The participation by restaurants in the Western Cape in the Diners Club Winelist Awards 2015 is a shock, declining from 80 restaurants in 2014 (already a decrease from 96 in 2013) to 65 restaurants this year! Diners Club will have to find a solution to the declining interest in its Winelist Awards.
The Diners Club Winelist Awards acknowledge restaurants which take pride and interest in their winelists, and how the wines match the food they offer. They are evaluated on four criteria:
• Content: the number of wines on the list, number of wines served by the glass, original and innovative choices, and cultivars sourced from appropriate regions.
• Balance: the relationship between modest and expensive priced wines, overall value, presence of local and imported varieties, and balance between established and new labels.
• Suitability: the suitability of the wine list with the cuisine, as well as the fit with the image of the restaurant.
• Presentation: vintages and regions, accuracy of information, correct spelling, a clear design that is easy to read.
The highest award accolade is the Diamond Award, with a score of 91 or more out of 100, and this year 25 restaurants received one, down from 31 last year. The restaurants which were Diamond Award winners last year but which have dropped off the Awards list completely are The Girls, Rust en Vrede (a surprise given its top calibre restaurant status), Seafood at The Plettenberg, Zachary, La Cantina at Fancourt, Henry White’s at Fancourt, Myoga, Wild Peacock, Barrydale Karoo Hotel, and Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel.
New entrants to the Diamond Awards list are Pierneef à La Motte, Karoo Art Hotel, The Mount Nelson, One & Only Cape Town – Reuben’s, Birkenhead House, The Raj, and Grande Roche (a return to the Awards). Bientang’s Cave and Grootbos moved up from Platinum Awards in 2014 to winning Diamond Awards this year. Five restaurants dropped in winelist standard, having won a Diamond Award last year and a Platinum Award this year: The Planet Bar, Abalone House, Lanzerac Hotel, Pigalle, and Blowfish.
A total of 24 restaurants were awarded Platinum Awards, with a score of 81 – 90, an increase from 19 in 2014. This category contains Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town, and all the Hussar Grill steakhouses. A surprise is to see The Greenhouse in this category, being an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant candidate! Thirteen restaurants won Gold Awards, down from 22 last year, and these are all ten Col’Cacchio restaurants, and Equus at Cavalli Estate, surprising that it has not improved its rating from last year! Only three Silver Awards were presented. Last year’s shock surprise of Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Makaron at Majeka House having a winelist only achieving Silver has been followed by the complete withdrawal of the restaurant from the winelist awards!
Given that the Eat Out Restaurant Awards evaluate winelists and wine service, it is a surprise that almost none of the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant contenders enter the Diners Club Winelist Awards, including The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, Haute Cabriere, The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Delaire Graff Restaurant, Tokara, Overture, Terroir, The Pot Luck Club, The Test Kitchen, Jardine at Jordan, Camphors at Vergelegen, Springfontein Eats, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson, The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal, The Restaurant at Waterkloof, and The Kitchen at Maison. Restaurants on wine estates understandably prefer to only offer their own wines.
Wine critic and author Dave Hughes led the judging team, consisting of Fiona McDonald, Winnie Bowman, Kristina Buethner, Neil Grant, and Nikki Dumas, evaluating restaurant menus and winelists submitted by licensed local restaurants. Hughes said about the Awards: ‘Commenting on the quality of the entries, head judge Dave Hughes said: “Each year it becomes increasingly difficult to select the best restaurants that offer outstanding wine lists. However, the cream always rises to the top and this year has been no different. The winning restaurants are tenacious, almost pedantic, in ensuring that their offering continues to excite the palettes (sic) of their customers’.
2015 Western Cape Diners Club Winelist Award Winners:
Diamond Winners (25)
Pierneef à La Motte, Karibu Restaurant, One and Only Cape Town – Reuben’s, Birkenhead House, Grande Roche Hotel, Aubergine Restaurant, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, The Square Restaurant – Vineyard Hotel, Greek Fisherman, Meloncino, City Grill Steakhouse, The Mount Nelson Hotel, Bombay Brasserie, Kitima at The Kronendal, Bientang’s Cave, Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve, Azure Restaurant, B’s Steakhouse, Indochine Restaurant, Delaire Graff Estate, Den Anker Restaurant, Ellerman House, The Marine Hotel, Signal at The Cape Grace Hotel, Karoo Art Hotel, The Raj Camps Bay
Platinum Winners (24)
One and Only Cape Town – Nobu, The George Restaurant, Romney Park, Pigalle Greenpoint, Pastis, The Andros Deluxe Boutique Hotel, Hussar Grill (Green Point, Steenberg, Somerset West, Rondebosch, Paarl, Camps Bay, Willowbridge, Stellenbosch), Planet Bar at The Mount Nelson, Mint, Blowfish Restaurant, La Pentola – Hermanus, Abalone House & Spa, The Garden Lounge at the Vineyard Hotel, French Connection Bistro, The Greenhouse Restaurant, The Wild Fig Restaurant, Table Bay Hotel, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa.
Gold Winners (13)
The Rusty Oak Bistro, Col’Cacchio pizzeria (Blouberg, Camps Bay, Canal Walk, Cape Town, Cavendish, Franschhoek, Hermanus, Westlake, Willowbridge), Equus, Mezepoli Meze & Wine Bar
Silver Winners (3)
Lagoon Beach Hotel, The Piano Bar, Quayside Cabin
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: It was a challenge to find the Diners Club PR company Dreamcatchers via the Diners Club Platter’s Guide office, where their telephonist Christine must be the rudest and most unhelpful person in the wine industry! Koketso of Dreamcatchers sent the media release for the other geographical regions too. Restaurant Mosaic won the Award for Best Winelist in Gauteng, The Oyster Box for KwaZulu-Natal, Bushman’s Kloof for the Western Cape, and Surval Boutique & Olive Estate for the Eastern Cape.