At the conclusion of The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference held at Spier over the past two days, the seven South African winners of the 2016 Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards were announced. Continue reading →
The launch of the new cookbook ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ at La Motte wine estate yesterday was characterised by the professionalism and excellence that this Franschhoek wine estate has become known for, and demonstrated the leadership of La Motte in proudly promoting the cuisine heritage of the Cape Winelands.
From the time that the restaurant Pierneef à La Motte opened over a year ago, Cape Winelands cuisine has formed the foundation of its menu, its Culinary Manager Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche having researched a collection of recipes that originated from the Dutch, German, French, Flemish, and British settlers that came to the Cape more than 300 years ago, and a selection presented in the restaurant, with a modern twist. The collection of recipes has been captured in the new book, which La Motte CEO Hein Koegelenberg describes as follows: “What really makes this book so special is that it is the first time in the history of South Africa that such a complete and detailed traditional recipe book with historical, scientifically based recipes is published”. The book ‘unlocks the history of food in South Africa and serves as a valuable guide to treasured food knowledge that was almost lost by our generation’, said the La Motte media release.
The 288-page book, with photography by Micky Hoyle, contains more than a hundred recipes. A limited number of copies of the book was flown in from overseas for the launch function, so we were not able to page through the book. The book should be widely available from November. An unusual launch approach was used, by having a panel discussion with Hein and Hanlie Koegelenberg, Chef Chris Erasmus, and Hetta about the book, led by Rooi Rose food journalist and cookbook writer Mariette Crafford, asking interesting and challenging questions about the book, the history of Cape Winelands cuisine, and the cuisine policy of Pierneef à La Motte. Chef Chris said his ‘roots are here‘ (in the Winelands), and highlighted that it is important to go back to celebrating South African food. There is a move away from deconstruction, to go back to serving food that reflects the season and the region. People want food like they had at home, like mother used to make, which was like a ‘liefdesbrief’, often the favourite dish of each family member being made for Sunday lunches. So the book contains something for everyone, it was said. Pairing the flavours in wines with those in foods makes the eating and drinking experience special, said Hein. La Motte has started planting trees with traditional fruits, to harvest from in future, including guavas, figs and quinces, and they have started planting herbs and vegetables, for use in the restaurant kitchen. All chefs seek to be self-sustaining as far as supplies go, but there are some limitations, such as the local supply of venison and ‘heirloom vegetables’, Chef Chris mentioned. Hein emphasised that La Motte is a family business, with family values.
The most impressive part of the launch function, over and above the lovely lunch at which we tasted some of the recipes contained in the book, was the recognition that all restaurants in the area should stand for and support Cape Winelands Cuisine, an unselfish promotion of the cuisine wealth of the region. A number of chefs were invited, including Margot Janse from The Tasting Room, Ryan Shell from Haute Cabriere, Topsi Venter, Neil Jewell from Bread & Wine, Christophe De Hosse from Joostenberg Deli, Neethling du Toit from La Petite Ferme, Marianna Esterhuizen from Marianna’s, Abie Conradie from Noop, Leana Schoeman from the Salmon Bar, and Simone Rossouw from Babel at Babylonstoren. Suppliers of Pierneef à La Motte were invited too, a nice touch, as were a number of bloggers and print media food journalists. Restaurants and wineries from the area were encouraged to help market the book.
The lunch menu detailed the background to the items we were served, which has become characteristic of the menu at Pierneef à La Motte. Each table was served a selection of starter dishes on a wooden board, to be shared, reflecting the ‘family’ feel one gets when one visits the restaurant. The selection consisted of the signature Cape Bokkom salad (predicted by the restaurant to become a classic such as the Waldorf salad, Caeser salad, and Salad Niçoise), pickled fish with capers (its origin being Arabia), offal brawn (introduced by the French Huguenots), Rolpens (stuffed stomach, introduced by the Dutch), and pickled tongue, served with wholewheat farm bread from the La Motte Farm Kitchen. This was paired with La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2011. For the main course, the menu listed sweet and sour pumpkin and lamb stew, and pan-fried Franschhoek trout on a sweetcorn fritter with red wine sauce and turnip dauphinoise. Interestingly, we were not asked our preference, and every alternate guest was served one of the two main courses. Again, as a ‘family’ of guests Spit or Swallow’s Anel Grobler and I shared our main courses. I had the trout, and the menu stated that serving fish with a red wine sauce will have originated from the Dutch, but had been found in historic German and French cookbooks too. It was paired with the La Motte Chardonnay 2009. The stew recipe, paired with La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier 2008, has its origin in Arabia, and was written about by a Cape traveller venturing into the African interior.
