Thursday 9 December 2010

A French Toast to Bree Street

Two confessions:
What follows is a press release, but as I wrote it I feel I can post it as is. I also derive great satisfaction from doing so, because it is so not done. I wrote it for friends. My first press release ever. A lot harder than I thought, I think I prefer the lazy ramblings of my own memories, imagination and issues.
Secondly, I adore John Harrison, one of the partners in this venture. When I started out in this industry, he was kind to me. A girl doesn't forget a thing like that.

Bree Street is fast becoming a major culinary hub and the latest addition is one more reason to celebrate. French Toast wine and tapas bar is a typically French wine bar, specializing in both local and international wines and offering a wide variety of generously sized tapas to accompany their impressive wine list. The city now boasts its own sophisticated 'local - a place where you can meet after work for a quick drink, have informal meetings, enjoy an evening out with friends, or simply drop by after a movie or a quiet night in for a glass of French Chablis, South African port and a dessert.

This elegant wine bar is situated in what was once an old city warehouse and has been transformed into a sophisticated venue reminiscent of Paris in the 1950s. Sumptuously comfortable chairs, private leather banquettes, luxurious sofas, oversized light fittings, exposed brick walls, industrial beams and an incredibly beautiful bar counter which begs to be lounged at all create an atmosphere of easyelegance.French Toast is the culmination of partners John Harrison and Karin Visser’s appreciation for fine wine, great food and l’art de vivre as typified by Mediterranean lifestyle. Previously a stockbroker and the MD of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, John is a practical dreamer, who had the vision and the drive to turn a barren space into a sophisticated venue for those who share his love for wine and food. Karin, a qualified biokineticist with a passion for wine, left her medical career to team up with John to create this wine bar that provides the city with a pleasant lunch spot or a good night out. French Toast caters for all manner of pockets from reasonable to the blow-the-budget crowd. Patrons can indulge in a glass or two of old favourites or taste and enjoy a few new ones from an impressive selection of more than 80 wines by the glass of both local and international origins.

The charmingly professional Gidi Caetano – ex-Showroom, and Salt – is the General Manager of French Toast and brings with her 14 years of hospitality industry experience, expert knowledge of cuisine and an excellent wine palate. John, Karin and Gidi are a strong presence in the restaurant, their menu and wine recommendations are always spot on, and you would do well to try out something new or special as recommended by them.

There are few places that offer so many fine imported and local wines by the glass, and French Toast can do this because of their Le Verre de Vin wine preservation system, which reseals wines by removing oxygen from the bottle. This enables you to indulge in that much longed-for glass of Prosecco, or to enjoy a glass of excellent Italian Pinot Grigio, a German Riesling or that glass of beautifully subtle French Chablis. Their South African selection of wines is equally impressive, allowing wine lovers to flirt between several estates and vintages.

Before heading up the kitchen at French Toast, Head chef Jannie Melis, co-owned Two Dogs restaurant in East London, and has gained valuable experience working for high profile brands Constantia Uitsig and Bushman’s Kloof in the Western Cape. He is enjoying the challenge of preparing an ever-changing selection of Mediterranean-style tapas. Reasonably priced and generously portioned these tapas can be enjoyed alone or shared among dining companions. Patatas bravas - perfectly fried Spanish-style potatoes with a homemade spiced tomato sauce - accompanied by a delicious bowl of spiced sautéed calamari, served with lemon is particularly noteworthy.

The albondigas - cumin and coriander spiced meatballs, slow cooked in tomato sauce are delicious as is the warm chevre salad. The cheese platters, as is the French Toast way, offer an interesting and impressive selection of cheeses served with locally made fruit preserve. In addition to the wonderful selection of charcuterie (Italian montanara salami, Italian parma ham, Spanish chorizo and jamón serrano) served with olives and caper berries, the French Toast menu also offers a wide variety of vegetarian options.

The deserts are magnificent, and while by no means tiny, are small enough that one could order several to share. Be sure to try the churros con chocolate (cinnamon dusted doughnut twirls-to-be-dipped-into-chocolate) that the Spaniards enjoy for breakfast or indulge in the signature desert – French toast drizzled in honey and served with almond ice-cream. For something a little lighter, the grappa pannacotta served with seasonal berries is pure genius.

French Toast is where you will feel compelled to celebrate. You can do so with some great tapas and either bottle of French Champagne, a glass or two of South African Méthode Cape Classique, a mean mojito or classic cosmopolitan, some wine, a very decent cup of coffee and then you can remind yourself that life is too short to drink poorly.

French Toast Wine and Tapas Bar is located on 199 Bree Street, Cape Town.

Telephone 021 422 3839


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