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Sour grapes

"Fashion may be a catfight, but if you really want to whip up a froth, you've got to try foodies," says Health24 editor, Heather Parker.

by: Heather Parker | 11 May 2007

I'm here to talk about sour grapes.

What's prompted the hissing and spitting this time, is the announcement that a South African restaurant has again made it into the UK Restaurant magazine's annual World's 50 Best Restaurant awards. The industry luuurves awards, and to my knowledge this is the world's most prestigious independent accolade.

How the award works is this: the world is broken down into 22 regions (SA is in the Southern African and Indian Ocean Islands region; the regional chairwoman is publisher and gourmand Lannice Snyman); each region has a defined number of well-travelled judges; and each judge must nominate five restaurants, two of which may come from their own region. The number of nominations a restaurant gets defines its ranking.

The SA restaurant that got the nod – for the fourth time – is The Tasting Room Le Quartier Français, in Franschhoek. The queen of that kitchen is Margot Janse, who is beautiful inside and out. Nobody would challenge her creativity or technical excellence – oh, except for the judges of last year’s local Eat Out awards, who didn’t think she was quite good enough for SA's Top 10 list, but that's another, rather stale, piece of gossip.

Though they didn't make the Top 50, four other SA restaurants were noted: with Le Quartier, they got the most votes in Africa and the Middle East region. They are Bosman's (at Grande Roche in Paarl); Jardine's and Aubergine in Cape Town; and Reuben's, in Franschhoek.

Johannesburg chefs were reportedly furious. It's a conspiracy, one implied in The Weekender newspaper: he'd never heard of "the judging panel" coming to Gauteng. The Weekender agreed that "there has long been a suspicion that when this type of award comes up, restaurants outside Western Cape are largely ignored."

Because I've been a judge for two years, I can set that to rest: there's no unified "judging panel". We don't get together to discuss our votes. Even if we wanted to, it's inconvenient: some of us live in Gauteng. Yes, we do.

However give those five restaurants a whirl, if you haven't already. They're all truly fantastic. And they don't serve sour grapes.

If you're in Spain, go to El Bulli; in Britain, the Fat Duck, and in Paris, Pierre Gagnaire... those are, in order, the top three in the world.

P.S. If you have your own list of top five restaurants add them to our comment box and see if the rest of the country can compete with the Western Cape.

Heather Parker is the editor of Health24 and Bride magazine. She is one of SA's most respected journalists, and a serious foodie to boot.

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