On Friday a group of writers was invited on behalf of Holden Manz, by its marketing consultant Tanya Fourie. We were taken on a tour of the Holden Manz wine cellar, tasted its latest wine vintages, introduced to the new Holden Manz Chenin Blanc to be launched soon, and spoilt with an excellent lunch prepared by Chef Ricardo Le Roux and paired with some of the Holden Manz wines. Continue reading →
* Sharing services such as Uber and Airbnb are coming under pressure to comply with laws of running their businesses and paying taxes, some countries reacting strictly, and others welcoming their input to the expansion of the economy. Uber was banned in Germany for a while, but has been allowed to operate again. Airbnb has picked up problems in Barcelona for breaching the city’s rental rules. A number of court cases in the USA alone relate to payment of gratuities to drivers, advertised as being included in the price, but drivers do not appear to be receiving their full gratuities.
* The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has moved its presentation date to Monday 1 June 2015, having hosted the awards at the end of April for the past twelve years. The awards recognise the best restaurants in the world. In 2014 only The Test Kitchen made the prestigious top 50 list. (received via media release from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, forwarded by Tamsin Snyman)
* Saronsberg has relaunched its Provenance range with a new label, depicting the ‘From Earth, From Water‘ sculpture by Angus Continue reading →
Holden Manz has introduced an unusual series of Winemakers’ Dinners, showcasing its own wines against some of the best per variety, each winemaker’s wine paired with a special dish created by new Executive Chef Cheyne Morrisby. Last night was a magical evening, not only with Merlot being the focus, but also because it was a catch-up Mother’s Day dinner with my hospitality son, who spoilt other moms on Sunday.
Kicking off on a very high note was the 2008 Meerlust Merlot, which was introduced by its winemaker Chris Williams. He described the wine estate as ‘one of the most iconic‘, awarded in the 1690’s to its first German owner Henning Huysen. He named it Meerlust, meaning ‘love of the sea’, given its close location to False Bay, which impacts on the way that the Meerlust wines are made. The wine cellar was built in 1694. The Myburgh family took over the farm in 1756, and its current owner Hannes Myburgh is the eighth generation of the family living on the wine estate, ‘the longest run family business in South Africa‘. For the first time Meerlust has used grapes from a new vineyard with 25 year old vines next door for its Merlot, with 10% Cabernet Franc added for structure and its ageing ability. He said the result is a wine that is ‘unashamedly classic’, giving a sense of place, developing with age, and pairs well with foods without overpowering them. I loved the old style smokiness of it, and it was my favourite of all the wines we tasted. Chef Cheyne paired this gorgeous wine with a Shiitake mushroom and coconut cream risotto, an excellent combination, which can be ordered in R50/R90 portion sizes on the new Winter menu.
The second wine was made by highly regarded Rianie Strydom, the General Manager and winemaker at Haskell Vineyards, making both Haskell and Dombeya wines at the highest point on the Annandale Road outside Stellenbosch. Preston Haskell bought the property in 2002, and she joined the farm in 2005, located in what she called the ‘jewel part of Stellenbosch‘. Dombeya wines were made from 2005 onwards, and Haskell wines from 2007. The first vines were planted in 1990. She praised the terroir of the farm. She has created a unique character for each of the two wine brands, Dombeya being an introduction to wine, being for old and young, a lifestyle wine. It can be drunk now, but can also be aged for six years. The Haskell wines have her own stamp, are more single vineyard driven, and have lots of tannin, she said. Her taste for Merlot was developed when she worked with winemaker Jean Daneel at Morgenhof. She said that Merlot is a difficult wine to make, it being a challenge to create a good one. There are no shortcuts in making it. It ‘needs love and passion’. It is fruit-driven, gentle, has elegance, femininity, and structure. She said that not everyone in South Africa likes Merlot, mainly because locals are drinking it too young. Chef Cheyne paired the 2008 Dombeya Merlot with Beef tataki, mustard and mirrin to which sugar had been added, white and black sesame seeds, and micro herbs, a delicious starter which costs R60.
