Tag Archives: Cape Town

San Julian

2 Mar

A Mexican family moves to South Africa and opens a restaurant named after their home town. They grind their own corn to make fresh tortillas and use Abuelo’s (grandfather’s) margerita mix recipe. Sounds perfectly idyllic, doesn’t it? Unfortunately most things at San Julian are not (except the margeritas).

My first qualm about San Julian is the menu – not that it’s diffcult to understand (most things are lost in translation), but that everything seems so… the same! Each dish is made with tortillas, whether they are quesadillas, tacos or flautas. No where was there menudo (Spanish soup), tamales or chile. At a table of four girls, there were only two dishes chosen and sadly, I was the definite loser! My Flautas en Salsa Verde was presented to me and I sighed. 3 cigar-sized tubes made of, you guessed it, tortilla, stuffed with non-descript chicked and served with a tiny mound of Spanish rice. The Spanish rice was superb, but my quarter cup portion barely touched sides. The cigars also disappeared very quickly, leaving my tummy rumbling, but at the price, unable to order anything more.

No one said anything, but the other dish chosen by my dining partners did not look particularly apetizing either. Diced meat on dry tortilla discs certainly doesn’t appeal to me.

The service is charming and the music delightful, but the best part of the evening must have been the margeritas. Salty-sweet goodness doesn’t come better than at San Julian. My advice: go for drinks, don’t have too many (your bank balance will cry), soak up the atmoshere, but eat before you go.

San Julian, Green Point, 3-4 State House, Rose Street, 021 419 4233, Mains +-R70 (half portions available), Margeritas: R40, Service: friendly and accommodating.

Pepénero

11 Feb

Having recently started a new job, I find myself missing my old colleagues and friends.A catch-up was in order and, all being Atlantic Seaboard locals, Pepénero was the perfect place to meet.

The evening did not start well as our booking was “lost”. A mystery to the manager, but he quickly found us a table outside after waiting only five minutes. We settled down and were quickly made comfortable by a wonderful waiter. He was quiet, unassuming and catered to our needs without becoming visibly irritated with our indecisiveness (something I wouldn’t have been able to do).

Our original plan was to eat sushi, having heard of the brilliant quality and Pepénero’s special. We were somewhat disappointed as the special isn’t that great – only maki, nigiri and California rolls are half-price and the rest of the a la carte sushi is pretty expensive to eat your fill. Most of us explored the rest of the menu and discovered some excellent dishes. All mains come with a choice of chips, rice, vegetables or salad, so anyone can find something to suit them no matter how health conscious.

I went with the Chicken Limone and was presented with three large pieces of chicken, grilled with lemon and parsley butter and pepper – superb. The steak special was also delicious – a juicy sirloin done simply but to perfection. One of our party chose the glazed butternut pasta – she wasn’t enamoured, but it was tasty enough (I helped myself to a few forkfuls!). The cinnamon glaze of the butternut was an interesting flavour in pasta, but nothing else in the cream sauce could compete with it.

At dessert time we were all hard-pressed to make a decision. I eventually shared the White Lindt Vanilla Cheesecake with a friend, while taking scoops of Crème Brûlée from my unsuspecting neighbour. Both were heaven! The cheesecake was covered with white chocolate shavings and its consistency was smooth and creamy. The crème brûlée was not too sweet and I wish I had been the one to crack its crunchy top.

Pepénero is a great place to go for a meal  in a gorgeous seafront setting but don’t expect too much privacy as it is often full and the tables are very close together. When we caught up on all the gossip we had to remember to keep our voices down – you never know whose mother is at the next-door table!

Pepénero,  Mouille Point –1 Two Oceans Beach, Bay Road, 021 439 9027 or 021 439 9037, info@pepenero.co.za, Starters R45+, Mains R70+ (sirloin special R79), Sushi R45+ (not including special), Desserts R45+Service: excellent

Under the Influence Wine Tasting

10 Feb

I write this post with a headache, because I have discovered that you can have too much of a good thing – and an Under the Influence wine tasting is a very good thing. Each tasting has a particular theme, whether it be region, terroir or varietal. The heavenly tasting I attended was “Great Whites” , perfectly up my street as red would give me much more than an innocent headache.

The Cape Town tastings are in one of the most beautiful setting the city has to offer – The Roundhouse lawn. I found myself looking over Camps Bay and the sea on a warm summer night, with friends and delicious wine – it doesn’t get much better. Oh wait it does – there were two potbellied piglets running around! Pancetta and Crackling (hopfeully just a cruel joke and not their fate) run free on the lawn, rooting in the grass and nuzzling offered hands. Just don’t pick them up unless you want the entire veranda to stare at you while they squeal.

Under the Influence tastings are all about learning, not showing off who has read the latest issue of Wine Magazine or knows the most about wine. You are free to make silly suggestions about the smell (sorry, nose!), use the wrong words and actually swallow the wine – all of which made me, an avid quaffer but useless sommelier, really comfortable. The hosts are also relaxed, joking about crib notes and bantering with the guests. While being incredibly knowledgeable about winemakers, wine and regions, they take nothing too seriously.

Each tasting consists of three flights or sets of wines, usually three wines per flight. The “Great White” flights were sauvignon blanc, viognier and chenin blanc blends. Wonderful! Not being a connoisseur, I will just give you my favourite of the evening: Lismore sauvignon blanc (2009), delicious and affordable.

I was eager to line my stomach before the tasting as last time there was only ciabatta to snack on. It wasn’t necessay though as Under the Influence has teamed up with the Rumbullion outdoor restaurant at the Roundhouse to offer not only scrummy ciabatta, but also pizzas (for an added cost). As we had eaten ourselves silly already, my friends and I ordered a simple margarita to share. It was crispy and cheesy – everything a pizza should be and it went excellently with the wine!

As the wine flowed, the inappropriate comments and giggles increased and everyone around the table became acquainted. One of the wonderful things about these tastings is the intimate setting – the tasting groups are normally only about 20 people, seated at a long picnic table. This lends itself to everyone sharing stories and opinions – I discovered that the girl across the table was also my next door neighbour! After the tasting, left over bottles are handed round and you are free to drink a full glass of whatever especially delighted you that evening – the perfect way to get to know your new  freinds. Unfortunately the Lismore was no more, but I refilled on Elgin Heights a few times.

Under the Influence also now does some tastings in Joburg and Durban, but I don’t think these will be able to beat the setting in Cape Town. I can’t wait for the bubbly tasting next week!

Tastings R120 per person (incudes tasted wine and ciabatta). Pizzas from R40. For tastings in your area and upcoming events, visit the website: www.undertheinfluence.co.za You can also buy wine on the website.

The Flying Dutchman

4 Feb

When I was younger, I had to do a project about myself and list my likes and dislikes. Under dislikes, amongst vegetables and bullies, I also listed opera music. Why this should be I don’t know – at the age of 11, the closest I had come to hearing opera music was probably  Les Mis (definitely not opera!). Luckily I went to see Rossini’s La Scala di Seta in 2009 and had my mind changed – it was delightful and funny and I really did enjoy the music.

I found myself at the Artscape Opera House on Saturday to see The Flying Dutchman by Wagner (yes, the one Hitler liked!). My first mistake was to wear jeans – apparently the patrons of the Cape Town Wagner Soceity do still dress for the opera and I was trying not to stand near the man in the white tuxedo and the woman in the fur coat! Fortunately there was a range of dress between the tuxedo and jeans, but I still felt rather out of place.

The overture was beautiful. There is something inspiring about hearing a live orchestra and I’m told the conductor, Kamal Khan, really knows his stuff. It set the mood of turbulent storms and tempestuous love to come (if you think I’m being melodramatic – you ain’t seen nothing yet!) As the curtain lifted, we were treated to visual effects of rippling sea water projected on to a screen to give us on the feeling of being at sea.

This is director Lara Bye’s third opera project. She certainly took the opera out of the 19th century with her use of interesting lighting, costume and set design – all by very talented theatre makers. As the opera is in German, subtitles were provided along with other multi-media effects throughout the show. Jon Keevy and Sanjin Muftic, of Yawazzi, certainly showed their talents for thinking outside the box. Who would every think that opera could be combined so successfully with modern technology?

The first act was clearly not for me. While the visual effects were stunning, the story was far too overboard and the Dutchman’s long solos consisted mostly of eternal damnation, suffering and hopelessness (really, he was rather self-indulgent!).

But then came the second act and Nkosazana Dimande. Wow. She sang the role of Senta and blew me away. She is currently studying in Sweden and her talent is obvious. If there was a danger of me falling asleep (I wouldn’t admit it if I did!) it was never while she was on stage. Matthew Overmeyer created real stage presence as the tossed aside lover, Erik, and his melodramatic attempts to win Senta were highly entertaining.

The liberetto by Wagner was by no means my favourite – his lyrics and melodies were too heavy for me, but The Flying Dutchman did receive a standing ovation from those far more knowledgeable than me. I would far rather see another Rossini operetta again as I will definitely be striking opera off my dislikes list and try to support Cape Town operas more in the future.

 

Unfortunately The Flying Dutchman was only performed for two nights, but upcoming operas in Cape Town include Bizet’s Carmen (I will be seeing this!) and Schicchi’s Suor Angelica, both at the Artscape.

El Burro

19 Jan

When most South Africans think Mexican food, visions of greasy, cheesy nachos and oil dripping chilli poppers come to mind. Thank goodness, this no longer need be the case with El Burro in town.

A quiet, windless Cape Town evening (impossible, I know!) gave rise to my house mate and I feeling the need to have one last gorgeous week night dinner out before the real work of the year began. I had heard good things about El Burro and seeing as it is only a R14 cab ride from our house, we headed out.

We were lucky enough to get a teeny tiny table to for two on the balcony (so book before if this is where you want to sit!). We really felt like we were at a little Mexican cantina, sitting on a precarious mini-table on the side of the road, but our friendly waitress and beautiful view made up for having to squeeze our food onto the table. The view of the Green Point Stadium and the newly “greened” area around it made for a particularly good Cape Town feel. The decor of El Burro is classic Mexican bits and bobs, without looking kitsch or too trendy. My favourite touch is a “wall” of hanging baskets, wooden hearts and fairy lights that encloses one side of the balcony. So pretty!

The menu which lay before me sparkled with Spanish words which I had to ask the waitress about – she was clearly new and said they were “just fancy words”! The menu has no plain cheese nachos – a sign that this is the real deal (like Italian restaurants that don’t serve pizza!). Enchiladas, soft tacos, salads all with a choice of meat fillings, or fish, or grilled vegetables, made choosing a meal exceptionally difficult. I finally decided on a chicken enchilada and my house mate, staying with chicken (though there are so many options), settled on a chicken soft taco.

The food was quick to arrive and delicious – everything I could have wanted. My enchilada had two tortillas stuffed with chicken, drenched in a tomato/chilli sauce and lots of sour cream – my real weakness! I could only eat one, but what an excellent next day lunch the second one made. And this is what struck me about El Burro – the quality and quantity of food comes at a very decent price. My house mate’s soft tacos were also a hit. A soft taco is what most people call a wrap – all the ingredients come on the side and you are given two tortillas to fill to your heart’s desire. Not enough sauce on your taco or enchilada? El Burro gives each table six little bowls of magic to add a little personal flair to your meal – salsa, chilli, donkey’s revenge (really, really hot chilli!) and sour cream, just to name a few.

All in all my meal was superb and I will definitely be visiting El Burro again. We might have decided another glass of wine was in order to really celebrate the beautiful Cape Town night which lead us to the Slug and Lettuce down the road, but that is another story entirely!

El Burro, 81 Main Road Green Point, 021 433 2364, Mains: R60-R90, Service: friendly, quirky, efficient. Open Monday to Saturday 12:00- 23:30

Nando’s Comedy Festival

1 Sep

Disclaimer: This review has been written by a prude who is proud of her brain!

Trevor Noah

Americans are loud, brash people. A generalisation yes, but one that enforced itself at the opening of this year’s Nando’s comedy festival. I was amazed at how different American humour is to the rest of the world’s : aggressive, loud and focused on sex. That being said Trevor Noah (South African comic extraordinaire – duh!) and Dave Thornton (Australian) stole the show for me, by showing that a sharp wit and insight are far funnier than the F-word and sex.

Ian Bagg was the formidable American MC of the event (though I’m sure I heard some “oots” and “aboots”). He rushes off his lines like an auctioneer or a boxing commentator and is focused on the audience. He clearly was not impressed by South Africans as he kept saying, “oops, I’ve gone too far.” I thought comedians are meant to be quick, but he kept making the same mistakes – rape and paedophile jokes are just not funny in South Africa. His funniest moments were those when he wasn’t trying to be funny – not knowing what M-net was he asked people if they had “an M-Net”. Oh dear. Well done to the sponsors for letting their starts know about their company! He popped up between each act and in the end I could tell he just wanted to go home!

Next up was Bobby Lee who clearly suffers from small man syndrome. He is loud, obnoxious and focused on his small pecker.  His style of comedy is classic stand-up, running from joke set to joke set. He was funny about his typically Korean father, but otherwise, again with the sex and the F-word. Seriously? Are we not more intelligent than this? His funniest jokes were when he turned to self-deprecation, which I suppose is why I enjoy British humour so much more than American, as self-deprecation is at its core.

After Bobby Lee I could breathe a sigh of relief as our own wonder boy of comedy, Trevor Noah, bounded to the stage. What I love about Trevor Noah is that he is funny because he is observant, up-to-date, politically relevant and clean. He definitely plays on racial stereotypes, but South African audiences are so comfortable with this and he offends all racial groups equally. His accents are fantastic and really get to the essence of whichever race was being mocked at the time. I will definitely make an effort to see Trevor Noah again.

