Wolfgat, the tiny Paternoster beach restaurant which was named Restaurant of the Year at the The World Restaurant Awards in 2019, has created a hamper for two that costs R800. Photo: Wolfgat
  • Some of SA's best restaurants are now offering deliveries.
  • The tasting menus on offer are much cheaper than what you would pay in a restaurant.
  • Acclaimed chef Luke Dale Roberts - owner of the multi-award winning Test Kitchen in Cape Town - is selling gourmet lockdown hampers for up to R5,000.
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The coronavirus pandemic is devastating restaurants around the world. And South Africa’s hard lockdown has forced restaurants into the takeaway and delivery space - even those whose owners might once have chortled at the very thought. 

The takeaway market is one traditionally reserved for food that travels well. But worldwide this is a trend that’s starting to shift. 

In the United States, a handful of Michelin star restaurants have started offering deliveries in order to stay afloat. Some restaurant suppliers are delivering delicacies, like caviar and live king crabs, direct to the public. And one of the fanciest restaurants in Seattle recently turned into a drive-through burger place

In South Africa, some of the country’s top chefs initially rejected the idea of doing home deliveries of high-end meals. 

Ian Manley, who represents some of the country’s most acclaimed chefs and their restaurants, told Business Insider South Africa that in many cases it doesn’t make financial sense to open up a high-end kitchen for deliveries only.  

Manley says many restaurants closed for health reasons even before lockdown - and some restaurateurs quickly turned to the idea of home delivery or takeaway packages in a bid to keep staff paid and the lights on. 

“However, as fast as chefs were coming up with ideas, it was clear that financially it was not viable to go the delivery or takeaway route. Successful restaurants work on very tight food cost scale of economies. And the numbers were simply not adding up to keep a chef brigade employed when home delivery or takeaway orders were only trickling in,” says Manley.  

This is a sentiment initially echoed by many top-tier chefs in the country - but with restaurants only likely to return to some semblance of normalcy under Level 1 of South Africa’s lockdown, some fine dining establishments are doing the previously unthinkable, and delivering their multi-course meals, once served on the finest crockery and beneath flickering candles, as takeaways. 

“If someone told me that I’d be selling my cheesecake - a dish that I’ve been making for well over a decade - to guests in their own home, as a takeout, I would’ve laughed!” acclaimed chef Peter Tempelhoff told Business Insider South Africa. “It’s something we never would have imagined prior to Covid-19.” 

Tempelhoff was the executive chef at Cape Town’s celebrated Greenhouse restaurant for 11 years, before he left to start a new fine dining venture in the Cape Town CBD, called Fyn - one of a handful of fine dining restaurants in the city that’s now offering home deliveries. 

Just a few days after South Africa shifted to Level 4, which allows for the preparation and delivery of hot food, Tempelhoff decided to reopen his kitchen. 

“It is definitely a challenge, and we weren’t even sure if there was going to be any money around,” says Tempelhoff.

But the response from patrons suggests that it was the right move to make.

“The feedback has been phenomenal,” says Tempelhoff. “It’s been so amazing to see the emails come through, and the Instagram posts, and how blown away people are that we’re doing this - that we’re staying innovative and keeping our staff employed.” 

Tempelhoff says they’re cognisant of the fact that many people don’t have the same amount of disposable income they may have had prior to the pandemic, and so they’ve adjusted the menu accordingly. 

Prior to Covid-19, Fyn’s Japanese-inspired tasting menu cost over R1 000. It’s now possible to order a Fyn Experience Menu - that includes delicacies like seared wagyu beef, foie gras, chicken and eel terrine, grilled springbok loin, and Tempelhoff’s famous “camembert” cheesecake - delivered to your home for about half the price. 

Fyn is also offering a family menu for about half the price of the full tasting menu, which features dishes like free range Boran beef Wellington, a green salad with herb vinaigrette, and a chocolate and hazelnut brownie that comes with raspberries and tarragon crème fraiche. 

Tempelhoff says the dishes have been carefully thought out to travel well. Many are designed to be eaten cool - but, those that don’t, come with a quick guide on completing the final step at home. They’ll even alert guests to their imminent arrival, so that they can get the oven on in time. 

Although the takeaway space is dominated by items like burgers and pizzas, Tempelhoff believes that people want to experience this type of high quality, healthy food at home, especially at a time like this.  

Fyn, like others in this sector, have initially opted not to partner with delivery apps, like Mr Delivery and Uber Eats.

Instead, they’ve employed their own waiters, who have vehicles to deliver the food. 

