Category Archives: Eat

Tucking into Shanghai Street Food

Tucking into Shanghai Street Food

The things we do in the name of investigative eating! Last night I finally bit the bullet. And the chòu dòufu, so to speak. It probably seems crazy that it has taken me three months to pluck up the courage to actually do something as simple as sampling tofu. But the assault inflicted on your olfactory senses by this very popular Shanghainese street snack is not something you can adequately explain to anyone. At least not without a dead pig and some poop to use as a scratch-and-sniff prop. Like walking behind a sweet old lady in a shop when she lets off a silent-but-deadly fart, the smell accosts you when you least expect it. You’ll be innocently crossing a street or rounding a corner when BAM! Is someone… frying human excrement?? If you could somehow solidify the breath of a halitosis sufferer who has just licked the sweaty butt crack of a hydrophobic garbage truck driver coming off the end of a hot summer’s day shift, you would have some idea of what these fried cubes of fermented tofu smell like. But when in Rome right? At least it’s plant related and didn’t wag its tail at some point. Fresh tofu is fermented in a brine containing fermented milk, vegetables, dried shrimp (in non-vegetarian versions), amaranth and mustard greens and herbs. Fermentation can take up to 3 months and the tofu is then cubed and fried on a cast iron plate with herbs and spices. The smell is so rancid that stories claiming that rotten meat and dead flies and even actual human faeces is used in the fermentation process are easy to believe! Apparently when it comes to chòu dòufu, the smellier the better. But I was assured that, like with durian fruit, once I get past the first bite, I would love it. “It doesn’t smell once you eat it!”, they said. “Just think blue cheese and you’ll love it!”, they said. Well, they lied. I managed four bites and I still thought it was vile. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes, it’s silky, but crispy and warm and salty. But it still smells like poop going down. I think I will have to change the tagline of this blog to “I make the mistakes so that you don’t have to”. But there are those who absolutely love it and swear you are only a true Shanghainese when you start craving stinky tofu. For now, I am happy to stay a boeremeisie and crave biltong.

That said, Shanghai street food (and street food in Asia in general) is fresh and tasty and very, very good. And it’s incredibly cheap. For around 20元 (US$3), two adults with healthy appetites can eat till they want to pop. Above all, it is safe. We have eaten our fill in China, Thailand and Vietnam and have yet to get sick. And as I have mentioned before, you might not always know what you’re eating, but I can guarantee you that you won’t unwittingly eat dog – beside it being far too expensive for the average street vendor, these days most of them prefer petting their domestic animals to seasoning them and then roasting till just done. So tuck in with abandon and don’t be scared to make mistakes. Street food is how the masses eat, whether it’s from a food cart attached to a bicycle, a basket hanging from a biǎndan across a little old lady’s shoulders, or sitting on undersized plastic chairs outside a store front. Amenities are limited to the essentials. There might be a scale, a propane tank or little coal fire if they need heat and a naked light bulb if they’re really fancy, but don’t expect refrigeration. The concrete cuisine you will find when you hit the streets will of course depend on where you are. Specialities differ from region to region, city to city and even from district to district. In Shanghai, shengjianbao is ubiquitous, but there is so much more nosh on offer, some of it surprising. Who would think that one of the tastiest naan breads I’ve ever had could be found in a little alley in Qingpu Town. The thin, crisp and chewy loaves are kneaded on the spot by the mom, sprinkled with sesame seeds (a little nod to where in the world we are) and then baked in an oven made from an old oil drum by the son. A little further down a small shop sells Chinese style fried chicken so crispy the colonel would return from his grave to get the secret recipe if he could. If you’re counting calories (and yes, you can stick to a diet quite easily here), you can tuck into subtly spiced, tender chicken drumsticks grilled over a coal fire. For the more adventurous, there is all manner of meat on a stick – from tender lamb kebabs and whole, tiny birds to skewered sausage and squid with a spice that packs a tremendous punch. Friendly vendors with smoking woks will whip up a mean chow mein for you – just nod your head when they point at the ingredients you want and shake your head at those you don’t. And if you like things only a little spicy, I suggest you shake your head vehemently when it comes to the chilli!

