Tag Archives: Meerlust Rubicon

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journal, Day 90 of Level 1, 29 December 2021

 

Wednesday 29 December 2021, Day 90 of Level 1 ūüė∑

Corona Lockdown Gratitude ūüôŹ

#grateful for a bizarre high and low day today, waking up from a horrid nightmare, almost never dreaming ūüėĪ; for a working morning; for meeting Florian Gast and Barbara Lenhard for lunch at Zest, spoilt with the gift of a cellphone holder ‚Äėsling bag‚Äô, all the rage in Europe, catching up on more news and enjoying the sunshine and lunch #vielendank; for both my newkings and Zest Status meetings falling away, but meeting with staff of both clients, spending four hours there in total; for two Discovery Gameboard plays today; for putting in almost a full tank of petrol, at R900 ūüėĪ; for a Continue reading →

How much does Bruce Palling really know about food and wine? Not much, it seems!

Speaking to some of the chefs whose Eat Out Top 20 restaurants were bashed by blogger Bruce Palling in the past few days, a new picture emerges, in that he appears to have enjoyed our South African wines so much that he seems to have made a number of errors in his ‘reviews’ of the restaurants, writing about them six months after visiting them, misspelling wine and dish names, and even getting the meat types he was served wrong! ¬†He has done our country’s restaurant industry great damage and harm, and demoralised our country’s best chefs.

Palling had two bottles of wine per meal on average, and four bottles per day, on each of 15 days, a total of 60 bottles he blogged proudly, now an expert on South African wines too! Some of Palling’s faux pas were the following:

* ¬† Ordering Steenberg at Planet Restaurant, which he called ‘Steenburger’!

* ¬† He couldn’t spell Biesmiellah and denningvleis, even though he Tweeted about his (private) meal directly from the restaurant!

* ¬† He got the Vriesenhof variety he BYO’d at Makaron Restaurant incorrect, mistaking Continue reading →

Passionate Toro Wine and Antipasti Bar bullish about future!

I admire any business owner opening in these difficult times.  Refreshing is the opening by two 20-somethings of Toro Wine Lounge and Aperitif Bar in De Waterkant, in the space once housing the luxury crockery brand Villeroy & Boch in the old Cape Quarter.  Toro is a chic comfortable wine lounge and bar serving more than 30 wines by the glass, as well as a range of Italian-inspired antipasti.

Three weeks ago Matteo Conti and Grant Lynott opened Toro, meaning ‘bull’ in Italian, realising their dream to start a business together which would involve food and wine.¬† The two co-owners are hands-on, a yin-yang team, with Grant the more introverted partner, and Matteo oozing Italian confidence.¬†¬† What they lack in experience in running a business, they more than make up in passion for their new project.¬†¬†¬†Ideas had led them from a¬†deli, a whisky bar, to finally the idea of opening a¬†wine bar where they could drink wine and enjoy Italian food.¬† They couldn’t find one anywhere, and therefore decided to open their own.¬†

Matteo studied art direction,¬†photography and marketing at the AAA School of Advertising, and has been involved in¬†marketing his mother Renate’s guest house and restaurant Klein Olifantshoek in Franschhoek.¬† Four years ago he was in¬†our school lift club in Franschhoek, and he has come a long way since his Bridge House School days, so much so that I did not recognise him when I arrived.¬†¬†¬†Grant met Matteo, and shared a room with him whilst a first year at the University of Stellenbosch, but he realised that this is not where his passion lay.¬† Matteo advised Grant to study at The Culinary Academy on Backsberg wine estate, run by¬†Chef Ronan Boucher.¬† Over weekends Grant worked at La Bri wine estate in Franschhoek, and so developed his knowledge of and love for wines.¬† He also spent weekends¬†at Matteo’s home, and this led them to brainstorm ideas for¬†a joint business future together.¬†Finishing at the culinary school, Grant went to Overture, where he worked as pastry chef, making breads, preserves and pastries with Chef Bertus Basson.¬† After a year he realised that 18 hours of fine dining food preparation per day was not for him.¬†¬† He moved to La Boheme in Sea Point for a short while, until he and Matteo got together for their new project.¬† Grant’s favorite restaurant, without hesitation, is Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine,for the smokery,¬†his cheese room, and for his amazing breads.¬† For Matteo it is Delaire Graff, with its beautiful scenery and excellent food.

An interesting ‘family tree’ of wines was created for the Wine Bar by a design friend of Matteo’s, and depicts the linkages between different¬†grape varieties.¬† Comfortable brown leather couches create the homely ‘wine lounge’, but there are black tables¬†with black leather chairs too, as well as seating outside.¬†Toro sells a range of crystal decanters costing R400.¬†Over time they may add further wine-related products.¬† The wine list¬†has about 30 wines, all available by the glass, and none would be found in a¬† supermarket.¬† Grant and Matteo visited wine farms in Wellington, Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch before opening, and chose special and interesting wines, all costing R100 – R200, and R25 – R35 per glass.¬†¬† They have a flat screen TV with a list of their wines, but they told me that most of their wines are sold on their recommendation.¬† Popular white wines have been Warwick’s Professor Black and Darling Cellars’ Lime Kilns, and red wines selling well have been La Bri Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz Viognier, as well as Vondeling Petit Rouge and Baldrick Shiraz.¬† Some customers are looking for information about the wines that they drink. ¬†If the wine representative shares the information about their wines passionately, Grant and Matteo say they can sell it more passionately to their clients.¬† On the back-lit shelving Matteo has some wines and wine packs on display, including some special Meerlust Rubicons of 2001 and 2002, which he will not easily sell.¬† Coffee is by LavAzza.

Good cutlery, a material serviette, the most beautiful crystal wine-by-the-glass and water decanter (I bought one¬†for R110), as well as a silver sugar bowl impressed, adding class to Toro.¬†¬† The Antipasti is excellent value for money, and one can chose one’s own selection from a black menu.¬† Imported cheeses are Brie, Camembert, Teleggio, Manchego, Parmigiano and Gorgonzola, costing R15 each.¬† The Charcuterie selection includes Mantanara salami, parma ham, chorizo, coppa ham and Black Forest ham, each costing R15.¬† I chose the Brie and Camembert, and it was served with Grant’s home-made onion chilli salsa with a bite, plum cardamon jelly, grapes, fig preserve, and delicious sunflower rye bread from Jason’s Bakery in Bree Street.¬† The Pickle and Preserve Experience costs R50, and is served with Grants’ home-made preserves and pickles, including onion chilli salsa, candied aubergines, fig confit, plum cardamon jelly, passion fruit coulis, pickled olives, jalapenos¬†and baby cucumber, and marinated peppers.¬†¬† The Gratin also costs R50, and changes daily.¬† Yesterday it was a choice of Tagliatelle with macadamia pesto, chicken marinated in coconut milk, pink pepper corns,¬†and gratinated with Manchego cheese.¬† Bruschetta options were Truffle artichoke heart, and Pizzaiola (mozzarella cheese, basil, and tomato), at R40.¬† A Bar Snack board costs R80, and includes chilli poppers, chipotle salsa, jalapenos and biltong.

An innovative service for lucky De Waterkant residents and businesspersons¬†is a daily Box Lunch¬†delivery service, from 11h30 – 14h30.¬† Costing R50 and presented in a neat sturdy carton container reflecting Matteo’s art background, it contains an Insalate house salad of the day, a choice of Panino (tuna and lemon ailoi, roast beetroot and fromage blanc, roast chicken with smoked mozzarella, or honey glazed ham and mature cheddar), a trio of freshly baked cookies, and a 250 ml bottle of San Benedetto mineral water.

Having been to Toro twice in two days, I am impressed with the professionalism of the running of the Wine Bar, the passion of the two owners, the presentation and excellent value of the antipasti, the vast selection of good value wines, the free wi-fi, and the welcoming homeliness of the Toro.

POSTSCRIPT 3/6/12: Toro has closed down.

Toro Wine Lounge and Aperitif Bar, 68 Waterkant Street, De Waterkant (next to Andiamo Deli), Cape Town.  Tel (021) 418-2846. SMS 079 063 7055. Bbm: 27029f94.  www.torowines.co.za (The website has the menu, but no winelist, nor any photographs). @ToroWines.  Monday РFriday 10h00 Рlate, Saturday 16h00 Рlate.

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

Restaurant Review: There is no cellar at Sotano by Caveau!

Sotano by Caveau Mediterranean restaurant opened officially¬†today in the newly renovated funky La Splendida Hotel on Beach Road in Mouille Point, near the lighthouse.¬† Its name has caused confusion on Twitter, as it has been referred to both as Sotano (meaning ‘cellar’ in Spanish) and Sontano (the till slip spells it this way).¬† Given that¬†the name is to link to Caveau (‘cellar’ in French), the spelling must be the former.¬† However, there is no cellar visible or accessible to patrons at Sotano!

The restaurant is operated by Caveau, a Wine Bar and Deli in Heritage Square on Bree Street, and At the Mill in Newlands.   The owners are the trio of Jean-Yves Muller, Brendon Crew and Marc Langlois.   It is a surprise that Newmark Hotels, who operate the new hotel, has chosen to contract out the running of the restaurant to Caveau, when it has restaurant interests in OYO (in its V&A Hotel) and Salt Restaurant (in its Ambassador Hotel).   Talk on the street is that Caveau has lost its charm and attraction, and lots of its good staff.  

General Manager of the restaurant is Bruce Philemon, who has worked at Buitenverwachting as Restaurant Manager,¬†at Steenberg as Food & Beverage Manager, and as sommelier on cruise ships, he told me.¬† Chef Philip Myburgh was previously at Caveau, and before that at 48 on Hout Street, which no longer exists.¬† He was enthusiastic about his focus on ‘authentic Mediteranean’ food that will be served at Sotano, with an emphasis on seafood and shellfish.¬†¬†

The¬†wooden deck leading to the pavement, covered to protect patrons from the sun and wind (the south-easter can pump in that corner of¬†Cape Town), with wooden chairs and tables locally made from “French wine barrels”, the imprint on each says, is clearly the most popular space on a good summer’s day.¬† The problem with the outside seating is that non-smokers have to endure the smoking habits of others.¬† The beauty of the interior design could be lost to those patrons sitting outside, Inhouse Interiors having constructed a fascinating bar in white with coloured¬†bar stools.¬†¬†The restaurant section caters for a substantial number of patrons inside, on rainy and windy days.¬†¬† For ambiance, the restaurant could have done with music.

The restaurant opens at 7h00 every morning and will be serving breakfast until 11h00 every morning.  There are eleven breakfast options, and they seem expensive, but the prices can only be judged on portion sizes.   A health breakfast of muesli, yoghurt and honey costs R50; a charcuterie and cheese platter sounds an interesting breakfast option, at R 55; a salmon bagel with chive cream cheese and smoked salmon costs R60; French toast with fruit and mascarpone (R 55); full English breakfast costs R65; Eggs Benedict R60; and omelettes range from R58 РR70.   After 11h00 the blackboards offer snacking, as well as lunch and dinner options, until 23h00 every day of the week.  The staff are neatly dressed in white branded golf shirts and in grey aprons, with either Anthonij Rupert or Paul Cluver branding.

The Mediterranean menu is written onto two blackboards, and the writing is not easy to read for all menu items.¬†¬† My eye caught the expensive Caprese salad at R 82 immediately, and in general the prices seem on the high side.¬† Chef Philip explained that the mozzarella has been sourced¬†from an Italian in Cape Town, who makes the mozzarella from cow’s milk, and the full 100g ball is served in the salad.¬†¬† Greek salad costs R58.¬† Oysters cost R 18 each.¬† Vitello tomato costs (R65), Beef carpaccio (R60), Tomato salad (R60), Fish soup (R70) and Gazpacho (R40).¬†¬† The Gazpacho was spicy, and consisted of raw tomatoes, baguette slices, red and yellow pepper, as well as herbs, red wine vinegar and lemon juice¬†blended together to¬†make a thick refreshing summer’s day soup, a little on the oily side.¬†¬† Mains range between R98 (chicken supreme) and R125 (for grilled salmon and poached egg), seafood paella and crumbed veal being the only other options.¬† One can order flat bread at R20, with hummus (R10) or Tzatziki (R8).¬†¬† An avocado and feta pizza costs R70.¬†¬† For dessert one can order fresh watermelon, a summertime treat one rarely sees on a menu (R25), as well as nougat glaze (R28)¬†or lemon tart (R30).

Teething problems were the Cappuccino machine not working yesterday (although the hotel has a 70 % occupancy, and has been open since last week, and invitations on Twitter encouraged one to try the restaurant ahead of its official opening), and the toilet paper running out without any spare supplies.  Waiter training was happening in front of patrons.  A group of four next to me wanted to order a bottle of Pierre Jourdan Brut Rosé (R232), but the waiter offered to bring it by the glass, and the manager had to be called for assistance.   The winelist is not yet ready, but information on the winelist will be added to this review after it is finalised tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT 16/11:¬† I went back to Sotano by Caveau this evening, to finalise the winelist information for this blogpost.¬† When I looked for a table on the deck, I was blocked by Caveau/Sotano by Caveau Operations Manager Ross Stillford, who told me that the three owners of Caveau have decided that I am not allowed to eat at Sotano by Caveau, nor at Caveau, ever again¬†because of the review I wrote about Sotano by Caveau.¬† To add insult to injury, co-owner Brendon Crew Tweeted about this incident, referred to me as a “bitch” in a Tweet, and continued in disparaging and defamatory vein in subsequent Tweets.¬† Not a good start to a restaurant that has only officially been open for less than 24 hours!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:¬† I have managed to obtain details of the Sotano by Caveau winelist.¬† Seperated into “Bubbles, Whites, Rose, Reds, Desserts”, it details vintages but not region of origin.¬†¬† Two sparkling wines (Graham Beck Brut – R49/R195 and Pierre Jourdan Brut – R 38/R150) are offered by the glass.¬† No champagnes are served.¬†¬† About ten options per variety are offered, and each variety offers wines-by-the-glass.¬† Sauvignon Blancs range from R28/R110¬†for Haut Espoir to R51/R205 for the Warwick Professor Black.¬†¬†I was interested to see the name of a wine (Parlotones Push me to the Floor), a white blend sold at R116, I had not heard of before, and its red blend ‘sister’ Parlotones Giant Mistake.¬†¬† Shiraz options range from R25/R110 to R620¬†for De Trafford CWG 1999.¬† Magnums are available for Vriesenhof Grenache 2007 (R650), Jordan Cobblers Hill 2000 (R1000)¬†and Meerlust Rubicon 2001 (R1250).

POSTSCRIPT 2/12:  Neil Markovitz, the owner of the La Splendida Hotel in which Sotana by Caveau is located, was most apologetic about the Sotano/Brendon Crew incident when I saw him at the Newmark Hotels function two days ago.  

POSTSCRIPT 4/12: Today we went to have breakfast at Caveau, to try out the restaurant, given the many negative comments it attracted to this blog post.¬† We were served by the charming Lilly, who brought the breakfast board to the table, and took our order of scrambled eggs (R19) and cappuccino.¬† The prices were most reasonable, and the coffee was served in Origin-branded cups I have not seen anywhere else.¬†¬† We were shocked at how run-down the place looked on the outside, with paint peeling off the walls, the chairs wobbly, the tables and chairs not having been varnished for ages, and the Vin d’Orrance umbrellas dirty.¬† It generally smacked of neglect.¬†¬† Before we could be served our egg orders, we were asked to leave by the Caveau Operations Manager Ross Stillford, but not before we paid for our coffees!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Sotano by Caveau, 121 Beach Road, Mouille Point, Cape Town.  Tel 0711962660    www.sotanobycaveau.co.za (website under construction)  Monday РSunday.   7h00 Р23h00

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