Mon Plaisir

For those of you who still eat, or read about eating, you will have noticed a great haitus in this column. It’s not that Andre has stopped eating, or myself for that matter. If anything, the pace is relentless. I am eating for the upcoming Rossouw’s Restaurants, and Andre is eating to fulfil his life’s destiny.

But it is fitting that our lunch today warrants a new entry – because this restaurant was unusual in the Cape scene for its casual achievement.

It’s called Mon Plaisir and it’s at the bottom of the Hartenberg Road, of the Bottelary Road, Stellenbosch. Run by David and Celine, both Francophiles who previously moved around Africa and had a restaurant in Burkina Faso, they have now quietly opened this spot in the winelands.

It’s well worth a drive. From Bloemfontein. Just to see what a country restaurant could be. Clear flavours, good ingredients and a fine wine list (helped by a stellar selection of French wines). The menu is small and helped by a menu du jour: duck liver terrine, calamari salad, lamb noisette and flageolet, sirloin in a red wine reduction – this was our lunch, along with some Burgundy. The ingredients are fresh, the dishes are lovingly prepared, the place is neat and wonderfully tranquil (on a pond with a deck to enjoy) and the owners are on hand in the peaceful way of people who love food, and understand the dining experience.

You can’t buy this reality in food. You can’t train it. Get there.

021 865 2456. Wed-Sun lunch and dinner, but only lunch Sun.

The Tasting Room 20.12.06

There is no perfection, but there is a desire to achieve greatness.

For the Hungry Man, who had eaten at The Fat Duck and DOM amongst other Icari in the last year, The Tasting Room was in the same league, which is quite something for a local restaurant. To explain the caveat: No matter how much I want to believe that our good places are on par with the best in the world, I don’t think we have many tables that you could confidently tell internationals to fly over to for a meal. Sure, it is often the ludicrously beautiful setting or the ridiculously good prices that tip the scale positively in our favour, but an experience that is untainted by any whiff of condescension is rare.

So, although I have written about this evening in a previous post, the HM encouraged me to return to my thoughts, and here they are. Continue reading “The Tasting Room 20.12.06”

Lucky Store

We’ve both been hungry, but missed common tables, until two weeks ago when we ate at Grande Provence where there is a new chef, Peter Tempelhoff. This man has a pretty impressive CV including two years at Quo Vadis, Marco Pierre White’s place, but our experience at GP suggests his flame is not yet burning white. Nothing wrong, and GP is a fine outing with its setting, design and art gallery, but not vastly improved from the incumbent chef.

Aside from the Hungry Man’s remonstrations that he is not, in fact, a fish snob, there was little to report on. HM is of course a fish snob, but he has the good fortune of being in with fishermen and women and eats the blighters straight off the boat, often as sashimi. The facsimile that often ends up on the restaurant table is therefore treated with suspicion.

Yesterday we ate at a new place operated by a friend of ours and run by his mom, the wonderful Judy Badenhorst (ex of River Cafe, Constantia). Lucky Store is deeply quirky, set in the building where the general dealer was in a small winelands community. It’s very local, and very South African. Novilon tiles, shiny washable walls (where the menu is written), melamine table tops. The food is plain but tasty, the kind of place that sardines on toast is a regular for breakfast (and we all know that this kind of place only exists at home).

There is some residual unease… the whities pull into a previously disadvantaged community and turn the general dealer into a “shabby chic” eatery, one which the locals never go to. In this case, they apparently do, so I look forward to seeing that.

We had the only starter, a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad. It came after our main course, a venison pie with stewed sweet potato, but all was hastily devoured, followed by a superb carot cake. Beware wine snobs: take your own wine and expect to drink it from tumblers.

Lucky Store. Idas Valley (at the circle). 072 9082155

Standing around

The evidence is there in the paucity of posts on eating with the hungry man that either he or I are too busy to do much eating together at this time. However, I did share a lunch with him yesterday in a manner of speaking. In a manner because it was at a wine seminar on marketing and this was the bolt-it-down lunch break, but more in a manner because the bolting and gabbing happened standing up. Yes, eating at standing height tables. It must be a conference thing, and I don’t have too much experience with these. However, after sitting for a few hours… The Hungry Man muttered to me that “it’s apparently faster” in passing.

PS The subject of e-marketing was given a whole speaker and an hour, but very poorly interpreted, maybe more later. It was both not a good intro to blogs, flicker, etc; nor in depth analysis. Pity. Most people were simply confused.

Hook, line and sinker 28.05.06

It’s taken me a while to write this one, many events, eatings and random liveliness got in the way, but it’s well worth recording – not so much as a Hungry Man epistle but as a notable restaurant visit.

It’s not that this place in the small heart of Pringle Bay is unknown, in fact it has a staunch following of locals and “in-the-know” Capetonians who like to think of it as their little secret. Since the place only accommodates 24-odd people, it’s easy to pretend exclusivity. Continue reading “Hook, line and sinker 28.05.06”

Zanddrift. 3 May 2006

It’s strange that this despatch has taken so long to write, because this foray into the heart of the lunch hour was one of the best that the Hungry Man and I have enjoyed. Now I’m reconstructing it from imperfect memory and in the meanwhile, the Hungry Man has eaten at Fat Duck in Bray, amongst other fine establishments. But more on this when he returns, no doubt.

Shortly before his departure to the northern kitchens, I sent him to eat at Manna Epicure on Kloof Street for a business lunch, and he was not impressed. Continue reading “Zanddrift. 3 May 2006”

96 Winery Road. 26 April 2006

Today there was a great deal that was discussed “off the record”. But I can tell you that the Hungry Man declared that he does not like balsamic reduction. Regrettably, he forgot this detail, remembering only after his order of guinea fowl with said reduction on mash arrived as his main course. Given this global dislike (it’s too sweet he says) I would have preferred to have his main course in front of me instead of my happiness-threatening eland potjie.

It’s only a few days later, as I write this, that I realise our meal resembled some butcher’s sampling of the ark. Continue reading “96 Winery Road. 26 April 2006”

Terroir 13 April 2006

When I last ate with the Hungry Man, he was a wan specimen. Worn and worked by the voracious demands of his employer, he sat in front of me, visibly struggling to muster the strength to explain the many reasons for his exhaustion.

It was therefore a very good thing that we were sitting at one of the better restaurants in Stellenbosch, with a very attentive waiter and some victuals only a few syllables away. Continue reading “Terroir 13 April 2006”

Pastis 10 Jan 06

“So who’s going to eat and who’s going to look?” The Caesar salad like a bed of lichens lay before us, but shredded and limp. This was a R40 salad, a fancy one. I had a predilection for ordering Caesar’s, since it was one of those dishes that was so simple and relied on such precise ingredients that most places got it only in name. And then added a sturdy price.

This was one such. Although the dressing was pretty good and accurate, the shredded leaves and generally flat and wet aspect of the plate was a tragedy. Continue reading “Pastis 10 Jan 06”