As the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards were held early in November, it was the first time that we did not receive the annual Eat Out magazine at the gala dinner. It was however sent by post, a surprise gift, last week. A real surprise was that Johannesburg (24%) has almost as many Top 500 restaurants as Cape Town (26%) out of the total of 500.
New Media Publishing changed a number of aspects of its judging of the Top 10 Restaurant Awards this year, and this included their magazine as well. Instead of sending a number of freelance evaluators out to find the best restaurants country-wide, and to write a short summary review about them, they sent their ‘editorial panel‘ of 50 persons a spreadsheet of their restaurant database, requesting them to rate the restaurants they had eaten at in the last six months. A number of aspects of the restaurants were evaluated, and the scores were added up, from which the top scoring 500 restaurants were selected. The restaurant summaries in the magazine are based on a summary each restaurant that applied to be on the Top 500 restaurant list had supplied!
Cape Town has 132 ‘top‘ restaurants on the list, which oddly includes Cattle Baron (a steak restaurant chain), Col’Cacchio (a pizza chain), Dias Tavern (!), Hudson’s Burger Joint (a mini hamburger chain), Hussar Grill (a steak house chain), Jason (a bakery), My Basaar (a coffee shop), Reuben’s One & Only (!), Sababa Kitchen & Deli (predominantly take-away, with only a few chairs at the Bree Street branch), and taschas (coffee shop chain), all in the company of Eat Out Top 10 restaurants The Greenhouse and The Test Kitchen. It is nice to see the relatively new Cheyne’s included in the list, with very few other newly opened restaurants, given that a number only opened after the mid-winter rating! A surprise omission is Kloof Street House!
The Johannesburg Top 500 Restaurant list of 124 restaurants will have been chosen by a small proportion of the panel, as the majority of panelists were from Cape Town and the Winelands, and not all of them are regular visitors to Johannesburg. Not knowing the restaurants there at all, one is surprised that Vovo Telo (a chain of coffee shops), two taschas (a chain of coffee shops), and a Col’Cacchio (a pizza chain) were on the list, in the same company as Eat Out Top 10 five hundred and previous Top 10 DW Eleven-13. Gourmet Capital Stellenbosch has 25 Top 500 restaurants, surprisingly listing Casparus, which is transforming itself into a Sgt Pepper! It has the best conversion rate of Top 500 to Top 10 restaurants, with Overture, Rust en Vrede, and Jordan Restaurant on the list of Top 10 restaurants. Franschhoek only has 12 Top 500 restaurants, which includes Reuben’s(!) but shockingly excludes the Restaurant at Grande Provence!
The oddest part of the Eat Out Top 500 Restaurant magazine is its front cover, featuring an unrecognisable Chef Luke Dale-Roberts of the Test Kitchen wearing a tuxedo, with a massive fish over his shoulder, his grumpy look being the only familiar part about him.
The value of the magazine lies not only in the contact details of the 500 restaurants (which are easily obtainable from the Eat Out site or by Googling) but more so in reading the judges’ feedback about each of the Eat Out Top 10 restaurants, as well as the restaurants that made 11 – 20th place on the shortlist.
One unforgivable typo is that which pertains to Michael copy-and-paste Olivier, who bizarrely won the ‘Lannice Snyman ifetime (sic) Achievement Award in Association with Paarl Media’. The write-up recognises him for his ‘rich and vast experience in the food industry‘, for having owned a restaurant (he has owned three more than twenty years ago!), for founding the first digital food (forgetting the wine) magazine Crush! (which was a disaster while he ran it, and is now a delight to read since he left more than a year ago, having left as he could not make money out of it), and his appearances on Expresso TV! Olivier focuses on the wine industry now, writing ‘reviews’ of wines for payment, unethically and unprofessionally not disclosing the financial relationship with his clients!
New Media Publishing is in the print publishing industry, and it must cost a fortune to produce the magazine. One wonders how long the magazine will survive, given that the Top 10 results are known, and the ease with which one can obtain restaurant information on the internet. The delayed publication of the magazine relative to the gala dinner was a negative for the brand, reflecting lack of planning, not a good change to have made! The poor editing is a bad reflection on the magazine and its publisher!
POSTSCRIPT 6/12: The poor editing of the Eat Out Top 500 magazine is a further embarrassment for New Media Publishing, with a ‘gorgozola‘ (sic) cream described in one of Chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ dishes!
Eat Out 2014, New Media Publishing. R49,95. www.eatout.co.za Twitter: @Eat_Out
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage