In preparing for an interview conducted by Süd-Africa Magazin newsletter writer Werner Klein about how the restaurant scene has changed in Cape Town and the Winelands since Lockdown started over a year ago, I looked specifically at the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant List of November 2019. Eat Out did not Award any restaurant awards in 2020, and appears unlikely to do so in 2021.
Of the latest Eat Out Top 20 Restaurants shortlisted, only 16 of our country’s Top 20 are still operating, I was shocked to discover. Three of the four the top restaurants closed down in 2021. Two of the restaurants were on the Top 10 list, and two on the List of 11 – 20 ranked local restaurants in 2019.
The four restaurants which have closed down permanently are the following:
# Restaurant at Waterkloof: The Chef Gregory Czarnecki owned restaurant operating at Waterkloof Winery in Somerset West closed on 22 November 2020. There has been no sight or sound of Chef Gregory, last posting on Instagram on 22 February. The restaurant held the number one slot of the Eat Out Top 10 list in 2018, and was ranked third in 2019.
# The Shortmarket Club was the first Fine-Dining restaurant to close down in Lockdown, almost immediately after it began last year. In December 2020 it reopened with most of its chef team, who left Tintswalo to reopen the restaurant. It has since ‘closed indefinitely’ but is still on the website of the LDR Group of Restaurants owned by Chef Luke Dale Roberts. The site currently operates as The Test Kitchen Fledgelings, a Burger joint only operating on Fridays, and a training ground for new chef talent. In 2019 The Shortmarket Club was ranked at number 18 in 2019.
# Mosaic at The Orient is the saddest closing, very unlikely to be due to the Lockdown. An Eat Out Top 10 restaurant for most of its existence, yet never given the number one slot, Chef Chantel Dartnall and her restaurant received better international recognition than local! She appears to be investing in herself, taking time off at a local coastal retreat, and to spend time in Paris, to learn French and to work at a restaurant there. At the Eat Out Awards in 2019 Chef Chantel announced that she would no longer participate in the Eat Out Awards, wishing to make space on the Awards list for younger chefs and their restaurants. Many saw a different message in this announcement, given that she was not receiving the recognition she deserved locally. She was followed by Chef Luke Dale Roberts a few weeks later, in making the same announcement. Restaurant Mosaic closed down outside Pretoria at the end of March. It was ranked 9th in 2019, an insult to the restaurant and its chef.
#. La Tête also closed down, on Bree Street, on 6 February. It was ranked 17th in 2019.
The remaining Top 20 restaurants, in order of their 2019 ranking from number 1, are: La Colombe, The Test Kitchen, Wolfgat, FYN, La Petite Colombe, Eike, Salsify at The Roundhouse, Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia, Camphors at Vergelegen, Overture, LivingRoom at Summerhill Estate, Chefs Warehouse at Maison, Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenhort, Le Coin Français, Tjing Tjing Momiji, and Rust en Vrede.
The interview about the changing restaurant scene in the past 13 months highlighted the following:
# The restaurant industry has been doing well in the past two months, when the regulation regarding the sale of alcohol in restaurants was normalized, and the Curfew start time moved to midnight. Restaurants are reporting excellent trade, especially on weekends.
# A total of 100 restaurants have closed down in Cape Town and the Winelands. Chef Luke Dale Roberts has lost two restaurants in his stable, only retaining The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club.
# More than 70 restaurants have opened, Chef Liam Tomlin having opened three in this period.
#. A handful of restaurants announced their permanent closure, but managed to reopen again, including Clarke’s, Nelson’s Eye, and Perseverance Tavern.
#. Franschhoek has been particularly hard hit by the Lockdown, losing Foliage a week ago, and Entrée and Fork recently. Yet restaurateur and Chef Darren Badenhorst has opened two new restaurants, and has taken over the running of Tuk Tuk, in addition to his two existing restaurants.
#. The ultimate fine dining restaurant has opened in our county, Restaurant KLEIN JAN at Tswalu Private Game Reserve, owned by Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, who also owns one Michelin Star JAN restaurant in Nice. The new restaurant is likely to fly right into the number one spot when Eat Out reintroduces its Awards.
#. Capetonians can more easily access our city’s fine dining restaurants. It still takes three months to book at Wolfgat, and it took six months to get into The Test Kitchen. The latter restaurant now has availability for all dates in May. Most top restaurants now offer Reduced Tasting Menus, fewer courses offered making them more affordable.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity for an amended German version of this story to be published in the Newsletter of the Süd-Africa Magazin. https://www.sued-afrika.de/artikel/newsletter-11-kapstadt-gastroszene-im-wandel. And for the magazine using a photograph of Utopia Cape Town restaurant.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whaletalesblog.com www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide