For the first time in the history of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards two restaurants belonging to one owner have been nominated for the honoured list. Both Delaire Graff Restaurant and Indochine, under the direction of Chef Christiaan Campbell, made it onto the Top 20 shortlist, which Eat Out announced yesterday. We are delighted with our best ever Top 20 Restaurant shortlist prediction score, in correctly guessing 18 out of the Top 20 shortlisted restaurants.
The Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Awards shortlist contained a few surprises, leading one restaurant representative to comment that despite the new judging system and panel, little had changed in the shortlist, with only two newly opened restaurants included, being Camphors at Vergelegen (Chef PJ Vadas) and five hundred (Chef David Higgs). Surprises were the following:
- The non-appearance of Terroir and Mosaic at The Orient, both restaurants having made the Top 10 Restaurant list last year. We have been critical of Terroir’s perennial appearance on the Top 10 list, undeserved we felt as few changes were made to it since it opened. The exclusion of Mosaic is very surprising.
- The inclusion of Bread & Wine, once an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant, especially as it only serves lunch. It feels as if the casual restaurant was a last minute inclusion, to plug a hole on the list. Some question the presence of The Kitchen at Maison on the list too, saying that it is too casual to be on the Top 20 shortlist.
- Surprising was that our prediction that The Pot Luck Club would not make the Top 20 shortlist was correct, Manley Communications sending an e-mail prior to the disclosure of the results yesterday morning to explain that ‘PLC (The Pot Luck Club) is indeed not a contestant in this year’s awards due to the move to the new address’. The e-mail also explained that Woolworths is no longer contracted with Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, the owner of both The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club, which caused a conflict of interests, in that New Media Publishing also publishes Taste for Woolworths, and that Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly also is the Food Editor of Taste.
- The exclusion of Bistrot Bizerca matched our prediction, joined by Bosman’s, Nobu (chef change), Reuben’s, Aubergine, Babel (chef change), Azure (chef change), and The Roundhouse (chef change), none of which made the Top 20 shortlist.
Prickly Pendock will be shattered to hear that Stellenbosch has once again reinforced its dominance as Gourmet Capital of South Africa:
- Stellenbosch has 7 restaurants: Tokara, Jordan’s Restaurant, Delaire Graff Restaurant, Indochine, Rust en Vrede, Overture, and Makaron making the Top 20 shortlist. (Speaking to Chef Virgil Kahn of Indochine last night, he said he was overwhelmed with the news, and would not believe it until he saw it on the computer screen. He studied at The Hotel School, and previously worked at Maze and Nobu at The One&Only Cape Town before joining Delaire Graff close to four years ago. He is a little known newcomer to the Top 20 chefs shortlist.)
- Franschhoek has 4 nominations: The Tasting Room, Pierneef a La Motte, The Kitchen at Maison, and Bread & Wine.
- The 4 shortlisted restaurants in Cape Town are The Greenhouse, La Colombe, Planet Restaurant, and The Test Kitchen.
- Somerset West is part of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, and the Wine Route has proudly added them to their tally, but for purposes of the Eat Out Awards they should be counted separately. Somerset West has its first two nominations ever: Camphors at Vergelegen, and The Restaurant at Waterkloof!
- Johannesburg has two nominations: five hundred and DW Eleven-13
- KwaZulu-Natal only has Hartford House on the Top 20 list.
The list of judges that assisted in evaluating the restaurant candidates is still a state secret. Given how small the restaurant industry is, the great interest in the restaurant awards, the power of Twitter in chefs identifying and greeting their guests, as well as feedback from restaurants themselves as to potential judges eating at their restaurants, some never having been seen there before, we have worked out that the following may be on the judging panel, all with problems in terms of conflicts of interest:
* Andy Fenner of Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, who moved from blogging and magazine food writing for New Media Publishing’s Taste magazine and Crush! when he admitted that he could not make enough money from food writing! He supplies a number of Top 20 league restaurants, and does collaborative events with restaurants, such as Burrata. He would be recognised by chefs, but they are not always in the restaurant, and he appears to have booked under his surname in some restaurants, and another surname in others.
* Garth Stroebel is a former South African Chefs Academy co-owner, and appears to consult to restaurants, especially new ones, including Stables and Camphors at Vergelegen. Most front of house restaurant staff would not know or recognise him, even though he appears to book under his own name!
* Liam Tomlin is an interesting choice, nor being well-known to front-of-house restaurant staff as the owner of Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town, with a short-lived stint at Leopard’s Leap in Franschhoek as Liam Tomlin Food, in conjunction with La Motte’s Hein and Hannelie Koegelenberg. He is known to the Franschhoek restaurants however.
Commenting on the Top 20 shortlist, Eat Out General Manager Aileen Lamb said: ‘We’re confident in our new approach to the judging process and the subsequent audit of the results. In the interest of transparency, which has been our focus from the outset, we will make the scores available to all the nominees’. Mrs Donnelly added: ‘This year we have definitely seen a bit of a shake-up. There are some new additions to the list, as well as the consistently great restaurants that continually push boundaries through innovation’.
Restaurants are becoming more casual, Mrs Donnelly added: ‘High quality food is being served to diners who are encouraged to be comfortable and relaxed. Ultimately, however, it’s the food that counts. Taste is the emotional component of a dish, making it the most vital element. The scorecards show which restaurants excel in flavour and not just the fussy stuff. Many of our native ingredients have been celebrated, making them the future of South African food’.
New Media Publishing has announced that its 2014 Eat Out 500 magazine will only go on sale at the end of November. Traditionally it has been released at the Gala Awards dinner. It will be interesting to see what the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards Gala evening on 10 November will bring, in which of the twenty shortlisted restaurants will make the Top 10 list.
POSTSCRIPT 16/10: Eat Out has announced which chefs will prepare the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards Gala Dinner on 10 November:
- ‘Jason Lilley of Jason Bakery will be baking the bread.
- Canapés will be prepared by Dil Tamang and his team at Nobu.
- George Jardine of Jordan Restaurant will be cooking the starter.
- All the way from Mooi River in KZN, Jackie Cameron of Hartford House will be cooking the first main course.
- Second main course will be prepared by Chris Erasmus of Pierneef à La Motte.
- Dessert is a big deal, and will be produced by Minette Smith and David Higgs of Five Hundred along with Amy Young and Peter Templehoff (sic) of The Greenhouse.
- Tanja Kruger of Makaron will be responsible for the sweet ending to the evening – the petit fours’.
POSTSCRIPT 7/11: Eat Out has announced the 20 (!) finalists for the Boschendal Style Award, which will be announced on Sunday evening: Babel at Babylonstoren, Burrata, Camphors at Vergelegen, Craft Trattoria, Crazy Horse, five hundred, The Green House at Babylonstoren, Hartford House, Harvey’s Restaurant, Hemelhuijs, The Kitchen at Maison, Makaron, Pierneef à La Motte, The Pot Luck Club, Stretta Café, Tashas Le Parc, The Tasting Room, The Test Kitchen, Truth Coffee, VickiChristina’s Tapas Bar y Restaurante.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage