Tag Archives: winery

Nuy on the Hill serves excellent food with good service, good value wines, worth a stop on the R62!

At the end of a recent trip to Plettenberg Bay, after a one-night stop in McGregor, my Parisian friend and I stopped for lunch and a wine taste at Nuy on the Hill, on the R62, between Robertson and Worcester, at the invitation of its Marketing Manager AC (Arthur Claude) Goodger. I have driven alongside it hundreds of times, on past trips to Plett and to Temenos in McGregor, but had never made a stop. We were impressed with the quality of the food and service, as well as the wines we tasted. 
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Preview: New Gåte restaurant to become a rock star at Quoin Rock Winery, Fine Dining at its finest!

Yesterday I had the goosebump experience of being introduced to the new-in-the-making Gåte at Quoin Rock restaurant at the Quoin Rock winery outside Stellenbosch, which is destined to become a superlative Fine Dining dinner experience, probably the best this country has ever seen!  Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet is a ‘Boere Bistro’!

Café Dijon has operated in Stellenbosch for about three years, and its operation there did not impress me.  On hearing the praise heaped upon the Stellenbosch restaurant by Michael McKenzie as well as restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, I decided to try the recently opened Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, on a wine estate at the foot of the Helshoogte Pass.  The co-owner of Café Dijon called it a ‘Boere Bistro’, given its local touch to a French-style bistro, with a seasonal country kitchen.

I had never been to Zorgvliet before, only having read about it in Noseweek in two respects – the neighbours being up in arms about the loud music when they host weddings on the wine estate, and that Nedbank forced the previous owner into an auction, which was to his financial disadvantage.   One drives past the function rooms when one arrives, and then down a romantic tree-lined lane, with a lovely fresh country smell that reminded me of mushroom picking on Paarl Mountain as a child.  One passes the winery, and the coffee shop and picnic building, around which there are lovely lawns.  A little further along is a Cape Dutch building, previously the manor house which housed the Herenhuis restaurant, but now is the Zorgvliet tasting room.   Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet has opened in the building that was previously the tasting room, its owners having found the manor house too stiff for the more casual and relaxed atmosphere they wish to create. 

The owners of Café Dijon are not French at all, as I thought, but locals.  Johan (‘Dup’) du Plessis grew up on a neighbouring farm and his wife Sarah comes from Somerset West.  Sarah trained at Silwood Kitchen and then worked in Monaco for Sir David Brown of Aston Martin fame.  Dup grew up in a household in ‘which real men don’t cook’, but he did learn to, and they met at Deltacrest outside Franschhoek.   When it burnt down, they decided to open a ‘Thirties style bistro in Stellenbosch, opposite the Town Hall, offering classic French dishes and comfort food, which Sarah said suits the design of the venue perfectly. 

The restaurant interior is very large, and looks like a tasting room, with barrels on the walls and still having the tasting counter.   It was much nicer sitting outside on a lovely pre-winter Saturday afternoon,  and here seating is very casual at long green benches and tables, and a few small café-style tables and chairs.  Cheap striped placemats are on the table, with Eetrite cutlery.  There are no table cloths. French music plays inside, and when I heard Françoise Hardy singing it brought back nostalgic memories of seeing her concert in Cape Town about forty years ago.  She is one of Dup’s favourites.

Almost all the waiters were previously employed by the Zorgvliet restaurant, and Wilma was friendly and efficient.  It was odd to see a manager hiding inside the restaurant, when all the patrons were sitting outside.  She only checked on one’s satisfaction after each course was served, but did not stay outside to check on things generally.  Wilma had to ask Sarah some of my questions, so she came to chat, sitting down at the table, and I found her to be very charming, down to earth and passionate about what she is developing at Zorgvliet.  She showed me a patch that is to become their vegetable garden, visible from the outside seating.  She wore a House & Garden apron, and both she and Dup cook, meaning that one is assured of the best.

There is no printed menu, but a blackboard lists the menu items, which means that what is offered can be changed regularly, depending on what the chefs have in stock.   The menu has mainly starter type items, and I chose two of these – a generous serving of duck liver paté (R50), served with redcurrant jelly and toasted baguette, which unfortunately was burnt, so I asked for more of the crispy untoasted baguette, which had been brought to the table with Olyfberg olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  This was followed by Norwegian salmon on which was placed a tian of fennel avocado, cucumber and prawn (R60), a lovely fresh summer treat.  Other starters include fior de latte caprese, venison springrolls, three-cheese-tartlet with salad, parma ham and melon, and chicken and mango salad, ranging in price from R50 – R65.  Sirloin and fillet cost R115, Karoo lamb R130, pork belly R100, braised veal short ribs R110, butternut ravioli and gnocchi bolognaisse (R80), and vongole linguini R90.  Desserts cost R30 – R35, and include chocolate mousse, creme brûleé, and home-made ice cream (flavours on Saturday were coffee, condensed milk and Frangelico with walnuts).

The winelist is in a brown plastic cover, and only Zorgvliet wines are available, under the Zorgvliet (R145 for whites and R150 for the reds) and Silver Myn (R110 for whites, R125 for reds) brand names, the latter wines being offered by the glass too, at R25 for the whites and R28 for the red wines.  One can order Zorgvliet White, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the Richelle 2005, which costs R500.  The Silver Myn is available in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.  The vintages are listed on the winelist.

The opening of the new Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet has created confusion, with some readers of the restaurant write-up in The Month thinking that the Stellenbosch branch has closed down, Sarah said.  They have a good team there, and Sarah and Dup will be mainly based at Zorgvliet, being closer to their home. The menu is similar but not identical at the two Café Dijons. 

I was impressed with the food served at Café Dijon @Zorgvliet, but found the venue too large for the few guests.  It was lovely sitting outside, and I am not sure how the large venue will work with inside seating on winter days.  Chatting to Sarah made all the difference to my enjoyment of being there, and she is a valuable asset that should be connecting to her guests, as she is a good people’s person, and as her manager is not fulfilling this role.

Café Dijon @Zorgvliet, Banhoek Valley, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-2580.  www.cafedijon.co.za  (The new Café Dijon @Zorgvliet is not yet on the website).  Wednesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.

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

Dombeya Wines get the royal nod in Monaco!

South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock is to marry Prince Albert of Monaco on 2 and 3 July, and they have chosen to put the future princess’ home country in the spotlight by exclusively serving Dombeya wines at the two day wedding event, to be attended by 3500 wedding guests from around the world, reports the Weekend Argus.

Prince Albert is a fan of Haskell Vineyards (previously known as Dombeya Wines, after the Dombeya wild pear tree) outside Stellenbosch, above Rust en Vrede, and he has regularly visited the winery over the past five years.  Prince Albert signed up as the first member of the Haskell Platinum Wine Club.  The Prince and Ms Wittstock have attended one of the highly sought after New Year’s Eve parties which American businessman and wine estate owner Preston Haskell hosts annually at his Cape Town mansion in Fresnaye, attendance which is by invitation only.  The prince has been a supporter of Haskell and Dombeya wines, and has helped make these wine brands known in Monaco. 

Haskell Vineyards produces both Haskell and Dombeya wines, and are made by the award-winning winemaker Rianie Strydom, who joined Haskell Vineyards in 2005.  The Dombeya range consists of Boulder Road, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Samara, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Wines of South Africa’s CEO Su Birch has hailed this news as a marketing coup for South African wines.

POSTSCRIPT 13/3: The Sunday Argus reports today that Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock will have a second wedding celebration, at the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga on 7 July, five days after their official wedding in Monaco.  President Zuma is one of the 300 guests said to be invited.

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

Restaurant Review: Delaire Graff Restaurant is friendly professionalism and class!

In the past one and a half years that the Delaire Graff Restaurant has been open, I have had two excellent and one negativeexperience, the last one unfortunately having left such an impression on me that I did not return for a year.  Last week I went back, and was blown away (almost literally by the South-Easter too) by how professional and friendly Delaire Graff and its staff are.   The restaurant is not inexpensive, and therefore it is the perfect place at which to celebrate a special event or achievement.   Its setting above the Helshoogte Pass in Stellenbosch gives it a perfect view onto the surrounding vineyards and mountains.

The wine estate must be one of the Winelands’ properties which is supported by one of the largest investments (the owner is Laurence Graff, a Switzerland-based jeweller owning 30 branches of Graff Diamonds around the world, in the news last year when one of its London stores suffered the biggest jewellery heist ever).   Graff bought the estate from John and Erica Platter, spent millions of Rands and years of time to redevelop the property, first building the Delaire Graff Restaurant, winery and winetasting centre, and earlier this year adding the Delaire Graff Lodge with Indochine restaurant.  I have written previously about the monumental artwork spread across the estate, not only in terms of the top artists whose work is displayed, but also the sheer size of many of these.   The artwork displayed is by father and son Anton and Lionel Smit, Dylan Lewis, William Kentridge (the s-shaped leather seating in the restaurant was matched in colour to the Kentridge!), Deborah Bell, Fred Schimmel, Sydney Khumalo, Cecil Skotness and Maurice van Essche.

As I entered the restaurant building I could not miss the new Lionel Smit painting in the reception hall, overshadowing even the massive Christmas tree.  The attention paid to decorating the Delaire Graff building for Christmas cannot be overlooked, with massive Christmas trees in the restaurant, reception hall and winetasting room, each decorated in a specific colour scheme, putting me into a Christmas spirit I have not experienced in a restaurant so far.   As the external gates were open when I arrived, the gatehouse could not report my arrival, so that there was no one to personally welcome me in the car park, as used to be the case.   Yet there were three staff members in the massive Reception Hall, all beaming in friendliness, but none asked where I was going and if I needed help to find my way to the restaurant.  I did note a new shop selling clothing as well as some display stands selling Graff jewellery off the Reception Hall, which had opened a few days before.  (Both the jewellery salesladies were not available when I wanted to get an idea of prices, and the clothing shop salesladies hazarded a guess at R80000 for a pair of diamond earings).

But once I had reached the restaurant, charming new Maitre’d Nadia Kotze was waiting for me.   She had reserved a table inside because of the wind, but I chose to sit in a sheltered section outside, due to my cellphone being particularly active that lunchtime.   Quickly a table was set up, a jug of ice water brought to the table, with a lovely linen serviette, WMF cutlery, and a Peugeot grinder for the pinkish Himalayan rock salt filled with lots of mineral goodness, with a matching pepper grinder.   Everything is colour matched in the restaurant, the interior designer being David Collins from London, in that the table underlay, the decorations on the Christmas tree, the menu and the winelist cover all are in shades of yellow/gold/orange.  The menu holder is stylish, with blue edging inside.   Music is piped throughout the building, and has a distinctly European feel, including French and Italian songs.

Chelsea came to introduce herself, and offered me a choice of three breads – ryebread, focaccia sprinkled with rocksalt and rosemary, and ciabatta.   Nadia pointed out the barbeque as we stepped outside, with which chef Christiaan Campbell is experimenting, she said, preparing kingklip and chicken on it on alternate days.   Staff look smart in white shirts and black pants, and a black Delaire branded apron.   Everyone coming to the table beamed, and called me “Mrs von Ulmenstein”, showing their professional touch without familiarity. Even Johann Laubser, the Delaire Graff Estate GM, came to greet me.   Nadia has only recently moved across from Zacharay’s at Pezula.  She has previously been a Food & Beverage Manager at the Liz McGrath Collection of hotels, and has done the cruiseliners.   Chef Christiaan has been at the restaurant since it opened, and must be one of the few original restaurant staff still there.   Chef Christiaan laughed when I said this to him, when he came to say hello, and said quietly that he is a loyal chef, a nice answer!   He said that they had been disappointed to receive negative feedback about the restaurant’s service levels, but had taken stock earlier this year, and have addressed the shortcomings in this regard.  The service I received was excellent.

Given that it was the chicken barbeque day, and that I sat close to the barbeque outside, I ordered the Roast chicken, confit leg deep-fried in a batter, and a smoked corn and parsnip mash.   I loved the colour the corn added to the mash, and the smoky barbeque taste of the roast chicken (R155).  Having been ill for the four days prior, my appetite was not yet back to normal, and therefore I took some of the dish home.  Starter options cost between R85 – R105, and include paprika squid, buffalo mozzarella, goat’s cheese fritters, cured beef, ceviche of red fish, and yellow fin tuna.  Main courses start at R110, for Primavera, and peak at R295 for Cape Rock Lobster.  Other main courses include fish and chips, pork belly, seared salmon trout, Waterberg beef, and line fish.   A number of sides can be ordered too.   Nadia was such a good salesperson that she persuaded me to have a refreshing fruit feast for dessert, being apricot panna cotta, with nectarine sorbet, star anise marshmallow, plum soup, with macerated apricots (R55).   Other dessert options cost R65, and include a chocolate sandwich, pistachio nougat, and strawberries.  Gelato costs R25 per scoop.  “Handcrafted cheeses” can be ordered at R95.   Interestingly, the dessert and cheese options each had a wine pairing suggestion on the menu.   I had a lovely frothy cappuccino with my dessert, expensive at R30. 

The winelist contains the Delaire wine collection, including Sauvignon Blancs (R170 – R320), Chardonnay (R210), Rosé (R140), Shiraz (R175), Red Blend (R220), Port (R320) and Semillon Noble Late Harvest (R300).  A small selection of other wine brands is offered per variety.  Champagnes are by Taittinger (R1500), Billecart-Salmon Rose NV (R1650) and Louis Roderer Cristal (R7750). Méthode Cap Classiques range from R245 (Colmant Brut Reserve) to R950 for Graham Beck Cuvee Clive.   Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc costs R170, and an imported Domaine Lafond Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc costs R620.  Pax Verbatim 2007 Shiraz costs R295, Cirrus 2006 R455, and Stark-Conde Three Pines 2007 R 550.    Wines by the glass cost R 40 – R 55, and are predominantly by Delaire, with Bon Courage Brut Reserve costing R55.

The bathrooms at Delaire Graff are the best-smelling, cleanest, and tidiest I have every experienced at any restaurant.   I had not seen the tasting room before, and saw in it not only the attractively labelled Delaire wines, branded shirts, but also the latest Platter and Rossouw’s Restaurants guides.  My eye also caught the attractively packaged Delaire Graff chocolate slabs and mini-chocolate collection packs, which looked like they could make the perfect Christmas presents, even if not inexpensive.   Michael walked me out of the building to the car park, a nice touch I remember from the early days of Delaire Graff Restaurant.

Delaire Graff Restaurant has an interesting counterpoint with the “new” Tokara Restaurant with chef Richard Carstens across the road.  I could not see any dramatic changes to the Delaire Graff Restaurant menu as a result of the “new” competitor, and the service is very much improved.   It will be interesting to see how both restaurants fare on the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list in 2011.  

POSTSCRIPT 7/8/11:I popped in at Delaire Graff this afternoon, after lunch at the close-by de Huguenot Restaurant.  I was impressed once again with how classy and professional this wine estate is.  It was the perfect afternoon to sit outside.  I had a frothy, almost creamy, cappuccino, and a study in strawberry with it – there were dried and fresh strawberries, strawberry granite, meringue crumbs, vanilla pastry creme, black pepper shortbread, and strawberry ice cream, a refreshing and attractively presented dessert.

Delaire Graff Restaurant, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-1270.  www.delaire.co.za  (The website contains menus for both Delaire Graff Estate restaurants, and has an Image Gallery).   Mondays – Sundays lunch, Mondays – Saturdays dinner.   Booking is advisable.

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