Category Archives: Reviews

Overture Review

By common, unchecked consensus, this may be my first choice since the unmentionable purple vegetable related restaurant. Of which we shall not speak. And if it is such, I forgive myself all my brinjally sins! Overture is Redemption!

Overture was on Eat-out’s list of top-10 restuarants of the year, which can or cannot be a good thing. More that that, every single of the 17 people who made comments on eat-out website said things like:

– best restaurant experience ever!

– most wonderful service ever!

– amazingest food ever!

And it was all true.

Overture is at Hidden Valley wine estate, so named because you will u-turn at least once on the way there and there are windy, dark country roads which seem entirely too long to fit into the space on the map where the farm should be. Overture itself is a summery lunch place, which is why we obviously needed to have dinner there in winter*. We got there on time (40 min from cape town) and it was dark, and cold, and unobvious where to go, and did I mention the cold?

This concludes any negatives I may have had, and at this point we get to the restaurant.

We’ll need to go for a summer lunch. It would have the most amazing views – wraparound balcony high up, with vineyards as far as the eye would be able to see, were there light. In winter, the inside is a modern, wood-and-stone-and-metal type building, with warm light and high ceilings and one of those completely open kitchens for additional entertainment.

The staff were lovely. We had 3 people looking after us, which normally is a bad sign (purple! vegetable! alert!) but wasn’t here. I remember most of their names, which is a good sign (thank you Vision and Brenda!), and they were omni-present, very helpful, knowledgeable and had a sense of humour.

Tap-water test: Passed with flying colours. “Would you like some still or sparkling water?” “A big jug of tap water would be nice?” “Certainly, ma’am.” With a smile. And that was it. And the very lovely Brenda ensured water glasses were never empty. Yay!

Bits and pieces: Lovely, warm bread served straight away with olive oil, and every time we were finishing a plate of food, mop up sauce with!. Also, baby marrow mousse/soup taster thingy served straight after ordering to make sure we were never empty-handed. And delicious things they were!

Wine: This is a no-bring-your-own-place (we checked in advance), but they have, beside wine list, a very recomendable food-and-wine pairing thing. Which I recommend. The deal is, their 3, 4 or 5 course menu can be served with matched wine or not. It is unusually reasonable to do the matching thing, and well worth it. It is so reasonable, in fact, that I was expecting the wine portions to be measly, I mean, elegantly restrained. Instead, they were enormously bountiful and very tasty to boot. The idea, I gathered, was to make sure that we always had something to drink. For example, the Chicken Liver Pate and Snails starter dish came with a glass of noble late harvest on the menu, which was delivered ahead of the food, along with an unexpected and unmentioned glass of delicious chardonnay, to “have something to sip on while you wait for the food”. Bliss! And danger to designated drivers, a position from which I was allowed to abdicate half way through the evening with some relief (thank you, Jess!!!).

Now for food: 3, 4 or 5 courses, as said, where all items from the menu are eligible for the deal. So 2 mains followed by 2 deserts and a starter is fine, IF you are insanely hungry and have a couple of spare stomachs to stuff five courses into. Or your name is Landlord, Evil Landlord. (Though he at least had his starter-starter-main-main-desert in the right order.)

The prices are actually very reasonable, ranging from R195 for 3 courses, no wine, to R350 for 5 courses, with ample rivers of wine. We ended up having around 4 courses each, according to a rather complicated matrix:

Course 1:

(All): The kingklip, smoked, with poached egg and a hollandaisy but not really creamy whitey sauce. Paired with Hidden Valley Rose, which is suprising un-rose like (tastes more like a white, which is how I like my Roses). Lovely. Rich. Mope-plate-with-bread-to-hoover-up-the-sauce-y.

Accidental (involuntary muscle twitches!) stealing of last bit of kingklip from Stv’s plate done by me. I am sorry! There is no excuse!!!

Course 2:

(Jo and EL): Snails cooked in red wine with Chicken Liver Pate. Served with a creamy green (why green? I don’t know!) sauce. Paired with aforementioned Late Harvest/Chardonnay duo. Very very rich, but lovely flavours. Snails not tasting snail like, pate very fluffy and light but rich at the same time. This was kind of the theme for the day. More bread. Mop, Mop.

(Jess): Spinach Soup with bread dumplings with cheese inside. Rich and wonderful. With one of the 2 Sauvingnons.

