Review: Wolfgat

The Proposition

Look at this picture.

Don’t you instantly wish you were there? There’s a mesmerising quality to natural spaces like this, and Wolfgat perfectly captures the essential nature of this part of the Cape’s West Coast by being housed in a historic fisherman’s cottage (luckily) with wind-protected views – and then having the sensitivity to minimise all else so that you experience, simply, being here. It’s quite remarkable.

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Platter’s 2019 reveals its Five Star wines and more

Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide 2019 was launched at Cape Town’s Table Bay Hotel earlier this week and a total of 90 wines achieved the coveted Five Star status this year.

All wines that scored 93 points or higher in the primary assessment went into a second round of tasting, conducted blind (without sight of the label) by small panels including experienced palates from outside the team. The stringency of this model means that Platter’s Five Star wines show consistent brilliance.

This edition, the ultimate Platter’s accolade, Winery of the Year, has expanded to become a trio of pinnacle awards, each saluting excellence in South African wine-making. The Newcomer Winery of the Year recognises the winery that records the best results as a first-time participant in the guide. This honour goes to Erika Obermeyer Wines, with two Five Stars on debut. The Top Performing Winery of the Year award goes to Mullineux, who are no strangers to Platter’s accolades, having twice previously been Winery of the Year. In the new guide they achieve a remarkable four Five Stars plus a Wine of the Year. Finally, the Editors Award for 2019 goes to Newton Johnson Vineyards, as editor Philip van Zyl’s personal commendation of this family venture’s consistently superb quality over a range of styles of wine.

In a further innovation, the number of Wines of the Year has also been increased, and the expanded line-up now reflects the highest-scoring Five Star wines in their category (or, in instances where wines were tied with the highest scores, the judging panels’ preferred wine). The list of these 25 remarkable wines follows after the break below.

To order your copy, please visit the online store. The books will be available in retail later this month. You can also subscribe online today for full access to the new information, or get the Platter’s app for iOS or Android (requires subscription).

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Review: Eike by Bertus Basson

The Proposition

Eike by Bertus Basson is the latest addition to this dynamic chef’s collection. You can learn more about all of them on his website, and read our recent review of Overture here.

Eike is briefly introduced on his site with the statement: “I have always wanted to open a dining room that celebrates South African food”. It also explains that this restaurant offers only a “fixed” (tasting) menu. I’ve eaten here twice to date and the menu has so far seen small adjustments, but the idea is to update seasonally according to what’s fresh – but always in step with the underlying concept behind Eike, “to celebrate our food heritage” and to evoke the “nostalgia” of ideas and flavours that may no longer be in vogue – “inspired by childhood memories” says Basson. In a recent conversation with the chef regarding upcoming spring ideas, he explained that this could for instance take the form of pairing asparagus with “basic sandwich ham” – a canapé idea that may well have been a staple of middle-class suburbia in the 1980s, to go with the Barbara Streisand dinner soundtrack. (On the subject of music, Eike plays local-only tunes.) Continue reading “Review: Eike by Bertus Basson”

Review: Overture Restaurant

The Proposition

Chef Bertus Basson has always been a highly charged individual, and of late he has channelled ever-more of this incandescent energy into his food enterprises, opening a number of restaurants and off-shoots to restaurants as well as being featured in a number of local food TV series. The latest restaurant to open is Eike (which will soon be reviewed); joining Bertus Basson at Spice Route, Spek en Bone, De Vrije Burger, The Deck and his very popular catering company.

This latter part of his career, leading to his current position as one of South Africa’s pre-eminent chefs – one could call it his “mature” phase, even though he would probably dislike this – began at Overture on the Hidden Valley wine farm just over 10 years ago. Since Overture was recently re-opened after a renovation, it was a good time to revisit the “mothership” of his current portfolio. Continue reading “Review: Overture Restaurant”

Food from the sea

In 1979, the late Lannice Snyman, a doyenne of South African cookery, published a cookbook called Free from the Sea. Nearly 40 years later, it remains remarkable that this natural wilderness offers us so much food, but I doubt anyone today – writer or publisher – would have the guts to use such a title for a seafood book: the myth of sea as an endless buffet is, one hopes, finally dying.

But it’s a struggle to regulate fisheries thanks to so much open space, so many players, and so few enforceable boundaries. While there have been some successes, the big picture is ever-bleaker. Part of the problem is that, for so long, we’ve viewed seas as discreet spaces, and if we just look after our own stretch, we might be doing alright. But there is, in reality, only one ocean as all seas are linked by winds, currents and migratory patterns. Continue reading “Food from the sea”

Waves of Coffee and Truth’s Black Honey

For the size of the city, Cape Town is blessed with an unfair number of fine coffee emporia. In one of those “where the hell did the time go?” moments, I was recently reminded that Origin Coffee Roasting, the epicentre of “Third Wave” coffee in South Africa, was started 12 years ago, in 2006.

In coffee parlance, “Third Wave” represents the point in the evolution of modern coffee culture that the artisan roastery takes a central place after the traditional coffee scene, which is the First Wave. In South Africa the First Wave was “coffee” from chicory granules and weak drip brew in hotels and restaurants (and in the USA it still means weak drip brew). The Second Wave is marked by the arrival of the branded stand-alone coffee chains, which we got a decade before the Third Wave hit, in the form of Mugg & Bean (est. 1996 in the V&A Waterfront) and Seattle Coffee Co. (also 1996, in Cavendish Square). The most famous international chain, Starbucks, only arrived here well after our Third Wave (April 2016, ten years after Origin) – testimony to us being blessed with quality. Continue reading “Waves of Coffee and Truth’s Black Honey”

Review: Upper Bloem Restaurant

The Proposition

The name of the restaurant is Upper Bloem, which is slightly confusing to any Capetonian since Upper Bloem is a street address in the Bo-Kaap, but the restaurant is located on Main Road in Greenpoint. What the name references are the roots of the menu here – Cape Malay and the Cape in general – as does the interior of the unprepossessing but comfortable space in its “curry” colours. As they explain, the menu speaks of chef Andre Hill’s childhood spent in the Bo-Kaap and they “invite you to (sic) a journey of flavours, spices, tastes, textures and nostalgia”.

The Experience

The caveat to this account is that lunch currently is an “opening special” set menu that is pared-down from the dinner offering, and I am unsure how often they plan to change the menus, so it may differ when you get there. Costs can be very well managed by means of set menus (and certainly are here at R195 per person), but the plates necessarily default to “simpler” and less luxurious ingredients to achieve this value. Not all diners will like the choices either, but I enjoy the exercise of a “pared down” menu, as it forces kitchens to be more creative and less reliant on the obvious “big hit” flavours or hero ingredients. Continue reading “Review: Upper Bloem Restaurant”

Review: Skotnes at Norval Foundation

The Proposition

As of writing, the Norval Foundation building is so new that they are still snag-fixing, but it is already something to behold, and clearly adds another contemporary jewel to the crown of the Cape’s beautiful art spaces so far populated by the likes of the Zeitz MOCAA and Cavalli. The Norval is a space where creativity is on display in the architecture as much as in the sculpture garden and the exhibits within. The gallery has a strong link to the famed South African artist Cecil Skotnes, hence the name of the restaurant on the premises. So it’s an eatery with plenty of sophistication and high art around it to live up to. Continue reading “Review: Skotnes at Norval Foundation”

What was that you said?

The Washington Post Magazine offered reviews of 30 new restaurants in its Spring dining guide, summarised by reviewer Tom Sietsema. Let’s just pause there, while we in South Africa consider the scale of this – 30 brand new upper-end eateries in one quarter of one year in one city, Washington DC, alone.

The “Smith Island” cake, from the Old Maryland Grill, one of Tom Sietsema’s top 30 new DC eateries. (Image courtesy of the Washington Post.)

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Classics: La Perla

Certainly one of Cape Town’s longest-standing dining institutions, La Perla opened its doors in 1959. It’s the kind of place your parents probably ate at. It has gathered scrapbooks of famous diners and certain tables are known as “so-and-so’s”. But I struggle to get its mystique – at least by looking at the plate. Then again, by concentrating on the food, I think I’m looking in the wrong place. It’s all about the “face” of it here. Quite literally.

To start, there’s the fantastic position and its sea views, followed by the bold art that has always adorned the interior, and in human turn filled by the “see-and-be-seen” set since the beginning. Then there are the waiters, in their European white tunics, who put on a great show of being proper. They may in fact be the defining element of La Perla’s form of nostalgic food theatre, and some of them (fewer and fewer, it has to be said) have a decades-long tenure here. However, the feeling that there is an element of role-play was bolstered by our waiter, who smoothly enquired after our lunch order by starting with “ladies and gentlemen…” when there were only two men at the table. Continue reading “Classics: La Perla”