The dessert was a refreshing summer sweet soup with fresh berries, and a ball of fruit sorbet delicately balanced on two biscuit sticks over the bowl. Sweet soups came from Holland, but probably have their origin in Italy. A lovely pairing with this dish was the La Motte Méthode Cap Classique 2008. More treats were served with the coffee, a collection of biscuits, Cape fruit tartlets, macaroons (not a modern dish, but one that was originally called ‘makrolletjies’, made then with desiccated coconut, or almonds), apple marmalade, ‘kwartiertertjies’ (‘samoosa’ triangles, with an origin in Persia), ‘oblietjies’ (waffles) with cream, and cheese-tart with preserves.
The interesting and unusual launch of the book via the panel discussion in the historic wine cellar, the lovely lunch at Pierneef à La Motte paired with excellent La Motte wines, the friendly ‘family’ collection of guests, and the professional packaging of media information, with recipe postcards presented in a wax-sealed envelope with the La Motte emblem, is a recipe for success for the new cookery book, and for Pierneef à La Motte, which has been nominated as an Eat Out Top 20 restaurant, and is certain to make the Top 10 list on 20 November.
‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’, Human & Rousseau, R450. Available at bookshops from November, and at the La Motte Farm Shop already. Tel (021) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
It would appear as if the world-wide recession has only hit South Africa, and the Cape in particular, now and with a severe bang. There is almost daily news of restaurant closures, three alone in the past three days, sad given how much the restaurants have invested in building a brand name and a regular following for their businesses.
The more than 100 restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands that are offering such generous Winter specials must be commended, and we will do our best to make their specials known to as many persons as possible. We encourage our readers to do the same, to prevent any further closures.
The following restaurants have closed down in the past few months, and these may not be the only ones as the winter takes its toll:
* Liquorice and Lime has closed down on St George’s Mall
* Cheyne has closed on Bree Street
* The Kitchen Bar in the Quarters’ Hotel in Hermanus has closed
* The Bistro in Franschhoek has closed down
* The Sandbar in Camps Bay has closed down
* The Blonde building is up for sale, and does not appear to be re-opening in August, as was announced by The Caviar Group, owners of Blonde
* The Green Dolphin Jazz Club in the V & A Waterfront has closed down
* Mezzaluna in Loop Street has closed down
* Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge Pete Goffe-Wood’s Wild Woods Restaurant has closed down.
* Restaurant Christophe closed down in Stellenbosch on 25 June. Eat Out Top 20 Chef Christophe Dehosse will be back at Joostenberg from August.
* Nando’s in Camps Bay has closed down
* Haute Cabriere, under the chefmanship of Matthew Gordon, closed on 7 June at the wine tasting venue with the same name in Franschhoek. See below for re-opening.
* Karma closed down in Camps Bay
* Hermanos in Hermanus has closed down
* Fizz Affair Champagne and Wine Bar has closed down in Franschhoek
* Doppio Zero in Green Point has closed down
* Nzolo Brand Café has closed down in Church Street
* L’Aperitivo has closed down. See below for Valora.
* On Broadway’s in-house restaurant has closed down. Re-opened as Roberto’s on 7 July – see below.
* Doppio Zero Claremont has closed down
* Brio 1893 is closing down on 12 August
* Chenin has closed in the old Cape Quarter
* Cafe Max has closed down in De Waterkant
* Bella Lucia has closed down in Wynberg
* Iconic restaurant Linger Longer has closed down in Johannesburg after the death of chef Walter Ulz, 2010 Eat Out Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
* Postocini Express has closed on Greenmarket Square
* De Huguenot Restaurant, only having open for six months, closes at the end of October. The Harry Q bar will continue operating, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The De Huguenot Estate will concentrate on weddings and events.
* Wildflour has closed down on Regent Road in Sea Point.
* The Olive Shack in Franschhoek has closed its restaurant operation, and will only operate as a shop selling olive-related products.
* 221 Waterfront has closed down in the V&A Waterfront
* What’s On Eatery in Watson Street has closed down
But all is not doom and gloom, and the restaurateurs that are opening restaurants in these difficult times must be congratulated and wished well. These restaurants opened their doors this year :
* Etienne Bonthuys (ex-Tokara) has opened his long-awaited restaurant on Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, called Casparus, in partnership with artist Strijdom van der Merwe (left).
