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”

Remembering Paul Bocuse

From our January 2018 newsletter:

Legendary French chef Paul Bocuse passed away in January this year. He was known as one of the first chefs to move away from traditional French “cuisine classique” to the lighter, more modernised “nouvelle cuisine” (a term supposedly first used by a journalist to describe the meal Bocuse and others prepared for the maiden flight of the Concorde airliner in 1969). He also founded the Bocuse d’Or (often described as the culinary version of the Olympics) in 1987, which remains the most prestigious gastronomic contest in the world. (His private life famously included one wife, two long-term mistresses, and a tattoo of a rooster on his left arm.)


 More than 1500 of the world’s top chefs attended Bocuse’s funeral in Lyon (image courtesy of The Telegraph)
Continue reading “Remembering Paul Bocuse”

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”

Facing up to Discrimination in the Hospitality Industry

From our January 2018 newsletter:

Global concerns over the abuse of power by men over women was a sobering theme that not even the cheer of the festive season could shake. In the US restaurant business it was particularly acute, with several well-known American chefs and restaurateurs like Mario Batali (whose restaurant empire will now be headed by women) and Ken Friedman (co-owner of the acclaimed The Spotted Pig in NYC) being exposed as or accused of being complicit in creating and maintaining uncomfortable environments in the establishments they were guardians of (with Batali’s public apology stating “I take full responsibility”, bizarrely followed by a recipe for cinnamon rolls – which someone blogged about making in an entertainingly acerbic post, incidentally). Continue reading “Facing up to Discrimination in the Hospitality Industry”

Story of a Plate: Citrus Cured Seabass at The Pool Room

On the menu: Citrus cured seabass with duck liver parfait, fine herbs, pickled cucumber, red pepper essence

We recently enjoyed the suprising combination of duck liver parfait with cured fish in this very pretty dish. How did you conceive of putting those two together?  

Chef Gordon Manuel: This dish is from our Discovery menu, and while The Pool Room and Oak Valley have always been well-known for their pork and beef, those can get a little bit heavy, so part of my thinking since we took over the operation of the restaurant was to add a bit more finesse, but finesse without being overly finicky – no tweezers and that type of thing. It’s also about balance; adding something to the menu that’s not so meat-heavy, and that works really well. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Citrus Cured Seabass at The Pool Room”

Pinch of Salt: Carry on up the Zambezi

By Pete Goffe-Wood.

I sit on the stoep of my room, miles from civilization, surrounded by dense green bush, the Zambezi River rumbling below me. My only companions are a thousand and one insects and an ice cold beer. Even the generators have gone to bed, so the whirring ceiling fan has spluttered its last breath and total darkness has descended. The humidity clings like a wet blanket and somewhere in the distance I hear the grunt of a hippo. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Carry on up the Zambezi”

Table Manners: The Thing about Tapas

When in Andalucia and looking to eat tapas, which one should always be doing when in Andalucia, I have one simple rule.

I was in Ronda last week, home of the oldest bullring in the world, perched astraddle the sheer El Tajo gorge and looking like a CGI set from a Star Wars film. I was talking to two American ladies I’d met in the street, and we were debating where to eat lunch. They had lists of recommended eateries and I did not. I like to lunch by serendipity. This has had some very good results and some very bad results. Continue reading “Table Manners: The Thing about Tapas”

Story of a Plate: Salt Crust Baked Celeriac at Waterkloof

 

On the menu: Salt crust baked celeriac, curry brittle, parmesan and passion fruit

Such a beautiful plate, and surprisingly complex for a meat-less dish. How did you come up with such an unusual combination?

Chef Gregory Czarnecki: I wanted to do something with this dish that you can’t do in Europe, where if you follow the seasons, and you respect the origin of the product, celeriac is a winter or spring root vegetable, whereas in South Africa winter almost takes up half of spring (especially now!). So I wanted to showcase something that wouldn’t be possible in Europe, and that also represents this country. People often think of South Africa in terms of landscape, and culture, but it’s also about the weather: so while in the western Cape we’ll have root vegetables now, in Durban, you’ll have passion fruit in the same season, growing at exactly the same time. This just wouldn’t be possible in Europe, so I wanted to come up with something that would promote the two different regions and climates you can have here at the same time, and that would also bring together a really “old school” vegetable and an exotic fruit. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Salt Crust Baked Celeriac at Waterkloof”

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”