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”

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).

Continue reading “Platter’s 2019 reveals its Five Star wines and more”

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)

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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”

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”

Women Eating in Movies

From our latest newsletter:

Everyone has their favourite “food movies” (our guest chef-writer Pete Goffe-Wood rounded up his personal best for his imagined Food Oscars last year), or at least food scenes from movies – *that* scene from When Harry and Sally featuring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in Katz’s Delicatessen in New York jumps to mind for those of us of a certain age. But of course Meg Ryan’s performance is memorable not for what she’s eating, but rather for the, uhm, uncomfortable position she puts Billy Crystal’s character in while he’s trying to eat a sandwich. Continue reading “Women Eating in Movies”

In Memoriam: Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018)

From our June 15 newsletter:

It’s been a week since the tragic news of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide sent much of the food world reeling, and a significant proportion of the non-food world too, notably Barack Obama, who that evening tweeted the following memory from his appearance on the Vietnam episode of Bourdain’s CNN series Parts Unknown:

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Artificial Intelligence in the Kitchen

From our May 5 newsletter:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a divisive concept, as partly captured in the idea of whether we should welcome or fear the “robot overlords” (adapted from the 1977 film adaptation of HG Wells’ Empire of the Ants, in which Joan Collins reacts to the threat of giant ants out to take over the world with “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords”).

In the restaurant world, digital innovations designed to make the lives of both diners and staff easier have been around for years already, from being able to order off interactive table surfaces at eateries like Inamo in London, to restaurants in China replacing waitstaff (and noodle makers) with robots, not to mention IBM’s “chef” version of Watson – the “supercomputer” that famously beat human contestants on the TV quiz show Jeopardy in 2011 – which allows both chefs and home cooks to generate innovative recipes based on a database that houses thousands of possible combinations of ingredients that none of us would imagine work, but which are scientifically compatible according to their flavour profiles (Watson has even “authored” a cookbook).

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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”