2011 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards: a prediction!


On Sunday the long-awaited Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards will be presented at the Bay Hotel’s Rotunda in the presence of 360 chefs and restaurant lovers. This year sees a number of changes in the Awards, with the Top 10 name having fallen away as a generic title, due to the introduction of additional categories which have been judged, and the controversial sole judging of the winning restaurants in each category by Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly.

As we have done before, we predict the following restaurants to make the Top 10 Restaurant list, based on write-ups we have seen, our own experience, and patron talk.  No offence is intended to the chefs we have not included.  The list is not intended as a ranking.  Not knowing the Johannesburg, Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal restaurants, we are guessing those:

*   We have previously predicted that Chef Richard Carstens at Tokara will be Top Chef/Best Restaurant, for his creativity in food preparation and presentation, for continuously re-inventing himself and his dishes, for his quest to learn new things, and for the amazing El Bulli tribute dinner he prepared on 30 July.  The restaurant has just been selected by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network as the best Winelands restaurant in the country.

*   The Test Kitchen‘s Luke Dale-Roberts is most foodies’ prediction for Top Chef, and he does feature often in TASTE, the magazine that Mrs Donnelly is Food Editor of.  She told me recently that Woolworths chose Luke for a Christmas range, and that is why he receives so much coverage.

*   The Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenhort Hotel, with Chef Peter Tempelhoff, who has just been honoured as Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef, the first in Cape Town, and only the third in South Africa.

*    Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine is a stalwart, and while its restaurant building is not the greatest and grandest, George gets on with what he is excellent at, without any PR hype

*   The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais with Chef Margot Janse cannot be excluded from the list, for its listing as the only South African restaurant on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

*   DW Eleven-13 with Chef Marthinus Ferreira in Johannesburg was a Top 10 restaurant last year. The only criticism I have seen about this restaurant is its location.

*  Hartford House in KwaZulu-Natal, with Chef Jackie Cameron, regularly on the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list, the best that this province has to offer.

*   Chef Bertus Basson of Overture is another chef who reinvents himself and his food, and gets on with what he does well.  No PR hype.

*   Pierneef à La Motte with Chef Chris Erasmus has all the elements to make Top 10, but recently the food and service quality has started to slip.  The estate has been selected as top South African wine estate in the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.  Excellence drives everything that this estate does.

*   Babel is extremely trendy right now, and I hear lots of ooo’s and aaa’s about it, and is heavily booked, but it has only been open for lunch in its first year of operation.  Chef Darren Roberts of Grande Provence is a chef who gets on with things, quietly and creatively, and would be a more deserved Top 10 restaurant, this restaurant making the Top 10 every second year to date.

Other Top 20 Restaurant Finalists are Planet Restaurant, La Colombe, Nobu, Babel, Bosman’s, The Round House, Azure, Terroir, Roots in Johannesburg, and Restaurant Maison in Pretoria.

For the first time, Eat Out has introduced new Restaurant Award categories.  The Best Steakhouse Award could go to one of 29 steakhouses listed by Eat Out, and this may be where Johannesburg could have a winner, known to have a selection of good steakhouses, and making up almost half the Eat Out Steakhouse list.  In the Cape, Carne, Belthazar, and HQ are some of the steakhouses which feature on the list.

There are 18 finalists for the Boschendal Style Award, and this may be a little bit of a consolation prize for not making Top 10, and also gives newer restaurants which have not been open for a full year a chance at winning something.  The nominees for this category include Hemelhuijs, The Saxon, The Test Kitchen (an odd choice), Planet Restaurant, Thomas Maxwell Bistro in Johannesburg, Woodlands Eatery, Pierneef à La Motte, Kream, Makaron (at Majeka House, a consultancy client of Mrs Donnelly), Babel, Overture, The Grand Café and Beach (very odd!!), Rust en Vrede, Central One Restaurant (in the hotel at which David Higgs is the chef now), Dear Me Foodworld, Craft Trattoria, Pure, and Indochine.  If Babel falls out of the Top 10, it may win this award.

The Best Bistro Award finalist list has 43 nominees, and feels a little like a listing of every other restaurant which did not make the Top 10 finalist list.  Odd is how broad the ‘Bistro’ name has been stretched to include some restaurant nominees!  Bistro Sixteen82 should win this award, but stiff competition could come from Bizerca Bistro, Ryan’s Kitchen, Cuvee@Simonsig, The Common Room at Le Quartier Français, The Foodbarn, Dear Me, Franschhoek Kitchen, and Bread & Wine. Odd is to see Reubens Franschhoek on the list, which has continuous negative feedback.

I have not seen the Best Italian Restaurant nominee list, but Giorgio Nava’s PR machine has announced that 95 Keerom Street is one of the nominees.  He is a likely winner, embodying ‘Italianess’, but without charm!  The Best Asian Restaurant and Best Country-Style Restaurant nominee lists have also not been seen, and Mrs Donnelly did not wish to release the nominee lists.

Interesting is how the Eat Out Awards dinner has grown to 360 attendees.  If one calculates that each of the Top 20 Restaurant finalists will take a table, that leaves another 160 seats, not all filled yet, judging by e-mail reminders about the event.  With so many finalists and nominees, there will be many disappointed empty-handed chefs and restaurant owners on Sunday evening!

POSTSCRIPT 17/11: This Eat Out article has an interesting analysis of past Top 10 Restaurant/Chef winners, and some demographic break-downs of chefs as well.

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

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17 replies on “2011 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards: a prediction!”

  1. I think its an absolute travesty that Waterkloof didn’t make the top restaurant list.

  2. I absolutely agree Hennie – Anel and I had a most super lunch there recently. Chef Gregory is top class!


  3. For what its worth, I also agree – and it’s not even a Style Award candidate – strange for one of the ‘best dressed’ restaurants out there.

  4. Any feedback to my predictions Michael, given that you were so good on the Fleur du Cap restaurant top 10 list?


  5. Not knowing the non-local ones, a little hard to say, but of the Western Cape ones I would generally agree, with the exception of Pierneef (1st time wonderful, subsequent visits definitely flawed). Locally, I would substitute perhaps La Colombe or The Roundhouse.

  6. PS My biggest ‘problem’ is with the Bistro nominations, some of these places are (at least to me) simply not bistro’s. Steenberg, despite its name is not really a bistro, I certainly don’t consider Ryan’s Kitchen a bistro. At least Bizerca produces bistro style food. Not sure of the full list but bistro to me is more like La Boheme, Societi, Cafe Paradiso, Sloppy Sam etc

  7. Hi Chris

    ” Pierneef à La Motte with Chef Chris Erasmus has all the elements to make Top 10, but recently the food and service quality has started to slip”

    Interested to read your comments about Pierneef, i went when it first opened and could not believe how bad it was, the lack of skills from the chef and the disjointed menu, ( i believe i made some comments on this very site) and then week after week i kept reading on blogs and twitter how wonderful it was, what a great place blah blah blah

    Chickens have finally come home to roost and people are now seeing what its really like, all style and no substance, AD will probably vote it top 10 as these awards as its all style and no substance.

    normal people who go to restaurants want consistant good food, consistant good service and no BS….normal people go to great places like Magica Roma, La boheme. La Mouette, Saigon, Bizerca and they are full every night of the week.

    The rest of it is just smoke and mirrors and egos at play and the Cape Town lemmings will be herded to the next “great thing” by the PR machinery, i wonder what other restaurant is thinking about having a chandiler made out of crockery

  8. Dear Darren from Hout Bay and Michael

    Interesting that you have both ‘hit’ on Pierneef a La Motte.

    Darren: the ‘normal people restaurants’ would not be relevant for the Top 10, but could make it in the other Eat Out Award categories, e.g. Bizerca. I know you love La Mouette, but I was surprised to see that it did not feature on the Fleur du Cap Top 10 Cape Town Restaurants list, and has not featured on any of the Eat Out Award nominee lists, maybe a wake-up call to them too.

    Michael: the more restaurant names I saw on the Bistro nominee list, the less I had an understanding of what exactly a ‘Bistro’ is. Do you have a definition?

    Interesting is that many of the Bistro nominees could equally be on the Country-Style Restaurant nominee list (which I have not seen).


  9. Well, at least according to Wikipedia:

    “A bistro, sometimes spelled bistrot, is, in its original Parisian incarnation, a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve. Home cooking with robust earthy dishes, and slow-cooked foods like cassoulet are typical.”

  10. I have just seen Eat Out’s ‘definition’ of a bistro:

    “Reasonable prices, home-cooked food, and a warm, inviting ambience, there’s nothing like a good bistro. For many of us, it’s these unfussy establishments that are the real gems. The ideal bistro has friendly but efficient service and simple, tasty food; it’s the kind of place you can visit every month with friends or family without breaking the bank.”

    Their website lists the nominations with ‘suggested’ menu items. However, surely prices of R168 (Reubens) and R160 (Cuvee) (and several others with R100+ dishes) don’t quite fit into the above definition??

  11. Hi Chris

    You say

    Darren: the ‘normal people restaurants’ would not be relevant for the Top 10,

    But why not ?

    Do we know the criteria that is used for the top 10 ?

    I ate at Bizerca last night and the food is aruguably as good as most of the nominations so does the top ten mean the glam, the views, the bling or does it mean the overall customer experience.

    PS Think you comment about the “wake up call” for la mouette is harsh, these guys dont wake up every day and think oh what do we need to do to get AD to recognise us, they have adapted their model to suit the current economic climate and they are full every night, 7 nights a week, wonder if we could say that about most of the top 20 nominations

  12. Thanks Michael, and I agree.

    I have a great problem with this Bistro category – feels a little like the ‘Consolation prize department’!


  13. Hi Darren from Hout Bay

    I think it is a fine-dining award, but then there are non fine-dining restaurants in the Top 20 finalists list.

    Given La Mouette Chef Henry Vigar’s credentials and experience, I am sure that he would have hoped for some recognition.


  14. Dear Hennie

    I was doing three things at the same time, and deleted your comment in error. My apology. I did read it though.

    I was not making any value judgement about La Mouette at all, but have not been there in more than a year, not feeling welcome there any more. I used to love it, and it is closest to my home. Chef Henry has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants, which not all local chefs have. Mari can be a very professional front-of-house person, but I have seen another side. Jointly they have a fantastic recipe to deserve recognition, which they have not received. I read your Tweets, and regularly see those of happy loyal La Mouette customers too.


  15. Fair enough Chris – my point is simply that I don’t believe comment should be passed on La Mouette if you haven’t been there in so long – for whatever reason. We had another delightful meal there today again and I find Henry’s food gets better with each incarnation of the famed tasting menu of his, which is already saying something considering the base he started off. This on top of extremely slick and friendly service and a very good wine list.

    I do find it quite laughable that they did not make any top restaurant lists. Seeing who made the lists and who did not, I have to wonder about the credibility of these “awards”, and how big a part friendships/business relationships/backhanders play in the composition of the lists.

  16. I pressed the right button this time Hennie!

    I didn’t write about La Mouette in my blogpost, only about them in response to a comment by Darren from Hout Bay, who is very fond of La Mouette. No disrespect was intended to them, as I wrote earlier this evening.

    Eat Out has lost a lot of credibility for me, if Awards can go to clients that Abigail Donnelly consults to – I do not understand that this conflict of interest can be entertained by New Media Publishing!


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