It’s the beginning of restaurant week and my first stop is Ashton’s @Greenways Hotel. I’ve been looking forward to this since I found out its this week.
Why did I choose to try out Ashton’s out of 32 restaurants? It’s closer to home. Cape Town is tricky, in that a lot of good places are near or around town and the V &A Waterfront. I live about 45 min from the CBD. So I’m looking forward to trying a new restaurant and I hope it’ll be good and possibly be my new found place to dine.
The directions: I had a booking for lunch, for 12h00 but I arrived for my reservations at 12h30. This was not my usual, be fashionably late, days. I just got so terribly lost. The address was the first problem, Bishops Court, and in reality this is nowhere near Bishops Court but in Claremont. I ended up in a wrong suburb, and when I finally figured out where it actually was, I had to drive through spaghetti roads of Claremont trying to find familiar street names. But again it could be just me and maps. On the positive, this helped build quite an appetite. So I’m ready for lunch. Score for directions: 4/10
The hotel looks Grand, like one of those late 1800 buildings that just demand attention. As I later found out from my so attentive waiter Dylan, it was built in the 1920’s by the Ashton’s as a family house and was bought by the current management in 2002, turned it into a hotel and restaurant.
I’m walked through to the restaurant and first impressions; the decor is simple, but somehow the grandeur of the building and this simplicity works. It doesn’t give me that annoying feeling, ‘the trying too hard for what?’ feeling. The glassware and table setting look elegant and beautiful, I’m fussy about the glass I drink my wine in. It does make a difference in the taste.
The restaurant has the choice of inside or outside sittings, and the outside is on this big patio, overlooking a beautiful open space with a perfectly mowed lawn surrounded by a range of trees and flowers. It is so tranquil, I can even hear birds singing, I’m not kidding!
Wifi- check- this is now a must. I honestly will think twice about going to a restaurant if they don’t have wifi! And I’m not even technology obsessed.
Apparently the restaurant doesn’t have a set menu, its different everyday. I’m not sure how practical this is. Score for venue: 8/10
Good selection from the best wine farms in the Western Cape, quite impressed with the different options of the whites. The house wines, quite good. Most places just have the cheapest wines as their house wines, relying on the presumption that if a customer goes for the house wine, it means they don’t really know much about wine. Which is completely untrue. I believe you judge a place by their bathrooms and their house wines :)! Anyway, I’ve opted for a glass of: Greenways House Sauvignon Blanc with my starter and mains, Muscat for dessert.
The starter: My choice- Springbok carpaccio with strawberry chutney and parmesan shards but other options were curried asparagus soup, and lemon and cajun sauteed calamari.
I’m a big fan of food as close to natural form as possible. What better way to enjoy this flavorful game meat than minimally touched? If you’re going to go all the way and kill an animal for food, you have to at least taste the animal! I know most people don’t want to think about the actual animal when they enjoy their meat, so I’ll let it go.
But the springbok was so succulent and tender and the carpaccio sliced so perfectly thin, the drizzle of olive oil making it velvety in your mouth. With the addition of fresh rocket and parmesan just finishing it off so well, the contrast between the sweet springbok, the salty parmesan and the bitter rocket, the perfect combination! The sweet strawberry on the other hand, too sweet and doesn’t really belong on this perfect plate. It takes away from the meal, rather than add anything to the flavours. A thoroughly enjoyable starter. Now the pressure is on for the mains! Score for starter: 9/10
The Mains: Slow roasted pork belly with sweet soy stir fry noodles and pickled ginger. Other options were; pan fried line fish with potato gratin, sautéed asparagus, pea purée and lemon cream sauce OR ostrich burger with onions marmalade, Brie cheese, avocado and potato wedges with asparagus salad OR asparagus gnocchi.
Good architectural skills with the presentation but the colors too yellow and brown. Could’ve benefitted from greens. The portion is way too big for lunch, especially a 3 course lunch. This doesn’t feel well thought out, serving a rich pork dish like this as such a big portion. But that pork belly was so tender, meat just falling apart and the juices from the fat, yum :). Very good quality pork as well. That perfectly crisp crackling you always search for in a pork belly; present, a little burnt but present. The noodles are well cooked, but I cannot taste that pickled ginger anywhere on the plate and it would’ve finished the dish off nicely. Score for mains: 6/10 because I could not even eat a quarter of my meal.
The dessert: Baked strawberry cheese cake, other options were; malva pudding and chocolate cake. Perfect presentation, 10 out of 10. But the taste a little disappointing. The cheese cake is too thick and lacks depth in flavour. You get cheese cakes that are too sweet, too sour or perfectly balanced and this nowhere in the spectrum really. I’m also not getting that crisp base I expect from a cheese cake- it’s all mushy. But the fresh strawberry condiment on the side, I’m loving. It really elevates this dessert. It’s even making the cheese cake make a bit of sense, the tartness of the lemon juice with the sweetness of the strawberry just making a perfect friendship. The recommended desert wine ( Muscat) by the waiter, goes well with this as well. Score for dessert: 7/10
Very good, I was greeted by name at the check in desk and my table was ready. Dylan was a good waiter and knew about the history of the hotel, which was informative. Not too in your face but around when you need him. Score: 8/10
Overall feel: as much as the place looked amazing and the food was good, the ambience was a big let down! It was a little disappointing that there were only 2 people for lunch, in the middle of restaurant week. Not sure how much it says about the restaurant but i hear it was fully booked yesterday. This gave me a chance to have good chat with Geert who was staying at the hotel and seemed impressed with the room and the service but not as much with the wifi connection. Score: 5/10
My Total Score= 47/70, making an average of 7/10.
It has been a good start to restaurant week, looking forward to the rest of the week. The standard is high!