Beads, Stellenbosch. 07.08.06

How to write about a meal that never really happened? Say that the fillet mignon could have been great, or that the service was exemplary – had it happened?

Well, it’s not absolutely the case, we did eat a little, but then sent everything back. And the point is that the owner came out to make a personal apology and to offer the (non)meal, wine and coffee on the house, which is something that quite a few restaurateurs would never find in their hearts or bottom lines to do. (They probably have a bottom line where their heart should be – but to be less flippant, it’s amazing how few restaurateurs understand the psychology of selling food, that you aren’t selling a piece of fish, but an experience, a personal connection). The comped wine we drank is made by a viticulturist, Aidan Morton, called Morton Shiraz 2004 and it’s a modern baby, plush with ripe fruit and generous wooding, but all pretty well done, if not very memorable. Wine, too, is less about what is in the bottle than what the story is, and this wine has none really. At least none that is being told. When I returned to Beads a fed days later with Ariane (to reciprocate the owner’s gesture) we drank another wine that tells no story, though Capetonians assume there is one by the name (which turns out to be misleading).

Tamboerskloof Shiraz 2003 is not made in the suburb of Cape Town and neither do the grapes come from there, from some suburban vineyard delightfully still extant. It’s made in Stellenbosch at Kleinood, and the producer has not left a shred of story on the label to hint at the reason for the name. I tried the Lamb Wellington again and it was now delicious, with some well cooked polenta instead of the wet tile it was before. Prededed this with an open ravioli of mushroom and courgette, delightful. Ariane ate a delicately cooked piece of sole, and then our time ran out. The place is flagrantly vaudeville in puce and glass trinkets and draping fabric, but the house its in is sombre and old enough to carry the affair off. Of The Hungry Man I have little to add this time round. He is well, and his health is good. Very preoccupied with work though.