Winemaker Rudi Schulz introduced his 2009 Thelema Merlot Reserve, made from grapes grown on what was previously a fruit farm. The Merlot was first planted in 1988, and a sorting system was brought in, due to the uneven ripening of the Merlot grapes. They have used aerial photography combined with software to identify the perfect areas for picking, going back into a block six times. This means that they cancel out the ‘averaging effect’ in making the wine, and that they can pinpoint ‘pockets of excellence‘. The 2009 vintage came from a 1,5 hectare block, and they limit the production to ’12 barrel bottling’ for the Merlot Reserve. Holden Manz Sales and Marketing Manager Karl Lambour added that 2009 was one of the best vintages ever. Chef Cheyne paired seared crispy duck breast, a sweet potato and miso pureé, star anise syrup, and watermelon jelly (R155) with this special Merlot.
The 2008 Holden Manz Merlot was paired with Karoo lamb, French trimmed, served with kimchi (a fermented Korean dish made from vegetables and seasoning, according to Wikipedia), and potato dauphinoise (R160 on the menu). The wine was introduced by winemaker Schalk Opperman, who came from Rust en Vrede earlier this year, saying that their Merlot is in ‘showing mould’ already, and that the farm has great potential for Merlot. Schalk and farm manager Thys use technology to pick the best grapes, with aerial photography, but nothing beats ‘walking the fields’ to find the best grapes. The Merlot is well structured, and has good berry fruit.
For the dessert Holden Manz served its new port 2009 Good Sport, which is made 100% from Shiraz. Schalk used the oldest barrels, and it was aged for 18 – 24 months. Jeanre-Tine van Zyl also attended the dinner, and it was said that an announcement will be made about the port on 30 May – could it relate to the recent Old Mutual Trophy judging? The dessert was a deconstructed 70% Belgian chocolate pot, served with pistachio nuts, salted caramel, and honeycomb, having a Christmas look and feel to it. On the new Winter menu it costs R48.
What made the dinner special too was that the owners Gerard Holden (having flown in especially from a meeting in India) and Migo Manz were present, and took a lot of time to network with the diners. Mr Holden is larger than life, with a very sharp eye, and has been described by Mining Weekly as ‘one of Africa mining’s best-known bankers’. He is an avid Twitter reader, and is well-informed about its political dramas! The politics in Franschhoek do not phase him at all. He was recently invited by wine writer Neil Pendock to join the local Commanderie de Bordeaux, and he proudly wore his lapel pin. No surprise then is that the next Holden Manz Winemakers’ Dinner in July will focus on Bordeaux Blends.
We have written previously about the impact that Chef Cheyne has made in his six weeks at Holden Manz, based on his Sunday tapas menu. Last night’s Winemakers’ Dinner was an opportunity to try a larger selection of his dishes, with flavours of the Orient and a Pacific Rim twist, all on his new Winter Menu. Chef Cheyne is a strong character, on the edge, creating some of the best cuisine in Franschhoek now. The Winemakers’ Dinner offered excellent value last night, with five courses and five wines costing R300.
Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2729. www.holdenmanz.com Twitter: @HoldenManz Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Inquisitiveness led me to one of Franschhoek’s newest restaurants, the Franschhoek Kitchen, which opened three months ago, on the recently renamed Holden Manz Wine Estate. I had not seen anything written about it nor heard anyone recommend it yet. Despite the incredibly hot 42°C day, I was impressed with the refreshing approach to the restaurant, and its chef Bjorn Dingemans.
The restaurant was previously called Genot, which had been built on the Klein Genot wine estate. The estate had belonged to Angie and Joey Diamond, but they had to hastily sell by auction last year. Surprisingly from a marketing perspective, the new owners have decided to change the brand name to Holden Manz, and even the Klein Genot wines will be rebranded in future. Information about the new owners Migo Manz and Gerard Holden is scant from the staff, saying they are international businessmen. They are about to open a contemporary African art gallery on the main road in Franschhoek. The restaurant is into its third phase – it had opened originally under the eye of Bertus Basson from Overture and his colleague Mark. They withdrew after a year when they did not make money there. Then Angie Diamond tried to do her own Baia-meets-Franschhoek fish restaurant, which did not succeed either. Now it has a new chef and a new name, with some of the old staff.
On the surface little has changed. Branding off the Huguenot Monument Road refers to Klein Genot on the brown provincial signage, but once one reaches one’s destination, the new elephant-themed Holden Manz branding is visible on signage boards and flags. The security is new, with one half of the narrow gate closed, which means that no one can enter nor leave, even worse so if cars arrive simultaneously from both directions, as happened when I visited. When I spoke to the security guard, he was very defensive, and said he was busy with paperwork in his security hut. Not a good welcome, with a wait in the Franschhoek heat. I became even more nervous when I saw only one car parked outside the cellar and restaurant, and more so when I saw them sitting outside, and not in the restaurant upstairs. I received an unplanned shower from two sprinklers, which were watering the vines on the way to the restaurant.
