaurants does not recommend the second restaurant when the better known one is fully booked. One restaurant has three staff members with very similar sounding names, but the switchboard operator does not ask for a surname when one asks for one of these staff members, meaning that one is guaranteed to be put through to the wrong person.
Interesting is the management reaction to feedback provided about the frustration of making restaurant reservations, ranging from gratitude expressed for the feedback with information about how the problem will be fixed in future, to no response at all, or an acknowledgement of the feedback received but no changes are made. If the feedback makes the booking service better, and we can see changes made, we will book the restaurant again. If attempts to book continue without any improvement, we will recommend alternative restaurants.
In our opinion a restaurant cannot afford to neglect its telephone answering service. It would be ideal to have a full-time staff member answering the phone, and for the phone line to be diverted to a cellphone after hours, so that bookings can continue to be taken, and that one can see missed calls for bookings, and call back. Guest houses are an important source of restaurant bookings, and staying in touch with them would enhance bookings if restaurants informed guest houses of the days that they are fully booked, so that one does not even recommend the restaurant to guests on those days, and does not have to go through the frustrating reservation process. One Franschhoek restaurant used to reserve a table for each of the larger guest houses every day, guaranteeing them a lot of business.
Restaurants on wine estates suffer a further problem with the often poor and slow service of outsourced security staff. Haute Cabriere, Maison, Buitenverwachting, Overture, Sofia’s at Morgenster, Jordan Restaurant, Cuvée at Simonsig, and Tokara have no boom, and appear more welcoming; Grande Provence and Allèe Bleue allow one to just drive in through the boom; La Motte, Laborie, Rust en Vrede, Delaire Graff, and Holden Manz have improved their boom service; while the service at the Grande Roche Hotel boom must be the worst in the Cape, with that of the Cellars-Hohenhort and Steenberg hotels not being much better.
It will be no surprise if aspirant restaurants do not make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list, when their telephone service is so poor. A professional telephone service reflects the professionalism of the restaurant.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Spice Route is the new name of the wine estate previously called Seidelberg, and also is the name of the brand new restaurant on the wine estate, which now belongs to Charles Back of neighbouring Fairview, which he bought from Roland Seidel last year, and re-opened the renovated estate in October.
The first impression is not a good one as one drives to the restaurant and tasting room, as the Cabernet Sauvignon vines have had to be removed due a red ant infection, and new planting will only take place in winter, I was told by the tasting room staff, my first stop at Spice Route. The staff had no knowledge of the history of the wine range, which was first made for Mr Back by maverick winemaker Eben Sadie. The tasting room has been renovated, painted white now, with new furniture, and has been brought out onto the terrace and the lawn too, with a lovely view, even onto Table Mountain. The Spice Route wines were produced in 1997 for the first time. It was explained that the exceptional Spice Route wine brand, being one of four Fairview brands, was not receiving the attention it deserves, and therefore Mr Back bought the neighbouring farm. All Spice Route wines are made by winemaker Charl du Plessis on the Swartland farm, the Malabar having its own cellar. The Spice Route wine range consists of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Mourvédre, Pinotage, Shiraz, Chakalaka, Flagship Syrah, and Malabar. One pays R25 to taste six of the nine Spice Route wines, and can also order an excellent value-for-money Spice Route wine and food pairing at R90, with a taste of all nine wines and three dishes off the restaurant menu: paté, kingklip, and pork belly.
The restaurant too has been extensively renovated, under the guidance of architect Johan Malherbe of Malherbe Rust, and the interior decor has been designed by René de Waal of Experience Makers. René chose a white interior for the walls, chairs, and tables, and added decor elements from the Middle East and Zanzibar to emphasise the spice link to the restaurant name, through tiles on the floor, lamps, massive jars of spices on the restaurant counter, the chairs, the place mats, works of art on the walls, and wall cornices. The spice theme also manifests in the cinnamon coloured aprons of the waitron staff. The menu/winelist cover is brown leather, and each page is Spice Route branded. Each table (without tablecloth) has a bottle of Fairview olive oil, and a set of Goldcrest coarse salt and black pepper grinders. Quality material serviettes, Fortis Hotelware cutlery, and good glassware is on the table, including a small Greek style water glass. There was no music at all, an element which could have enhanced the theme. Outside the furniture is wooden and looks like it was there before, not tying in with the inside decor. Surprising is that the cloakrooms have not been renovated yet, having been painted in a ghastly pink/red, with wall tiles missing, and having the cheapest toilet roll holders.