And when you’re almost (but not quite) stuffed, save a spot for a piece or three of  warm, prepared-on-the-spot peanut and black sesame brittle. The smell of roasting peanuts and sesame seeds and slowly caramelising sugar that hits you just when you think it is, sadly, all done is enough to make you start your street food adventure all over again.

The few things I mentioned here were eaten in just one night, after a stroll down just one street (muffin top explained). But there is so much more to taste and experience when you hit the streets in China. Some of it will be really, really bad, but for the most part it will be very, very good. Vendors often move to where the crowds are and you won’t necessarily find the same person in the same spot twice. So my suggestion? When the opportunity presents itself, grab it. And if you’re not sure where to go, just follow your nose. If you smell stinky tofu, drop everything and run.

De Oude Bank Bakkerij

De Oude Bank Bakkerij

This is just a quick post dedicated to bread. Not all bread. Just a bread. But a bread so very, very good I think it deserves its own post. And while I realise that getting your hands on good bread in China is pretty much like the opposite of getting your hands on tea in China, and that that might slightly skew my perception of what actually constitutes good bread as I should be really easy to please, I think you should still trust me on this. After rifling through shelves of sweet Chinese baked goods this morning to find that one elusive savoury bread, the loaf I am longing for is De Oude Bank Bakkerij in Stellenbosch’s coriander honey-rye loaf. Oh. My Gracious. I don’t really like traditional rye, but the subtle use of coriander (the spice, not the herb – yuck), makes it utterly delicious, adding an earthiness that seems to refine the flavour of a bread that could otherwise be a little on the sour side. Owner Fritz Schoon worked under Île de Païn‘s Markus Farbinger, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that meals at this little establishment are dedicated to making bread the star of every dish. Choose a few slices of bread (besides the rye there is also ciabatta, baguette and sourdough, amongst others) and then pair it with as few or as many accompaniments as you want: creamy buffalo mozzarella and other cheeses, olive tapenade, Jamón serrano ham, slow roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushroom pesto and loads more goodies. Simple eating at its best.

Getting there: De Oude Bank Bakkerij is located in the Oude Bank Building, 7 Church Street, Stellenbosch, South Africa, opposite Vida e Cafe at Die Boord.

Tel: +27 21 883 2187

Pierneef à la Motte

Pierneef à la Motte

You cannot throw a well aimed grape in the Cape Winelands without hitting a picture perfect wine farm, complete with towering oaks, buildings that would have centuries of secrets to share if they could talk, award winning wines, sumptuous food, friendly and efficient service and spectacular views of the Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch mountains. But even in this epicurean and oenophile’s Shangri-La, La Motte is something special. It has everything you could possibly want from a wine farm: A tasting room, restaurant, farm shop & deli, gardens, vineyards, breathtaking views and European tourists walking around with sunburn and a questionable grasp on how one should pair socks with shorts. The newly refurbished tasting room looks like it comes straight from the pages of Architectural Digest with vaulted ceilings, original art, conversation pieces and ample comfy couches. Two of the walls have floor to ceiling windows so that you can view the working maturation cellar as you sit by the huge fireplace, nestled into a couch while knowledgeable wine experts guide you through the estate’s different vintages. The farm shop and deli sells artisan breads, baked with flour ground on the premises in the historical water mill, gift items designed exclusively for La Motte (if I wasn’t spending my husband’s money, I would have taken home a set of the handmade glass oil and vinegar sets), La Motte’s own coffee as well as deliciously indulgent body products. There are breathtaking mountain views from just about everywhere, sample vineyards so that you can get to know the different varieties (once you’ve tasted a Cabernet grape you’ll agree that stomping on it and then sticking it in a dark vat to ferment for a while really is the best thing to do with it), a Protea garden and even roses – resplendent in shades of coral and orange – named after the owner, Hanneli Rupert. And for those who are further horticulturally inclined,  fifteen hectares of the estate are dedicated to the growing of aromatic oil producing plants such as buchu, lavender and rose-geranium and the they also grow special disa and serruria hybrids.The museum is dedicated to the history of La Motte and the Rupert family and showcases work by international artists and one of South Africa’s masters – Pierneef. From here you can depart on the La Motte historical walk or if you’d like to burn a few calories before tucking into lunch, start from the tasting room and do the grade 1B, 5km hiking trail that winds in a circular route through the vineyards and surrounding mountains. Of course, that’s not what you’re here for though, right? You’re here to drink. And eat. And you have definitely come to the right place!

