Tag Archives: Birkenhead House

La Residence lays on a feast for a good cause!

On Sunday La Residence impressed with the fundraising lunch it hosted to raise monies for the Stuart McFarlane Foundation, to assist in finding a cure for Motor Neuron Disease, a disease which Stuart McFarlane, previous GM of La Residence, suffers from (as does Joost van der Westhuizen), and for which there is no cure currently.

La Residence GM Edward Morton and events manager Chantell Viljoen created the Stuart McFarlane Foundation, and sent out a mailer to encourage support for the Foundation, by attending a lunch in honour of Stuart, for which we paid R500 a head.  The grand entrance room, which is a lounge and dining room all in one, looked magnificent, with one long table set for 45 persons.  I was lucky to sit next to Jo Sinfield, the co-owner of Deluxe Coffeeworks in Franschhoek and who has hospitality interests too, and opposite Ali Macfarlane from Inspirational Places, and her fiancé Carl.  Many guests present were from the hospitality industry, having worked with Stuart at La Residence, its sister property Birkenhead House in Hermanus, Singita, and at Ellerman House. Fireplaces were lit and made the room cosy, on a grey winter’s day.  Guest of honour, Kfm’s Elana Afrika, was her bubbly self, and was amazing in networking around the table, and remembering the names of almost all the guests present.  She reminded us that ‘giving is a must’, and mentioned her radio station’s ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ campaign it runs regularly, making one realise that there are others with bigger problems than those that we have.

A few speeches were made, donations were auctioned to raise further funds, and a good time was had by all, the saxophonist adding a high note to the event.  Wines were from the Felicité range from Newton Johnson in Hermanus, at which wine estate Stuart works now, and we were offered a choice of Chardonnay 2011 and Pinot Noir 2011, the latter being an excellent example of one of the wine varieties that the Hemel en Aarde valley is famous for.

Chef Leonard Marais went to great lengths to serve a feast, canapés having been served with the Rosé sparkling wine on arrival.  On sitting down, we were served a free-range chicken, pistachio nut and asparagus terrine, served with a fine salad, spiced apple chutney, as well as melba toast, and a basket of home-baked breads and rolls.   This was followed by a Corn Chowder, a colourful warm soup for a cold day.

For the main course we were served a generous portion of oven-roasted leg of lamb, garlic and herb potato gratin, cumin glazed young carrots, fine beans, beetroot sprouts, and a rosemary jus.  For dessert we had a baked pear pudding, which was served with a delicious home-made Fererro Rocher ice cream.

La Residence, and The Royal Portfolio owners Phil and Liz Biden, impressed with their generosity in hosting the lunch and donating some of the prizes for the auction.  The elite boutique hotel, at which Elton John stays when he performs in Cape Town, is the best of its kind in Franschhoek, and showed its friendliness and demonstrated its heart for others in organising the lunch and in creating the Foundation for their ex-colleague Stuart McFarlane.  Everyone attending not only enjoyed Chef Leonard’s excellent lunch but also felt good about doing good for someone else.

La Residence, Elandskloof Road, Franschhoek.  Tel ()21) 876-4100   www.laresidence.co.za Twitter: @LaResidence  Lunch and dinner on request and subject to availability for outside guests.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Restaurant Review: Hermanos not yet a whale of a restaurant

Hermanos opened as a new restaurant in a revered restaurant space previously called Joubert, in Hermanus, about three months ago.   Rave reviews from Whale Cottage Hermanus guests about the restaurant attracted Whale Cottage Hermanus Manager Carole and I to try it 10 days ago.   Our expectations were high.

The co-owner and chef Wayne Spencer came to our table when we arrived early at 18h30, and gave us a friendly greeting.    He told us his background, and then went off to the kitchen , where he cooks almost on his own, with the help of only two staff.  

“Hermanos” is the Spanish word for brother, and symbolises the relationship between Wayne and his brother, who is a financial partner in the business but does not live in Hermanus.   Wayne trained at the Silwood School of Cooking, and has worked at the Phinda Game Reserve, Birkenhead House in Hermanus and La Residence in Franschhoek, and ‘The Mandarin’ at the Port Palace Hotel, a one star Michelin restaurant in Monaco.   The menu is relatively small, and Wayne closes bookings at 50 persons, even if the space could accommodate more clients.   He believes in “local is lekker” in supporting local wine estates and suppliers, and recognises that his two house wines do not meet this stated belief.

While the interior of the restaurant has not changed much, it is whiter and cleaner than Joubert was just before closing down.  We could not sit outside in the fairylit courtyard, due to the rain, which is the best spot, it is said.   Our table for two was small, and at one stage we had to put the bread basket on the floor, as we ran out of space.  

We were disappointed with our waiter, whom we lost early on when we talked wines – the La Couronne Menage a Trois and Brandvlei house wines were not to our liking, and we were disappointed that there was no other choice.  Also, for a winelist that prides itself on Walker Bay wines for wines, the non-Hermanus wines-by-the-glass were an oddity.   We then had to order a full bottle, and this is where the waiter showed that he was not trained on the wine side – everything we asked for he had to communicate to a colleague who was running the bar, just three steps behind our table.  He would then communicate back to us, all via the third person, who never came to our table for a direct conversation.   The waiter did not know what the word “vintage” meant.   We settled on the Raka Biography, and declined it when we were brought a 2008.  Miraculously a 2007 vintage was found, and we could be served the wine, after a long delay on this alone.  By this time we had lost confidence in our waiter, even though he seemed to exude self-confidence, and so we asked the waitress to take over.

The restaurant filled up quickly, and Carole recognised many of the diners as locals, which will ensure that Hermanos survives the winter months.

The menu has 5 starters, including the flagship tiger prawn and avo stack (R52), asparagus and parmesan risotto (R45), Halloumi salad and fish koftas (both R42) and Carpaccio (R 48).   The prawn and avo stack looked attractive, and was served with melba toast slices in-between.  It was a little hard to eat, as the melba toast does not cut well, and the stack soon collapses.   The avo was sliced too thinly for my liking, and Carole did not like the knife shape digging into her palm while using it to eat.   The 8 main course choices are beef fillet hot rock (R 120), signature rib-eye steak (R 112), Karoo lamb rump (R 98), pork loin (R 94), Chicken Ballantine (R 82), linefish (R 90), Norwegian Salmon (R 125), and Crespella di Verdura, a tasty sounding dish of slices of crepe filled with butternut and spinach.     The rib-eye steak and pork loin could not be faulted, except that the steak was a touch too rare for the “medium rare” ordered.

The dessert choice is creme brulee (R 38), vanilla bean ice cream (R 32), chocolate tart (R 42) and a cheese board at R 62.  Carole enjoyed the creme brulee, and I my cappuccino.   While the service from the waitress was better than that of her colleague, she made no effort to really connect, and just asked the standard “is everything ok?” question, without making one feel that she was really listening or interested.

Hermanos stocks a wide selection of wine varietals, with about three brands per variety, and offers a good spread of Hermanus and Hemel-en-Aarde Valley wines.  So, for example, the Shirazes are Wildekrans (R 135), Raka Biography (R 165) and Sumaridge (R 225). The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Benguela Cove (R 185), and from Jakob’s Vineyard and Raka, both costing R 175.  Chardonnay comes from Bouchard Finlayson (R 160), Domaine des Dieux (R 160) and Ataraxia (R 267).   The Sauvignon Blancs come from Jackson (R90), Hermanuspietersfontein (R 120) and Southern Right (R 137).   Methode Cap Classique bubbly is stocked, from Wildekrans (R 160) and Domaine Des Dieux (R 215).

There was no music to create atmosphere.  There was no relationship formed between diner and staff, to make one look forward to coming back, except for the short interaction we had with Wayne on our arrival.  When I first wrote about Hermanos, without having visited, Wayne said that he wanted to come out of the kitchen and connect with his clients, but he is so thinly-staffed in the kitchen that he is unable to do so.  The waitress does not seem senior enough to guide and manage the seemingly untrained colleagues, which could be the downfall of Hermanos.

Hermanos has great potential if it gets its wine-by-the-glass choice and staff quality right, appoints a manager, and opens over lunch.  The food is of a high standard, in a town that is not blessed with any outstanding restaurants.   

Hermanos, 3 High Street, Hermanus.  Tel (028) 313-1916, www.hermanos.co.za  (menu not up to date)   Tuesday – Saturday evenings.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Week of restaurant openings in the Cape

This week marks the official launch of two competing but neighbouring restaurants in the new Cape Quarter extension on Somerset Road in De Waterkant.   Cru Cafe’ (see review here) has been open since the beginning of the month, but celebrated its launch on Tuesday.  Vanilla has also opened, and its launch evening is on Friday.   In general, these are the two ‘serious’ restaurants in this new lifestyle centre, that is set to take off as Capetonians discover its unique combination of high quality shops.   Lazari is a restaurant that disappointed on a first visit, with a shrieking pink interior, and the restaurant staff and the patrons being unsure as to which of their two terraces are for smokers and non-smokers!   The visible food preparation area when one enters the restaurant is enough to put one off from entering and sitting down!

This week saw the opening of the long-awaited Crepe et Cidre in Franschhoek, near Huguenot Fine Chocolates.  It belongs to Robert Maingard, the largest hospitality owner in the village, also owning Le Franschhoek, and Dieu Donne, and he is also set to open a sports bar in the old station building soon.  He is opening two further restaurants in Franschhoek, on opposite sides of the main road, when he completes the malls next year, one being on the current Pick ‘n Pay site and the other on the site where the Huguenot Hotel was located.   Crepe et Cidre will be run by Gerhard van Staden, previously chef of the Le Franschhoek.  The creperie has “imported” Yann Guyonvarch from Brittany in France to train the staff in crepe-making.  His true French accent is a delight, but his stay will be a short 2 weeks.  Imported French cider is served.

At La Brasserie in Franschhoek, the Friday jazz evenings will start again tomorrow (30 October), and the opening session will be dedicated to the launch of a CD ‘Tribute to Alex van Heerden’, who played with the Cape Dutch Connection, and passed away tragically.

In Hermanus the new Hermanos restaurant has opened in the building in which Joubert restaurant operated before closing down earlier this year, with a new chef and owner Wayne Spencer.  He was originally the Executive Chef at Birkenhead House in Hermanus, and at Phinda Game Reserve, and worked at the Michelin-starred Port Palace in Monaco.   He says of his new restaurant that it is fine-dining but that it is not intimidating, and he will not place a lot of emphasis on plating the food.  He intends to come out of the kitchen, to chat to his guests, which is commendable – too few chefs do so.   The menu is small, with 5 starters (R36 – 48), 7 mains (R68 – R 110), and 4 desserts (ranging betwen R 30 – R 40), and sounds interesting. The winelist is more extensive, and is very proudly-Hermanus.  The restaurant is open Mondays to Saturdays for dinner only initially, and can be booked at tel 028 313-1916.  

The Seafood at The Marine restaurant in Hermanus was a pleasant surprise earlier this week, when the most delicious kingklip was served.  The restaurant offers a choice of two courses at R 180 and 3 courses cost R 215.   A number of irritations on arrival – struggling to find the booking on the reservation list and a wobbly table – were sorted out when addressed, and the Relais & Chateaux crested butter arrived rock hard, so much so that it was unspreadable.  The restaurant has no ambiance, it being too brightly lit and it not having any attempt at a decor focus.  But the food cooks, and the hand of Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff, a previous Eat Out Top Ten chef whilst at Grande Provence, is evident.  The biggest surprise was the presentation of three scoops of ice cream on a block of ice, serving a functional as well as an aesthetic role.   The whale-shaped biscuit served with the coffee, whilst not new, remains a cute and clever touch.   The service is friendly and willing, and a miscommunication between the waiter and the kitchen was quickly rectified.   No senior management was visible all evening.   The cloakrooms are most disappointing for a five-star hotel, and the owner Liz McGrath would do well to invest some monies in upgrading these at The Marine.

The speculation in a previous WhaleTales blog post that Ginja is to move to New Church Street (between Buitengracht and Kloofnek Roads), into the previous Relish and Nova restaurant space, has been confirmed by the EatOut website.  “Executive Chef Chris Erasmus will continue the Ginja legacy with his playful take on gastronomy, abundant with colour, texture and taste – using the finest local produce”, the website says. 

Allee Bleue in Franschhoek is hosting its first Sushi and wine-pairing evening on Friday 6 November, at R 195, with a miso soup and tempura prawn starter, and five main sushi courses, each paired with a different Allee Bleue wine.   The dessert is a green tea brulee.  Chef Dane Newton, previously at Chamonix, is known in Franschhoek for his sushi.    In addition to Allee Bleue’s Bistro, the new Winetasting Courtyard 5-item menu, and the scrumptious picnic baskets, a small beer garden menu is also available to be enjoyed with the Paulaner draught beer served at the lower end of the estate.

Jordan wine estate is opening its The Restaurant at Jordan on 21 November.   The e-mail sent to announce the opening looks amateurish, and is an instant turn-off, as one is asked to commit to the food one would like to eat on that day, and the exact time slot in which one would like to eat it in.  Payment must also be done by bank transfer prior to arrival.  For a weekend treat, a visit to a wine estate is enjoyed in leisurely fashion, without being so prescriptive!  George Jardine of Jardine is the new chef of the country restaurant.

Cafe’ Sofia is boldly advertising its seven branches (Green Point, Camps Bay, Sea Point, Rondebosch, Gardens, Greenside and Blouberg) in a striking half-page advertisement: “Come and experience our new 2010 menu, the best breakfast in town or Happy Hour Cocktails.  You may be in for a surprise”.  The Happy Hour cocktails are priced at R 25 for cocktails and R 15 for beer on tap between 17h00 – 19h00, while breakfasts range from R 19 – R 29. 

It was a food book launch week last week, with“Franschhoek Food”, written by Myrna Robbins, featuring the main chefs of Franschhoek’s restaurants, and some of their favourite restaurant menu recipes, as well as wine pairing suggestions.   “South Africa On a Plate” was also launched, a book featuring restaurants that deduct R 5 off the patron’s bill to go toward the Streetsmart charity.   A three-course dinner suggestion, with the recipes, is featured for each restaurant.   Grande Provence, Cafe’ 1999, Jewel of India, Auberge Michel, Ginga, Haiku, Rust en Vrede, Jardine, La Colombe, Ninth Avenue Bistro, Myoga, Mosaic, Bosman’s, Hartford House, Roots, The Saxon, Ile Maurice, and Terroir are some of the restaurants included in the book.   The inspiration for the book comes from Jess Meredith-Watts and his fiance’ Louise, who were touched by beggars on the streets, and felt that they could make a difference, by giving all the profits of the book sales to the Streetsmart charity.   More details about the book are available here.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio www.whalecottage.com