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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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”

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”

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”

Review: Terroir at Kleine Zalze

The Proposition

For any reader who has not yet visited this highly recommended Cape Winelands restaurant, the casual “Mediterranean” outdoor seating under the trees is a fine option during the warmer months while the equally casual interior is useful through all seasons. Service has always been a strong suit, with staff that are usually long serving and knowledgeable. The wine list is mainly focussed on their own (very good) selection, with a decent look at other quality bottles. A blackboard offers further vintage options. Continue reading “Review: Terroir at Kleine Zalze”

Classics: The Radium Beerhall

As the first in an episodic series on South Africa’s great evergreens, a revisit to The Radium Beerhall on Louis Botha in Jo’burg. Established in 1929, it’s been on the scene, in the same place, for 89 years, and what makes it an essential establishment is its mostly unchanged nature. It comes from a time before today’s “restaurant design”, where almost every food and beverage spot is packaged to within an inch of the definition of what they are meant to be for their specified market. Even worse, so many establishments nowadays default to the “generic” – flytraps to catch all comers – with purposefully little obvious personality, so that no-one baulks or objects. Newer “hipster” joints are possibly the worst culprits, taking counter-culture iconography (café racers, skate) and repurposing it as cute sanitised titillation. 

The bar at Radium. Image courtesy of the Radium website.

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Review: Camphors at Vergelegen

The Proposition

Blue-chip Cape estate, spectacular setting, wondrous gardens, superb wines, textbooks of history. Now that is either the most fantastic foundation for a restaurant, or a list of nerve-wracking expectations.*

The Experience

Possibly the only quibble at a recent lunch was the service which lacked the high level of attention to the floor which I’ve experienced in the past, but then again, it was a busy lunch, with many tourists in the house. As for the rest, this account could begin and end with a simple exhortation for you to visit, or revisit, soonest.

A “Summer Harvest” menu offered four courses (with three to four options to choose from for each course), and a “Tour” (degustation) menu with ten courses. Optional wine pairings are available for each. For a while now, Camphors has presented the menus with the innovation of dishes being “graded” according to their flavour and texture “weight”.  Those listed closest to the left margin are “light and delicate”, and each indent to the right describes a move towards the “full and rich”. Here’s what it looked like on a recent visit:

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Review: The Shortmarket Club

The Proposition

The Shortmarket Club (SC) has settled in and is now a happily reliable option for those who like more sophisticated dining experiences in the city. You can immediately see by the waistcoated staff and the service trolleys and the menu that’s laid out like an exemplar from a classic French bistro that SC aims to offer a more “adult” dining experience while most restaurants in the city take the casual contemporary road. One’s previous dining experiences (and certainly one’s age) play a part in how you’ll react to the “belle époque” ambience. I find it perfectly relaxing and I’d think that anyone who likes attractive spaces and pretty things will enjoy it – any hints of artifice are successfully trumped by the evident commitment to quality. Continue reading “Review: The Shortmarket Club”