Mosaic Restaurant, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner at the Orient Hotel outside Pretoria, South Africa, will have its last day of service on March 26th. Chef Chantel Dartnall has been planning the shutdown ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to give other chefs a chance in the spotlight that it has enjoyed for so long. “After being in South Africa for the past 15 years, we’ve pretty much achieved all of the goals we set ourselves on the ground,” said Dartnall. “So from the perspective of a restaurant’s growth, we can’t go much further.”
Starting March 29, the restaurant will sell part of its prestigious wine collection, which includes 85,000 bottles and 5,500 labels. The sale will be carried out by the South African fine wine importer Great Domaines over a period of at least three years, with thematic parts of the cellar being made available at regular intervals. “The last thing we want to do right now is flood the market with this excessive amount of wine,” said Dartnall. “Many winemakers, especially now after the COVID period, are trying to restore their trade and bring their newer vintages into restaurants and hotels. So we are very sensitive to how we will proceed. “
While wines may be available for international purchase in the future, sales through Restaurant Mosaic’s website will initially be restricted to domestic buyers. “It is important that these vinous gems are made available to the wine-loving public in South Africa first,” said Derek Kilpin, general manager of Great Domaines, adding that distribution outside of South Africa’s borders can be complicated.
The first offering is still in the works, but will focus on champagne, one of the many regional strengths of the wine program. Further highlights from the treasure trove of a cellar are the three decades old Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 25 vintages from Klein Constantias Vin de Constance and matured Bordeaux from top producers such as Château Lafite Rothschild and Château d’Yquem. A selection of rare and exclusive bottles is sold separately through the South African auction houses Strauss & Co. and Stephan Welz & Co.
Cellar master (and Dartnall’s father) Cobus du Plessis will help coordinate sales along with sommelier Moses Magwaza, who joined the team before the restaurant opened. For Dartnall, saying goodbye to long-term partners like Magwaza makes the end bittersweet. “We have built a wonderful network of regulars, good friends and phenomenal suppliers,” she said. “Moses was one of those who started with us literally 20 years ago, and he has grown with us every step of the way.”
However, this is not the end of Restaurant Mosaic. Dartnall and her core team are planning a second iteration of the restaurant, this time in France. “We’re all a bit Francophiles,” she said. The schedule and exact location have not yet been set, but some wines from the Grand Award-winning cellar will eventually be relocated to the new property, as will the extensive collection of South African Impressionist art.
After a sabbatical year to spend with family, Dartnall will be looking for the right lock to house their new business. “We will stay in the villages to get a feel for which village suits us perfectly and which castle is best suited to house both the wine and the painting collection.”
She also promotes the restaurant’s heritage through a series of recipes, videos and stories that are first published online and then potentially become a physical cookbook. “A story was written with every single dish we created,” said Dartnall. “It’s a very personal approach to cooking.” – Julie Harans
Yardbird flies to Washington, DC
After 50 Eggs Hospitalitys Yardbird traveled to Dallas last September, it lands in Washington, DC, south of Mount Vernon Square. This location opened on April 1st and is the first of 50 eggs in the mid-Atlantic. It is a member of five sister restaurants, including the award-winning Yardbird in Las Vegas. “I’ve always loved DC, especially the food scene,” 50 Eggs founder and CEO John Kunkel told Wine Spectator via email. The site has been in operation for three years and was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. “It’s amazing to see it finally come to life.”
Yardbird’s 120-label wine list is overseen by Beverage Director Daniel Grajewski and Deputy Wine Director Dave Gerardu and offers, in addition to options from Bordeaux, the Rhône, Rioja, Tuscany, Piedmont and other countries, an extensive selection of champagne, prosecco, Burgundy and California Cabernets. “[The] Overall, the wine styles are rich in acidity, crisp and refreshing, which goes best with our cuisine, ”said Grajewski. In addition to several roses, the list is divided equally into sparkling, white, and red options. Grajewski plans to keep this ratio and expand the list to 200 selections in the future.
Like its sister locations, the restaurant focuses on South American cuisine. Typical Yardbird items such as roasted chicken and a BLT with roasted green tomatoes, as well as several DC-exclusive dishes by Chef Chris Watson are on offer. These include watermelon and tomato salad, beef Wagyu carpaccio, and crispy local softshell crabs.
In collaboration with the Rockwell Group, Kunkels team designed Yardbird DC with elements of a southern house. There are two private dining areas and an oval bar with a dining room overlooking the open kitchen. “I think it’s our best design yet,” said Kunkel. “The atmosphere will be breathtaking and just as lofty and yet accessible as the food and wine.” Outdoor dining is available, as are take-away packages such as Fried Chicken for the Family. This won’t be the last stop for Yardbird. Kunkel said his team has new locations in mind in the US and beyond. – Collin Dreizen
The Union Square Hospitality Group’s museum restaurant is switching to the Casual Café
Untitled, a former restaurant award winner on the ground floor of New York’s Whitney Museum, has closed. Untitled is run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) and opened in 2015 when the Whitney moved to the Meatpacking District. The restaurant received an Award of Excellence from 2016 to 2018 before the wine list was scaled back in 2019. The program was administered by the then wine director Michael Engelmann, who recently oversaw the wine list in the WS tavern. Under the direction of Chef Suzanne Cupps, the Untitled menu featured dishes such as grilled traditional pork with polenta and pickled peppers, Waldorf salad with beef and pasta with mushrooms and sausage.
Untitled is being temporarily replaced with an all-day coffee shop called Whitney Café, operated by USHG’s event planning division, Union Square Events. The next steps for the room have not been announced. Guests can expect ready-made meals and snacks such as a smoked turkey club sandwich, a bento box for the farmer’s market, and hummus with za’atar and pita chips, as well as a small selection of wines by the glass. USHG owns numerous restaurant award winners, including the historic Best of Award of Excellence winner, Union Square Cafe, and the Grand Award, the Modern.-Taylor McBride
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