You can also eat well outside the Cape

2011-11-26 16:13

Is Cape Town the only place in the country where you can order a decent plate of food?

Yes, according to the city’s foodies, who have proclaimed the Mother City the culinary capital of South Africa.

At last week’s Eat Out Awards in Camps Bay the rest of the country was pretty much ignored again as all but four of the 20 best restaurant nominees were Western Cape establishments.

Once the top 10 had been announced, only Joburg chef Marthinus Ferreira of DW Eleven-13 was still on the list – in seventh place.

On the best of the rest list – which included best steakhouse, bistro, Italian, Asian and Country-style – you guessed it, only one wasn’t near Table Mountain.

The Local Grill in Joburg walked off with the well-deserved best steakhouse award.

I hollered and applauded – not only for the fillet – but because I was so delighted that despite the fecund Capetonian pickings, those of us who live in the equivalent of the gourmet Gobi desert had pipped them to the post in this category.

But then I realised I was buying into the propaganda – the City of Gold has lots of lovely places to eat; I’ve eaten in some of them.

Bice, Pigalle, The Saxon, Piccolo Mondo. And what about La Cucina di Ciro which is consistently good, but for serving kingklip, which is on the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s orange list and therefore a terrible faux pas.

A faux pas that I have seen repeated over and over again in Cape Town. For a city at the forefront of culinary culture there’s an awful lot of endangered fish on the menu.

A walk along the V&A Waterfront revealed kingklip on nearly all the menus.

When I asked about it in Sevruga, where I had a delicious, fish-less dinner, the manager spluttered about it being in demand.

Hardly a good reason to serve it – by that logic we should be shipping rhino horns to Asia by the container load.

Shortly after that, the very posh Stellenbosch at Summer Place featured food by some of the best chefs in the winelands.

Among them Michael Broughton (number 6), George Jardine (number 8) and Bertus Basson (number 5), who served smoked barbel – another fish on the orange list.

Scandalous, I thought, until I realised that one of the criteria for the best of the best list is not sustainability.

Restaurants have to be well established, the chefs have to show passion for their craft and be committed to uplifting the industry, they should care about sourcing quality produce and they must be consistent.

All laudable, but surely the best of the best need to set the example when it comes to conservation?

While I was lamenting the fate of Gauteng’s eateries, I realised that the whole of KwaZulu-Natal was represented by one place – Hartford House in Mooi River.

Surely in that whole province there are more contenders.

What about Cleopatra’s or Harvey’s?

The American Express Fine Dining Awards, announced in October, managed to rustle up 24 places in Gauteng to give awards to, while KwaZulu-Natal took home eight. Between Cape Town and the winelands there were 25.

Despite my grumbling, the Eat Out Awards was a grand affair and the food, as it should be, was spectacular.

All four courses and the canapés were cooked by Cape Town chefs, of course, and all were delicious, especially Chef of the Year Luke Dale-Roberts’ menu, which fittingly took top spot for the second year running.

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