Entries tagged with “Strijdom van der Merwe”.
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Monday 30th June 2014 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines
* The City of Cape Town has created its own vegetable, fruit, and herb garden in the Company’s Garden, which is where Jan van Riebeek planted Cape Town’s first vegetable garden after he landed in 1652 to supply ships of the Dust East India Company passing the Cape on their routes between Holland and the East. It has been given the mouthful of a name Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) vegetable and herb garden in the Company’s Garden! The garden will also contain indigenous medicinal herbs and edible plants. There are no plans to replicate the growing of vines to make wines!
* America is to be marketed as a ‘Gastro-tourism’ destination by its marketing agency Brand USA, given the diverse cultures living in the country. A six-language ‘Discover America: Great American Food Stories‘ culinary guide has been published for visitors to the country.
* A cheeky advertising campaign for cheeky craft beer Garagista Beer is attracting attention not only locally but also internationally, poking fun at the hipsters drinking beer, especially those drinking it for the image rather than for the beer itself! Its cheeky pay-off line is ‘All beer. No bullshit’! The brewery is on Albert Road in Woodstock. (more…)
Saturday 7th December 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
On Thursday evening South Africa and the world lost in Nelson Mandela one of its most influential citizens ever, who taught us about the nobility of forgiveness, despite what he suffered for 27 years to make South Africa and the world a better place for all.
No doubt like many others, I could not help but feel sad about the passing of someone whom I had never met, but who feels like a father, and the sadness is even greater, this being the second father I have lost this year. Reading the outpouring of love for Mr Mandela on TV, on radio, on Twitter, and Facebook, the timelines were dominated by the expression of each one who uses the media. Kfm played tributes and ‘nostalgic’ music, not its normal music mix, like Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water‘ and Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’, and many more songs that related to the specialness of Madiba.
The world’s leaders expressed their sadness, and President Barack Obama was one of the first to express his condolences in the early hours of yesterday morning. He and his wife Michelle have announced that they will travel to South Africa next week, to pay their respects to the country and the family. Books of condolence have been opened in South African embassies around the world, for South Africans and Madiba admirers to express their feelings. A moving tribute was paid to him by his assistant of many years Zelda la Grange.
Many media interviewees said that the day had been inevitable, but no one was prepared for the final passing. A number of false reports announced Madiba’s passing mid-year, and it is clear that the major international and local TV stations had long before prepared documentaries about the man that had such a hold over the world.
Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster (now Drakenstein) prison in 1990, a month after I had moved back home to Cape Town from Pretoria and Johannesburg, and I was one of many millions watching the TV broadcast of the long and slow walk to freedom from the prison. The broadcast by SABC was a lowlight of Mr Mandela’s release, his release having been delayed, and the SABC reporter had nothing more to say while waiting for at least an hour than to comment on a leaking tap! As Madiba’s cavalcade was leaving Paarl, I was one of thousands making our way to the City Hall, to hear Madiba address the nation and the world. We heard his distinctive voice for the first time. It was the start of a new South Africa, of tolerance and respect for each other, most of the time. Not only was Madiba respected for his lack of bitterness, but President FW de Klerk was saluted too for his graciousness in motivating his Cabinet to release Madiba, knowing full well that he and his National Party would eventually lose the ruling power. For their gentlemanliness both leaders jointly received the Nobel (more…)
Saturday 26th October 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
On Thursday evening 800 art lovers descended onto The Lookout in the V&A Waterfront for the opening of the first ever Cape Town Art Fair, the largest mega art exhibition ever held in Cape Town under one roof, with 40 galleries exhibiting 800 works of arts of 130 top artists. It was an excellent platform to enjoy the art of food, of visual art, and of wine art!
In a clever display design, the art galleries were given one, two, or three panels to display their artists’ work. While most pieces were described, I did not see prices, giving the exhibition a classy feel. It was more about meeting the gallery owners and representatives and connecting with them, based on the style of art they were exhibiting. Some of the galleries, auctioneers, and artists at the Cape Town Art Fair include Strijdom van der Merwe, with an exhibit at the entrance to The Lookout and having recently created an impressive exhibit in honour of Nelson Mandela outside the Stellenbosch Town Hall; Strauss & Co; The AVA Gallery; holden manz collection; Whatiftheworld Gallery; Frank Joubert Art Centre; Stephan Welz & Co; Erdmann (more…)
Monday 14th October 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines
* La Motte is hosting a talk on ‘Shiraz and all its facets‘ with a tasting on Thursday at 18h30 – 20h45. (received via newsletter from La Motte)
*Justin Bonello is launching his new book ‘Roads Less Travelled‘ in conjunction with his The Ultimate Braai Master judges Bertus Basson and Marthinus Ferreira in November. Unsurprisingly the book sizzles with the stories and experiences of the TV reality show, and the journey on the backroads of our country in testing the best of our country’s braaiers.
* New York restaurant Eat has prohibited talking by its diners during their 4-course meals!
* A new tourism region has been created, called the Vanilla Islands, consisting of Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros, Mayotte, and Maldives.
* La Motte is participating in the Franschhoek Art in Clay Festival, and (more…)
Monday 14th October 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
A pop-up art gallery, curated by the North-West University Gallery in Potchefstroom, has come to Stellenbosch at Clos Malverne in the Devon Valley, with an inaugural exhibition entitled ‘A Void in the Landscape’. The focus of the exhibition is Nature, we were told at the opening by its winemaker Suzanne Coetzee ten days ago. The indoor and exterior exhibition runs until January.
The art is displayed both two-dimensionally inside the restaurant overlooking the vineyards and beautiful hills and mountains in the background, as well as three-dimensionally in the garden and the vineyards. The exhibition was curated by Christina Naurattel (more…)
Tuesday 8th October 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
I was working late last Thursday and had the TV on kykNET (having watched Chef Reuben Riffel’s new ‘5 Sterre met Reuben’ fresh herb cooking program) when I saw an eTV news broadcast, which reported on a toi-toi demonstration outside the Stellenbosch Town Hall at the inauguration of the new urban art installation. The local ANC branch members were protesting against the R800000 spent on the new art work erected by internationally renowned Stellenbosch-based landscape artist Strijdom van der Merwe in honour of former President Nelson Mandela.
When I arrived at Clos Malverne on Friday morning, to attend the opening of the pop-up art exhibition ‘A Void in the Landscape‘, I bumped into Strijdom, recognising him from the TV news broadcast, and we had a long chat about the Stellenbosch Town Hall transformation, and the publicity it had received as a result of the demonstration. Strijdom’s artwork ‘Heaven is a place on earth’, angel wings erected on street lamp-shaped posts in the Clos Malverne vineyards outside the restaurant, is part of the Clos Malverne exhibition.
I had wanted to meet Strijdom ever since Casparus Restaurant opened two years ago, as photographs of his urban art are exhibited in the restaurant, which once was my favorite. The (more…)
Thursday 15th August 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines
* The Michelangelo International Wine Awards has introduced a new Platinum medal tier, and two Trophies, for best MCC, and for best ‘mocha style’ Pinotage!
* Depressing reading is the report about University of Stellenbosch Professor Trevor Britz’s study about the quality (or lack of) our country’s rivers, including the Eerste and Plankenbrug Rivers in Stellenbosch, which can significantly affect their use for agricultural irrigation.
* Spar is partnering with Shell in setting up Spar Express retail stores at selected petrol stations on a trial basis, in Gauteng, following in the footsteps of BP/Pick ‘n Pay, (more…)
Monday 11th March 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Hermanus is synonymous with the annual Whale Festival. This year it is laying on a 10-day Hermanus FynArts festival, a feast of the visual arts, classical music, jazz, literature, wines, and gourmet food, a fusion of Art Festival and Winter School in a town that has long been known for being home to many leading artists. It will run from 7 – 16 June.
Over the ten days entertainment will be offered over the two weekends, while on weekdays one can attend courses and workshops on photography, ceramics, painting, drawing, writing, cooking, and viticulture. Top sculptor Dylan Lewis will exhibit his work outside the Marine Hotel and will host a talk about his work, interviewed by leading writer Christopher Hope, one of the co-founders of the Franschhoek Literary Festival. Land sculptor Strijdom van der Merwe, and co-owner of Stellenbosch restaurant Casparus, will host a photographic exhibition of his work, with a talk. Guy du Toit’s ‘Talking Hares’ will be on show at Sumaridge wine estate. Jewellery, ceramics, sculpture, photography and film will be exhibited. Ceramicists include Clementina van der Walt, Hennie Meyer, and Tania Babb, with Ardmore Ceramics exhibiting at the Marine Hotel. A National Art Competition will run alongside the festival, sponsored by the SA National Space Agency. A talk will focus on JH Pierneef, one of our country’s best artists ever.
