Zesty new wood fire grill Zest Restaurant opens in newkings Boutique Hotel in Sea Point, focus on Fresh is best!



Utopia Cape Town co-owner Chef Pavel Dimitov has opened his first own restaurant, called Zest, on the second floor of the newkings boutique hotel in the Piazza da Luz in Sea Point. The focus of Chef Pavel’s new restaurant is that local and fresh is best.

The opportunity to collaborate with the 42-room newkings boutique hotel presented itself. A refurbishment of the hotel by its owner Romao da Luz was accompanied by the creation of a brand new restaurant space and kitchen, with an Events and Meeting venue linked to the restaurant.The Background

Landy Walker did the interior design of Zest Restaurant, as well as the hotel room upgrade.  Her Gaia Gift and Decor Boutique is on the second floor of the hotel. Now being able to offer a restaurant service for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, combined with the Hotel room upgrade, earned the hotel a 4 star grading from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa earlier this year, for the first time.

Landy explained the collaboration of the hotel and restaurant as follows:

We were extremely privileged to meet and have the honour to collaborate with the revered Chef Paul ( Pavel ) Dimitrov and over a lot of passionate dialogue, Zest was born. My life partner Romao and I had the honour to run with the decor and styling while Chef Paul focused on his culinary vision. Both Romao and I felt drawn to focus on carefully layering a space and inviting a mood that was traditionally earthy, contemporary, raw yet still polished. Our choice of colours was of course inspired from the earth, natural, neutral, strong and bold yet always with a little splash of green. We have always loved the organic and masculine signature of rusted, aged metal which was to be the canvas we would start building on. Our reclaimed, recycled copper wine racks and door handles were another important choice of metal to us. Our bar counter top we sourced and made from Namibian teak, which still always takes our breath away. We introduced a granite stone wall finish to specific walls. We chose oversized, metal, Moroccan style pendant lights for our main dining areas while showcasing knitted, black mesh shades, outdoors, we hung three glorious marble slabs as an over exaggerated back drop to our open plan kitchen, this bringing in a hint of sophistication and splendour.  
Our kitchen proudly showcases a unique wood fired grill, new to the culinary Industry. The wood for the fire is specifically sourced from Namibia for its slow burn and rich, smokey aroma. We chose light quartz stone table tops to showcase Chef Paul Dimitrov’s outstanding masterpieces in which to feast all of one’s senses on. We hand selected beautiful hand woven African baskets to celebrate the creative genius of our local weavers, introducing a hint of leather in our strapped bar stools, while delicately marrying elements of wood, brass, copper and bold metallics. Our ‘Piece de Resistance’ was our super imposed, tribal face, wall art. For us it immediately captured serenity, calm, youth, Africa’.
Chef Pavel Dimitrov
Bulgarian-born Chef Pavel arrived in South Africa at the age of 21, and connected with the Gonsalves family in Johannesburg, stepping into the kitchen of its popular Vilamoura Restaurant in Rosebank, and at one in Gold Reef City.  Chef Pavel followed Victor  Gonsalves to Cape Town, helping him to open Pigalle in Green Point, following on to the opening of NV-80 in the Point Centre in Sea Point. When The Vue changed to Utopia Cape Town, Chef Pavel became the co-owner of the restaurant and its Executive Chef almost three years ago.  Chef Pavel speaks highly of Victor Gonsalves, regarding him as one of the best restaurateurs in the country, one who is honest, and keeps his word. Chef Pavel too holds these values, a person with soul and no ego.
When asked what his favorite cooking tool is, he chose his brand new wood-fired Grill which has been installed at Zest.  The coals of the Kameeldoring wood give a wood smoked aroma to the meat, fish and vegetables. A good chefs knife is essential too, a Swiss or Japanese one being a priority.  Chef Pavel believes in Fresh is best, and that less is more.  He does not use smoke, gels, foams, or smears in his dishes. He does not use more than three ingredients per dish, to give texture and flavour.  Fish is a favourite, which he prepares with some salt and olive oil. Ingredient sourcing is important for a restaurant, buying the best quality at a good price. He uses a small olive oil producer for the extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, for example.
To run the two restaurants, Chef Pavel has appointed two strong chefs, Chef Dennis Luke at Utopia Cape Town, and Chef Scott Melvin at Zest, originally from Scotland, worked at Gordon Ramsay’s maze in London, and then followed Chef Jason Atherton to Shanghai for most of his career, recently moving to Cape Town with his South African Pastry Chef wife. Nelson Ferreira is the GM, having worked with Chef Pavel when Utopia opened. Wayne Newman is the Head Waiter, having worked with Chef Pavel at four restaurants to date.  Micaela Luke is the Manager. Chef Kyle Contadíe is the Sous Chef, moving across from Helena’s Restaurant in Stellenbosch.
The Restaurant
The restaurant can seat 50 diners, as well as another 40 in the adjacent events venue, suitable for private functions, workshops, and meetings. One can sit on the terrace with a sea view, which also houses the Oyster & Cure Bar.
Inside tables have light quartz stone tops, surrounded by a mix of comfortable green and beige chairs.  Cutlery is by sola, and glassware, plates and bowls were supplied by Cape Importers. Double-stitched linen napkins add a touch of class to the restaurant.
The chefs work behind the open plan kitchen, and can be seen whilst creating the delectable dishes. Diners can interact with them over the kitchen counter.
The beautiful Bar is manned by the two friendly mixologists Ross and Josh.
The Menu 
The Menu is unique, divided into sections reflecting the source of the produce, each section offering two dishes in the main. Central to the design of the menu is the focus on freshness, no frozen products being used, and the wood-fired grill on which most of the dishes are prepared, the Kameeldoring wood giving the meat, fish and vegetable dishes a unique smoky aroma and taste.  As one is seated, the waitron brings a ciabatta roll or a focaccia bread to the table with butter and delicious smoked tomato chutney, unusually presented in spoon-shaped containers. Zest is Halaal-friendly.
Since the restaurant opened a week ago, I have been fortunate to try a number of its dishes, some with my guests Gary Peterson and Brian van Hansen:
Oyster and Cure Bar:
The seafacing restaurant terrace has a newly built Oyster Bar, offering Lüderitz Oysters, served plain at R15 each, or with a choice of three toppings at R18 each: Chardonnay vinegar (note not wine-based) and shallots, an Asian dressing, and a Dark beer Ponzu dressing.  I tasted the Chardonnay vinegar variant, usually preferring to eat oysters plain, sharing them with Gary.
What I loved eating and its presentation even more, my favorite dish of those I have eaten so far, is the cured beetroot salmon, six slices served with horseradish cream, crisp toasted sourdough bread, and soured onions, at R95.
Another favorite dish is the Charred sweet potato, baby spinach, feta, roasted walnuts, and raisins dish, a Small plate costing R65, and a Large plate R130. I had only previously eaten cooked sweet potato, but the Fire-Grill preparation adds a difference to the taste and texture of the roasted sweet potato.  The crunchy nuts and sweetness of the raisins added extra layers of taste and texture. (R65/R120)
The second dish in this section looks like a Caprese Salad, except that the tomatoes are cooked on the wood fire, to which are added house ricotta, fresh basil, and olives. (R60/R120). I have not yet eaten this dish.
The Fish section has four options:
Wood-fired salmon, served with Romesco purée, confit potato, and grilled cauliflower, costs R120/R140. I have not tried this dish.
I love the simplicity of the fresh Linefish, having been kabeljou, which is usually served with lentils, smoked mussels, and tomato fondue. Being allergic to mussels and not partial to lentils, I was served my fish with an unusual caper salad, loving it this way.  (R90/R180)
The salt and pepper squid is crumbed, and is served with a dipping dill aioli. I didn’t taste its saltiness, and felt that flour-dusted squid would have been crispier and tastier. (R80/R160)
Grilled prawns were served with wood fire grilled red pepper salsa, R95 for three queen prawns and R240 for six.  When Gary and I shared four grilled prawns they were served with a dose of chili, too strong for both of us.
Two meat dish options are offered:
Wood fired grilled beef is available in two fillet sizes (R85/R190), ribeye (R200), and Wingrib (R320/R500). I’ve had the small plate fillet, beautifully presented with grilled mushrooms, broccoli stems, roasted tomato and confit onion plated on top of the fillet, which comes with one side, I choosing the roasted sweet potato. Brian had the Large plate size fillet with fries, while Gary ordered the Ribeye, saying its the best steak which he has ever eaten, the kitchen making him a special mixed roasted vegetable side.
Pan-roasted Springbok is an alternative meat options served with aubergine and miso purée, confit garlic, and carrots (R95/R210).
All sides cost R35.
The two desserts are superb, both designed by Executive Chef Scott Melvin:
I love chocolate, and when I had my first eating experience at Zest, I ordered the Chocolate and Malt Mousse before eating the fish dish. It is served with milk jam (a reduction of milk, the Chef explained), chocolate and coffee granita, Dark Chocolate, and white chocolate shards.  The ice cold  granita comes as a surprise, when one expects a standard Chocolate Mousse. (R78)
The Lemonade Parfait with lemon and thyme meringue shards is lovely and refreshing, even in winter. (R78)
At Zest Cocktails cost between R75 and R100, and  once again they are unique in that they are made from freshly squeezed or liquidised fruit, plastic bottled juice not being used. Another cute characteristic of the Cocktails is that the Zest team got together, and named the Cocktails after Sea Point landmarks nearby. So, for example, I’ve tried the Rock Pool Raspberry, made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, fresh raspberry purée, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lime, and a dash of soda. It is a looker, beautiful in colour and refreshing. Another unusual cocktail is the Promenade Apple, made with Dewar’s 12 year blended scotch, fresh apple juice, mint, and fresh lime, refreshing too.
The Zest winelist offers three or four wines per cultivar. A unique aspect of the winelist is that it features La Petite Ferme wines from Franschhoek, Zest being the first Cape Town restaurant to stock the La Petite Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, as well its Baboon Rock Grenache. These wines are usually exported.  Most cultivars can be ordered by the glass, and all local bubblies are  available bybthe glass too, in a price range of R65 – R100.
Restaurants have been badly hit by the Corona Lockdown regulations once again, and a blow for Chef Pavel is having to close his doors a mere week after opening the new restaurant, in accordance with the new Adjusted Level 4 regulations.
Zest is a much needed quality restaurant in Sea Point, and will make its mark in emphasizing the health benefits of purity and freshness,  as well as being the first local restaurant with a wood fired grill kitchen. Chef Pavel is a perfectionist, and it has been refreshing to see him on the restaurant floor, serving customers himself, requesting feedback, and entertaining them with his sense of humour.

Zest Restaurant, newkings boutique hotel, 2nd floor, Piazza da Luz, 94  Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town. Tel 021 010 7010      www.zestrestaurant.co.za  (website under construction) Facebook: Zest Restaurant Instagram : @zestrestaurant_ct @chefpavelcapetown @newkingshotel  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner once Level 4 regulations fall away.

Disclosure:   Zest Restaurant is a client of my Communications Consultancy.

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


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