Review: Pierneef à La Motte

The Proposition

The beauty of winter in the Cape is that you can walk into your favourite restaurants without worrying about reservations (though some exceptions apply). The curse is that they may well be closed*, or keeping erratic “off season” hours. It’s a lottery, or a project for organised minds who call ahead (and don’t make the mistake of simply believing Google’s opening hours on the search page… or even the restaurant’s website, for that matter).

So it was that I traversed to Franschhoek one sunny winter’s day to discover that not one but two of the places I was keen to eat at were closed. Franschhoek is an epicentre of Cape wine and food and this says something about the distance we still have to go. Imagine the Napa Valley closed for business on a clear winter’s day? I am not saying there is any lack of will from the operators, I just know there are not the feet to make it worth being open.

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Table Manners: Love, Life, and Takeaways

By Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

“Can I get the manti as a takeaway?” I asked.

The waitress stared at me as though she hadn’t fully understood.

“A takeaway,” I said, miming someone wrapping a small parcel and then handing it to another person who nods and smiles and takes it from the first person and sniffs it appreciatively then tucks it under their arm and walks away with it. I am excellent at charades and I don’t know why more people don’t want me on their team. “I think I’m out of time so I’ll have to take it away with me.”

She stared at me some more, her eyes growing wider. This was strange: she seemed to understand basic English when I arrived. She looked around in panic and waved to another guy who came over and they consulted, talking in low, urgent Turkish, throwing me looks of alarm and befuddlement.

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Story of a Plate: Octopus at La Tête

On the menu: Octopus, fennel and sea spinach

The octopus was phenomenal. Would you mind telling us how the dish came together, with the fennel and sea spinach?

Chef Giles Edwards: As with most of the dishes, it’s really about the supplier. Our chicken hearts come from Angus at Spier – they’re amazing, so I think about how I can make them appealing to everyone else. I put a deep-fried potato bake on the plate, and it just works perfectly with the dish, and it becomes an attraction – it’s the same with the octopus. I always cook it the same way; it just comes down to what I pair it with and how I use it. The octopus comes from South Coast Fisheries, who source it from False Bay. It’s Atlantic octopus, and there are not many restaurateurs buying it. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Octopus at La Tête”

Amazon, Whole Foods, and the future of food

From our latest newsletter:

Some of the biggest news on the international food scene last week was the announcement that Amazon would be acquiring the US-based grocery Whole Foods Market for a cool $13.7 billion. (Whole Foods calls itself “America’s Healthiest Grocery”, and as its name suggests, the focus is on organic, sustainable products.)

With Whole Food Markets currently only located in the US, Canada and the UK, it’s a deal which won’t have any immediate impact on our local food scene (no drone delivered organic kale quite yet!), but there is speculation that it could have far-reaching consequences for the global food industry.

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Dining Etiquette and Jazz

If you stop and think about it, it’s interesting that we visit a top-end restaurant, hand over a couple of thousand Rand per head for the pleasure, and then profusely thank the waiter, the manager and the chef for the privilege when we leave.

This gratitude is only elevated the more rare the opportunity, like when we land a table at a place that really is difficult to get into. What this brings into focus is that we are the guests of the restaurant and they are the hosts, and we thank them as we would thank the hosts at a domestic dinner party. We only stop short of bringing them flowers.

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Story of a Plate: Bread and bokkom butter at Wolfgat

 

On the menu: Part of “Strandveld snacks” at the beginning of lunch

We were intrigued by all your dishes, but especially the bread with bokkom butter, which was like a bagna cauda, but West Coast style. Can you tell us about how that came about?

Kobus van der Merwe: At Oep ve Koep (our previous space which is still run by my family), we used to serve a fried bokkom* fillet in different versions – there was a breakfast-y one with egg, and we did a seared watermelon with bokkom and seaweed. And then everyone in the kitchen always grabbed and dipped their bread in the pan that we fried the bokkom in, because the juices were just ridiculous. We fried them in a little oil, and then we added butter while the bokkoms were heating up, and then, almost as a joke, because it’s the nicest feeling to clean a pan with bread in the kitchen, we started thinking of sending that to the table, and then just refining it a little bit.

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Table Manners: Suiting up for Manhood

By Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

For me, manhood meant a place at a table in a restaurant.

When I was very young in Durban my father had a ritual. Once a month on a Monday he would put on a clean white shirt and a tie and a sports jacket and leave the house alone. This was a strange turn of events, because ordinarily my father would never wear a tie or a jacket, and also this was Durban in the 1970s – the only people who wore ties and jackets were waiters and jewel thieves.

He would come home later in the evening, and I would hear his car pull up in the driveway and hear him open the front door and walk through the house, and I can’t remember if I ever asked him where he went in his clean white shirt and his tie and sports jacket, but I know it felt like a tremendous secret, something strange and terrible and not quite fit for the eyes of moms and small kids.

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Review: Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia

The Proposition

Chef Ivor Jones, previously head chef at the much-lauded The Test Kitchen, captains this luxury winelands offshoot of Liam Tomlin’s Chefs Warehouse in Cape Town.

When it opened, Chefs Warehouse in Cape Town quickly became a food-hound’s favourite for the sheer quality of the cuisine and the fact that one could enjoy various flavours in miniature through the “tapas for two” option where two diners submit to the pleasures of the kitchen and enjoy a series of dishes. It’s a less fussy version of a tasting menu – albeit pretty far from “tapas” in a true sense of the word as they’re smaller portions of pretty cheffy food. The distinct advantage of this approach is that the kitchen can react to new or seasonal or a whim pretty quickly, and offer an ever-changing menu for those who return often.

While the original Chefs embodies a “no-fuss” environment – the tiny dining space alongside and indeed within a retail space with ingredients and cooking utensils all around – the Beau Constantia edition is considerably more upmarket in feel and very far from being a warehouse in any sense of the word, and more of a showroom. The new Chefs Warehouse does, however, also anchor its menu on the “tapas for two”.

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Story of a Plate: Pork Belly at Black Sheep Restaurant

On the menu: Chinese 5 spice-hoisin Pork Belly w/sweet potato purée, Chinese cabbage & crackling

There seems to always be pork belly on the Black Sheep menu, suggesting it’s one of those dishes diners would start complaining about not being available if you ever took it off. How did it become one of your “signature” dishes, and what’s the story of this particular iteration?

Chef Jonathan Japha: When you’re cooking for a restaurant of this volume, you’ve got to have some food that’s pre-done, and organised, and fully cooked, and there’s no reason why you can’t make things that are suited specifically to that purpose. Pork belly is one of those meats that really works better when you cook it very slowly for a long period of time, and because it’s already cooked, it’s perfect to have sitting in a bain marie. We keep it in the oven, with the glaze on top, with water on the bottom of the pan, so that it actually continues to cook as service progresses, and it just gets better and better as it sits.

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Have you voted for your favourite steakhouse?

The Wolftrap Steakhouse Championships is on again, asking for nominations for South Africa’s favourite steakhouses – followed by a judging round in June where these restaurants will be assessed by the experts to crown the Steakhouse Champion for 2017.

Go over to the Steakhunter Facebook page app to cast your vote for your favourite now!