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The Autumn and Winter 2013 specials for Cape Town and Winelands restaurants follow below, and are updated continuously. We welcome information about new specials, and feedback about your meals at these restaurants:

*   Pepenero in Mouille Point : Sirloin and chips R89, Lamb shank lasagne R99, Seafood platter R149, Sushi platter R129, Crayfish tails R169, Chicken schnitzel R85, Minestrone R65, Chicken liver pasta R80, Prawn platter R119. Half price sushi all day. Daily. Tel (021) 439-9027 (updated 2/9)

*   Theo’s on Beach Road, Mouille Point: Oysters R8 each, Seafood soup R55, Prawn special R110, Linefish and prawn combo R99, Linefish and calamari R99, Sole and Calamari R99, Rump or sirloin R99, Spare Ribs R99, Rump Espetada R99, 250g Lobster and prawn platter R139; Seafood platter R125. Tel (021) 439-3494 (updated 12/6)

*   Sevruga in the V&A Waterfront: 2 course lunch R125, 3 courses R165, 4 courses R195;  half price sushi and dim sum Monday – Saturday 12h00 – 18h00; 25 % off sushi and (more…)

Neil Perry, top Australian chef of flagship restaurant Rockpool in Sydney, visited chefs and restaurants in South Africa earlier this month, and has returned to his home country, encouraging Australians to experience our ‘Food Safaris’, reports Southern African Tourism Update. His trip was widely reported, and the Sydney Morning Herald sent journalist Anthony Dennis to accompany Chef Perry on his culinary tour, an unfortunate choice with his emphasis on our apartheid past in his article!  Not only did the visit and resultant publicity reflect our country’s unique cuisine, but it also has tourism marketing benefits, the visit having been sponsored by SA Tourism.

Chef Perry’s journey started off at the elite and exclusive boutique hotel Ellerman House in Bantry Bay, where he did a braai of crayfish tails with his Asian touch, kingklip, and soy-marinated yellowtail.  He was assisted by Ellerman House Head Chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert, who told the visiting chef that South Africa’s cuisine extends beyond game eaten next to a fire under a safari-style boma. ‘But in South Africa there’s a group of highly trained, skilled chefs who are creating a strong food culture and identity‘, she said.

Dennis praised our country’s ‘fine wine, great seafood and where the barbeque…is a favoured cooking appliance’. It is a shame then that he digs into our country’s past, writing that ‘apartheid can still cast a shadow, even over the dining table’, singling out MasterChef SA judge and Chef Benny Masekwameng as one of few ‘Black South African chefs’. Chef Benny told the journalist that the eating habits of the ‘majority of black South Africans who live below the poverty line, not much has changed at the dinner table‘, but that the ‘middle class’ in our cities are increasingly exposed to global food trends! The ‘shanty towns’ on the way to the Winelands receive a predicted mention from the journalist too, contrasting them with the modern airport built for the 2010 World Cup.

Chef Perry praised the wine industry: ‘South Africa has got amazing wine credentials. One of the real positives is that it has a lot of old vines in the ground and you’re getting some fantastic maturity there’. He praised Franschhoek’s fine white wines. Calling Franschhoek’s Grande Provence a ‘lodge’, Chef Perry and the journalist enjoyed the creative cuisine of Chef Darren Badenhorst, who prepared a typical South African braai lunch for them, with Karoo lamb chops, free-range Spring chicken, and boerewors, ‘a traditional and delicious type of sausage’. The visiting team stayed over at La Residence in Franschhoek.

Their next stop was Phinda Game Reserve, where they enjoyed the traditional Boma dinner (‘with a dirt floor, stone and reed walls’).  They were treated to springbok, impala, and warthog, and entertained by the staff choir.  Chef Perry was impressed with our game meats, saying ‘it was really quite intense’, not having any Australian game (other than ‘Wallaby‘ on their menus, according to blogger Bruce Palling).   In Cape Town the Australian team had eaten springbok at The Twelve Apostle’s Azure for the first time, served as a ‘Cape fusion main course of springbok fillet with celeriac cream, roasted radish, orange tapioca and sultana-caper paste.  The rare, perfectly cooked meat has the consistencey of beef but with a distinct saltiness and dark chocolate-like richness’.

In Durban the visitors ate traditional Indian food, including bunny chow at the House of Curries, described as ‘classic street food from the apartheid years and is a feature of the national diet across all groups’! One wonders who fed Dennis this nonsense information!  In Johannesburg a Chef’s Table dinner at the San Restaurant at the Sandton Sun Hotel represents ‘the Rainbow Nation’s ethnic groups. Under apartheid, this congenial, multiracial gathering would have been deemed illegal‘. Chef Garth Schrier served the visiting chef more Bunny Chow, as an amuse bouche of a mini loaf of bread with a Cape Malay chicken prawn curry.

One wonders what SA Tourism’s understanding of our country’s cuisine is, and that of the Western Cape in particular.  With 16 of the top 19 Eat Out Restaurant Finalists based in the Cape, it is a surprise that not one of these top chefs, most of the calibre of Chef Perry, were exposed to the visiting chef.  At least up and coming Chef Darren Badenhorst at Grande Provence was included in the programme, even though he has not made the Top 19 list due to not having been in charge of the kitchen for a full year.  This is even more evident from the SA Tourism website’s Top 10 Wine estates (gastronomic) list, of which the compiler is not identified:

1.   Buitenverwachting

2.   Rust en Vrede

3.   La Colombe

4.   Pierneef à La Motte

5.   Terroir

6.   Bread and Wine

7.   Overture

8.   The Goatshed

9.   Fyndraai

10.  Tokara

Odd inclusions on the list are Bread and Wine, Fyndraai, and Fairview’s The Goatshed, while surprise exclusions are Delaire Graff’s two restaurants, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, the Restaurant at Waterkloof, and Grande Provence.  The ranking of Tokara in 10th’s position is an insult to the cuisine creativity of Chef Richard Carstens!

While all publicity for South Africa is fantastic, and in Australia’s leading newspaper even more so, it is a shame that a journalist should have turned a South Africa Food Safari story into an apartheid story, which is not the topic of his story at all.  One wonders what gives an Australian the right to point fingers at our country’s past, given their own Aborigine history!  It wouldn’t be a surprise if one were to find that Dennis has South African roots!  At least Chef Perry enjoyed his trip: ‘My food philosophy is all about local, high quality produce and fresh ingredients so I was thrilled to meet with like-minded chefs in South Africa’. He encouraged travellers to our country to ‘add a South African food safari to their bucket list’, advising that they visit the Winelands, shebeens, experience a Braai, and enjoy a seafood buffet on the beach.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Earlier this month the Reserve Brasserie opened in the space which has housed Brio, Riboville, and a Standard Bank, in a building going back to the  1830’s. It is now part of the larger Reserve, spanning Adderley Street to St George’s Mall, in a beautifully renovated building.  A visit a week later was a most enjoyable evening, with great service, comedy entertainment, and generous food servings.

I was invited to the opening party, at which canapés were served, but they did not really do justice to the type of food served.  I could only stay for a short time, having to also attend the opening night of ‘Queen at the Ballet’ at the Baxter Theatre.  The PR consultancy CSA invited me to return a week later, to try the menu, and to see the Reserve facilities.  I invited Bettie Coetzee-Lambrecht to join me, and we were treated royally from the minute we set foot into the Reserve Brasserie, which has its opening on Adderley Street.

I was a regular visitor to Brio, having loved what the previous owners Skippy and Lauren had done to restore the interior.  Louise van Niekerk did the interior of the Brasserie, we were told. The band stand and dance floor have been removed, and the space has been filled with more tables and chairs.  The lounge area near the bar has different furniture, and is more Indian-styled.  This is where we had a sherry to start with, and we were entertained and informed by the very knowledgeable waiter Francois Marais, who has worked for Riboville, Brio and now the Reserve Brasserie.  We were told that the Stander gang conducted their only unsuccessful bank heist in the building, not managing to steal any money.  The name for the Riboville restaurant came from the name of a horse on which owner George Sinovich had bet his last R10000, which was an outsider and paid out 100:1, allowing him to invest in the creation of the restaurant! Riboville once was Cape Town’s largest seller of caviar and of champagne, and also was known for having the largest restaurant wine collection of about 15000 bottles.

I was fascinated by the story of the ghost in the building, which Francois has experienced first hand, when he lived in the building’s 3rd floor for a while, and saw a shadow walking past the stained glass door on numerous occasions, but could never find any sign of a human being, knowing that he was the only person in the building after lock-up time.  He showed us the granite block, which looks like a tombstone, engraved with the name of Alfred Tattersall, born in 1910, and who was such a dedicated bookkeeper on the 3rd floor that he died in the office in 1953.  The spirit has made itself felt by the lift going up to the 3rd floor, even though it is locked to not proceed beyond the first floor, the lights swaying, and bottles of wine stored in the old bank vaults in the basement having been found open and drunk!  It reminded me of the spirit at Kitima, which we wrote about earlier this month.

Other changes to the Reserve Brasserie are the blue lighting around the bar, and a ceiling grid with mock ivy and flowers, the ‘hanging gardens’ bringing a more ‘outdoor’ and Italian feel to the inside of the restaurant, not having any windows to outside. Red lighting attracts attention to the ceiling, but its colour can change.  A large wall canvas of a beautiful lady facing the restaurant is striking, and is backlit by the candelabra. Francois told us that it is the late wife Anja of the owner of the building, her German husband Harald Sieck having put it up in the Reserve Brasserie in her honour.

The staff are passionate about the special space in which they work, and Creative Director Justin Paul Jansen and Francois took us to see The Reserve Club, separated from the Brasserie by a full length curtain.  The decorator who did the Club is Andy Graff, and she used beautiful paintings from Occulus for the alcoves, created seating corners, as well as a smoking and a non-smoking bar. The Club is pure ‘theatre’. Using lighter fluid, we were shown how they use pyrotechnics to add extra fun and fire to the experience at The Club. Nellie, the mobile elephant, is ready to do service, being wheeled in, with a pretty girl on it, to serve a bottle of ordered champagne. Justin demonstrated, by jumping onto the smoking bar, how he uses midget Papi to pour drinks from the top of the counter, direct into the mouths of his clients.  Events are held for upmarket beverage brands, and the couches allow clients to dance on top of them.  Strobe lighting is incorporated in a beautiful chandelier, and various colours light up the floor.  VIP clients have included Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, various sheiks, and more.

As it is not very light in the building, Francois organised a table lamp, to allow for better quality photographs. Seating for the 94 guests is a mix of red and gilded chairs, as well as black mock-snake wall couches.  A serviette with ‘R’ embroidered on it looked smart. Empty champagne bottles serve as candleholders on the tables, a little Italian old-world.  The GM and Chef of The Reserve is Seelun Sundoo, who was in charge of La Perla for fifteen years, followed by The Grand in Camps Bay. As an amuse bouche we were served a chicken, lentil, pea, and Indian spice soup in a small bowl, with home-baked honey bread, described as a ‘winter warmer’. The large classy menu offers a large range of items divided into sections Italian style, e.g. Anti-Pasti, Zuppa, Primo, Secondi.

As a starter I ordered the Vitello Tonnato Tartare, which was a deconstructed interpretation of the dish, being raw minced veal prepared with olive oil, capers, herbs, tuna, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and gherkins, to which some Indian spices had been added for an ‘exotic feel’. One can also order mussels, scampi, baby calamari, mini lobster buns, salmon cakes, beef carpaccio, and crostini, in a price range of R50 – R95.  Pizza is available at the prices of R40 and R65. Soup options are a bisque (R80), or the lentil one we started off with, at R50.  Salads cost between R50 (rocket, fennel and parmesan) and R80 (The Reserve Club salad). Pasta Primos are reasonably priced between R65 – R85, and include ravioli and linguini options, as well as lasagne.

The Secondi list offers 14 options, and I chose the pan fried baby salmon trout, with almond, lemon, and capers (R135). Francois was sweet enough to fillet it at the table, and to organise Basmati rice. The ‘Reserve’ steak of the day, Cape lobster, and Mozambique Queen Prawns are SQ.  Linefish (kingklip on that evening) costs R98, baby kob R110, salmon with curry sauce R130, baby chicken R96, Fillet R115, and veal is available in two options, at R125 and R140. One can order vegetables and fries as extras for R30/R40.

The dessert list offers a fruit plate, a chocolate torte, tiramisu, chocolate eclairs and cake of the day, in two sizes, at R35 and R50. The Torched marshallow meringue sounded unusual and interesting, which one dips into the chocolate sauce.

Francois’ witty banter throughout the evening coupled with his excellent service will be remembered for a long time to come, and he wins our vote for ‘Waiter of the Year’, if there were to be such a recognition. It is a pity that he will be leaving for the Marriot in Dubai at the end of September.  A night out at The Reserve is highly entertaining, and affordable, with a large food choice. Some of the items and some ingredients specified on the menu were not available on the evening.

POSTSCRIPT 23/9: Reserve Brasserie now offers a Business Lunch from Wednesday – Fridays, 3 courses plus beer or mineral water costing R140.

Reserve Brasserie, The Reserve, 130 Adderley Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-0654, www.the-reserve.co.za (not updated with details of the new chef and menu). Twitter: @ReserveCapeTown.  Tuesday – Saturday dinner.  Reserve Club Friday and Saturday evenings from 23h30. 25+ year olds, R100 cover charge, but waived if guests have had dinner at the Brasserie.  Special midnight menu for the Club on weekends.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Taste of Cape Town is part of an international festival of food, run with the same name in cities around the world annually, and is running in Cape Town for the fifth year, at the conveniently located Green Point Cricket Club. The food quality of the dishes prepared in less than ideal conditions by fourteen top restaurants is much improved compared to previous years, when it felt ‘mass produced’, and is excellent this year.  It is an inexpensive way to get a taste of what some of the Cape’s best chefs are capable of.  Commendable was that the chefs were hands-on and on duty at their stands. We rated Pop-Up stand Tokara tops, when we attended on opening day on Thursday evening.

Parking is an annual nightmare, and if one is not there when the gates open, one has to be prepared to walk quite a distance.  The road outside the festival entrance had parking on one side only when we arrived, but had doubled up to the other side of the road on our return. Parking can only get harder to find over the next two days. The lady in the ticket office was unprofessional when selling us the entrance tickets.  The entry package is confusing, costing R80 only for entrance and a tasting glass, or R200 for a tasting glass, entrance and 20 crowns (the payment method for food and drinks) but is marked as R120, or R650 for a special package price.

The organisers appear to have struggled to get restaurants to participate, only a handful having committed when Taste of Cape Town 2012 was first announced.  We have heard that they had to beg restaurants to participate, the deal being that there is no stand fee payable, and that the organisers and restaurants equally share the crown income.  Some high profile restaurants participating in the past (e.g. Le Quartier Français, Pierneef a La Motte, Reuben’s) were visible by their absence. There seemed to be more space allocated for the stands this year, especially the restaurant ones, which allowed them to bring decor elements from their restaurants into the stand.  Signal Restaurant of the Cape Grace Hotel (photograph above) was probably the most attractively decorated, but small touches and large photographs of their interior were used by most restaurants to attract attention to their stands.  Each restaurant offered a selection of three dishes, which were priced in terms of crowns (1 crown is R5).  The average crown price for a main course dish is 6 – 8 crowns, allowing three dishes at most to be bought from one booklet.  The stand layout is circular, and one tends to start at the right and make one’s way around.  The stands are widely spread over the field, so that one does not feel crowded. The hardest decision is to choose at which restaurant stands to spend one’s crowns.  Running parallel to the restaurant stands were wine and beer brand stands, which did not attract as much attention as those of the restaurants, mainly because they were smaller. It took us at least an hour to walk around the field once, with many chat stops along the way, and generous offers of chefs to try their dishes. Chef Henrico Grobbelaar of the Azure Restaurant at the Twelve Apostles Hotel ran out of his makeshift kitchen, and asked us to try his Beef fillet with lentil ragout, almond cream and parmesan crumbs, the steak being beautifully soft.

Tokara Restaurant had taken the Taste Pop-Up stand on Thursday, which will be rotated daily, with Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine hosting it today, and La Mouette tomorrow.  Tokara’s stand had by far the most beautiful and sophisticated food of all the stands we tried, and they reflect Chef Richard Carstens’ recently launched winter menu, rich in flavour, and beautiful in colour (left), especially his Bobotie-spiced chicken with eggplant pickle, turmeric crisp and tomato, but his Togarashi beef sashimi tartare, sushi rice, wasabi mayonnaise, ponzu, jalapeno and cashews impressing as well.  The Japanese style cheesecake was light as a feather, a lovely medley of tastes of pear, jasmine, green tea, and almonds.  The SABC2 Expresso Show was filming Chef Richard when we arrived at the stand.

Chef Bertus Basson shared his Overture stand with partner Craig Cormack of Sofia’s at Morgenster, and their star attraction was one of Bertus’ new projects, being his ‘WORS-ROL’ served with home-made ketchup and ‘wonder-mostert sous‘.  Chef Bertus wore the T-shirt as well, and stickers with the fun sub-brand were handed out. Other chefs with stands came to get this special hot dog.  The beetroot risotto, beetroot puree, served with beetroot, honey and cumin ice cream looked very striking. River trout pastrami, cocette potatoes, and lemon preserve salad, as well as a Banana split with caramel and peanuts were also served.  La Colombe is next to the Pop-up stand, and Chef Scot Kirton served a prawn, coconut and lemongrass velouté, with prawns and chestnut, creatively in an egg shell on a stand. They also offer an Asian style beef carpaccio with shitake mushrooms, sesame crema, avcado and nori puffs. The dessert was a delicious sounding chocolate torte, tobacco caramel, Hennessy marshmallow fluff, coffee meringues and hazelnut crumble. One of the stands with the largest number of food lovers was that of Makaron of Majeka House in Stellenbosch.  Chef Tanja Kruger’s Majeka burger is made from Spier pasture-reared beef, in a brioche bun, with foie gras butter, caramelised red onion and crispy coppa. They also offered a prawn laksa with sesame, coconut, basmati rice and sauce; as well as Cauliflower custards, popcorn powder, popped wild rice, truffle caviar, and sweetcorn velouté.

I had an interesting chat with the Food & Beverage Manager of 15 on Orange about whether hotel restaurants can ever reach the standards of independent restaurants.   Food & Beverage Manager Andreas van Breda at the Mount Nelson Hotel was at the Planet Restaurant counter, and told me the Titanic dinner had been a great success.  Chef Rudi Liebenberg came to say hello, and said that they are running an amended version of the menu until the end of April, at R330. Other restaurant stands were Bistro Sixteen82 with Chef Brad Ball and his team from Steenberg Hotel, Fyndraai Restaurant with chef Shaun Schoeman, the Taj Hotel restaurant collection of Mint and Bombay Brasserie, led by Chef Shyam Langani, Il leone Mastrantonio with Chef Daniel Toledo, 96 Winery Road with Chef Natasha Wray, and The Westin Executive Club Restaurant led by Chef Johann Breedt.

There appeared to be fewer beverage stands this year.  Some of the exhibitors included Boston Breweries, De Wetshof, Ernie Els, Gordon’s Gin, Hardenberg Kleiner Keiler Spicy Cherry Liqueur, Hermanuspietersfontein, Idiom, Jägermeister, Neil Joubert, Morgenster, Castle Milk Stout, The Goose, Thelema/Sutherland, Villiera, Vinotria, Warwick, Waterford, Waverley Hills, and Wedderwill.  A small market has been set up, as in previous years, and includes Bottega, Buffalo Ridge, Cape Mountain Charcuterie, La Petite France cheeses, ORYX desert salt, Queen of Tarts, Sugar Coated Raindrops with beautiful cupcakes, Yummy Brownies, and lots more.  Pick ‘n Pay is a major participant, with a Fresh Living Chef’s Theatre which has demo’s by most of the chefs with stands demonstrating the making of their Taste of Cape Town or other dishes. There is also a Wine and Canapé Experience.  Entrance to the Pick ‘n Pay events is free of charge, but is not made clear.  There are no announcements about the events prior to their start.

It is impossible to get close to trying all 43 of the dishes offered by the 14 restaurants, and therefore it is advisable to take one’s time to check out the menus of each stand, and then to go back to choose the three most special ones, to buy from one’s booklet of crowns.  Eating a top chef’s food with biodegradable cutlery and crockery, ‘mass produced’ under trying conditions is not the best way to appreciate the chefs’ dishes, but Taste of Cape Town 2012 is a good first and inexpensive way to get a bite of what some of our top Cape restaurants have to offer.

Taste of Cape Town 2012, Green Point Cricket Club, Cape Town. 21 April 13h00 – 17h00 and 18h30 – 22h30, and 22 April 12h00 – 17h00. www.tastefestivalssa.co.za Twitter: @TasteofCT

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Reports about the status of the tourism industry in Cape Town and the Western Cape in the last few days are enough to confuse anyone, as the view on how the industry is doing this summer, two months into the season, appear contradictory, some saying that it is better, and others saying that it is the worst ever!

Reports about a FEDHASA Cape media review held last week contradict each other.  The Cape Argus, using the headline ‘Hotels catch the scent of recovery’, reported that a ‘fair’ season is expected this summer. It stated that the industry had come through a ‘pretty bad year’.   Gotravel24 had a more realistic headline ‘Worst year yet for Cape Town tourism’, quoting FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga admitting for the first time that the past year has been ‘one of the worst the Cape Town tourism industry has ever seen’.  When we wrote about the tourism crisis in winter, which was subsequently picked up by the Cape Argus, Elzinga did not seem perturbed, and said that Cape Town was just experiencing its annual seasonal dip!

In its review FEDHASA Cape indicated that average revenue per available room decreased by 10% this year, due to the ‘double dip recession’ in Europe as well as the 20% increase in accommodation rooms for the World Cup. The past winter was particularly tough, with four hotels and 10 restaurants that were FEDHASA Cape members closing their doors (many more non-FEDHASA restaurants closed their doors too). Elzinga is hopeful of a recovery, based on average revenue per available room increasing by 5 % in October, relative to the same month a year ago.  Occupancy was estimated to reach 60 – 80 % this summer, Elzinga said, and events such as the J&B Met, the Two Oceans Marathon, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival would attract more local tourists, the type of tourist Elzinga said Cape Town tourism businesses should encourage.  However, Eye Witness News’ report on the FEDHASA Cape  meeting was that ’70-80 percent hotel occupancy (could not be referred) ‘as a standard anymore’.  Elzinga sees positive spin-off from Cape Town being named the World Design Capital 2014, and a provisional New7Wonders of Nature. We have written before that none of the accolades that were heaped upon Cape Town so far this year have led to any significant increase in tourism to Cape Town, probably because tourism from the United Kingdom has all but dried up.

FEDHASA Cape also used the opportunity to share results of a 30-week pricing survey conducted not only for Cape Town hotels, but also for hotels in Barcelona, Melbourne, Vancouver, Boston, Nice, Hong Kong and Munich, chosen to be comparable to Cape Town in that they are not capital cities, and attract convention business.  The survey was instituted due to feedback levelled against the local accommodation industry for its high prices, which FEDHASA Cape wished to dispute.  Predictably it did so, stating that ‘….the Mother City is not out of line with its peers around the world’.  No hard statistics, such as average hotel prices, are provided from the survey. The FEDHASA Cape survey had found that Cape Town’s price and room offering is wider than that of the comparative cities, with the exception of Barcelona.  Five star hotel rates generally are on a par with the comparative international hotels.  Room rates for 4-star hotels were up to 20 % lower than the international hotels, the report states.  We too have checked Cape Town rates at the top-end hotels, and conducted three telephonic surveys, in May, August and November this year, finding a wide range of 5-star hotel rates, and that rates had been lowered in the harsh winter months.

Moneyweb also reported on the hotel pricing survey of FEDHASA Cape, writing that the finding about Cape Town’s hotel prices being on a par with those in other international cities was a ‘surprising result’.  The description about the worst winter is far more explicit, as being ‘one of the most dismal in recent memory”! Elzinga is quoted as saying that Cape Town is ‘not cheaper, but also not more expensive. People think that prices in Africa should be lower than in Munich or Singapore. But luxury costs the same; it doesn’t matter where you are’. An interesting observation by FEDHASA Cape was that those hotels that did not drop rates recovered more quickly than those hotels that cut rates. Our Whale Cottage hotel surveys demonstrated that all hotels decreased rates in winter, contradicting FEDHASA Cape’s observation!  What Elzinga did not appear to consider was that given the lower operational costs of running an accommodation establishment in Cape Town relative to the comparative cities, on labour costs alone, combined with the 20 % increase in accommodation supply since last year, accommodation prices should have decreased, based on the law of supply and demand.  A further negative impact on rates should be the cost of long haul air travel and airport taxes to Cape Town. Therefore there can be no justification for Cape Town’s hotel prices to be the same as those of its international counterparts.

FEDHASA Cape sees a positive impact of direct flights to Cape Town by Air France and Swiss-based Edelweiss, but which could be countered by the cancellation of Malaysian Airlines flights to Cape Town next year.  Elzinga has called for more marketing by Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited in India and China, given the problems with the USA and European economies.

At Whale Cottage we have compared Occupancy over the past five years, and we have seen a steady decline over this period, halving over the five year period.  Occupancy at Whale Cottage Camps Bay this month will be the second best this year after the record 88% in February, and an improvement on last November, but is far below the 88 – 96% occupancy experienced in November between 2007 -2009.

FEDHASA Cape only predicts a recovery for the Cape Town accommodation industry in 2013, with occupancy and room rates returning to a ‘normal level’.   The European and USA economies are in such disarray that one wonders how any tourism body can make any prediction about the future of tourism, especially given FEDHASA Cape’s poor interpretation of the industry in winter!  FEDHASA Cape also indicates that bookings are increasingly last-minute, which makes it even more difficult to predict future tourism performance. We urge FEDHASA Cape to be conservative in its estimates, and to not create hopes about the season for the industry, which led to disastrous results when Grant Thornton did the same about the soccer World Cup last year.

The Protea Hospitality Group has seen similar cause for optimism, its Danny Bryer, Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue, writing a letter to the editor of Southern African Tourism Update that it saw occupancy increase by 3-4% in August and September. Against the background of the unstable USA and European economies, Bryer says that it is hard to make predictions for the hospitality industry, especially with the heavy discounting taking place (contradicting Elzinga too).  Bryer pleads for an end to discounting, even though his hotel group probably is the one to slash rates most severely, quoting day by day rates, and generally is at the bottom end of the rates scale in the comparative hotel rate surveys we have conducted: “Continued discounting devalues every hotel in South Africa, as the battle is fought on price rather than value”. Bryer says the proof of this is that the average daily rate has decreased and the costs are increasing, meaning a declining profit.  This can only be turned around with an increase in rates, he argues.  He deplores that developers, investors and owners added on new rooms, the accommodation oversupply resulting in hotel closures and local companies taking over the management of international hotel groups. Bryer warned against reducing one’s offering to justify a lower price.  Offering value for money is vital.  He also warned that 3, 4 and 5 star hotels are marketing their rooms at similar price points, which he believes to be ‘foolhardy and unnecessary‘.  The Protea Hospitality Group is focusing on offering value-added packages for the domestic market this summer.

Bryer was also quoted in Business Report, saying that their December bookings are up on a year ago, that 5-star guests are travelling again, but that ‘inbound business to South Africa is still quite tight and long haul flights are losing out to short haul’.  The South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) CEO Michael Tatalias predicts a better ‘holiday’ season than last year, but says that the rates charged will be more realistic than in the past.

Western Cape Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde warned that he will present a ‘bare-bones’ 2012 budget in March, and about ‘emptier’ provincial government coffers and budget cuts, which could impact on its funding of tourism too, reported the Cape Argus last week.  Winde said that the local economy had to be ‘buffered against current shocks in traditional markets’, and urged exporters in the province to find ‘high-growth emerging markets’.  The European growth outlook is poor too, the fourth quarter prediction being one of slipping back into recession, reports Business Report.

What is certain is that it is impossible to predict the summer season until Easter, given the continued economic woes of our tourism source markets, the UK market being sorely missed, and the forecast of Europe slipping back into recession.  Bookings for the summer ahead for Whale Cottage Camps Bay look good until 10 January. Domestic tourism will be the major source market for the medium term, until the global economy recovers.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portoflio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Following the Sports and Events Tourism Exchange, which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last week, the Western Cape province has announced that a 15 year plan is being prepared to target the $600 billion international sports tourism market, the Sunday Argus reports. A national steering committee to develop a sport events strategy has been created, and will evaluate developing an events fund. 

Formed at the Sports and Events Tourism Exchange, the steering committee’s mandate will be to identify and stage events ”that are aligned to the strategic objectives of the country”, says Sugen Pillay, SA Tourism Global Manager of Events, quotes Southern African Tourism Update.  The aim of the steering committee is to grow sports tourism in South Africa, and to capitalise on the investment made for the World Cup. 

Led by Deputy Director General of the Premier’s office, Dr Laurine Platsky, the Western Cape long-term plan, which will cover events, including sport, should be ready by 31 August.  “It will cover our Cape ‘treasures’ and give a long-term approach to the existing big events like the Cape Town Jazz Festival, the Two Oceans and the Volvo Ocean Race”, she said.  Smaller events will also be developed.  The ultimate utilisation of the city’s facilities, particularly the Cape Town Stadium, will form part of the plan: “We have a new iconic facility – the Cape Town Stadium – which is the jewel in our crown of facilities and is to be marketed globally”.

The City of Cape Town has a Department of Sport, Recreation and Amenities, and its director, Gert Bam, is working on a Sports Event Impact Model, to evaluate the economic, social and sports impact of major events.   It will also measure the impact of events on the Cape Town economy. Sport mega-events can play an important role ‘in promoting economic and developmental agendas’.  South Africa has world-class sport venues, excellent infrastructure, and a population passionate about sport, as well as a good track record in hosting cricket, soccer and rugby World Cup events, making it eligible to bid for more sport events.   It is said that 10 % of international tourists come to the country to participate in or watch a sport event.

Addressing the Exchange, Soccer World Cup Local Organising Committee head Danny Jordaan apologised to the host cities that built soccer stadia for the World Cup, and admitted that ‘not enough thought had done into their planning to ensure they would be financially viable’, reports The New Age.  R13 billion was spent on new stadia for the World Cup, and many of these have become ‘white elephants’!  He cautioned the attendees at the Exchange to not be ‘too hasty in bidding for the Olympics’  or for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, ironic given that he and his Local Organising Committee bid and executed the soccer World Cup.  Jordaan said the Exchange should have taken place ten years ago, so that planning for sports bids could have been more efficient and realistic.  He said the industry should act quickly to bid for big events, and not wait another 30 years for a big event.

Potential sports events planned for the country are SportAccord International Convention, Taekwondo World Championships, a Powerboating World Series, and Cape Town is bidding for the World Games 2017.

The Cape tourism industry would welcome all events that increase bookings for accommodation, restaurants, tours, and lead to sales of local products and services. A definite linkage has been seen that business is better when events take place.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan has boldly appealed to President Obama to help put an end to illegal whaling, reports CBS.  Brosnan paid for and appears in an “Save the Whales Now” advertisement, in which he reminds the President of his promise, whilst a candidate for the White House, that he was going to stop illegal whaling.

The “Save the Whales Now” campaign is a joint effort by the following organisations: Humane Society of the United States, The International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Ocean Alliance.   It encourages viewers to call the President personally, by providing a telephone number.  The Brosnan ad can be viewed here.

Halle Berry, Oscar-winning actress, and Oliver Martinez are currently in Cape Town, to shoot “Dark Tide” in Simonstown.  Berry plays the role of a diving instructor who comes face-to-face with sharks on a deserted island in the movie, reports the Sunday Times.   Local marine professionals have been retained by the producers, to provide support, whilst a local team of stunt co-ordinators has also been hired.   Filming has taken place in Simonstown harbour and at Seal Island.   The production company has set up its base at Seaforth Beach in Simonstown.

Commenting on the making of the movie, shark conservationist Alison Kock of Save Our Seas Foundation told the Sunday Times that they decided to not get involved and assist the producers, after they had seen the script, and it appeared to be a “shark attack” movie, a thriller in which the actors fight off a shark attack.  Her society’s mandate is to present the positive side of sharks, especially given shark attacks in False Bay generally, and specifically in Fish Hoek at the beginning of the year, when Lloyd Skinner died from being attacked by a Great White Shark.

A fascinating project is that of an Australian movie “Whale Like Me”,which film-maker Malcolm Wright is making.  Wright does not support the catching of whales by the Japanese, and came up with the idea of a documentary, in which the Japanese and the conservationists opposed to whaling swop roles, a “walk a mile in my shoes” type of movie, reports The Australian.  Wright will be living with a whaling family and join a whale hunt off the coast of Japan, while whalers will live with him in the Cook Islands and will swim with humpback whales in the area.

Wright says of his novel documentary: “The key to the film is reconciliation and the way we see reconciliation is walking a mile in each other’s shoes.  My standpoint is we have to now shift from a moratorium on sustainability grounds to a moratorium on ethical grounds, and at least have an international exchange of ideas and come to a conclusion of some sort”.   Hideki Fuji, a Japanese film-maker working on the project challenges the anti-whaling sentiment, asking how whaling and eating whales is different to “the harvesting of other animals for human consumption”.   Wright worked with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, and hopes to get his movie released in cinemas.  Filming is planned to start this month.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Stellenbosch has always been top of the pops as far as its wine selection and quality goes (i.e. wines winning awards), but has played poor cousin to Franschhoek for many years when it comes to its restaurant status, that is until recently, when the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list included more Top 10 restaurants in Stellenbosch (Rust en Vrede, Overture and Terroir) than in Franschhoek (The Tasting Room and The Restaurant at Grande Provence).  Stellenbosch has always been the best marketed collective wine region, and was the first to introduce the Wine Route concept, which has been adopted by most wine-growing regions now.

My visit to Stellenbosch last week, to experience recently opened restaurants, confirmed my view that Stellenbosch by rights now should be called the Gourmet Capital of South Africa, not only due to the Eat Out Top 10 listings, but also in terms of the newer restaurants bubbling under.  I believe that the tourism authority should be ahead of the game, and introduce a Restaurant Route for Stellenbosch, given the wealth of its creative and gourmet talent.   It is easy to see that opening good quality restaurants on wine estates is a growing trend in Stellenbosch, and is good for business, as Werner Els told me at Haskell Vineyards, its Long Table restaurant leading to wine sales from restaurant patrons.

My recommendation for the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route is the following, based on own experience and recommendations.  It is not comprehensive.  I have added links to the restaurant listings that I have reviewed, and reviews of the newer restaurants will be published shortly.

Rust en Vrede – probably the best restaurant in the town currently, a slick operation, run by modest but talented chef David Higgs, on the Rust en Vrede wine estate.  Featured on the Eat Out Top 10 list 2009 and 2010, number 74 on 50 Best Restaurants in the World 2010 list, and Top vineyard restaurant of 2010 Great Wine Capitals in the World – read the review here.  Tel (021) 881-3881  CHEF DAVID HIGGS LEFT THE RESTAURANT ON 25 JUNE, NOW WORKING AT RADISSON’S BLU GAUTRAIN HOTEL IN JOHANNESBURG. 

*   Overture – Chef Bertus Basson is a hard-working re-inventor of his menu and operation, always looking to improve his complete package.   On the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list for 2009 and 2010.  Fantastic views from the location on the Hidden Valley wine estate – read the review here.  Tel (021) 880-2721

*   Terroir does nothing for me, I must admit, and therefore I do not understand that it is a perennial on the Eat Out Top 10 list (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 – the Terroir website does not list the awards after 2006, so some awards may have been left out!).  I have been there a number of times, and have not been excited about its menu, restaurant interior, and service.  The outside seating on the De Kleine Zalze wine and golf estate is great for a warm day.  Tel (021) 880-8167

*   Restaurant Christophe – Die Skuinshuis is the setting for this exceptional restaurant, Chef Christophe Dehosse being the hands-on owner and chef, who talks to his customers in his charming French accent, a rare treat in restaurants.  The foie gras, served with toasted brioche, is to die for – read the review here.  Tel. (021) 886-8763. THE RESTAURANT CLOSED DOWN ON 24 JUNE.

*   Delaire at Delaire Graff –  no money was spared in building and decorating this restaurant and winery building, and it houses a most impressive art collection.   Chef Christian Campbell is doing outstanding work, and his crayfish lasagne is exceptional.  Turnover of staff has reduced the quality of service  – read our latest review     Tel (021) 885-8160

*   Indochine at Delaire Graff – this is the newest Stellenbosch restaurant, and is relatively less opulent in its interior design compared to its sister restaurant.   Young chef Jonathan Heath is a star to watch, and his Asian fusion menu is sure to attract the attention of the Eat Out Top 10 judges.   He explains the menu, and the dishes when he serves them personally.  The two course special at R225 sounds expensive, but it does not reflect the amuse bouche, sorbet and sweet treats (with cappuccino) one receives at no extra charge.  The Tikka Duck Marsala starter is excellent –  read our review.  Tel (021) 885-8160

Restaurant at Majeka House –the restaurant is overshadowed by the Boutique Hotel in terms of its branding, and is not known to most foodlovers, a hidden gem in Paradyskloof, a suburb opposite the Stellenbosch Golf Course.   Its young Chef Anri Diener trained at Tokara and Delaire, and is a rising star, presenting exciting French cuisine.  The Millefeuille of chocolate mousse served with coffee meringue bars is to die for – Read the review.  Tel (021) 880-1512

*   Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine –  a mouthful of a brand name but also a mouthful in value and excellent quality, a far cry from Jardine, which he co-owns in Cape Town, but rarely still cooks at.  It is set at the end of a long road, on the Jordan wine estate, overlooks a big pond and the beautiful Stellenbosch mountains in the far distance, teeming with birdlife.  Interior functional, as in Cape Town.  Most beautiful and unique “bread” plate ever seen.   Read the review.  Tel (021) 881-3612

*   The Long Table Restaurant and Cafe – set at the end of a long road up a hill, above Rust en Vrede, on the Haskell Vineyards (marketers of Haskell and Dombeya wines), the food of Chef Corli Els is a wonderful surprise.  The restaurant interior and waiter service do not match the excellence of her food or the quality of the Haskell wines. The Papaya and Avo salad stands out as one of the special treats I enjoyed last week.   Read the Review.  Tel (021) 881-3746

*   The Big Easy – set on Dorp Street with some parking, and owned by Ernie Els and Johan Rupert, the restaurant is large, but divided into different rooms, allowing private functions.  Average food, below average service generally.  Sweet Service Award.  tel (021) 887-3462

*   Warwick wine estate – owner Mike Ratcliffe is a good marketer, and his gourmet picnics, designed by Chef Bruce Robertson, and prepared by their chef Bruce, are a great hit in summer.  Winter warmer foods available too – read the picnic review here.  Tel (021) 884-3144

*   Nook Eatery – has been operating for a year, and has developed a reputation for good value, healthy (organic where possible) and wholesome food.  Restaurant location in ‘League of Glory’ TV series, and next door to Restaurant Christophe.  Good value buffet lunch, Wednesday pizza evenings, and sweet treats throughout the day.  Hands-on owners Luke and passionate Chef Jess do not open the Eatery if they are not there themselves.  Read the review here.  tel (021) 887-7703  

*   Tokara DeliCATessen – has a buffet lunch too, very large restaurant space combined with a deli, but service poor and food quality average – read the review here.   Tel (021) 808-5950

*   Eight at Spier – the menu was designed by Judy Badenhorst, ex-River Cafe, and now running the Casa Labia Cafe in Muizenberg.  Have not read much about it, and not experienced yet.   Tel (021) 809-1188

*   Melissa’s on Dorp Street – a perennial favourite, with a limited menu and standardised across all the branches.  Fresh and wholesome foods, service not always great.  Sour Service Award Tel (021) 887-0000

Wild Peacock Food Emporium on Piet Retief Street (ex Okasie) – this is the newest eatery to open, belongs to Sue Baker and is managed by ex-Rust en Vrede front of house manager and daughter Sarah, selling deli items, a range of cold meats, imported French and local cheese, fresh breads, and has a sit-down menu as well.    Review to follow.  Tel 082 697 0870

*   Mila, The Cake Shop– this must be the tiniest eatery interior in Stellenbosch, next door to The Big Easy, but it is crammed full of the most delectable cakes and pastries.  Service not great when sitting outside.  Review to follow.  Tel 074 354 2142.

*   Cupcake – serves a range of cupcakes, but not as wide a variety as one would expect.  Good sandwiches and cappuccino, pretty square with water feature in which to sit.  No review written.  Tel (021) 886-6376

*   Umami – set in the Black Horse Centre on Dorp Street, this restaurant had not wowed me, but serves satisfactory lunches and dinners.   No review written, and I rarely hear anyone talk about it.  Tel (021) 887-5204

*   Wijnhuis – located on Andringa Street, in the vicinity of tourism outlets.  Given its name, it should be very popular in this town, and given the connection to its namesake in Newlands, and its parental link to La Perla, it should offer a lot better food quality and service than it does.  Not reviewed, and would not recommend.  Tel (021) 887-5844

  Pane E Vino – this food and wine bar is hidden to those who do not come to Bosman’s Crossing.  Owned by Elena Dalla Cia, husband George and father-in-law Giorgio do wine and grappa tastings in the restaurant too.  Good Italian fare. Not reviewed yet.  Tel (021) 883-8312 

*   Cafe Dijon – French-style bistro on Plein Street.  One experience not satisfactory due to owner not being there.  Rated by JP Rossouw of Rossouw’s Restaurants.  Tel (021) 886-7023

*   Bodega @Dornier – I have not been to this restaurant on the Dornier wine estate, and have not read any reviews yet.  Tel (021) 880-0557

*   Cuvee Restaurant, Simonsig – Interesting Cape Dutch modernist interior curation by Neil Stemmet. Excellent quality food, Simonsig wines, napery, cutlery, tableware, stemware, and service.  Read the Review Tel (021) 888-4932

*   De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Church Street – newly opened, opposite Vida e Caffe, this artisan bakery and cafe allows one to order from a list of cold meats, cheese and preserves what one wants to eat with the breads they sell.  Read the review.  Tel (021) 883- 2188  

*   Tokara – Etienne Bonthuys has left Tokara, and Richard Carstens is said to be stepping in his shoes, when his contract with Chez d’Or in Franschhoek finishes in September (he left in July already). Tokara denied that Carstens is taking over the restaurant lease.   It has now (30/7) been confirmed that Jardine’s Wilhelm Kuehn is taking over Tokara, and that Richard Carstens will be the Executive Chef.  Opened on 19/10.  Read the review. Tel (021) 808-5959.

*   Towerbosch Earth Kitchen on the Knorhoek wine estate. Lovely fairy-like setting, fantastic Boerekos feast served in bowls rather than dishing up per plate.  Read the review.   Tel (021) 865-2114.

*   Stellenbosch Slow Food Market, Oude Libertas – previously the Bosman’s Crossing Market, it moved to Oude Libertas late last year.    Good quality and often organic foods, not quite as top level and exciting as in its previous location, only open on Saturdays

*   Casparus is the name of Etienne Bonthuys’ new restaurant on Dorp Street, an amazing marriage between the cuisine creativity of Bonthuys and the interior design creativity of partner Strijdom van der Merwe.  There is no restaurant like this in South Africa!   Read the review.   Tel (021) 882-8124.

*   Johan’s at Longridge is a refreshing new restaurant on Longridge Winery, with a focus on fresh vegetables from its large vegetable garden alongside the restaurant.  Co-owner Chef Johan comes from a Michelin two-star restaurant in Holland, as does Chef Marissa.  Attentive service led by Chris Olivier, excellent food, great wines.  Read the review.   Tel (021) 855-2004 

*  de Huguenot, on De Huguenot Estate in Johannesdal, Pniel, is a superb fine-dining restaurant which opens in July, headed up by Chef Tanja Kruger, a member of the South African Culinary Olympic team.  Beautiful view onto Groot Drakenstein mountains.  Read the review.

POSTSCRIPT 17/10:  The Top 20 finalists for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards were announced at the end of last month, and the list contains five Stellenbosch restaurants (compared to only two from Franschhoek):  Rust en Vrede, Overture, Terroir, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, and Restaurant Christophe.   The Top 10 winners will be announced on 28 November.

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  Stellenbosch now wears the Gourmet Capital crown, with four Eat Out Top 10 restaurants:  Overture, Rust & Vrede (now South Africa’s number one restaurant and top chef David Higgs), Terroir, and Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine.

POSTSCRIPT 15/4:  It has been announced that David Higgs has resigned, and will leave Rust en Vrede mid-June.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Yesterday Cape Town scored 100 % in being the Host City in which the Quarter Final between Germany and Argentina was played, and will be remembered by fans from around the world, both in Cape Town and those watching in their homes, pubs or Fan Parks, for excellent soccer between two giants in this sport.  But Cape Town had its best marketing ever, with more-than-perfect winter weather at 22 C, and the world’s VIP’s present and sharing their love for Cape Town and South Africa.

What was a magnificent start to the soccer Saturday was the Fan Walk from the city center to the Stadium.  So many Capetonians I spoke to told me that they were so disappointed to not have bought tickets for the matches, but that they wanted to walk the Fan Walk to get the feeling of its fantastic spirit, which they had heard about from others and seen reported in newspapers.    Thus they made their way along the Fan Walk with their families, in the afternoon, enjoying the happiness and goodwill amongst walkers from around the world.  EyewitnessNews reported that 200 000 persons walked the Fan Walk yesterday, a record number.  It was an incredible sight – Argentinian fans wore blue, or blue and white wigs, and proudly had their flag around them as a cape.  The German fans were a little more conservative, but wore their team’s Adidas T-shirt, some had German flag colours painted on their cheeks, and some had even adopted the hardhats with Deutschland on them.    The pavement outside shu and Doppio Zero in Green Point was completely jam-packed about two hours before kick-off.  A massive German flag had been put up on Signal Hill.

The atmosphere inside Cape Town Stadium was electric, from the time the ticket holders arrived.  The early arrivals had the comedy of seeing South African President Jacob Zuma get into his soccer togs and play in a Special Olympics Unity Cup, in aid of the diasbled, game at 14h00, a funny sight to behold.   I did duty as a volunteer behind a German block of about 200, and they had the most unbelievable “gees”, all dressed the same, all being led in singing throughout the match, all receiving a Deutschland scarf which they held up at the start of the match and which caught the TV cameras and was filmed.   They were so visible, standing for a large part of the match (but not blocking the view of anyone behind them) that the German undercover police filmed them (from behind) to have their behaviour on record as evidence of potential hooliganism just 10 minutes before the game ended! 

The 4-0 result was testimony to an amazing match played by the German team, and Argentina just could not crack a goal, disappointing their many fans, who had by far the most flags hanging over the sides of the stadium.   The first goal was scored in a record of 8 minutes after the start, and three goals were scored in the second half, the last coming just before the end of the match.   It was a fantastic match, and well worth any money that soccer fans had paid to be there.

But it was the VIP presence at the match, outclassing that of the England – Algeria game in terms of VIP attendance, that was the highlight for Cape Town yesterday.   FIFA President Sepp Blatter was present at the stadium for the first time, attending this seventh Cape Town match, as was President Zuma attending his first Cape Town match.  Leonardo DiCaprio was there (he had been seen eating at Nobu at the One&Only the night before), as were what was reported to be Orlando Bloom but in fact was Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, sitting next to an unglamorous-looking Charlize Theron (who stayed at the Table Bay Hotel).   Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel came to support her team, and could not stop beaming.  Her boys gave her a “Luftkuss” to thank her for coming to support them when they did their victors’ walk around the stadium.   Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was there, having fetched Merkel from the airport, taken her to see Khayelitsha (the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Centre, and visited children from the Youth Development through Football programme ‘Soccer 4 Hope’) prior to the match,  and hosting her for dinner after the match.  

Previous German team captain Michael Ballack was there, the first match he has been seen to attend, having been on holiday while he recovers from his injury, which led him to not be selected for this World Cup.   He almost seemed unhappy that his team was doing so well without him, but he did have a huge smile when the fourth goal was scored.   Soccer star Lothar Matthaus sat with Ballack – he has been tipped as the new German coach if Joachim Loew’s contract is not renewed after the World Cup, but his team’s performance to date make it unlikely that it will not be renewed.   Mick Jagger was there, and he, Leonardo DiCaprio and socialite Paris Hilton were seen to be partying at The Fez (above Vaudeville) last night.   Homegrown billionaire and second space tourist Mark Shuttleworth was there, having attended the previous Cape Town match as well, very low key and not appearing to have VIP status as far as seating went – he was with his dad at the previous match, dressed as a soccer fan in South African colours.  

Twitter crashed a number of times during the match, not being able to handle the volume of Tweets everytime Germany scored.  Paris Hilton is an avid Twitterer with more than 2 million followers, and despite her Port Elizabeth publicity, she raved about the city (“Cape Town Rocks!”, “Went to Cape of Good Hope. So beautiful. Saw the cutest penguins and ostriches.  Having an amazing dinner in Cape Town now.  Love the food here”).   These are priceless endorsements. 

Last night Cape Town erupted, and restaurants were experiencing trade like they had hoped for throughout the World Cup.   Accommodation in Camps Bay was sold out – this date had been booked out for months ahead, sadly the only one for the World Cup period, but Tuesday will also be sold out for the Semi-Final between Netherlands and Uruguay.

