South Africa's Restaurant Mosaic Closes, Wines from Grand Award–Winning Cellar to Be Sold

Wines from the coveted collection will be available for purchase, initially to local buyers, after the final day of service—but this won’t be the last of Restaurant Mosaic. Plus, fried chicken favorite Yardbird expands to Washington, D.C., and Danny Meyer ends Untitled’s run at New York’s Whitney Museum

South Africa's Restaurant Mosaic Closes, Wines from Grand Award–Winning Cellar to Be Sold
Though it's bittersweet to see this chapter of Restaurant Mosaic come to a close, chef Chantel Dartnall says that after 15 years, she's content with the destination's accomplishments, including Wine Spectator's Grand Award. (Marsel Roothman)
Mar 25, 2021

Restaurant Mosaic, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner at the Orient Hotel outside of Pretoria, South Africa, will have its last day of service on March 26. Chef Chantel Dartnall has been planning the closure since before the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to give other chefs a chance in the spotlight she’s enjoyed for so long. “Having been in South Africa for the last 15 years, we’ve pretty much reached all of the goals that we’ve set out to achieve locally,” Dartnall said. “So from a restaurant’s growth point of view, there’s not much further that we could go.”

Starting March 29, the restaurant will begin selling some of its acclaimed wine collection, which comprises 85,000 bottles and 5,500 labels. Facilitated by South African fine wine importer Great Domaines, the sale will take place over a period of at least three years, with themed portions of the cellar made available in intervals. “The last thing we want to do at the moment is to flood the market with this excessive amount of wine,” Dartnall said. “A lot of winemakers, especially now after the COVID period, are trying to reestablish their trade and trying to get their newer vintages out to restaurants and hotels. So we’re very sensitive about how we’re going to proceed.”

While wines may become available for international purchase in the future, the sale will first be limited to domestic buyers, through Restaurant Mosaic’s website. “It’s important that these vinous jewels are initially made available to the South African wine-loving public,” said Great Domaines general manager Derek Kilpin, adding that distribution outside of South African borders can get complicated.

The first offer is still in the works but will focus on Champagne, one of the wine program’s many regional strengths. Other highlights from the treasure trove of a cellar include Domaine de la Romanée-Conti vintages spanning three decades, 25 vintages of Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance and aged Bordeaux from top producers like Château Lafite Rothschild and Château d’Yquem. A selection of rare and exclusive bottles will be sold separately through South African auction houses Strauss & Co. and Stephan Welz & Co.

Cellar master (and Dartnall’s father) Cobus du Plessis will help coordinate the sales, along with sommelier Moses Magwaza, who joined the team before the restaurant opened. For Dartnall, saying goodbye to longtime partners like Magwaza makes the closure bittersweet. “We’ve built such a wonderful network of regular guests, good friends, phenomenal suppliers,” she said. “Moses was one of those who started with us literally 20 years ago, and he’s grown with us every step of the way.”

This isn’t the end of Restaurant Mosaic, however. Dartnall and her core team are planning for a second iteration of the restaurant, this time in France. “We’re all a little bit of Francophiles,” she said. The timeline and exact location haven’t been determined yet, 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 taking a sabbatical to spend time with family, Dartnall will start searching for the right château to house her new venture. “We’re going to stay in the villages to get the true feel of which village suits us perfectly, which château is best-suited to house both the wine and the painting collection.”

She’s also furthering the restaurant’s legacy through a series of recipes, videos and stories that will initially be posted online, and then possibly become a physical cookbook. “With every single dish that we’ve created, there’s been a story written,” Dartnall said. “It’s a very personal approach to cooking.”—Julie Harans

Yardbird Flies to Washington, D.C.

 Rendering of dining room with view of open kitchen at Yardbird in Washington, D.C.
Jewel tones and wood carvings that imitate cabinetry lend a homey feel at Yardbird's new D.C. outpost. (Courtesy of Rockwell Group)

After making its way to Dallas this past September, 50 Eggs Hospitality’s Yardbird is about to land in Washington, D.C., just south of Mount Vernon Square. Opening April 1, this location is 50 Eggs’ first endeavor in the mid-Atlantic region and joins five sister restaurants, including the Award of Excellence–winning Yardbird in Las Vegas. “I have always loved D.C., particularly the food scene,” 50 Eggs founder and CEO John Kunkel told Wine Spectator via email. The location has been in the works for three years and was delayed in early 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s incredible to see it finally come to life.”

Overseen by beverage director Daniel Grajewski and assistant wine director Dave Gerardu, Yardbird’s 120-label wine list offers substantial Champagne, Prosecco, Burgundy and California Cabernet selections, alongside options from Bordeaux, the Rhône, Rioja, Tuscany, Piedmont and farther abroad. “[The] overall wine styles are high in acid, crisp and refreshing, which pair best with our style of cuisine,” Grajewski said. In addition to several rosés, the list is divided equally between sparkling, white and red options. Grajewski plans to maintain this ratio while growing the list to 200 selections in the future.

Like its sister locations, the restaurant focuses on Southern American cuisine. There will be hallmark Yardbird items like fried chicken and a BLT with fried green tomato, as well as several D.C.-exclusive dishes from executive chef Chris Watson. These include watermelon-and-tomato salad, Wagyu beef carpaccio and crispy local softshell crabs.

Working with the Rockwell Group, Kunkel’s team designed Yardbird D.C. with elements of a Southern home. There are two private-dining spaces and an oval-shaped bar, with a dining room featuring views into the open kitchen. “I feel it’s our best design yet,” Kunkel said. “The atmosphere is going to be stunning, and just as elevated yet approachable as the food and wine.” Outdoor dining is also available, as are to-go packages like “Fried Chicken for the Family.” This won’t be the last stop for Yardbird; Kunkel said his team is eyeing new locations throughout the U.S. and beyond.—Collin Dreizen

Union Square Hospitality Group’s Museum Restaurant Pivots to Casual Café

 Former head sommelier of Untitled Eduardo Porto Carreiro presents a wine to two guests
After five years, Untitled ends its run at the Whitney Museum. (Evan Sung)

Untitled, a former Restaurant Award winner on the ground floor of New York’s Whitney Museum, has closed. Run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), Untitled opened when the Whitney moved to the Meatpacking District in 2015. The restaurant held an Award of Excellence from 2016 to 2018 before scaling back the wine list in 2019. The program was managed by then–wine director Michael Engelmann, who more recently oversaw the wine list at the Tavern by WS. Led by chef Suzanne Cupps, Untitled’s menu offered dishes like grilled heritage pork with polenta and pickled peppers, Waldorf salad with beef and pasta with mushroom and sausage.

Untitled will be temporarily replaced by a casual all-day café called Whitney Café, which will be operated by the event-planning arm of USHG, Union Square Events. Next steps for the space haven’t been announced. Guests can expect ready-to-go meals and snacks like a smoked turkey club sandwich, a farmers’ market bento box and hummus with za’atar and pita chips, plus a small selection of wines by the glass. USHG owns numerous Restaurant Award winners, including historic Best of Award of Excellence winner Union Square Cafe and Grand Award winner the Modern.—Taylor McBride

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