Restaurant Review: Wijnhuis

,Wijnhuis Restaurant & Wine Shop, Andringa Street, Stellenbosch, 021,887 5844

,Wijnhuis Restaurant and Wineshop

Question 1: at which restaurant in Stellenbosch has this reviewer been served the starter after the main course, and was then made to behold the sad spectacle of the waiter desperately trying to figure out how to place both plates in front of him at the same time? Question 2: at which restaurant in Stellenbosch has this reviewer been served expertly seared and delicately seasoned tuna on one day, only to be presented on the next day with something called line fish, but which consisted of a mushy top and rubbery bottom, giving it the appearance and texture (and possibly even taste) of a dirty old tennis shoe systematically mauled by a Rottweiler? The answer to these questions is the Wijnhuis.

The exasperating thing about the Wijnhuis is that one really wants to like it. But they just don’t let you. One wants to like it because of the setting. The wood interiors and the glass alcoves with pseudo-funky displays of local wines are still fine after all these years (if one hangs on to these interiors long enough, like the pictures at Decameron, they transcend fashion). It is also situated in the historic part of town, ideally positioned to capture and retain the elusive niche market of the reliable and smart-but-not-too-smart restaurant in Stellenbosch. One also wants to like it because it really lives up to its name in the wine department: the wine list is informative and well-priced; the wine shop has one of the best selections in town, again at fair prices, and the bar area is a little oasis of calm – serving just the right tonic after a hard day’s work.

However, the chronic inconsistency in the kitchen (do they really have a chef, or just someone who checks that the stuff looks more or less presentable as it leaves the production line?) and the variable standard of the waiters, who at times make Manuel in Fawlty Towers look like a trained professional, are simply infuriating. One can be cynical and say that Wijnhuis does not really have to be consistent, because it apparently is popular with some tourists who are content to graze on overpriced salads, pedestrian pastas and indifferently prepared indigenous fauna, and then stomp off to the next watering hole, never to be seen again. But in a world which is increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of long-term vision rather than short-term gain, now might be a good time to reconsider this particular business model.

In short, it would be better for all of us if the Wijnhuis abandoned the Forrest Gump doctrine. Life may be a box of chocolates, but in a restaurant you want to know what you are going to get. In Wijnhuis you never know what you are going to get. Not even the chocolates.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, JP Bruwer

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