A mate of mine and I were talking about weddings this weekend. We were saying how awesome it is when you can actually feel the love in the room. Everyone feeds off it and there is an amazing vibe as a result. On Sunday night I attended the Eatout Restaurant Awards 2009 and I got the same feeling. This time the love was for food.
The event was held in the ballroom of the Westin Grand Hotel, and was beautiful. Being a black-tie event, the guys had gone all out and were looking pretty shmancy. The women were gorgeous, none more so than The Princess who was rocking a black Country Road vibe for the evening. I swear, no matter how old I get I still love putting on a suit and drinking some bubbly. Is it just me? Annnnyway, we took our seats and enjoyed some phenomenal food. I didn't get a menu at the end of the night but things that stand out are a raw salmon dish with goat's cheese and a soya dressing from Bizerca Bistro's Laurent Deslandes, smoked duck served with a foie gras and artichoke terrine and an espresso reduction, made by Luke Dale-Roberts of La Colombe and a rosewater dessert that included a sorbet, a gel and marshmallows. This was created by Richard Carstens. The dessert in particular was unforgettable. It was one of the most elegantly plated dishes I have seen this year and the fact that he got the variety of textures so perfect for 360 people is mind-blowing. Each time a dish was being plated we were shown a live streaming video feed of the chefs in the kitchen. They talked us through their concept for each dish and it was all fascinating stuff. To sit and eat food of that quality surrounded by similar-minded people was special and defintely not something you get to do every day.
The climax of the evening arrived when Mark Bayly, the night's MC, (who was brilliant by the way. Who knew the dude was that funny?) called up Abigail Donnelly to announce to country's top 10 restaurants. I guess you want to know who they are? Fair enough. Let's get straight into it...
1. La Colombe, Cape Town
2. Mosaic Restaurant, Pretoria
3. Rust en Vrede Restaurant, Stellenbosch
4. Terroir, Stellenbosch
5. The Roundhouse, Cape Town
6. The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Franschhoek
7. The Greenhouse at The Cellars, Cape Town
8. Roots, Johannesburg
9. 9th Avenue Bistro, Durban
10. (In joint position) The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, Fanschhoek & Overture, Stellenbosch
There was also an Editor's Choice Award this year for two separate categories, best bistro and best country kitchen. Jamie Who-favourite Bizerca Bistro took home best bistro and Mariana's Home Deli (in Stanford) took home the other award.
So there it is peeps. A few surprises. Most notably the absence of Jardine. Personally I would've loved to have seen The Foodbarn back up there. I think Franck is doing good things there and the decor is a huge improvement. Maybe next year. I am also particularly stoked to see The Roundhouse getting the recognition they deserve. Jeez, I love the Roundhouse. *stares out window and leans chin on palm of hand. Sorry, I got a bit distracted there. Chef of the year was won by Chantel Dartnall of Mosaic Restaurant in Pretoria and the other big award (the service award) was won by Rust en Vrede Restaurant.
To see the appreciation and respect that the chefs had for each other was amazing, and to watch how closely-knit each team from each restaurant was left me feeling pretty confident that we are in good hands when it comes to the future of eating out. The standards are world class, the venues are breathtaking and the chefs continue to strive for innovation. As foodies, we are spoilt for choice in this country. Long may it continue!