Chef Julia Hattingh hosted a media launch at her brand new Reverie Social Table Restaurant in Observatory last night, serving a four-course dinner for a table of 18 guests ahead of the official opening on 1 October.
My Google Maps App became confused with the one-way streets of Observatory, but I found the restaurant on Lower Main Road, a well-lit restaurant with a collection of guests being visible from the street.
One notices the table for 18 on entering the restaurant, dominating the room. The table does not have a table cloth, but green material napkins add colour to the table, and match the greenery of the plants added as decor touches: hanging plants put together by Chef Julia, glass containers with succulents, and little animals into which Chef Julia planted mini succulents. One of them is a black elephant, bought in honor of Black Elephant Vintners, which supplied the wines last night. Chairs are a mixed collection. Cutlery is top notch Maxwell Williams 1810 Stainless Steel. A board with succulents added colour as a work of art. At the far end of the room is the bar counter, which had an interesting green/white/wood coloring,
some of the previous paint layers having been removed, and creating an unusual colour effect. Julia laughed when she said that the counter had been completed an hour before we arrived. Behind the counter was an ‘antiqued’ (a word used by Chef Julia) mirror framed by Igsaan of Cr8, carpenters up the road, and who had created the extra long table too. The doorway into the restaurant has beautiful stained glass.
One wall had a number of photographic works of art created by Margherita Introna Fine Art Photography. The work displayed will be rotated regularly. On the opposite long wall was a cover which looked like wood, and had copper pipes coming out of it and running along the wall, looking to me like an unusual design feature, but was a practical placement of the electrical pipes coming out of the DB Board, without damaging the walls to imbed the pipes! Edison lights have been spread over the ceiling to light up the table, with a few down lighters too. Chef Julia showed me their library and lounge, which one gets to via the kitchen, which looked very neat and tidy, and not showing any signs of panic for the 18-person dinner about to be served.
Some of the guests at the table were Simoné Rossouw of Babylonstoren; Marvin of Food Blog (a surprise that he is German); three colleagues from Black Elephant Vintners, Kevin Swart, Raymond Ndlovu, and Jacques Wentzel, who explained the four wines which were paired with each of the courses; Julie, editor of Crush Online; Sam Linsell of Drizzle & Dip; Zola from Expresso; Ceili from Food24; Sue-Ann Allen from Hashtag Radio; and Crystal from Womenstuff. I enjoyed chatting to Angela, proud sister of Chef Julia, who helped me with extra information about the dishes, the guests, and Chef Julia’s CV. She loves to cook and bake, but has a marketing day-job. It was a pity that Chef Reuben Riffel had to cancel at short notice.
We were served sliced ciabatta with butter on wooden boards. The starter made a beautiful visual impact, with strawberries, Franschhoek Trout (a farewell to Franschhoek, where Chef Julia worked previously), radish, micros, black sesame seed paste, samphire, and a strawberry and orange blossom smear. The starter was paired with Black Elephant Vintners’ Two Dogs, a Peacock, & Horse Sauvignon Blanc, the label design mocking the traditional Franschhoek icons of Dutch gables, the South African flag, and the French Huguenots. We were told that the Sauvignon Blanc ages well, and was perfectly paired with the salmon strawberry dish.
Our second course was a warm lentil and bulgur wheat salad, with coriander, baby spinach, lemon atchar, and confit pork cheeks, topped with bright orange capers, brought to the table in big bowls, so that each person could dish up their own portion. The Black Elephant Timothy White was paired with this dish, a White Bordeaux Blend Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is an excellent food partner, we were told. The Semillon was 50% barrel fermented, while the Sauvignon Blanc adds freshness.
After a smoke and leg-stretch break we were called back to the table, with the third course brought to the table, being beef flat rib braised in rice wine vinegar, plums roasted in bone marrow fat, beetroot, and spring onion. To this Chef Julia poured a beef broth at the table. The third Black Elephant Vintners wine The Back Roads is ‘not mainstream’, we were told, made to be drunk ‘outside the box’, said Kevin. The Bakenshoek name at the bottom of the label denotes the source of the grapes at the entrance to Franschhoek.
Last, but not least, was a most unusual combination of white chocolate panna cotta, apple, walnut, sunflower seeds, toffee apple purée, honey, and a french white pepper. Unusually a Blue cheese by Langbakken in the Karoo was served with the dessert, a magical combination, and also in its pairing with the Black Elephant Vintners Rosé/Red Wine, described by Kevin as ‘funky and weird‘! It is Cabernet Sauvignon-based, fermented in old barrels to get the darker red colour.
I asked the barista for a coffee, and he made a perfect dry cappuccino. Reverie Social Table has applied for a liquor license and is in the hands of the authorities.
Chef Julia trained with Chef David Higgs at Meerendal, whereafter she moved to Le Quartier Français for her practical with Chef Margot Janse. She moved to London to work at Rhodes Twenty Four, and returned to her home country, where she joined Chef Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof. He connected her to a two-star Michelin restaurant. She returned, to Holden Manz in Franschhoek for eighteen months, before starting her first independent venture. Angela told me that all the staff have not worked in a restaurant before, Chef Julia training them and so upskilling her staff in the kitchen and in service. Lunch will be kept simple, with one dish only served, and when it runs out it has run out, Chef Julia said. In the evenings Chef Julia will serve a four course dinner, around the long table, as we experienced last night.
We enjoyed a fun evening, got to know other food writers, and were impressed with Chef Julia’s refreshing menu design and food presentation. Her eating concept is unusual, and her anti-Social Media dinner conversation push an interesting challenge!
Reverie Social Table, 226 Lower Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town. Tel (021) 447-3219. www.reveriecapetown Twitter: @ReverieCapeTown Monday – Saturday Lunch and Dinner. From 1 October.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Tel (021) 433-2100 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here