Tag Archives: Amsterdam

Cape Town drops 10 places in Top 25 TripAdvisor 2016 Travelers’ Choice World Destination!

TripAdvisor cape-townCape Town has dropped to the 20th position in the TripAdvisor 2016 Travelers’ Choice Top 25 World Destinations list, from 10th last year, despite the extremely favourable exchange rate offered to tourists by our city. No explanation for the massive ranking drop is provided. and may be due to the stringent Visa Regulations!

The TripAdvisor 2016 Travelers’ Choice Awards World Destinations list has just been published: Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 30 July

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Unemployment is at a six year high at 25%,  with a surprising figure of 36% for ‘extended unemployment rate‘ recorded too, being ‘people who have given up looking for jobs‘!

*  Reconsider‘, the TV commercial created by Ireland/Davenport for SA Tourism, has already been seen more than 700000 times on YouTube, and will also be flighted on CNN and National Geographic, reaching ‘more than 1,3 billion households’, the media statement of the agency claims!  The commercial highlights the beauty of our country, but also the specialness of our people.  Agency MD Philip Ireland said:We were very lucky to have a client who not only believed in us but who stayed incredibly close to the creative process, and refused to accept anything less than world class from us. At every step there was an absolute refusal to compromise. South Africa is a world class destination and it was imperative that the thinking and the execution were not just flawless, but better than anything the category had seen before‘, to which SA Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima added: ‘It puts the South African people at the heart of South Africa’s appeal’. 

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 23 January

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Cape Town just cannot stay out of the New York Times!  Travel writer Sarah Khan has profiled some of the city’s hottest coffee and quirky shops, linking the city to World Design Capital 2014.  In the print edition on Sunday, the article headline ‘Have some Dim Sum with your shirts’ introduces the article with the story about the success of I  My Laundry, which recently opened a second branch in the city centre.   Other hot spots that are featured in the article are Loading Bay, Latitude 33, Haas, Pedersen & Lennard, House of Machines, and Los Muertos Motorcycles.

*   Standard Bank’s economist Goolan Ballim says that South Africa’s economy has underperformed ever since the global meltdown, which commenced in 2008.    He only sees a recovery in 2016 or 2017.

*   One third of British travellers have visited 10 countries on average, a survey conducted on behalf of the London City Airport has found.  The most popular Continue reading →

‘Reflections on the Future’ design trends: orange is the new black!

I Love my Laundry Bree Street table Whale Cottage PortfolioThe brief to address trendtalk #7 at the Plascon Auditorium last week led to three speakers in the Cape Town design industry approach design trendspotting from three very different perspectives, addressing  the theme of  ‘Reflections on the Future’.   Attending the Bloggers’ evening at the new I  my Laundry branch on Bree Street last night, I saw how their bold use of orange is spot on trend, a colour they already chose when they opened on Buitengracht Street 19 months ago. Orange was described as a bright and cheerful colour which does not overwhelm and which works well in ‘dark moody spaces’.

#trendtalk was conceptualised by Lauren Shantall of Inhouse Brand Architects, and four design and decor trend talks are held in the Cape Town city centre per year.

1.  Laurence Brick, co-founder of Loads of Living, spoke mainly about trends in interior home design, reflecting that consumers evolve, and feed each other with creative ideas, mainly seen on Social Media:

*   The kitchen is the new lounge, where one entertains friends and gathers as a family.  The design of the kitchen matches the artisanal fresh food which is on trend.

*   Textiles chosen for interiors have texture, and reflect honesty and integrity in how they are made.

*   Lighting has become very industrial and sculptural, ‘as good as art‘, with bare Continue reading →

Is SAA heading for a crash-landing? Disaster for Tourism!

SAA has been in the news in the past few days for all the wrong reasons, eight of its eleven Board members having resigned in what must signal the lack of confidence in the management of the airline and its future.  As our tourism industry is strongly reliant on SAA to bring tourists to the country, and to Cape Town specifically, the SAA situation is of vital importance to all tourism players.

Cheryl Carolus, Chairman of the SAA Board, is one of the Directors who resigned, with Bonang Mohale, Russell Loubser, Louis Rabbets, Jabulani Ndhlovu, David Lewis, Teddy Daka, and Maggie Whitehouse, but she has not motivated her decision.  Russell Loubser has been vocal, saying that SAA, SA Express, and Mango deserve the support of the South African government, being its largest shareholder, but that they are not receiving it, reported The Citizen. Loubser called for emotional, financial, and moral support, given the economic downturn and the competitive airline industry. The operations of the company have had to be executed in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, he said, which meant that they could not run the company as a commercial enterprise, in which they would ordinarily hire and fire staff, or change routes. ‘But a company like SAA which is totally dependent on the government requires in return the total support of the shareholder. And right now it is finding it difficult to work with the shareholder’.  Issues that have been tabled for months do not get resolved, Loubser explained, particularly the burning issue of an additional R6 billion which the airline requested from the government to execute a strategic plan which had been approved by the government. He said that in the past three years since he had been a member of the SAA Board, the company had ‘never been properly capitalised’.

The resignations were precipitated by the delay in the tabling of SAA’s Annual Report by the deadline of 30 September, as the auditors had not finalised the financial statements, and the funding request not having been finalised with the Treasury, reported The Times. The funding requested is to cover fleet replacement costs, the introduction of a premium economy class, and the extension of business class cabins on long-haul flights. Yet Ms Carolus stated that the Minister is ‘lying’, as the financial statements have been completed, and withholding them is ‘illegal’, reflecting on the Board directors, reported The Times today. The Annual Report for SA Express was also delayed.  Last year the financial statements for SA Express had to be withdrawn, when found to be ‘materially misstated’. Last month the Minister fired all except one Board member of SA Express, for accounting errors going back to 2008!

Earlier last week Ms Carolus had summarised the Board’s achievements as flying to new destinations, sacrificing domestic routes to the benefit of international routes, modernising and increasing the fleet, and in addressing fraud and corruption.

Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba appointed eight new directors to caretake the Board positions, with Vuyisile Kona as the new Chairman, and Andile Mabizela, Andile Khumalo, Bonisizwe Mpondo, Dr Rajesh Naithani, Carol Roskruge, Raisibe Lepule, and Nonhlanhla Kubeka as the new Directors, representing expertise in the fields of aviation, management, state governance, and finance, and which he said would assist the government in ‘propelling the airline to greater heights‘!  The Minister issued a statement, describing the resignation timing as ‘bizarre’, and condemned ‘the leakage of confidential government information’ as an ‘abuse of free speech’, without explaining what information leak he is referring to.  The Minister also explained that the term of most Board members would have come to an end anyway, at the scheduled AGM on 15 October.  The Minister assured staff, passengers, and suppliers that the Board resignations would not disrupt the operations of SAA.

Cape Town’s tourism industry was badly hit by SAA’s decision to close down its Cape Town – London direct flight route in mid-August, selling one of its three slots at Heathrow, and creating a Southern African hub in Johannesburg, forcing all international SAA flights to land in Johannesburg, and then connect to Cape Town on a domestic flight.  This strategy is proving fatal for tourism, as we continuously receive feedback that international flights arriving simultaneously at OR Thambo airport are causing Passport Control and Baggage Collection congestion, meaning that the connecting flights are missed by international visitors, for which SAA tries to cash in on ticket change charges!  This is a dreadful first tourist impression of our country!

The declining quality of SAA’s food and beverage service and poor hostess service was well-documented by German wine writer Mario Scheuermann, who flew from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, to attend CapeWine 2012 in Cape Town last week.  He wrote that the wines were of sub-standard quality, and ran out two hours after take-off, that the food was dreadful (his photograph), and that the mineral water had run out before landing in Johannesburg.  The party of German VIP visitors missed its connecting flights due to the congested airport facilities, and had to wait for three hours to catch a new connecting flight to Cape Town!

Despite this sounding unpatriotic, we would encourage international visitors to fly to Cape Town with any airline other than SAA, and to avoid flying into the country via Johannesburg at all costs!  Direct Cape Town connections are or about to be offered by BA and Virgin from London, by Edelweiss from Zürich, by Lufthansa from Munich, by Emirates from Dubai, by Air France from Paris, by Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, and from Amsterdam by KLM.  Maybe  the cancellation of SAA’s Cape Town-London route is a blessing in disguise for our city, given the poor reports about the airline’s service and quality!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Swedish guests checking in at Whale Cottage Camps Bay today praised the ease of connection via Swiss from Copenhagen to Zürich, and then the direct flight by Edelweiss to Cape Town, for its friendly service and fantastic price of R 5500 each for the full return trip.

