Tag Archives: reviews

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.

Love & Other Drugs

22 Feb

Love & Other Drug‘s poster is deceptive – it let me think that I was going to watch a light-hearted, typical RomCom. And that is what I got for the first 45 minutes before the comedy quietly slipped away to reveal the drama that I  knew had been lurking since Anne Hathaway made her entrance and Jake Gyllenhaal got to stare at her boobs.

Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, a through and through womaniser ne’er-do-well who has tremendous charm. Hence he gets to sleep with so many women. After losing his last job, he enters the world of pharmaceutical repping and begins at Pfizer when Zoloft is still their biggest selling (pre-1996).  While trying wangle his way into the hearts of the local doctors (most of whom won’t give him the time of day), Jamie meets Maggie Murdock and the pursuit begins. Maggie is no usual quarry, however, calling Jamie on all his BS and seemingly as much as a player as he is. The raunchy sex scenes are something that I, as typical RomCom fan, wasn’t really prepared for, but they themselves also provide some laughter (even if it was shocked!).

Anne Hathaway in the outstanding role of Maggie Murdock

And, as my boyfriend knows because I have trained him well in the art of the Romantic Comedy, the roller coaster begins. There are ups and downs in all RomComs, but this one has particular lows as Maggie suffers from early on-set Parkinson’s. This is a story that has been told before, but unlike Winona Ryder in  Autumn in New York and  Charlize Theron in Sweet November, Anne Hathaway’s character plays very little on her self-pity. Her performance in fact is superb. She uses her bright eyes and quick smile to her advantage not only when being a vixen while reeling Jake Gyllenhaal in, but also in her more vulnerable moments.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jamie is the ultimate smooth talking salesman and he provides (along with his character’s brother) most of the humour in the film. His break though is hilarious and anyone will chuckle about the drug he ends up making his name on (here’s a clue – it’s blue!). So while Love & Other Drugs is pretty funny, it also contains a lot of sadness in , particularly if you know or have known someone who suffered with Parkinson’s. The film does try to deal with living with the illness, but at the end of the day it is a Romantic Drama with excellent casting and it is the romance between two unlikely characters that lies at the heart of it.

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

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.

Lazari – Cape Quarter

28 Jan

Gardens used to hold a very special place in my heart – not least because I lived in the towering block of the Gardens Centre, but also because it is the home of Lazari (think pink cupcakes and absolutely delicious breakfasts entailing french toast made out of croissants!) Now that I have moved, I find myself not popping into my old spot as often. How pleased I was to find that Lazari has opened a second restaurant in Green Point’s Cape Quarter. This new location is also open in the evenings and so the three Sarahs (yes, there are three of us and I could have invited at least two more!) took advantage of another beautiful Cape Town evening and opportunity for a good meal.

The new Lazari has kept the same fresh feeling of the original, with white decor and whorls of dots on the walls. As with the original, though, the menu has stayed better geared toward lunch and breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, all of us were able to find something yummy for supper, but the entire feeling of the menu is “light daytime”. The choices range from pasta to burgers and salads, with only one steak dish. The healthy Sarahs both opted for a special, goat’s cheese and date phyllo parcels on an apple salad. Strangely, the chef seemed to have forgotten the apple! The salad did however, include lots of avo and the parcels were melt-in-the-mouth tasty. I chose my regular safe bet of a chicken burger. I was presented with toasted ciabatta, filled with pieces of chicken breast with caramelised onions and mustard on the side. Not quite what I would define as a burger – but it was delicious. The chicken was tender and the onions stayed on the right side of sweet. Oh, and the chips were pretty good.

We paired out meal with a bottle of D’Aria Music Sauvignon Blanc. I’m no expert, but is was very drinkable and the price of only R85 suited my pocket. All in all, while the evening was pleasant and the service fairly efficient, I don’t think I will be going back to Lazari at night – the restaurant didn’t afford much of an atmosphere and I like to have a large variety of choices for dinner. Bring it on for breakfast, lunch and the amazing pink cupcakes, but I will save my night time jaunts for other places in Cape Town. Possibly Lazari should have stuck with the original concept in more ways than simply design and cupcakes?

