The American Express Platinum Fine Dining Awards were held last night for the 18th year, at the superb event venue The Olive Press at Boschendal. The highest number ever of first-time recipient restaurants received recognition. A total of 53 award-winning restaurants are from the Cape.
A total of 150 guests was welcomed with craft beers, water, and Boschendal MCC on arrival. It was a great opportunity to meet up with Western Cape chefs and other restaurant staff again. Outside we witnessed spit braais of Boschendal Angus Beef and lamb, and a number of Green Egg cookers. Canapes were served, green beans on a crisp; roasted carrot, ricotta, and seeded
biscuit; and kale, asparagus, buffalo milk, and pressed cheese.
We were free to sit at any table, and I shared the table with Amex executives Tshipi Alexander (Head of Card Processing and Merchant Sales), Privesraw Naidoo, and Yvonne Elford.
The tables had colanders with leaves, heirloom baby carrots, and asparagus, and a pair of scissors and tongs, to allow us to dish up into our bowl, more difficult than it appeared. Tshipi was clever, placing the leaves in his bowl with the tongs, and then snipping at them with the scissors! Jugs with passion fruit Kombucha vinaigrette were brought to the table for the salad. The bowl remained on the table, and each guest received a cup of chicken broth and a small bowl of chicken affall sausage to place in the bowl. An organic heirloom grain flat bread, ricotta, roasted fennel, and roast onion accompanied the broth.
A video highlighted special ingredients which formed the foundation of our dinner, including beetroot, salt, herbs, and olive oil.
Platters of smoked pasture-reared chicken, spit-roast Boschendal Angus Beef forequarter, and lamb spatchcock over charcoal were brought to the table. Condiments of pickled cauliflower and Tumeric, wholegrain mustard, and mint sauce were brought in separate containers, with a mix of The Werf Food Garden vegetables.
Tshipi won brownie points from the guests, saying that because Cape Town rocks, the AMEX Fine Dining Awards are held in the Cape first, followed by a combined Johannesburg and Durban awards event to be held at Marble in Johannesburg next week.
I was happy to speak to Anna Trapido, one of the judges, with Tamsin Snyman as head judge, and new KZN judge Jackie Cameron. Anna has promised to show me real Jozi restaurants later this month.
Music was by passionate Acoustic Affair, with an electric violin and guitar, and most would have wished that they continued throughout the evening, having an infectious vibe.
Numerous restaurant-related friends and acquaintances passed our table and came to say hello. Both Gavin Ferreira and Michael Nel of the Twelve Apostles Hotel stopped by, and told us about their extensive renovations, having replaced all but a stove in their kitchen, and similarly the Café and Grill has had a complete makeover. All 70 rooms have been refurbished too. It was a perfect event to hear about restaurant openings (Bertus Basson is opening a new restaurant in Stellenbosch soon), and about staff changes.
Tamsin Snyman introduced the AMEX Fine Dining Awards, saying that for the first time they selected the top 100 restaurants across seven categories nationally:
#. Chef-Patron restaurants
#. Wine farm restaurants
# Game lodge restaurants
# Hotel restaurants
# Business Consortium restaurants
# A revolving category of restaurants reflecting global food trends, such as sustainability.
Before handing out the certificates to the award-winning Western Cape restaurants, Tamsin shared some information about the Awards:
# the highest number of first-time restaurant awards ever, at 25 this year
# 67 restaurant awards were renewed
# eight 10-year awards
#. 21 restaurants ‘failed to impress the judges’, and did not receive awards this year
#. six restaurants with previous AMEX awards closed down in the past year.
The twelve new first-time restaurant award recipients in the Western and Eastern Cape are: Babel, Camphors, Foliage, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Indochine, Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, Phinda Forest Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge, Springfontein Eats, and Willoughby’s & Co.
In the Western and Eastern Cape 38 restaurant awards were renewed: 95 Keerom, 96 Winery Road, Aubergine, Azure, Bistro Sixteen82, Bistrot Bizerca, Bombay Brasserie, Bosman’s, Bread & Wine, Buitenverwachting, De Grendel, Delaire Graff, Fraai Uitzicht 1798, GOLD, Grande Provence, Greenhouse, Hacklewood Hill, Haiku, Il Leone, Jordan Restaurant, Kurland Restaurant, La Colombe, La Mouette, Myoga, Nobu, Overture, Pierneef à La Motte, Planet Restaurant, Rust en Vrede, Signal, Su Casa, Terroir, The Food Barn (back on the awards list, after dropping off last year), The Kitchen at Maison, The Tasting Room, Transkaroo, Waterkloof, Zinzi.
Three 10 year awards were presented in the Western Cape: Mimosa Lodge, Pembreys, Serendipity.
Restaurants which dropped off the AMEX Awards list this year are Catharina’s (new chef), Kitima, Makaron, Reuben’s Franschhoek (closed for renovation of a new venue), and The Pavilion in Hermanus. No Cape restaurants appear to be on the closed-down list.
Restaurants which are not on the list at all are the following: The Test Kitchen (closed for a long renovation), Pot Luck Club, Equus at Cavalli, Benguela on Main, Mondiall, Burrata, Tokara, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson (Chef Eric Bulpitt and his team leave at the end of this month), and Ryan’s Kitchen,
Fire dancers added a spark to the event, and dessert consisting of a whole-grain biscuit and chocolate ice cream sandwiches, as well as profiteroles was served.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog. Cell +27 082 55 11 323. www.whalecottage.com/blog Twitter: @WhaleCottage Instagram: @chris_ulmenstein