Yesterday will be the day long remembered by soccer fans for a good game, but also for the fantastic comments made about Cape Town and its beauty by TV commentators.  The endorsement of the city by them reaches millions of viewers, and is extremely powerful in the marketing of the city.   Yesterday Cape Town won the Quarter Final for soccer fans in the city, the country and around the world!  She was the most perfect of a Mother City!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com

In three years I had never made it to Myoga, a restaurant in the Vineyard Hotel, but operated independently by Mike Bassett, who also owns Ginja, which had previously featured on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list.  Reports I had heard about the “bizarre” food served at the time that Richard Carsten was working at Myoga did not inspire a visit.  An invitation from new Marketing Manager Marc Coppin to try out the Winter Special was an incentive to visit this restaurant, which offers the most exceptional value in its 6-course winter special at R 150 (an 8-course degustation menu is also available, and costs R 350).   Bassett is a lover of ginger, as his two restaurant names attest, but there is little ginger evident in the dishes on the Winter Special – only two of the menu items contain ginger (gnocchi with steamed shrimp, and in the roast pork belly dish).

The buildings surrounding Myoga lend a modern air to that part of the hotel, and therefore it is a surprise when one sees the old-fashioned look of the Myoga restaurant space.  Marc explained that it once was the Ball Room of Lady Anne Barnard’s residence, and the round kitchen design is exactly in this space, intended to display the “theatre of the kitchen”, Marc explains. If pots fall and bang, as they did that evening, then it is part of this theatre.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  As one steps in through the door, one looks straight ahead into a collection of colourful water-wings, and one sees a lady’s costume and shorts.  It is meant to be a wacky “decor” touch, in that the costume and bathing shorts are meant to denote the Gents and Ladies loos – too wacky, in my opinion, for a serious player in the restaurant industry.  Whilst we are on the topic – when one is in the loo, one is entertained by a live feed coming from the kitchen, on a flatscreen TV at the back of each bathroom door.   A pity therefore that one of the screens did not work that night, nor the latch on one of the doors.  In the entrance area a massive Aga stove, more suitable for a museum, displays the restaurant’s awards, alongside two brass washing basins on top of the stove (only a man can see these as being decorative assets to the restaurant)!

The decor of the restaurant space is a surprise, and quite frankly, leaves a lot to be desired.  As I wrote about Jardine, the decor needs a serious “woman’s touch”.   It has different design elements thrown at the interior, and there is little consistency.  Marc told me that a revered decor fundi advised Bassett on the decor, and that this is a touchy subject.  On entering the main restaurant space, one sees the bar on the right, with a multitude of thin steel strands.   To the left is a seating area at which no one sits, like a lounge, the black lacquer edging of the white leather couches badly scratched and a brownish couch being very much out of place in terms of colour and design.  My advice to Marc was to remove the seating area, and add restaurant tables.  The woodwork on all chairs in the restaurant has an orange-ish stain, with two different black and white fabrics used.  The tables are black with a silver edging.  Massive orange “thrones” are dotted around the restaurant, adding colour, but dating the restaurant.   An Eastern lighting touch around the columns seems to relate back to a previous restaurant tenant.  In general, the lighting is a busy and clashing mixture of lamps, chandeliers and downlighters.

All traces of Carstens have been removed from the menu, the feedback having been that he was too wacky with his deconstruction approach to food.  The menu has been simplified, and is updated every six months, says Marc.  Myoga offers “global fusion cuisine”, and the most favourite menu items stay, Myoga regulars enjoying this and others welcome the opportunity to try something new.   The mantra of the restaurant is “Relax Eat Revive”, says the menu.   The winter specials menu is a generous six-course one, each course offering three choices, and five of these are paired to a wine selected by the sommelier, at an exceptionally reasonable R 150 for the food and an extra R 135 for the wine pairing.  The dishes on the specials menu are different to those on the standard menu.  The sommelier/”mixologist” Carl is the nicest I have had the pleasure to deal with (lofty sommeliers are not my favourite).  Having worked at Myoga from the beginning, he is knowledgeable in being able to answer all my questions, and even about sister restaurant Ginja.  He does not flinch when I tell him that I would prefer reds with all my courses, and he found suitable ones for me. For a start, we were offered a cocktail, not something I indulge in, a strawberry sparkling wine martini mix, which had quite a bite to it, so I quickly put it aside.   Beaumont is the house wine. 

Rob Earleigh is the chef, working with Bassett at Myoga.  I started with an amuse bouche of coriander spuma with sweet chilli (not too hot at all), served in a shot glass, with a toasted crispy ‘salt and pepper prawn’, one of the Myoga signature dishes, which Carl serves with an Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008.  Iced oyster and roasted garlic flaky pastry tart were two ‘mouth tickler’ alternatives.  This was followed by a garden pea soup, pancetta and truffle cappuccino, with a refreshing taste of mint, with salted crackling, served with a Hermanuspietersfontein nr. 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2009.  We were served tasty ciabatta and wholewheat bread with this.  Other soup alternatives were a Cape seafood bouillabaisse, and slow cooked leek and potato soup.  A lamb and lemon canneloni (almost pancake-like), with a feta cream centre, and tandoori spice, was an unusual combination, and the least successful of the items on the menu in my opinion, being too bland relative to the other exciting pasta dishes (Semolina potato gnocchi, and baked ricotta and spinach dumplings) my companions had.  The pasta dish was served with Raka Sangiovese 2008.  We had a lime sorbet as a ‘refresher’, but even for this course one has the choice of apple and passion fruit sorbet too. 

The kingklip looked attractive with a green herb and mustard crust, and was served with Mediterranean steamed poatato, charred leeks, asparagus and sauce nantaise.  However, it had an overpowering taste of Dijon mustard, which is a shame, as kingklip is a lovely tasting fish and does not need mustard to spice it up.  Hermanuspietersfontein’s Die Bartho 2009 was paired with the fish.   The roasted pork belly, an alternative main course dish, was outstanding, served with sweet potato and cream spinach. Beef fillet was a third alternative.  I ended off with a hot apple and pear brulee tart, which I had served with fresh cream instead of creme fraiche, and Carl served Delheim Edelspatz 2009 with it.  The milk chocolate pot de creme was an alternative dessert, being a cooked chocolate pudding with a wonderful caramel foam, served in a coffee cup. Another alternative dessert was wobbly vanilla panna cotta with pineapple soup.

The service we received from manager Mike, who had to jump in at the last minute as the restaurant was so busy, was impeccable. I particularly liked him explaining the ingredient of each dish, as the menus had been removed after we had ordered.  Also, he laid the cutlery on the left and right of each diner, rather than stretching across, which I experience in restaurants with great regularity.  Marc is the new Marketing Manager of the restaurant, having been a waiter at the restaurant prior to this.  He is excited about the challenge that lies ahead, and he received a mini-lecture from me about the value of social media marketing.

We loved being spoilt by the Myoga team, and generally the food and service was of an outstanding quality, at most commendable value-for-money (hence the fully booked restaurant on a weekday night).  We will come back.  I wish I could get my hands on the Myoga decor though!

Myoga, Vineyard Hotel, 60 Colinton Road, Newlands. Tel  (021) 657-4545. www.myoga.co.za. Open Tuesdays – Saturdays for lunch and dinner.  6-course dinner R150.    2-course lunch R125, 3 courses cost R175.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com