July 2008

The Foodbarn

Sorta-kinda review.

My in-laws invited us, or we invited them (I’m not too clear on this) to the Foodbarn in Noordhoek. I had a look at their online menu and was not that impressed. Too many ‘porcini’ and ‘verde’ and ‘civet’ type things in quotes (And BTW, I send in a request to El Bulli every year, I’m not squicked by words like veloute or jus on a menu, this specific menu just looked… wrong, with all those quotes).

Anywayz, so we got there (after putting up the small wall between the bath and our bedroom, but that’s another story) to find a completely different menu. Yay!

They actually have two menus. The first is the Bistro menu, a sort of a set menu with about five choices each for starter, main and dessert. With a glass (one glass. One? Are they serious?) of wine-of-your-choice. For R165 per head. All in all the Bistro menu looks good, and we decide to go for it. Oh — the catch is that these are all half portions (no problem, sez I, gives me the opportunity to work through the menu twice. Grootbek).

Well, fair enough, Tanya recently converted to red (and since drinkable red is cheaper than drinkable white (I’m a white wine snob and a red wine slut) this is not a Bad Thing (unlike when I taught her to prefer Cap Classique over Cold Duck. But that’s a different story)), so we order four glasses of white (chenin) and pass them all on to Mr H (Mr H being Tanya’s father). And we order a bottle of Groot Constantia Merlot (Mrs H (you should be able to figure this one out) likes Merlot. Yes I know. Let it go).

First item on the starter menu is bouillabaisse. I read no further (well, actually, I do, because I’m curious, but that’s not the point. Bouillabaisse it is). Tanya ordered something with herbed goats’ cheese, Mr H picked the duck livers. Now for the mains. Oh my. Choices are line fish, a gnocchi based vegetarian dish, steak tartare, lamb cutlets, and roasted pork belly.

Now I have to say that in general, at a restaurant, Tanya orders the steak. Medium to well done. In the case of steak tartare, this is Just Not On (although there is a tale in the family of Mr H ordering well done steak tartare once, but that, again, is a different story). En hier word Wouter se ogies groter as sy magie, and I go somewhat apeshit. I suggest that Tanya orders the steak tartare, I order the lamb, and Tanya also orders the ribeye steak from the a la carte menu. This confused the waitress a bit, but not as much as it would have had Tanya ordered the steak tartare well done, I’m sure.

Oh, BTW, the Foodbarn is run by Franck and Pete. Franck’s been the chef over at La Colombe for the past ten years or so, and incidentally, that’s where I last had steak tartare. And it was probably rather close to the start of Franck’s tenure there, I will have to go find my notes (no, I don’t throw things away, why do you ask?) of that experience (which, of course, is another story).

OK, bouillabaisse. Great. Bit of a strange texture, those crazy Michelin fellows would probably have had much to say, but I’m closer to the other Michelin fellow, so… Mr H raved about the duck livers, and Tanya quite liked the cheese and aubergine thing (of which I tasted a bit, nice). I’d peg Tanya’s starter at a half portion but both the duck livers and the bouillabaisse were most definitely full portions, IMO.

Steak tartare arrives first. Mince, with an egg yolk in the half shell balanced on top, with fried potato slices and a very interesting sauce and four lines of… call it salsa… onion, gherkin, olive and parsley (I think. But hey, I’m not Remy, so if one of you guys from the Foodbarn google across this blog, please leave a comment to tell me what you really put in there :-). So I start the taste exploration, with comments from Tanya on whether I’m doing this The Right Way. I of course feel that my way is the right way and if you don’t like it, order your own portion. Bit of this, bit of that, I find that the sauce goes well with the olives and a bit of egg, the egg goes well with the onion, hey, I’m having fun. Guy on the other side of the room is mixing everything on his plate into one big frikkadel and proceeding from there, but who cares (Tanya cares, that’s who. Like the time in France with the fondue which was actually raclette, but… different story).

Next up, the lamb. Two small cutlets, and some sausage-ey stuff (that’s a technical term used by people like me who don’t speak haute cuisine, OK?) in pastry, on a sauce. Very nice, but the sauce is extremely rich. I just could not finish it.

Now as an aside, Tanya and I tend to swap plates, so that we both taste what we both ordered. Although most of the time this is more a case of me finishing what she ordered. And in this case, she had a bit of steak left, and I would have loved to taste it, but I just could not face any more meat (it must have been around 150 grams steak tartare, and the cutlets were small — and as an aside I often kill an eisbein at the Nag’s Head right next door to the Foodbarn — but I think it’s the sauce, and the bouillabaisse, that sunk me).

Anyway, Tanya liked the steak a lot, but she did report that her potato slices were somewhat burnt. The in-laws had Good Things to say about the line fish (yellowtail) as well.

Of course my choice of dessert was never uncertain — I’m not much for sweet stuff, and there’s a cheese platter on the menu, and of course they have port, so, call me Larry. Four cheeses, three of them excellent, the camembert just… camembert. With some very nice preserves, and the port was Bredells, very good.

Tanya and Mrs H ordered the dark chocolate samoosas, which are interesting, but the difference in texture between the samoosa crust and the melted chocolate is a bit… strange. Mr H was somewhat indifferent to his millefeuille, which maybe looked better on the menu than on the plate.

So, a good time was had by all, and the grand total for the evening, tip included, was just that… a grand. Not something I’d do that often, but it’s nice to have a somewhat upmarket restaurant in our neck of the woods.

Glass bricks

So, Frank built a 900mm high wall closing off about a third of the back stoep, the idea is to build a glass block wall all the way to the top. This will shelter the jacuzzi-corner from the Fish Hoek wind, which blows up the valley from the sea and gives me a permanent runny nose.

But Frank doesn’t know how to build with glass blocks.

Neither do I.

Homebase makes it look complex, DIY Divas makes it look easy. Fine Homebuilding says it’s somewhere in between. With those three references, I’m sure we’ll get it right. I’ll ask some questions at the hardware store tomorrow morning.

Edit : Frank ended up building the glass wall just like a normal brick wall, using 5mm tile spacers, and normal cement. He strung wire between the wall and the steel pole (self tappers on the steel side, nail-in anchors into the wall) every two courses, and it came out well. Well, sorta well, see later post on same subject.

Progress update

Problem with writing a blog is that once people know about it, they start nagging if it’s not updated regularly (yes, I’m looking at you, CH). But Mondays are hectic, and so’s the end of the month, and yesterday happened to be both.

This freestanding jacuzzi was advertised in last Thursday’s Cape Ads. It’s just around the corner from where I work, and the price is good (R7500), but I have no idea how I’m going to get it on a trailer. Plans Will Have To Be Made. But the current owner first needs to get an electrician in to disconnect the thing first.

One piece of shutterboard, four blocks of wood, a few screws and a bit of cretestone, and the original doorway is no more. Doing it this way allows me to build a shelf on the other side, behind where the bath is going (you can see it on the left in the second photograph, which is basically our bathroom as it looked last Thursday — they’ve since knocked a few holes in the blue wall for the plumbing).

I had to go back to the place I bought the glass basin from, because I could not figure out how to use the supplied fasteners to fix the thing to the wall. Included in the baggie were two chemical fasteners with capscrews and washers, which must be intended for the two wall brackets. But the two chrome caps don’t fit over the capscrews. Turns out the guys who installed the demo unit had the same problem, because they ended up using fasteners which are not in the kit at all. So sometimes the suppliers of these things don’t know best. I’m planning to ditch the lot and use either rawlbolts or sommer drill a hole all the way through the wall with a piece of threaded rod and acorn nuts.

Hopefully the last brass purchase. R250 at Muizenberg market. I also bought 15m of 22mm polycop for R5 a meter — the guys estimated the length, I saw I was getting a good deal, didn’t ask for change from R80 — turned out to be 17 1/2m in total.

I also had to buy two more mixer taps, one for the bath and one for the shower. Both with diverters, since Tanya wants a hand shower by the bath. and we’re planning to fit two showerheads in the shower, depending on whether you want to wash your hair or not. On the 8th of May I paid R564+VAT for a mixer tap. On the 27th of June (7 weeks later) I paid R780+VAT for the identical tap from the same place. This is a 38% increase! The mind boggles.

Looks like our lime tree is doing well — new flowers. One can but hope.

This was the view driving to work from Bellville side this morning. I had to stop, take a picture, and share.