Lazari, Cape Quarter – Cnr Upper Maynard & Vredehoek Ave,  021 461 9865, Breakfast R28+, Lunch and dinner R50 +, Monday-Tuesday 7.30-17.00, Wednesday-Saturday 8.00-22.00

Great House

24 Jan

As soon as I saw Great House in Exclusive Books, I had to have it! After the enthralling read of The History of Love and now Great House, I can safely call myself a great lover of Nicole Krauss’s work.

It all starts with a monologue by an unknown woman telling her life story to an unknown listener. But it is far more interesting than that; the woman keeps addressing the listener as “your honour” as if in court, yet her winding story has none of the characteristics of a testimony. To whom is she talking and why?

Just as I thought I became closer to answering these questions, Krauss swaps narratives. Each time I felt myself beginning to understand the particular story I was reading, and perhaps the link between it and the rest, I was whisked into another part of another story, always wondering how I would find my way out of the labyrinth to something resembling sense. It’s not that the stories are confusing, but readers have an innate deisre to make things fits, to link different stories and times if they are in one novel. We want it all to make sense.

This is what makes Nicole Krauss’s work so interesting. She plays on our need for logical progression in narrative, much like great film makers; she jumps around, feeding us bits and pieces until, in the final chapter, it all makes sense and, after some careful thought about time, we can close the book, finally satisfied that we “got it”. Or did we?

Great House is made up of four very different stories, but each have one item in common – a beautiful, if ominous, desk, is all that lets the reader have a vague idea that something is making the book cohesive. The desk however, is merely a tool that allows Krauss to cross time and geography, from London to New York, Budapest to Jerusalem. Each character that surrounds the desk has a sad story to tell of loss and deep loneliness, making Great House a somewhat tiring, if gripping read.

Krauss clearly has a deep interest in World War Two and the deep effects it has had on families, even the children who were not yet born, and those seeking out a new life. Great House explores the deep loneliness felt by those who carry secrets and loss with them throughout their lives. She draws excellent psychologoical landscapes, but without giving the impression that she understands or knows what it must be like. She has a great gift for showing the reader rather than telling.

Pick up Great House and be prepared to hide in your room for two days, reading, but make sure you have someone nearby to give you a hug once you finish – you will need it.

 

The Town

22 Jan

I have always had a little crush on Ben Affleck, before he betrayed me by forming not one, but two Bennifer couples. *sigh* There is nothing better than a talented man, who also happens to be 6ft2″, and Affleck really does show off his talent by acting in and directing The Town. And let’s not forget the Boston accent.

The opening subtitle of The Town claims that Charlestown, a suburb of Boston, has produced the most bank thieves and armed robbers in the United States. The film then zooms in on a particular group of bank robbers and their slickly planned hits. From the beginning it is clear that Ben Affleck is the brains behind the operation while John Hamm (The Hurt Locker) is the unstable, violent element of the gang.

The opening robbery goes somewhat awry, with someone grabbing Rebecca Hall as a hostage. The poor woman is left unharmed, but traumatised on a Boston beach. She is immediately swooped upon by the Feds, hoping that she will provide the key to catching the gang.

The film follows Ben Affleck dealing with Rebecca Hall as a live witness, the Feds closing in and the gang becoming more desperate to remain free, especially Hamm, facing his third conviction and life in prison.

Affleck has directed a gripping film (as much as I disdain that phrase!), which made me feel more like I was watching a particularly good episode of The Wire rather than a 125 min film. And believe me, this is a good thing. The film is fast paced, yet manages to keep a focus on the relationships and history between the characters.

Ben Affleck and John Hamm in The Town

Rebecca Hall pulls off a good traumatised victim, desperate to find some normality in her life. I found her performance quite convincing and her actions towards the end of The Town left me with admiration for her character and her acting skills. She plays a good foil to Ben Affleck’s character, all softness versus his rough edges. But it is John Hamm’s aggression and desperation that steal the scenes he is in. He by no means rules the film, but he has a great presence.

I have grown in respect for Ben Affleck, and thankfully I can forget his forays into dud (well, to my mind) films like Daredevil. Of course none of these affected my crush on him, but respect is another thing all together.

The Town is still showing at selected cinemas – see it before it goes to DVD.