New talk of the town is the New York inspired restaurant Mulberry & Prince, which opened on Pepper Street, just off hipster Bree Street, two weeks ago. It offers small plate dishes in a chic interior, prepared by two New York-trained Chefs.
I was so excited to try it out, that my friend Katie and I charged off there for lunch in the first week, but not having done my homework, we arrived at a closed door, as they only serve dinner currently. The door was not completely closed, as Chef Cornel Mostert was inside, and gave me a business card, apologizing profusely for my error! I thought he was a young kitchen hand, but only discovered at our dinner visit last week that he in fact is the owner of Mulberry & Prince, with two silent investors, one being his dad. He is only 26 years old, and it reminded me of young Chef Katie Scherf of SMAK Deli, whose dad is also the founder of their restaurant, and often is behind the counter too. Chef Cornel wanted to study cuisine at The Culinary Institute of America, what he believes to be the best chef school in the world, and went to New York for this. He had to do practical training too, and spent four months doing a stage at Noma in Copenhagen, and worked at Alinea in Chicago, both restaurants having Michelin stars and featuring in the top ten of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list.
In opening his new restaurant, Chef Cornel partnered with his New York classmate Cynthia Rivera, both of whom are hands-on in the kitchen. Both of them completed a Business Management course after their culinary qualification. Chef Cornel spent 6 years away from his hometown. I couldn’t help but see parallels between Chef Cornel and Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen of JAN Restaurant in Nice.
The decor is minimalist, yet impactful, with rose copper and brass being the dominant colours. The front door is very pink (one might have expected mulberry, but there is none inside or out). Works of art are by Kurt Pio, a trendy Cape Town artist whose work is selling internationally too. The interior decor was designed by Atelier Interiors, and the furniture design differs in the three sections of the restaurant. We sat at an oval wood-top table, a four-seater which has one seat in the window-sill with a beautiful tan leather cushion, and three chairs. White blinds are in the windows, to offer privacy and security when they are closed. There is no table-cloth nor napkins, surprisingly. The table next to us has a rose copper sheet attached to the wall, held up by two black legs on the opposite side, the bottoms of which have been painted white, to make it look like a floating table from further away! Chairs are upholstered in tan/orange colours to match the table too. Above it hangs an impressive Pio painting, reflecting in the shiny surface of the table. In the section closer to the pass, the tables are larger, with wood tops, and wooden chairs. Tables nearest the front door have marble tops, and the chairs are upholstered in a pinky fabric. Our table had a copper vase with a brownish arum lily, a flower colour I had not seen before. They can seat 43 patrons inside, and will be able to seat 19 when they open their Courtyard for Brunch. Tables have a white side plate, a set of cutlery, and a gauze serviette.
Our first impression was that it was very loud inside, the speakers being above our table, but this seemed to irritate us less as the restaurant became busier. Some of the other patrons were very boisterous, and the sound carried throughout the restaurant. They will need to sound-proof the restaurant, especially as the restaurant opens at 17h00, allowing one to start with cocktails and to order from the kitchen. The bar counter was made from neolite, a solid material, with slate tiles along the sides of the bar, and wooden stools with tan leather seats. I loved the unusual brass wine coolers. Spunky and confident Maitre’d Danielle Landman turned up the lights in our section, for the photographs. I loved the bar area, especially the panels of copper and brass, with glass, where they keep their glasses. Wooden beams are stained dark brown, and match the wooden table tops.
The menu is classy looking, printed on cream board, with minimal descriptions. Our waitress was brand new, having started that day, and her first signs of nerves and timidness quickly made way for greater confidence as she learnt about the dishes though our questions, which she had to find answers for regularly. She had never worked in a restaurant before, and should do well, based on our interaction with her.
A number of foreign terms are used, but not explained on the menu. Seven dishes cost R100 – R130, and steak can be shared between two for R295. One pays for bread and ‘cultured‘ butter at R45, and lumpfish roe costs R35 extra. Starters, although not called that, are bacalao (salted cod) fritters (R60), prosciutto (R85), and lardo (lard) on toast with self-made quince jam (R50). Katie ordered the plate of six fritters, looking more like croquettes, and declared them to be delicious. The presentation on crumpled paper was less attractive.
Katie also ordered a salad of not often seen endive, with anchovy, walnuts, and drunken pecorini (the cheese is immersed in a special wine must, to allow a fermented zest and tang to permeate the cow’s milk cheese), with a sweetish vinaigrette, a perfect dish (R80). I chose the asparagus, dominated by orange romesco, and a poached egg, which had been sous-vided at 63C for 45 minutes, the perfectly prepared poached egg (R90), Chef Cornel told us. Katie had also ordered rare pink pork with burnt cucumbers and leeks, served in a ‘brodo‘ broth (R130), an outstanding dish, yet simple in its construction and presentation.
Other dishes include oysters (R120); kohlrabi and persimmons at R75; beef tartare (R100); , stracciatella and lovage, a member of the parsley family (R95); lamb ribs (R100); octopus (R100); ricotta dumplings (R115); and cod with ‘ajo blanco’ (almonds, bread crumbs, and garlic) at R110. We were surprised to taste salt in most dishes, and they seemed to be crystals, as the saltiness was more intense in certain sections of the dishes. In most instances the saltiness was within acceptable levels. Surprising was the salt crystals in their delicious chocolate cake with Guanaja chocolate and whipped cream dessert (R60). I made the error in ordering an egg cream, vanilla, and malt ‘dessert’, but it turned out to be a drink which I did not like the taste of, and it was returned to the kitchen. It did not come with a description or warning, but was intriguing in being described as ‘A New York classic‘! The only other dessert option is panna cotta with buttermilk, and hibiscus vinegar (R55). Coffee is by Rosetta Roastery, and my cappuccino was very strong. An unusual touch was the sugar cubes, one white and the other brown, which were served with it.
Mulberry & Prince is not licensed yet, and reminds patrons to bring their own wines when they confirm the booking on the morning of one’s dinner. Chef Cornel told us that the menu is Mediterranean and New York inspired, and reflects the dishes which they as chefs like to eat, and is based on a sharing and communal eating ‘vibe’. I loved the unusual touch of presenting the bill in an antique silver cigarette case! Mulberry & Prince is likely to become the talk of the town, and it is advisable to book. Their planned Brunch offering will be one to watch, an unusual meal not often seen in Cape Town.
Mulberry & Prince, 12 Pepper Street, off Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-3301. www.mulberryandprince.co.za Facebook and Instagram. Tuesday – Saturday dinner, from 17h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @WhaleCottage Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein