Winelands Wander: Tokara

September 30, 2006

Note: Click on each image to see a larger version of the pic.

After a lovely sweaty session of bikrum (hot-room) yoga, I meandered (in my car…which  BTW I’m trying to sell so if you’re looking for a magnificent Green Clio, then pls contact me  – thanks 🙂 ), anyway, as I was saying, I headed off to the beautiful wine valley of Stellenbosch.

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I headed up Helshoogte Pass and turned into the elegant caramel-bricked Tokara Wine Estate (which is next to Thelema, which happens to be brother Nolan’s favourite winery).I met up with Van and Karen (who both had aching heads and drenched livers from last night’s fun-filled imbibing…Van kept on begging Dr Karen for another myprodol – I who had a pretty alcohol – free night except for the sherry and shabbat wine found it all quite hilarious).

We first did some wine tasting. We tried the whole range of Tokara wines as well as the more affordable variety – Zondernaam (which I assume means “without a name” in Dutch…now, wasn’t that impressive translation).


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My fave was the Zondernaam Sauvignon Blanc (I think it was a ’93). It also happened to be Van’s pick as well, and she showed it by buying a case. Guess who I will be visiting often in the next few weeks.The Tokara Red 2004 was rich and velvety – the smoothest of the reds according to my palate. Karen bought one of these as well as a selection of other wines. Hmm, I may have to visit her too very soon as well.

We knew that they also had a place called the olive shed on the premises and when we asked the wine pourer behind the counter, she pointed to somewhere in the vicinity of the window. Van asks: “How far is it?”, Lisa asks: “Can we walk?”. The wine pourer looks at us like we’re crazy and then we see why. She was actually pointing to the end of the counter where there was a display of olive oils and olives. Ohhhhhh, we were in the olive shed already. hehe

We had a taste of the olive oil – it would have been vastly improved if we had some bread to dip into the oil – and also chewed on 2 different varieties of olives. I bought a Mission bottle of olive oil (R20 for 250ml) for my mom.

We then desperately needed to have some lunch to soak up the wine, olive oil and paracetemol (in Van’s case).

The menu in the Tokara restaurant is a little small in my opinion. Starters were way overpriced, with many hovering around the 90 buck mark – ouch.

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Mains were priced average to high with the top cost being the fillet at R120. I wasn’t blown away by the selection and since I didn’t feel like anything heavy, I went for the kingklip, with green fig balsamic, (rich, tasty sauce)  honey caramelised nuts (there were 4 whole nuts on the plate) and curry oil (it was a groovy lumo green/yellow hue). The dish was R95 and perhaps the portion was slightly too small for my liking. So you’re probably gathering that I wasn’t blown away by the food, even though it was tasty.

The bread was delish and very moreish. My two dining companions opted for the seafood pasta which they reported to be very very scrumptious.

We skipped desserts – they sounded good though. (they were priced around the R40 mark). And sadly, there were no peppermints in the bill (I had to go home and have fruit liquorice allsorts – without the liquorice – to get my after-meal sugar kick).

Oh, we also shared a bottle of Zondernaam Chenin Blanc, which was nice (“a bit too butterscotchy”, said Van) – well-priced at R80.

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The views from the dining area are awesome and it would be really special to sit on the covered patio on a Cape Town summer’s day.

The only thing left was to tackle the drive back to the suburbs without meeting a passing policeman on the way. (I probably only had 2 glasses of wine altogether but remember, I’m short).

Till next time, cheers.

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Edible Review: Sinn Restaurant (Wembley Square)

September 29, 2006

Well it sure seems that Wembley Square is becoming my local hang-out – not because of the gym but ’cause of the awesome restaurants near-by.

While last time it was Sushi, this time we (Hillary, Lauren, Alex and me) headed to the new restaurant opposite called Sinn. I didn’t even think of making a booking (last visit it definitely wasn’t heaving), but they were pretty packed and we could only get a table inside. (If you have read my last review you would know that “outside” is a loose term as these tables are still undercover but just outside the walls of the restaurant).

Decor is elegant, warm and funky (some of the chairs have squares cut out on their backs) and the waiters are friendly and very efficient. The menu is sooo yum – with some light bites (like pastas and stirfry’s) as well as a variety of different meat and fish dishes.

Unfortunately, I can really only tell you about one dish – as this is what three out of the four were tempted by. It was an ostrich fillet with a cashew nut crust (this is the part that really sold us) with a red wine reduced jus on a bed of mash (averagely priced at R85). The latter is easily interchangeable – I had crispy and oh so moreish rosti whil Ali went for a selection of veggies. Lau reported that the mash was made to perfection.

Even writing about the ostrich makes my mouth water. It may have even bumped off my fave steak at Capella, on “Lisa’s favourite fillets”. The portion was just right, the crust added a subtle crunch to the bite and the actual meat was succulent and moist. Scrumptious!!!

Hill tried some sort of pork belly thing – she said it was very tasty – I will have to take her word for it.

Dessert looked good too (vanilla creme brulle  and a duo of choccy mousse stood out) but we resisted until next time….

And I will definitely have to make sure that there will be a next time.

Ali predicts that Wembley Square is going to be the next BIG thing (especially with the S bar next door to Sinn) so get there soon.


Edible Review: Solushi (Wembley Square, Gardens)

September 21, 2006

Well, I am back from my world-wide travels. I can’t say my feet are firmly on the ground yet…I still have that travel bug firmly entrenched under my skin…so it’s just as well that I will be off to Singapore and Australia within the next few weeks.

In the meantime though, I am having a wonderful time being on holiday in Cape Town. It has been amazing to catch-up with my mates here (I’ll have to convince each one of them to move to Sydney with me 🙂

I still need to write about my experience in Prague but before I do that, I thought I would give a quick review of the new place to be in Kaapstad.

The new Gardens Virgin Active gym opened a couple of months ago (it’s pretty cool complete with treadmills with their own TV’s – I loved it!!) and now there’s a whole restaurant/residential square adjacent to the gym. It’s got a distinctly Melrose Arch (for the Joburgers) / De Waterkant (for the Capetonians) feel and I reckon it’ll attract quite the trendy crowd.

There are a clutch of new restaurants including Sinn, Crush (a healthy joint) as well as Vida E Cafe and the one we tried last night – Solushi. Apparently it’s owned by the same dudes who started up Wasabi and Wakame so it already has slick management to its name.

The decor is pretty cool – browns and brick with a central sushi bar. The tables “Outside” (there is a transparent roof covering) seemed a little chilly (although there are pretty feable wall heaters) so Van, Karen and I took an inside table.

Sushi is obviously the main dish here and there are some interesting variations such as the vege rainbow roll which I sampled and liked (it’s a peppadew california roll wrapped in avo – yum). I also had a delish veg fashion sandwich (although I would have loved a bit more colour other than the green concentration of cucumber and avo). I topped this off with a spicy tuna handroll which was very tasty. My three sushi delights came to about 90 bucks all together but believe me, the portions were generous and I was stuffed to the brim.

Van and Karen sampled the sashimi (thumbs up to that) as well as the salmon roses (good, they say but they insist that the roses should not have rice at all – apparently it’s the cheap way of doing things. Rather the roses should be whirled up pieces of fish around a chunk of avo topped with mayo and caviar – I think I got that right).

The two gals also shared a bottle of Villiera sparkling wine between themselves (R90 something a pop – pretty well priced me thinks). I was being a bit of spush and going through a detox stage so I just got to laugh when the bubbles started going to their heads.

Anyway after eating our fill (we decided to the leave the fascinating sounding avo cheesecake till next time), we stumbled into the gym to have a look around and then headed out into the CT night.

I’ll definitely be back to try out Sinn…watch this space.

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Click on the logo above to see the Solushi menu


Bruges…venice of the North

September 5, 2006

Bruges is a brief hour train ride from Brussels and after our last bad experience with the thieving cab drivers in Brussels, we decided to slum it and take the bus and then walk the few minutes to our hotel. The Hotel (St Nicolas) was situated a few steps from the main square (Markt) and was really quaint and very bright and sunny. We had a lovely view of the one of the main church steeples from our large window.

The first thing we did was climb the 300 or so stairs to the top of the main bell tower in the square. The tower is pretty similar to Notre Damme in Paris with the same winding stair case (not good for claustrophobes) and the gothis style architecture. The view from the top was well worth the upward slog. It gave us a great overall orientation of the city.

After a gourmet meal of traditional Belgium waffle from a pavement cafe and frites (hot chips) and mayo from a little stall, we took a traditional horse and carriage ride through the cobble-stoned town. It was really a charming way to view the town and if you ignored trhe souvenier shops and the thousands of tourists, I could almost imagine what it was like clip-clopping through the streets 300 years ago.

We then did a major walk through the different streets, exploring some of the trendy shops and then ended the night with movies at the local cinema behind our hotel. We saw United 93…we were both pretty shattered after the experience. The movie was in one of those old cinemas (similar to His Majesties or the Odeon in Grahamstown) but there was no popcorn…so I was forced to resort to munching on ice-cream (I don’t think you can bring ice-cream into SA movies).

The next morning, we took a boat trip through the canals….which was one of my highlights. It really was similar to the journey through Venice waters minus the arrogant gondala punters. We passed through some scaringly low bridges – I swear I (as in 5 foot ME) had to duck….I would hate to know what happens to the poor heads of other less vertically challenged people.

We then took a walk along the river and visited the beautiful windmills situated near the banks of the river…what a wonderfully relaxing way to spend an afternoon. I weas even tempted to rent a bicycle and ride along the river path…I think I may forgotten my hellish Netherlands cycle experience already.

We spent the remiander of the day buying chocolates. We stumbled upon the ultimate choc shop in Belgium ….Van Oost, where we actually met the chocolatier, Mr Van Oost. The lovely man took us down into his treasured choc laboratory and showed us the delicious science behind making the most mouthwatering treat in the world. Of course, we also got to taste along the way.

Choc-full (hehe) of chocolate, chips, fruit beer (cherry flavour called kriek…if all beer was like this, I think I could actually become a beer drinker) and waffles, we took a train back to Brussels and then the Eurostar back to London.