A person looking like a Restaurant Manager asked if I wanted a booking. However, I had called and made a reservation two days before, and found it odd that he did not seem to know about it, especially as there were no other guests! He never introduced himself, nor came to speak to me. I was seated outside, and it probably was a mistake, as the fans on the terrace just circulated the already very hot air. But Chef Bjorn came to the table when I asked some questions which the waiter Lorenzo could not answer. He indicated immediately that he knew who I was, as he follows bloggers! We had never met, and he came to Franschhoek from the UK. He exuded confidence, told me he grew up in Somerset West, trained at the Greenhouse at the Cellars Hohenhort, and then worked at Soho House in Babington, under Chef Ronnie Bonetti, who used to be the Head Chef at the River Café. He told me that he has a patch of land behind the restaurant in which he can plant his vegetable and herb requirements, making him self-sufficient up to 80 % of his fresh produce requirements. Salmon is sourced from the trout farm close by. On Holden Manz he also has access to figs, peaches, grapes, apples and pears, which he can use in his dishes, and he proudly told me that he makes his own chutney. He has free reign in terms of his menu and kitchen, and changes his lunch and his dinner menu daily, hence it is printed on paper. The menu is introduced with “please ask us for the provenance of produce & seasonal offerings, we aim to source only organic and local food”. It ends as follows: “fruits, vegetable & herbs are sourced from our gardens when in season”. (The menu on the website is very similar to the one I received on Thursday, which means that only one or two items are changed daily).
As far as the decor goes, nothing inside the restaurant has been changed by the new owners – the chandeliers, the purple upholstered chairs around one table (the others are covered with a more subtle beige velvet) and two couches on one side. The Kitchen is massive, and is open to the patrons to see from their tables.
The view from the restaurant terrace is onto the wine estate’s vineyards and the Franschhoek mountains in the background. Tables are laid with good quality napery, and contemporary cutlery. The waiter brought an attractive looking dish with fresh rosa tomatoes from the garden, mixed olive oil and balsamic, and ground salt and pepper. A very crispy ciabatta was brought to the table, and I had to stop the waiter when he wanted to serve a second slice of the lovely bread. I started with the Smoked salmon, rosa tomatoes and asparagus salad, beautifully presented and perfect for the hot day (R60). Other starters that day were tomato, buffalo mozzarella and garden basil salad (R55); soup (R45); beef carpaccio, rocket and parmesan R(60); grilled squid (R55); and sea bass carpaccio (R55). Two persons can share an antipasti platter with cured meats, olives, mozzarella, tomatoes, spinach and grilled bread, good value at R75. It was too hot for a main course, although I was tempted by the prawns and asparagus dish (R160), and will come back to try it. Other main courses cost under R100, for a pasta of the day, angel fish, and linefish. Duck breast costs R125, steak R100 for ribeye, and R135 for fillet; lamb chops cost R145.
I loved the description by Chef Bjorn of his Messy Martini dessert, served in a martini glass, with crumbed meringue, fresh cream, blueberries, strawberries and sprinkled with chopped nuts (R40), a steal at the price and a refreshing end to a surprisingly successful meal. Other dessert options cost R45 for chocolate pot, lemon tart, and a cheese platter.
The winelist is also printed on paper, and Klein Genot wines feature in all varieties offered, and is the only brand served by the glass, except for the sparkling wine, which is by Pierre Jourdan, at R42 (R170) for a glass of Brut and R59 (R235) for the Belle Rose. A small selection of no more than three brands is offered per variety. Only the Klein Genot vintages are supplied, not those of the other brands. No information about the region of origin is provided. Other than the Klein Genot 2007 Shiraz (R57/R170), Heron Ridge (R120) and Kevin Arnold’s (R395) Shiraz are sold.
The Franschhoek Kitchen was a breath of fresh (but hot) air, and I will certainly return, to see what Chef Bjorn has up his sleeve next. He is planning classic movie nights on Wednesdays, accompanied by a three-course meal. I wish him and the owners more business, as it felt extravagant to have the chef prepare the meal for me alone, but I did not complain! I was impressed that the sprinklers had been switched off when I went back to my car, and that the security guard had the gate open for me when I left!
POSTSCRIPT: 11/1 I returned to Holden Manz for the Farmer’s Market last Saturday, which was not a typical representation of the foods which are normally available at the fortnightly markets, I was told. Tonight I went for dinner with my nephew, and had a Caprese salad, with fresh rosa tomatoes and tender basil, served with a rich Buffalo Mozzarella, as a starter, and the prawns and asparagus for the main course. I would have preferred the prawns to be deshelled, and had to ask for a finger bowl. The sprinklers were set on a lower level, but still wet the pathway to the car. The responsiveness by the security staff at the gate could be faster. The restaurant has received a number of bookings since this review was published on Saturday, Chef Bjorn said proudly. Now that I know the name of the Manager Martin, he is more responsive, and less introverted. Chef Bjorn will also take over the Blog and start a Twitter account for Franschhoek Kitchen.
POSTSCRIPT 18/1: I returned to Franschhoek Kitchen with two Whale Cottage Managers this evening, and all three of us had the linefish – Carole and I both chose the kingklip, served with baby potatoes, asparagus and the freshest Rosa tomatoes from the Holden Manz garden (R90). Marianna had the sea bass, and found its taste ‘wilder’. The kingklip was a generous and juicy portion, outstanding in preparation. Chef Bjorn spoilt us with a platter of wonderful ham and salmon, mozzarella, greens, and olives, served with toasted ciabatta. For dessert he sent us trial portions of new desserts that have been added to the menu – a brandy panacotta and a white chocolate mousse, the latter being an especially big hit, indulgently tasting a little like cookie batter with a soft meringue topping. We had a wonderful evening, impressed even more by Chef Bjorn’s cuisine. When one eats at Franschhoek Kitchen, one gets a glass of Klein Genot Rosé for free with the meal.
POSTSCRIPT 23/4: I returned to the Franschhoek Kitchen on a cold Easter weekend evening, and enjoyed the cosiness of the fire in the restaurant, as well as the good winter-style food prepared by Chef Bjorn Dingemans – wild mushroom and white truffle risotto starter, pork neck stuffed with sage and apple, and a selection of the desserts, including new pastry chef Stuart’s carrot cake, and poached pear and vanilla cream cheese, which the chef sent to the table. It is good to hear that lunches are getting busy at the restaurant. Evenings are still quiet, but guests can be collected from guest houses by the Holden Manz shuttle.
POSTSCRIPT 7/8: Last night I enjoyed one of the Fondue is Fun evenings at Franschhoek Kitchen, which have been a sell-out success since they were introduced earlier this winter. A fondue pot with boiling oil was set in the centre of the table, and surrounding it was a collection of glass jars, containing fish, chicken, beef strips and prawns, and bowls of boiled potato pieces and crumbed mushrooms. Sauces one could dip the meat and vegetables into before cooking them were a champagne batter, sweet chilli sauce, and jus. A collection of spices was also available for dusting one’s fondue items: cajun, fish and vegetable spice. Delicious crispy bread was available. We were offered a glass of new Holden Manz port, in an elegant glass. The fun really started when all the diners were divided into groups, and wine manager Guy Kedian became the quiz-master, testing the Trivial Pursuit knowledge of all present. Correct answers were rewarded with a point, and for each incorrect answer, the team lost a point. This brain-taxing exercise was followed by a wonderful Lindt chocolate fondue, with which was served pieces of fruit, Brownies and donuts, all delicious when dipped into the chocolate. Everyone had a wonderful fun evening. Further Fondue is Fun evenings this month take place on 17 and 27 August, and cost R150, excluding drinks.
Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz Wine Estate, Green Valley Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876- 2729. www.holdenmanz.com. (The website contains the menu, still lists the festive season specials, and has a small gallery of only interior shots, with no food shots. A blog has been started, with only three posts to date). Open Tuesday – Saturday 10h00 – 22h00, and on Sundays 10h00 – 15h00. (The menu says: “sunday is family day – slow cooked lunch or braai”). No Breakfast is served, only lunch and dinner (the website says Breakfast is served every second Saturday when they host the Farmer’s Market, contrary to the waiter’s information). Picnics are also offered.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage