One of the specials on the Whale Cottage Spring/Summer specials list  is OYO’s Crayfish special.  Yesterday a group of food and wine bloggers and journalists was invited by Manley Communications, on behalf of their client Newmark Hotels, to enjoy a taste of the Crayfish Special at OYO Restaurant and Cocktail Bar at the V&A Hotel, which costs R185 for 500 gram.  The lunch was perfect for the lovely summer’s day.

OYO means ‘whoa’ in Chinese, a reaction to the food and lovely view from the restaurant onto Table Mountain from the inside tables, and those outside along the quay.   It is also a visual representation of two plates and a glass of wine.  The chef at OYO is Sanel Esterhuizen, relatively unknown, but who has been with the hotel for almost 2 years, and has a wonderful way with the presentation of food.  

Newmark Hotels was previously known as the Ambassador Group, and owns the V&A Hotel, the Ambassador Hotel, the Salt Restaurant, Salt Deli, Salt Vodka Bar, Dock House and the Villa Collection.  The Group is on an expansion trail, having bought the old Splendida Hotel on Beach Road in Mouille Point, and is busy renovating the accommodation and restaurant.  The restaurant will be run by Caveau.  In addition, the Queen Victoria hotel, in a building which has housed the management of the V&A Waterfront, is being renovated and will open for business next year.  

For the second year running OYO has obtained a “7 ton pre-allocation of crayfish”, translating into 14 000 crayfish tails, which will be served throughout summer.   It is unclear how the allocation works, and whether the crayfish served is fresh or has been frozen before preparation.

The wines for the lunch were sponsored by Hartenberg, a wine estate in Stellenbosch that is over 300 years old, and is a founder signatory of the South African Biodiversity in Wine Initiative, expressing its care for the environment.    Its product portfolio includes The Gravel Hill, The MacKenzie Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, The Stork Shiraz, Weisser Riesling, ‘The Eleanor’ Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, Pinotage, Shiraz and Merlot.   The Shiraz has voted the third best in the world at Syrah du Monde, while its Merlot was judged the world’s best in the International Wine & Spirit Competiton in London.   Earlier this year the Shiraz was named the Best New World wine at the Zürich International Wine Competition. 

The winelist on the website contains some typing errors, the only flaw about this good restaurant.  What is most impressive is that almost each of the wines offered is available by the glass and by the bottle, 70 wines-by-the-glass in total, which is most commendable.   More champagnes than local sparkling wines are available, the imported ones costing between R 425 for Moet et Chandon Brut to R 2595 for Dom Perignon. Local bubblies range from R37/R190 for Villiera to R 52/R275 for Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose.  Four Shiraz wines are offered – De Meye costs R35/R125 – Bon Courage Inkara costs R79/R295. 

The starter was the highlight for me, in its beautiful presentation, being a Shellfish Cocktail, consisting of langoustines, prawns, crab, shrimps, mussels and clams, with a brandy crème fraiche served on the side, an unexpected but interesting combination.   It was served with “The Eleanor” Hartenberg Chardonnay 2007. Other starters range widely in price, from R40 for a vegetable soup to R175 for a delicious-sounding abalone risotto.

The OYO special allows one to order the West Coast crayfish in one of two ways.  The grilled crayfish is served with Malay pilaf rice, roasted vine tomatoes and a selection of three sauces – lemon butter, garlic and peri-peri.   The steamed and then cooled down crayfish is served with a summer melon and herb salad and avocado mayonnaise, which was the option I chose.   The crayfish was perfect, and the avocado mayonnaise a most unusual but lovely combination.  The salad was served in a glass, with tiny balls of orange and green melon, slivers of cucumber, radish slices and herbs, making a lovely accompaniment to the crayfish.   It was served with Hartenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2009.  The menu on the website lists the warm crayfish dish at the usual price of R 275, and a seafood platter for two costs R495.   Other main courses are well-priced between R 100 – R120, for steak, duck, springbok, pork belly, lamb and kingklip.

I did not have the dessert, but it looked beautiful too, being a slice of chocolate tart with mulberry (what a unique ingredient!) sorbet and almond rocks, which was paired with the Hartenberg Merlot 2008.  Desserts range from R45 for bread and butter pudding to R75 for Chocolate nemesis.

The service of the staff was attentive, efficient and professional, constantly topping up the water and the wines.  I was impressed when I was greeted by name on arrival outside the hotel at the drop-off zone, by Manager Mark Gers, a most friendly welcome.  

The Crayfish special is excellent value for money for crayfish lovers, and also for tourists who would like to try this South African delicacy.

Disclosure: Guests attending the lunch received a hamper of Hartenberg wines, as well as a voucher to stay in the new Queen Victoria Hotel, opening next year.

OYO Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, V&A Hotel, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.  Tel (021)  419-6677. www.vahotel.co.za.   Hartenberg Wine Estate : www.hartenbergestate.com

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage