All posts by Steve

Cheyne’s Review

A few Fridays ago, the new (and some might say improved) Crackernaut roster went down into the deep south of (the republic of) Hout Bay for some Pacific Rim cuisine at Cheyne’s (@cheyne_reaction on the Twitters). Trivia factoid: this was only our second Cracker in Hout Bay. (Also: no Jaegers or Kaiju were spotted, in case you were wondering.)

The Yay

The food was excellent all round. The menu is tapas-style and is divided into Sea, Land, Earth, and (erm) Happy Endings. We had a good mix of animals and vegetables, and pretty much every dish was delicious. There was a wide range of flavours and styles and it tickled all my Eastern bells.

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The decor is also worth a mention: slightly odd, but very groovy prints of graffiti-as-art cover the walls and give the place an interesting feel. Our table was a nice big, solid, bit of wood, but it did make us feel like we were sitting quite far away from each other.

The service was really good, but we kept having odd not-actual-misunderstandings with our waiter. It often wasn’t clear that he had got what we said and that all was good. But the right food and drinks kept coming out, so we were happy.

The Boo

After a couple of plates we started spotting some patterns. While it was beautifully presented, the food started to look a bit similar. The setting for it, I mean: every dish came in the same style: perched on a black slate tile, with little blobs of Kewpie mayo and little hills of (admittedly nommy) kimchi on. A minor quibble to be sure, but a bit odd.

In summery summary

Next time I’m out that way again, it will definitely be high on my list as somewhere to go, but I suspect I wouldn’t make the trip out just to go and eat there.

Galbi Review

As part of my continuing quest to explore new Asian restaurants, to seek out new food and new drinks, to boldly eat where we haven’t eaten before, the Crackernauts headed out to Galbi, a Korean (fusion) BBQ joint on Long Street.

alley

The Good

The food was interesting, a bit different, and the communal mini-braai thing is always fun. They have these awesome steampunk-y brass tubes that hang from the ceiling and funnel the smoke and hot air up and (presumably) out.

the-food

The waiters were very smiley and friendly and helpful: yay!

The Bad

There’s a call waitron button on each table, but it worked erratically in practise. It rang every time, but someone didn’t always come.

The portions were on the small side. We ordered the Korean Galbi set, the Fusion set, and the Safari set. This should have been enough for six, but the five of us polished it off easily. No-one was left hungry, but we felt like we could have eaten a bit more.

The Ugly

It is hot as hell in there. The ceilings aren’t too low, but the space is quite small. Combine that with the pit of fire in the middle of every table, and the temperate rises up quite a lot. The concrete-y walls also mean it gets loud. It was a Friday night with a birthday party party in, in a place in the city bowl, but still: loud.

The Verdict

An interesting experiment, but not an entirely successful one. Might be worth trying again in winter.

The Pot Luck Club Review

Hello there. Steve being Jo here, provided brief wordy words about The Club of Luck, of Pots.

Pencil Menu

Jo and I had been there before for dinner and loved it, and decided it was a worthy destination for a lunchtime cracker. Important aside: we went there and back by taxi for maximum relaxation.

The restaurant is cool. It’s perched on top of the biscuit mill, with great views, and is just the sort of modern architecture stylings I like.

Kitchen

The menu is divided by flavour: Salty, Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Umami, and dessert. The lunch time one is a little smaller than their dinner one; this worked well for us as a foursome because it meant we could have, essentially, the whole menu. WIN.

Every dish was great, a few were amazing: I remember the chinese ribs and the calamari being particularly good.

I highly recommend The Pot Luck Club. Really great food, friendly staff, great setting. Did I mention really great food? :)

You can check out another pic or two on Flickr, and read a slightly different (but equally short) take on Opinyon.

The Test Kitchen review

I’ve been meaning to go to The Test Kitchen for a while, having been to and loved Luke Dale-Roberts’ other joint Pot Luck Club, and we finally got around to it last month for my Cracker choice. I was pretty fired up for the experience, having missed my first booking there (I got sent abroad for work stuff), and given that we had to book two months in advance. TL;DR: amazing, but also amazingly expensive.

We went for the Discovery menu. The Gourmand also looked great, but we’ve gone off of long tasting menus: you get taste fatigue by the end. The flavours were fantastic and by and large the combinations of them were too. My only complaint is that some dishes had a few too many flavours fighting for attention. The presentation of every dish was exquisite: beautifully crafted and plated, although I could have done with a few less smears (ahem). The portion size was well judged: we all felt pretty full by the end of the meal, but not stuffed to bursting: something that tasting menus often get wrong.

The staff were friendly and knowledgable but lacked warmth, and the atmosphere was kind of similar. The experience felt professional and high-end, but with a dash of pretentiousness. Kind of how I feel about the Biscuit Mill in general: not quite my kind of space.

One that’s important to mention is the price. Yowzer, it’s not cheap! If you asked me if The Test Kitchen was good value for money, I  think I’d err slightly on the side of not. You do get fantastic food, but for me it wasn’t the leagues ahead of other great places that you’d expect given the large difference in price. Does it deserve its top spot in restaurant lists? Based purely on the food: probably yes. Based on the experience as a whole: probably not.

All in all: stunning food, but I won’t be going back in a rush. The credit card needs to recover a bit. I might head upstairs to Pot Luck Club instead.

Pure Review

Despite being in a hotel (the Hout Bay Manor) I though Pure looked promising: lovely decor, interesting sounding food. Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed.

As a quick aside: the place is quiet hard to find at night. The road leading up to HBM isn’t signposted; the entrance gate thing is big and labelled, but isn’t lit. So we missed it the first time. Ahem.

Where Pure dropped points was staff and service: most of the waiting staff were polite, but curt with it, and had no warmth. Compare this to somewhere like the Roundhouse (extremely formal and fancy, but also very friendly) or (Crackernaut winningest hearth-throb) Overture and the comparison is quite unfavourable. They also weren’t knowledgable about the food: Jess’s quite tasty pureed beetroot soup with roast garlic was described as “beet soup *frown*”; Jo asked about pasta portion sizes as she wanted one for a starter, was told they were quite large, and got three small ravioli; there was “a misprint” on the menu that meant taking three scoops of the same ice cream as a dish cost more than taking three scoops separately, which they had to discuss with the chef to find out.

Soon after we sat down, we were greeted by the very cheery Food and Beverage Manager (um…) Vincent, who wished us happy eating and told us not to hesitate to give him any feedback. This was nice. Alas, we never saw him again.

We Crackerlngs like to take wine with us to restaurants. It’s not so much that we’re cheap: more that restaurants charge a ridiculous mark up on their wine. We took a pretty fancy bottle of red that we’d been saving and the (grouchy) waitress opened it for us. She came back about five minutes later and told me that they were charging corkage of R80 (burn!). That’s a bit ridiculous compared to other spots in Cape Town, and it would have been better to have told us before they opened the bottle. It’s interesting though that their web site says “As we have a extensive wine list we have a NO Corkage Policy at Pure.

The menu is a bit schizophrenic. It’s part bistro, part steakhouse, but doesn’t quite hit the mark for either. The scores, then.

Gypsy Cafe Review

What with new jobs and overseas trips and product launches and things, arranging a date and venue for this month’s Cracker (October’s, that is) was a bit of a last minute affair. I was struggling to think of somewhere, so when Jo suggested Gypsy Cafe I grabbed it. Jo and I went there a few weeks ago and had a lovely, relaxed, delicious meal. On top of that, I like supporting small businesses (having been one myself for many years), and local businesses. Unfortunately, our Cracker experience there last night was not so great.

The restaurant has a Gypsy theme in its decor and menu: the specials on the menu change regularly, and a pin in a map on the wall shows where they are this week. Last night we were in Germany: one of the starters was a lovely vienna salad, and one of the mains was roast beef with sauerkraut, the other was beef schnitzel. The other starter we had (three of us had the salad) was the chicken livers in a spicy coconut curry-like sauce, which was delicious. For other main courses, we had the Venison (Ostrich), and the Two Tarts.

Here’s a wodge of pictures:

The food was all great, except I wasn’t happy with my ostrich. It came a little too rare for my tastes (I like medium rare, can do rare, but don’t do bleu), and I asked for it to be cooked a bit more. The chef generously, and quickly, brought me a whole new one. Unfortunately, it was pretty much as rare as the first one.

A much bigger problem was the really bad service we had. We arrived at 8 p.m., and the joint was jumping. It took us a little while to get drinks (first rule of restaurant club, people: get people their drinks immediately. Then they’ll be much happier waiting for other stuff.), but the kitchen was so busy that we couldn’t (and not for lack of trying) place our food order until 9.30. By about 9, after several pesterings of the waitress, we asked if we could have some more bread for the table to tide us over. She went away and came back and, apologetically and nicely, told us that the kitchen was too busy to even do that. We were not happy bunnies. When he eventually came over, the chef apologised briefly for the wait, but after waiting an hour and a half, it would have nicer to have a “bigger” apology. The food came out quite quickly after that, but most other guests had eaten and left by then.

We had a nice night out anyway, because we’re four friends who enjoy chatting and drinking, but it was not a great dining experience at all. If there had been another waiter, maybe things would have gone a bit more smoothly. Time for the scores on the doors.