Clever Capetonians stay far away from restaurants over the Festive Season, given poor past experiences with service and food quality. It seems that many locals are brave enough or naive enough to go out during the Festive Season, especially on special festive days such as Christmas.
As a member of the Facebook Group ‘Cape Town Restaurants: the good, the bad and nastyyyy…’ I have been astounded in the past few days to read more complaints than compliments about our local restaurants, especially those located in Cape Town.
Let’s start with Christmas Day lunches. Backsberg outside Franschhoek cracked a nod for a good quality value for money meal at R495 per head, as did Diemersdal Farm Eatery, at R450 per person, and the 8-wine 8-tapas tasting menu for R240 at Creation. The Table Bay Hotel received praise for its Christmas buffet, at R685 per person, as did Bon Ami at Bloemdal in Durbanville, and Driftwoods in Parklands. Christmas lunch complaints were posted about the Winchester Mansions hotel in Sea Point, for its poor quality food, lack of mint sauce for the lamb and no cranberry sauce for the turkey, no cream or ice cream for the desserts, broken roll-top lids of food dishes, an exorbitant cost of R595 per person (incorrectly reported as R660 on the Facebook Group page), and only six crackers supplied for a table of eight.
Restaurants which have received a thumbs up in the past few days include La Petite Tarte in De Waterkant, Yumcious Café in the Cape Quarter, Warwick Wine Estate for its picnic; La Belle Bistro & Bakery at The Alphen hotel; Cheyne’s in Hout Bay, Delish in Heidelberg; Springfontein Eats in Stanford; Greens in Constantia; Blue Fin Sushi Bar in Harfield Village; Balducci in the V and A Waterfront; Al’s Restaurant in Rondebosch; Café Paradiso in Kloof Street; Bistro Bouchon on Hout Street (photograph); Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch; Old Bridge Restaurant in Somerset West; The Big Easy in Stellenbosch; Overture in Stellenbosch; the Cape Grace hotel for its tea and scones; Nonna Lina on Orange Street; and Café Caprice in Camps Bay;
Worrying is the large number of disastrous restaurant experiences, and locals appear to be reporting them. One wonders what terrible word of mouth our South African and international visitors must be sharing with others, although I suspect that the latter group will be ecstatic about the amazing value they receive at our restaurants at the current exchange rates! Restaurants which have been berated for poor food and service include the Chapman’s Peak Hotel, for losing its pans in which food used to be served, changed menu, and disappointing service; Baked Bistro in Bakoven, which received a complaint about its rather odd Eggs Benedict served with Beetroot Hollandaise and undercooked eggs, and did not look good; The Famous Franschhoek Pancake Place, due to poor service; Sacred Ground in Franschhoek, due to poor service, a disinterested owner/manager, and cleanliness issues; Selkirk Restaurant at Harbour House Hotel in Hermanus, for its incorrect order-taking, use of frozen prawns, no sweet potato chips despite being on the menu, and lack of response from the manager to complaints aired; Dunes in Hout Bay, for its overcooked steak, slow service, owner/manager not to be seen, and poor state of ladies’ loo; Man Ho Restaurant in Tableview, for its slow service; The Milkwood Restaurant in Onrus, for its slow service; Company Gardens Restaurant, for its rude hostess; the Cape Town Fish Market in the V and A Waterfront, for its chipped crockery, poor vegetable side dish, and wifi not working; Café Roux served hake which was off and bought-in coriander and chili sauce; San Marco in the V and A Waterfront, for adding a service fee to the bill automatically, croissants not available, and eggs not properly cooked; The Grand on the Beach, for its poor service, and rice grains in a vegetable side dish; and Knead in Muizenberg for its poor service and poor food.
Even more worrying is the responses of restaurateurs, in the instances in which they have bothered to reply. Baked Bistro owner Zahir Mohammed was defensive in his response, blaming the non-arrival of four of his staff. It appears that he himself was not at the restaurant. Interesting how ‘things can go wrong‘ due to the business of the restaurant, given that it is the Festive Season, is blamed for restaurant disasters! Commendable was the service recovery by Chef Peter Tempelhoff of Greenhouse restaurant for a poor experience before Christmas, and by Jenny Morris of the new Yumcious Café. Poor is the non-response from restaurant owners or managers to all the negative restaurant experiences listed above! With close to 9000 members of the Facebook Restaurant Group, one would think that every local restaurant would know about it, check it regularly, and respond if feedback is posted about it!
It is clear that many local restaurants have poor staff in not coming to work in a period during which restaurants are at their peak in terms of bookings, with worse to come from tomorrow onwards, when many tourists fly in to Cape Town, having celebrated Christmas in their home towns. Perhaps restaurants are too greedy in taking bookings and walk-ins when they know that their kitchen and waiting staff will be over-stretched, and that there is a likelihood that staff will not arrive at work. One writer stated that it is a shame that staff do not respect their jobs, and cannot be fired for no-shows. The South African staff morale makes it hell for restaurant owners and management to offer the best quality food and service!
One visits restaurants at one’s peril for the next week, especially in a suburb such as Camps Bay! Disappointing for visitors to our region must be that so many top restaurants have been closed this week!
POSTSCRIPT 29/12: I have received two responses from restaurateurs since posting this Blogpost, being a summary of compliments and complaints of the Cape Town Restaurant Facebook Group page. The first was a message left on my answering service by Baked Bistro owner Zahir Mohammed, full of anger and swear words about what I wrote above. I called him, telling him that his response on the Facebook Group page was inappropriate, in being angry and rude to the complainant. He hurled further abuse at me, and he clearly is an angry young man. I had to end the conversation!
Murray Nell, the GM of the Winchester Mansions hotel, called this morning, and promised to send me his hotel’s side of the Christmas Day complaint received. He promised to summarize what he told me, and send it to my Blog, but we have not heard from him since. He told me that it was the second complaint the hotel has received on the Restaurant Facebook page, the first having been a traumatic experience due to what he described as attacks from members of the Group. He was loath to respond on the Facebook Group page. He told me that the complainants did not pass on any feedback to his staff about their meal throughout the Christmas Day lunch, having five managers on the floor for the meal. The lamb was stuffed with feta cheese, and therefore mint sauce was not a suitable sauce, they thought. They had two other sauces and therefore did not offer cranberry sauce with the turkey. Both sauces could have been made available had they been requested. No place settings were short of Christmas crackers. Custard was available for the desserts. The complainant is a regular breakfast customer of the hotel, he shared.
POSTSCRIPT 30/12: Despite a promise by Holden Manz GM Wayne Buckley to respond to a complaint sent to this Blog by Marilyn Levin (see Comment section), and promising to ‘look into it’ when I followed up, he did not, and disparaged the complainant as being unreasonable and that he did not want to get into a ‘pointless conversation online’. She had also posted her complaint on TripAdvisor. It appears it was more important for him to take the day off and eat out in Cape Town!
POSTSCRIPT 18/1: Holden Manz has finally refunded Marilyn Levin for her disappointing picnic!
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here