Solo Gelato, Corfu 09-2019

After a large quantity of gelato from Papagiorgis, I walked into Solo to look around and compare. Even though I couldn't stomach another one, I made a mental note that the place looked authentic with silver tins (albeit open).

I went back the next day to try it and even though it was more expensive for a smaller amount (but easily enough for 1), it was clearly a superior product and good enough for me to return the following day too.

The mango sorbet was thick and tangy. The pistachio was hidden underneath (don't know why considering they advertise they use Sicilian pistachios) and had a good colour and reasonably good flavour. It costs 0.5€ extra for one of those thick chocolate sticks which was pretty unnecessary in the end. They also tried to put liquid chocolate on top, to which I said no. I have to say that probably downgrades their product a little even offering it.

I tried the chocolate the next day (with pistachio again) and that was pretty good too.

Papagiorgis Patiserie-Gelateria, Corfu 09-2019

The most famous and busy gelato place in Corfu is this old one. It's also located along the main thoroughfare which certainly helps too. Other than a well staffed gelato area, there are also cakes which I didn't try but looked very nice.

The gelato is an extremely generous serve. The £1.70 cone with 1 scoop (they let me have 2x 1/2 scoops) is a huge amount with gelato stuffed in all through the cone. I tried the dark chocolate which was thick and good, but the pistachio was pale, weak and a waste of time unfortunately.

If you want only gelato, go to Solo around the corner.

Etles, London 09-2019

After searching for several years and failing to find a decently rated Uyghur restaurant in London, suddenly there were two. I had read about Silk Road but it sounded like a Chinese restaurant that had Uyghur dishes rather than an Uyghur restaurant itself. Chance would have it that I would come across this article by Fuchsia Dunlop, the UK chef who allowed me to cook Sichuan food at home. And good fortune means that I trust her reviews for all things around here (https://london.eater.com/2018/2/22/17039556/etles-london-first-authentic-uyghur-restaurant).

Etles in Walthamstow and Dilara in Finsbury Park shot to the top of the to-try list. Etles was the first one for me and we went with friends of whom one is from Yili, the same town in Xinjiang as the owners/chefs of Etles.

- Da pan ji (chicken, bell peppers, potatoes, garlic, ginger, soya sauce, herbs, homemade pasta) £30 for big plate - mild flavour, quite nice;
- Lagman (freshly handmade Uyghur pasta, stirfried beef) £9 - also mild flavour and probably needed more spice for me;
- Uyghur sis kabab (lamb marinated with special recipe) £2 each - delicious tender and fatty proper lamb kebab with lots of salt and cumin;
- Lamb kidney kebab £4 each - really good with a characteristic kidney texture and flavour. Delicious.

Unfortunately they didn't have polo (rice) that day. I also read they had samsa but it wasn't on the menu, and I was really keen for this after the great Uzbek food in Russia. They didn't mention it - until I saw another table receive them at the end of our meal - oh, it isn't on the menu but you can ask for it. Alright, give me one. Sorry, they ordered the last ones. Great.

I liked the food overall. Both kebabs had the most flavour, but all dishes were good to me. Our friends said that the kebab was better at Etles, but the other dishes were better at Dilara. I'll have to compare them myself.

Butcher Boys Prime Steakhouse, Umhlanga 10-2019

The final dinner of the trip was a choice between TA #1 The Grill Room at our lovely The Oyster Box Hotel or Butcher Boys. Looking at the menus, both had promising options. Butcher Boys won out for two reasons in the end - the prices are cheaper and they had ostrich steak. As much as I like a good beef, it's pretty easy to access that in many places of the world (albeit agreeably not necessarily at those cheap prices). But ostrich steak is much harder to find and after the great one at Arnold's (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/arnolds-restaurant-cape-town-10-2019) I was keen to have it again.

It was only a short safe 3 minute walk from the hotel and it did make me think it would have been nice to explore Umhlanga a little more during our time there. But next time instead then.

- Butcher Boys beef spare ribs 400g R165 + R5 to upgrade fries to the Butchers Boys type - thinner bones than I expected for beef and glazed with a sweet glaze. It was very nice. Honestly I thought they may have given us (big) pork ribs by accident, but they said it was beef. The BB fries upgrade meant adding garlic and parsley. The distribution wasn't very good and just sprinkled on the middle fries. The fries themselves were also nice in taste but average in texture and completely lacking crispness which was disappointing;
- Ostrich fillet steak R200 - I requested it rare and they cooked 2 of the medallions perfectly rare with a warm core. Interestingly the 3rd medallion was medium rare and that was much more tender to cut than the rare ones, which were tougher and chewier. Arnold's ostrich was medium rare too, so that must be the way to go for this meat. The flavour was a again similar to beef (as the standard comparison) just with a slightly different edge to the flavour. I did enjoy it. The mielie pap was a dense sort-of mash with bits of corn. They were served with a tomato relish (great for the pap) and a blueberry sauce (good for the ostrich);
- Garden salad R65 - simple, undressed accompaniment.

Overall a good meal. I have to order medium rare for my ostrich next time.

Butcher Boys Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Test Kitchen, Cape Town 10-2019

It was lucky that the October reservations for The Test Kitchen only came out in September. It gave me plenty of (last minute) time to read about where I wanted to eat in Cape Town and decide if it was worth paying the R2250 + 12% service to go to The Test Kitchen. The alternative would have been to try The Pot Luck Club, and in hindsight maybe I should have tried both. But there were other food places in Cape Town I liked the sound of and food there is otherwise relatively cheap.

When the bookings were released, I (like many others I'm sure) quickly logged in. I had hoped for an early session but somehow after nabbing one, it got taken and left me with 8pm. Oh well - that's not too bad. Actually since the sunset was around 7pm in October, 8pm worked out really well. It gave us plenty of time to return home after the drive to Franschhoek and more time to digest the large lunch and cheese platter from the afternoon.

This developed section of Woodstock is really quite nice. I've read the surrounding streets are not safe (in the evenings), so it would have been nice to come back during the day or even to the development area in the evening for a more relaxing night. There are security there and also designated door people from the restaurants to keep order and safety. It really is well organised.

Immediately upon entering the industrial and relatively indistinct door, there is the dark room. Dark it is indeed with eyes needing to adjust to see the lovely artwork and sketchings in the walls. After a brief hello and introduction, it is immediately onto welcome drinks and a tour of the world starters.

Sour (lapsang souchong old fashioned) was mildly sour, a bit smoky and very nice. Bitter (num-num & rose) was only mildly bitter, a bit sweet and also very nice.

The Dark Room
- Scotland: Billionaires - chicken liver parfait, porcini mushroom and truffle jelly, topped with 24 carat gold. The standout dish from the San Pellegrino website and it was pretty good I must say, if you like/don't mind the liver taste;
- Korea: Ssamjang Veg - marmite crackers and porcini dust are mixed into ssamjang paste of fermented soy beans. Raw micro vegetables are the vessels to eat it. An excellent delicious umami dip to eat tiny beetroot, carrot, cauliflower etc.;
- England: Pork Scratchings - pork scratchings with vinegar and celeriac dust to dip into a foam of Guinness flour;
- USA: Morel Burger - the world's smallest slider made of a morel mushroom patty. Not bad, could have been stronger flavoured;
- Ethiopia: Berbere Curry & Sheep Amasi - very crispy berbere cracker made from sorghum. Topped with shredded lamb. I could eat these all day long. Sheep cheese amasi (fermented) had a mild flavour unexpectedly;
- Mauritius: Coconut langoustine - langoustine piece with coriander paste, shellfish oil and fried curry leaves. Nice;
- India: Tandoori - perfectly textured swordfish on some slightly smoking coals, topped with cucumber, angel hair chilli, jalapeno. It was warm with a strong flavour and crunchy texture peanut salsa. Excellent morsel.

Then it was through the door with a secret knock into the more conventional The Light Room. We were offered the bar or a standard table, and the bar was the atmospheric place to be in front of the kitchen and with some overly exuberant Americans to the side, 2 having a domestic argument over wine, and an older 2 constantly proclaiming it's the best meal they've ever had (they had left by the time I took my photo of the room).

The Light Room
- Sword Belly "Greek Salad" - light and juicy swordfish served with pickled tomato, olive ice, skordalia dip and feta;
- TTK Lobster Salad, Coconut, Thai Aromatics - possibly my favourite dish with a perfectly balanced flavour profile. Poached lobster served with kalamansi caviar (for the sourness), coconut ice, coconut flesh scooped into little balls, chilli, shredded kaffir lime, and tiny basil and perilla. Drizzled with lobster oil and a nam pla dressing. Simply perfect;
- bread - sage beurre noisette glazed bread with snoek butter. Very soft and buttery bread and very mildly smoked fish flavour to the butter;
- Butterfish Bibimbap - teriyaki butterfish which was very soft and served with 3 types of kimchi vegetables, masterstock caviar, mushrooms and sushi rice. Very good to mix all around although I feel like gochujang is needed for true bibimbap;
- Sundy Roast - red wood smoked beef didn't make the flavour smoky but lightly accentuated beef tartare flavour. It was very soft and tender chunks of meat, horseradish cream and celery dust;
or daily special of Beef Sweetbread - pancetta wrapped sweetbread with walnut port jus. I'm not sure which sweetbread it was but they said it was beef. The texture was very creamy and soft (like brain, but it wasn't brain);
- Butter Poached Kingklip, Chestnut Jam, Snoek Extraction - kingklip fish with an excellent tempura cabbage on top. Served with snoek fish stock and a side of saffron mash;
or "Pap En Vleis" - local South African specialty Karoo lamb with a bolognese sauce. Full of flavour. Lamb was ok for tenderness, could have been more so;
- Rabbit & Ham in Two Servings - soft pork belly skin although the skin wasn't that crisp, cooked until only a thin fat layer remained. Tender rabbit rolls and celeriac foam. Served with a strong meaty sauce with rabbit chunks and topped with another micro vegetable.

Desserts from Light to Dark
- Rhubarb Trifle, Elderflower, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose & Mascarpone - very wine-y flavour and light;
- Pear, Jerusalem, Bourbon Oak, Pine, Sheep's Milk, Espresso - lovely poached pear, pistachio crumb and bourbon ice cream;
- Petit fours 1 - foie gras jam donut, crushed peanut snow and dessert wine
- Petit fours 2 - a tiny trifle to bring the meal back full circle to the box.

There was a creative non-alcohol drinks option of Tea Pairing for R500. Each was served in a wine glass and cold. They all had nice light flavours, a bit of fruity, a bit of sweet, and complemented the food well.

I thought the meal was creative, balanced and overall good, with some definite standout dishes (for me the ssamjang veg, lobster salad in particular). My partner thought it was outstanding. I'm glad we went and experienced one of the best restaurants in the world. I don't feel the need to return though and would do to The Pot Luck Club next time in Cape Town.

The Test Kitchen Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Ocean Terrace Curry Buffet, Umhlanga 10-2019

Staying at The Oyster Box Hotel (rated the best hotel in Africa) came with a few priveleges. Not only the ocean view from the private bedroom balcony, the complementary champagne and chocolate strawberries, nor the congratulatory balloon and rose petals during the evening turn. Our deal included some (good) sushi and a glass of wine, and that's where we first found The Ocean Terrace. It is essentially the main eating area for the hotel, and even though there is an oyster bar and a high tea section, you can enjoy those meals on the terrace also.

I had read about the famous curry buffet in Umhlanga and fortune would have it that it is hosted at The Ocean Terrace itself also. Given the evening (and potential threat of mosquitoes), we opted to sit inside for the night.

After flying early that morning, having a small sushi lunch but also lots of wine/champagne, strawberries, I had to maintain some stomach for the buffet and that meant eating nice and late at 8.30pm. The deal is simple - R450 for all the curry your heart, stomach and bowels can handle and ended with a dessert.

There’s many staff wrapping samosas, ready to reheat your naan and roti and replacing the curries all evening. It is an exercise in 5* hotel in action.

But now to the food...

Tandoori chicken was disappointing and dry. Beef shish was ok spiced but similarly dry. They had both probably been sitting too long. Spinach and cheese samosa was ok, but nothing special. I wasn’t quite sure what the chilli bite was, but it wasn’t that chilli and not that good. In fact the only good thing from my entrees plate for the chicken pilau – much heavier, wetter and darker than a biryani but with some good spiced flavour.

Next was onto the curries, which had to be better since it’s a curry buffet. I didn’t try the veg korma nor dhal because I can’t imagine that would be different to elsewhere and I needed to save stomach place.

From clockwise around the plate, we had garlic naan (ok texture, garlic was there but not very strong), roti (actually very good), potato pea mushroom (standard), fish curry (very nice version strong in flavour and cooked down until not too firm), lentils (standard), chicken and prawn (a mild creamy style with nice tasting but one prawn was good texturally and the other was mushy), butter chicken (a nice simple version rich with tomato), beef vindaloo (brilliant and cooked deep until the chilli and spices had some serious burn), butter bean (standard), lamb (very lamby but really not much spice. Quite disappointing).

I went back for another serve of the fish, butter chicken and vindaloo. The vindaloo was remarkably good and if I had the stomach space, could handle even more fire and burn, then I would have had a third one.

Dessert included kulfi with crushed nuts (ok, a bit sweet), a vermicelli pudding (even more sweet), and gulab jamon (didn’t try it, they said it is even sweeter and cooked with rose water and syrup).

Overall it’s quite expensive for curry but you are paying for the variety and setting.

The Ocean Terrace - The Oyster Box Hotel Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Bo Kaap Kombuis, Cape Town 10-2019

Cape Malay is supposedly the local version of Malaysia/Indonesia type food, full with breads and curries and the rest. I had read it was similar but just less spicy and so before a walking tour in Bo Kaap was a good time to try it. It really is up the end of a steep long road up the top of Bo Kaap and sits above a primary school where the children run and scream like mad. At least they are having fun.

Unfortunately they had a buffet and not the a la carte. Hmm. Oh well.

The roti was alright, bobotie was a slightly too salty version of mince lasagne without the pasta, tomato breddie was probably the best of all the dishes as a mildly beef curry cooked until the tomatoes turned dark. Chicken curry, lentils, dhal and butter bean curry were all ok. Nothing chilli at all, and not all that special overall in terms of flavour.

R200 for some starter snacks (all a bit average and not hot) and a very sweet *** to finish. Although the *** sounds good on paper, it wasn’t anywhere near as soft of easy to eat as a donut, being rather thick and heavy. The syrup and coconut didn’t complement as well as they really should.

It suppose it was both good and bad the buffet was on – buffets aren’t really my thing (I can’t eat that much comfortably anymore) and I couldn’t choose what I wanted but I guess also meant I could try a few different dishes.

Indeed it did seem a bit like the plainer cousins of the pure Asian forms. At least I’ve tried it.

Bo Kaap Kombuis Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

La Petite Ferme, Franschhoek 10-2019

Given the beautiful sunny and rainless 24C October days, a daytrip out to the winelands was a must. The options were between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. In the end the reviews online sounded like Stellenbosch is a working town and not so special, whereas Franschhoek is a (potentially artificial) tourist village created but still with French charm.