Staff are mainly from the previous Seidelberg restaurant, but the Manager Lize Rossouw (studied at the Institute for Culinary Arts and the International Hotel School, and moved across from Fairview) and the Chef Phillip Pretorius (previously at Fairview’s The Goat Shed and Sevruga) are new. Theo, the waiter who looked after me, worked at Meerendal with David Higgs, at Grande Roche, and at Seidelberg.
Exciting changes are planned, and in future visitors will be encouraged to follow the route at Spice Route, with a micro-brewery planned with Jack Black, and a new chocolate factory to be set up by DV chocolates (from Hermanus) in the manor house in the next two months. The DV chocolates have already been incorporated into the menu. A grappa distillery is also being considered, and picnics on the lawn outside the manor house are also planned. An organic vegetable garden is being developed, to supply both the Fairview and Spice Route restaurants, and the School House guest house near the Agter Paarl Road is planned to open as a farm stall, selling its vegetables, chocolates, beer, wine, and more. The Red Hot Glass glass blowing studio is still there, and appears unchanged. Wedding bookings are starting to roll in, Lize said.
The menu is not extensive, but interesting, and each menu item has a Spice Route wine recommendation (without the vintage or price indicated). The menu items are not all Mediterranean or Middle Eastern, but contain spices which leave a spicy after-taste. I chose a prawn and paw paw salad (R65) as a starter, which came with a generous portion of prawns, citrus segments, pineapple, cherry tomatoes, roasted peanuts, green beans, and paw paw, and was served with a lemongrass, coconut, soy, ginger, and peanut oil dressing, a refreshing start to the lunch. A treat was that Chef Phillip brought the salad to the table, so that we could have a brief chat. The suggested pairing was the Chenin Blanc, but I enjoyed it with a taste of the Shiraz. Very special too was the duck liver parfait served with an unusual pear and ginger chutney (R56), a lovely marriage, and even more unusual was the presentation of the parfait, being coated in the orange-coloured chakalaka and sesame seeds, making me nervous about it initially, but being absolutely delicious, rich and creamy. The parfait pairing recommendation was the Mouvèdre, but I had it with a taste of the Flagship Syrah.
Other starters are a ceviche of cured linefish, a spicy duck breast, pork belly with a Madagascar DV chocolate lentil salad, and a Panzanella Bread salad with marinated buffalo mozzarella, ranging in price from R48 to R62. Six main courses start at R89 for handmade potato gnocchi to R218 for a Roast rib-eye steak on the bone, for two persons to share. One can also order linefish with tandoori paste; Chalmar beef fillet; venison loin served with a DV chocolate, black currant and chilli jus; and an Indian butter chicken served with espresso foam. Five desserts cost between R42 – R58, and include a delicious apple tart tatin served with home-made vanilla pod ice cream and an unusual carrot and ginger puree, which I enjoyed with a perfectly made cappuccino, the coffee coming from Beans for Africa in Paarl; DV dark chocolate and fresh chilli Crème Brûlée; white chocolate and rose water mousse served with goat’s chevin; coconut and banana bread; and beetroot panna cotta.
Selfishly I liked that Spice Route has not yet been discovered by the tourists as is the case at Fairview, and does not feel touristy, the service being personalised and efficient. All the plans for the wine estate are likely to fill up the restaurant in future. I was sceptical about going to Spice Route for lunch, given its past offering, but was impressed with all aspects of it, except for the cloakrooms of course! I will be back to try more of Chef Phillip’s spicy menu and to taste more of the Spice Route wines!
Spice Route restaurant, Spice Route wine estate, Paarl. Tel (021) 863-5222. www.spiceroute.co.za. Sunday – Thursday 11h00 – 18h00, Friday – Saturday 11h00 – 21h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
I have previously written about the new Babel Tea House and also about Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren. On each of these visits I did not fully comprehend the wealth of work that has gone into planning, developing and maintaining the extensive 3,5 ha fruit and vegetable garden, with 350 edible fruit and vegetable varieties.
Wishing to spoil my parents, I invited them for a visit to the wine estate, and we were taken around by head gardener Liesel van der Walt, a charming and passionate ambassador for the garden, providing lots of information, and picking edible flowers (Day lilies) and berries for us to eat, and vegetable flowers (carrot and onion) for us to keep. Liesel was at Kirstenbosch for 20 years, and originally did some contract gardening on the estate before joining Babylonstoren a year ago, managing a team of 15 gardeners. She showed us the Babylonstoren, a hill after which the estate has been named, and laughingly said that soon they too can have the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’! There are three ponds closest to the shop, and we started the garden tour here. A dam each contains waterblommetjies, tilapia fish, and rainbow trout. Continue reading →
Last week Anel Grobler of Spit of Swallow and I were ‘paired’ for a visit to Waterkloof wine estate in Somerset West, a change from the blogger group invitations normally extended. It meant that I could get to know her a little better, and that we received personal and dedicated attention. I was impressed by the biodynamic farming on the wine estate, and by Chef Gregory Czarnecki’s cuisine.
We savoured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc 2009 on arrival, chatting about Chef Gregory’s background before marrying a local lass, and how happy he is at Waterkloof, coming from the Michelin 3-star Lucas Carton restaurant in France. He is French, with Polish roots. We expressed our surprise about the Eat Out Top 20 list exclusion of the restaurant, and he said that they were disappointed, as they work hard to up their game, and treat every customer with passion, not only the Eat Out judge. Most important is that what they do is consistent. He is a perfectionist, and did not even allow himself time off for his honeymoon, to make sure he is in the kitchen every day. His kitchen is proudly local, and they do not import any products. Increasingly they are sourcing from the Waterkloof farm, and herb (including the scarce tarragon) and vegetable planting has started. Trout comes from Lourensford close by, fish from the West Coast, kabeljou specifically from a sustainable farm in Port Elizabeth, and the farm supplies eggs, chickens and lamb too. They want to become as self-sustainable as possible.
The farm drive in farm manager Christiaan Loots’ bakkie was impressive, and his passion for what he does, and for applying the principles of sustainability (an earthworm farm is being created, and he reuses everything on the farm, with little thrown away), shows. He is going in the opposite direction to most other wine farmers, looking to sell his mechanical equipment to be able to buy more horses, not only to do the work but also to use the dung for compost, which benefits his land and the vines. ‘Nature does the stuff for us’, he said. The farm is 120 hectares in size, of which just less than half is under vines. They apply organic farming principles, not spraying for weeds, just keeping them under control, as they add silicon and nitrogen to the soil. They don’t add fertiliser, only adding compost, their seven horses and more than 80 Dorper sheep assisting with this, and all kitchen scraps are composted as well. They have just bought the next door farm, so that they can grow feed for the horses, rather than buying it in, which means that the bottom section of the road will be tarred. The farm planted 20 hectare in 1995, but Christiaan started in 2005, and has more than doubled this. He is a trained viticulturist, and taught himself the principles of biodynamic farming, with the encouragement of owner Paul Boutinot. It takes three years to be certified Biodynamic, and this is what Christiaan is working on. Not using tractors anymore, the vines can be planted closer together, giving more yield. More than 30 hens run around in the vineyards, eating bugs, and laying eggs in a special egg truck. Only fynbos is planted in the garden, and they have 111 species on the farm. Christiaan has two cows, which he uses to make ‘cow dung tea’ to compost his vineyards.
I have seen Anel at many a function, and know her as a fun no-nonsense person, with a love for laughter and wines, and very successful at what she does with Spit or Swallow, together with her partner Jan. She told me a little more about herself – she is a Libra, typically undecided, says she is a hippy at heart, loves animals, was born in Kroonstad, lived in Grootfontein and Pretoria, until her parents moved to Betty’s Bay. She studied clothing production management at the Cape Technikon, and worked in clothing manufacture for ten years, before leaving because she felt that she was in a rut. She enjoyed drinking wines when she came to the Cape on holiday. She started Tweeting, and created Spit or Swallow and Wine Times too.
