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Mount Nelson’s Planet restaurant opens

By , 26 November 2010




Gone is the cringeworthy mural…

The Cape Colony restaurant at Cape Town’s Mount Nelson hotel was in need not so much of tweaking but a seismic shift into the modern era – the high colonial ambience stopped being ironic and simply became twee a long time ago.

A complete make-over has been completed and the restaurant will now be called Planet in line with the successful bar alongside. Fittings are astronomical in both theme and you imagine price, dramatic starburst chandeliers being particularly eye-catching. Sandro Fabris, regional managing director for Orient-Express which owns the Mount Nelson, says some of the changes he oversaw were difficult for the group to accept. Like what? “Place mats instead of white table cloths.”

Last night, a soft launch of the re-vamped restaurant, the kitchen under chef Rudi Liebenberg, who arrived at the Mount Nelson in mid-2009 after a successful stint at the Saxon hotel in Johannesburg.  The menu we were served  included crayfish and butternut terrine matched with Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2010 as a starter, a combination of lamb loin and braised shoulder on crushed potatoes as a main with Rustenberg Berg John X Merriman 2008 and chocolate soufflé with Waterford Heatherleigh dessert wine.

I won’t pass judgement on the food other than to say it is unadorned with the focus very much on top quality ingredients – if you want culinary theatrics then best to go elsewhere.

As for the wines, I must confess it was the first time I had encountered a Sauvignon Blanc under the Rustenberg label, and I note that the wine is not listed in Platter’s prior to the 2009 vintage. There was always an example of the variety under Rustenberg second-label Brampton, but with this having been sold off, it appears that Sauvignon with its fast turn-around time in terms of production was strategically too important not to include in the Rustenberg range. The 2010 is more than appealing to drink with ripe green melon fruit offset by bright acidity but that it exists at all does dilute the Rustenberg proposition somewhat for me.

The Bordeaux-style John X Merriman 2008 was very fine, as might have been expected but why would you pay the full price of around R150 a bottle for the current vintage when you can get the 2006 (unlabelled) for R99 a bottle from Getwine.co.za? That times are tough in the wine industry is no secret but you’d like to see the Rustenberg brand enjoying just a little more careful stewardship.

The Heatherleigh from Waterford is a sweet wine made according to the solera system and while previous batches have been a little imprecise for me, last night I found it pleasing with concentrated flavour and soft but sufficient acidity.


5 comment(s)

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    Christian | 30 November 2010

    Dave, Thanks for setting me straight about the Sauvignon Blanc. For the record: My wife and I attended the dinner at Planet as guests of the Mount Nelson and therefore both food and drinks were on a complimentary basis. Of course I’m aware of the different considerations that must be taken into account when devising pricing for on-con versus off-con so my apologies if you feel my posting confuses the issue for the punter. For clarity’s sake: Getwine.co.za sells the 2006 vintage of John X Merriman (unlabelled) at R99, the Mount Nelson sells the 2007 at R310 a bottle and Rustenberg is currently selling the 2008 at R145 a bottle from the tasting room.

    Dave Hutton | 30 November 2010

    Actually Christian, we did have a 1997 Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc, but did not continue with it at that stage. We then planted vines in 1999 which have now come on stream and so launching one made sense.
    The 2010 is the first since the 1997 and we’re happy we got 4 stars for it in the Platter 2011.
    Gor some lovely listings in brillaint accounts in Europe and so far in SA it is doing well for us.
    Maybe a nice topic for you to keep yourself busy with one day is: “Best utilization of fruit” – it might give you insight into our “stewardship” of our wines. Also, remember, I can still be reached on 021 809 1200. As you know Rustenberg doesn’t have a restaurant so we hardly ever invite anyone for meals.
    Needless to say Barend is welcome to come and collect a “thank you” parcel from me, as I tend to agree with his sentiment.
    Pity you use this avenue to go all negative Christian. You’ve been in this industry for a while now and know all of us. Thanks for the exposure anyway.
    Please note that the R150 / bottle you mention is on retail shelves – seems strange you mention this price while “reviewing” an on-trade account, where pricing is way different.
    All the best and Merry Christmas to you and Jane.

    Christian | 30 November 2010

    Barend, I think Rustenberg is one of South Africa’s most prestigious properties, not only because it has delivered high quality wine for many decades but because the brand values (substantial, highbrow, ungimmicky) have always been impeccably well managed.

    I’m sure there’s a good short-term business reason for moving the unlabelled 2006 at a discount (failed export order or whatever) but ultimately I believe it cheapens what Rustenberg stands for.

    The beauty of New Media is that should anyone at Rustenberg have an issue with my position, he or she is welcome to have his or her say on this blog and it will be in the public domain immediately. Regardless, what I originally posted is just an opinion. Use it, don’t use it.

    Barend Strydom | 30 November 2010

    NS! Geluk aan die Mount Nelson!! Mag julle stampvol wees heirdie seisoen. Nooi tog vir Christian om ‘n nag gratis daar by julle te bly – lyk my hy is suur oor iets?!

    Barend Strydom | 30 November 2010

    Christain, lyk my al wat jy kan doen is kak maak. Jy hou van stook en eendag gaan jy op jou m… kry. As ek by Rustenberg was sou ek jou lekker aan vat – hoop hulle doen iets om jou bek so bietjie beter te maak. Hou op so negatief wees en onthou net wat jou vak is – jou familie het al lekker geld gemaak uit die wyn industrie en al wat jy doen is droog maak – kom reg!

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