Franschhoek won in the end for this French vineyard, selected mainly because the food is meant to be good (and the wine was probably alright too). The setting is beautiful with the windows opening onto a lush lawn with peacock roaming around, and the grape trees lining the foreground before the mountains filled the background. Spectacular.

The wine was ok (I can’t really tell), but the local brewed cider was very minimally alcoholic. 3 apples per bottle of cider it said. Nice I guess.

Food was 2 courses for R375 (or 3 for R440 but we were stuffed after 2).

Some too old white bread was served alongside some much fresher seeded bread, basil pesto and a very grassy EVOO but the balsamic was too deeply at the bottom.

Starters
- Prawn cocktail (La Petite Ferme heritage dish) – perfectly cooked and slightly crisp coated red velvet and Kuro ash crumbed tiger prawns. Served with Marie Rose espuma, heirloom tomato flakes, crispy mint, pickled cucumbers, micro cos lettuce, lemon pearls;
- Duo of pate – 3 pieces of black garlic-infused ciabatta toast (couldn’t really detect the garlic) with cured snoek pate and trout caviar on the sides and smoked Franschhoek trout with black caviar on the middle one. Topped with rocket pesto and Viking salted chips, and a smear of lemon curd jelly on the plate.

Mains
- Heritage lamb – slow-braised then pulled, compressed and panfried lamb tagine (quite good, maybe a little more seasoning), charcoal mash (a bit plain), white asparagus (which I think was actually just normal asparagus – nothing white about those on the plate), biltong dust micro peas (tasted like peas) and mint yoghurt gel;
- Duck 6 ways – crispy confit duck leg, duck liver parfait wontons (tasting as expected of foie gras), seared duck breast (meant to be medium-rare but served closer to medium-well sadly), duck pastrami, edamame beans, grilled bok choy, duck jus gras.
- Side of braai corn R – grilled corn. Nice and simple. Nothing too unique. I guess is braai is just the local word of describing it.

Overall a lovely setting a bit further out from Franschhoek centre itself. The food was overall good although the menu ingredients made it sound a bit too complicated and certainly some of the flavours weren’t discernible. Nonetheless nice.

La Petite Ferme Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Table Mountain Cableway Cafe, Cape Town 10-2019

After a 1h40m hike through Platteklip gorge to Table Mountain, it was nice to have food up the top and so not needed to BYO. Having said that, a picnic sitting outside in the sun with a cool breeze and the views would be quite spectacular.

Nonetheless the food was supposedly alright, and it was.

Ostrich pie slice R47 had tender chunky meat, florets of cauliflower and some pumkpin with a meaty sauce. Very good actually. 

The buffet section is R25 per 100g. All the grilled vegetables and wedges, spinach and cheese were nice and flavoursome. Decent quality, although a bit on the expensive side. Then again given you're up on a mountain, I guess it's understandable.

Bay Harbour Market, Cape Town 10-2019

On the weekends, Hout Bay is the place to be for the weekend market. Although being described at 100 stalls, it was actually smaller than I expected.

Parking is made easy by the many many attendants shuffling and directing people in and out of spots. For a small donation, they "watch" over your car. R2-5 seems to be the standard, whatever small change you have they are happy with. You can look over Hout Bay and the settlements up on the mountain side that you shouldn't dare venture into.

Inside there's stalls selling clothes, jewelry, artwork, but then onto the food from sweets, bakery goods, burgers and the rest. On stage a cover band was performing beautifully with a particularly memorable rendition of Riptide.

Foodwise, I had my first Ostrich pie R40 (at a Tunisian stall of all things) which was full of meaty chunks akin to a good beef pie. Also a lamb roll which had shreds of meat, still good but paled in comparison.

Seafood came from local Hout Bay calamari fried (simple and flavoursome) and 6 oysters from ... R25 each (quite big with mild flavour and creamy cores).

Dr. Juice smoothie washed it all down well. Then it was time to be off to the next place.