Eat Out announces Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, in silly dribs and drabs!


imageEat Out is really trying hard to be different in its Top 10 Restaurant Awards this year, and comes across as rather silly.  Now it is starting to release its Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, but in batches of five restaurants at a time (ten today, in two batches), with another two batches of five to come. Instead of releasing the list of names, one has to watch a video to see the name of each Finalist restaurant. We will expand upon this Blogpost tomorrow, as the further ten restaurant names are revealed.

As someone commented, Eat Out‘s use of videos is really silly, which also was the description that applied to the announcement by video last week of the four Eat Out judges Abigail Donnelly,  Chef Jackie Cameron of the Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine (photograph)Jackie-Cameron, Chef Benny Masekwameng of Tsogo Sun, and Food Network show host Siba Mtongana. Names of the judging team were revealed by us in this Blog three weeks ago already.  In the Judges video the judging team members come across as silly, as if the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards are a joke, which of course they are not! There is silly laughing and giggling, much like President Zuma’s infamous laugh at the Opening of Parliament!

We wrote a prediction of the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant short-list three weeks ago, and so far only one Restaurant nomination is a surprise! The ten restaurants below, the first out of the Top 20 Restaurant list, have a 50% chance of making/not making it onto the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list, which will be announced on 15 November!:

  • Chef’s Warehouse and Canteen: this is the biggest surprise, the same restaurant having won Eat Out Best Everyday Eatery in 2014, a category which one can say was created for Chef Liam Tomlin. In the year since winning that recognition, Chef Liam has become more pedantic in only offering eight tapas dishes (a Tapas restaurant as a Top 10 fine dining establishment is a shock in itself), which has a dog in the establishment, and a chef/owner who regularly leaves his restaurant in the care of his colleagues while he jets off to Singita, for whom he works as a consultant! There is no improvement in the restaurant since last year, so the Best Everyday Eatery of 2014 cannot (logically) become an Eat Out Top 10 restaurant in 2015, but then anything is possible as far as Eat Out is concerned!  There is no menu choice as far as the main course is concerned, most dessert and starter choices are pre-made in glass jars, one receives one serving spoon only for eight tapas dishes, and the restaurant closes at 20h00! Topping that is the arrogance of some of the serving staff, the uncomfortable and limited seating inside, that little effort is made to accommodate one when it is busy, and that one cannot make a reservation to eat there. Many mutter about how expensive the Tapas has become, at R450 for eight dishes for two!
  • The Restaurant at Newton Johnson in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, with Chef Eric Bulpitt
  • Indochine at Delaire Graff, with Chef Virgil Kahn.
  • Overture, with Chef Bertus Basson, despite Overture having a new Head Chef in Adele Grewar, who has not been at the helm for 12 months, as we have raised in our Top 20 Restaurant shortlist blogpost! This should not be a Top 20 Restaurant candidate as a result!
  • Tokara, with Chef Richard Carstens, who has been (unfairly) overlooked for the Top 10 Restaurant ranking in the past three years!
  • DW Eleven-13 in Johannesburg, Chef Marthinus Ferreira being lucky that Eat Out has forgiven him his embarrassing string of expletives in his ‘acceptance speech’ at the Eat Out Awards last year!
  • MosaicMosaic at The Orient, Chef Chantel Dartnall having been the Chef of the Year 2014. She is one of the most creative chefs in our country, her plating being by far the best of all the chefs we have seen dishes of (photograph).
  • five hundred at The Saxon, where Chef David Higgs is in charge. Chef David has traveled a lot this year, dedicating time to his passion of cycling (maybe at the expensive of his fine dining cuisine), and it is sad to hear that fine-dining will lose him to a mass-restaurant in Johannesburg when he leaves The Saxon at the end of this year.
  • Jardine at Jordan with Chef George Jardine has been a perennial, despite its ordinary decor, which we believe has been updated.
  • The Kitchen at Maison, with Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg, having spent his winter holiday working in restaurants in Denmark.
  • The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, Chef Margot Janse having celebrated 20 years with the restaurant earlier this month.
  • Foliage, owned by Chef Chris Erasmus
  • Rust en Vrede, the kitchen headed up by Chef John Shuttleworth
  • Camphors at Vergelegen, with Chef Michael Cooke
  • The Test Kitchen, with Chef Luke Dale-Roberts. Once again the restaurant kitchen has been headed up by Chef Ivor Jones.
  • Terroir, with Chef Michael Broughton
  • The Pot Luck Club, headed by Chef Wesley Randles.
  • The Restaurant at Waterkloof, with creative Chef Gregory Czarnecki
  •  The Greenhouse, redecorated, with a new menu by Chef Peter Tempelhoff
  •  La Colombe in a new venue, with Chef Scot Kirton.

Geographically, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Cape Town: 5
  • Stellenbosch: 6
  • Franschhoek: 3
  • Gauteng: 3
  • Somerset West : 2
  • Hermanus: 1
  • KwaZulu-Natal: 0

Tough will be the above list for the restaurants who have not made the 2015 Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist:  Pierneef à La Motte, Ryan’s Kitchen, Grande Provence, Planet Restaurant, Delaire Graff Restaurant, La Mouette, Makaron at Majeka House, Springfontein Eats, Borage Bistro, Azure at the 12 Apostles, Bread & Wine, and Burrata. Restaurants which are not eligible for Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards this year due to chef changes are Hartford House and Equus, while Boschendal’s Restaurant on the Werf has not been open for twelve months yet.

At the Eat Out Awards Gala Lunch on 15 November the Top 10 Restaurants will be announced, as will be the San Pellegrino Chef of the Year, the ‘Nederberg’ (sic!) Rising Star, Boschendal Style Award, Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award, Wine Service, Service Excellence, and the new Woolworths Sustainability Award.

Eat Out is giving its sponsor Mercedes-Benz lots of mileage, pardon the pun, as the drive to each Restaurant Top 20 Finalist is filmed in a Mercedes-Benz. The weakness thereof is that one just waits to hear the destination name, and then moves to the next restaurant video, as I did, which means that the motivation given by Eat Out for the nomination is lost to the viewer! I called one of the restaurants today, and its Manager seemed really emotional when I congratulated him, almost caught by surprise, as each of the Finalist Top 20 Restaurants had been sworn to secrecy by Eat Out! They were not told when the announcement of the Top 20 Restaurants would be made!

POSTSCRIPT 30/9: The next five restaurants to be added to the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant list have been announced this morning. Our additions are in green. The final five Top 20 Restaurant shortlisted restaurants have just been announced, added above in green too, as is our evaluation of the final list of Top 20 Restaurants. Our congratulations go to the shortlisted restaurants.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  Tel (021) 433-2100 Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here


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10 replies on “Eat Out announces Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, in silly dribs and drabs!”

  1. interesting when you look at these restaurants and then compare over the past few years they are all the same, were is the freshness, were is the innovation, same old boys club

    • Foliage is new Darren, and Eric Bulpitt and Michael Cooke are younger chefs. Next year there should be more younger eligible ones.

      Good that they finally dropped Bread & Wine, which never belonged there!

      At least Reuben and Giorgio Nava are off the list!

  2. While I do agree with many of your points I would like to disagree with your comment about Chefs Warehouse. While the price has gone up, the food certainly has improved as well, I find having only eight tapas means each one has more focus…again, this is just my opinion! Plus, it is in very few restaurants these days where you can eat salmon, tuna, lamb, venison, sirloin and calamari in one sitting for only 225zar per person.

    I also agree with you that Eat Out kind of sets its own rules each year. As much as I respect David Higgs, why is 500 eligible for Top 10 when we know he is leaving and therefore will be run by a different chef (and therefore food may change) shortly after the magazine is released. When it was known that La Colombe was closing in 2013 (for the Eat Out 2014 magazine) to then be moved to Silvermist, they were excluded from the Top 10, as why would you publish a restaurant in a magazine which would not be available (in this case) to readers anymore?

    Either way, I think this years Top 10 announcement will be very interesting as who knows what Eat Out has in store for us!

    • I agree with your third paragraph Emma.

      I went to Chef’s Warehouse regularly, but feel that Chef Liam is bored with his venture.Why would he take a job at Singita? I only go infrequently now.

      I don’t agree about five hundred. David did the honourable thing, in announcing his departure four months in advance – more honourable than Chef Peter Tempelhoff, who left Grande Provence one month after his Top 10 Award at the time. Eat Out can add his departure into their write-up. Candice Philip succeeds him, all of which has been announced by Chef David.

      I am concerned about the situation of heavy-weight chefs such as Bertus and Luke, who have appointed Head Chefs, but the latter are not receiving the honour and recognition! The rules are very unclear on this.

      • Thanks for your response. You make a very fair point about 500, anyone I discuss this topic with doesn’t really know how to argue for or against the topic, so I appreciate what you are saying.

        I think we can agree to disagree about Chefs Warehouse!

        I do think some restaurant owners/executive chefs are starting to give more recognition to their appointed Head Chefs, unfortunately it appears to be a slow moving process!

        Have a great weekend.

  3. Seriously – Eat Out have now created a category for Liam Tomlin ??? I am pretty new to this but I really don’t get your poison pen attitude anymore – everyone I know, that is respected in the industry, really does not give a damn about your comments and it baffles me that you have a following at all – Your comments on Chefs Warehouse are totally ignorant and exposes your understanding of food in general. Liam is globally recognised for his craft and his ability to mentor the future chefs – go do some research on his restaurant Banc in Sydney and who came out of there! I have watched you operate from the sidelines for a while now, and I no longer can keep quite whilst you waive your bitter wand- I hope the real foodies stand up now and silence your work once and for all. Enough is enough – stick to you B&B and get out of the kitchen. Emma your comments are spot on – she also fails to mention that the tapas menu keeps changing every few days and her price is incorrect – It is R450 per not R480 – anyway, enough said. I ain’t reading no more and I encourage the serious players to do the same.

    • Wow Mark, and there I thought you were an interesting character when we met at De Warenmarkt! How rude of you!

      Thank you for the price correction.

      I have motivated my view on why I think Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen should not be eligible for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards. Many of those I have spoken to agree, but would not publicly document their view. Chef’s Warehouse clearly is your favorite restaurant, and I am surprised that you have taken my comments so personally!

      I have been evaluating restaurants, and the Eat Out Top 10 Awards, for the past ten years, so am confident about my evaluation. I predicted that a number of restaurants would not make Top 20 prior to Eat Out’s list being announced, and was spot on.

      Just because you are now a co-owner of De Warenmarkt it does not mean that you know anything about the restaurant industry. You admit your limited knowledge about the restaurant industry! By the way, ‘quietly’, ‘your’, and ‘wave’ are spelt like this!

      How close-minded of you that you want to have my writing ‘silenced’ – isn’t debate about any topic more valuable?

      Sounds like poison pen from you!

  4. I am trying to remember how many South African restaurants have been favourably reported on by the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times within the same week. Only one comes to mind: Chef’s Warehouse and Canteen. Von Ulmenstein’s vindictive attacks on Liam Tomlin and his restaurant are unfounded and at odds with the countless positive reviews of and personal experience at Chef’s Warehouse and Canteen.

    • I write the truth Patrick. Maybe you are comparing apples and pears.

      My comments in the Eat Out article relate to the eligibility of Chefs Warehouse be considered for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards, which is clearly NOT a fine – dining rstaurant, for all the reasons mentioned in this article! It mirrors what other Cape Town chefs and restaurant owners are saying too, to me, but not publicly! I am never vindictive! Why should I be?

      You use a plural for ‘attacks’, but this is only one blogpost that is critical of Chef Liam, and his restaurant, with reasons provided, and in a particular context! You must have missed my very favorable review of Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen when it first opened, which you will find on this Blog!

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