Sunday, September 17, 2017

Supper at Zenzero, Camps Bay

We were invited to review this beach front restaurant in Camps Bay last week. The website says, "Robust with the full flavours of Italy" which pays " ... homage to Italy ... encapsulates ‘La dolce Vita’. And it is undoubtedly popular with its impressive full frontage with great views of Camps Bay beach and the sea. We passed it twice more that week and the double fronted terrace was filled with people enjoying the view with some drinks, and soaking up those views
Inside is much bigger than one expects from the front, where people do tend to congregate. The evening was a little chilly and we were grateful to be granted a table inside near the gas fireplace. It does remind both of us of our school libraries, with walls on both sides crammed with floor to ceiling shelves of books. We also wondered how many get pilfered by guests!
Our waiter, Cloudias, was friendly, efficient and very helpful indeed, as were all the staff. They looked a happy bunch
The decor is modern with comfortable chairs and a small bar at the rear
A view of the room from the other side showing the fireplace and some of the terrace
The menu, which you can view online at http://www.zenzerorestaurant.co.za/the_menu is quite extensive. We decided to concentrate on the Italian theme and order some of the classic dishes we found on the menu. The food was not as Italian as we were promised. Apparently the present chef is British
The antipasti page has some interesting items and they did recommend the razor clams which are SQ. We know they are not local, so we decided to give them a miss, thinking they might be frozen

We had been offered a bottle of wine from the Kove collection (the house wine) with our dinner. They average R200 a bottle but, instead, we asked if we could each have two glasses of the wines by the glass (most are R50 a glass), which comes to the same value. The Kove Collection has several restaurants and these wines would suit them all. We were very impressed with the wines we drank. They have gone to some very reputable farms and got them to make wines just for the Kove Collection. There are whites from Waterford, Diemersdal and Thelema and reds from Thelema and Diemersfontein. Not always the wine you might have expected. The Sauvignon Blanc is from Waterford rather than from Diemersdal - who are noted for their nine different versions. And the red from Diemersfontein is not a Pinotage but a Merlot. The wine list is very good

We both chose the same white wine with our starter, the white blend from Thelema, which is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Roussane. We both guessed one of the blend wines correctly and when the Restaurant Manager Shorai Charwadzu learned that we were wine and food writers and knew the wines of all these farms, he very kindly brought us the bottle so we could see what the blend was. He also let us taste the red blend before we ordered our wine. Most impressive service. He is charming and urbane, knows his staff and his job and works hard to make customers content and happy
John chose the gnocchi. Sadly, heavy and in a very uncomplicated tomato passata, chopped spinach and some torn mozzarella. Tasted rather more commercial than handmade. R105
Lynne ordered the Calamari Fritti - they come two ways, the crisp deep fried tentacles and the polpetti (baby squid) are in a very light coating of tempura batter, seasoned with salt and pepper and served with lemon. They were good, good enough to return for more. However the portion is very small. R90
We ordered the two most Italian main courses we could find on the menu and, sadly, they both disappointed. Lynne had the Veal Picante. What arrived were two batted escalopes of pink and tender meat bizarrely in very crisp Panko breadcrumbs, mixed with lots of rosemary leaves. The Picante sauce (can be stock, white wine, sherry or brandy, with capers and lemon to make it piquant) which should surround the veal, was more like a tartar sauce and came in a small dish 'for dipping". It was nothing like any Veal Picante we have ever eaten. R195. The side of new potatoes in butter and herbs was good. R35. Yes, the menu says olive oil, it tasted like butter. Lynne had a glass of the Red blend from Thelema R55. Deep and sappig, with good berry fruit
John chose the Saltimbocca (it means 'jumps in the mouth' and it didn't) which was chicken rather than the usual veal - the Americans like using chicken in this dish. R165. The very red prosciutto ham completely encased the chicken, there were no sage leaves under it and this had been deep fried or left under the heat lamp for too long. It was like glass, it was so crisp outside and the chicken was dry inside. It came with the merest suspicion of "a sage brown butter " and so needed a sauce. Served on new potatoes
 He said he should have had the lamb shanks, the steak or even the hamburger, but we were there to try out the Italian dishes. John had a glass of the Diemersdal Chardonnay R50
For dessert, John ordered the White chocolate Cheese cake which came with sour cherries (he loves cherries and does not usually like white chocolate) and vanilla ice cream. R80. The cheese cake was not heavily flavoured with chocolate, but was a good example and the sour cherries were a very good enhancement
Lynne tried to stick to the theme by trying the Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta with strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar and some crumbs. R75. It was OK, not as wobbly as it could have been
An interesting evening. We think they need to dive into some Italian cookbooks. We felt relaxed because the service was so good and the ambience is also pleasant. But perhaps the trendy crowd they are attracting, of younger locals and international tourists, wants this style of food? Or do they come to be seen and to admire the view?
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