A while back – could have been three months ago, could have been yesterday; what is time any more? – our TGIFood editor tasked me with compiling a comprehensive list of all the restaurants in Cape Town that had closed permanently during lockdown.
This soon proved to be, at best, a fate worse than that of Sisyphus, at worst, well-nigh impossible. There is still no final number; some closed, swearing blind it was forever, only to open again (which is wonderful for them). Others closed temporarily but the well-intentioned folks on Facebook duly alerted the world such-and-such appeared dark and abandoned but that was when they’d driven past there that one day in May (which I’m guessing was the month we were allowed out a bit) only to have indignant owners refute this in August. Any list you do find published on the internet is riddled with inaccuracies.
So instead of trying to fight this losing battle, let’s use it more or less as a starting point for looking at some of the top restaurants on Western Cape wine estates which closed for a bit but are re-emerging with new looks, new menus and new chefs in their kitchens.
Michael Broughton opened Terroir at Kleine Zalze, Stellenbosch, in 2004, collecting armfuls of accolades and awards – and creating a prawn risotto which was the stuff of dreams – until the extended lockdown prompted the decision (by Kleine Zalze) to close the restaurant. Broughton has since launched a pop-up at Silver Forest Boutique Lodge and Day Spa in Somerset West.
“I had the best time ever in lockdown,” he said. Why? Because he had time to think about the road he had travelled over the last 15 years at Terroir and where he would go to from there.
“It was with a heavy heart that I realised, through Covid-19, the global hospitality industry as we know it was put on hold with indefinite and unknown consequences which included the closure of Terroir. Near the end of lockdown I was put in touch with Penny and Keith Rodenhurst who are the owners of Silver Forest Boutique Lodge and Day Spa on Spanish Farm at the top of Somerset West with a beautiful view of the Helderberg and False Bay. I agreed to help them to put together a new Italian inspired concept for their eatery on the property including a Neapolitan-style pizza brand which is growing daily.
“From there we looked at hosting a pop-up ‘Dine with Michael’ in an intimate and beautiful venue on the property called Rosemary & Vine on a Friday night only, where guests would be hosted by me personally and get back to my roots of engaging with customers and inviting them to join me in the open demo-like kitchen with a glass of wine and see what I’m doing and how I’m preparing their food.
“It’s a real interactive, casual and relaxed vibe that I’d like customers to enjoy and not feel like they’re in a restaurant. It’s also an ideal venue for a function or private party.”
It’s definitely not a restaurant though, emphasised Broughton. “There is a set menu changing monthly (perhaps even twice a month) starting with a few nibbles, bread, starter, main and dessert. We seat 25-30 covers in a lovely intimate space with a few cocktail tables outside if customers want a glass of bubbly and enjoy the view then move inside and watch the show.
“We have an interesting wine list with some great South African wines (with help and input from Ross Sleet from Rascallion Wines – who is probably the cleverest mind around when it comes to wine) that consists of five whites, five reds, two pinks and two MCCs – that’s it! But boy, they are not just outstanding wines but very well priced and guaranteed not to slim your wallet. And by the way, you won’t find these wines in supermarkets, because I wanted to make it a unique experience.”
Rosemary & Vine’s three-month plan takes it into January 2021, with a cookery school aspect during the weekdays for now. “I’ve been mentoring chef students in my kitchens for more than 20 years now and enjoy the teaching aspect so I’d like to push the cooking school and demo angle because it is interactive and I can share with people what I’ve learnt over the past two decades,” said Broughton.
“I’ll also be inviting various wine makers to join me and together will collaborate and interact with customers about wine pairings, why we chose these specific wines, and introduce various wine pairings to the evenings. Our industry is a knowledge based industry – if we don’t share we’ll never know.”
Broughton recalled how he once asked a famous baker in SA if he could come and work a stage for a week or two while he – Broughton – was on holiday – to learn his technique and understand the chemistry of sourdough. “I even offered to ‘chop the flour and mop the floors’ as long as I could get to see the process and understand alchemy. He denied me that opportunity and I will never forget the disappointment I felt and made a mental note that I will never deny that opportunity to a willing student, ever!”
On the sourdough note, Terroir famously had a starter named Sandy. Every year when the restaurant closed for its annual holidays, someone would have to take Sandy home to babysit her, otherwise she’d overrun the place while unattended.
“She is alive and well with me at Rosemary & Vine,” laughed Broughton. “You think I’d ever let her go? In fact, my daughter Sarah, 17, has worked with me in the kitchen before and is a keen baker and I’ve given her a piece of Sandy called ‘son of Sandy’ for now as she hasn’t decided on a name yet. We have baked a few sourdoughs together with some excellent results so I’m sure you’ll see Sarah in the kitchen with me at Rosemary & Vine. She just cannot stay out of the kitchen and I love the fact that we as father and daughter can work together.”
Broughton comes alive when he’s at the stove but running a business doesn’t always allow time for that. Staffing, interviewing, menu planning, training, budgets, functions, profit and loss… it detracts from being an artist, he said, but who knows? “Right now I want to establish a business and keep my brand alive. We all need to pay the bills… post ‘Chinese Flu’.
“As for going back into the fray of a busy top-end professional restaurant… perhaps when my children are older I’ll go back to the hours but for now I’m in a comfortable place where I can work hard and see my children growing up.”
No longer named Terroir, the restaurant at Kleine Zalze has reopened and is now under the watchful eye of Nic van Wyk, who also runs the restaurant at Haute Cabrière in Franschhoek. The menu now comprises a selection of warm and cold tapas, and four plats du jour – currently sirloin steak, sustainable line fish, linguine with spinach, artichoke and lemon, and springbok loin. Each is served with a recommended Kleine Zalze wine and costs R245 a person.
With a lovely outside seating area under tented cover, the tapas can be a starter or a sharing spread. We loved the roasted eggplant with goat’s cheese and kecap manis, and the caramel pear with parmesan and burnt onion. The calamari with avocado and curry was prettiness on a plate, and the yellowtail pastrami with unripe strawberries, amasi and dill was as delicious as it was unusual. The dish that won the day, however, was the vanilla panna cotta with guava and yoghurt sherbet.
We drank award-winning Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2019, and brand spanking new 2020 Sauvignon Blanc from the same range which looks set to follow in the footsteps of previous lauded vintages.
“When this whole dog show of a year came around it was the right time to think a bit differently about how we all conduct business,” said Van Wyk. “I started talking to Kobus in lockdown and we both agreed we should do something at KZ but not how it was. We both wanted something simple and easy, and to create a spot where people would feel easy and welcome. It is after all the only way that I know how to cook, so the menu and offering is a simple but refined one, priced right for people to eat here once a week and not once a year.”
Recognising the changing nature of the industry, and the need to marry expertise and experience with empowering the younger generation of chefs, Van Wyk had this conversation with both Kleine Zalze and Haute Cabrière and everyone agreed it was the best way forward. “So I essentially look after two spaces with the help of great younger teams and will expand on this in the future as these young teams grow up and are able to take on the same responsibilities as me at other places.”
Some chefs overseeing more than one restaurant at a time manage it because of geographical proximity; Van Wyk has his work cut out for himself, moving between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, but he’s adapting and making it work.
“KZ has a bit more of an experienced kitchen team at the moment and because the farm is big, the admin and business side is a bit easier so I spend most of my time at KZ in the kitchen to help taste and refine the menu as well as on the floor with the serving staff,” he said. “At HC I am a bit more involved in the admin and business side so at the moment Mondays and Tuesdays are spent there. The kitchen team at HC is a bit younger so at the moment I do most Wednesdays and Thursdays getting new menus ready with them in the mornings and then spend afternoons at KZ. Weekends are split between the two in the kitchens and engaging with the customers and of course there are always the nights on the laptop getting planning done.”
Kleine Zalze restaurant is open Wednesdays to Sundays for lunch, and Fridays and Saturdays for dinner.
MasterChef SA and Ultimate Braai Master judge, cookbook author, food alchemist and consultant, and professional chef with more than 30 years of experience, Pete Goffe-Wood was approached by Hansie and Theresa Britz, the new owners of Grande Roche hotel in Paarl in 2019. “There was no restaurant on my immediate radar, but they had a great vision for breathing a new lease of life into the Grande Dame. I loved their commitment to restoring her to her former glory and so Viande was born.
“Unfortunately Covid-19 hit after we’d only been open for nine months and after six months without trading I no longer had the resources to reopen. Travel restrictions and the unlikelihood of any foreign tourists over the summer season was the final nail in the coffin.”
Goffe-Wood knows how to roll with the punches and survive, and describes himself currently as a “gun for hire”, having done a few year-end corporate functions. “But what has been extremely exciting is that most of those functions have been done via live-streaming,” he said. “I recently cooked along with 36 people, online, from 19 different countries for an international software company. I’ve also been involved in a fabulous new concept (throughout lockdown, in fact) called the Live-Cook Channel, which I present. Basically people in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town can order a box of ingredients delivered to their home and at the appointed hour can connect to YouTube and cook along live with one of SA’s top chefs.”
A series of signature dinners for the Life & Brand Portfolio – a tapas evening at La Parada and fish menu at Harbour House have got that ball rolling already – are in Goffe-Wood’s future, as are a couple of Masterclasses at Matt Manning’s Chef’s Studio above Grub & Vine in Bree Street: Summer Christmas Classics is on December 10, 2020, and steak at the end of January 2021.
With his wife Elize, Goffe-Wood also has the Kitchen Cowboys stands at the Oranjezicht City Farm market (Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, V&A Waterfront) and the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill (soon opening on Thursday evenings as well as Sundays, Salt River) so that is going to keep them busy for the next couple of months.
“I’m actually quite enjoying the freedom of not having a permanent base at the moment and my motto has always been ‘Have knives, will travel’,” he said.
“I don’t think that I would consider opening another restaurant, certainly not in this current climate. I think that the carnage due to lockdown is still to come, when we hit the quiet winter in the Cape next year there will be more casualties. In my opinion it will take at least two years before we return to 2018/19 levels of business.”
The Grande Roche Restaurant is now under the management of chef Kevin Grobler and his wife Inemari, together with her parents Celia and Rayno Rabie. Grobler’s resume includes running the kitchen at Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s Michelin-starred JAN in Nice, France; and head chef position at Delaire Graff outside Stellenbosch. Inemari is an established chef in her own right and her creativity as a food stylist will add flair to the visual experience of the meals.
“JAN and Delaire have definitely been the yin and yang to my career; the one being very much creatively focused and the other a lot more business orientated,” commented Grobler.
“The first thing I think of when you ask me about JAN is abundant creativity and attention to detail. I have a lot of admiration for him in terms of how he looks at things. He taught me that sometimes you need to change your perspective to see something extraordinary in something that can sometimes be perceived as very boring.
“The first thing I think of when you say Delaire is business. I was made a lot more aware of budgets, marketing strategies, bigger staff management etc. As chefs we sometimes get lost in the food and forget about the reality. So it was a good balance.”
As with Goffe-Wood, Grobler was approached by the owners to open the restaurant as his own. “Although I’ve had my share of business experience I realised I can’t do this alone. Especially not such a big setup, so I called in the cavalry. My wife, who is a food stylist but also a qualified chef, and her parents, who’ve owned restaurants in Hermanus, have the right background and experience to complete the package. This way I get to focus on the food and not get lost in the running of the business.”
Naming it simply Grande Roche Restaurant, in terms of reinvention it is more of a taking it back to the grande/beautiful old lady she used to be,” said Grobler. “We’ve lightened it up, added lounge pockets in front of the fireplaces, perfect for a lazy drink or tea and used splashes of gold and mustard to echo the beautiful original chandeliers and mirrors.”
Called upon to describe what he has in store for the menu, Grobler said the signature dish so far is the toasted cheese and beef tartare with tomato mayo. “It was inspired by old classics and some of my favourite things to eat and memories of France.
“My style of cooking has simplified a lot and you can see it in the menu. I try to use only a few key ingredients in a few different ways and make sure they shine. We try to source our produce as locally as possible and strive for a zero waste kitchen although it can be challenging at times.”
Ensuring diners have a great experience (food, wine, ambience, service) will bring them back – and spread the news – said Grobler. “They say the best form of marketing is word of mouth so that is all we could hope for. Paarl doesn’t have the same reputation and exposure as neighboring towns like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek and we hope to change that.”
Grobler said he is EXCITED (in upper case) for this next phase of his career. “I think this is the most excited I’ve been in a while. For the first time it feels like a place I can put my stamp on without any external expectations or prerequisites. Also, I get to do it with the people closest to me, so I actually get to see my family a bit more.”
Summer kitchen opening times are 8am till 10.30pm for breakfast, 12pm till 2.30pm for lunch, afternoon snacks between 3.30pm and 6pm, and dinner from 6.30pm till 8.30pm.
Among the closure of some of Giorgio Nava’s group of restaurants was 95 At Morgenster, in Stellenbosch. We’ll have more about this and Nava’s new ventures in an in-depth interview next Friday (December 11, 2020). Filling the space will be the second branch of Botanicum, joining its sibling in Constantia.
Fun fact: Marc Botes, owner of Botanicum with wife Amy, previously owned Chalk & Cork in Kloof Street, which was formerly Nava’s Mozzarella Bar. “We chatted to Giorgio a lot, and he gave us a lot of insights about the venue and crowd,” said Botes. “We get on very well. He’s been a great help and he’s excited for us too. He’d been there for a while, so it’s sad and he will be missed but we’ll do our best to deliver a really good offering.”
Due to open on December 16, 2020, Botes says Botanicum at Morgenster will bring a sharper focus on a family and child-friendly venue. “We’ll be putting in a pizza oven for our 48-hour sourdough Neapolitan-style pizzas. The menu will be very similar to Constantia – modern European style food.”
Breakfast and brunch will be available over the weekends from 9am, and all-day service through till 9pm. The restaurant will be closed on Mondays, and open Tuesdays to Fridays from 12pm for lunch, till 9pm. This means guests can do a wine tasting and follow that with a meal, or a coffee and pastry, supplied through a partnership with Bootlegger. Plans for early 2021 include a proper play area for children, and picnics on the lawn.
Previously carrying only Morgenster’s own wines, the list has been adjusted to include a range of Botanicum’s own-labelled wines made specially for them. This will include bubbly, Chenin, Chardonnay, a white blend and maybe a rosé and a couple of lighter reds like Cinsault and Pinot Noir. “It will be a nice easygoing and accessible addition as Morgenster’s reds are full-bodied in the Bordeaux style,” said Botes, who hopes to attract locals who will return two or three times a week for the value for money, as well as tourists.
I have no doubt this won’t be the last change for 2020, but last minute for this deadline is that Peter Tempelhoff (FYN) has taken over the restaurant at Buitenverwachting in Constantia, with Julia du Toit taking the reins as head chef.
“The new concept, beyond, finds a home at Buitenverwachting wine farm, established in 1773 and once part of the original Constantia Estate – the name too references Buitenverwachting’s literal English translation ‘beyond expectation’ – and comes with the dual challenge of offering something fresh, while acknowledging the estate’s storied past,” was the official publicity line ahead of the official launch this week.
“If I could choose a quote to sum up the philosophy behind the food at beyond, it would be something Marco Pierre White said: ‘Mother nature is the artist, we are just cooks’,” said Tempelhoff. DM/TGIFood
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