This week we celebrated the start of Winter and the downpours that are filling our dams in the Cape. We also patted some winners on the back and rejoiced at the launch of our Secret Season online Gourmet Guide magazine. Whilst we sip hot drinks and stay warm, I always think of those who do not share the same comforts. I applaud people who do something to make a change.
Talking of change, we will be slowly but surely moving our blog onto our website www.gourmetguide.co.za. We don’t want to lose you, join and journey with us.
Loud applause from the Gourmet Guide team for Melanie Burke, chairman and original member of StreetSmart, for putting her feet ‘where her mouth is’! She is walking 120 km of the Camino in Spain in June to raise funds and awareness. Join her. StreetSmart SA is a registered Public Benefit and non-profit organisation. It funds education, skills training and programmes that reunite families. It is predominantly restaurants all over South Africa that contribute to the funds by putting a voluntary donation of R5 onto the bill. Please donate to this cause. A donation pledge form is available online on our website: http://www.streetsmartsa.org.za/donation-form
It was a treat to dine at one-plated Shortmarket Club, where chef Wes Randles gives discerning diners exactly what they desire. The décor is dramatic yet not detracting from the classical cuisine served in simple, contemporary style. The New York, clubby feel with waiters in white jackets, some executing tableside service, is what has cemented this restaurant in the hearts of locals and visitors alike, with his cuisine. As a chef Wes has walked a classical French path, and his menu is a current take on classical food. He is celebrating his history as a chef by cooking old recipes with imagination. Sleek, stylish, uncontrived – like the setting.
The tuna tartare competed with the roasted quail for my delight-of-the-night award, but my man sang the praises of the duck liver and foie gras parfait. Plating is simple, predominantly on black plates, but the flavours and techniques are not. If it is more Asian-style and casual that you are seeking, then slip next door to The Commissary.
Having recently returned from an eye-opening trip to Japan, Wes is as enthusiastic as ever, and shared his enlighted perspective on running a business, “In Japan they have less staff, with more skills, which means that there are fewer hands on the food. We are, after all, in the people business.” It is this level of wisdom that will stand Wes in good stead in his new role, that of dad to baby Jack, who arrived just hours after our meal. Thank you Jack for ensuring that it did not disturb a delightful dinner, and welcome to our wonderful world! Watch out for their amazing Prix Fixe lunch Winter special, three courses for R320. We hope that sons and daughters all over SA will be looking at the Gourmet Guide magazine (www.gourmetguide.co.za/gourmetguide/) for winter specials. Unsure of how to treat Dad? Buy him one of the last issues of the printed guide in Woolworths, or simply spoil him with the link to the online magazine.
Another Green Season special to take advantage of is at Greenhouse restaurant at Cellars Hohenhort, a beautiful Relais & Châteaux property that nestles in green, leafy Constantia. Here chef Farrel Hirsch has settled into the big footprints and legacy of Peter Tempelhoff, admirably. The reminders are the butcher bird serving of canapés, and the respect of terroir. South African flavours abound, and service is sterling from start to finish – warm, friendly and very informative. Fellow writers (and some impressive wines) were good company as we sped our way through an efficiently, yet not rushed, service of some superlative dishes. A touch of theatre added to the fun, but even without it, each dish was memorable. Prawns were cooked on a hot rock under a glass dome. Each dish made its mark, but the one that gave such a sense of place was the beetroot dessert – appearing to be so fresh that they are still ‘growing’ in a terracotta pot.
Congrats to the winners who will be receiving the fabulous prizes that were featured in our Autumn issue from Deep South Distillery, Karen Dudley (Jacana Media) and wines from Great Domaines. Ailene de Villiers, Tania van Zyl, Jamie de Wet, Di Paterson, Jurie Venter, Anne Hoffman and David Starley.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to write I go. Whilst you are taking advantage of dining out in all the top restaurants, I will be writing about them, safely ensconced on an island where there are no distractions other than blazing sunshine. I will have plenty to share upon my return. Meanwhile, stay warm, and eat up a storm.