Restaurant openings bright light in gloomy recession

Restaurant closures seem to have ground to a halt, the last being the final liquidation of celebrity chef Conrad Gallagher’s Geisha Wok in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, and his Sundance coffee shops.   His departure from Cape Town and his shady business dealings have also influenced the operation of Crepe Suzette and Bouillabaisse in the Rockwell Centre in De Waterkant, which opened on the basis of Gallagher setting up an Epicurean Food Market on the ground floor, around the two new restaurants.   This deal fell flat earlier this year already, just as the restaurants were moving into the building.

Last month Reuben Riffel opened his second Reuben’s restaurant, in the new Small Hotel in Robertson.   Nook is the cutest ‘cosy eatery that specialises in homemade pastries, cakes, sandwiches and a wide variety of daily specials’,  that also opened last month in Stellenbosch’s Van Reyneveld Street, where the Greek Kitchen used to be.  The owners Luke and Jessica are young, and this is their first restaurant venture.  They are refreshing in the way they connect with their clients, and understand customer relationships. 

Last week Portofino opened where the Showroom used to be in De Waterkant, by fun and hands-on owner Cormac Keane with chef Stephen Kruger, previously working with Richard Carstens, in the kitchen.   See the review on this blog.

Yesterday the 12th branch of Doppio Zero opened on Somerset Road, Green Point, in a lovely renovated Victorian building with modern lighting, and is fantastically positioned opposite the Green Point stadium. Doppio Zero is a franchise operation, which has an impressive website that is upfront about what the company stands for.  Its promise is “to consistently deliver beyond your expectations”.   The company’s vision is to be a “leader in our industry and in the market in which we trade, and to imprint the Doppio experience in the culture of our guests.”   Its mission is to ensure that guest satisfaction is “number 1”, to offer staff growth opportunities, to offer uncompromising best quality food, service and people, to develop lasting relationships with guests, to continuously improve, and to make a “fair profit.”   Its values are passion and enthusiasm, integrity and honesty, an unconditional commitment to the brand, and individual responsibility and accountability.  These are strong words, and one hopes that the company can keep its promises, especially as they are stated so publicly.

Bruce Robertson’s Showroom Cafe and The Quarter on Long Street are doing well, and he was bubbling last week about four restaurant openings he is consulting on, all scheduled for October.   October also sees the opening of Vanilla, owned by the Newhouse father and son duo from Tuscany Beach in Camps Bay, in the new Cape Quarter building on Somerset Road.   Cru Cafe will also open in the center.

Kathy and Gary Jordan from Jordan Wines in Stellenbosch will also open a restaurant for light lunches in October, on their wine estate, reports The Sunday Independent.   Critically, they comment:”Too many people chase Michelin stars, but I am not a fan of that system.  To win those stars, you have to throw away your food from one sitting, and start again in the evening.  To me, it is just a waste.  It adds a huge cost to the restaurant bill.  Almost all the food rejected is still perfectly good.  I can’t stand seeing food wasted.”  Their restaurant will “offer simple, well-cooked, wholesome food”.  The Jordans are co-owners of the High Timber restaurant in London, with Neleen Strauss, and “a significant percentage” of the 40 000 wines in the restaurant are Jordan wines. 

The Waterkloof wine estate in Somerset West, which belongs to one of the largest wine importers in the UK, Paul Boutinot, and who calls himself the “Custodian” of the wine estate, according to its website, will open its restaurant in November, with chef Gregory Czarnecki in the kitchen and Julian Smith from Grande Provence managing the restaurant.  Czarnecki was previously at The BIg Easy in Stellenbosch, the restaurant belonging to Johan Rupert and Ernie Els, amongst others, and left when he was expected to cook hamburgers, it is said.    He worked with 3*** Michelin chef Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton.   Waterkloof’s website states that it makes ‘slow wines’, with fermentation taking place between one to eleven months instead of the usual 20 days, and it would be excellent if its new restaurant embodies “slow food”.

Little has been said or written about maze and Nobu locally lately, and one wonders what the effect of the poor reviews Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in the UK got in the 2010 edition of The Harden’s restaurant guide will be on the local restaurant in the OneandOnly Cape Town hotel.  According to a report in the Daily Mail, the guide has placed four of Ramsays’ restaurants on the “10 most disappointing restaurants” list.    Three of the restaurants also featured on the ‘most overpriced’ list.  The author of the guide, Richard Harden, said of maze and of Ramsay that it is suffering from “imperial over-reach” and feels that ‘it has deep-seated problems’.   Harden continues about Ramsay: “He wants to be an international film star and be accorded Beckham levels of international fame yet he wants to run this internationally recognised group of restaurants.”   Ramsay’s profits fell by 90 %, according to the report, in the last year, and received negative feedback when it was discovered that some of his restaurants serve mass-produced food, prepared off-site and delivered to the restaurants.

Word about Stellenbosch town is that Etienne Bonthuys will not be at Tokara restaurant in the Helshoogte Pass for much longer.   He is opening up a new restaurant in Stellenbosch later this year, it is rumoured. No doubt Tokara owner GT Ferriera will look for a heavyweight chef to counteract the competition from Delaire Graff across the road.

A late-comer to social media marketing is Le Quartier Francais, which announced with fanfare that it was starting a blog at the beginning of this month.  It has only posted two posts, of which one has already been removed again.   Perhaps the owner does not know that a blog needs a dedicated commitment to regular posting to be credible and to help with search engine optimisation.

Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

One reply

  1. Harold (SMM) says:

    It is indeed good to see people stepping out and risking so much to open in this economy. Perhaps things are improving though. I do think it’s the smaller restaurants that provide the better food and connection with community.

    I don’t know Le Quartier Francais, but that is a bit perplexing. Though I find a lot of restaurateurs underestimate the amount of time a blog can take and have a hard time understanding just what a blog is and means in connection with their customers.

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