“It’s great when one of the waiters, who have served our loyal customers in the restaurant, arrives at the door all masked and gloved up, and they can still recognise each other and share that moment,” Tempelhoff says. 

Marthinus Ferreira, owner and chef of Johannesburg’s acclaimed DW eleven-13, has followed a similar approach.  

His restaurant, which consistently ranks among the best in the city for its high-end French-inspired cuisine, usually serves up multi-course and tasting menus that cost between R550 and R900 a person.  

Now, DW eleven-13 is offering an in-home version of their lavish dinners, suitable for four people at a time, all of which are being personally delivered by Ferreira or his general manager Mario Monteiro. 

“We’re a fine dining establishment, and takeaway food isn’t our niche,” says Ferreira. “So we’ve had to change our business model to offer affordable meals that still have the DW twist and flair.” 

For this reason, Ferreira decided to focus on high-end comfort-food style meals to share - which work out cheaper than any meal previously available at the restaurant. 

“At the moment, we’re delivering a roast wagyu beef Wellington, a seafood style paella, and roast chicken for mains,” says Ferreira. “These all come with sides like roasted potatoes, candied carrots, beets, onions, beans, and lots of gravy. In due course, I’ll be adding on items like roast lamb and pork.” 

Starters include items like pulled lamb shoulder, cauliflower velouté, and fried polenta, while dessert options include two types of tart, or a large tub of gelato. 

Mains work out at approximately R150 a person, and deserts just R50 a person - a price point that Ferreira hopes will expose people, who may otherwise have been unable to visit the restaurant, to his cooking style and flavour profiles. 

Award-winning restaurant WolfGat has also started offering a home delivery service. The tiny Paternoster beach restaurant scooped The World Restaurant Awards’ title of Best Restaurant in the World in 2019, and is now taking their concept of foraged and hyper-local cuisine into homes in Paternoster and surrounding villages. 

The restaurant has created an interactive hamper for two that costs R800. It consists of sourdough bread and homemade butter, seasonal snacks of piekelvis, snoek tartlet, stuffed soutslaai leaves, and a mussel soup starter. The main course is Verlorenvlei lamb, mushroom and kelp. 

The dish is delivered cold, and designed for the last step to be finished off at home.

Wolfgat is also famous for its views over the Paternoster Bay, and chef Kobus van der Merwe has attempted to transfer some of this into the hamper - it includes a map of the Strandveld, an acrylic painting of the view created by Van der Merwe, and a Wolfgat winter playlist to listen to while dining. 

Acclaimed chef Luke Dale Roberts has also made a move into the home-meal space.

The owner of the multi-award winning Test Kitchen has decided to steer clear of the hot food delivery market, and instead, like Wolfgat, will be delivering gourmet hampers that tap into the spirit and flavours of his various restaurants.

Dale Roberts’ three “gourmet lockdown hampers” cost R1,800, R3,000, and R5,000 respectively, excluding a R100 delivery fee.

Each is designed to be a weekly basket of luxury goods, with the various tiers including increasingly exclusive items. The premium hamper contains delicacies like beetroot tarts, goat cheese mousse, crayfish and yuzu salad, duck and pork belly country pate, and slow smoked ocean trout fillet.

It also includes four Dale Roberts’ chocolate fondants, tiramisu, and a vanilla mascarpone. The chef is taking orders directly on his website, with the first shipment of hampers due to go out on Saturday.

Not going to make millions 

For both Tempelhoff and Ferreira, the idea behind the deliveries is less about making profits, and more to keep the brands front of mind - and to find ways to support their staff and other food-related charities. 

“It’s not going to make me millions, but it does keep my doors open; it does remind people that I’m here, and I’m taking care of my staff and the community,” says Ferreira.  

Tempelhoff, who also plans to open a dark kitchen selling more traditional takeout-style meals, says he’ll be happy if Fyn breaks even over this period.  

“It’s not easy - it’s basically like starting a new business all over again,” he says. “So at this stage, if we break even for four months, and can pay all the staff who are here - and potentially bring some more in - and pay for the food that we’re ordering, then we’re happy.” 

Both chefs say the support thus far has been promising - but orders will need to grow if the ventures are to be a success.  

Fyn’s opening day saw 32 meals ordered. The next day they sold 50 meals.

DW eleven-13’s daily orders are starting to tick up into the double figures - and the restaurant has already received more than 30 orders for Mother’s Day. 

“Food is all about opening a dialogue,” says Ferreira. “And now with us all being under lockdown, being able to deliver these meals to the customers, it enables families to sit around a table and eat together, which is a part of family life that many people are forgetting about.”

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