Mo Mandell, another American, was next and started out pretty well. His humour was mostly focused on being Jewish. When he made some sex jokes at least he picked up on the fact that “South Africans are racist but don’t have sex!” My problem with this statement is that it missed the point. Yes, South Africans laugh at racial and ethnic jokes (now mostly when they’re told by a person of said race/ethnicity) and yes, we are more conservative than many nations about sex, but why is that a problem? Aren’t comedians meant to adapt? If your whole act hinges on one aspect of life, you’re not going to appeal to the broader audience.

Dave ThorntonEnter Dave Thornton – Yay for the land down under (I know, I’m a South African and I’m cheering for an Aussie – shock!). Dave Thornton once again proved that wit and insight are king. His gentle manner of delivery and self-deprecating humour trumped any of the American acts. The odd sex joke and swear word came up, but coupled with his style of humour and mixed in a range of topic, these jokes actually were funny and not a bombardment.  

Orny Adams ended the show. At last, an American comedian with something else to talk about! Orny Adams certainly got himself worked up on stage, but his keen look at modern life, including obese children, texting and products made for real belly laughing. He certainly made the best one-liner of the night: “This generation is so fat, the next war will be fought over cooking oil!” Classic. His age was also key to his set and, though I’m still pretty young, these were some of his funniest cracks.

The comedy festival really did provide me with some good laughs, but it definitely showed me I need to appreciate our local comedians far more. It also proved how uncomfortable I am about sex in the public domain, which is something I freely admit. If you are more like my friends than me, you will surely roll with laughter. Just don’t take your little brother or mom.

Nando’s Comedy Festival: Baxter Theatre, Rondebosch, Main Arena. 31 August -19 September. 8pm Mondays-Saturdays, 6pm Sundays, special 10.30 pm shows on Friday & Saturday 17-18 September.R120-150. Tickets through Computicket or at the Baxter Theatre

Voila

29 Aug

Up early for the second saturday in a row! I could barely believe it myself, but this was also for a special occasion – a catch up with a friend. We both love food and a little bit of decadence, so we decided on Viola in the new section of the Cape Quarter in Green Point. What a great choice!

If you love tea, Voila is the place to head. The owner is a tea fanatic and stocks interesting teas from all over the world. The breakfast menu is complete with tea suggestions (just like wine pairings a some schmancy restaurants) and each tea comes in a particular pot – delightful. I myself am not a tea fan – excuse the anti-climax – so I opted for a smooth and creamy cappucino.

Breakfast is a very important meal to me. In fact, it is also probably my favourite meal and Voila did not disappoint. Wendy had a stunning omelette with mushrooms, bacon and the works. For the cholesterol, or just plain health conscious the option of an egg whites only omelette is available. In trendy Green Point, choices like this are uber important. My breakfast went right to the other end of the spectrum. Named Wild Strawberries, I was presented with three fat flapjacks surrounded by grilled strawberries and bananas, drowned in syrup and topped off with Greek yoghurt. Oh. My. Gosh. The bananas and strawberries were gooey and sweet – perfect with the slightly sour taste of Greek yoghurt (for even more decadence you can have mascapone cheese instead of yoghurt).

Voila also makes their own fresh juices which you can mix and match. I had pineapple and apple to accompany my breakfast. The sweetness of the raw juice, with all the goodness of the foam that comes with it made me feel like I’d had the ultimate power breakfast to get me ready for my day ahead. Unfortunately I must say that the price of the juice is a bit steep. R28 for a glass of juice, even if freshly squeezed, is pretty ludicrous. The other prices were reasonable, making the juice price even more surprising and annoying.

The atmosphere at Voila is very relaxed. The decor is quirky, but really appealing and the setting of the new Cape Quarter is stunning. The waitresses were friendly, and left us to catch up on conversation, rather than interupting every five minutes to check on us (I hate over-attentive waiters!). The restaurant also opens up on to the European-style square of the Cape Quarter, which makes it the perfect breakfast spot for the coming summer.

Voila is not only a breakfast spot – they are open for lunch and early evenings too. Their description for their menu us French contemporary which sounds right up my street. I have not yet had the pleasure of trying the rest of their menu, but the atmosphere and breakfast make me sure I will be having a beautiful summer lunch there soon (without fresh juice!).

Voila: Shop 42,Cape Quarter, 27 Somerset Rd, Green Point, 021 421 1237. Breakfast: R40+ Coffee: R15+ Service: Friendly and satisfactory. Open Monday to Saturday 8am-6.30pm and Sunday 8am -3.30pm