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Restaurant Review: Extra cool, cheap, cosmopolitan Café Extrablatt

The first Café Extrablatt in South Africa and only the second outlet in Africa, on Main Road in Green Point, one of a collection of 55 franchise outlets in Germany, Austria, Turkey and Morocco, opened at the beginning of the month. It offers a wide variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes and drinks, from early morning to late night, at the most reasonable prices.

Heading up the Café Extrablatt Cape Town is Guido Dierschke, a friendly proud company representative, who has worked for the company for seven or more years, in stores, in the head office management, and opening new stores.  The first Café Extrablatt was opened in Emsdetten near Münster by Christoph Wefers with his brother Richard.   The name relates to the Extra edition of newspapers, and a collection of Sunday newspapers was available when I visited.  Magazines will be added too.  The pay-off line ‘Das gewisse Extra’ (that certain extra) represents the restaurant’s ability to offer a special dish, and to have a special place in the restaurant for its customers, Guido said.  In Germany there is an Italian style restaurant chain Scoozi and a Starbucks-style Voyton coffee take-away chain in the company collection, but these are not on the cards locally until the Café Extrablatt is running smoothly.

Being a franchise store, the interior decor reflects that of the German outlets.  A lot of natural colours and materials are used, including leather for the chairs and couches, wood and marble for the tables, and the original wooden floors of the building have been retained to give it character.  Woodbenders was used to make the furniture, and the colour palette includes leathers in orange, burgundy, green, brown and beige. Different table and seating styles are spread around the restaurant, upstairs and downstairs, to make seating sections, in which one can choose to sit, and to prevent the space from appearing as large as it is. In total the restaurant can seat 300 customers over the two levels (upstairs is for smokers), and there is seating outside on the street level and upstairs terraces too. There is a fireplace upstairs, each level having a large bar counter.  The light fittings are unique to the franchise, and were made in Germany, being two styles. Downstairs in the bar area is a massive lamp made from copper pipes.  On the other side of the restaurant and upstairs are ‘Tortenlampen’, designed to look like two-tier cakes.  Wall lamps, with a grass look to them, are also uniquely made in Germany for the franchise outlets.  There is a TV screen for matches downstairs.  The location for events in the Cape Town Stadium is ideal, being across the road, and the Coldplay concert saw their first full-house. Staff wear black pants, the female waitresses white T-shirts and the males black ones, with a white apron. Cutlery is by Fortis Hotelware, cute mini salt and pepper pots are brought to the table, as are unbranded olive oil and balsamic vinegar holders, with paper serviettes.

Ryan Seale is the chef, having worked at events contract companies in the UK (Lord’s cricket ground, West Ham football ground), at Singita, and for a contract company doing the catering for the World Cup last year.  His menu is largely that of the franchise, but with some additional dishes. All items on the menu are available throughout the day and night, with extremely long opening hours.  A ‘German Corner’ pays tribute to the German heritage of the company, offering chicken schnitzel (excellent portion of two pieces, which I ordered with potato salad, but is listed to be served with a salad or chips, at an unbelievably low price of R35,95) and veal schnitzel at R49,95, Currywurst at R49,95, and Viennas and potato salad (made using Guido’s mother’s recipe, with apples and gherkins) at R35,95.  A Breakfast Buffet with continental breakfast items, cooked breakfast as well as salads is offered at R79,95 from 8h00 – 12h00 on weekdays, and at R99,95 from 8h00 – 14h00 on weekends and public holidays.  Individual breakfast items are also available, ranging from R32,95 for scrambled eggs to R45,95 for fried eggs, bacon and sausage.  Many of the menu items offer a base item, with prices listed for additional extras and toppings.  Bruschetta costs R 22,95 – R32,95, with tuna, ham and cheese options. Baked potato with sour cream costs R17,95, and chilli con carne, tuna mayonnaise, and salmon can be ordered as extra toppings. Pita breads with fillings cost around R40. There is meat (R45,95) and vegetarian (R39,95) lasagne, and Pick & Dips cost R11,95 – R29,95 for spring rolls, chicken strips, risotto balls and calamari.  Burgers cost R39,95 – R49,95. Pizzas range from R35,95 – R67,95, and salads start at R27,95, peaking at R48,95.

Desserts are limited to Apfelstrudel at R29,95, and New York New York cheesecake from Chez Chez off Kloof Street, at R35.  They also stock Eiszeit ice creams, and I had a wonderful strawberry sauce made by Chef Ryan with a yoghurt sorbet (R19 for one scoop). I had wanted to order the Apfelstrudel, but Chef Ryan came to the table, asking me not to, as he is only making his own from this week onwards. The cappuccino costs R16, and the coffee is by Hausbrandt. Asara wines (Ebony, Ivory, Fusion, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé) are offered by carafe (R32 – R38) or bottle (R90 – R120). Pierre Jourdan sparkling wine is offered by the glass (R32) or bottle (R155), as are Graham Beck (R195), Pongrácz (R175), and Veuve Clicquot (R550).  Most beers cost R18, but Heineken costs R20, and beer on tap from Paulaner, Castle and Pilsner Urquell is available too. Cocktails and ‘mocktails’ are also offered.

With ample parking across the road, the excellent opening hours, the diverse menu offering, the value for money, and good location, Café Extrablatt is certain to do well.

Café Extrablatt, 79 Main Road, Green Point, Cape Town.  Tel 087 6250 463.  www.cafe-extrablatt.co.za, www.cafe-extrablatt.com. Sunday – Thursday 7h00 – midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 7h00 – 2h00.

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

Pub review: Watching the World Cup at Harvey’s Bar, Winchester Mansions

We decided that the South Africa versus Uruguay game had to be watched in style and comfort, to give our Bafana Bafana team the best possible support in this important game.

I had popped into the newly renovated Harvey’s Bar earlier that afternoon, for a cappuccino and their scones, which I had read about on Twitter.   What a portion it was – 2 large light scones, and a clever trio dish containing real cream, grated cheese and strawberry jam (which the Congolese waitress pronounced as “ham”, causing some confusion initially).  The price was an unbelievably low R 18 – one scone would have been good value at this price alone.

The space that was previously the bar as well as the meeting room has been consolidated into one large bar area, but divided into three sections, one being an open smoking one (I did not know that this was allowed) with a TV area, which leads into the large bar area with another TV, and a smaller, more private, lounge without TV.   Seating is a mix of chairs and couches, in shades of grey and silver.   In the central bar area, bar chairs look smart and comfortable.   Unfortunately the tables are too low, making it very uncomfortable to eat from, one having to bend so low.   The edges of the chairs are very sharp, quite dangerously so.   The glass-encased chandelier lights over the bar, and in the lounge areas, are the most beautiful lights I have seen in a long time.  Sitting in the small lounge initially, I noticed that the top half of the window, which is hidden from the outside by a canopy, had not been cleaned in months, and the bottom part had not been cleaned recently either.  With the sun setting in the west, one can see the dirty windows easily, and even more so when one is in the hospitality industry oneself.

For the match, we sat in the bar area, on the bar chairs, in front of a serving counter, so that we could see the TV screen.   The counters in the bar area were behind us, so it was a little uncomfortable to get one’s drink and food from behind – a couch on the other side prevents the bar chairs from being put there, something the hotel may consider changing during the World Cup.  The bar was not very full, and therefore it lacked atmosphere.   The staff seemed disinterested in this important match, and it was annoying that the barman mixed drinks extra loud and extra long on his machines, it seemed.   Service is quite shy as well, although our waitress Chrystelle had a beautiful smile.   I was surprised once again that soccer fans in bars do not order food, feeling quite comfortable to only have a glass or 3 of beer.   300 ml of Paulaner and Peroni cost R 22, 500 ml cost R 30; Jack Black costs R17 for 330 ml and R27 for 500 ml; Castle costs R15; Amstel R16; and Heineken R20.

The Harvey’s Bar menu has a small selection of food, and we chose four platters for five of us, too much food in retrospect.   We had a samoosa and spring roll plate (R 48), of which the waitress did not know the content, saying the spring rolls contained beef, but there was no meat inside them;  nachos con queso, with minced beef, almost too spicy nachos and lots of cheese, at R 58; potato wedges with two dipping sauces, at R 21, our most popular order; and spicy chicken wings with a tomato based sauce, making them messy to eat by hand, at R48.  Other options are Flammkuchen, an Austrian pizza-type covered with bacon, onion and sour cream (R28); prawn calamari (R77); Club Sandwich (R68); Tuna pie (48), Ginger chicken wrap (57); a sirloin steak sandwich (R75); and a Winchester Burger at R 75.

The wine prices are reasonable, and 250 ml carafes of white and red wine are available.  The house wine, both white and red, costs R 26.   Fantail Vineyards from Morgenhof, both White and Rose, Leopard’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc, and Tortoise Hill each cost R 30; Bosman’s Family Vineyards Chenin Blanc and Rose cost R 40; and Paradyskloof Chardonnay costs R 45.    Fantail Vineyards Pinotage and Leopard’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon cost R 29, Tortoise Hill and Fantail Merlot cost R 35, Edgebaston costs R45 and Cape Boar from Doolhoof costs R 54.   The sparkling wine is served per glass, Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Brut costing R 30, its Belle Rose costing R 45, and Colmant costs R 48.

The service is reactive rather than proactive.  The decor makes Harvey’s Bar an attractive venue, but it lacks spirit and energy, especially in watching a World Cup match.  There is no World Cup visibility at all except for a match schedule in the smoking section, and therefore it receives a low score as a World Cup soccer pub. Bafana Bafana’s sad loss did not help either!

Harvey’s Bar, Winchester Mansions Hotel, 221 Beach Road, Sea Point, Cape Town. Tel (021) 434-2351.  www.winchestermansions.co.za (no information about, menu for, or photographs of Harvey’s Bar).

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