Tag Archives: KWV Roodeberg

Restaurant Review: Laborie Le Restaurant food surprisingly good, service not!

It was the photograph of the prawn and pineapple tian that wine writer Edo Heyns took at Laborie Le Restaurant earlier this week, and tweeted, that made me drive to Paarl to try Laborie Le Restaurant.  I was surprised to find a restaurant with outstanding food, but sadly the service left much to be desired.  I am not sure of the exact name of the restaurant – it is generally referred to as Laborie Restaurant, but the winelist and the website refer to it as ‘Laborie Le Restaurant’, as does the business card for Executive Chef Alicia Giliomee.

My last visit to Laborie was a few years ago, for a family birthday lunch.  I remember it being a set menu, and being okay, nothing spectacular.  I’ll start at the end, which was the part that finally drove the nail in the service coffin, and that is that the property belongs to the KWV, and the restaurant is leased out to the Belgian owner Peter Rues.   The security staff at the boom are contracted out, and when I wanted to exit, I had to stop at the boom and hoot, despite the security guard being able to see me driving down from the parking area, which meant that he could have opened it so that I could just drive through.  He was incensed that I had hooted, and a war of words erupted.  I had to call the restaurant to ask them to get the boom opened, and as soon as he saw me making the call, he opened it.  I was seething when I left.   The incident left a very bad taste, and the Manager Nadia Beutler was very sweet in reporting the matter to the estate manager, and in apologising via Twitter.

Since I had last been to Laborie, the parking area in front of the building has been planted to lawns, and the parking is now behind the building.  There is no signage to indicate where to go to the restaurant entrance, so I followed other guests to find the entrance.  On non-windy days one can sit outside, and enjoy the view onto the Drakenstein mountains.  On my way in I noticed an outside table that had an old tree trunk as the base, with a glass top.   As the southeaster was blowing quite strongly, all the doors were closed, and we were uncertain as to where to enter.  I chose the first door, and saw staff talking to guests who had used the next door.  I was ignored and had to request someone to seat me – the waitress spoke to me across the spacious restaurant, and no one bothered to come over to me.   Flora finally decided to help me, and I chose a table.   The restaurant filled up quickly, and it was a contrasting mix of older Paarl residents lunching ahead of the Garden Club AGM to be held there, and business executives, including some journalists, and KWV CEO Thys Loubser, whom I have known for many years. 

The restaurant building is beautiful from the outside, dating back to 1961, and looks like a historic building with thatched roof and gable in the Cape Dutch style.   Inside the large room is functionally filled with tables, with a surprisingly modern chandelier, and chairs are brown leather.  The table cloth is a yellow/gold colour, and the patterned green curtains could probably do with an update.  The serviette was white, and one set of heavily used cutlery was set on the table.  I liked the vase with fresh flowers on each table.  Greenhouse olive oil and balsamic bottles are on the table, with small salt and pepper grinders.  Flora brought the menu and winelist, both with a mock-croc cover, and well-branded and identifiable as the winelist and menu (the bill was presented in a green plastic holder, and should have had the same cover, to create synergy).  Flora and I did not get on well at all, and she neglected me service-wise, so much so that I had to request my order to be taken by another waiter.  I was told that she has worked there for 30 years, and unfortunately it shows.  I asked her for the name of the chef, and she only knew her first name, but quickly added that she was off-duty, and that Lesley was in the kitchen, being “the Coloured one”!   Flora’s apron was dirty, not acceptable for the start of the lunch service, and her name tag was upside down.   Staff wear white shirts and black pants, and a Laborie branded apron.   She removed my side plate and serviette when she removed the other table settings.  I had a wow moment when I received a Direct Message on Twitter, welcoming me to the restaurant.  I had not booked nor had I identified myself on arrival, and I also had not tweeted about being at Laborie at that point in time.  The Manager Nadia said she recognised me, and had been the Tweeter.  She was helpful in providing information, and coming to my rescue at the boom.   The chef is Alicia Giliomee, who previously worked at Sand at The Plettenberg hotel and at Fairlawns in Johannesburg.

The menu has ‘footnotes’ on almost every page, some of which are repeated, and one is the pay-off line: “Laborie – where yesterday and today meet…”, not a bad description, the ‘yesterday’ aptly describing the service, and the ‘today’ the excellent cuisine, not quite what the owner had in mind, I am sure!   Another note warns one not to be in a hurry: “We are passionate about delivering delicious food and quality service, and thank you in advance for your patience”.  The note that impressed me was the following: “Laborie Restaurant is passionate about reducing our carbon footprint.  We support accredited suppliers within a maximum of 150 km radius and only serve seafood on the SASSI accredited green and orange list.  Our meat and poultry products are all free range and grain fed to add to your taste experience.  We also support small industry producers that can provide a product of quality”.  They write that they recycle waste too, as part of this policy.

The menu has a number of options: ‘Light Lunch’ includes salads ranging between R55 – R68, a Laborie Winelands platter of charcuterie, patés, cheeses and pickles (R85), a seafood platter of pickled calamari, mussels, tiger prawns and linefish (R92), as well as a mezze platter (R82).   A quick business lunch, entitled “Pronto! Pronto!”, consists of a Laborie salad, Cape Malay chicken curry and wild berry Vacherin, at a cost of R145.   A Food and Wine Tasting menu costs R245 for four courses, with a wine paired to each course.  Then follows the a la carte menu.  Flora brought the bread basket with wrapped butter portions.  I liked the bread with raisins in it.   I ordered the prawn and pineapple tian (R62), and felt it to be a generous portion as such, and also in terms of the number of prawns that it contained.  I was a little disappointed that there was little avocado in it, one of my favourites.  It was set on thin strips of cucumber, sprinkled with coconut flakes, decorated with cherry tomatoes, a miniature apple on top, and drizzled with a sweet chilli vinaigrette, almost a meal in itself.   Other starter choices include an onion tarte tatin,  steak tartar a l’Americaine, springbok carpaccio, and a salmon and spinach/basil cream roulade, all costing around R60.  

For the main course I had the slow roasted duck, with a crispy skin (R118), two pieces served with mash, peach slices, raspberries, an orange slice, and topped creatively with the thinnest potato wafer, a twig of rosemary, and a branch of basil, giving it a decorative touch.   It was the best duck I have had in a long time.  However, I was unimpressed with the side dish of mixed stirfried vegetables, so old-fashioned, and ‘done before’, consisting of red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, carrots, beans, corn cob, red cabbage, courgette and mange tout, being superfluous, given the generous duck portion.  None of the main courses exceed R129, and average at about R100.  One can also order linefish (silverfish on Thursday), roast chicken, artichoke and green olive gnocci, Cape Malay chicken curry, Chateaubriand, beef fillet, rolled stuffed loin of lamb, and Karoo lamb shank (I am not sure how the 150 km radius links to this item on the menu).   Desserts range from R30 – R45, and include a raspberry soufflé, truffles, cinnamon brûlé, frozen mint mousse, and a summer fruit savarin. 

The wine list has an introduction to the Laborie wine estate, and is named after the La Bri district in France.  In 1685 the farm was awarded to the first French Huguenot farmer Jean Taillefert, and the manor house was built in 1750.  The wines made by him on this farm were subsequently described as being “the best in the colony and similar to our small wines of Champagne”.  The wine list also states the following about the restaurant: “Your visit to Laborie Restaurant will allow you to reminisce about the Cape as it once was hundreds of years ago”.   The winelist is proudly-Paarl, or rather proudly KWV/Laborie.  Cap Classiques offered include the Laborie Blanc de Blanc (R40/R135), its Brut (R35/R125), and Brut Rosé (R35/R125).  KWV Cuvee Brut and Pearly Bay Celebration (also by KWV) cost R85.   KWV Roodeberg is available at R95.  The Laborie Shiraz 2008 is very reasonably priced at R35/R105, while the Laborie Limited Collection Shiraz 2008 costs R135.  The flagship Laborie Jean Taillefert Shiraz 2006 costs R 295.

Nadia is relatively new in managing Laborie Restaurant, and she is full of ideas.  She has marketed the Laborie Lazy Days market, which started three Saturdays ago, and it has become hugely popular already, being held on the new lawns – Nadia has an events consultancy background.   The lawns are ideal for functions, such as weddings and other parties.  She also wants to set up a champagne bar at the far end of the restaurant, to kill “the dead space” there, she said.   Gourmet picnics can be ordered at R145 per person.   There was good synergy between the restaurant and the tasting room, a note in the billfold inviting one to visit the tasting room.  I did not see where it is, relative to the restaurant.  The bill had a thank you in English, Afrikaans, German and French, a nice tourist touch.   I will certainly come back to Laborie Le Restaurant for the excellent food, and hope that I will strike it luckier with the service via a different waiter and in being let out at the boom.  I am confident that Nadia will look at improving all aspects of the restaurant, and will focus on the service side too. 

POSTSCRIPT 19/3:  I returned to Laborie le Restaurant for lunch today, after visiting the disappointing Laborie Lazy Days market.   I received a friendly reception from Nadia, and was delighted to receive her excellent service throughout the meal.  I was disappointed with the roulade of salmon and pesto, mixed with cream cheese, feeling it to have been overpromised in its description, but loved the airy and light frozen mint mousse. 

Laborie Le Restaurant, Taillefert Street, Paarl.  Tel (021) 807-3093.  www.laborierestaurant.co.za  (The website lists the full a la carte menu.  The Gallery only has a few photographs of events, and there are barely any photographs of Chef Alicia’s beautiful food presentation).  The business card for the Executive Chef is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, with appetite appeal, showing a delicious dessert and glass of wine, representing exactly what the restaurant is all about.  Twitter: @LaborieResto   Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Thursday – Sunday dinner.

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

Restaurant Review: Paarl’s Proviant Kaapse Tafel & Spens is “Boere Nostalgia”

I have driven past Proviant Kaapse Tafel & Spens on Paarl’s Main Road many times, but never noticed the restaurant.  I went to try out the restaurant this week for two reasons:  I had read somewhere that Chef Reuben Riffel had been to eat there, and it was suggested to me when I made a comment about most Paarl restaurants, other than Bosman’s, being closed on Sunday afternoons.  It is a flashback to the past, and was described by the co-owner as “Boere Nostalgia”.

My first reaction on arriving at the Victorian style house was one of scepticism – maybe it was the beige paintwork, which did not make the exterior look fresh or inviting to me.   I walked into the building, and there was no staff to welcome me.   On the left one enters two sections, with names at the entrance to each: “Tant Hetta se Spens” and “Negosiewinkel”.  The first section has Wilson’s sweets, apricot balls and other sweets dating back to one’s childhood.  This deli section has a display cabinet for home-made pies and their lovely farm breads (it is a surprise that one is not served a slice when eating there), which one can take home to buy.  The menu invites one to buy from the deli, but it was very bare, as the pies and breads had not been put out in the 39°C Paarl heat.  The second part of the shop had soaps and gift items to sell.  Tucked away around the corner was a shelf with preserves, ginger beer, rusks, stoneground flour, and general deli items.  Across the passage is Uncle Tiny’s pub, set up in honour of Tiny Neethling, who was a Springbok rugby player in the Sixties and Seventies – his rugby jersey and other memorabilia are displayed in the tiny pub.  One can sit outside at the back, with a lovely view onto Paarl Mountain and vineyards adjacent to the Proviant property.   It has a canvas roof, and it seemed exceptionally hot there, the heat being trapped underneath the canvas.   A fine spray mist is to be introduced, to address this problem.  It is a space often used for stork parties, kitchen teas, small weddings and other events.  I was offered a table inside with airconditioning, but only saw a lone table from the passage, not seeing the rest of the dining room with a massive fireplace and an ox wagon wheel light, which I saw later when I was shown around by Chef Rob Hahn.  The music inside reminds one of Nico Carstens, and was from a CD called ‘Trekklavier Hits’! 

I chose to sit outside on the stoep (there are benches lower down too), at a ‘plaas’ wooden table and chairs, very old-fashioned, setting the scene for what was to come. There are no placemats or tablecloth, and a beige material serviette had a set of pedestrian cutlery folded in it.  A little plant in a Lucky Star pilchards tin dating back many years, with a little red heart, reminded one of Valentine’s Day the previous day, as did a Boland Cellar Valentine’s Day promotion, offering their wines ranging from R 55 for their Five Climates Chenin Blanc to R78 for their mouthful of a Cappupinoccinotage!  I was ignored for a long time, after having been given the menu, a typical staff scenario of one staff member thinking another was taking care of me, it emerged.

The menu holder is a cheap black plastic one, and the inside front cover states that it is sponsored by Haute Cabriere.  Yet the page opposite had a full page advertisement for Boland Cellars, to encourage one to order their wines for Valentine’s Day, and I did not see any Haute Cabriere wines on the winelist.  The KWV head office is close by, and its logo is visible on a number of the menu pages.   The menu introduction refers to the ‘old friends’ bobotie, vetkoek, malva pudding, rusks and ‘boeretroos’ (coffee) one would have enjoyed in “Grandma’s kitchen’, the menu says, which one can expect on the menu at Proviant.  Breakfast is served all day, and creative names have been chosen to describe the menu offerings, e.g. the Boland Breakfast consists of bacon, ‘skilpadjies’ (liver in ‘net vet’), sausage, minute steak, farm bread and jam, at R69; a Farmer’s Breakfast is a reduced version of this at R55.  Bacon and eggs, and poached eggs cost R38, while scrambled eggs cost R45.   A number of light meals are on offer, including various burgers (R45 – R55), vetkoek and curry mince (R42), fishcakes (R45), generous home-made pies (R45), and toasted ‘samies’ (R36).  Starters include ‘Farmer’s Caviar”, being marrow bones (R35); bobotie springrolls (R38); a trio of patés (R49); and chicken liver peri peri, crumbed calamari and lamb kidneys, all three costing around R42. 

Salads range in price from R35 – R48, and include ‘Kiep-Kiep’, with roast chicken, bacon and egg; ‘Boland Bliss’, with smoked trout, avocado and feta; and ‘B&B’ with biltong, blue cheese and brandied dried fruit. The prices of main courses hover around R100, and are mainly below this price.  The list is extensive, and includes oxtail, Chakalaka rump, biltong cheddar rump, spicy lamb bunny chow, vegetarian bobotie, lamb shank, chicken schnitzel, fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, kudu loin, and a popular tourist “South African Plate” of bobotie, lamb curry and oxtail.   On the table a menu notice promoted a Friday evening Seafood buffet, costing R120, which includes paella, snoek paté, curry fish, prawns peri peri, calamari, Greek salad, and mussels, and is good value for this special offer, and Proviant generally has excellent prices.  In winter the Friday evening special of curries is very popular.  On Sundays a 3-course Carvery buffet is served, at R105.

I ordered the crumbed pork chops (R85), and it was the home-made apple sauce that attracted me to this dish, sweetish but delicious.  The plate was brought to the table by Chef Rob, and it had two chops, mash, butternut, and broccoli with a cheese sauce, all wonderful.  With it was served a really serious steak knife.  I had no intention of having a dessert, but when I saw the deep-fried ice cream (R25) on the menu, I had to try it.  It was a tasty vanilla ice cream encased in phyllo pastry and fried.   The pastry had a chewy texture to it, and was served in a caramel sauce.  Other “Scale Busters”, as the menu called them, are peppermint fridge tart, Malva pudding, and Van der Hum créme brulee, also costing an unbelievably low R25.   For ‘4 o’clock tea’ muffins, scones or cake are available, at R25.  

I was making notes when Nicky Hahn came to me, and asked if I needed help or information, which I declined.  She seemed a bit disturbed that I was copying her menu, and I explained to her that I was writing a review.  All of a sudden she recognised me, from the time she and her husband Rob ran Rickety Bridge’s restaurant and guest house in Franschhoek.  Rob told me that he opened Pearl Valley’s kitchen 21 years ago, and then he was part of the team opening the Park Hyatt in Johannesburg.   He was one of six selected chefs leading the team of 80 chefs cooking for Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration, and he proudly showed me the certificate of appreciation which he received.  Had I not been recognised, my review would have been very different, as the poor service by the waitresses had been most off-putting.  It proved to me once again how important hands-on service by the owners/managers is.   Needless to say the service was perfect from this point onwards.  Rob and Nicky Hahn are joint owners of Proviant with Marian (Neethling) and Mark Maingard, who now live in Namibia, but are returning to Paarl shortly.   Marian was the original owner of Proviant.  The very Afrikaans nature of Proviant (e.g. the Afrikaans menu section is before the English one, Afrikaans names for the room sections inside, Afrikaans-only Seafood buffet offer, the waitresses address one in Afrikaans, and Afrikaans bill) is in contrast to the English sounding Rob, but it probably means that he will ensure that they do not alienate their English-speaking customers too much.