Pierneef à la Motte is a bright and beautiful restaurant with spectacular food, an impressive wine list and a deck that will make you forget that you’ve already been out there for hours and you need to go home at some point. Dining here feels like you’re having lunch in an effortlessly stylish friend’s home. You know, those friends who have so much money that they can turn delicate dinner ware into beautifully unique chandeliers and have people serving them lunch and refilling their glasses? Yeah, I don’t have them either. But you can come here and pretend that you do! The Cape Winelands cuisine is inspired by the seasons and is a fusion of traditional South African fare with an international twist – think bokkom salad with quail eggs and almonds, for example. The flavours are bold and in your face, making liberal use of perfectly balanced herbs and spices. The honey glazed snoek salad with salted cashew and pumpkin brittle was properly moreish. I mean come on, cashew brittle? How do you stop wanting more cashew brittle? But the dish that I can’t stop thinking about is the warm quail and orecchiette pasta salad with smoked pork lardo and almond ginger sauce, amongst a melange of other flavours that somehow just worked perfectly together. Seriously, if the Chinese could taste how chef Chris Erasmus combines Asian flavours with creamy Italian pasta I would not struggle so much to buy dairy products there! The slow cooked Karoo lamb shin and mushroom risotto just oozed flavour and the crayfish ravioli with a coconut and saffron velouté was light and delicate. We were positively stuffed by the time dessert came around, but in order to be thorough for this write up, we soldiered on and after just sipping more bubbly for a bit we eventually settled on sharing the warm, bittersweet Valrhona chocolate tart wiith peanut butter mousse, candy floss and cherry syrup dipped peanut truffles. I don’t really need to say more do I? No wait. I will. Have it just for the mousse, even if you think you can’t eat another bite. I’m not a fan of that light, sorry-excuse-for-a-dessert mousse, but this stuff was I-wish-this-will-stick-to-my-palate-forever good.

All the dishes have a wine suggestion paired with them. The wine list caters for every taste and budget, from La Motte wines by the glass to their vinoteque collection and everything in between. If you are one of the aforementioned rich people who can turn delicate dinner ware into chandeliers and have people serving them lunch and refilling their glasses, there is a large champagne selection, but if your dinnerware is used exclusively for eating, then there are also loads of MCC’s to choose from. There are also a host of other local and international wines on offer to suit any budget.

In my opinion, La Motte offers exceptional value for money. The portions are generous and the food is beautifully presented without trying too hard. You can grab a bottle of wine for as little as R50.00 (US$6) or splurge for a special occasion (like winning the Euro millions) and get the 1998 Château d’Yquem for R2905.00, so there really is something for everyone. Starters begin from R55.00 and mains from R62.00. Where can you eat such exceptional food in such glorious surroundings for that sort of money? The service is impeccable. Friendly, knowledgeable and down to earth waitrons keep your glass magically full at all times. And yes, that is how I judge a good waitron! I can think of few things I’d rather do than getting stuck out on the deck or under the oaks on the lawn here on a summer’s day, with a glass of bubbly and good friends and food.

Website:  www.lamotte.co.za
Telephone:  +27 21 876 8000
Restaurant: pierneef(at)la-motte.co.za
Tasting room: tasting(at)la-motte.co.za

Getting there: From Cape Town, take the N1 north. Take the R45 / Paarl Main Road off ramp and turn right then take the R45 towards Franschhoek. The estate is on your left a little way before you get into town.