* DISH has opened at Inn on the Square, Greenmarket Square
* The Olive Shack at Allora in Franschhoek has opened as a deli, doing olive oil tastings, and serving Breakfast, Greek lunches and picnics
* Tables restaurant has opened at Nitida wine estate in Durbanville
* Mozzarella Bar has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens
* Café Benedict has opened on the main road in Franschhoek.
* Trinity has opened as a ‘super club’ in Bennett Street in Green Point
* Il Cappero Italian Restaurant* has opened in Barrack Street
* Caffé Milano* has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens
* The Stone Kitchen has opened at Dunstone Winery in Wellington
* The Franschhoek Food Emporium has open in Place Vendome, and is owned by legendary Topsi Venter’s daughter Danielle
* What’s On Eatery* has opened in Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street
* Haas Coffee Collective has opened on Rose Street in Bo-Kaap
* Dear Me Brasserie and Tjing Tjing Bar has opened on Longmarket Street (right).
* Act Restaurant and Play Bar have opened at the Baxter Theatre
* Le Coq has opened in Franschhoek
* Dash has opened in the Queen Victoria Hotel in the Waterfront
* Café Dijon has opened another branch at Zorgvliet wine estate
* Harbour House has opened a branch in the V & A Waterfront, where Fisherman’s Choice was
* KOS Coffee & Cuisine has opened in The Regency on Regent Road in Sea Point
* Café Extrablatt has opened where shu used to be, in Green Point
* Skinny Legs & All has opened on Loop Street
* Leopard’s Leap will open its picnic facility, tasting room and cookery school outside Franschhoek in November/December
* De Huguenot Estate has opened The Marianne, Harry Q Bar and Fraiche, with ex-Hunter’s Country Lodge chef Tanya Kruger in the kitchen. (The De Huguenot restaurant closes at the end of October – see in closures above, and Fraiche Deli will no longer open).
* Cicciobella Pizzeria has opened in Hout Bay
* Takumi has opened, with Chef Papa San the Sushi Master
* Sunbird Bistro has opened in the ex-Sandbar space on Victoria Road in Camps Bay, with Lana Doyle as chef and Pamela Trevelyan as Manager. Smart blue/white interior. Serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails and tapas.
* The Grand Camps Bay will be operated by the ex-Sandbar for Breakfast and lunch. The Grand takes over from 4 pm.
* Mezepoli from Johannesburg is opening in the Nando’s space in Camps Bay on 20 October
* Saboroso has opened in Bakoven, where Marika’s used to operate
* Café Le Chocolatier has opened a chocolate manufacturing and demo outlet Le Chocolatier Factory, next to its restaurant, in Franschhoek, utilising Lindt equipment and chocolate
* Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant has re-opened, with new chef Ryan Shell.
* Cavallo restaurant is said to open on the stud farm on R44, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, in 2012 or 2013
* Roberto’s has opened underneath On Broadway, owned by Chef Roberto de Carvalho, ex-chef at the Twelve Apostles Hotel and the One & Only Cape Town
* Luigi’s is opening in Paarl where Ciao Bella used to be
* Our Place is opening in Durbanville where Avocado used to be
* Friends Café has opened at 44 Belvedere Street, Claremont. Tel (021) 674-5510
* Valora has opened where L’Aperitivo was, on Loop Street
* Rococoa has opened in The Palms Decor and Lifestyle Centre in Woodstock
* Luke Dale-Roberts (The Test Kitchen) is opening another restaurant in Wynberg, said to be where Bella Lucia is – this report, initially announced on the Spill blog, has been denied by Luke Dale-Roberts
* Reuben’s is opening another Franschhoek branch off the main road, and will run it concurrently until its main road branch lease expires next year.
* Toro has opened in the old Cape Quarter, near the back entrance of Andiamo, as a Wine/Aperitivo Bar, with an ex-Overture chef
* Goloso Italian Deli and Wine Bar has opened on Regent Road in Sea Point, next door to Wildflour.
* Franschhoek Famous Pancake House, with owner Gideon, has opened as a take-away pancake outlet, in Mont View Centre, next to the gym, in Fabriek Street, Franschhoek.
* Cafeteria has opened in De Waterkant, initially selling wraps, sandwiches, coffee, and beautiful pastries, cakes and macaroons by Martin Senekal as take-aways, and planning to expand into a sit-down coffee shop in October.
* A late night dinner and dance restaurant will open in the ex-Brio space in October, with a chef from St Tropez, and a DJ from Cannes
* LM Grills has opened in Onrus, outside Hermanus, previous owners of restaurants with same name in Johannesburg and Mocambique
* Chez Chez has opened as an Espresso and Cheesecake Bar (serving 13 different cheesecakes), 3 De Lorentz Street, Tamboerskloof.
* Bistro on Rose has opened at 35 Rose Street
* The Slug & Lettuce has opened on Long Street
* Rhapsody’s franchise restaurant, mainly in Pretoria, is to open next door to Café Extrablatt in Green Point, where Doppio Zero used to be
* Wale Rose Lifestyle has opened in Bo-Kaap, on the corner of Wale and Rose Street, serving Cape Malay as well as ‘cosmopolitan food’.
* Andy Fenner (JamieWho?) and friends are opening Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants on Kloof Street, opposite McDonald’s, in December
* The Kitchen at Maison opens on Maison wine estate in Franschhoek on 16 November, with Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg (ex-Ginja, ex-Myoga), and Manager Julian Smith (ex-Grande Provence, ex-Waterkloof, ex-Pierneef a La Motte)
* McDonald’s is opening a ‘concept store’ in the V&A Waterfront, where 221 Waterfront used to be
* Batho’s Place African Restaurant has opened in the township in Franschhoek. 082 090 8660
* Liam Tomlim’s Cookery School opens at Leopard’s Leap at the end of November, next door to La Motte in Franschhoek, also serving picnics.
* F.east Indian Restaurant has opened corner Long and Bloem Streets, in Cape Town
* Chef Jacques de Jager, has left Salt Restaurant, after about 18 months
* Restaurant Manager Darren Morgan has left Dash Restaurant, and is now at the One&Only Cape Town
* Food & Beverage Manager of Dock House, Queen Victoria Hotel and V&A Hotel, Alton van Biljon, has left
* Chef Lucas Carstens has left Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town, and joined Cuvée Restaurant, at Simonsig wine estate
* Blues in Camps Bay is reducing the size of its restaurant, and re-opens as Blues Beach House on 14 October
* Chef Leigh Trout has left Mange Tout at the Mont Rochelle Hotel, and has bought Bird Café and Gourmet Eatery on Bree Street, with Kevin Mink. They re-opened on 1 September with an amended interior and a new menu.
* Ex-Hermanos chef/owner Wayne Spencer is now at Burgundy in Hermanus
* Carl Habel, Sommelier of The Mount Nelson Hotel, has been appointed Restaurant Manager of Planet Restaurant too
* Peaches and Cream on the Main Road in Paarl has been taken over by Anica Bester
* Mediterrea in Hermanus has changed its name to Grilleri
* Patron Chef Stefan Louw has taken over the running of Heaven on Newton Johnson wine estate in the Hemel en Aarde wine valley.
* The Black Pearl is the new name of the Tapas, Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, with new owners, of the ex-Seven Sins on Kloof Street.
* Chef Oliver Cattermole has left Dash restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel, and joined What’s On Eatery on 1 October.
* Cocoa Oola has opened on Kloof Street, where Oishii used to be
* Chef Anri Diener has left Majeka House, and Chef Tanja Kruger from De Huguenot Restaurant takes over her position
* Chef Daniel Botha has left Le Franschhoek Hotel, and starts at Salt Restaurant on 1 November
* Chef Oliver Cattermole, previously with Dash and What’s On Eatery, has started as Executive Chef at Le Franschhoek Hotel on 7 November.
* Chef Matthew Gordon in Franschhoek is opening a new restaurant in Paarl
* Dieu Donné in Franschhoek has leased its restaurant to Martin and Marco from Durban, and they have renamed it La Rocca. Chef Jo van Staden has returned to Durban with her husband, Chef Gerard van Staden, who has returned to the Beverley Hills Hotel.
* Chef Chris Smit of Café BonBon has resigned
* Chef Christo Pretorius, previously of De Huguenot, has started at 1800 Restaurant at the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel
* Sommelier Neil Grant of Rust en Vrede has resigned, leaves at the end of November, and is said to open a new restaurant in the Old Biscuit Mill
The following restaurants are taking a winter break:
* La Colombe: 30 May – 20 June
* River Café: 10 – 30 August
* Constantia Uitsig: 4 – 26 July
* The Grand Café Camps Bay: June and July
* Pure Restaurant: 1 – 31 July
* Terroir: 1 – 11 July
* Grande Provence: 18 – 31 July
* Pierneef à La Motte: 15 June – 15 July
* French Connection: 30 May – 20 June
* Freedom Hill: July and August
* Overture: July
* Waterkloof: 27 June – 20 July
* French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar 18 – 24 July
* Tasting Room and Common Room at Le Quartier Francais closed until 31 July
* The Olive Shack at Allora in Franschhoek is closed until the end of September
* Tokara Restaurant: closed 8 – 22 August
* Blues in Camps Bay is closing for a month from 22 August – 2 October, for renovations to reduce the size of the restaurant
* Allée Bleue will not be serving lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays during September.
* The Kove in Camps Bay is closed until mid-September for renovations
* Laborie Restaurant in Paarl is closed for renovations until end October.
POSTSCRIPT 28/7: Pete Goffe-Wood, ex-owner of Wild Woods in Hout Bay, has written a frank article on Food24 about why he recently closed his restaurant. He blames Capetonians for not supporting restaurants in winter months, which means that they have to cover costs out of savings created in summer, to keep the business afloat in winter (this is a general Cape winter scenario for all businesses in the tourism industry – if one does not know about this, one should not be in the business in the first place!). He writes that Johannesburg restaurants do not suffer this seasonality. The recent 2-week summery spell proved what an important role the weather plays – business was booming for restaurants and accommodation as Capetonians left their homes, went out, and spent money, a welcome cash injection in these difficult times. The Bastille Festival in Franschhoek had record attendance during this period.
Restaurant Specials cause cost undercutting, which attracts business and provides cashflow, but does not help the industry, he writes. If specials weren’t offered, one probably would have seen a far greater number of restaurants closing down. They are hugely popular, and on this blog the Restaurant Specials listings are the most popular of all blogposts. He also blames restaurant owners, often chefs, for being too ’emotional’ about their businesses, and for not seeing the signs of tough times early enough, which may call for closing one’s restaurant. Clearly opening any business at the moment is high risk, and for a hospitality business the risk is even higher. Goffe-Wood also lashes out at the recent Weekend Argus article about Restaurant Closures, using names from this blogpost. As much as he blames journalist Helen Bamford for getting her facts wrong, he does too, in calling her Linda! Describing a non-renewal of a restaurant lease as not being a restaurant closure or failure is very debatable – if things were going well, leases would have been renewed, especially for a restaurant like Haute Cabriere, where Chef Matthew Gordon had operated for 16 years!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
It’s been a long time since I have been to a restaurant that is as badly run and so overall disappointing as Café des Arts, previously Topsi’s. It is an embarrassment for Franschhoek, a village that prides itself on its gourmet standards.
I had read feedback about Café des Arts on Twitter, both Rob Armstrong and Dax Villanueva praising it, and felt obliged to try it out, one of the few Franschhoek restaurants I had not been to yet. I arrived at about 20h00 on Friday evening, to a restaurant which still has the Topsi’s signs outside on the main road and on Reservoir Street, dishonest I felt, given that the restaurant name change took place in August last year, and no attempt has been made to change the signs after taking over from esteemed chef Topsi Venter. I was one of four tables, all Franschhoekers that I knew. I was surprised in retrospect to see them eating there, one couple in particular, having come out from Cape Town and previously owning a wine farm in Franschhoek.
I take my time in ordering at a restaurant, assimilating the interior, making notes about what I have observed, and felt pressurised to order by the co-owner Louise Rambert, when I had not even looked at the menu board. She brought the winelist blackboard to the table first, but oddly placed it behind me, which meant that I had to turn around to read it. The menu blackboard was placed against a wall, which I could read more comfortably, yet not all the handwriting on it was legible. The teriyaki pork belly with Asian noodle stirfry had sold out, but it had not been deleted from the menu board, and Louise snapped at me when I wanted to order this dish.
I had not been to Topsi’s for many years, but remember that she had tables on two levels of the restaurant. Now it is contained to the higher level, the entrance section being an untidy mess, containing a bookshelf that had not appeared to have been touched in years and left in a haphazard state. An industrial fridge and a counter with the coffee machine, as well as more menu boards, were visible, the room looking more like a storeroom than part of a restaurant. Tables are wooden, with riempies-style chairs. There are no tablecloths, and a paper serviette is offered. The cutlery and glassware is cheap. On the table was an Oryx desert salt grinder and an unbranded pepper grinder, as well as a green sugar bowl. On a cold winter’s night the ceramic fireplace made the restaurant comfortably warm. The kitchen is open to the restaurant. There was artwork on the walls, mainly by Wakaba Mutheki, but also by other artists, such as Koos de Wet, the only other artist’s name which Louise could remember, yet they sell the artwork for RED! The Gallery in Tokai. A Mandela portrait is striking in its realism, and costs R30000. One wonders how a gallery could place this expensive art in such a poor quality restaurant environment. Louise told me that they have sold quite a few works already.
Chef Chris Hoffman previously owned Café des Arts in Kalk Bay, where he had a similar concept of displaying art in his restaurant, but these were local artists. He was trained as a chef by Topsi 16 years ago, in her Franschhoek restaurant, and he took over Topsi’s after a visit last year, feeling that Topsi was struggling to run her restaurant after a serious knee operation, and that her family was neglecting her, one of the other guests told me. Chris closed down his restaurant in Kalk Bay, and took over Topsi’s, renaming it Café des Arts, and Topsi can be seen there frequently, I was told, when she is not at her daughter’s good Franschhoek Food Emporium deli in Place Vendôme.
At first I thought Louise was a waitress, as she had attitude, but she pointedly told me that she was the ‘owner’ of the restaurant, until I asked her about the chef, and she admitted that he co-owns the restaurant with her. I have never met a restaurant owner who is so disinterested in her clients, who deals with them functionally, who takes no interest in finding out what makes them come to the restaurant, and whether one is a local or not. Louise told me proudly that they do not advertise, as they are only there to serve the locals, and want to get known by word-of-mouth. A waitress worked with Louise, but stood near the kitchen most of the time, only bringing one dish to the table, and not communicating at all. Louise asked for feedback about my main course dish, being lamb’s liver, and when I told her it was tough, she did not respond, walking away from the table. It became clear to me why she was pressuring me to order – the chef Chris left at 8.45 pm, once he had cooked my liver, walking through the restaurant in his odd-looking civvies, blatantly demonstrating that he had finished with us and his restaurant for the day!
The lamb’s liver (R75) was served with mash, bacon, and balsamic onions, and a rather tasty sauce, but was tough, but the pedestrian knife may have been partly to blame. I am so used to Reuben’s calf’s liver, that I did not like the lamb’s liver by comparison. I felt the dish to be expensive for what one got. Other options are two salads, a soup (R48) and mussels (R55/R85) for starters, two fettuccine dishes (R65 – R75), and main course choices were Red Snapper and Lamb loin chops (R110 – R115). I ordered the apple crumble for dessert, and was assured by Louise that it came with fresh whipped cream, but it was not whipped, and there was barely any on the plate, so that I had to ask the waitress for some more. I had also asked Louise to only warm up the dessert a little, but it arrived piping hot. I liked that it contained raisins, but the crumble topping was burnt. Other dessert options were chocolate tart, and a bread and butter pudding made from croissants, Louise said verbally, but the board stated that it was made from hot cross buns. All desserts cost R30. I was told by one of the patrons that the menu is changed regularly, and that she likes to eat at this restaurant, as they make dishes that vegetarians like she can order.
The winelist offered one or two wines per variety, a house Helderberg Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon (Louise told me that this belongs to Boekenhoutskloof) for R25 per glass. Haut Espoir Shiraz costs R130, and Stony Brook Shiraz 2006 cost R35/R170. I was disappointed with it, given its age.
I will never go back to Café des Arts, after my experience. I found it absolutely amateurish in all respects, and cannot see how it can survive. With a disinterest in the patrons, mediocre food, lack of food presentation, the chef leaving early, no interior design, no website, false marketing riding on the Topsi’s name, and a hand-written invoice with no contact details should one want to book in future, Café des Arts cannot be taken seriously in Franschhoek, nor is it a tribute to what went before at Topsi’s. I was happy to leave and have a lovely cappuccino at Reuben’s across the road.
POSTSCRIPT 4/5: The owners’ reaction to the review has been surprisingly unprofessional, and has led to them banning me from their establishment. See the Comments to the blogpost.
POSTSCRIPT 22/5: Seeing a number of extremely positive TripAdvisor reviews for Café des Arts via a Franschhoek Restaurant Google Alert today, I noticed that a review that I posted on TripAdvisor about my dinner at Café des Arts, condensed in content to my review above, has been removed! TripAdvisor has not sent a notification as to the reason for the content removal.
Café des Arts, Reservoir Street, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2952. No website, and none intended. Facebook page. Tuesday – Saturday. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage