Franschhoek still officially carries the Gourmet Capital crown, even though it faces strong competition from Stellenbosch, which is seeing the opening of an increasing number of excellent restaurants, so much so that we recently suggested that the town establish the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.
Franschhoek probably has sat back on its gourmet laurels for a while, but must be delighted about the opening of two new excellent restaurants, Ryan’s Kitchen and Pierneef Ã La Motte, which add new interest to Franschhoek as a culinary destination. In fairness to Franschhoek, I have suggested a Franschhoek Restaurant Route:
* Pierneef à La Motte is culinary art, and has upped the quality of Franschhoek’s restaurant choice. Its focus is Winelands Boerekos with a contemporary twist. Chef Chris Erasmus is a breath of fresh air, working with historic recipes and transforming them into works of art, reflecting Pierneef’s standards. Tel (021) 876-8000
* Grande Provence is quietly delivering quality cuisine, with chef Darren Roberts doing the most beautiful presentation of his food. The restaurant is not afraid to charge a price that reflects his standards of cooking. Outstanding decor, and surrounded by artwork from its Gallery. Perfection is visible from the time one drives into the wine estate. Top 10 restaurant for the past two years. Tel (021) 876-8600.
* The Tasting Room is loved by some, but not by all. It is expensive. It seems to have good nights and bad nights. Joint 10th with Overture on Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant List last year. Tel (021) 876-2151
* Ryan’s Kitchen has only been open for three months, set in a guest house, with a high-tech kitchen, and quality cuisine by chef Ryan Smith. “Contemporary South African cuisine” is the restaurant positioning, and a stronger African feel will be introduced in October, with a “Taste of Africa” menu. Tel (021) 876-4598
* Reuben’s has been the darling of Franschhoek, and a recent Tweet stated that it is the restaurant that tourists visit, while those that know go to Le Bon Vivant. Opened 6 years ago, the restaurant’s service standards have dropped as Reuben’s has expanded to Robertson, and chef Reuben Riffel has taken on more projects. Recently lost the sommelier to Bosman’s, but may not be a bad thing for the restaurant, as she was not very customer-friendly. The biggest compliment to Reuben and his team, but also the largest challenge, in opening Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town (A first meal at the new Reuben’s was a-maze-ing). Tel (021) 876-3772
* Allee Bleue has been very low key restaurant-wise, and it is uncertain exactly where the management wants to go with its dining options. The Bistro at the entrance to the wine estate has always been friendly, and serves Bistro-style food at reasonable prices. The departure of Chef Dane Newton is a shame, but with his replacement currently working at the Michelin-starred Schwarzer Adler, interesting things could be coming out of this kitchen soon. Tel (021) 874-1021
* Cafe Bon Bon is one of the most relaxed and friendly breakfast and lunch-time stops in Franschhoek, on a most beautifully developed small-holding. Tel (021) 876-3936
* Haute Cabriere is owned by Franschhoek restaurant mogul Matthew Gordon. While many find the ‘cave’-like interior a shame given the beautiful view outside, it remains popular, also as a wedding venue, and has a good relationship with Cabriere wines. Tel (021) 876-3688
* La Petite Ferme is one of the best known restaurants with consistent quality and does not amend its menu much. Visitors return, not only for the quality food but also for the wonderful view over Franschhoek, and for the relaxed atmosphere. Tel (021) 876-3016
* Dieu Donné also has an excellent view from its glass ‘walls’. Its food quality was better when it first opened about two years ago. Tel (021) 876-2493
* Le Bon Vivant is tucked away, off the main road, and is a ‘loner’, doing its own thing. Beautiful presentation of food by chef Pierre. Tel (021) 876-2717
* Rickety Bridge has a restaurant right at the vineyards, and offers picnics in summer. Tel (021) 876-2129
* French Connection is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and is a pedestrian favourite of locals and tourists. Good main road location. Serving breakfast as well now. Tel (021) 876-4056
* Dutch East was struggling when we visited it in June. It seemed to be trying too hard. There is no particular style of food served. Tel (021) 876-3547
* Chez d’Or was previously Cafe Rouge, and has expanded its size, and brought the restaurant closer to the main road. Sandwiches and pedestrian Bistro food. Tel 082 372 7645
* Allora is a good quality Italian restaurant. Despite sister-restaurants in Johannesburg, the welcome is personal and one does not get a chain-feel at all. Good value family eating. Tel (021) 876-4375.
* Col’Cacchio is one of a chain by the same name, and one can predict what is on offer. Not the best service, but very popular for outside sitting. Tel (021) 876-4222
* Boschendal- other than going there for historical reasons, or to eat their long-standing buffet lunch, there is little to attract one to an estate that does not yet embrace excellence, a shame given its heritage. Its Le Piqniques are well-known and very popular in summer. Tel (021) 870-4272
* Fyndraai at Solms-Delta wine estate is a pleasant surprise, with interesting Kaapse kos. On good weather days, sitting on the terrace is a treat. Tel (021) 874-3937
* Cotage Fromage is a joint venture between Matthew Gordon, Duncan Doherty and Pierre Smith, serving breakfasts and lunches, and doing the catering for wedding and other events at Vrede & Lust. The menu does not reflect the capabilities of the three chefs. Tel (021) 874-3991
* The Grillroom is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and fills a niche for patrons wanting mainly steak. Unique restaurant in that one can buy good quality meat to take home too, as well as Franschhoek wines. Tel (021) 876-2548
* Cafe des Arts has taken over from Topsi’s, a Franschhoek institution. Topsi still appears to be there regularly. (Tel (021) 876-2952
* Salmon Bar is undergoing a renovation in part of the old Bouillabaisse building, which will enhance its visibility when it re-opens in November. Tel (021) 876- 4591
* Bread & Wine is linked to Le Quartier FranÃ§ais, and only serves lunches. Previously included in Eat Out Top 10 list, to the surprise of many. Good bread and charcuterie. Tel (021) 876-3692.
* Mon Plaisir is on the Chamonix estate, and is owned by a French couple offering French fare. Little ambiance inside the restaurant. Tel (021) 876-2393
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
We have been tracking recent restaurant opening, closure, and restaurant and chef change information in Cape Town and in the Winelands on our Winter Restaurant Specials blog post, but have decided to do an update for those not looking for specials necessarily.
* La Mouette has opened at 78 Regent Road in Sea Point.
* Brio is a new jazz restaurant, in half of the ex-Riboville in town (on the Adderley Street side)
* Van Hunks has opened at 1 Union Street, off Kloof Street in Gardens
* Cafe Nood has opened in Wilderness Road, Claremont
* Ryan’s Kitchen has opened at Rusthof guest house in Franschhoek - the chef Ryan Smith is ex-Mont Rochelle.
* The House of Meat has opened in the Pepper Club Hotel, corner Long and Bloem Streets, offering a full braai for R 295
* Spiros has opened in Hout Bay
* La Cantina has opened in the Alliance Francaise.
* The De Leuwen Jagt restaurant on the Seidelberg wine estate outside Paarl has opened The Fabulous Bakery.
* Gesellig has opened on the corner of Church and Regent Roads in Sea Point, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
* Indochine has opened at the Delaire Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch.
* The Long Table Restaurant and Cafe has opened at Haskell Vineyards in Stellenbosch.
* The Wild Peacock Food Emporium has opened in Stellenbosch.
* De Oude Bank Bakkerij has opened in Stellenbosch.
* Knife Restaurant has opened in the Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, a sister restaurant to Fork.
* Sommelier Restaurant has re-opened, after a two-year closure, at Sante Hotel & Wellness Centre
* Illyria coffee shop has opened in the Eikestad Mall in Stellenbosch
* Pierneef à la Motte has opened at La Motte in Franschhoek.
* The Artisan Cafe has opened inside Table Thirteen in Green Point, with a barista
* The Fish Shack has opened in The Paddocks, Milnerton
* Maison in Franschhoek is to open a restaurant
* Etienne Bonthuys (ex-Tokara) has opened his long-awaited restaurant on Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, called Casparus, in partnership with artist Strijdom van der Merwe.
* Luke Dale Roberts, award-winning chef whilst at La Colombe (reaching 12th place on Top 50 Restaurants in the World list), has opened The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.
* Sofia’s at Morgenster has opened.
* Down South has opened on Long Street
* Victoria Eatery has opened in Hermanus.
* French Toast has opened at 199 Bree Street, a wine and tapas bar
* DISH has opened at Inn on the Square, Greenmarket Square
* Babel has opened at Babylonstoren near Klapmuts/Simondium (next to Backsberg)
* Hemelhuijs has opened at 71 Waterkant Street, for breakfast and lunch
* Barracudas has opened with ’simply sumptious seafood’ served, in Fish Hoek.
* The Olive Shack at Allora in Franschhoek has opened as a deli, doing olive oil tastings, and serving Breakfast, Greek lunches and picnics
* Sotano by Caveau has opened in the La Splendida Hotel in Mouille Point
* Tables restaurant has opened at Nitida wine estate in Durbanville
* Mozarella Bar has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens
* Café Benedict has opened on the main road in Franschhoek.
* Trinity has opened as a ’super club’ in Bennett Street in Green Point
* Il Cappero Italian Restaurant has opened in Barrack Street
* Sugar Hut Club has opened in the old Castle Hotel building on Canterbury Street, next door to Charly’s Bakery
* Caffé Milano has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens
* The Stone Kitchen has opened at Dunstone Winery in Wellington
* The Franschhoek Food Emporium has open in Place Vendome, and is owned by legendary Topsi’s daughter Danielle
* What’s On Eatery has opened in Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street
* Haas Coffee Collective has opened on Rose Street in Bo-Kaap
* Crush coffee shop and bakery has opened in Paarl, owned by Gerard van Staden, previously chef at le Franschhoek Hotel, and later overseer of all restaurants owned by Robert Maingard in Franschhoek.
* Dear Me Brasserie and Tjing Tjing Bar has opened on Longmarket Street.
* Quilter & The Workmen is to open in Bree Street in May
* Act Restaurant and Play Bar have opened at the Baxter Theatre
* Le Coq has opened in Franschhoek
* Dash has opened in the Queen Victoria Hotel in the Waterfront
* Café Dijon has opened another branch at Zorgvliet wine estate
* Harbour House is to open a branch in the V & A Waterfront in September, in the Fisherman’s Choice site, near Sevruga
* KOS Coffee & Cuisine has opened in The Regency on Regent Road in Sea Point
* Café Extrablatt opens where shu used to be, next door to Doppio Zero in Green Point, in August
* Skinny Legs & All That has opened on Loop Street
* Leopard’s Leap opens its new picnic facility, tasting room and cookery school in October
* Josephine’s Patisserie on Loop Street
* Ginja on New Church Street
* maze at the One&Only Cape Town
* Panarotti’s and Shimmi’s Bar in Hermanus
* Bouillabaisse in Franschhoek.
* Yum in Vredehoek.
* Cape Town Fish Market in Camps Bay
* Vista Mare in Camps Bay
* La Table de France in Sea Point
* La Brasserie in Franschhoek
* shu on Main Road in Green Point
* Camil’s on Main Road in Green Point
* Madame Zingara has left Cape Town
* Fiesta in the Old Cape Quarter
* Jardine’s Restaurant has closed on Bree Str
* Liquorice and Lime has closed down on St George’s Mall
* Cheyne has closed on Bree Street
* The Kitchen Bar in the Quarters’ Hotel in Hermanus has closed
* The Bistro in Franschhoek has closed down
* The Sandbar in Camps Bay has closed down
* The Blonde building is up for sale, and does not appear to be re-opening in August, as was announced by The Caviar Group, owners of Blonde, two months ago.
* The Green Dolphin Jazz Club in the V & A Waterfront has closed down
* Mezzaluna in Loop Street has closed down
* Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge Pete Goffe-Wood’s Wild Woods Restaurant has closed down.
* Restaurant Christophe closes down in Stellenbosch on 25 June. Chef Christophe Dehosse will be back at Joostenberg from August.
* Nando’s in Camps Bay has closed down
* Haute Cabriere under the chef-manship of Matthew Gordon closes on 7 June at the wine tasting venue with the same name in Franschhoek.
Restaurant name-changes/take-overs/chef changes/address changes
* Leaf Restaurant and Bar has opened where The Showroom/Portofino used to be.
* Mason’s Cafe and Grill has opened where Cafe Gainsbourg used to be
* On Broadway has moved to the New Space Theatre building, and is using the ex-Anytime restaurant space as one of the restaurants its patrons can eat at before the show.
* Camil Haas, the co-owner of Camil’s in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, has left the restaurant (which has since closed down). He is working for Reuben Riffel at Reuben’s in Franschhoek and at the One&Only Cape Town.
* Tank in the old Cape Quarter has changed its name to Aqua.
* Luke Dale-Roberts is no longer the Executive Chef at La Colombe, but will consult to the restaurant.
* Cafe Rouge in Franschhoek has been renamed Chez d’Or.
* Richard Carstens has left Chez d’Or in Franschhoek, and is the Executive Chef and Wilhelm Kuehn the owner of Tokara Restaurant in Stellenbosch
* Buena Vista Social Club has moved to the top end of Portswood Road in the Waterfront.
* Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town has opened, where maze used to be.
* Cafe Le Chocolatier has taken over from Cafe Vendome in Place Vendome in Franschhoek.
* Dutch East has taken over from Burgundy in Franschhoek
* Cafe des Arts has taken over Topsi’s in Franschhoek.
* Amazink, ex-Roots, in Khayamandi in Stellenbosch, has opened, with Bertus Basson from Overture an advisor.
* Chef School owner Kevin Warwick has taken over Kate’s Village in Hermanus, now called The Class Room
* Da Luigi has opened where Vista Mare was in The Promenade in Camps Bay
* Satay Bar has opened where Zucca was in Kloof Street
* Le Quartier Francais has closed its bistro iCi, and opened The Common Room
* Franko’s Kitchen in Plettenberg Bay has reopened as a sushi restaurant called Kitchen Café
* Fu.shi in Plettenberg Bay has closed down, and has a new owner and a new name The Terrace
* The Old Post House in Plettenberg Bay has closed down, but is set to re-open for three months with a new owner
* Blakes has opened on Buitengracht/New Church Street, where Relish/Ninja used to be, belonging to Rochelle Bushelle, owner of the Opal Lounge, and offering a lounge, bar and dining services
* Franschhoek Kitchen is the new name of Genot restaurant on the renamed Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek (previously Klein Genot)
* Chef Eric Bulpitt has moved to The Roundhouse, due to the closure of Jardine’s
* Woodlands Eatery is the new name of ex-Yum in Vredehoek, with chef Larry, previously with Emily Moon in Plettenberg Bay
* ZAR nightclub has opened in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, where Camil’s used to be
* Marika’s Greek Restaurant from Bakoven has moved to a new venue, at 176 Buitenkant Street, above 7Eleven.
* The Rhubarb Room moves to 227 Bree Street
* David Higgs is leaving Rust en Vrede on 18 June and is moving to Johannesburg. John Shuttleworth will step into his chef’s shoes.
* Vanessa Quellec is to leave Caffe Milano in July
* Restaurant winter break closures
* The Mount Nelson’s Cape Colony has re-opened, with a new name, Planet Restaurant, and menu.
* Vaudeville has reopened.
* Massimo’s Pizza Club in Hout Bay will re-open on 20 April, in their original venue in Hout Bay.
* The Salmon Bar in Franschhoek has moved into a new main road outlet in The Yard (part ex-Bouillabaisse and Pam Golding) and has re-opened.
* Miguel’s in Plettenberg Bay has re-opened in the same location.
* Rust en Vrede will close from 18 June - 18 July
* Tokara will clsoe between 2 - 9 May
* The Test Kitchen will clsoe between 7 - 23 May
NOTE: This information will be updated regularly, as we receive new information.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
I decided to try the new Chez d’Or restaurant on the main road in Franschhoek for lunch, after the 60th birthday concert on Sunday of well-known potter David Walters in the NG Church, diagonally across the road. I had read in the local rag ‘The Franschhoek Month’ that six-time Eat Out Top 10 chef Richard Carstens had opened the restaurant, which led me to believe that he was the new owner of the restaurant. It was a massive disappointment and let-down.
Previously low key Cafe Rouge, which was set back in Bijoux Square, making it hard to see, the new restaurant has been brought forward and expanded in this Square, in the space in which the optometrist was previously located. Owner Jason de Jongh has re-invented the restaurant completely, with the larger space, more upmarket interior design, changing the restaurant name to bring it in line with his guest house name (Val d’Or), and bringing Carstens in on a three-month consultancy contract only (not mentioned in the article). Carstens is the South African ueber-chef, who indulges in foams, is a good trainer of staff, and is good at helping set up new restaurants, but has had little staying-power (except at Lynton Hall, where he worked for five years). Jason explained that he wanted to create a Bistro-style restaurant, with Carstens’ input, but without the type of cuisine Carstens has become known for, so as to not create a huge difference in the quality of the food served after Carstens leaves the restaurant in September. Carstens is quoted in the article as saying about the restaurant: “Its a classic yet contemporary bistro with Asian influences”. The red and white tablecloths with white overlays create the Bistro look. The cutlery is neatly wrapped inside the serviette, probably a Carstens’ touch.
The problem with the restaurant and Carstens’ connection was immediately evident when the hardboard menu started with a list of sandwiches! These are served between 11h00 - 17h00, and are quite expensive, in ranging from R 45 for an aubergine, mushroom, pepper, coriander pesto and gruyere sandwich, to R58 for a ribeye and aioli or smoked salmon sandwich, and a beef burger. A further problem was that Carstens explained some of the menu items but not all - the Carstens touch shows when he described the Soup of the Day (the waitress just called it a Butternut Soup). Carstens described it as a Butternut Soup served with almonds and snoek, changing its nature completely, snoek not being to everyone’s taste. The spiced tomato, coconut, lime and chilli sorbet soup sounded delicious too. The wholewheat bread did not look home-baked, and in fact seemed to show its age with first signs of mould, so we did not eat it. The butter was untidily cut and presented. Other starter choices are spiced calamari (R58), duck liver pate (R52), smoked rainbow trout (R65), chicken spring roll (R47), and a mushroom and artichoke salad (R45).
The Pork belly (R85) was served on a tiny portion of mash with butternut, the black eggplant puree looking unattractive in the brown (with green oily bits) mustard sauce. Overall, the plate of food looked unattractive, and the pork had an odd taste. My son’s Ribeye steak(R98) was ordered medium rare, but was prepared more to the medium side. It was tender, but the chip portion was tiny, so the waitress brought more, without extra charge. The spinach was tender and tasty. The Tempura linefish (R80) was kingklip. Other main courses are Duck leg (R85), Asian braised lamb shank (R98), and Beetroot and aubergine curry (R70).
The winelist is on the reverse side of the menu, and will not feature on the Diner’s Club Winelist of the Year awards list. It is simply divided into “Methode Cap Classique Sparkling”, White Wine, Rose Wine, Red Wine and Dessert Wine/Port and is commendably Proudly-Franschhoek in its wine selection, with the exception of the Landskroon and Quinta Do Sul Vintage Reserve ports. Each wine is described in brief, but no vintages are listed. The wine-by-the glass prices are so low (R18 for Porcupine Ridge Viognier/Grenache, Haut Espoir Sauvignon Blanc R20, Eikehof Cabernet Sauvignon R18) that one wonders how young they are, and whether they are drinkable. The Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir is the most expensive wine on the list, at R250, but most wines are under R200, making the wine choice affordable.
We skipped the starter to leave space for Carstens’ signature dessert, which is not on the menu - frozen dark chocolate mousse served with saffron ice cream on biscuit crumbs, with mint sauce. The dessert sounded better than the real thing, which were four unequally cut blocks of frozen chocolate mousse. The saffron ice cream and mint sauce were delicious. Other options are an interesting sounding Gin and lemon tart (R40); Poached banana ice cream (R38); Vanilla creme (R38); Chocolate tart, cardamom ice cream with pear (R50); and a Cheese board (R65).
We left Chez d’Or bitterly disappointed, in having expected Richard Carstens’ quality but getting a most unsatisfactory meal, even though he was in the kitchen! Anyone who would think of coming to eat at the restaurant, on the basis of Carstens’ association with it until September, should not eat here. I felt cheated, as I could not sense Carstens’ hand here at all.
Carstens is rumoured to be taking over the Tokara restaurant when his consultancy contract at Chez d’Or comes to an end in September, but Tokara is denying this.
Chez d’Or, Bijoux Square, 60 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-4197. www.chezdor.co.za (The website is disappointing, with only a Home page, giving contact details and a restaurant interior shot, no menu or winelist). Monday - Sunday. Lunch and Dinner.
POSTCRIPT 30/7: It has been confirmed that Richard Carstens will be the Executive Chef of Tokara Restaurant, in conjunction with Jardine’s Wilhelm Kuehn, from October.
POSTSCRIPT 1/8: I have been informed by Wilhelm Kuehn, the new operator of the Tokara restaurant, that Richard Carstens has left Chez d’Or. The Chez d’Or staff confirm that he left on Wednesday, the day of our review, and that he left ahead of the end of his contract. We were clearly told by the owner that he would be at the restaurant until September.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com