Quirky Café Juno

Quirky Café Juno

The concept is quite brilliant actually. Label your wines with brightly depicted, buxom blondes, brunettes and redheads and watch the bottles fly off the shelf! (I would certainly judge such a wine by its cover.) And that is exactly what Juno Wines did when they commissioned Tertia du Toit to design their distinctive wine labels, honoring women, art and wine.

The tasting room for this all female winery is also a quirky café and the artist’s studio and gallery in Paarl’s Main Street. From still life’s to saints to scantily clad females, the various rooms in this Cape Dutch house are adorned with bright and beautiful art work. And for those less into art and more into attempts at getting balls over and under cross beams, there is a big screen TV too. The menu is modest and uncomplicated and the food is delicious. Old standbys like omelets, sandwiches, focaccias and baguettes from the bakery jostle with traditional South African fare such as boerewors spears and exotic stir fries. The peanut butter prawns with Asian noodles and savoury mince topped rösti with fried egg were particularly good. All the art work is for sale and if you need further retail therapy there is a small selection of clothing as well as a deli. And, of course, all the Juno wines are available for tasting and purchasing.

The venue caters for all types of functions and would be the perfect setting for a bridal shower for a bride with no self esteem issues.

Café Juno

191 Main Road

Paarl

7646

Telephone: +27  21 872 0697

Email: info(at)cafejuno.co.za

website: http://www.cafejuno.co.za/ / http://www.junowines.com/

Forever Fairview

Forever Fairview

“Holrug gery” is one of my favourite Afrikaans phrases. It means that a subject has been discussed so many times that, if it were a horse, it would’ve had a back like Paris Hilton’s mattress – worn out and ridden till it’s hollow. Fairview might just be one of those subjects. It almost seems to be ubiquitous in the Cape winelands – you can’t but hit it somewhere along the line on a trip there. But with good reason. With a tasting room, shop and deli, restaurant, beautiful views and shady gardens and lots of room for the kids to play and goats to stare at, it is a great place to take the whole family for an afternoon.

The tasting room at Fairview is beautifully appointed with various “pods” with a dedicated host at each so that guests get loads of personal attention. For R25.00 (US$3) you can taste whatever cheeses they have available on the day plus 6 wines which you may choose from their massive selection. The Beryl Back tasting room is a beautiful, private space where, for R60.00 per person, up to 8 guests can enjoy wines paired with cheeses and olive oil. The estate has vineyards in Paarl, the Swartland, Darling and Stellenbosch, so you can get completely plastered whilst pretending that your copious consumption of all the wines is simply an attempt to compare the various terroirs.

If you are a cheesy person, then Fairview is where you should come to die. The selection on offer is just mind boggling and there are constantly new, innovative cheeses to try. Goats’ milk, cows’ milk, washed rind, white rind, blue cheese, cream cheese. It almost reads like a Dr. Seuss book. There are cheeses flavoured with dukkah, lavender, herbs, spices and everything else you could think of to add to a cheese (and some things you never would’ve thought of). The shop & deli offers a cheese only tasting for R12.00. Six to eight Jersey cows’ and goats’ milk cheeses are available for tasting and the selection varies slightly from day to day. Goatshed artisan breads which are baked daily on site, preserves, sauces and other condiments as well as various olive oils are on sale. The Lemon & Lime as well as Red Pepper jelly from Zest are utterly divine!

The residents of the goat tower that welcome you when you walk into Fairview (the residents welcome you, not the tower (although a talking tower would really draw in the crowds! So would a talking goat for that matter.)) are synonymous with the estate. As much as I’d love to talk about goats, there isn’t space, but by all means read more here!

Shop & Deli
Goatshed Restaurant

The Goatshed Restaurant is a veritable celebration of all that is cheese and Mediterranean gastronomic goodness! Cheesecakes, cheese plates, and cheesy exotic mushroom lasagne share space on the menu with filled foccacias, slow braised springbok shank, and prawn risotto amongst lots of other goodies. Breakfast is served till 11:30 (cycle in and present your helmet to get a 15% discount) and lunch until 16:30. If it’s chilly out, the warm, wooden interior is the perfect place to sip a coffee and on one of the Cape’s copious completely glorious days then the deck with its 180 degree view of the Paarl valley and mountains is just as perfect for sipping lots of bubbly. Wines on offer are from the Fairview, La Capra and Goats-do-roam range and are sold at cellar door prices. If you’re a softy then a selection of 200ml carafes are also available. A weekly bread market is held on Saturdays.

Fairview is open seven days a week from 09h00 to 17h00. Last tasting vouchers are sold at 16h30 (standard tasting) and 16h00 (Beryl Back tasting). Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Getting there: From Cape Town on the N1:
Take exit 47 (Stellenbosch/Wellington/Klapmuts)
Turn right towards Klapmuts
At the four-way stop turn left onto R101
After passing Simonsvlei on your right, turn left into the Suid-Agter Paarl Road (follow signboard to Fairview)
Fairview is on your right hand side, about 3km along the road.

Telephone: +27 21 863 2450 / Goatshed: (021) 863 3609

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.fairview.co.za/ / http://www.goatshed.co.za/

Waiter, there’s an armpit hair in my cong you bing.

Waiter, there’s an armpit hair in my cong you bing.

Don’t you just hate it when you travel on a passport that is easily falsely forged all over the African continent, thereby making it virtually useless for travel because no country trusts it anymore, resulting in your having to go home to get a new visa because traveling to Hong Kong for a new one will only get you another two weeks in China and the Entry and Exit Burea in Shanghai will then only give you a further ten days and so the pages in your passport would run out before you are next due to go home? Yeah, me too. So here I am back home for a few weeks when I had only just started finding my feet in China. I am surprisingly unhappy about this. As wonderful as it is being back in SA (especially at the start of Spring with the crisp blue sky and wild flowers popping up in any open space with a bit of dirt), it makes it very hard to feel like you belong anywhere when, well, you don’t. It’s impossible to settle down when you’re living out of a suitcase half the time and don’t know if you’ll be let back into the country two weeks from now. Oh well. I suppose I have no choice but to bask under the South African sun and eat and drink my way through the winelands while I’m waiting for my paperwork to come through. Woe is me.

Who would’ve thunk it a few weeks ago, but I kind of miss Shanghai. Okay, maybe not “miss” or “Shanghai” so much as I wish Adam were here and he’d bring along some of my favourite things from there. Most notably a few brown paper packets filled with cong you bing. I am jetlagging a bit and despite it being 5:30 in the morning my body clock thinks it’s lunchtime, and it wants them. Now dammit! Cong you bing (Chinese scallion pancakes) are probably my favourite street snack in a city that knows a lot about street snacks. Little old grannies and grandpas get up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare, knead and whack the crap out of the dough needed to make these thin, flaky bing. The greens of chopped up scallions are scattered into the dough which is folded and rolled a few times to create thin layers of flaky pastry – almost like puff pastry. The bing is then cooked on a cast iron pan with not a modest amount of oil and brushed with a delicate, almost jammy spice mix (the recipe of which is guarded more closely than Colonel Sanders’ eleven herbs and spices) and sprinkled with sesame seeds or fresh scallion. Sounds pretty basic right? But trust me – it is the perfect balance of doughy and crispy spiced goodness. The little mom and pop stalls are usually run by the women in the morning and the men in the evening. So, if you prefer your vendor to wear a shirt, get there early as the grandpas aren’t always all that partial to covering their torsos in the heat of a Shanghai summer evening. (It’s best not to think whether this adds to the secret flavour…) The bing are sometimes folded around various other fillings such as spicy pepper or egg. You can eat your fill on about US$0.50’s worth.

