Salsify for a special occasion

History is visible in visual splendour at Salsify at the Roundhouse, so let me first share a little of my personal history before we celebrate theirs.

My introduction to my mother-in-law was at the age of 13 years, and she has been an enduring inspiration in my culinary journey. We share recipes, recipe books (and of course, love the same man!) In early days, she would expose me to ingredients that I had never heard of, and in her quest to perfect a dish, like a flan, was known to make a few dozen and top them with outlandish combinations. Combinations which now are the norm. While her family groaned, I was intrigued. Her avocado ice cream was new and novel in the 70s, ice cold it was heavenly and different, but as it melted it was hideous, so yes, I too suffered along the way. I am grateful that she raised a son who has the love of food and wine flowing in his veins. For her birthdays we take her somewhere special for lunch where her taste buds will be teased with inventive flavour and texture combinations. This year? Salsify.

The current seven-course tasting menu offers a broad spectrum of ingredients and dishes that showcase the season well. We opted for the lighter four-course option (excellent value at R395) starting with a 63-degree hen’s egg with chestnut, and a sherry and red onion cream – delightful in its texture contrast. For starters, the older, yet more adventurous Mrs Handley, opted for the sashimi with tamarind and yuzu dressing, nettle and ginger. She is still talking about it…before she devoured the miso-grilled octopus with fennel and white grape, cured tofu and jellied aubergine – equally delicious. The lamb rib and loin with toasted garlic dauphinoise, burnt and braised leek, boasted pungent flavour, contrasting with gentle presentation. The delicate portions of both desserts, the satsuma ice with tonka bean panna cotta, granadilla curd and lemongrass sorbet and the quince caramel tart with rhubarb, hibiscus and brown-butter ice cream, were superb.  Humble, yet accomplished chef Ryan Cole needed to be lured out of the kitchen to accept our lavish compliments. It was as he was getting used to the limelight in the openness of The Test Kitchen that he and Luke Dale Roberts opened this gem.

After enjoying sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean during our meal, despite cloud cover, we took a moment to absorb and appreciate the innovative style in the former hunting lodge of Sir Charles Somerset. Take time to explore the inventive decor, conceptualized and crafted by Sandalene Dale Roberts, like bold graffiti that exposes more about the infamous Dr James Barry, who posed as a man. Whilst admiring the sculpture in reception by Otto du Plessis, the very attentive staff shared the vision behind this masterpiece.

Allow me to leave you with a taste of intrigue so you put Salsify on your secret-season must-dine-at list.

THE COMMISSARY POP-UP

If you are Jo’burg-based and have heard all the ooh’s and ahhh’s about Cape Town’s street-food king, The Commissary, you are in for a pleasant awakening. Popping up in Rosebank at Publik Wine Bar for just five days, chef Wes Randles and Simon Widdison will shake the Jo’burg food scene. Keeping their globally-influenced concept of transformative and delicious street food (NO FRILLS) they’ll be showcasing their talents from Tuesday 28 May to Saturday 1 June from 18h00. There are no bookings, the demand will be high, so get there early to avoid missing the pop.

SEASONS TO CELEBRATE…COMING UP…

It was in good company that I discovered more about The Four Seasons properties in Seychelles and at The Westcliff in Jozi. A group of inquisitive journalists met the dynamic management team of this prestigious group over dinner at The Stack in Cape Town, whilst sipping superb Cavalli wines. Over dinner they shared their passion for these unique, drawcard destinations. My love affair with the beautiful island has been re-awakened as our Gourmet Guide online magazine team starts preparing for a future island-style edition…

I’m still celebrating the sightings of cherry blossoms in my sleep before I dream of Japanese cuisine! One of my pleasures is sharing my tastes and travels with you…watch out for my account of a bucket-list trip in the Winter Gourmet Guide magazine, to be released on 1 June.

Applauding all the way

THE INSIDE JOB

BY SANDALENE DALE ROBERTS

“It’s a celebration of everyone who works with us,” said Sandalene proudly as she welcomed the team, family and media to the launch of her book. It’s a big family, a tribe that shares the life of achieving excellence. Now it has been shared to inspire anyone who has dined at any of the Luke Dale Roberts restaurants.

Extracts from Luke’s diary, revealing quotes, emotive photography and handwritten notes – the book is a collection of visual treats. It’s personal, a true share. Sandalene thanked her two men (Luke and Finley), her parents who were present, and the individuals who made it happen – each person highlighted in the book was easily identifiable from a caricature badge, a collection of which features on the cover. Their sense of pride was palpable.

Cocktails and canapes, the recipes for which are in the book, were sipped by an appreciative audience in the courtyard and light room of The Test Kitchen.

The book, at R970 is available exclusively from the Test Kitchen, Pot Luck Club, Shortmarket Club, and Salsisfy.

THE DISTELL INTER HOTEL CHALLENGE

BY SHOWCOOK

It was during a quick chat to Test Kitchen sommelier Tinashe Nyamudoka at the book launch that I discovered that he was the first-ever winner of the wine steward category in the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge.

The challenge, now in its seventh year, has been launched at a series of sumptuous functions around SA – Johannesburg, Durban, two in the winelands, and the last, at the 12 Apostles in Cape Town. On a glorious evening glamorously-dressed guests gathered on the lawns to witness not only a spectacular sunset, but whales playing in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s this kind of attention to detail that one has begun to expect from Annette Kesler and Chania Morrit-Smith of Showcook, who engineer this worthwhile initiative. It makes a unique and valuable contribution to the industry, giving talent a platform on which to learn, grow and shine. The candidates in the chef, sommelier and now concierge categories were introduced by their executive chefs and managers of the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, the One&Only, Vineyard Hotel, Southern Sun Cape Sun and SunSquare City Bowl, the President Hotel and Marriot Crystal Towers. They were charming and engaging, nerves and all, and I wish each and every one of them the very best of luck in the forthcoming months as they compete to be crowned the best in their categories.

 

My word, Myoga

It is no hardship to tear myself away from my computer, clients and deadlines to be inspired by chefs and their creativity. Having a quick catch-up with head chef/owner Mike Bassett, known for his craft, is leading the charge in terms of sustainability at the stately Vineyard Hotel in leafy Newlands. He ensures that they source ethically raised, sustainable produce through initiatives like ABALOBI.

Germaine Esau, chef de cuisine at one-plated Myoga, is playing beautifully with fresh and foraged ingredients, plating like a pro and pulling dishes together to create indelible food memories. I asked Germaine how the food landscape has changed for him in the last year, and he was confident in replying, “There is less flamboyance, it is more about the product. If there is smoke and nitrogen, it is carefully thought-out theatre, not for the sake of it.” Classically French-trained, so flawless technique will always be a foundation of his food. “The season guides us. We are serving the best produce, served at prime, cooked in the best way.” Dishes on the elements menu are linked to earth, wind, fire, water and aether (quintessence).

I was joined for a tasting spree by fellow food passonista, chef and author Marlene van der Westhuizen, to talk about plates, hers and ours. She has been winging her way around the country launching her beautiful new recipe book, Plate. On the cover is one of Mervyn Gers’ first successes with clay, a plate from the M Collection. Whilst we compared industry notes, we too relished each plate that Germaine presented, practicing for his new autumn menu that launched this week. From the confit carrot bao with coconut and nam jim emulsion and delicious homemade breads to scallops, from avocado presented in a myriad of ways to venison cooked to perfection. Desserts vied for our vote – would the light rendition of Pina Colada win, or the decadent chocolate dessert? It was a tie. I asked Germaine what he chooses to eat in down time with his wife and toddler. “Whole wheat toast with scrambled egg, tomato sauce (hopefully homemade?) and a good cup of coffee!”

Whilst they may have toned down the theatre a tad, there is still intrigue and a wow factor. Fewer elements, in harmony, makes sense.

The Commissary

There is a graffiti stairway in Shortmarket Street Cape Town that leads to a casual eating experience with food of fine-dining quality. No frills. Plastic and enamel plates. At the Commissary it’s a mere 40m2, three communal tables and a counter that seats six. Moving art on the walls, blackboards. Here the loud buzz of happy chatter drowns out any music. Some come for a quick cocktail and oysters, others sit tight and work their way through the entire, enticing menu. That’s what we did, starting with the Pani Puri ceviche, an unusual Indian slant on a traditional ceviche that explodes in your mouth, and the sashimi (yellowtail) and ponzu dressing (the ponzu made by the chef Wes Randles). As he handed over our first dish at the counter, he warned us that there would be nothing gentle about the food, that we were to expect flavours that are unapologetically extravagant.

It was at the one-plated Shortmarket Club next door that Wes and Luke Dale Roberts had many discussions about opening a pared-down restaurant during the recent drought and recession. The Commissary is the result. No reservations, fewer staff, the focus on food. “When food is expensive the expectations are higher. This is our chance to try something unique.  People understand quality, these days they know a lot about food, but they don’t always want a four-hour dining experience. Here it is shortened, and the timing is up to you,” says Wes.

I managed to quiz Wes on his forthcoming week in Tokyo, where he and his chef friends Ivor and Ollie will be feasting with locals, meeting lauded chefs plus experiencing some top restaurants. “I’m expecting a culture shock. I am going with an open mind. I admire the Japanese philosophy of mastering a craft – it is not in their culture to try to be the best, but to master the craft, which they spend a lifetime doing.” Definitely not what this talented chef will be doing when he returns, he loves variety, but he is sure to be greatly influenced by the experience.

Our waiter Oscar led us through making wise choices. Every dish sounds as delicious as it is, and yes, we did over-indulge. The 90s-style wedge salad with pecan nuts and miso cream dressing was simple yet spectacular, the special of the day was too – a mortadella slider.

It was a simple cookie that brought our fabulous evening of casual feasting to a memorable close.

Gourmet celebrations

NOBU 10TH CELEBRATION

“When a Nobu opens, the city changes.” The first day of autumn ended with a beautiful balmy evening. Arriving at the One&Only Cape Town in the V&A Waterfront, we were warmly welcomed by Resort Manager Roberto Garrone. Guests then lined up to meet iconic chef Nobu Matsuhisa, in Cape Town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his restaurant, Nobu. Quick photo opportunities with the guru followed, before sipping sake served by his sake master, and devouring exceptional canapes created by chef Harold Hurtada and his team. After an inspiring evening of rubbing shoulders with chefs and fellow food passionistas, guests were given a signed copy of Nobu’s recipe book to devour page by page, at their leisure. The memories linger on…

LIQUORICE AND LIME

March is my month. I celebrate not being another year older, but (as I fool myself), another year better! My birthday kicked off with an early morning mountain walk around Lions Head, followed by a delicious breakfast at Liquorice and Lime.

HEMELHUIJS

I share a birthday with my friend Wendy, our mothers having met when in neighbouring labour wards. We re-ignited our association in junior school and again when studying food and nutrition. Every year on or as near to our birthdays as possible, we celebrate over lunch. This year it was at gorgeous Hemelhuijs. Here even the menus look edible, true works of art. We ordered and shared the seared tuna and crispy calamari dishes, both excellent. Then it was back home to haul the gin trolley onto the deck to enjoy the setting sun with snacks and more good friends.

DW ELEVEN-13

As the hordes hit the Mother City for the cycle tour and the winds picked up, we packed our bags and headed out of the chaos, bound for Botswana. A quick detour in Jozi – two-plated restaurants are deemed worthy of a detour – made lunch at dweleven-13 a worthy sidestep. Their lunch special is excellent value at R365 per person. Attentive and efficient service ensures that it provides the perfect platform for a business lunch. A glass of bubbles was offered as a welcome drink. Breads are lovingly baked on site, like the walnut and cranberry bread that chef Marthinus Ferreira declares still needs work, but I declared perfect. They fill the gaps before the amuse bouche. The jar of breadsticks for dipping, and an assortment of tasty bites that included a titbit of sardines in, not on, toast, a delicate morsel gently cased in breadcrumbs.

My companion allowed me to choose for him, so he started with the almond, tomato, melon, chorizo and balsamic combination. I decided to create my own seaside route – first up the

hake ceviche with curry, mint, buttermilk, cucumber and jalapeno – a piquant medley of flavours. My ‘date’ devoured the exquisitely-plated gnocchi with spinach, seeds, raisin and a karoo crumble. I tucked into the langoustine with corn and my favourite flavours of garlic, ginger, lemongrass, peanut and coconut, appreciatively. The linefish (usually sea bass) with squid, mushroom, peas and jus gras (chicken and fish can work well together) was as perfect as the beef with kohlrabi, onion, broccoli and carrot.

An artistic rendition of Gorgonzola with celery, walnuts, grapes that was ‘melted’ with a warm sauce was heavenly. The dessert crafted with 55% Valhrona chocolate lightened by blackcurrant, peanuts, raspberry, butterscotch was also ideal to share. We recorded smiling faces with a photo opp – Marthinus and his beautiful Mervyn Gers Ceramics plate and unique wine cooler, given to plated chefs in the 2019 JHP Gourmet Guide™.

PLATE

As our followers know, we love books. We also love plates (we award our top restaurants and chefs with plates for their prowess). The Norval Foundation is a worthy setting for a book launch, an artistic backdrop that beckons to all those who love art, style and sophistication. The retail store is breathtaking, the merchandise carefully curated to entice visitors to shop for a vast spectrum of art. One of the most appealing museum shops I have experienced.

We digress. Back to books. It was a relaxed Liam Tomlin who welcomed guests and then fired a few questions at renowned chef and author Marlene van der Westhuizen. Many of her ardent fans were present, and it was in an informative and engaging manner that she shared the background to the book with them. She gave insights into her gourmet tour of Charroux, where she and her husband have a second home. These tours are not all about cooking, one is exposed to the lifestyle of this quaint village, the locals and their produce, and there is a lot of fun too! She regaled the tale, pointing to the lady in blue, of how one woman arrived on tour clutching a mystery bag that was not to be opened. A few days later, on the day of the royal wedding, I (the lady in blue), handed everyone a tiara as we set off for a local pub in which we were to move the local lads out of the way and change the channel from sport. Here we watched the Royal wedding, entranced, sipping Champagne, in our tiaras! Next day, back to shopping at local markets and cooking up a storm in Marlene’s kitchen. This cookery experience for me was life-changing, and it re-ignited my love affair with food.

IMG-20190314-WA0004Marlene’s first three books, Delectable, Sumptuous and Abundance, works of art, overflow with inspiration and wonderful recipes. PLATE is her latest collection of simple, fuss-free main courses. The recipes are divided into three sections of meat, seafood and poultry. There are all the classics, brought to life with her inimitable flair, and incredible photography by Rogger Koene. It is also available in Afrikaans (Bord), at a cost of R375, it is a must-have for any food-lover. Mervyn Gers Ceramics produced the beautiful blue and white plate on the cover of Plate, part of the M Collection designed with Marlene in mind.

GOURMET GUIDE SUMMER ISSUE

Thank you to everyone who entered the competitions and for all the positive feedback. Our special thanks to Sexy Socks, NOMU, Pierre Jordan and Belgian Beer Company for their prizes, and congratulations to the winners:

Hampers from Sexy Socks:

  1. Marc McDonald
  2. Nyaniso Morlock

NOMU winners:

  1. Veronica Calina De Waal – a 16-piece Cook’s Collection spice rack
  2. Yölika Muscat – a ‘breakfast-in-bed’ hamper

Mixed case of Pierre Jordan Brut and Belle Rose:

  1. Michelle Edwards
  2. Jamie De Wet

A hamper of Cherry Chouffe products including a picnic basket, blanket, glasses and beer:

  1. Dave Starley

 

If you haven’t set your eyes on the autumn issue yet, visit www.gourmetguide.co.za/gourmetguide/ to view, read, download or print your free copy. Don’t forget to sign up to the magazine to keep up to date and be the first to be informed when the next issue gets released.

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Lord Nelson Restaurant

For those who love traditional finesse

Oh take me back to when dinner was a dignified affair, with no-one trying to get their best Insta-moment, to when connecting over a meal meant nothing about technology. It meant taking the time to enjoy the setting, the people and the food.

The landmark pink lady, aka The Nellie, currently commemorating 100 years of her iconic pink, is celebrating all that is timeless and traditional, the hotel having first opened its doors in March 1899. This is where Capetonians donned their Sunday best (gloves and hats) for high days and holidays. Afternoon tea here is still a drawcard with its table covered in sweet and savoury treats that draw gasps and satisfies the most discerning.

Mark Williams

Now dinner at the Lord Nelson Restaurant in the beautiful, intimate Sherwood Room of the Belmond Mount Nelson transports you back to yesteryear with a sense of occasion. It was the hotel’s original dining room, and it was here that Queen Elizabeth hosted a cocktail reception to celebrate her 21st birthday in April 1947, prior to the birthday ball held at Government House. The elegant, romantic room has tables covered in white linen, spaced so that your interlude is yours and yours alone. Settle into your comfortable carver with your handbag nearby on a stool, and peruse the menu whilst you enjoy the pianist playing.  You may want to take a moment to absorb some of the history etched into the domed ceiling above. Chefs Rudi Liebenberg and Dion Ventagass have carefully considered what traditional, conventional diners want, and given it to them with a touch of class.

The Chef’s Choice menu is available in two, three or four-courses with allergies and preferences highlighted. The Classic Choice menu features the beef Wellington, which is served tableside with great aplomb, fresh West Coast oysters, caviar or a Caesar salad to share. There is something for everyone’s palate. We opted for the three courses, at a very reasonable R420 (two is R345 and four R540).

The Nellie team is legendary for its breads, but we held back knowing not to fill up. The amuse bouche of a salmon bite and a mushroom jelly, was light and delicate. I chose the salmon tartare to start, delicious with a lime seaweed crumble, rice cracker, kimchi and miso-cured egg yolk. My man went for the heavenly tomato salad – smoked tomato panna cotta with artichokes, dried olives and pine nuts. We followed with the pokora fried brinjal, generous in taste and size, with caponata, a chickpea puree and basil.  The hazelnut and sweet potato tortellini (a bestseller I was told) gave me order envy. Then we devoured the pan-roast duck and roast seabass with a spinach crust, masala-roasted cauliflower and a curry leaf cream. There are many dishes that will appeal to visitors, highlighting local dishes and flavours. Although sated, the desserts appealed – choosing from the popular old favourites like peach melba, baked Alaska and dark chocolate fondant proved difficult, so we selected the salted rosemary baked chocolate tart with a milk-chocolate-chilli ice cream, because it sounded different. Simply presented, it was, simply delectable.

Attentive service ensures, without ever being intrusive, ensures that your experience is special, and table-side service is gracious and impressive. Fine, refined dining with old-fashioned charm that will appeal to Capetonians and visitors alike.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day

The month of love is here, and the day nearly upon us. The Gourmet Guide team have come up with a few suggestions, from informal to refined dining. Whether you are spoiling a loved one, celebrating a friendship or seeking a special person, here are a few options for you to do it over food and wine in both town and country.

CAPE TOWN

Incognito Bar

If you are a single and ready to mingle, the place to be this Valentine’s Day is at the Incognito Bar at the Alphen Hotel. They will be raising a glass to those proud and footloose, providing the view and vibe, leaving the rest up to you.

Tel: + 27 021 795 6300

Website: www.incognitobar.co.za

8 Feb blog

Balducci 

If Italian flair is what makes your heart stop, Balducci in the V&A Waterfront will be the showstopper for you. With simple home-cooked cuisine, the option of two menus and at an affordable price, you are sure to knock the socks off your partner.

Tel: + 27 021 421 6002

Website: www.balduccis.co.za/valentines-day-2019

Balducci's exteriorBalducci's Valentine's Dinner2

Bobo’s 

New kid on the block, Bobo’s, a brasserie on Beach Road in Mouille Point, is part of the Kove Collection. They are offering a set menu so that you can enjoy the day of love with a memorable meal beside the sea.

Tel: +27 021 439 9027

Website: www.bobosbrasserie.co.za

Deep South Distillery

If you would rather give dining out a skip this year, why not give drinking out a try. Deep South Distillery’s gin tasting is an intimate affair where you learn how to make gin, ending off with a fabulous tasting of their award-winning gins. Ideal for first dates – plenty to talk about!

Tel: +27 021 783 0129

Website: www.deepsouthdistillery.co.za


WINELANDS

Grande Provence

Get your dancing shoes ready,  they will do the rest. Grande Provence wine estate in the Franschhoek valley has you covered for a memorable romantic evening. Enjoy a glass of bubbles and oysters on arrival before relishing an intimate 4-course dinner. There will be a dance floor at your leisure for some swinging and two-stepping in between.

Tel: + 27 021 876 8600

Website: www.grandeprovence.co.za

Le Petit Manoir

Welcome drinks, live music by Jimm Harisson and a six-course tasting menu by Michelin-star chef Kevin Grobler will be sure to tick all the boxes in any relationship. Be sure to book as seats are filling up fast.

Tel: +27 21 876 2110

Website: www.lepetitmanoir.co.za/dining

Galileo Open Air Cinema

Fall in love all over again at Nooitgedacht Wine Estate. Pack a picnic of your favourite snacks, head off to this beautiful estate and enjoy the classical movie of Romeo and Juliet.

Website: www.thegalileo.co.za/movies-program


JOHANNESBURG

Level Four Restaurant

Spoil your loved one with a romantic three-course dinner at Level Four Restaurant at 54 on Bath. Set in the heart of Rosebank, enjoy the gorgeous setting and be sure to kick-off at their legendary Champagne Bar.

Tel: +27 011 344 8500

Website: www.tsogosun.com/level-four

 

Winehouse

Winehouse at Ten Bompas has gone all out this year, presenting their guests with a delectable nine-course tasting menu that will be sure to impress your taste buds and all your senses. Chef Johannes de Bruijn prides himself on beautiful plating, using produce from their garden. The small, intimate restaurant is perfect for romance.

Tel: +27 011 325 2442

Website: www.tenbompas.com

Lillian Gray Fine School of Arts

Enjoy an evening of creativity and wine by spoiling your favourite human at Lillian Gray Fine School of Art. Kick-off with a fun couple’s quiz before proceeding to the painting activity. Each partner works on one half of a picture and at the end of the evening the couple joins them together. Wine, cheese platters and all supplies are provided. Sounds like fun? We think so. No painting experience needed.

Tel: +27 76 828 2448

Website: www.lilliangray.co.za


DURBAN

9th Avenue Bistro 

If a romantic candle-lit dinner is what you are looking for, 9th Avenue Bistro is a must. Be spoilt with a welcome drink of sparkling raspberry gin fizz and a blini with sour cream and olive crumble, followed by a spectacular three-course meal. Owners Graham and Gina Neilson are known for their warm welcome and generous, flavourful fare.

Tel: +27 031 312 9134

Website: www.9thavenuebistro.co.za

The Palm Court 

The landmark hotel, The Oyster Box, is spoiling all guests with all things prawn. Enjoy prawn cocktails and grilled prawns before a decadent dessert. To help set the perfect scene, there will be a pianist to create the perfect mood.

Tel: +27 031 514 5000

Website: www.oysterboxhotel.com/food-and-drink

Spa Durban 

Light lunch in a spa? Specializing in couple treatments, this award-winning spa located at four hotels across Durban, has the ultimate packages to enjoy with your loved one. Some of their packages include a light lunch – choose between the Valentines Package, Valentine’s Fairy-tale, Fit for Royalty or the Valentine’s Treat – each as luxurious as the next.

Website: www.spadurban.co.za

Whichever your choice is, remember, One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Wine settings for summer

LA PETITE FERME

It was during unseasonal spring downpours that we cosied up in one of the 10 beautiful refurbished luxury vineyard suites at La Petite Ferme. I have fond memories of this beautiful property, having celebrated a wedding anniversary there about a decade ago. The view and privacy of the suites remain unparalleled. Modern decor and all the bells and whistles that one expects from a top-class property, are discreetly evident. A private pool and deck is a must for those hot summer days. General Manager Riaan Kruger runs a tight-knit team of dedicated people who endeavor to make each small interaction matter.

Our experience began with a wine tasting, conducted by passionate and well-informed Ryno, in the intimate wine-tasting room. He lead us through their range of white, red and Methode Cape Classique wines with charm and interest, providing nuggets of information about the previously family-owned estate that is a pillar of the community. We moved to our comfortable window seats in the restaurant to admire the sweeping vineyard, valley and mountain views before tucking into a hearty lunch. Chef Kyle Norris and his team are devoted to showcasing local produce, and satisfying appetites for South African fare. The saffron-smoked lime and chilli prawn proved a good start, with the Assiette de la Semaine being a perfect choice for me, the lauded La Petite Ferme classic of slow-roasted lamb pleasing my man. The rose and white chocolate mousse ended a generous meal. At midday there was not a soul in the restaurant, we thought it had been opened specially for us, but an hour later there was a steady buzz of international dialects, smiling faces and a lot of khaki clothing! It is the perfect place for a visitor to enjoy everything that the valley offers – warm hospitality, good country cooking and local wines.

WARWICK WINE ESTATE

Taking refuge in a picnic pod on a wine estate that boasts a beautiful lake, is no hardship. Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch has a full spectrum of venues, from the lawns, forest courtyard and picnic pods to the deck, tasting room, boardroom and bistro. There is even boules if you are bored, a safari option and a heli pad.

The pods are perfect for an intimate gathering. They’ve created a sanctuary of wooden structures that allow a level of privacy yet retain uninterrupted views of the water and surrounds. Their gourmet picnic lunch, R550 for two, accompanied by estate wines, is generous, the box of artisanal goodies is sure to satisfy most palates. Start with a home-smoked Norwegian salmon and summer quinoa salad, work your way through their charcuterie, cheese, bread and biltong pate, and finish off with a sweet carrot cake and cheesecake jar.

The casual setting is conducive for relaxing on the lawns on their soft furnishings with an after-lunch, wine-induced nap. Book early if you plan to unwind there in season.

JONKERSHUIS

The Groot Constantia Wine Estate in Constantia is another that holds a piece of my heart. Not my beating heart, but my business heart. I remember being called in to re-launch the restaurant, told that it was to be transformed from a dark and dingy tavern where an oompah band played on Sundays, to a sophisticated restaurant. It was to be called the Groot Constantia Restaurant. I went away and (before Google) did some research, and decided we needed to trade on the history and connection with Simon van der Stel. After much persuasion we convinced the owners to relaunch it as Simon’s.

I digress! Jonkershuis is ever-popular for families and visitors. The traditional menu is appealing and showcases Cape cuisine. We gathered there for my godson’s birthday, a collection of family who had come from as far as Botswana and ranged from very little to almost-old. It was a happy day of everyone gathering around one table savouring stalwarts like samoosas to a succulent roast lamb. Good old-fashioned fare that never fails to create more family memories.

A TOUCH OF PINK

Back in the Mother City where the action is hotting up, and it’s the season of new beginnings. The Belmond Mount Nelson started the silly season off with its pink centenary. It was 100 years ago that she started to blush in a delicate shade of pink. An afternoon of sipping Veuve Clicquot, reacquainting with old friends and making some new, was of course accompanied with excellent cuisine. The landmark hotel was painted its unique shade of pink at the end of World War 1 by the then Italian GM, Aldo Renato, to symbolise peace and the dawn of a new era.

They say if you cannot take the heat, get out the kitchen! Well the Gourmet Guide kitchen is a-cooking, with KitchenAid. Recipes are being tested using the KitchenAid artisanal mixer, the gorgeous measuring jugs, whisk, tin opener, vegetable peeler and amazing food processor. Never before have we had so much fun! The fruits of our labour will be enjoyed in a cookery class on Thursday 22 November, from 10h00 to 13h00, in Bakoven.

Be there – “Simple” is the theme, and many of the recipes have been inspired by Ottolenghi.

Summer Simple

Hot-and-happening in October

October is set to be an exciting month in Cape Town. This weekend sees OZCF market opening on both Saturdays and Sundays, next weekend the Gun Run, and on 16 October two new restaurants opening.

One-plated chef Dylan Laity, featured in the 2017 and 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide™, joins the Harbour House Group to launch their first fine-dining restaurant at their landmark Constantia Nek site. The Restaurant @ The Nek is his new platform to show his culinary prowess, previously at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, having fine-tuned his fine-dining skills at the consistently-impressive Aubergine.

“We’ll be serving modern South African cuisine with definite influences from my travels abroad. There will be a good mix of seafood, vegetarian, vegan and meat courses and I’m determined to use only the best and most seasonal produce I can source,” Dylan says. Watch out for this accomplished, humble chef. The exclusive launch of the 2019 JHP Gourmet Guide™ and plating of the 25 chefs, and the announcement of the SWISS Culinary Innovation Award winner, will take place at this new restaurant end-October.

The other exciting restaurant to watch out for is Salsify, the new sibling in the Dale Roberts family, in the historic Roundhouse property perched on the hill overlooking Camps Bay. Lauded chef Luke Dale Roberts and Chef Ryan Cole who have taken the world by storm together at The Test Kitchen, are opening on 16 October with an á la carte menu. Watch out for a focus on fish, a nose-to-tail approach and the freshest produce transformed into dishes that will have the culinary community clamouring for more. Salsify (Sal-suh-fee): A root vegetable with an oyster-like flavour, popular in old French and modern British cuisine.

“I love salsify, it’s the most unassuming of vegetables, with its ugly and rather unfortunate looking exterior, but it is absolutely amazing to work with, full of taste surprises and so versatile,” says Ryan, chef and operating partner. Sandalene Dale Roberts is paying homage to the heritage of the building, again waving her magic wand to ensure that the décor and backdrop are everything that the cuisine and talented team deserve.

Salsify at The Roundhouse - General Manager Markus Fiedler, Chef Ryan Cole and Luke Dale Roberts (HR) 1 photo Andy Lund

Don’t forget to join us daily on Instagram, jhp_gourmet_guide, as we reveal a hint for each of the 25 plated restaurants, one day at a time.  Here is the first two which started the campaign off with a bang.

 

 

A last look at winter…

LEETO 

It was wonderful to seek some solace and look forward to spring by heading off to the West Coast. The sea view at Leeto Restaurant in the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel in Paternoster is superb. The light, airy restaurant takes full advantage of the dune setting, letting the view, sea air and nature in on wind-free days. It is the perfect platform for chef Garth Almazan and his small team to produce a carefully considered menu that features local wines. Previously chef at Catharina’s, he has welcomed the move to the seaside village that has become known for culinary appeal and simplicity. The menu changes weekly, but you are sure to see a signature risotto on it at any time. It could be his verdant spring risotto with crunchy green vegetables as stars of the show, or the prawn and calamari risotto. No surprise that fish is a menu hero, as Garth grew up near Kalk Bay in Cape Town. Having a father who is a fisherman means that he truly understands seafood, and remembers the days when it was plentiful, caught by sitting with a line at the harbour. He loves cooking with firm, white fish, and ensures that the restaurant is SASSI-compliant. Most of his seafood is locally sourced, and a treat will be linefish, like sea bream, caught that morning. In an effort to source ingredients locally Garth can be found at local markets like the one in Hopefield.

LA COLOMBE 

Awarded with three plates in the 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide™ and lauded by food-lovers from all over the world, it is no surprise that people coming to South Africa will plan their holiday around their reservation at this restaurant. La Colombe has always wowed our team and me, and with good reason.

From the moment you walk into the new-look, recently renovated La Colombe you will be wowed. It is lighter, brighter and dare I say it, happier! There is a sense of excitement and a lightness of being from the team. James Gaag, now executive chef, has earned his place at the helm. Whilst there is still a sense of theatre in the presentation of each plate, that is where it ends. It is world-class.

Our first moment of happiness started with the first bite of sourdough bread, and we waxed lyrical throughout. The Cape Malay snacks are sure to hit a nostalgic note with locals and be a firm holiday memory with international diners. The ubiquitous tuna ‘La Colombe’ in a tin remains on the menu, enjoyed before a naartjie-glazed langoustine dish that combined perfectly with Korean duck, Israeli couscous, fennel and an umami broth. The chipotle-glazed sweetbreads with grass-fed beef sirloin are served in an inventive manner, showing origin – clever, but not contrived. There is just the right level of interaction with the friendly, informative and obliging staff who guide your epicurean journey perfectly.

Rather than giving the game away and sharing all the flavours with you, may I suggest that you make your reservation now? I left armed with a bottle of La Colombe gin to be sipped at sunset as we welcome spring.