Home > Dining Out, Food, Wine > DeCameron in Stellenbosch Disappoints

DeCameron in Stellenbosch Disappoints

First published in Bolander Lifestyle & Property, January 12, 2011

The iconic DeCameron re-opened in Stellenbosch last year, after a four year absence.

I had the pleasure of attending a lunchtime wine event there, about which I wrote in the September 1 edition of Bolander in my recipe column (Melanzane Parmigiano). The food was fabulous, the service stellar, and the ambience beguiling. Patron Mario Lada paid personal attention to the table so it would be logical to conclude that may have influenced overall service levels.

A couple of weeks later my wife Eppie and younger daughter Alex had dinner at DeCameron while I attended the Dorp Street Champagne Festival. They were mightily impressed by the experience. The bill for the two of them was R450 including gratuity.

When it came to selecting a restaurant for Alex’s graduation lunch on December 8, her natural choice, with which I concurred, was DeCameron.

We were a party of four, and took our own wine. While DeCameron does have a substantial wine list, the pricing of which is quite reasonable, I wanted to take along some specific wines that I knew they did not serve. DeCameron is perfectly happy with this, and asks only R30 per bottle corkage. The stemware was reasonable, as was the wine service, and champagne flutes were produced for the bottle of bubbly we drank to toast Alex’s graduation.

Our starter was a shared mushroom and mozzarella cheese bake which although not unpleasant, was unremarkable.

I am particularly fond of calzone, which I ordered, and the other mains were a simple margherita pizza, a Fettuccine al Pesce (the linguine was finished!) and a Fettuccine Alfredo, and that’s where it fell apart.

My calzone had a soggy crust which was burned – somebody wasn’t keeping an eye on it in the oven – and the filling was marked not only by its blandness and paucity, but also by rubbery, oily mozzarella cheese.

The margherita – which was ordered because, as my lunch guest (a chef) said “It’s really hard to bugger it up” – was hardly better. The thin crust was bready rather than thin, and the topping was overly dry and bland.

Paradoxically both pasta dishes were very good, attested to by the guests who ordered them, and I also tasted both. Well put together, flavourful, pasta done al dente and respectable portions.

The desserts ordered were a homemade Cassata (very good), two Tiramisu (also very good) and a crème caramel which was execrable. Predictably of course, my chef guest had ordered this dessert!

It had been badly overcooked, was granular and course textured. I immediately sent it back, and the waitron did return from the kitchen with an apology from the chef, acknowledging that it had been overcooked. All very well, but it should never have left the kitchen in the first place,  because anybody with half a brain cell could SEE that it was overcooked! It was removed from the bill, and replaced with a Dom Pedro, which my chef guest said, “even they must be able to get this right!” which fortunately they did.

The bill for our contradictory experience was R770 including gratuity.

What puzzles me most, is how, out of the same kitchen, to a single table on the same day one can experience such a dramatic difference in the quality of food served. The restaurant was hardly busy either. I’d estimate that in the few hours we were there, the restaurant was never more the half full.

After an experience such as this, it is doubtful that I’ll be patronising DeCameron anytime soon.

The meal was paid for in full, DeCameron had no idea that I am a journalist, or that I would be writing a review of the restaurant.

Location: DeCameron Restaurant, 50 Plein Street, Stellenbosch.

Food style: Traditional Italian cuisine.

Opening hours: 12pm to 9.30pm Monday to Saturday.

Corkage: R30 per bottle.

Telephone: (021)883 3331

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Categories: Dining Out, Food, Wine
  1. January 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Hi Norman, sadly I have had two average to poor experience at DeCameron in the last while. I say sadly, as I have many fond memories of epic meals at the restaurant with friends and family. SB

  2. Lin
    April 8, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    This is very bad news. I have booked to have my 21st dinner there for 40 people, and it’s coming up in 3 weeks. I read some other bad reviews/comments on the internet as well. Am I making a big mistake?

  3. April 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    In my view, Lin, you probably are making a mistake. If you feel you do want to proceed, I’d talk with Mario Lada personally, and extract an undertaking from him that if your experience is bad, that you do not pay the bill. You’ll soon see whether he has the confidence in what he’s doing, to accept the challenge. If he prevaricates, hesitates or makes any sort of fuss, pull the booking and go somewhere else. Your 21st is to important an occasion to take a chance.

  4. Porchia Torres
    September 7, 2011 at 9:55 am

    This is quite disappointing. I habe been living in Johannesburg for almost 4 years and am a homegrown Stellenboschse- noointjie. De Cameron has always been a Stellenbosch landmark, an epic place where memories could be built…. I googled De Cameron’s details now to book a family re-union dinner- I guess I’ll be changing venues…..

    • September 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

      Hi Porchia,
      Risking a family reunion doesn’t make sense I agree, but having said that I last ate there in December of last year, so they may well improved by now. Did Google turn up any other reviews?

  5. Andrew
    September 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I have had two poor experiences there in recent months.

    The first, the service was lackluster and quite frankly pathetic.

    The second time i thought it might redeem itself and I took my in-laws there. I also took my own wine – however the stem ware was disappointing.

    The service hadn’t improved much, while the majority of the food was good – two of the party ordered lasagna which was over cooked and very bitter, as if a large amount of vinegar had been added.

    One of the lasagnas was deducted from the bill (it seems as if this is becoming a regular practice), but not both.

    Highly disappointing.

  6. JoJo
    December 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I am going to risk it and take an old colleaugue out for dinner there this Thursday. i will let you all know if it has improved!!

  7. Hannelie
    February 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Hi. My husband and I are loyal De Cameron guessts for many, many years allready! Last year, about August/September, my husband complained about his Pizza. It was soggy and very oily!!! We were told nothing changed, still the same chef. I also complained a few times obout the fact that they don’t have Cafe’Latte Mugs. It’s served in milkshake glasses and becomes too hot too handle! We stayed away for a few months!
    I am happy to say that when we returned early January (on my Birthday) and afterwards, things were back as they use to be earlier! My husband enjoys their Pizza again and they finally have Cafe’Latte Mugs!
    We are planning to go there for Valentine’s dinner. One of the best!

    • February 6, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Hannelie,
      It is heartening to hear that DeCameron has finally decided to do something about it’s shoddy service, and thank you so much for making teh post here, to inform other diners of the improvement! Long may it continue!

      • Tertius
        July 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm

        We are regular patrons of Decameron. We have ordered a variety of dishes from them. Not once have we been disappointed by the food or the service. The style of pizzas are also a particular Italian (probably from the South, I would guess) style. Some people do not like it. I love it 🙂 If you like thin crusted pizzas in Stellenbosch, I can highly recommend Sgt Pepper’s Restaurant. Just make sure you can sit out on the stoep…

  8. April 16, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    The reviews above are mixed yet I must agree with the food critic/journalist who after a 4 year renovating period at Decameron they reopened and my partner and I were greatly disappointed. We stayed away for about a year and recently in March 2013 we decided to give it another go. We live 10 minutes drive from the restaurant. On this visit, the kitchen had restored our confidence. My favorite is the chicken parmigiana which is now perfectly prepared, tender, wonderful mozzarella, perfectly melted and the sauce is more than palatable. Being the closest italian restaurant to us, we have visited often (at least 4 times a month) and have even ordered for take away. Good on ya, Decameron, you should do very well. Just keep it up.

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