(Stv): Malawian-heritaged fish from Bredarsdorp (local ingredients thing) something like talepi? tamale? Thumbelini? Something of the sort. With risotto bianco and tomato risotto. Surprisingly, my favourite flavour combination for the evening (cue coveting Stv’s dish. Tuck fingers under seat for dining safety). Yum and light and fluffy and all those things. With another Sauvignon, judged even nicer than the Spinach Soupy one.

Some under-the-tablecloth bread trade observed between the Fish and the Spinach Soup. Just saying.

Course 3: (Wondering if we can actually have any more than this, despite firm 4 course plans)

(Jess): Duck. I cannot remember how it was done or what it came with, only the extreme juicy deliciousness of it. Mmmmhmmm… duck…. And it came with the Hidden Valley Merlot, which was dark and berry-y and the wine winner for the evening by universal, glass-sharing concensus.

(All others): Pork Belly. Rolled into a little rolly thing. With root veg. And other things. Emergency systems kicking in, memory closing down to make room for expanded stomach. It was awesome. With HV Pinotage, which was classic and fitting and unfairly pitted against the Merlot. Poor Pinotage.

Course 4: (Tam-da-Dam!)

(EL): Duck, and Merlot, and going (reasonably) strong.

(Jess): Malva pudding with cinnamon ice cream, under protest, shared with Stv in order to ensure survival.

(Jo): Sits this one out. Moans. Holds extremities. Gets teased by waiters about early defeat. Digests furiously..

Course 5: (To the Escape Pods!)

(EL): Slightly pale. Braves Malva Pudding. Shows no appreciation for cinnamon ice cream.

(Stv, Jess): Sensibly avoid any more food. Not even my most excellent desert.

(Jo): I’m having rib-eye steak for desert! My life is complete! The waiters are impressed! (Or horrified. Don’t care.) I may explode, but: Rib eye steak, medium rare, with a thin sliver of rare liver (!) (It works, but not as course 4. Liver spurned for purposes of retaining a little bit of digestive tract.) With lots of tiny mushrooms and deep-fried gnocci (works!). And Shiraz.

*Falls under table*

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, was a Fine Meal.

*Note for winter: it is small inside, and the outside tables are out of the question. So book early. By all accounts, book early in summer too. They are popular. We booked aweek in advance and got lucky, there was a cancellation! (It’s good good good so do it anyway!)

Benkei Review

Review in brief:
food generally good, generous portions, reasonable prices, service a bit lacking.

So, after dipping out off a wine farm lunch on Friday due to time and heat constraints, we decided to Crack our Salty selves on Saturday instead.

I was in the mood for some Japanese food, but specifically not sushi. So, after hitting the Eat Out and Dining Out sites and the EO book, I chose Benkei (menu at DO).

We did our usual frisky food swapping.
Our starters were:

  • Tuna, Ginger and Wasabi Spring rolls with Sweet Chilli sauce,
  • Chicken Yakitori, kebab-style
  • Seafood Yakitori,
  • Tempura prawns, fish, calamari and veggies
  • Sashimi salad.

All were pretty nummy, but special mention goes to the Spring Rolls (crunchy and good tuna) and the tempura (nice and crispy, good side sauce).
You may notice that there were five starters for four people.
We were hungry :).

Our mains were Teppanyaki stuff:

  • Beef Fillet
  • Seared Tuna Steak x 2
  • Seafood Platter (fish, prawns, calamari steak)

They took quite a while bringing out the starters, and the mains arrived almost the instant they took the starters away, which was not great.
The tunii arrived seared to perfection, but unfortunately a bit cold. So, we sent them both back to be warmed up and they returned pretty much cooked. I was a bit miffed, but the fishies were still very tasty.
The Beefy was done just right (nice and pink and soft and good), and Eck’s seafood-for-two was a decent mix of denizens of the deep. I admit to being surprised that he managed to get the whole lot down – it was a whole lotta fish!

Overall quality of the service could be improved.
The waiters were friendly, but not quite attentive enough – we had to call our guy back to open our first bottle of wine for us (and I get very tetchy when I don’t have a drink in my hand soon after sitting down ;-] ).
And I was a bit annoyed by the fact that they started closing up the place while were still sitting there eating. This was before 10pm on a Saturday evening. Admittedly, we were the last ones there, but still.

