Off the Menu – deli meets wine bar meets food emporium

That’s the idea behind our new Off the Menu concept store, a foodie’s delight that blends deli, wine bar and food emporium – a place for the avid home cook to hunt down hard-to-find authentic ingredients and specialist kitchen tools, and where the gourmet who wants a restaurant experience at home without cooking themselves can obtain artisan products like cheese, charcuterie, olives, breads, organic vegetables, herbs and fruit, and a daily-changing menu of chef-prepared meals.

In between browsing the selection of fresh local produce, artisan baked goods and cookbooks ranging from the culinary classics to celebrity chefs to contemporary, radical and regional cuisines, customers can set themselves down at the bar counter or a table to indulge in a selection of small plates from the kitchen and a glass from the fine wine tasting menu or a shot of expertly-prepared coffee.

They might then contemplate the possibilities for that night’s meal – Italian, French, Spanish, South-East Asian, Japanese, a Wagyu steak or locally-hunted venison – and the ingredients, the herbs, spices, condiments, are all at hand.

We’ll be serving up small plates of indulgent treats – oysters, steak tartare done traditionally with our own chef’s twist, French-style chicken liver parfait, and boards laden with the best of local artisan cheeses, charcuterie, smoked salmon with interesting accompaniments.

The wine list, with wines available for on-site tasting and home purchase, is selected from the best of South African small producers that aren’t available in larger local retail outlets, with a smattering of some of our favourite European producers.

We envisage Off the Menu as a place where customers will become friends, as they meet fellow enthusiasts and get expert advice from staff who know their way around a restaurant kitchen and the cuisines of the world. Customers have a concierge to guide them through the store; they’ll meet the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer, be introduced to their products with intimate knowledge of origin.

We’ve made the space small, intimate, warm and elegant, and big-hearted.

Luxury foodie hampers for special people, elegant and bespoke corporate gifts, chef-at-home services for discerning clients and intimate occasions – just ask and Off the Menu will live up to its name and oblige.

Off the Menu is inspired by my travels around the world and the exceptional stores that I’ve loved finding and exploring, places that satisfy chefs and home cooks alike with fresh local produce and deli products, wines from small local producers, imported luxury goods and hard-to-find authentic ingredients for global cuisines. Where you will find simpatico staff and fellow customers who understand the foodie’s quest for life’s finer things that just can’t be found on a supermarket shelf.

So Off the Menu is the absolute antithesis of a supermarket, not even a gourmet high-end supermarket – it’s small, personal, specialist, stylish. It certainly loves the finer things in life, but it’s not snobbish about it.

Our first store is ready to open in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in February 2021. PE is a smallish coastal city of around 1.5 million people, with a small but enthusiastic community of lovers of fine food and wine, so a great place to test our concept. We reckon this is a good place to start, and then we plan to open Off the Menu emporiums in the coastal resort towns of St Francis Bay and Plettenberg Bay.

After that, the world is our (freshly-shucked) oyster.