Vintage South African movies will be screened, as well as classic Hollywood movies, in the Romantiques vintage shop.
A number of the wine farms on the impressive Hermanus Wine Route (including Hamilton Russell, Creation, Newton Johnson, Ataraxia, La Vierge, and Bouchard Finlayson), as well as the art galleries in the town will host an art exhibition, and will offer special events. During the festival, concerts will take place at lunchtimes in the Anglican Church; high teas will be available at the town’s coffee shops at 15h00 each day; wine tasting and food and wine pairing can be enjoyed on the wine farms and at the town’s restaurants, with Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris and Eat Out Top 10 Chef Peter Tempelhoff cooking a dinner on 7 June; guided walks in Fernkloof nature reserve will be offered; and one can enjoy a ‘virtual tour‘ of South African wines.
The Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will perform in the Hawston Hall in celebration of Youth Day, and UCT Head of the Opera School Professor Angelo Gobbato will talk about opera, and one of his talks will focus on ‘Celebrating Verdi’. There will be opera recitals too, including by Gobbato! Singer Zanne Stapelberg and Kathleen Tagg (South African pianist now based in New York) will perform ‘Soul of Fire’. Well-loved conductor Richard Cock will be in attendance, and the baroque Camerata Tinta Barocca will perform.
To allow a feast of ‘fine living’ without concern for drinking and driving, a hop-on hop-off bus will take festival goers to the wine estates as well as to the venues in the town. Booking opens today.
Hermanus FynArts 2013. Hermanus Tourism Bureau. www.hermanusfynarts.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Wednesday 10th August 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Cuvée Restaurant opened on Simonsig wine estate nearly three years ago, and its interior curation by Neil Stemmet put him on the map, with its unusual marriage of old and new. Cuvée Restaurant is a sparkling complement and compliment to the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Simonsig is on the Kromme Rhee Road, one I had never previously driven, connecting the two roads to Stellenbosch via Klapmuts and Joostenberg. There is ample parking, and one sees the modern oddly shaped posters within red frames outside the tasting room and restaurant entrance. Dirk the waiter told me that Strijdom van der Merwe, co-owner of Casparus restaurant and nature artist, had prepared the curved large metal posters on the lawns outside to commemorate the 350th anniversary of winemaking in South Africa for Simonsig last year, a very modern statement for a long established wine estate owned by the Malan family. The late Frans Malan, with Spatz Sperling of Delheim and the late Neil Joubert of Spier, was one of the trio establishing the Stellenbosch Wine Route, which itself celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The Simonsig 210 hectare farm has been farmed by the Malan family for ten generations, and the late Frans Malan was a pioneer in creating the first Méthode Cap Classique, being their Kaapse Vonkel. The Malan brothers Pieter (Marketing), Francois (CEO and Viticulturist), and Johan (Winemaker) run the farm. In addition to the Kaapse Vonkel, there is a Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé, Cuvée Royale, and Encore Vin Sec. Other wines in the Simonsig range include Vin de Liza noble late harvest, Chenin avec Chéne, Chardonnay, Sunbird Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Tiara Bordeaux blend, Frans Malan Cape blend, Redhill Pinotage, Merindol Syrah, Labyrinth Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr Borio’s Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, Shiraz Mouvèdre Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot.
