Cru Cafe’ is the first restaurant to have opened in the new extension to the Cape Quarter, and is a wine bar serving meals, rather than a restaurant that has a winelist! With more than 120 wines and 20 wines-by-the-glass on its extensive winelist, handpicked by its director Elsie Pells, a Cape Wine Master, it makes a serious statement about its commitment to wine. A wine shop forms part of the restaurant. The restaurant space is their “terroir”, says Elsie.
Elsie Pells is charming, and a first meeting at the Portofino launch forms the foundation for a chat when she sits down at the table, and tells us about the wines and the restaurant. She has a strong hand on the wine and food serving. Previously with NMK Premium Global, she now works as a wine consultant, sourcing wines, designing wine lists, and is soon to jet off to Prague, where she will help a local importer select the best South African wines to import. She explains that Cru Cafe’ has selected twelve wine partners, who will provide wines to Cru Cafe’ for the next year, in return for more than one variety of the estate being carried, and these include Delheim, Boekenhoutskloof, Meerlust, Laibach, Joubert Tradouw, Kaapzicht, Paul Cluver, Graham Beck, Klein Constantia and Cederberg. She is proud to have selected a number of Platter 5-star wines on the winelist, before Platters announced its 2010 5-star list.
White wines range from R 80 for the Vergelegen Vin de Florence to R 460 for a Sterhuis Astra Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay. The red wines range from R 90 for the Delheim Cabernet Shiraz to R 580 for the Kanonkop Paul Sauer. Boekenhoutskloof’s 2006 Syrah costs R 480, and the Meerluct Rubicon 2004 costs R 490.
Elsie explains that in wine, “cru” is usually linked to “grand”, meaning ‘great growth’, and this is what Cru Cafe’ hopes to achieve: serving high quality food, wines and offering quality service.
The chef Wesley Petterson is from the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Vineyard Hotel, and Elsie is clear that only lunches and dinners will be served, to match their wines. Breakfasts are to be eaten at other restaurants in the Cape Quarter, she says. The menu has a smallish selection of about 6 starters, salads, mains and desserts each, as well as about ten tasty-sounding tapas choices.
The most more-ish homemade cheese sticks are served prior to the meal coming to the table. The steak was good and the dried seaweed on the steak was a reminder of steaks enjoyed at Tank across the road many moons ago. The Delheim Shiraz by the glass was excellent. The waitron service still needs some help, especially on the wine side.
A most annoying discovery was an automatic addition of 10 % “commission” to the bill. The manager graciously took it off the bill. The service is not yet at the level to deserve a 10 % tip. Tips should be a discretionary payment by the diner anyway.
Tom and Jacques Castelein are the owners of the restaurant, which has a name-sake in Chicago, and they previously owned Tasca de Belem in the V & A Waterfront.
Cru Cafe’ is in the Cape Quarter extension at 27 Somerset Road, De Waterkant, tel 021 418 6293, www.thecrucafe.com. Parking is available in the building, and is currently free of charge.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio www.whalecottage.com