Sunday Times

Awards on the menu as Cape’s top chefs tuck in their nap­kins

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What would you put on the ta­ble if some of the land’s top chefs were com­ing to din­ner?

That was the daunt­ing task the or­gan­is­ers of this year’s Amer­i­can Ex­press Din­ing Awards for the Western Cape faced on Mon­day, with a guest list brim­ming with restau­ra­teurs from some of SA’s finest din­ing es­tab­lish­ments.

It was a nippy and wet Mon­day evening as food­ies gath­ered at Em­bassy Hill, a grand prop­erty in Con­stan­tia, Cape Town.

Walk­ing in, the first per­son I greet is some­one who tow­ers over most mor­tals — stat­uesque model Mala Bryan, who these days spends most of her time run­ning her eth­ni­cally di­verse doll range.

Mala was there to sup­port her other half, Gior­gio Nava of land­mark Cape Town in­sti­tu­tion 95 Keerom.

What is the se­cret to a good restau­rant, I ask the Mi­lan-born chef-owner. He replies: “Con­sis­tency. It’s a sim­ple for­mula.”

When I men­tion that I want to check out one of the Mother City’s trendy new spots, which boasts a menu of “for­aged in­gre­di­ents”, Gior­gio doesn’t mince his words.

“I drove past that place the other day, and it was empty,” he says. “Trendy should mean pop­u­lar — Luke’s [Dale-Roberts] res­tau­rants are trendy be­cause they are al­ways full.”

On cue, the man whose foodie haven the Test Kitchen is on the World’s 50 Best Res­tau­rants list, joins us, and the fine-din­ing talk con­tin­ues.

Luke will be kept on this toes this sum­mer — not only will he be open­ing a new spot at the old Round­house in Camps Bay, but he and his part­ners in the ul­tra-cool Short­mar­ket Club, chef Wes­ley

Ran­dles and man­ager Si­mon Wid­di­son, are open­ing an off­shoot called the Com­mis­sary.

“Un­apolo­get­i­cally loud and noisy,” is how Wes­ley de­scribes it.

Then it’s in­side the venue’s con­ser­va­tory for the sit-down din­ner, where I greet De­sign Ind­aba’s Ravi Naidoo, there with his wife Dr Leshni Shah, who tells me he will be launch­ing a new cre­ative project next month “with a star de­signer”.

A hefty 43 gongs are handed out for con­sis­tency, qual­ity, ser­vice and food pre­sen­ta­tion to res­tau­rants that ac­cept Amer­i­can Ex­press cards. Gior­gio and Luke’s res­tau­rants both pick up tro­phies.

And as for the three-course meal, which we tuck into be­tween hand­ing out all those tro­phies? I en­joyed the mush­room three ways starter and my grilled lamb rump with pea purée main, but a table­mate who opted for the grilled line fish felt the smoked cau­li­flower purée was too over­pow­er­ing, and “bland” is how I’d de­scribe the co­conut and vanilla panna cotta dessert.

 ??  ?? Ravi Naidoo and his wife Dr Leshni Shah at the Amer­i­can Ex­press Awards in Con­stan­tia, Cape Town. From left, Si­mon Wid­di­son, man­ager of the Short­mar­ket Club, chef Luke Dale-Roberts, TV pre­sen­ter Tanya Nefdt and chef Wes­ley Ran­dles. Mala Bryan & Gior­gio Nava.
Ravi Naidoo and his wife Dr Leshni Shah at the Amer­i­can Ex­press Awards in Con­stan­tia, Cape Town. From left, Si­mon Wid­di­son, man­ager of the Short­mar­ket Club, chef Luke Dale-Roberts, TV pre­sen­ter Tanya Nefdt and chef Wes­ley Ran­dles. Mala Bryan & Gior­gio Nava.
 ?? Pic­tures: Esa Alexan­der ??
Pic­tures: Esa Alexan­der
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