The tasting room and restaurant are design extremes, the tasting room being part of the historic building, with traditional sash windows, yet it has a modern crockery and sparkling wine glass chandelier made by Jacques Erasmus of Hemelhuijs, and Tord Boordje paper curtains, one of only three establishments to have these designer curtains in Stellenbosch! The restaurant appears to be a building addition, with more modern architecture but with classic interior touches added by Stemmet. The room is on two levels, the lower one having a very dominant thick black and white striped wallpaper, with black, brown and white striped curtains, modern crystal chandeliers, a riempiesbank hanging from the ceiling, a red painted wall, and glass doors facing the vineyard. A massive fireplace ‘divides’ the room into two. The higher level appears more modern, with a raw concrete ceiling, one wall painted in a deep grey, and another left in rough brick. At the back end, or entrance to the restaurant, is a modern black bar counter, behind which the wines are stored across the length of a wall. Above the bar counter are large ‘Fifties style black and silver round lights. One wall has seating as benches against the wall, and there is a small lounge area. The tables are black stained wood with glass tops. There is a large Persian carpet in each of the sections, adding a homely touch. Contrasting the more modern furniture is the traditional yellowood and stinkwood heritage furniture, such as a bakkis, and an amoire. Modern perspex lamps and shades are spread around the restaurant, and there are bold white leather pouffes near the fireplace. An interesting Ikebana tree, with coloured silk wrapped around it, is a ‘small wishing tree’, Dirk explained. Classical music chosen by Stemmet rounded off the quality impression. I would have loved to walk through the restaurant with Stemmet, to hear the ‘story’ about his curation.
Each table has a ceramic vase with a red protea, with cutlery by Arthur Krupp, and a most impressive serviette which has a crown logo and 1971 date embroidered on it, to attract attention to the October 40th anniversary celebrations of the Cap Classique at Simonsig. The bread knife is by WMF. Three types of bread, beautifully folded into a serviette, were brought to the table. Coarse salt and pepper were brought in small bowls, with a spoon. Stemmet dictated the crockery and cutlery, and it reflects class. Staff wear black T-shirts and trousers, with a black apron. Dirk showed me the Van Niekerk Room upstairs, a special events function room for about 20 guests, which also has strong elements of black and white stripes, with red leather chairs around a large table. Mr van Niekerk was the father-in-law of the late Frans Malan, whose family is now at the nearby Knorhoek, on which wine estate Stemmet did the interior curation for their Towerbosch restaurant.
I met the new chef Lucas Carstens, who had moved across from Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town at the begining of the month. He has introduced some of his own dishes on the new menu, and kept other favourites. He previously worked at Terroir restaurant and at the Kleine Zalze Lodge. Dirk Smit, ex-Tuscany Beach, is the new Restaurant Manager, but was not on duty on Saturday.
The menu is A3 size on white board and well-presented, each item having a Simonsig wine suggestion. The Black pepper-seared tuna (R85/R140), with a Kaapse Vonkel pairing recommendation, is printed in gold, with the logo for the 40th Cap Classique celebration on it in gold too. Starters and mains are not separated on the menu, as most dishes can be ordered as a starter or a main portion. Not listed on the menu, but offered was fresh oysters at R12,50 each. I chose a starter portion of pan-fried kingklip, a smallish but very juicy thick piece of fish, served with asparagus (not specified on the menu and offered as a replacement for artichoke, but was served with artichoke too), braised fennel, slices of naartjie, and a most unusual citrus butter sauce. With this was served an apple salad with a good dressing, not mentioned on the menu, making the R70 (R130 for full portion) charge good value. Other interesting starter/main course options are Wild mushroom soup (45), Warm green bean and tomato salad (R50/R90), Tomato tartlet (R50/R90), Kleinrivier Gruyère soufflé (R85), Cape Malay butter chicken with Basmati rice (the restaurant smelt of this lovely curry when I arrived, and will be my first choice for my next visit, at R100), Grilled Mocambique prawns (R70/R140), Bobotie (R90), Joostenberg pork neck (R60/R110), Lamb shank (R140), Venison and wild mushrooms (R80/R150), and Flame-grilled beef fillet with Café de Paris sauce (R85/R160). I had the Valrhona 66% chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream (substituted for a red wine and cherry ripple ice cream), baked in a white dish, and thick and creamy inside (R60). Crème Brulée, pecan nut tart, malva pudding served with Amarula and rooibos ice cream, and White chocolate panna cotta cost between R45 – R55. A South African cheeseboard with preserves sounded expensive at R150, but I did not see it to judge the price.
The winelist is a folded A3 board, listing only Simonsig wines. Kaapse Vonkel, the Brut Rosé, and Encore Vin Sec cost R27/R135, a R45 surcharge on the bottle price in the Tasting Room. I had a glass of the Brut Rosé, and it was a good match to the kingklip. Cuvée Royale costs R54/R270. The Mr Borio Shiraz costs R18/R90, and the Merindol Syrah R66/R330. No vintages are listed for the wines, but the Platter star rating and awards won are denoted.
I almost felt sorry for Cuvée that such an excellent restaurant is so hidden away in the Winelands. It has a dramatic ‘Cape Dutch modernism’ interior, excellent food, and stands for quality in everything that it does, much like its excellent sparkling wines. I will go back, now that I know where it is.
Cuvée Restaurant, Simonsig, Kromme Rhee Rhee Road, between R44 and R304, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 888-4900. www.simonsig.co.za (The website contains the menu and winelist, but still has details of the previous chef. Few of the many photographs in the Image Gallery are of the food). Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Monday 28th March 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
It was a Tweet by Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick on Friday that ‘announced’ the long-awaited opening of Casparus on Dorp Street, the new restaurant of both renowned (for his sauce-based food) and infamous (for his temperament) Etienne Bonthuys, who had been at Tokara restaurant for 10 years, but had left last October to make space for Richard Carstens, another iconic chef.
Being in Stellenbosch, I had called the restaurant and tried to make a booking for dinner before the start of a concert at the Endler Hall, but the person answering the phone said their dinner only starts at 7.30 pm (information which turned out to be incorrect – they open for dinner at 7 pm), putting an end to that plan, and I went to Christophe’s instead. Not one to be put off easily, I decided to pop in after the concert, just at the 10 pm kitchen closing time, I had been told on the phone, even if it was just for a coffee. I was most surprised when I was greeted and seated with great friendliness, and offered a menu and winelist.
At this point I was in awe – I have never seen a restaurant interior quite like this, and one quite so large, one long open-ended area, made up of numerous ex-rooms, in part looking unfinished, but so by design, an open-ended construction that opens into the open air and eventually a garden and trees, with a Bauhaus look on one side mid-way in red and blue. Let me start at the beginning though. The exterior of the building on DorpStreet is a 1820 historical home, and there were very tight restrictions on renovations to that part of the restaurant, so it has been kept as it was, a generously-spaced open-plan room through which one walks to get to the huge restaurant part. A dispute with a neighbour about the approval for a window caused the long hold up in completing the building work and opening.
The entrance room has the feeling of an art gallery, and only in talking to Bonthuys’ wife Jane Moses did I understand that the new restaurant is jointly owned by Bonthuys and his friend Strijdom van der Merwe, a land artist I had to admit I had not heard of before, but whose work in tying red bows on oak trees on Dorp Street (not sure what symbolism was intended then) was well publicised in the local papers. Bonthuys and Van der Merwehave different creative strengths, and it is evident that they feed off each other, and will continue to challenge each other. In the entrance room, a modern artwork which has become the logo, reflecting the ‘unfinished’ wooden roof ‘planks’, fills one wall, another wall is filled with photographs of the red ribbon tree project, and a third wall has the original plan of the erf, dating back to 1820, printed onto the wall! Of course one does not appreciate any of these images until one sits down, and someone explains it all. The first owner of the erf was Dr Casparus Termytel, and he was allocated the land in 1791, being the “Burgergeneesheer” of the Dutch East India Company, and the restaurant has been named in his honour. The records do not show whether Dr Termytel actually erected a building at that time, having died in 1793. The first recorded plans for a building on the erf are dated 1820.
One walks through an in-between room, which is a smaller section containing the bar, and the cash register. It looked a little untidy, but one is so ‘distracted’ by all the artwork hanging on the left, being photographs of ‘naturescapes’ created by Van der Merwe, and presented as banners, to ‘hide’ the kitchen from view. Bonthuys must be suffering from ‘Platzangst’, having had a massive kitchen at Tokara, and he is far more constrained in space at his new ‘home’. Having only heard the worst about Bonthuys, and that he never ventures out of his kitchen, I asked Jane to photograph him for me. She sweetly took me to him, and I even got a smile out of Bonthuys, yet looking rather shy and bashful.
To continue the guided tour – beyond the kitchen the restaurant becomes very broad, and extends deeply towards the garden area, now totally modern, with a protective sheet over one of the sections, as if the building construction is not complete, and a set of planks criss-crossed above the seating area, also looking unfinished. Looking carefully, one can see the doors that can be locked at night, but the general effect is one of a massive open space with an unfinished look above it. On one of the walls inside the seating area a slide show runs continuously, showing lovely old historic homes of Stellenbosch, projected against one of the walls. The slide show is one of Van der Merwe’s ‘works’ too, and is the third slide show Van der Merwe has compiled since the opening of the restaurant, and is the one that has attracted the most positive feedback, Jane told me. The tables are all wooden, a mix of more old-fashioned ones as if coming from someone’s home, and others contemporary, and the chairs at almost every table are different, but that is probably also part of Van der Merwe’sdesign. There is no table cloth, but a good quality material serviette, trendy Fortis cutlery, and a little table light, as the back end of the restaurant is very dark. Jane told me that heaters and fires in drums are planned. I saw the guests at a table next door wrapped up in blankets, provided by the restaurant. I also saw these guests smoking, which could put other guests off – the open roof makes it difficult to draw the line about the smoking/non-smoking sections, if there is such a delineation. There is seating for 60, but they can expand to 80 should they make use of the garden at a later stage, Jane said. Bonthuys has retained most of his kitchen staff from Tokara, but most of the waiters are new, and therefore Jane was assisting.
The restaurant is a gallery too, and ideally needs a guide to explain its artworks, and the meaning of and rationale for the ‘unfinished’ construction look of the restaurant. Jane was a wonderful ‘tour guide’, and explained all the art and action at Casparus. I could not have wished for a better person to talk to, so as to find out more about the restaurant,its chef and the artist. Bonthuystrained in Belgium, and started his cuisine career with Rosenfontein in Paarl in 1997, and then owned Floris Smit Huis and then Bonthuys in Cape Town. He opened at Tokarain 2000, a massive restaurant space with a wonderful view, and a huge kitchen. Here too there were no table cloths, and the staff were allowed to dress how they wanted to, something that surprised me then, and does at Casparus as well, where the same staff policy has been introduced. Jane explained that Bonthuys wants the staff to look as if they are eating at the restaurant too! She also told me that Bonthuys likes anonymity, and that is why he likes to stay in the kitchen – do not expect him to come out of his kitchen enclave to greet his guests, but Jane more than makes up for this in charm and friendliness.
The menu and wine list look neat in black leather covers. However, the pages in the menu look heavily used already, while those in the wineliststill look fresh and new. A crispy bread roll was brought to the table, with a substantial slice of butter. When I expressed surprise about the unbelievably low prices, Jane explained that Bonthuys wants to serve a ‘bordkos’, which their customers can afford and enjoy to eat there regularly, and not be a ‘fine dining’ restaurant that customers only visit once a month or less often. He wants Casparus to become a ‘home’, a place one can pop in to, much like I did on Saturday evening. There are 13 starters to choose from, and Jane said that Bonthuys’ oyster starter served in a delicious sounding Cap Classique wine buttersauceis a signature dish, and is the most expensive starter at R80. A carrot soup, and an avocado soup with a prawn, cost R30 and R35, respectively, the least expensive starters. One can also order a Caprese salad or Salad Nicoise, hake souffle with shimejimushrooms, salmon tartare, and mushrooms in puff pastry. I wanted to have the grilled kingklip(R90) as a main course, but it was sold out by the time I arrived. I settled for a wonderful Norwegian salmon, served witha delicious light chive sauce witha taste of mushroom, as well as superb baby potatoes and asparagus (R100). The signature main course is beef fillet with bone marrow served in a red wine sauce, and has come to Casparus from Tokara, costing R140. Grilled springbok served with a lobster sauce is the most expensive dish, at R150, and all the other main courses cost less than R100. One can also order linguini with prawns, tagliolini with Thai chicken, baby calamari and oxtail in a saffron sauce, as well as rump or sirloin.
The dessert selection is smaller, but the prices are unbelievable, in ranging between R30 – R45. Most of them contain ice cream, Jane saying that Bonthuys is also known for his home-made ice creams. On her suggestion, I tried the Meringue Negresco, praline ice cream served on a meringue and topped with Advokaat, absolutely delicious and amazing value at R30. Other dessert options are Sabayon Surprise, a sorbet selection (raspberry and pineapple), frozen dark and white chocolate mousse with mandarin custard, a trio of ice cream (chocolate, praline and coffee), and fresh berries with mint ice cream. The cappuccino was foamy, and very strong.
The wine list details the vintage of the wines, and simply lists the brand names and prices per variety. There are wines at low, medium and higher price points. No wine-by-the-glass is indicated. Sparkling wines are Pierre Jourdan Brut (R165) and its Cuvée Belle Rose (R200), as well as Steenberg Chardonnay Brut (R175). Sauvignon Blancs range from R85 (Kaapzicht) to R110 (Alluvia Ilka, Neil Ellis Groenkloof and Tokara Reserve). The cost of the eleven Shiraz wines start at R80 (Tokara Zondernaam), and Waterford Kevin Arnold is the most expensive, at R240. AA Badenhorst Family Wines’ white blend is the most expensive wine on the list, at R435.
The newness of the waitrons showed, especially with the waiter serving me – I asked him if it was his first night working at the restaurant, as he had no idea of the ingredients of the desserts, yet he was willing to ask the kitchen everything. His sweet yet smart reply was that “this is one of my first nights”! Jane will need to up the training of the waiters, not only their product knowledge, but also that of the artworks and of the meaning of Van der Merwe’s interior design. What is exciting is that Casparus will be an exciting palette, likely to be continuously changing. One hopes Bonthuys has left all his quirks and tantrums behind at Tokara, and that his six-month wait to open the new restaurant will have helped him to find himself. No doubt Casparus will become a talking point, for its excellent and value for money food and wine, its creative and unusual interior decor, and its art gallery. Casparus is a new star on the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route, in the new Gourmet Capital of South Africa. I predict that Casparus will feature on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list in 2012.
POSTSCRIPT 28/3: I was in Stellenbosch today, and returned to a (closed) Casparus to photograph the building exterior. It struck me how humble and low key the brand name is on the windows – one would never guess what an exciting restaurant is deeper inside the restaurant building, not visible from the street when closed. I spoke to the Manager of Detail Interior Design shop across the road, asking her if she had seen it, and she had no idea that it was a restaurant.
POSTSCRIPT 30/3: Emile Joubert has sent this background to Etienne Bonthuys, and his restaurant history: “Just a bit of Bonthuys history: Rosenfontein opened in the late 1970s, not 1997. I was 16 yrs old when I bit into a piece of venison he cooked at Rosenfontein and had a “did the earth move for you?” moment. The late Anton Rupert used to fly business associates from Jhb to Cape Town to dine at Rosenfontein. After Rosenfontein he had headed up the restaurant at Buitenverwachting where Bonthuys had a major impact on Cape Town’s culinary pedigree during the 1980s. Floris Smit followed, and in the early 90’s he opened up a restaurant in Belgium, returning to Cape Town in 1995 as owner/chef of Bonthuys in the CBD where Jinja used to be. Tokara followed. And I can’t wait to visit Casparus as like Elvis, Bonthuys will to me always be The King.”
POSTSCRIPT 9/4: I had to go back! The Oysters in Cap Classique butter (R80) beckoned, and were amazing. I asked for a spoon to have every last bit of the sauce! It is one of Bonthuys’ signature dishes he brought along from Tokara. They were delicious with a glass of Pierre Jourdan Brut at R40. I had a second starter, to allow the indulgence in one of Bonthuys’ fabulous desserts. It was mushrooms in puff pastry with bacon, sundriedtomatoes and butternut cream (R55). The puff pastry was very tough, even hard to cut with a knife, but its content was delicious. The Trio of ice cream (to-die-for coffee, praline and chocolate, all made by Bonthuys) in a chocolate cup (R35) tasted even better with the glass of 2003 Cabriere Pinot Noir, which Achim von Arnimbrought to my table. I ate the ice cream with a teaspoon, to make the enjoyment of it last even longer! The waitress, Katrien, is the daughter of Johan Slee, the architect of Casparus and a good friend of Bonthuys and Van der Merwe. Her service was excellent, and she was knowledgeable about the menu. Whilst there have been complaints about slow service, I did not experience this, despite the restaurant being full. Jane Moses came to say hello, and told me that they had their best night last night, with 78 covers. Strijdom van der Merwe launched a new slide show today, focused on his ‘naturescapes’, and how they are made. I have found such amazing energy at Casparus. I chatted to the Von Arnims, as well as to Louis Nel, winemaker of Hidden Valley, Jonathan Snashall of hunter gatherer vinter blog, and Georgie Prout of Glen Carlou, adding to the enjoyment of the evening. The question on everyone’s lips was what would happen in winter, with so much of the restaurant being open-ended, so to speak. A fire was lit, and was quite smoky initially. The architect comes to pop in regularly, and the thinking is that he will address protection against the Cape winter weather when it comes!
POSTSCRIPT 16/4:I am Casparus-addicted, and told Etienne Bonthuys so tonight – I cannot stay away. My third visit tonight, after another concert at the Endler Hall, and it was so nice to be recognised by two waiters Pierre and Katrien, who served me last Saturday. It was exceptionally busy at 9.45 pm when I arrived, but the waiting time for my amazing thick and creamy Avocado soup with cucumber and prawn (R35) was not long. My bill for R120 for the soup, another lovely ice cream dessert, a glass of Kaapzicht red wine and cappuccino came to R120 – one cannot beat Casparus for value.
POSTSCRIPT 21/4:It was my first lunchtime visit today, and I missed the magic that the dark brings to the restaurant. The slideshow by Strijdom van der Merwe cannot be projected, as it is too light. Given the first bite of winter, some of the tables have been moved to the ‘voorkamer’, the room one enters. The kingklip, served with the Cap Classique sauce from the Oyster starter instead of the balsamic sauce, was exceptional, and amazing value at R85. I did not like the frozen mousse as much as I love the ice creams.
POSTSCRIPT 30/4: I noticed the hand of Strijdom van der Merwe in the design of the sand outside the restaurant. It was lovely to be welcomed back to my 5th visit by three waiters who have served me previously. I also met Martin, the winemaker of Kaapzicht, the housewine at Casparus, as well as the marketing manager of Nederburg, sitting at the neighbouring table, and to chat to Delaire Graff chef Christiaan Campbell. The salmon in the Linguine (R85), with prawns, was the softest and tastiest I have ever eaten. Happy 60th birthday chef Etienne Bonthuys for tomorrow.
POSTSCRIPT 13/5: A 6th visit to the restaurant followed a disappointing concert at the EndlerHall, and at 9 pm the restaurant was still full, so I was seated in the ‘lounge’ outside, withfires. I had a lovely light clear soup withshellfish (the mussels removed, and including salmon, scallops and prawns). Then I had sirloin steak with a delicious mushroom sauce. The steak was a little tough and fatty in sections. The bill arrived with a R90 charge for a bottle of wine, but I had not ordered any. The charge was quickly removed by Pierre when I pointed this out to him. An Irish coffee was well-made.
POSTSCRIPT 21/5: My seventh visit, and the most disappointing one – the kingklip I had before had noticeably shrunk in portion size, and the wine list had at least two wines advertised as 2007 vintages available only in 2009 – the waiter honestly told us that most of the wine vintages are out of date, unforgivable for a restaurant less than 2 months old. When I chatted to Chef Etienne about it afterwards, he just shrugged, and I had the sinking feeling that nothing will be done about it. The winelist is a collection of typed pages, and the vintage information can easily be rectified. Tried the Sabayon Surprise dessert for the first time – still love the home-made ice creams more.
POSTSCRIPT 17/6: Visit number 8! Nice to know that Jane and Etienne are reading this blog, and read my previous comment about the winelist. I was happy to see the winelist amended with the new vintages, on a return visit tonight. Also loved the staff saying yes, without hesitation, to my arrival at 22h30, for a cappuccino and Bonthuys’ wonderful ice cream.
POSTSCRIPT 4/2: I have lost count of the number of times that I have been to Casparus – it remains my favourite! The prices have increased slightly (by R5 a dessert, for example), and more main courses are over R100. New dishes have been added, including this delicious rump of lamb with lobster sauce!
POSTSCRIPT 15/6: A colourful addition to the menu is pork loin with citrus segments, prunes, and a mandarin sauce. Very poor service from the waitress unfortunately, bringing the credit card machine whilst we were still eating, unasked.
Casparus Restaurant, 59 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 882-8124. No website yet. firstname.lastname@example.org Tuesday – Saturday lunch and dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage