Q’s Review- The Royal in Riebeek


My Valentines evening was not romantic. No. Anything but. I’d been deep in consultation all day and was feeling emotionally drained, in spite of the days triumphs.

My client, the wry and dry Robert Brendel, proprietor of Riebeek Kasteel’s Royal Hotel where Q is working on an exciting new refurb is demanding, but with an unexpected sense of humour given the demands on his bank balance. The clock had barely chimed five when he ordered a bottle of smokey vanilla and citrusy butter and woody and marvellous Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay. Just the way we both like it. (Oh Rob! We have so much in common.)

It was really only a matter of time before we were obliged to consider our stomachs and, although we were seated in the half painted fine dining restaurant to be and surrounded by stacked tables and freshly upholstered chairs, Rob called room service for a snack.

It was not to be.

The usual menu was suspended in favour of a celebratory four courser to celebrate that poor martyred Valentine patron saint of star crossed lovers.

Three hundred and ninety five bucks (ZAR). We missed out on the romantically dressed tables on The Royal’s fabled veranda, fresh with summer breezes up the valley and decorated with a faraway view of the dusk kissed Elandsberg mountains.

I would have been happy with a toasted cheese and tomato and really wasn’t expecting the sumptuous deliciousness that followed.

A heartful, blood red starter of beetroot prepared in six different ways. Ambitious, nothing I’d try at home. The kitchen had clearly been busy. A tantalising and piquant shot of borscht infused with a hint of vodka to set the pulses racing. A deeply fried chip of beetroot, crisp and fresh. Luxurious, silkily bright pink beetroot panna cotta. Complexly flavoured hummus infused with the lovely scarlet colour of this year’s favourite vegetable. Also pickled and flavoured in the Swartland tradition and also with, best of all, goat’s cheese.

But there was more! Another starter- and I could spend every meal eating starters don’t you know?

A tiger prawn wrapped in a rice pastry candyfloss. Another marinated in garlic, ginger and chilli and then seared on the grill and yet another, blanched and presented with a mango and chilli salsa with a cumin spiced mayonnaise.

 

 

 

 

The room was already beginning to look romantic despite the half painted walls, draped dust sheets and stacked newly delivered furniture.

I hardly ever eat fish and, well, the wine and the music and, um, the moonlight was kicking in, so I dived in, continuing the marine theme begun with the trio of delicious prawns.

Banting too! Perfectly grilled kingklip, marvellously plated with cauliflower risotto and a poached egg drizzled with sauce Hollandaise and served with a bright green portion of wilted asparagus. I don’t remember eating a piece of fish this tasty or perfectly prepared and so artfully paired. Egg and Hollandaise. Yummy.

 

 

 

 

The kitchen pulled out all stops for the dessert. A complex ménage a trois of red velvet milkshake flavoured with everyone’s favourite- Amarula, Dutch apple tart with cream and a crumbled honeycomb and (it had to feature somewhere) a tiny lonely heart shaped panna cotta with a passionately blazing red berry coulis.

Rob! I love you long long time.

http://www.royalinriebeek.com

33 Main St, Riebeek Kasteel, Western Cape

Q’s Review- Simonsig’s restaurant Cuvée

Lunching one flawless Cape afternoon on the terrace at Simonsig’s Cuvée restaurant a tall, blonde and smiling young man approached my table. “Good afternoon.” He boomed a little too loudly for Q who prefers his midweek lunches to be on the plus side of discreet. “I know you.” he announced to the sun dappled terrace in a way manner that left Q feeling decidedly awkward if not downright uncomfortable.

The shady terrace, crowded with guests was all ears. “Yes,” he said. “We are Dutch! We were in Hermanus at the Marine Terrace and you were eating mussels (actually it wasn’t The Marine Terrace, it was a place called The Burgundy) and you sent them back!” he cried, to friendly waves from his companions and nervous looks from the Cuvée staff.

“Yes,” I murmured, slightly disturbed that I might have made a scene. I’m certain I didn’t. I never under normal circumstances send my food back to the kitchen, but it was the 7th January and I was irritable and more than slightly hungover.

And. One of my favourite dishes, moules marinières, had been roundly and soundly fukked up. The taste of vegetable stock cube was pervasive, the wine was cheap and nasty. Cream was added for some reason and the portion of chips, well, they were, um, unnice…

Rest(aurant)) assured, always a winner

So! Enough of the Burgundy and back to Cuvée. It never disappoints. Always keeps it simple. Has a variety of dishes and menu options to suit a range of budgets from more expensive to modest and great choice of Simonsig wines, all paired with a dish on the menu and available per glass.

“Chefanie”- head chef Stephanie de Wet

To make things easy on myself I tend to eat the same thing and to be honest, have only ever lunched there and not delved too far into the menu.

There’s always ‘boerewors’. Served differently every time. Always grilled on a skewer, but served sometimes with a gorgeously golden slice of polenta or with a peach chutney or, on this occasion with subtle and creamy risotto. This, paired with a glass of their fine Kaapse Vonkel brut, is often all that’s needed for lunch, but why have less when you can have more? If there’s time to linger, have another starter. All priced at around ZAR70 and paired with a glass of wine.

 

 

 

 

Beetroot salad or howzabout an onion tarte tatin served with a gorgonzola panna cotta, accompanied by balsamic pickled figs. Main courses are from ZAR160  (not that I’ve indulged, preferring to snack at lunch). This is really great value and with a superb glass of vino, a starter and an espresso and a tip, you can be out of there for under a ZAR150 if you stick to something light. The Saturday breakfast is hugely popular (so book) and the dinner menu looks marvellous, especially if you don’t have far to drive.

Simonsig Wine Estate, Kromme Rhee Road, Koelenhof
http://www.simonsig.co.za/

Q’s Review- Olive Bistro

I know it’s still early days at Olive Bistro, but the discreetly air-conditioned room with its crisply white décor contrasts- most favourably- with the hot umber dusted streets and boho chic of Riebeek-Kasteel, the small Swartland town in the Western Cape hinterland where it finds itself.

Chic dining in Riebeek Kasteel

I also know that Paul & Istelle Carlin are an ambitious pair. They’ve already moved on from Café Olive, the tiny coffee shop they took over five months ago. A 25 seater restaurant was never going to be big enough for a chef on a mission in a town known mostly for jolly eateries and rugged, but fine craft beer.

So clearly, the days of a prix fixe table d’hôte at Sunday lunch are limited. A more detailed and comprehensive à la carte menu is evolving as they settle into their new premises on the corner of Fontein and Plein Streets. The restaurant (it’s a bit to glamourous to be a proper Bistro) features as an anchor in a beautifully refurbished house which is located in a complex that contains an art gallery and offices. The broad and shady stoep with a views of the Kasteelberg Mountain serves gourmet breakfasts and lighter lunches during the week.

 

 

 

 

For two weeks in a row now Q’s lunched late and languidly on Sundays. The first after an opening at the RK Contemporary gallery next door had it

I find the table d’hôte vibe to be stress relieving.

Sit down, get chatting to your friends and eat wots put in front of you. Easy.

Particularly when the cooking is as careful and deliberate and detailed as Istelles and just so for the careful and measured service from Paul and his front of house team.

Amuse bouche: an agreeable little skewer of seasonal fruit and Chourico on one occasion and a complex hit of Gazpacho on the other.

Appetiser of Gorgonzola in phyllo with fresh seasonal figs and a compote of things fruity. More-ish, on my second visit. The first featured a smokey beetroot soup with potato croquette, don’t dare call it borscht, served just a small degree off room temperature. Proper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A choice of entrée. Chicken or lamb on one outing and chicken or beef, the other.

I’m a red meat eater so no surprise at my choice. Fall off the bone lamb shank with an authentic jus packed with flavour and complexity, served with delicately flavoured mash and carefully prepared vegetables. Cooked and crisp. The following week a rolled topside of beef that distracted from the conversation of my companions enough to assure me quality, but not nearly enough to bring me to detailed analysis.

 

We were all impressed by presentation and taste with the vegans more than adequately attended to, with a saffron rice pilaf dressed with a casserole-ish deliciousness featuring nuts and mushroom and tofu miso.

As dessert the vegans found berry dressed papino and the rest of us a chocolate and crème fraiche marvel also dressed with a berry compote and a crisp wafer thin biscuit and ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some at the table found the experience fussy and formal and over priced.

Yarwell Nofine!

I didn’t. I like detail and I like being waited on and besides what can you get for 250 bucks and bring your own wine and not get charged corkage?

It suits me!

http://www.oliveonmain.co.za/

 

 

The Silo Hotel, Cape Town

I’d motored into Cape Town on the Wednesday. Basically to get a haircut and a carwash and to attend to some business. Luckily, I finished the business early and since   I’d dressed up in a beautiful double cuffed Paul Smith shirt I ventured into the streets of hipster central in search of Robert and Alberto.

In search of hope.

Hope that these two charmers could be persuaded to join me for lunch and CheninBlanc in one of Bree Street’s sun dappled bistros.

Alas. It was not to be. Robert had an appointment and Alberto had to keep an eye on the Gallery, with its fresh consignment of treasures.

Alberto told of Cape Town’s latest artsy hotel venture as he guided me through the display of Villa sculptures and mid-century glass ware. A conversion of grain silos on the old dockside.

All dolled up, with the perfect place to go

I headed off into the high noon.

At the lift I met Magdalena. Beautiful. Beautifully groomed. Impeccably put together. We exchanged witticisms whilst standing in the parking garage waiting for the concierge to unlock the lift lobby door.

New hotels are bound to have teething problems, don’t you know.

 

 

 

 

Charm, wit and an impossibly handsome man in immaculate tails. All of us crisp and smiling. The lobby a perfectly understated transition from the harsh parking garage   to the lushness of The Silo Hotel. Polished concrete floor. Limed brick work. Hand finished plaster walls. Three shades of grey. Dazzling yellow velvet sofa. Satin stainless steel, mysteriously abstract artwork, all in all the right places.

The lift arrived, we entered, looked at each and laughed as we chanted the mantra that is so often silent or sadly unnecessary, “perfect lighting.” More than that, the perfect lift. Narrow oak panelling, with mirror in the wainscoting. A shallow chandelier on the ceiling, much like the old Maharani, far across South Africa in Durban all those years ago, except for the artfully incorporated stainless steel of course.

We looked fabulous. Fabulous.

I handed Magdalena my card before we parted on the sixth floor.

Two laughing girls got into the lift.

Keep in mind if you please, that I am of  a vintage when all I meet seem younger      than me and almost without exception are either ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, or ‘children’. It leaves me feeling fatherly, or patriarchal in the nicest possible way, of course.

 

The girls, gorgeous and groomed, embraced me, kissed my cheeks and insisted that I join them for lunch.

I did. I’ve never said no to lunch.

The roof deck reminds me too, strangely, of the Maharani. The ghosts of grand hotels passed. The luminous green lawn (here it’s AstroTurf, used to marvellous effect as a kind of witty outdoor carpeting) and bright yellow parasols channelling Sol Kerzner and the gold and sunny yellow years of Southern Sun.

 

 

 

 

The maître d’ greeted the girls like he knew them and had been expecting them. He recognised me in the manner only an expert restauranteur can.

The menu beautifully conceived by Veronica Canha-Hibbert, previously of the Ellerman House, consists of deconstructed old favourites- perfect for light snacking and ideal to enjoy with drinks. A Cosmo for Jo and a Belling for Candice. I went straight for one of the Chenin Blancs that my new world in the Swartland has led me to lately. Botanical the Citrusdal Winery a fine choice, I thought. Peachy and lush with a long finish, deeply dry on the palate. The girls normally seduced by Sauvignon Blanc were surprised and delighted by it (280ZAR).

I enjoyed my chilled Chenin with finely made Vietnamese vegetable rolls (ZAR95), served with a startlingly pleasant and piquant sauce. Water. Candice ordered the prawn tempura (ZAR225), divine! Jo-Anne highly exited by the deconstructed lamb curry roti (ZAR160). Fab, (and made all the more interesting by the crisped up roti.)

 

 

 

 

We lounged back on beautifully cushioned sofas, and chatted and giggled and bonded, eating and drinking off tables of just the perfect height and size. Linen napkins and beautiful cutlery. Paper thin glassware.

The staff are all absurdly attractive and the view is unsurpassed- certainly in Cape Town and possibly even the world. The calmest of calm Cape days and the finest of Chenin Blanc (did I mention the Chenin), sails dotted over Table Bay and the friendly fussing of the service team as they cheerfully chatted and wobbled finding their feet in a restaurant only just open, but delivering fine unobtrusive service anyway.

 

A restaurant tinged with nostalgia that they know not, the pleasure of the company of strangers.

1650ZAR including a tip. We didn’t use the pool.

THE SILO HOTEL
Silo Square, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town
https://www.theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo/overview/