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.

Continue reading “Classics: The Radium Beerhall”

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:

Continue reading “Review: Camphors at Vergelegen”

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”

Review: Mulberry & Prince

The Proposition

I’ve been hearing about Mulberry & Prince off and on, but was getting no real view on the type of food they cooked. Their Facebook page identifies the menu style as “New American” and I’ll save you the trouble of Googling what that means – it’s essentially anything you want it to mean. The term encompasses plates that combine ideas and/or cookery from the USA with any other global cuisine, and clearly it’s most used in the USA itself to indicate a combination of food styles, like spring rolls fused with a uniquely American ingredient, such as crab from the east coast. Continue reading “Review: Mulberry & Prince”

Review: Klein Joostenberg Bistro

Every time I eat here again, I remind myself not to make it too long before the next visit. This casual bistro exemplifies good food at good prices. It’s not following trends, neither is it guilty of the “everything done more or less ok” approach that too many casual eateries go for.

Case in point was my lunch plate: warm pickled pork tongue with a home-made mustard, potato salad and vegetables (R90). It was just right in flavour, texture and balance and, paired with a glass of the Joostenberg Fairhead, left the distinct impression that this is the kind of food that one could eat every day – satisfying on all gustatory fronts, as well as interesting to anyone who’s looking for something a touch different. So too the crême brulée with its guava base and orange flavour – a well-known dessert with a fresh twist. Continue reading “Review: Klein Joostenberg Bistro”

Review: Marigold

A relative newcomer in Franschhoek, Marigold is part of the Leeu Collection which acquired Le Quartier Français and has replaced its erstwhile icon restaurant, The Tasting Room, with an offshoot of another Cape icon, La Colombe, in the form of La Petite Colombe.

Marigold, billing itself as “authentic Indian” is not part of the same building as Le Quartier, however, but across the main road and occupying a stand-alone building, the interior of which is rather lightly clad in Indian decor touches. On this lunch, I enjoyed the light-filled and less cluttered space, but the feeling I had was that it may not feel as cosy or plush as one would like over dinner. The lunch service was busy (considering how quiet Franschhoek can be in winter), and there were quite a few tables of international visitors, and even a large Indian family who wandered in to get take-aways… making it feel very authentic indeed. Continue reading “Review: Marigold”