2018: A Year in Review by JP Rossouw

The restaurant reviews and Story of a Plate features on this website continue to take on more and more of an indigenous angle as it is my belief that we need to celebrate and thereby develop South African cuisine in all its forms. So this year’s writings have been slanted to those chefs and establishments that carry the flag for cuisine that is expressly rooted in our country. These are the establishments and dishes that in-bound food lovers would not find elsewhere – for is this not what we all want to find and explore when we travel to new places? And for the local food lover, should we not be expecting our best chefs to be diving deeper into our food history and culture? It’s high time South African chefs and diners look inward for inspiration, and not only adopt imported food trends.  Continue reading “2018: A Year in Review by JP Rossouw”

Pinch of Salt: Books for Cooks

By Pete Goffe-Wood.

I’ve always been wary of chefs who say they don’t read cookbooks. How do you continue to educate yourself without reading; how do you expand your own consciousness and repertoire if not through reading?

I don’t mean that chefs should just thumb through pages and hi-jack ideas – well-written cookbooks can be inspirational, informative, hilarious and bloody helpful at times. You don’t have to follow the recipes religiously nor keep strictly to the ingredients listed – these are merely guidelines. Let your own creative juices run riot!

When I first started working in London, Dan Evans, my head chef at the time, asked me a question that ultimately changed how I viewed my craft. He simply asked, “Who are you reading?”. Upon finding out that I wasn’t “reading” anyone in particular, he issued me a long look of scorn followed by an even longer list of writers and told me that would get me started. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Books for Cooks”

Story of a Plate: Octopus Casserole at Saint

(Images courtesy of David Higgs)

On the menu: Octopus casserole, chorizo, bean, kale, garlic

We chat to chef David Higgs at Saint, the new “twisted” Italian restaurant he opened a few months ago with business partner Gary Kyriacou in Sandton, where Jean-Pierre recently enjoyed the bean casserole with wood-fired octopus.

David Higgs: I think the Italian inspiration behind the dish is mostly the bean casserole, which is such a typical Mediterranean dish, almost Spanish and Portuguese as well. So that’s why we call ourselves crazy or “twisted” Italian rather than just Italian, because these are basically flavours that I’ve been inspired by on my travels. Octopus on the fire has always been one of my favourites. And  bean stews are so flavoursome, with lots of cumin, and coriander – almost Moroccan, so it really represents that whole Mediterranean region, whether on the European or African continent. Sometimes you just get something in your head, and you want to go with it…. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Octopus Casserole at Saint”

Story of a Plate: Driftwood Canapés at The Chefs’ Table

(Photographs courtesy of Sebastian Nico)

On the menu: Served as an amuse bouche, this is not listed on any current menus, but Executive Head Chef Kayla-Ann Osborn agreed that Jean-Pierre’s description of “Driftwood Canapés” has a nice ring to it.

Even if you didn’t have an official name for it, clearly a lot of thought went into both the ingredients and presentation of this elegant plate. 

Kayla: Yes! The story behind it is that although we live on the coast, we’ve ironically always battled with getting fresh seafood (especially shellfish), both in KwaZulu Natal and in the country as a whole. But after working with (and pushing) local suppliers, we started getting a little bit of fresh seafood here and there, and suddenly we had this major influx of local seafood (which even the Cape doesn’t have), all sustainably caught, and from within a 20km radius of our waters.

Then I started thinking about how to put that together as a course, but I didn’t want to have five or six seafood elements on a plate and call it a dish, because that would just look messy, with too much going on. So we decided to use it as an amuse, and when I started thinking about what to serve it on, driftwood came up as a fun option. I contacted a couple of guys who do woodwork, and they said they would love to work on driftwood because they don’t often get to do it, and about a week later we had about 6 or 7 of these driftwood platters. So the thought process was really about finding a way to showcase all this great local seafood.  Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Driftwood Canapés at The Chefs’ Table”

Being charged for no-shows

From our latest newsletter:

A recent piece in The Guardian tackles the issue of diners who make reservations which they fail to honour, and how an increasing number of restaurants are responding by either requesting a non-refundable deposit on booking, or simply requiring credit card details and then “fining” people for not showing up.

On the one hand, it’s a fairly simple – and understandable – form of insurance on the part of restaurants which may stand to lose significant revenue if the booking sheet promises a bustling evening that instead results in empty seats, wasted ingredients, and a contingent of staff whose time could be better employed – and rewarded! – elsewhere.


(Image courtesy of Travel Gumbo)

Continue reading “Being charged for no-shows”

Story of a Plate: Petit Fours at La Colombe

(Photograph courtesy of Andrea van der Spuy for La Colombe.)

On the menu: Flavours from our garden

We visited La Colombe after their recent refurbishments, and particularly enjoyed this spectacular finale to a very fine lunch. We asked Executive Chef James Gaag to tell us the story behind this unique sweet ending.

Chef James Gaag: The way we do the menu at La Colombe is more of an evolution than changing everything in one go. So this idea actually started a few seasons ago, when we had stumbled across a cork log, which we filled with chocolate soil and plated our petit fours on.

Oh, yes, we remember that (including one of our dining companions also eating most of the chocolate soil!).  Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Petit Fours at La Colombe”

Pinch of Salt: Man on Fire

By Pete Goffe-Wood.

Cooking over hot coals is the measure of a man, making and controlling fire is what has helped us rise above the rest of the animal kingdom, and braaing is what sets men apart from other men. It is an unspoken language in which you are sized up by peers and judged to be an equal or found to be wanting.

We have been cooking over open flames since the dawn of time, and recent archeological discoveries have seen cave paintings that prove unequivocally that South Africans were braaing while others were still trying to walk erect.

So it comes as no surprise then that we take it a little more seriously – it is clearly etched in our DNA. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Man on Fire”

The trouble with celebrity chefs

From our newsletter:

In our last newsletter, we linked to an article questioning whether we are witnessing the “twilight of the celebrity chef”, following the closure of a number of restaurants whose high-profile benefactors apparently weren’t enough to keep their establishments afloat. Last weekend the Financial Times published a profile of Jamie Oliver, whose restaurant empire appears to have been particularly hard hit by a combination of poor management, politics (Brexit!), and other factors one can sometimes be fooled into imagining that rich famous people never have to deal with:

“‘We had simply run out of cash,’ he recalls, as we sit on a vintage sofa at Oliver headquarters in north London nine months later. ‘And we hadn’t expected it. That is just not normal, in any business. You have quarterly meetings. You do board meetings. People supposed to manage that stuff should manage that stuff.’ A surprisingly sharp tone in his voice suggests that someone let him down and he was none too pleased. Oliver was left with no choice but to instruct his bankers to inject £7.5m from his own savings into the restaurants. A further £5.2m of his own money would follow over the next few months. Last year, Oliver was said to be worth £150m. Even so, £12.7m is not the kind of money that slips down the back of a sofa, vintage or otherwise”. Continue reading “The trouble with celebrity chefs”

Story of a Plate: Saldanha Bay Mussels at Upper Bloem Restaurant

On the menu: Saldanha Bay mussels – spekboom / samphire / parsley oil / sea essence

We asked chef Andre Hill to talk us through his favourite dish on the menu at the newly opened Upper Bloem Restaurant.

Chef Andre Hill: The dish that I enjoy the most – because it reminds me very much of growing up – is the mussels. The dish itself is fairly simple; nothing very complicated in terms of either ingredients or techniques – we make a broth from smoked snoek, which we cook the mussels in, and use again to make the emulsion that goes with them. We then take some leeks, cook them for about seven minutes in a bit of oil, and then char them. So the plate consists of a mussel emulsion, the actual mussels, charred leeks, a bit of parsley oil, and then we finish it off with spekboom. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Saldanha Bay Mussels at Upper Bloem Restaurant”

Pinch of Salt: Menus – who needs ’em?

By Pete Goffe-Wood.

“Can I have the Caesar Salad without anchovies, please?”

“Sure, while I’m at it why don’t I just  remove the nasty smelling lactose-infected Parmesan and those awful gluten-laden croutons and bring you a bowl of  f@#%ing lettuce!”

It doesn’t matter how many Stars, Chef’s Hats, Blazons, Grammys, Oscars or Eat Out awards your establishment has garnered; there will always be someone who walks in, sits down and decides they know better. Someone who feels that their years of experience of shopping at Woolworths, watching Food Network and “travelling darling, travelling” give them carte blanche to come in and literally ignore the entire kitchen’s reason for living.

I’m never sure if these people are just picky eaters, attention-seekers or on some egomaniacal power trip, but they always feel they have some God-given right to use the menu as a shopping list rather than a bill of fare: they want a starter portion of the squid with the trout garnish but without the potatoes (they “don’t do” protein and starch), and they also want the sauce from the mussels off the set menu but can it be made without butter and olives instead of capers?

They don’t fancy asparagus but they like risotto – can you not do the asparagus risotto with something else? Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Menus – who needs ’em?”