Norm for good service

Boy away on school camp.
Girl takes full advantage of parents’ undivided attention, asks if we can do dinner.
Of course we can.

Dad checks menu online.
Dad reads the small print.
Never read the small print.

Small print too small for you? Here’s what it says:

Gratuity Policy
We hereby respectfully advise that gratuity is not included in our main prices. The norm for good service is 100% of the total bill. The payment of gratuity is entirely voluntary and the amount is based on the quality of service.

Did I miss something here? Not since the Waterfront branch of Cape Town Fish Market conveniently informed tourists that ‘in South Africa, we routinely tip twenty percent’ has there been such a blatant attempt to rip restaurant patrons off.

But even the pisspoor CTFM kept it vaguely reasonable. This is completely off the scale. And at a restaurant where a 3 course meal plus wine will set you back ±R400 per person, it’s no wonder that the parking lot is full of Audis and Beemers – that’s clearly how the waiting staff get to and from work.

Probably someone else…

Incoming email reply from local restaurant manager begins:

You are, unless I am much mistaken, Mr @6000 on Twitter. I follow you via our [local restaurant] account and I am a fan of your twitter persona and your most entertaining and informative website.  We shall see to it that [another local restaurant] and several others become so as well. That way, they may all learn something from you.

Oh blimey. My reputation precedes me. Although it’s a bit of stretch to just think “microbiologist” and “ email address”, and assume that we are one, the same, and have a numerical pseudnym on a popular social media platform (although we are, and we do).

To be honest, it’s an even bigger stretch to call this blog “most entertaining and informative”, but hey, I’ll take it.

More customer service like this, please.

Bentley Oyster Bar and Bistro

UPDATE: 26th November 2013

While this meal continues to live long in the memory for all the right reasons, I would strongly advise that you do not give this institution your cellphone number when booking a table. I have been spammed several times each week since our visit inviting me to sample their bottomless ribs, steak and oyster special or a “classic comedian” (amongst others).
All of these messages clearly contravene the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002 by having no opt-out link within them and by not having my express permission to contact me in this way in the first place.
It’s putting me right off the place. A lot

Not to be confused with Bentley’S Oyster Bar & Grill – that’s in London. But this one is tucked just off Dreyer Street in Claremont, Cape Town and we went there last night.

And before we even got there, the free, secure underground parking was a big plus, especially given the miserable weather.
But then, first impressions of the actual restaurant were mixed: the place looks great – big bling, mirrors, phat couches, heavy silk curtains and chandeliers. But it also looked very empty. In fact, aside from a couple of guys at the bar, it was just us. And that’s never a great ad for a place.

Still, there’s a good choice of local (mainly Bosun’s) beers on tap, an interesting selection of cocktails and the menu does look fairly awesome, with Tapas, Oysters (durr!) and Mains all very tempting. I began with a Johnny Gold Weissbier and Mrs 6000 had their (generously measured) eponymous Bentley cocktail and we chilled to the 80s mixtape (Paul Young, The Cure, Evoid, Duran Duran).
All was good as we headed starterward [menu].

I had to try the spicy Bloody Mary Oyster shot and I was not disappointed. It was super tasty and did everything it said it would and left me ready to hit the mains. Mrs 6k played safe with the deep fried Camembert, coated in black and white sesame seeds and cranberry sauce – amazing value at just R20. I should probably slip in a quick word about the service here, which was prompt and attentive (as it should have been with no-one else around), but not too much “in yer face” at all.

Then it was fish time. A really decent sized portion of Norwegian Salmon for the missus, cooked to perfection and served with roast potatoes and spring veg. And I went large with their Seafood Platter.

One word (unnecessarily punctuated): Su. Perb.

Because let’s just run through what exactly that entails, shall we?

4 really, really good fresh oysters, 2 deep fried oysters, 6 prawns, a big chunk of linefish (Kingklip, last night), tentacles and 6 mussels, served with rice, chips and veg. I didn’t know where to start. It seemed to go on forever. But was I paying for quantity and no quality?
Well, no. Every last mouthful was wonderful. Best value ever at R180.

After all that, there was no room for dessert, but next time, their Deep Fried Strawberry Fritters (served with cream, butterscotch sauce & sparkling wine) are getting a beating.

I can only guess that this place caters mainly for the Claremont Business District and is busier for lunch and for post-work drinks (they have specials between 4 and 6 each day), and also on Fridays when they have a resident DJ in. Hopefully, that allows them to keep going through quieter nights like yesterday, because already, I can’t wait to go back.

Bentley Oyster Bar and Bistro, Toffee Lane, off Dreyer Street, Claremont, Cape Town.

This is not a sponsored post:
“I’ll always tell you if I am endorsing a product in exchange for cold, hard cash”.

5 Rooms – 5 Stars

We went out dining last night, down to 5 Rooms at the Alphen Hotel (which actually is in Constantia) and we had a great meal.

The Alphen has history oozing from every Cape Dutch pore and there are heaps of pictures and photos on the walls documenting those who have lived and visited there. But they’re interspersed by huge contemporary pieces as well. It’s a theme carried through into the lighting. Huge original chandeliers hang alongside modern shades, occasionally dwarfing them completely. It gives a curious, almost theatrical feel to the place.

In the same vein, the atmosphere is further enhanced by the in-your-face music straight out of a chilled afternoon in an Ibiza bar [example], filling the small, intimate 17th century rooms with energy and life.

The restaurant – presumably so named since it occupies five separate rooms (I counted and they didn’t include the bathrooms – perhaps an oversight?) – has a well-stocked bar at its heart, with a drunk Englishman (not me) telling the barman how to identify and reject under-ripe limes, and Peroni and Castle on draught. The Rose Bar round the back also has Black Label and Milk Stout on tap. So that’s my summer evenings sorted, then.

The service was supreme, from booking through the welcome to the table service and the food didn’t disappoint. Mrs 6000 started with the Norwegian salmon and followed it up with the superb veal, served with pesto souffle wrapped in sweet potato and greens. I chose the duck pâté (roasted pistachio nuts, blood orange jelly and potato crisps) to begin with and then moved onto the remarkable value of the seafood platter – linefish, mussels, calamari, a tiger prawn and a crayfish tail – for R159. Excellent stuff.
That main course was part of their winter specials list though, so you’d better get in there sooner rather than later. Spring is almost gesprung.
[Update – Winter Specials are on until 30 September 2012]

The desserts were equally special. A delicious crème brûlée with refreshing berries and a terrifyingly sharp sugar nest for me and a trio of truffles served with frozen grapes (“they’re like, grapes, but frozen”) and a shot of Patrón for the other half (Mrs 6000 will do most anything for a shot of Patrón, so nothing else on the dessert menu really stood a chance).

The wine list isn’t huge, but there’s some very decent stuff on there. As an irregular (at best) white wine drinker, I was particularly impressed with my 2011 Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc from Warwick Estate.

It wasn’t a cheap evening, but as the Fund Manager reminded us last week at Hussar “this is what you pay to eat out these days”. However, I do think that it did represent really good value.

We’ll certainly be back at 5 Rooms, and as I mentioned, we’ll probably spend a few decent sunny evenings in the Rose Bar.
If this is representative of the rest of the hotel’s offerings, then The Alphen is fully deserving of its 5 star rating.

Dinner with a view

There’s a new kid in town. Step forward The Executive Club at the Westin Grand.
It’s probably not new at all actually, but it was new to us. And it has finally deposed that amazing 2007 meal at the Cape Grace’s One Waterfront from the prestigious top spot in my Best Meals I Have Eaten In Cape Town list.

As a choice for Mrs 6k’s [redacted]th birthday celebrations, I couldn’t have landed with my bum more firmly in the butter. When it comes to choosing awesome restaurants for big events, it seems that I officially rock.
So here’s how it happened. Read and learn.

Start by getting in touch with Shireen (021 412 9050) at the Westin Grand in Cape Town (that’s the “old” Arabella Sheraton above the CTICC). Book your table.

Arrive, park under the hotel and jump into a lift heading to the 19th floor. Don’t forget to collect envious glances from other elevator users who have to exit at other lesser floors, such as 3, 8 and 12.
12. Pfft.

Enter the restaurant through the thickest plate glass door ever; card-activated to keep the riff-raff out.  Enjoy the dimmed lights, the intimate ambiance, the soft jazz and the beautiful night-time vista of downtown Cape Town:

Is that my Stadium in the distance? I think it is.
(Live webcam here)

Enjoy complimentary bubbly and a rather unusual prawn cocktail appetiser as the Maître d’ and chef appear and wish your wife happy birthday.

Delight in the starters: Carpaccio of Smoked Duck (mango chutney sorbet, masala vinaigrette) and Summer Squash Soup (home made ricotta and sage stuffed zucchini).
Unsurpisingly, it was me who had the duck – and wow – what a combination of textures, temperatures and flavours. Utterly superb.

Revel in (not literally) the tart raspberry sorbet as it cleanses your palate.

Be blown away by the mains: Study of Lamb (pulled lamb terrine and grilled loin with truffled pomme purée, and pan juices) and Norwegian Salmon (poached in smoked olive oil on burnt citrus endive, potato gnocchi and a white chocolate emulsion).
I cannot describe how tender the lamb and how rich and flavoursome the accompanying terrine were. And when joined by a damn fine Rupert & Rothschild Red Blend, well… I was in heaven.

Just remember that it’s not over yet. You still have that Hazlenut and Praline fondant with roasted banana ice cream to endure.
And coffee.
And that’s before they bring out a chocolate and mandarin mousse in a dark chocolate basket to wish your Mrs a happy birthday. Incredible.

And then, cringe with embarrassment when the entire bill (including all drinks) comes to R427, for a meal and an experience I would gladly have paid twice, three-times as much for.

It’s difficult being this good at being lucky at organising a special meal out.
And it was a toughie as to whether I should tell you about this place. I was hugely tempted to keep it all for myself, but then I imagined your poor little faces gazing up at me, blinking back tears, with that “we’re longing for somewhere that can give us an absolutely awesome meal for a very reasonable price” look in your big eyes,and I simply had to share.

But hey – let’s make this our little secret, ok?

Full menu
Dinner with a view special