Tag Archives: winemaker

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journal, Day 22 of Level 2, 8 September 2020.


Tuesday 8 September 2020, Day 22 of Level 2, Day 166 of Lockdown ūüė∑

Corona Gratitude ūüôŹ

#Grateful for a beautiful day; ÔŅľfor a quick walk this morning to get some steps, energizing me to write my Blogpost when I got back home; for being well organized in leaving for a Roadtrip, with my school friend Jenny Stephens ; for meeting Chef and Restaurateur Prim Reddy Chapter at her new Indian Chapter in Blouberg for the first time; for a lovely drive to Darling, visiting Evita se Perron, Darling Brew, and had tea and scones at The Marmalade Cat; for staying over at Waylands Guesthouse on the Waylands Farm, seeing flowers on the way already; for walking the last steps of the day on the Farm; for ending a lovely day with a Braai; and for being happy and healthy. ūüôŹūüíô Continue reading →

Holden Manz’s Franschhoek Kitchen has an energetic new Chef Cheyne Morrisby

Yesterday I met new The Franschhoek Kitchen Chef Cheyne Morrisby¬†at Holden Manz in Franschhoek for the first time, not having had the opportunity to do so when he owned Cheyne’s in Bree Street before closing it down last year. I was very impressed with the tapas he prepared for lunch yesterday, and their exceptional value for money. ¬†I also chatted to new winemaker Schalk Opperman and to Karl Lambour, the new Holden Manz wine production, marketing and sales director.

Chef Cheyne started at the Franschhoek Kitchen last Tuesday, and was busy making the tapas when I arrived. He told me that they will vary the tapas menu every week, depending on what they have available, and what the clients enjoy. ¬†The tapas feedback will help him to develop his own menu over time, retaining those dishes that have been a particular hit at The Franschhoek Kitchen, which was started by his predecessor Chef Bjorn Dingemans. One senses that he wants to spoil his clients, and the three item tapas portions, at a mere R35, is unbelievable value. ¬†He said that ‘the more one can enjoy, the better’, the policy he wants to offer his clients! Chef Cheyne is Cape Town born, worked at Blues for two years, and a planned one year job in London became an eleven year one, working at the Conran Group restaurants. In this time he cooked for Kate Moss, Kylie Mynogue, and Robbie Williams. ¬†He travelled to the East, including Thailand and Indonesia, and he said that his cooking style is that of the Pacific Rim. ¬†He loves their cooking methods, their simple approach to ingredients, and keeping food simple, fresh, clean and uncomplicated. They use base flavours to give food a good foundation. ¬†He decided to return to Cape Town with his family, wanting them to ‘feel’ Africa, and also wanting to give back to his home country. He set up Cheyne’s on Bree Street, with a R 1¬Ĺ million Miele kitchen, and one table of 20 seats, around which all his clients enjoyed his cooking. ¬†In retrospect he is happy that he did not open a restaurant in Hout Bay, a difficult suburb in which to make restaurants survive. ¬†He had come to scout a wedding venue for his brother, and looked at Holden Manz. ¬†A week later he came back for an interview, and a week later he started the job. ¬†Chef Cheyne is a very confident and energetic person, not taking any nonsense from anybody he said, and seemed at home in his new kitchen already. ¬†¬†Chef Cheyne lives in Hout Bay, but will spend six days a week on the wine estate to settle in.

Chef Cheyne is working with the existing kitchen team, and he will be allowing each of his chefs to develop their own signature dishes over time. The tapas menu offers six options, written up on a blackboard. ¬†It was hard to choose between the tapas dishes, and each one was beautifully presented. ¬†I started with a prawn tempura, with nice plump prawns, and pea risotto, delicious but a little too salty for my taste. ¬†I had to double check with GM Wayne Buckley if the price quoted at R35 was correct for the three item tapas dish, and he confirmed it. ¬†The beef tataki was served with Asian salad and wasabi mayo, the beef delicately rare, contrasted with the bite of the mayonnaise. The seared duck was served with a honey soy reduction and chilled watermelon, a most unusual combination. Other tapas choices were pork belly served with pea puree and topped with mange tout tempura, chilli salt squid with ponzu mayo, linefish with cucumber noodles and soy, and lamb and sushi rice balls with sesame. ¬†Even though I had already eaten enough, I couldn’t resist trying out the chocolate brownie tapas, small slices topped with a strawberry, and served with an unusual ginger and caramel sauce.

Karl Lambour and I had been trying to meet for a while, and it was luck that he was at the restaurant too. ¬†He lives in Camps Bay, and has a holiday home in Greyton to which he was heading back. He was excited by Chef Cheyne’s positive influence and energy. ¬†Karl was the cellarmaster at Constantia Glen for five years, and worked at Fleur du Cap’s Bergkelder for two years prior to that. ¬†His vision for Holden Manz is to express what the farm is capable of, in using predominantly their Franschhoek grapes and to make Franschhoek a region that becomes synonymous with excellent wines again. ¬†He wants to focus on Holden Manz’s red wine varieties of Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. They will develop their iconic wine Big G even further, adding small amounts of Malbec and Petit Verdot to make the wine a true Bordeaux blend. The new Ros√© is doing well. Karl is proud of their terroir, shared with their neighbours La Bri, Boekenhoutskloof, and Stoney Brook, the stony soil giving their wines complexity. ¬†The mountain nearby stops the wind and cools down the temperature compared to other parts of Fanschhoek, where temperatures can exceed 40¬įC in summer. ¬†They are also looking at what they can do differently in the restaurant, with a Shiraz-themed winemakers’ dinner planned for Wednesday, serving four courses, each paired with a Holden Manz, Mullineux, Eagle’s Nest, and AA Badenhorst Shiraz. ¬†This is the second winemakers’ dinner they have organised. ¬†Karl said that while he is not the winemaker, he is making two wines – a Chardonnay for which he is buying in grapes, and a special Shiraz blend.

Schalk Opperman apologised for his beard and moustache, saying that he is a member of the Franschhoek Moustache Association,  winemaker members having decided to not shave from the first day of their harvest until yesterday.  The competition was won by Jean Smit of Boekenhoutskloof, having grown the biggest moustache in this time.  He said that he originally had mixed feelings about moving to Holden Manz from Rust en Vrede, where he had a secure job for six years, but stood in the shadow of the winemaker. He was pleasantly surprised about the role which he can play in improving the grapes at Holden Manz, having a good structure, and he is working on developing the Holden Manz brand as wines to be reckoned with.   He is a Shiraz maker first and foremost, but sees making blends as a far bigger challenge for a winemaker.  He complimented Karl for his skills in wine marketing and brand building, and is happy that Karl leaves the winemaking to him, but is available to him as a sounding board. They will use their own grapes in winemaking only, only buying in a small quantity of Malbec and Petit Verdot to improve the Big G. They will use barrel fermentation in future, which was not done before, keeping the wine in the barrel for a year and in the bottle for another year.  In two years time the Holden Manz wines will show the effect of the new winemaking production techniques and winemaker, Schalk said.

It was a busy restaurant at The Franschhoek Kitchen yesterday, and the energy generated from Chef Cheyne was reflected by Karl, Schalk, Wayne and the serving staff too. Having been at the Franschhoek Kitchen a week ago, it was incredible what a change the new chef at Holden Manz has made! There is a promise of great things to come, given that this has only been Chef Cheyne’s first week.

The Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2729. www.holdenmanz.com Twitter:@HoldenManz01

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

Delheim Nouvelle fungi focus with Mushroom Week

This week Delheim wine estate is focusing on the delectable exotic mushroom, in running a Mushroom Week in its restaurant in conjunction with Nouvelle Mushrooms, the only commercial producer of exotic mushrooms in South Africa, and sole supplier of this delicacy to Woolworths.

I was part of a group of journalists (those from The Star and the Sunday Times flying down from Johannesburg especially for the event)¬†and bloggers that was invited by Erica Meles Public Relations to attend an outing to Delheim yesterday, which kicked off with an interesting talk by Dr Adriaan Smit of the University of Stellenbosch, a mycologist and MD of the SA Gourmet Mushroom Academy.¬† He impressed with his knowledge of poisonous and edible mushrooms, giving tips about how one ensures that one only picks and eats edible mushrooms.¬† There are about 1,5 million mushrooms species, and Dr Smit recommended a number of steps for aspirant mushroom gatherers:¬†read every book on the topic (he had five local books), join the Edible Fungi Association, collect with an expert, don’t rely on photograph matching with books only, smell the mushrooms, scratch the stem for colour changes, rub the flesh to check the texture, taste only a tiny piece and spit it out without swallowing the juices, make a spore print on a sheet of white and black paper or on aluminium foil, use chemical tests, eat only one variety at a time, never eat wild mushrooms raw, and always keep some uncooked mushrooms on the side, for a test in case one gets ill.¬†¬†

For successful foraging his first recommendation is to take along a magnifying glass, to check the mushroom for spores, gills and teeth.  So, for example, the pine ring mushroom must emit an orange-coloured milk to confirm that it is not its poisonous look-alike.  Mushrooms with a white cap, white gills, free unattached gills, a white spore print, with a ring on the stalk, that are small and brown, and/or have a swollen stalk base could be poisonous.  If one has signs of mushroom poisoning, call the Tygerberg Poison Information Center at tel (021) 931-6129.  Dr Smit loves mushrooms so much that his boutique hotel outside Stellenbosch is called The Wild Mushroom, and each of the six suites is inspired by and decorated in the theme of a mushroom variety.

After the talk, guests were taken on a walk to the pine forest on the farm, to look for wild mushrooms (mainly Boletus Edulis, or better known as cep or porcini,¬†and pine ring)¬†with Dr Smit and Nora Sperling-Thiel, daughter of farm owner Spatz Sperling, who is knowledgeable about mushrooms too.¬† I had a long chat to son Victor Sperling, who told me that about half of the 365 hectare farm is planted under vine and the balance has pine forests.¬† The pines were planted by Spatz Sperling, possibly as a reminder of his country of origin, on¬†slopes that are too steep to plant vines.¬† Victor told me that the pine forestry is not really economically viable, but it is a good way for the farm to meet the requirements of the Biodiversity Wine Initiative, in that the shade created by the trees prevents the reseeding of alien plants.¬†¬†The Delheim focus is on ‘unpretentious winemaking’, says its flyer,¬†and Victor told me they try to change little as their customers like their wines as they are.¬† They try to make 100% cultivars such as Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon, a much bigger challenge, he said, but they do make some blends too.¬† Brenda van Niekerk is the winemaker, while Victor is the viticulturist and production manager.¬† His sister Nora heads sales.¬†Victor deplored that restaurants do not support the Stellenbosch Wine Route and its wines.

Fresh out of the forest, we were taken to the cellar meeting room, in which Schalk de Beer, MD of Nouvelle Mushrooms, took us through a presentation on exotic mushrooms and their nutritional benefits.  The company was started in 2006, and currently it produces 2 tons of exotic mushrooms per week, using 10 tons of woody substrates.  About 60 % of the mushrooms are sold through Woolworths, and the balance to restaurants and hotels.  Woolworths currently has a special offer of two punnets of exotic mushrooms for R30.  It has a production facility in the Hemel en Aarde Valley outside Hermanus, and prides itself on its distribution efficiency, given the perishability of its products.  Not known to all is the health benefits of mushrooms, Schalk told us, generically being high in protein.  The exotic mushroom varieties that the company supplies are the following:

*   Shiitake mushrooms are rich in cholesterol-lowering properties, and contain anti-oxidants.  This variety enhances the flavour of the foods that it is served with.  It is the biggest seller in the East.

*   King oyster mushrooms contain anti-oxidants.  They are ideal for Italian dishes.

*   Enoki mushrooms are mainly used in soups in Japan, and look attractive when used in salads. 

*   Shimeji mushrooms can be used as antipasto, or for a pasta sauce, due to their aroma. 

Lunch was served and not unsurprisingly the three-course menu only consisted of mushrooms, paired with Delheim wines, reflecting the menu which Delheim is offering for Mushroom Week running until Sunday 10 July, at R120, inclusive of three glasses of wine, and coffee, offering exceptional value.¬† I loved the refreshing Paw Paw and Shimeji mushroom salad, an unusual combination served with a light lemon dressing.¬† The alternative starter offered is Baby¬†spinach salad with seared King oyster mushrooms.¬† Both starters were paired with Delheim’s Sauvignon Blanc 2010.

The main course was a choice of Risotto with dried Boletus mushrooms, and Tagliatelle with Nouvelle Exotic Mix mushrooms, and guests were offered a choice of Delheim’s Merlot 2007 or the lightly-wooded Chardonnay Sur Lie 2010.¬† Coffee was served with a Shiitake mushroom and chocolate cookie, paired with the Delheim Gew√ľrztraminer.

I was lucky to sit at the same table as Schalk de Beer, and Spatz Sperling and his wife Vera.¬† Spatz Sperling is 81 years old, and is an icon in the wine industry, making his first wines 60 years ago on the farm which was originally owned by Hans Hoheisen since 1938, married to his¬†aunt Adele, after whom the farm was named,¬†and having created the country’s first wine route, being¬†the Stellenbosch Wine Route with Frans Malan and Neil Joubert 40 years ago.¬†When asked what changes he has seen in the wine industry over the years, he laughed, and said that it has just got better, and cellar buildings have become more attractive. Vera Sperling told us about the laws that governed wine tasting in early days – a minimum of 12 wines had to be bought, one had to receive a KC6 form as proof of a legal sale if one was stopped by the police, no wine¬†was allowed to be bottled without a ‘white’ person present,¬†and one had to buy wine from the cellar and bring it to the restaurant on a wine estate, as restaurants on wine estates were not allowed to sell wine.¬† Delheim was the first¬†wine estate¬†to serve food almost 38 years ago, serving a choice of cheeses and pat√©s initially.¬† A year later Blaauwklippen and Hartenberg followed suit.

Delheim, Knorhoek Road, off R45, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 888-4607.  www.delheim.com.  Monday РSunday. 

Nouvelle Mushrooms, Tel (021) 887-5593. www.nouvelle.za.net

Mushroom Academy, Tel (021) 881-3586.  www.mushroomacademy.com

Disclosure: All guests received an information pack, which also contained a bottle of Delheim Merlot 2007, and a punnet of Nouvelle Mushrooms, with a collection of pine needles and oak leaves from the farm.

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

Restaurant Review: Bosman’s back on Top 10, fired up, much more friendly!

After having been announced as a Top 10 restaurant a month ago, a sojourn in Franschhoek gave me the opportunity to try Bosman’s for lunch on Monday, and to celebrate a special birthday at dinner last night.¬†¬† I was amazed at the radical change in the “personality” of Bosman’s at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, from a restaurant that was stiff and unwelcoming on my last visit, to one that bends over backwards, oozes friendliness, and has made some important changes which clearly are paying off, in that Bosman’s is back on the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list, after a long absence, and it was the joint winner (with Zachary’s at Pezula) of the Diner’s Club of the Year Winelist Awards.¬†¬† Whilst is offers excellent value for lunch, it probably is the most expensive Cape restaurant for dinner.

The person who is probably most responsible for the changes is the Food & Beverage Manager Alan Bailes, and is now also acting-GM.¬† He impressed when he contacted me after my last visit to Bosman’s, and was non-defensive in his reaction.¬†¬† Bailes is so hands-on that he walks the floor and makes time to chat to the restaurant patrons, something I have never seen of a hotel GM before.¬†¬† He laughed when I said that to him, and he said that he still is the F&B Manager, but even then these are rarely seen inside a restaurant in general.¬†¬† The restaurant’s flexibility is commendable, in that I overheard Bailes telling other guests that the kitchen can prepare anything for them, with 24 hours notice.

Bailes is one of a number of new GM’s at Grande Roche, after Horst Frehse left, and told me that the most important change that they have made was to cancel their Relais & Chateaux accreditation, without dropping their standards, he emphasized.¬†¬†¬† They have¬†chosen to use the marketing power of the Mantis Collection to attract business.¬†¬† The Relais & Chateaux decision came from the unsatisfactory return received for the high cost of the accreditation.¬† Ironically, Horst Frehse was known as “Mr Relais & Chateaux” when he was the (cigar-smoking) GM of the Grande Roche.¬†¬† I wrote about Asara Hotel’s recent Relais & Chateaux accreditation, and that it may be dropping the accreditation, having just obtained it with the help of Frehse, who has left and is heading for the Twelve Apostles Hotel as GM next month.¬†¬† The only local Relais & Chateaux properties are¬†Asara Hotel, Le Quartier Fran√ßais, Cellars Hohenhort, The Marine and The Plettenberg.¬† The focus¬†has also been¬†on making the lunch far more casual, and the prices far more affordable.¬†¬† Whilst the dinner menu is far different to that for lunch, and offers two Tasting menu and a la carte options, the formality has been removed, especially when the restaurant was literally moved outdoors on a lovely 30+C evening.¬†¬†¬† ¬†

The service experienced at both lunch and dinner was outstanding and attentive, Glenroy du Plessis, the Wine Steward who recently was crowned as best in the country by Diner’s Club, and who must be one of the nicest hospitality staff around, spoiling us.¬† Nothing is too much trouble, and he crosses the line between waiter and wine steward.¬†¬† The sommelier Josephine¬†Gutentoft recently moved across to Bosman’s, and while we clashed badly at Reuben’s, she was charm herself last night.¬†¬†¬†Raymond is another manager I know from Reuben’s.¬†¬†¬† Two German staff gave an extra dimension to service quality.¬†¬† Charming Restaurant Manager Alessandro de Laco talks with a heavy Italian accent, but can speak French and German, coming from Switzerland.¬† He and waiter Stefan had come to the Grande Roche earlier this year due to the World Cup.¬†¬† Waitress Loreen had come to the Grande Roche with her boyfriend, who works in the kitchen, and will stay until April.¬† Staff look smart in a white shirt and black tie, and black apron.¬†

There were some rough edges, like Ra-ida getting my booking wrong for the dinner, mixing up the date and the number of persons booked.   I also noticed two broken umbrellas on the lunch terrace, probably due to the wind.   A Manager should have picked this up, given that the Grande Roche is a 5-star hotel.   My pet hate is security and a boom, and while it was perfect for my arrival for lunch, the chap who was on duty in the evening mumbled something about whether we wanted a table for two, but we had made a reservation.  Yet he did not ask for the name.   They are an outsourced service.  

Lunch 3 January

My lunch was extremely relaxed, and was probably made so because of the friendly service by Glenroy and Raymond, who were both on duty, and looked after me, together with German waiter Stefan.  

The outside tables have¬†granite tops, and underplates that have a similar look, but these plates are¬†removed before the food is served, so are purely decorative.¬†¬† Good quality serviettes are on the table, but while mine was clean, it had a stain on it. ¬†An unusually large collection of glasses is on the table, for a¬†lunchtime.¬†¬† The cutlery shows its age, in being heavily used.¬†¬†A waitress brought a lovely cool facecloth to the table, a nice way to cool down¬†on the 30 C Paarl day. ¬†Tokara olive oil was brought to the table with a nicely presented plate of three undescribed bread types – baguette, rye and wholewheat – wrapped in a serviette.¬†¬† The menu is a narrow page, set in a red and black menu holder.¬†¬† I did not see initially that the winelist was on the reverse.¬†¬† As a starter I chose a delicious chilled cucumber soup, with two crispy crumbed prawns (R50).¬† The prawns were brought to the table first, and then a waitress came with a jug of the soup and poured it with far greater style than the asparagus soup I had at the Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson recently.¬†¬†¬† Other starter choices are Caesar salad with chicken leg and quail egg;¬† Beef Carpaccio;¬†Salmon Trout;¬†Braised Roma tomatoes and mozzarella, all costing R75.¬† ¬†Mixed baby salad with avocado, goat’s cheese and biltong¬†costs R65; and Asian marinated yellowtail tartare costs R70.

Main courses clearly have been kept as close to R100 as possible, and makes the portions a little smaller, not a bad thing for a lunch, especially when one has more than one course.¬†¬† I ordered the Pan-fried kingklip with pea risotto, beurre noisette foam,¬†and biltong (R95), the biltong not adding anything to the fish dish, and adding a¬†saltiness I would have preferred to do without.¬† The kingklipwas¬† firm and well prepared, and the peas in the risotto gave the dish a colourful touch.¬†¬† A fish knife was served with the dish.¬† Other main courses choices include Seafood Bowl (R115), Pan-fried prawns with seafood ravioli and Bouillabaisse broth (R115); Linguine (R80), Asian stir fried beef fillet (R140); and Free-range chicken breast (R95).¬†¬† Dessert options are “Mohr im Hemd” (rum and raisin ice cream), nougat potato ravioli and Amarula Creme Br√Ľl√©e, costing around R45, and an Exotic Trio at R50,¬†consisting of¬†Creme Br√Ľl√©e, fruit salsa, and passion fruit sorbet.¬†

The lunch winelist is short and sweet!¬† Ten wines-by-the-glass are offered, starting at R40 for Newton Johnson ‘Felicite’ Dry, and peaking at R280 for¬†87ml of NV Laurent Perrier Brut Ros√©.¬†¬† The Migliarina Shiraz seems expensive at R75 a glass.¬†¬† Six white wines can be ordered by the bottle, Maison Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc costing R150, while A.A. Badenhorst’s Family White Blend costs R580.¬†¬† Eight red wines start at R280 for a bottle of Rainbow’s End 2005, up to R650 for a Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2005.

Dinner 5 January

We went to celebrate my son’s birthday today with dinner last night.¬†¬† The table outside was perfect, was laid with a good quality tablecloth, and three sets of knives and forks as well as a¬†spoon.¬† A staff member put the serviettes on our laps, an old-fashioned touch.¬† There were fewer glasses on the table than at lunch.¬†¬† Glenroy brought an ice bucket, and kept it filled up throughout the evening.¬†¬†¬† There are no salt and pepper containers on the table, as Chef Roland feels the kitchen should spice the food correctly.¬† One may request salt and pepper however.

The winelist dominates one’s impressions at Bosman’s, and obviously is the definitive one, judging by its Diner’s Club accolade.¬† It is a weighty document bound in a grey leather cover, and runs to 62 pages and the hotel’s wine collection exceeds 600 labels, Glenroy told us.¬† Unfortunately it uses pages that are hooked in, to give flexibility in terms of availability, but a number of these pages had slipped out, making the winelist look just a little unprofessional, despite its impressive collection.¬†¬† Sommelier Josephine wants to increase this number, by adding smaller producers.¬†¬† Similarly to the Asara winelist (Frehse probably used that of Bosman’s as the benchmark when preparing the Asara one), the Bosman’s winelist provides a history of the winemaking in this country, describes the winegrowing areas, dedicates a section to South African wine awards, and provides a map of the wine regions.¬†¬† I joked and said that it would take me the whole evening to go through the winelist alone, and therefore it was recommended that the wine steward advises one about the wines, which is probably what usually happens.¬†¬† Something I have never seen on a winelist is the name of the winemaker(s).¬†¬† Obviously regions, vintages and descriptions are provided per wine.

The wines-by-the-glass section spans two pages, and four are MCC sparkling wines: Silverthorn Blanc de Blanes Brut (R85), Silverthorn Genie Ros√© (R95), Colmant Reserve Brut (R65) and Graham Beck Bliss Demi Sec (R65).¬†¬† Laurent Perrier can be ordered in a dinky at R280, and Billecart Salmon¬†Ros√© Brut costs R290.¬† Eight white wines are available by the glass, starting at R 48 for AA Badenhorst Family Secateurs as well as Crios Bride Sauvignon Blanc, and peaking at R70 for Scali Blanc.¬†¬† The Ros√© is by Newton Johnson, at R40.¬†¬†¬† Six red wines are available: starting at R70 is the Ataraxia “Serenity” and going up to R185 for a Kanonkop.¬†¬†¬† By the bottle, 25 MCC sparkling wines are offered, starting at R175 for Seidelberg’s Blanc de Blancs Brut at R175, up to R540 for La Motte’s Brut.¬† There are 42 Shiraz wines listed, Veenwouden “Thornhill” the best priced at R260, and Mont Destin’s Destiny the most expensive at R1150.¬†¬†

A cold facecloth was brought to the table, to cool one down and to wipe one’s hands, also an old-fashioned touch, but welcome in the heat.¬†¬† A young waiter came with the bread basket, and offered us a choice of seven breads, the largest choice I have ever seen, and one looked more attractive than the other.¬† Choices include parma ham and garlic, pumpkin seed loaf, tomato rolls, pretzel rolls and a lovely seedloaf.¬†¬† Bosman’s is generous with its bread offering, and the waiter came by at least three times.¬†¬† The bread is served with a collection of three trademark Bosman’s spreads – unsalted butter, lard with garlic and bacon, and cottage cheese with chives.¬† ¬† A gazpacho with white tomato jelly and agar was brought as an amuse bouche, the spicy soup poured out of a jug at the table.¬† It did not impress me, if one takes an amuse bouche to be a small taste of the chef’s skills.

The menu has a welcome by Executive Head Chef Roland Gorgosilich: “We trust you will have a relaxing and enjoyable evening with us”, the new Planet Restaurant also having such a ‘personalised’ signed touch in its menu.¬† Gorgosilich is Austrian, and has a low profile.¬† It is a shame that he does not come out of the kitchen, to chat to the guests.¬†¬†¬†One can enjoy a 9-course European-style tasting menu at R 660 per person, as well as a reduced “Harmony of the South” menu, 4-courses costing R 520, and 5-courses R580.¬† This menu is meant to be a representation of South African cuisine.¬†

For his starter my son had a hot butternut soup (R55) off the a la carte menu, despite the hot evening, which was also poured at the table over three little pieces of braised duck breast.   It was not an exceptional soup, in my opinion.   My foie gras order, billed to be served with Baumkuchentorte, and costing an extravagant R175, was a let down, as the layered cake was barely visible and could not be tasted around the slice of foie gras.   The foie gras itself was wonderful, served with a cherry, and red cabbage puree,  which did not add to the foie grasenjoyment.  Other starter choices include quail (R95); wild mushroom risotto with parma ham, which looked delicious served at neighbouring tables (R75);  poached salmon trout (R105); and poached veal fillet with pan-fried scallops (R155).  

The highlight of the dinner without a doubt was the Fillet Mignon flambee¬†(R200).¬† It is usually prepared at the table inside, but due to the outsideseating, and the fire danger,¬†we went inside to see Alessandro prepare it for us in the dining room, a most dramatic preparation, especially when the Martellbrandy was added.¬† The steak was butter soft.¬†¬† It was served with tagliatelle and mushroom ragout, the most delicious I have had in a¬†long time, simple and focused on providing enjoyment.¬†¬† An excellent serrated steak knife was served for this dish, barely necessary due to the soft steak.¬†¬†¬†Other main course choices include Beef fillet Rossini (R285); springbok loin (R210); vanilla milk poached kingklip (R175); pan-fried hake and crayfish (R225); sole and stuffed calamari (R195) and oddly a tomato consomm√© at R145.¬† What adds class to the dinner at Bosman’s is another old-fashioned touch – presenting the¬†main course dishes¬†with domes, which the waiters all lift simultaneously at the table.¬† The waitress then reminds each diner what he/she has ordered, a nice touch.

For dessert, one is presented with a separate menu, to which is added a number of further beverage options.  Strawberry rhubarb, and an interesting sounding peach lavender soup served with chocolate ganache and peanut croquant cost R65; chocolate fondant costs R75; crepe suzetteR80; and a cheese trolley R150, presumably which can be shared.   I had arranged with Alessandro for a surprise birthday chocolate cake, which was decorated with strawberries on the side, came with a candle, and looked beautiful on a glass plate.   We were not charged for this birthday treat.   I had a good cappuccino.    

The bathroom entrance is attractive and luxurious with a beautiful orchid display.  But when one steps inside, the wooden doors are still there, not in keeping with the quality standards of the hotel.   

Bosman’s is not an everyday dinner venue, but one for a special celebration, given how expensive it is.¬† Yet for lunchtime visits to Paarl it is perfect, as it is affordable and and the food light.¬†¬†¬†I enjoyed both my visits to Bosman’s this week.

POSTSCRIPT 22/7: Being in Paarl, I popped in at Bosman’s for lunch today.¬† Once again, I had a¬†problem with the poor quality of outsourced security staff manning the boom.¬† I was refused entry for lunch at the boom initially, and asked for the phone number, so that I could call.¬† Instead, the security person decided to call¬†the Restaurant Manager himself, and this caused a traffic jam at the boom!¬† I was eventually allowed in and welcomed on arrival, and wondered why this had been necessary in the first place.¬† Thereafter the service was excellent.¬† I was happy to meet the new GM Anja Bosken,¬† She told me that they are working hard¬†at increasing¬†the awareness of the Grande Roche, and went onto Twitter last week.¬†¬† They are also working on being less stiff and more friendly.¬† Seven members of staff were retrenched before her arrival, she said, and some staff members¬†did not renew their fixed-term contracts.¬† Bosman’s is very professional, and I enjoyed a main course of kingklip and prawns, with Mediterranean vegetables and seafood¬†ravioli (R95),¬†followed by Apfelstrudel (R45), prices which are very reasonable for a Top 10 restaurant at a 5-star hotel.¬†Alan Bailes and Alessandro de Laco have left the Grande Roche.

Bosman’s Restaurant, Grande Roche Hotel, Plantasie Street, Paarl.¬† Tel (021)¬†863-5100.¬†www.granderoche.com¬†¬†¬†(The website has an Image Gallery, with few food photographs, and all the menus are listed).¬† Twitter: @Grande_Roche

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