Ah Po Cong You Bing on Xiangyang Nan Lu is supposed to be one of the best places to get your bing fix, but really, if a flaky puff pastry, a slightly chewy but crisp, thin pizza base and a perfectly spiced dukkah got together for a ménage à trois, then cong you bing would be the love child everyone fights over at Christmas, so I’m sure it must be pretty good anywhere you try it.

Shanghai’s greatest shengjianbao

Shanghai’s greatest shengjianbao

When we first visited Shanghai a few years ago, I (needless to say) consulted all the books, forums and websites out there to plan our gastronomic excursions. Top of many people’s list was Yang’s Dumplings – a bit of an institution in Shanghai and apparently one of the best places to get your shengjianbao. That’s quite an impressive accolade in a sheng jian crazy city! So we took our place in the queue and half an hour later were rewarded for our patience: Soft on top and fried on a cast iron pan to a perfect crunch below, these dumplings contain a delicious, scaldingly hot broth and juicy pork filling perfectly flavoured with sage and spices. They are, in a word, sublime. Don’t just bite into them without a little planning first though, or you’ll blister your lips, your chin and possibly your thighs as the soup explodes from its casing and dribbles down your front – a sure sign that you are new at this and a rite of passage for anyone living in this city (yeah, been there.) Pierce the dumpling with a chopstick and allow some of the heat to escape before biting into it. The hole will also help to release a bit of pressure so that it does not go bang in your face. You can also just slurp out the soup first, but I like to try and get as much of it into a bite with everything else!

There are many street vendors that sell these morsels all over the city and I’m sure if you keep looking you’ll find ones even better than Yang’s (if you’re serious about this whole business, then follow CNN Go’s Great Shengjianbao Food Tour of Shanghai), but you’ll probably have to go a long way. At only US$0.90 for 4 hearty dumplings, you’ll be hard pressed to find a cheaper, tastier meal anywhere. And the good news is you no longer have to queue at one of only a few restaurants in the city – Yang’s now has over 40 locations, including (oh the joy!) one right opposite our hotel all the way out in Qingpu.

Royal Siam Thai

Royal Siam Thai
Royal Siam Tai

There is always one major concern that I think most of us food loving people have when we try a new restaurant in our area.The worry is this: What if they’re good, but they don’t make it? And after a long and lazy lunch at Royal Siam Thai at Milkwood Village in Wilderness, I was very worried indeed. As I have mentioned before, being a restauranteur in the Garden Route takes balls. We are a fickle, lazy, unadventurous bunch and I can just imagine the legion of clientele who would not return because they can’t pronounce half the dishes on the menu. (“Where’s the crumbed calamari starter and steak with mushroom sauce?”.) But if you’re not the type of person who’ll worry about sounding like you’re ordering an overweight exotic prostitute when all you want is Phad Thai, then you will absolutely love this place!

The food is utterly delicious. That perfect Thai combination of sour, salty and sweet is zhushed up with the heat intensity of your choice if you like it hot. The menu is extensive with a huge array of starters and I could happily spend an afternoon there just working my way through prawn tempura, springrolls stuffed to bursting with generous portions of duck and fresh veg, satay and crispy, juicy wontons. I forwent the Tom Yum soup as it never particularly appealed to me the few times I’ve had it in other places before, but if you really want a taste of hot and sour the way the Thai’s do it, then this is the dish to have.

Predictably, what I really wanted to try was their Phad Thai – you don’t judge a seafood restaurant on the quality of their salad buffet. I became addicted to this most quintessential of noodle dishes in Thailand and attempted it myself one evening for friends with fairly disastrous consequences. If you don’t get the flavour balance just right, then it’s all wrong. Like going off sushi after combining it with too many blue drinks at a roll-your-own dinner party one night, I had managed to completely put myself off something I had previously loved. But the only way Royal Siam’s Phad Thai could’ve tasted any more authentic is if I’d had a lady boy passing me serviettes while (s)he complained about how the heat was making h(er)is mascara run. The balance between sweet, sour and salty combined with the plump prawns and more-ish peanuts was simply sublime.

The Thai Red Curry Adam had was beautifully fragrant and was a really silly thing for him to order considering how easy it was for me to just dunk my spoon in there for a taste whenever he looked away. Utterly scrumptious. I was rather devastated when, at the end of the meal, I realised I had eaten so much that there was no place for deep fried ice cream. In fact, I was rather miffed that I didn’t have four stomachs like a cow so I could try more of the dishes on the menu! Massaman curry (traditional curry with coconut milk and peanuts), Phlaa Goong (Thai salad with prawns, lemongrass and mint), Happy Duck and Angry Duck (who wouldn’t want to order these just to see the personality differences?), Garlic Pepper Prawns and How Mok Talay (a steamed seafood curry terrine with sweet basil) are just a few of the many dishes on the menu.

Royal Siam Thai wontons

Unlike the unflattering fluorescent lights and plastic chairs that look like they’re made for Lego man proportions that usually accompany any authentic Thai meal, Royal Siam is an opulent blend of warm reds, sensuous blacks and soft lighting. You also don’t have to worry if you can’t use chopsticks – in true Thai fashion, food is eaten with a fork and a spoon. The wine list is small, but reasonably priced (as are all the items on the menu) and there are a few Thai beers like Tiger and Singha. This is definitely the place to take as many of your friends as possible, order one of everything off the menu and eat and share with abandon.

Royal Siam Thai
Milkwood Village
Beacon Street
Wilderness
+27 44 877 8815

Salina’s: A revisit

Salina’s: A revisit

So further to my post of a few weeks back decrying the lackluster service we received at Salinas , I am happy to report that we revisited this seaside restaurant last night and were very happy with the service. I have heard from numerous people that they have sorted out their teething problems and this indeed appears to be the case. The service was fast and friendly without being obtrusive and the fare was gorgeous.

Salinas

Salinas

Let’s be completely honest here. If you’re going to go to a restaurant in the Wilderness area for the excellent service you get there, you’re going to be disappointed. A lot. It might be the sea air, but the Outeniqua rust seems to be particularly corrosive amongst restaurant staff in the area. But if you’re going to have to wait 20 minutes for your drink order to be taken, then you might as well do it at Salinas. Spectacular views both over the sea towards Lientjie’s Klip as well as over the lagoon and Wilderness Heights make the deck a perfect place to slowly sip a cocktail while the sun goes down over the ocean.

The menu is a fusion of Creole, Portuguese and Spanish inspired tapas, steaks and seafood dishes with a smattering of local favourites. The tapas menu is extensive – Thai fish cakes, spanakopita, chorizo in beer, humus with pita, chicken satay, prawns done in a variety of ways and much more. The seafood tapas platter was a total bargain, and at R95.00 for a huge plate of calamari, marinated seafood, scampi and fish cakes with crusty bread, would easily feed two people. If small plates are too finicky and  you like to sink your teeth into something more substantial, then you can’t go wrong with the steaks either. I have it on good authority from all the carnivores at our table that they were well prepared and tender. I can’t quite remember all the different ones they had on offer and I’m rather far from home right now, making it impossible to ring up and find out (and thus making this whole review quite pointless really come to think of it) but I do remember that there were some interesting ones! I recall sampling a delicious sauce of mushrooms and possibly rum. Or whisky. Some booze with cream anyway, so good either way! No one had the burgers, but there were a few interesting ones there too. For dessert the chocolate mousse is a winner. Dense and rich the way I like it. The Cuban citrus custard tart could be fantastic, but the pastry let it down. The wine list is extensive and well priced and displays a good understanding of what the locals like, with many of our favourites on offer.

I really think Salinas could be marvelous. It has the enviable views, the cosmopolitan food, the trendy bar with cocktails and sangrias and the voguish decor. But the service is appalling. But they’re new (and we’re starved for somewhere with a view to eat around here!) so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It was reassuring that the owner met us at the door as we left and apologised before we had even opened our mouths, so here’s hoping there will be a marathon server training session in the near future.

Read about our follow up visit here.

Salinas, 458 Zundorf Lane, Wilderness

+27 44 8770001