Hello and happy 2017 to my fellow food-loving, globe-trotting (armchair or not) followers. This year promises to be overflowing with flavoured adventures, and I look forward to sharing them with you.
We are currently calling for nominations for the 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide™. Complete the form on www.jennyhandley.co.za/jhp-gourmet-guide/nominate-your-favourite-restaurant and see your favourite restaurant be evaluated. The anonymous inspectors are already in action. I have the privilege of conducting the final visit to meet and interview the chefs, and to verify the scores. I hope that you will accompany me this year as I travel around SA on my taste buds!
I finished 2016 saying that over the festive season I would not be going near restaurants. However, my men had different ideas – after many wonderful family braais and home-cooked meals, they whipped me off to a few wine farms and restaurants (not exactly kicking and screaming). I’m delighted to say that we had mostly great service experiences in this busy time. Let me share a few with you.
A last-minute business meeting took place at lunchtime in Bree Street. Many restaurants were bulging at the seams, and with the southeaster making her presence felt, we sought refuge in THE STATION ON BREE. Had the place almost to ourselves as it is definitely more of an after-sunset haunt. The station-style decor is delightful and innovative, the internationally-themed menu small yet sufficient, and I was pleased with my very tasty chicken salad. My business associate settled for a toasted sandwich (boring!).
My ever-favourite nougat and bubbly tasting at VILLIERA, at R80 per person, is always my favourite spot to start a day adventuring the Stellenbosch wine route. Four of their bubblies are paired with Sally Williams nougat. My favourite pair is the Monro Brut, rich and creamy, with the honey nougat with almonds. We were treated to a glass of their Starlight Brut whilst waiting for our friends to arrive, a light Cap Classique that is a blend of both red and white grapes. I also bought some of their very dry Brut Natural, made from Chardonnay grapes. Booking is essential, and if you have the time, there is a game drive too.
We then headed to CLOS MALVERNE for their food and wine pairing. Whilst their decor is a little dated no-one notices as the views are sweeping and superb. The meal was declared good value by everyone at our table. May be worth returning for their ice cream and wine pairing?
IDIOM has been renowned for its wines for a while, and now that their restaurant has been open for six months, it is a good time to head their way. Glorious views, excellent food and as they do not yet have a licence, you purchase the wine and they bring it to your table – a great way of getting around the red tape.
My men are always in search of a good steak, and DON ARMANDO never disappoints. As a flexitarian I am sated with their prawn starter and then the chicken with chimichurri. About to head for Mexico, we decided to warm up our taste buds at DEL MAR, where there is a comprehensive menu of really tasty, authentic Mexican dishes. Whilst the restaurant has little ambience and relies on its setting and view of Camps Bay beach, the flavours do not disappoint.
MULBERRY AND PRINCE was a great venue for a family meal – trendy enough to keep the young half of the family happy, and the quality of the food good enough to keep the mature half of the family impressed. My favourite was the chicory, parsnip, pistachio and blue moon, and the ricotta dumplings.
Our top meal of the month was undoubtedly at CHEF’S WAREHOUSE AT BEAU CONSTANTIA. Wow, Liam and team have excelled themselves. We started with a tasting of the Beau Constantia wines upstairs and whilst enjoying each sip I could see the chefs snipping herbs in the garden below. We loved the superlative views and a fact-and-passion-packed description of each wine by Johann, the GM, fellow member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. We bought some of their Aidan wine as a gift for a 10-year old Aidan to keep for his 21st, and then ventured downstairs into the new restaurant. Poised with a birds’ eye view of the kitchen I was able to appreciate the care and finesse that was poured into the tasty tapas. We ordered three ‘tapas for two’ for five of us, a sensible decision. Every morsel got rave reviews from all. Favourites included the line fish escabeche, the Middle Eastern beef tataki, and the carrot and burnt butter risotto, served in a gorgeous little copper pan. When I mentioned to my husband that these could be put onto my birthday list, the very sharp waitress commented that they are for sale at the Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street! I just love well informed, friendly staff who engage with a level of friendliness that stops short of familiarity. Another winner is their woodfired pork loin. However, ordering three desserts sent us over the edge in terms of satiety but I would not have missed out on the bon bons, the wild honey and lavender crème or the chocolate pot for anything.