So, I’m glad that I chose there, and I had a pleasant evening, but I won’t hurrying back there.
Plenty more Japanese joints to try!

Non-food information confirmed during the meal:
rimshot is the technical term for the bdum-tss at a punchline. Not to be confused with (NSFW) rimjob, (Arnold Judas) Rimmer, or just plain old (bling, mofo!) rims.

The Wild Fig

The club’s over-larnification at Aubergine has led to a snail-like drawing in of horns, and we’re all about the relaxed, mid-range experience at the moment. Wild Fig was perfect for this. For a start, it’s beautiful: quite apart from the piquant detail of being next door to the mental hospital, it has the stunning giant wild fig tree outside, and the restaurant itself is a white-painted house on multiple levels, curled around three sides of a courtyard full of trees. The interior is dark-painted, cosy and eclectic, and very slightly shabby in a way that’s intimate and comforting.

The food is rather a fun combination of nouvelle and pub: intense sauces, interesting flavour combinations, but with the portions approximately twice the size of somewhere like Aubergine, and the main course comes standard with roast potatoes and vegetables. We all overate horribly. Starters were substantial in themselves; I had spring rolls, slightly fatty but tasty, and the EL’s deep-fried camembert was perfectly done, a great improvement on the slightly stringy one we had at the Hussar. (Owing to my somewhat dilatory approach to this reviewing thing I can’t remember what anyone else had, but I’m sure they’ll chip in in the comments).

Main course enabled me to pursue my current goal of trying all the possible versions of duck in Cape Town in search of the perfect one: this was crispy duck in an orange sauce, very flavourful, with the kind of crispy skin that really requires one goes at the bones in one’s fingers. Other main courses at the table included, if I remember correctly, some sort of game in a chilli chocolate sauce, and a giant chunk of lamb shank – the usual ritual of fork-swopping was observed, and it was all very good.

We had to try dessert, despite being full, because the ice-cream offerings were so unusual. I had a brandysnap basket arrangement with berry ice-cream, somewhat delectable, but I think the chilli and honey nut ice-cream sandwich was even better, with wonderful flavour contrasts and a subtle bite.

If I have anything to carp about it was possibly the service, which was pleasant but slightly slow. This didn’t really matter, as it suited our relaxed mood perfectly.

Eating in the New Year

Like all right-thinking Capetonians, we S-chewed (oh ho) malls and restaurants as much as we could during the festive season (tourist cooties are the hardest to wash off), which meant we had a gaping void where our December Salty Cracking should be. So, we, along with Jess’s mum, decided to make ourselves a posh, proper three course, dinner thing instead.

Eck supplied the quality bubbles: actual French champagne.
There may have been other bottles too, but it’s all a bit of a blur now…
:-)

Jo made the starter: a whole Camembert each, topped with finely chopped garlic, then a thick layer of honey, then chuck gently place the whole lot into an oven for a bit.
Same basic recipe as A Holiday Brie.
Damn, they were good!
The garlic goes nice and crunchy, and sweetens up.
Definite Nommage of the Om variety, and one to do again.

Jess did the main course: Fillet of Beef Chasseur.
Nummy! The meat was cooked to perfection.
I ate so much that I almost exploded at the table.
(We had the left over meat on sammiches the next day – the overnight marination did good, good, things to the meat.)

Jess also prepped a dessert: crepe suzette.
Unfortunately, we were all too full to have any.
(This worked out well, as it happens: we had them for breakfast the next day!
Also, check it out: crepesuzette.co.za)

Hussar Grill – brief review

There’s a reason that they sometimes come back again last summer – it’s for the Hussar’s meat. (!)
And for the cosy setting, foot-tappy if slightly cheesy music, and the exceptionally pleasant waiting staff.
Also, (and I’m looking at you here, Aubergine) they don’t charge corkage (not that I’m still bitter about the whole experience or anything…).

Through a supreme effort of will I didn’t have the deep fried Camembert for starters (although I did score some samples from Jess – thanks!), but went for Kudu and Gemsbok carp(accio) with raspberry drizzled bits, which was Teh Num. The Kudu had the edge on the Gem – more distinct flavour.
Jo had her classic Steak Tartare which, as ever, was fabuloso. Very fresh meat and just salty enough condiment jobs.

Again trying to buck (bok?) my usual choices, I avoided Game meat and went for a classic Rump, with pepper sauce. Hot damn, these peeps know how to handle their meat. Perfectly cooked, nice and tender. Om nom nom.

Jo had Cow Chateaubriand which also ace. She blew a bit early, giving it a bit more of the boozey kick that I was expecting, but the meat was very, very good.

Usually I find the veggies and spuds a bit meh, but (perhaps because we didn’t even sit down until after eight, later than usual) they seemed to be also very tasty – especially the mash. I think Jo’s potato fetish may be rubbing off on me (literally. I just found a King Edward in my back pocket).

Aubergine Review

site: aubergine.co.za

I’ll keep the link there. For easy reference. To find the bit where they say you can only bring 2 of your own bottles. If you can. .

So, while I’ve been beaten there, no harm in regrouping and starting from the beginning:

The noble cause that is this club takes us to lots of very posh restaurants. It’s the paycheck celebration event, spending money is not the issue – good food, good ambiance with good friends is. We have been doing this for 10 months now, and – as jess said last night – we have either been:

  1. extraordinarily lucky in our choices
  2. living in a city with examplary, wonderful, restaurants where nothing ever goes wrong
  3. been total, easy to please lushes (worry), or
  4. had this coming to us.

d it is.

The first sign of worry was the hushed atmosphere, followed abruptly by the “only 2 bottles of own wine” rule* (not mentioned on their website in any obvious way). The “tap water, please” clearly wrote us off in the minds of our waiters as the “was McDonald’s fully booked, then?” crowd. It’s not just that it’s difficult to get actual tap water (ordered deliberately, for reasons of environmental consciousness – I repeatedly fantasised, over the course of the evening, of having had the foresight to bring a shiny visiting-card sized printed note with me denouncing the bottled water business in order to bring the  waiting staff in line), it’s the clear downgrading in terms of respect in the waiter’s eyes that bothered.

The food, which could have redeemed this all, was not quite there. We invented a bunch of rating factors on our way out, and here are some i can recall, with my proposed scores:

  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Staff: 2
  • Food: 7
  • Value for money: 2

It could appear that we are simply not used to nouvelle-sized and intended portions, but to that i say “Ginja“! Which has been our best eat so far and is in exactly in the same thrust as Aubergine, but scores 10/10/9/8 on the same scale.

So, the food:

Pros:

  • the tiny little cold cucumber soup and the sorbet we got between courses. That was lovely, interesting flavours – the soup had a goats cheese and parma ham floater (better than it sounds) which made the whole thing lovely. The sorbet was apple/mint, which works.
  • The duck. Ask Extemp. That was good, unusual, curried duck. Mmmhm.
  • the Asparagus+tuna+Parma ham starter, which was a good balance of flavours and worked well.
  • Starters, for those interested, come in at R75-R100 each, which means value for money is difficult. They are tiny, but once again – a good place will do tiny but fill you up with intense flavour. This one fell short.

The not-good-enough:

  • the tiny, expensive steak was tough. I will (excuse the terrible focus on money here, but I breathe slowly when scuba diving to save money) pay R165 for a palm-sized steak (see Tokara, for example), but It Was Tough. No redeeming features.
  • The Tiger Prawn starter. R95, because of the rare Dwarf Tiger Prawns they have to catch for it.
    On Mars.
  • I vaguely remember the EL calling his rabbit “anonymous”. Or was it “generic”? Mind, addled.

We forewent deserts, on account of having run out of wine, patience, and the ability to give them any more money.

So, I do think they have a different “experience” planned for us. The key to that seems to be their extensive winelist**, which their ice-queen-sommelier explains to you on a sip-by-sip basis

(literally:

people at the next table: *sip wine*.

sommelier: *run* Can you feel the peachstones? don’t they just taste like summer? on a raft? Can you hear the little fishes?

people: *nod vigorously*

little fishes: *sploosh*

sommelier: *sidles off*

people at next table: *sip wine*

sommelier: *returns triumphant* note how it develops! Those fishes! Gone! Now, with the rising temperature and … global warming, it’s all … nutmeg! and polar bears! taste the bear? Earthy!

Bear: Raaa!

Fishes: *shuffle off*)

i guess we missed out.

______________________
* yes, 3 between 4 people seeeeeeeems like a lot, but who are we kidding? and it’s not about the amount, it’s about the restrictions.

** ooh, they had a transparent wine fridge. Which glowed. In slowly-changing, neon colours. Not redeeming.