The winelist is almost proudly-Paarl.  Wines by the glass include a dangerous sounding Masons “Klipkapper” Chenin Blanc at R18/R60, Masons Shiraz (R20), Nederburg Rosé (R20/R73), Protea Chardonnay from Antonij Rupert wines in Franschhoek (R25/R89), and KWV Cuveé Brut (R30/R86).  A nostalgia moment was to see a full-page promotion encouraging one to drink KWV’s Roodeberg, which was a treasure many many years ago, only exported or available via farmers who were members of the co-operative.  It is sold for R89.   Laborie’s Brut (R125) and Shiraz (R85) are also sold. 

Proviant will not be to everyone’s taste, South African English-speakers possibly finding it too Afrikaans, and younger restaurant goers finding it too old-fashioned.  But it is excellent value for money, and a good plateful of food is served.  Chef Rob described Proviant as serving ‘honest food’, and said that it is ‘the modern day Oom Samie se Winkel’ from Dorp Street in Stellenbosch. The bill was brought to the table in a ‘blikbeker’, demonstrating the absolute focus on the theme.  The nostalgia got to me when I saw an ad for Sunrise toffees in the menu, taking me right back to my childhood.   Rob sent me on my way with a massive potbrood, which he described as their “small one”, given that they sell an even larger size too, and it was a demonstration of the generosity of the ‘olden days’, when visitors were sent on their way with a gift. Proviant is now participating in the Laborie Lazy Days market on Saturdays, and sells its farm bread there.   

Proviant Kaapse Tafel & Spens, 54 – 56 Main Road, Paarl. Tel (021) 863-0949.  www.proviant.co.za (Website down).  Tuesdays until 17h00, Wednesdays – Fridays until ‘late’, Sundays until 17h00.

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

Restaurant review: Haiku still star-struck, 50 % more expensive!

Haiku restaurant in the Cape Town city center has been one of my favourites ever since it opened more than four years ago.  It is a sister restaurant to Bukhara, one of Cape Town’s leading Indian restaurants.  I have never written a review about it.

Being named as the Eat Out Best New Restaurant 6 months after it opened (a once-off award category of Eat Out) made the restaurant the in-place for Capetonians, and this led to an extreme degree of arrogance from the staff.  One could not book a table for the same day, let alone just arrive without a booking.

The initial success led the Haiku owner Sabi Sabhawal to open a Haiku in London, but the project failed dismally, due to poor location in an alley off a high street, exorbitant renovation and staff costs, and high menu prices, which resulted in the closure of the restaurant.  It proved to be a blessing in disguise for the restaurant, in that its best staff, but also its most arrogant, was sent to London, and most did not return to Cape Town.

For the past few months Haiku has become friendlier and more flexible.  There is no longer drama with cheeky waiters.   The canopy on the outside of the restaurant now proudly carries the Haiku branding.  But now its pricing has become excessive!

A visit back to a busy and buzzy Haiku last week, unbooked and latish at 22h15,  was a shock, because the menu has changed radically.  Haiku is unique in charging its dishes in stars, rather than in Rand, and prescribes that for dinner one has to eat for 4 stars each.   Each star used to cost R42, i.e. a total cost of R168 per head, and the price had not been increased for a good year.   Now the cost per star has been reduced to R40, and while this may seem that the price has reduced, it is misleading, as many dishes have been re-priced, a new half star pricing for menu items having been introduced.  A 3-course meal previously costing 4 stars, consisting of a starter (1 star), a main course (2 stars) and a dessert (1 star), now has increased to a 6-star cost, at R240 for the same meal items, a 43 % increase!   In addition, the plain rice, which was a free staple served with the main course dishes, now costs 1/2 a star.   The waiter David explained that the recosting was done because patrons “abused” the star allocation on the menu previously, choosing dishes which were better value, and which were meant to act as “loss leaders”.

Dave started at Haiku when it opened, and is the only “surviving” waiter.  He is gentle and nice, and informative.  I ask him what changes he has seen over the four year history of Haiku.   He says that while the restaurants patrons no longer are Cape Town’s trendsetters, they now are tourists, production company representatives, Johannesburgers and loyal international visitors.   He does not mention Capetonians.

The price increases of the dishes are not the only change on the Haiku menu.  The previous list of 260 menu items has been reduced to 200.    The look of the menu, and its headings is so different, that one has to get used to finding one’s favourite dishes.   The menu is divided into sections: Dim Sum, costing 1 – 1,5 stars, with a choice of spring rolls, fried wontons, dumplings and steamed rice rolls; Tempura, costing between 1,5 – 2 stars, with a selection of prawn avocado (still as delicious as ever), salmon, soft shell crab, mixed vegetables, and beef; the Sushi section cost ranges from 1 – 4 stars, and contains 38 options, including sashimi, maki, nigiri, California rolls, sandwiches, handrolls and more;  The Grills section dishes cost 1 – 3,5 stars, for Robata, Teriyaki, Tepanyaki, beef fillet and lamb chops;  Salads cost 1,5 stars; Soups 1 star; Noodle dishes cost 2 stars; Rice dishes range from 1/2 – 2 stars; Hot Pots 2 – 3 stars for mixed seafood and beef; ‘Sizzling’ dishes include beef, lamb, chicken and ostrich, and cost 2,5 stars; sixty Wok dishes are offered, ranging from 1,5 – SQ for the crayfish.  The entry level duck costs 3 stars, and the Duck Orange is still the favourite on the menu, as good as ever, with no reduction in portion size; Desserts now costs 1,5 stars, for coconut ice cream, mango ice cream, lychees and ice cream, chocolate spring roil, a trio of Asian desserts, a banana crepe, and chocolate mousse.

The menu is introduced with the following paragraph: “Dear guest, food at Haiku is served as tapas, each dish when ready, to be shared and enjoyed.  10 % service charge for 4 or more persons. A minimum charge is 4 stars per person for dinners only”.   The menu and the winelist are not available to be seen on the Haiku website, a privacy policy of the restaurant!

The Haiku winelist, in mock alligator cover, is branded Bukhara, and is extensive with about 130 wines, confusingly offering a first list of better value for money wines in bottles and by the glass, and then it continues by offering wines by variety, two pages for red wines and one page for white wines.    The value-for-money white wine list ranges from R 105 per bottle/R35 per glass for a Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc to R245 per bottle/R82 per glass for a Constantia Uitsig Reserve Semillon; the red wines range from R135 per bottle/R45 per glass for Jordan Chameleon to R445 per bottle/R148 per glass for Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmond.    Each variety is described succinctly, but no wine vintages are specified.   Sparkling wines cost R190 for Pongracz and R900 for Moet et Chandon; champagnes range from R212 for Graham Beck to R900 for Krug Vintage.  The classification of the Moet and the Graham Beck is interesting, each appearing to be in the wrong section.   The Overgaauw Chardonnay costs R138, the Hamilton Russell R405; Thelema Sauvignon Blanc costs R150, and the Fleur du Cap Unfiltered R220; a Simonsig Gewuerztraminer costs R124, the Platter White Wine of the Year, the Sadie Family Palladius, costs R790; Le Bonheur’s Cabernet Sauvignon costs R208, and that of Rustenburg Peter Barlow R620;   Vergenoegd’s Merlot costs R200, Durbanville Hill’s Luiperdsberg costs R425;  Grootte Post’s Pinot Noir costs R248, and Bouchard Finlayson’s Pinot Noir Tete Cuv R1 050; The Guardian Peak shiraz costs R133, the De Trafford R627 – Dave checks the vintages of the shirazes, and a Cloof 2003 is available – the other shirazes are 2007; a KWV Roodeberg costs R176, the Vergelegen V costs R1 400.

Haiku restaurant, Bree Street, tel 021 424-7000.  Dinner bookings taken for 19h00 and 21h00.  The website can only be accessed via www.bukhara.com, and is outdated, still featuring a page for the ex-London branch!

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