Restaurant Week commenced around the country on 1 April, and despite its name, runs for the whole month of April. Restaurants offer two or three course Lunch and/or Dinner set menus with options at a slightly discounted rate, allowing restaurant lovers to return to their favourite restaurants, to try new restaurants, or to visit restaurants that one has not visited before.a
A German swallow friend Annette Krueck had just arrived in Cape Town in the first week of April, and so I looked for a restaurant that was new to her to try, she being a restaurant lover too. As it was the first weekend of the Restaurant Week, the majority of the 47 Cape Town based restaurants were booked out already. All that was available for the Saturday evening were some brand new restaurants….. and surprisingly Grand Pavilion in Sea Point, a restaurant that I had eaten Lunch at after it opened a year ago, Service having been a problem then already.
The reservation is made via the Restaurant Week website, and I received a confirmation of the booking for a ‘fantastic 3-course set menu’, on the pricey side. When we arrived at the restaurant front desk, our booking was nowhere to be found, the first step in a number of service disasters we experienced that evening. We were shown to a table in a walkway, and had to move it backwards ourselves so that diners and staff did not bump into our chairs.
The first waiter dealing with our table arrived at the table singing, presenting the À la Carte menu. He had not been told that we were eating off the Restaurant Week Menu. A second waiter Shane came to bring the correct menu, and when we asked him what linefish it was, he stared at us blankly, saying he would check with the kitchen. He appeared to have no clue about the Restaurant Week Menu. In the mean time a manager walked past, and asked how we were doing. We told him about our fish question, as the waiter had not returned to our table, and he told us that they had kingklip, hake and a third fish. When Shane returned, he took our drinks order. I wanted a glass of tap water with ice and lemon, and without bothering to ask Annette, he returned with two glasses of water! Annette ordered a glass of bubbly, whereas I ordered a glass of Remhoogte Chenin Blanc, which arrived luke warm! I sent it back, requesting a cold glass of wine.
The menu offered three starter, four mains, and two dessert options. Annette and I both ordered the Crispy fried calamari, with garlic, chilli, fried fresh herbs, house tartar, lemon and herb oil. We had not been asked about our dietary requirements, but I volunteered that for the fish course I did not want the rocket. Both our calamari starters were drowned in rocket, on top and underneath the calamari! I had to remove all of it from my plate and Annette was a willing recipient of the rocket. Other Starter options were Beef Carpaccio prepared from Chalmar Sirloin, radish, spring onions, sesame seeds, Japanese mayo, and ponzu sauce, as well as Green salad, with avocado, Parmesan, dill pickled cucumber, mint, radish, wild rocket, honey and mustard dressing.
The Main options were grilled linefish, which was supposed to be hake but did not look like hake at all, and even in sending it to the kitchen to have it checked out, it was confirmed to be hake! It was served with salsa verde, garlic, potato mash, green beans and rocket (mine removed), and a surprise poached egg, not mentioned in the menu, a very filling portion. Annette had the 250 gram matured grass-fed chargrilled fillet steak brushed with herb butter, and served with marrow bone, truffle-infused béarnaise sauce. Steamed Black West Coast mussels in white wine, cream, onion, garlic and thyme was served with toasted ciabatta. The fourth main option was a Vegetarian one, a truffle and Parmesan gnocchi, with roasted butternut, Crispy sage, shaved Parmesan, roasted tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. Annette enjoyed her steak, whereas I remain convinced that my linefish was not hake. The pepper grinder on the table did not work, and I had to request the waiter to bring us another.
The dessert options were Dark Chocolate Tart, with salted caramel, Valrhona chocolate ganache, speculoos (sic) crumb, smoked salt, and home made Tonka bean ice cream, Annette barely eating hers, being so full. She criticised the ice cream, not getting the Tonka bean vanilla taste in what seemed very ordinary ice cream. Cheesecake with candied citrus, lemon curd, poppy seeds and brûlée citrus was an alternative dessert option.
Another manager stopped by at our table, describing himself as a Floor Manager, and after telling him about our problems with waiter Shane, he sent us the singing waiter again. It is clear that all the top management of Grand Pavilion have left the restaurant since it opened.
We left Grand Pavilion extremely disappointed, with diabolical service, and definitely not having had a ‘fantastic’ meal! It was no surprise that the once-trendy restaurant was only three-quarter full, on a Saturday evening.
Restaurant Week, www.restaurantweek.co.za.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whaletalesblog.com www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide