Yesterday a planned pop-in at De Warenmarkt in Stellenbosch became a three-hour visit of chatting and eating with a number of persons also having lunch, and meeting one of the co-owners, who shared the story of the establishment with me.
I had thought that De Warenmarkt had opened while I was overseas, but it has only been operating for a week. Having seen Errieda du Toit’s photographs on her Facebook page, I decided to drive back from Franschhoek via Stellenbosch yesterday, so that I could pop-in at De Warenmarkt, which operates from the building previously housing the Cape Town Fish Market. One enters on Reyneveld Street, through a branded glass door, after having passed a wall of plants. A big board informs one of the opening hours. It explains that the historical building dates back to the 18th century, and that its culinary offerings reflect ‘the Cape’s rich and diverse cultural heritage‘! The product range is explained as being speciality meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables, craft beer, coffees, and more.
As one enters the big open-plan space, one sees the Deluxe Coffeeworks stand. One orders one’s food and drinks at each individual stand, and pays at each stand. Next is Yumminess, offering little tarts (Tarte du Sablon, Tarte Normandie, Robespierre, Liege waffles, and more), as well as sweet and savory crepes, and waffles. Mano’s Bakery is owned by a Greek baker, who bakes his bread in Ida’s Valley. Around Cheese was one of the first V & A Waterfront Food Market stall holders. She offers more than 100 artisanal cheeses, in interesting colours too. Ryan Boon Speciality Butcher is the anchor tenant, offering a variety of meat cuts, which are vacuum-packed when one buys them. Droë wors costs R189.99 per kg compared to the expensive J&M! Behind the retail space, Ryan Boon has a butchery, as well as a wholesale operation in Paarl. Taps for craft beer are not easy to see, being near the fireplace at the back. Not easy to see is the Deli section, with vegetables supplied by Nouvelle Mushrooms, as well as preserves, Italian pasta and tomato products, some deli items such as mayonnaise and duck liver pâté from Joostenberg Deli, eggs, aioli, olives, ketchup, vinaigrette, chilli, bottled water, Von Geusau chocolates, and proteas.
The outside board also explains the ‘By Invite’ pop-up restaurant, which is being operated by Chef George Jardine until 10 September, setting ‘the bar in culinary excellence for those who follow’. The board also states that De Warenmarkt is honored to have him as part of their opening offering. One can see Chef George through the glass window, under pressure to prepare the hectic flow of orders, the 25 burger portions having sold out first at lunch yesterday. Chef George has devised a menu of eleven dishes, each cleverly named, and prepared in a wooden box. I ordered the Ink Squirter, being salt and pepper squid, topped with pesto, aioli, and lime, excellent value at R65. The Germans offers Ryan Boon sausages served with mustard and Sauerkraut (R75); Dr Bones is a dish of marrow bones with chimichurri, duxelles, and sour dough (R65); Hannibal Lektor is chicken liver peri peri with vetkoek (R70); In the Bag offers steamed mussels with coconut milk and chilli (R75); The Love Buns lamb curry brioche bunny chow (R20); The New Scooby is a beef burger with Healey’s cheddar cheese, pickle, rocket, and hand-cut fries, not expensive at R65; Crispy wagging tails may not appeal to everyone, being lamb tails with spicy cucumber (R65); Old School is a ribeye steak, with béarnaise, fries, and watercress (R130); and a Meat-free caponata, buffalo milk mozzarella and ciabatta (R55). The prices are very reasonable, and there is enough choice to suit everyone.
Chef George was very busy between 13h00 and 14h00, and could barely look up for a photograph. I almost fell off my bench when he came to sit down at my table, explaining his reason for becoming part of De Warenmarkt. He told me that he does not dismiss his staff in winter, so having an additional restaurant that can keep his Bakery as well as Restaurant staff busy and stimulated is of benefit for him as well as the staff. Chef George is just doing the opening days, and his staff will alternate, in taking over from him. He said that burgers are really popular, as are the crispy lamb tails. He changes his pop-up menu daily. He told me that his sommelier Isabella Immenkamp will be leaving in about a month, to join Spier. We shared other restaurant news in Cape Town and the Winelands. He told me that he uses meats from Ryan Boon in his restaurants too, but not exclusively. A few years ago Chef George and I shared the reaction to UK writer Bruce Palling being used to evaluate our country’s Eat Out Top 10 restaurants, when local judges would have been more than adequate to do so!
A very sweet Tasha, describing herself as Operations Manager, and bringing a constant stream of plates from the pop-up restaurant to the tables, gave me some background about the business, and the owners. She saw Mark van Niekerk, one of the co-owners, and beckoned him to my table. It was an interesting story he told about how the business was established, and he himself is an interesting character, telling me proudly that he is a Virgo and a Dragon! He mentioned a number of times that he was a Rembrandt man, where he had worked in brand management. When Rembrandt and BAT merged, the company became a multinational corporate, and two weeks in London to find accommodation for a transfer to the city made him realize that this was not for him. He created a design agency Am I Collective in Cape Town, and has run it for ten years, operating from the Truth building in Buitenkant Street in Cape Town. He felt that the time had come to market his own brand, having focused on those of his client brands in the past. Someone he had got to know some years ago was Chef Liam Tomlin, and his agency did the design for Chef Liam’s brand identity. Mark attended Chef Liam’s one year cooking course, being passionate about food, he said. Another serendipitous connection was being friends with Carel van der Merwe, working at Heritage Trust in Stellenbosch. A discussion among friends expressed concern about a Burger King opening in the Cape Town Fish Market site (rejected by Heritage Trust), and similarly about Hudson’s. The Heritage Trust Board liked Mark’s concept for the heritage building, and he and his team was given the go-ahead to complete the project, with the proviso that it be done in three weeks, and not the eight weeks Mark had asked for! His Creative Director Ruan Vermeulen; Ruan’s friend Stefanus van der Watt, who had just returned from a year-long study of markets around the world; and Stefanus’ accountant sister Koba Dumas became the co-owners with Mark, all being ‘like-minded‘ in their goals with the project. It took five months to complete the building work to meet the Heritage Trust guidelines. A joy was finding beautiful brickwork, which they left as is, and 300 year-old Oregon Pine floors. Chef Liam recommended Ryan Boon, and they shared the vision, making him the anchor tenant. Chef Liam also recommended a pop-up rotating chef restaurant concept. Sommelier Higgo Jacobs is compiling the wine list. Cold press juice producer Juice Revolution is coming soon.
Mark said that they are not driven by money, but by passion, which will eventually generate the income. Each tenant is an individual business person, but each supports the others in the venue. De Warenmarkt is a unique concept, not ‘labelable’ Mark said, not only a market, nor a Deli, nor a restaurant, but a friendly place to meet up with others and to enjoy food and beverages, with an affordable venue in which to buy artisanal cheeses, breads, cakes, and meats.
De Warenmarkt, corner Ryneveld and Plein Streets, Stellenbosch. Cell 0824137337. www.dewarenmarkt.com Twitter: @DeWarenmarkt Monday – Saturday 7h00 – 19h00, bar stays open until 2h00.