A whistle-stop week in London doing retail research for a client was busy, but allowed time for tasty stops in-between meetings. I avoided the Black Friday sale mania by trampling through the autumn leaves in Hampstead Heath, the crunching sound providing enchanting music to my ears. The rest of the week I had either tills merrily ringing in my ears, or Christmas carols, the novelty of which wore off on day one!
I celebrated the 20-year anniversary of my business, JHP, in style, solo, at Ottolenghi’s restaurant, Nopi. Set in the heart of the Oxford/Regent street shopping area, it provided a fitting gourmet feast. Upon arrival I was welcomed and told that instead of joining the communal throng below, as the maitre‘d was worried that I may feel lonely, they would seat me upstairs (in the expensive, smart level of the restaurant!). Sitting at the bar I had the captivating company of their barman, Albi. A Zimbabwean by birth, he immediately asked me “Cape Town or Joburg?”, and then proceeded to bring additional accompaniments to all my orders, knowing that I was going to write about Yotam Ottolenghi’s famous restaurant. Downstairs the communal tables give a bird’s eye view of the bustling kitchen. An afternoon of small portions big on flavour, was memorable. When I ordered the peanut brittle ice-cream as a dessert, Albi insisted that I also try the much lighter rhubarb dessert. Both were sublime, a fitting end to what was a special celebration.
Nopi Website:www.ottolenghi.co.uk/nopi Tel: 020 7494 9584
There are many ‘friends’ to eat with in London – Jamie, Gail, Paul, Carluccio – chains with one on every corner. I had a shopping stop-gap at Jamie’s Union Jack restaurant in Covent Garden, where my mulled wine and tomato soup with marmite cheesy toast, filled the gap and warmed me up.
Jamie’s Union Jack Website:www.unionjacksrestaurants.com/locations/4 Tel: 0203 640 7086
A drink at the fashionable “Hush” in Bond Street with a South African friend who insisted on wine from SA was fun – worth returning to for a meal if you are feeling rich. Having a red velvet cupcake from the Hummingbird bakery, reputed to be the first place to serve red velvet, is a must.
Hummingbird bakery Website:www.hummingbirdbakery.com
So is a wander around the Harrods food market, and an autumn walk in Hyde Park finishing off at the Serpentine Café for where I had a pot of Earl Grey tea and Christmas shortbread for breakfast! I cannot leave London without a visit to Wagamama noodle bar, where their warm chicken, chilli and cashew salad is good value.
Fish and chips is another must-have, this time enjoyed with my niece and her husband in Battersea. Ottolenghi in Islington was the setting for a delicious and stimulating lunch with a work colleague – a plate of three salads that looked like a work of art.
Ottolenghi Website:www.ottolenghi.co.uk Tel: 020 7288 1454
Many stops at Truc Vert, a French bistro on the corner of my street in Mayfair (either clearing emails early over cappuccino or late with a glass of Prosecco), made me feel like London was home-from-home.
I headed straight for my favourite garden – that of the Belmond Mount Nelson – to admire their Summer of Sculpture III exhibition. The Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town is exhibiting 16 sculptures created by contemporary SA artists in this perfect oasis. A printed map, available at reception, gives information on each piece, but if you want to know more, a guided tour can be requested. One of the many other good reasons to visit my favourite hotel could be for the Garden Braai at The Nellie. A great fan of Rudi Liebenberg in his kitchen, I am sure it will be as much of a gourmet adventure to see him grilling al fresco. On the menu are juicy rib-eye steaks, spicy boerewors, Karoo lamb cutlets, herby chicken thighs, freshly caught linefish: all served with sunny salads. Starters sound yummy, as do the desserts which include chef Rudi’s “to die for” braaied Amarula bananas. Make a note in your diary for 7pm – 11pm on 21st December, with two sittings, one at 7pm and one at 9pm. The cost is R595 per adult and R295 per child under 12 years. Reservations are essential. Makes a great gift for someone who has everything and loves a good experience?
My first week home included a breakfast at Clarke’s in Bree Street, better known for what they offer at latter times of the day. I returned to Localé in Mowbray, and other than having to wait on our cappuccino order as the owners were meeting with their barista (sorry, but who is more important, the owners or the patrons?), we thoroughly enjoyed our delicious array of pintxos.
Clarke’s Website:www.clarkesdining.co.za Tel: 021 424 7648
Another good reason for returning home was the launch of the Mondiall Burger Bar, a great way of celebrating their first year of success. Grande Chef Peter Tempelhoff has a new playground – believing that burgers are fun food – he has realised his dream and now serves up delicious gourmet burgers from the New York-style bar behind Mondiall. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter’s protégé, Lauren Case, who, at 24 years of age, is at the start of what will no doubt be a career as illustrious as her mentor’s. Only after meeting this animated and passionate young chef, did I realise that I remember her from her pre-school days! She has wound her way from the South African Chefs Academy via The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa and De Grendel, into Peter Tempelhoff’s team at the Cellars Hohenort’s award-winning restaurants, The Conservatory and The Greenhouse. The year at Mondiall Kitchen & Bar has seen her progress from junior sous chef to sous chef, before taking charge of the kitchen in August 2014. Watch this space. I wrestled with ordering from the menu – should I have the lauded peri-peri prawns, or a burger? My conscience cleared when another guest ordered a burger, so that I could salivate over both and share these great choices.
The bar offers freshly grilled burgers that are presented in monogrammed paper, with fries in a packet, daily from 11h00 till late, from the counter. The Classic Angus Beef Burger is R55, the gourmet Veggie option R60), the Free Range Chicken Chipotle Burger R70. Consider the Burger of the Day or the Dog of the Day (free range pork Vienna with the chef’s toppings). For the ultimate treat order the French fries with truffle and Parmesan cheese (R28), or plain (R20). Soon there will be tables and benches outside the bar so that you can enjoy your feast seated watching the world go by in the V&A Waterfront.
Mondiall Burger Bar Website:www.mondiall.co.za Tel: 021 418 3002
A wine tasting and pairing at Beau Constantia afforded us not only the best views of the Constantia Valley, but a great venue for our standard family Sunday lunch get-together. Upstairs there is a choice of burgers and focaccia, which had the younger generation smiling. I loved the fact that the waitress went the extra mile and ordered a vegan meal from the sushi restaurant downstairs at short notice.
Beau Constantia Website:www.beauconstantia.com Tel: 021 794 8632
Tel: 020 7706 8114
Tel: 0207 491 9988
Tel: 021 685 2155
Belmond Mount Nelson
Tel: 021 483 1000