There’s invites and there’s invites. One on board a ship is very unusual, and I decided to go as the ship is A. huge and B. it would be moored (I get seasick), and C. it’s the new SA Agulhas II, South Africa’s new Polar exploration ship.
The second set of good reasons was that the event was to announce the winners of the best winter special on the Waterfront. On the night the finalists had to create a dish which reflected the Spice Route era and offered good value for money.
Cape Grace’s Signal Restaurant claimed the title of the Master of the Trade Routes for 2012.
The top eight finalists from the original participating 27 restaurants had a chance to impress a panel of judges – chef and food stylist Justine Drake, CapeTalk’s John Maytham and Food24 editor Caro de Waal.
Invited guests tried dishes from the eight finalists: Queen Victoria Hotel’s Dash Restaurant, Reuben’s at the One&Only, Den Anker, The Grand Beach, Sevruga, Harbour House and Willoughby’s & Co, but it was the deconstructed springbok bobotie from Signal which found the most favour with the judges.
Almost 6 000 votes were cast by visitors who tried the fusion dishes at participating restaurants. The dish which found the most public favour was Sevruga’s miso-marinated kingklip with garlic and ginger emulsion, winning the People’s Choice Award, with 2 350 votes.
Willoughby’s & Co (the guys that serve fake Kikkoman’s sauce) waiter Jason Batt won the Waitron Award for his efforts in promoting the Master of the Trade Routes dishes to diners, single-handedly selling 339 tempura prawn rolls.
What was interesting for me about this marketing initiative is that it forced you to re evaluate the Waterfront as a place to go for food and to have casual relaxed time. Capetonians, I think, associate the Waterfront with being an overpriced tourist trap. Much of it is, but the night on the Agulhas reminded me that there are gems there too.
I must try Dash again (how is it doing, I wonder, after the departure of Messrs. Cattermole and Templeton?), and Signal at the Cape Grace, whose pastry chef, Lorraine Meaney, has customers going weak at the knees with her creations. Harbour House is a favourite already.
A good initiative, and exactly what the Waterfront has needed in the quiet Winter months.