The backdrop to our table was majestic. Our meal started with Chef Gregory personally taking our order. An amuse bouche of biltong and miso soil, pomegranate and yoghurt mousse, beetroot smear and buchu meringue was served, with the Waterkloof Circle of Life White 2010. Paul Boutinot came to say hello, and told us that biodynamic farming is good for the environment, but even better for improving the quality of wine. It makes the vineyards more resistant to diseases, and takes farming back to its original roots of more than 70 years ago. He said that the Waterkloof wines reflect what is in the vineyards. He chose the farm as it is the site to make the ideal wine, where nature is in ‘perfect balance’. They have 113 days from flower to picking, the average being 80 days, he told us. Boutinot has an agency in the UK which distributes Italian, French and South African wines.
Anel and I chose different dishes, so that we could share the look and taste of each dish. Plating is a strength of Chef Gregory. I started with a Camembert Crème Brûlée, rich and creamy, with the most beautiful celery shavings, curried walnut, and Granny Smith and celery sorbet (R55). Anel enjoyed her Smoked farm egg and parma ham starter (R50). With the Magaliesburg duck breast was served puy lentils, a terrine of confit leg with foie gras and rhubarb, and carrot and tarragon puree (R150), and the dish was paired with Circumstance Syrah 2008. Anel chose Monkfish and crispy prawn (R155), a very attractive dish. Deconstructed orange parfait and citrus shortbread was served as a pre-dessert, my dessert choice being a strawberry and hibiscus comsommé, with fromage blanc and cucumber sorbet, while Anel ordered the cream of Ivoire white chocolate served with matcha tea and black sesame (all desserts cost R60).
A 6-course Degustation Menu is excellent value at R385, and if wines are added to each course the cost is R490.
I had been impressed with Chef Gregory’s plating of the dish he prepared earlier this year at the Grande Provence Big 5 Multiple Sclerosis charity lunch, and he demonstrated this strength again at our lunch. He and his team of ten create cuisine masterpieces, and the restaurant deserves to be on the Eat Out Top 10 list. Its increasing self-sustainability, the biodynamic farming methods, and organic wines make this a wine estate that is in perfect balance. Last week Waterkloof was recognised by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network as the top South African wine estate in the Architecture and Landscape category.
Waterkloof Restaurant, Sir Lowry Village Road, Somerset West. Tel (021) 858-1292. www.waterkloofwines.co.za Twitter:@WaterkloofWines Lunch Monday – Sunday, Dinner Monday – Saturday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter @WhaleCottage
The launch of the new cookbook ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ at La Motte wine estate yesterday was characterised by the professionalism and excellence that this Franschhoek wine estate has become known for, and demonstrated the leadership of La Motte in proudly promoting the cuisine heritage of the Cape Winelands.
From the time that the restaurant Pierneef à La Motte opened over a year ago, Cape Winelands cuisine has formed the foundation of its menu, its Culinary Manager Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche having researched a collection of recipes that originated from the Dutch, German, French, Flemish, and British settlers that came to the Cape more than 300 years ago, and a selection presented in the restaurant, with a modern twist. The collection of recipes has been captured in the new book, which La Motte CEO Hein Koegelenberg describes as follows: “What really makes this book so special is that it is the first time in the history of South Africa that such a complete and detailed traditional recipe book with historical, scientifically based recipes is published”. The book ‘unlocks the history of food in South Africa and serves as a valuable guide to treasured food knowledge that was almost lost by our generation’, said the La Motte media release.
The 288-page book, with photography by Micky Hoyle, contains more than a hundred recipes. A limited number of copies of the book was flown in from overseas for the launch function, so we were not able to page through the book. The book should be widely available from November. An unusual launch approach was used, by having a panel discussion with Hein and Hanlie Koegelenberg, Chef Chris Erasmus, and Hetta about the book, led by Rooi Rose food journalist and cookbook writer Mariette Crafford, asking interesting and challenging questions about the book, the history of Cape Winelands cuisine, and the cuisine policy of Pierneef à La Motte. Chef Chris said his ‘roots are here‘ (in the Winelands), and highlighted that it is important to go back to celebrating South African food. There is a move away from deconstruction, to go back to serving food that reflects the season and the region. People want food like they had at home, like mother used to make, which was like a ‘liefdesbrief’, often the favourite dish of each family member being made for Sunday lunches. So the book contains something for everyone, it was said. Pairing the flavours in wines with those in foods makes the eating and drinking experience special, said Hein. La Motte has started planting trees with traditional fruits, to harvest from in future, including guavas, figs and quinces, and they have started planting herbs and vegetables, for use in the restaurant kitchen. All chefs seek to be self-sustaining as far as supplies go, but there are some limitations, such as the local supply of venison and ‘heirloom vegetables’, Chef Chris mentioned. Hein emphasised that La Motte is a family business, with family values.
The most impressive part of the launch function, over and above the lovely lunch at which we tasted some of the recipes contained in the book, was the recognition that all restaurants in the area should stand for and support Cape Winelands Cuisine, an unselfish promotion of the cuisine wealth of the region. A number of chefs were invited, including Margot Janse from The Tasting Room, Ryan Shell from Haute Cabriere, Topsi Venter, Neil Jewell from Bread & Wine, Christophe De Hosse from Joostenberg Deli, Neethling du Toit from La Petite Ferme, Marianna Esterhuizen from Marianna’s, Abie Conradie from Noop, Leana Schoeman from the Salmon Bar, and Simone Rossouw from Babel at Babylonstoren. Suppliers of Pierneef à La Motte were invited too, a nice touch, as were a number of bloggers and print media food journalists. Restaurants and wineries from the area were encouraged to help market the book.
The lunch menu detailed the background to the items we were served, which has become characteristic of the menu at Pierneef à La Motte. Each table was served a selection of starter dishes on a wooden board, to be shared, reflecting the ‘family’ feel one gets when one visits the restaurant. The selection consisted of the signature Cape Bokkom salad (predicted by the restaurant to become a classic such as the Waldorf salad, Caeser salad, and Salad Niçoise), pickled fish with capers (its origin being Arabia), offal brawn (introduced by the French Huguenots), Rolpens (stuffed stomach, introduced by the Dutch), and pickled tongue, served with wholewheat farm bread from the La Motte Farm Kitchen. This was paired with La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2011. For the main course, the menu listed sweet and sour pumpkin and lamb stew, and pan-fried Franschhoek trout on a sweetcorn fritter with red wine sauce and turnip dauphinoise. Interestingly, we were not asked our preference, and every alternate guest was served one of the two main courses. Again, as a ‘family’ of guests Spit or Swallow’s Anel Grobler and I shared our main courses. I had the trout, and the menu stated that serving fish with a red wine sauce will have originated from the Dutch, but had been found in historic German and French cookbooks too. It was paired with the La Motte Chardonnay 2009. The stew recipe, paired with La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier 2008, has its origin in Arabia, and was written about by a Cape traveller venturing into the African interior.
The dessert was a refreshing summer sweet soup with fresh berries, and a ball of fruit sorbet delicately balanced on two biscuit sticks over the bowl. Sweet soups came from Holland, but probably have their origin in Italy. A lovely pairing with this dish was the La Motte Méthode Cap Classique 2008. More treats were served with the coffee, a collection of biscuits, Cape fruit tartlets, macaroons (not a modern dish, but one that was originally called ‘makrolletjies’, made then with desiccated coconut, or almonds), apple marmalade, ‘kwartiertertjies’ (‘samoosa’ triangles, with an origin in Persia), ‘oblietjies’ (waffles) with cream, and cheese-tart with preserves.
The interesting and unusual launch of the book via the panel discussion in the historic wine cellar, the lovely lunch at Pierneef à La Motte paired with excellent La Motte wines, the friendly ‘family’ collection of guests, and the professional packaging of media information, with recipe postcards presented in a wax-sealed envelope with the La Motte emblem, is a recipe for success for the new cookery book, and for Pierneef à La Motte, which has been nominated as an Eat Out Top 20 restaurant, and is certain to make the Top 10 list on 20 November.
‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’, Human & Rousseau, R450. Available at bookshops from November, and at the La Motte Farm Shop already. Tel (021) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage