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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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?”