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Today it was announced that the government has given SAA a ‘guarantee’ of R5 billion!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Southern African Tourism Update has published a letter today from a tour operator reporting on two client flight cancellations due to overbooking, handled unsympathetically by SAA staff.

POSTSCRIPT 3/10: Mario Scheuermann has shared the details of his return journey on SAA two days ago.  The food quality was slightly better, there was more wine available but the quality offered still was poor.  There was a problem with the cooling, so all beverages were warm, i.e. not cooled!  The service was equally poor.  Interesting would be to hear the evaluation of the food and wine offering by the SA Culinary Olympics team, which was on the same flight to Frankfurt!

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: The Times reports that the smaller independent airlines are furious that SAA has been given a R 5 billion lifeline by the government, saying that this is driving low-cost airlines out of business. Nine out of 11 airlines that started operating locally in the past 20 years have gone into liquidation, mainly due to an oversupply of domestic seats, ‘a legacy of the optimism of 2010’. Now 1time wants a bail-out by the government too.  The small airlines are asking for a cut in the fuel levy, as well as reduced fees for ACSA, Air Traffic Navigation Services, the SA Weather Service, and the Civil Aviation Authority.

POSTSCRIPT 10/10: Southern African Tourism Update reports this evening that the new Chairman of the SAA Board is questioning why the Cape Town – London route was cancelled, and is apparently in talks with the Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille to reinstate the route.  One wonders why he is not talking to our Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, the CEO of Wesgro Nils Flaatten, and/or Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold!  One of the three SAA slots at Heathrow have been sold, which may make the reinstatement difficult.

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

SAA crashes Cape tourism in cancelling direct Cape Town-London route!

The SAA announcement by its General Manager Theunis Potgieter on Tuesday that it plans to cancel the direct flights between Cape Town and London as of 16 August has been greeted with shock by the Cape tourism industry, and could not have come at a worse time, the industry suffering what could be another tourism crisis this winter. It appears that the tourism authorities did not receive any prior warning about SAA’s plan to cancel a route it introduced 20 years ago. At the SAA breakfast at Indaba last month the airline already announced that it ‘was hurting in the current global recession’, and that it had requested a R6 billion ‘government injection’!  The psychological damage of SAA’s decision probably is worse than its actual effect, in signalling that the country’s airline does not take Cape Town seriously as the country’s leading tourism destination.

Tourists and businesspersons travelling between Cape Town and London from 16 August will have to do so via Johannesburg, at no extra cost. Tickets already booked will be refunded, if required.  The change will allow SAA to expand its flights to and from Perth, Mumbai, Accra, and Abidjan, probably all flying to Johannesburg only. SAA has assured the industry that it will continue marketing Cape Town as a destination. The motivation for the cancellation of the service was said to be the reduced size by 24% of the demand for flights between South Africa and the UK in the past three years, largely caused by the increased airport departure tax and the £52 UK visa fee, reports Travelmole.  News24 added that air traffic control fees have also doubled. Of concern is SAA’s feedback that ‘South Africa is among the top five fastest declining visitor markets to the UK’, according to Visit Britain statistics.  SAA’s justification appears South African demand driven, and does not reflect the radical decline in the demand for the route from UK tourists, which has been evident in the past summer season.

Only British Airways operates direct flights between the two cities all year round. Virgin services the route between October and March. Emirates has good value flights to Dubai, which has become a hub connecting travelers to other hubs such as Heathrow. SAA is planning to increase its capacity by 13% through the use of larger aircraft on its reduced twice-daily (from three times a day) London-Johannesburg route, and has justified its decision on its ‘long-term growth and business optimisation strategy’, reports News24.

Reacting to the news, Cape Town Tourism issued a joint statement yesterday. Its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold’s waffled and garbled response was disappointing and was not aggressive in challenging SAA on a decision it has made on a purely financial basis, without recognising that Cape Town is the most important drawcard for tourists in South Africa, something which Mrs Helmbold should be countering on behalf of its Cape Town tourism constituency: “This is disappointing news for Cape Town’s tourism industry and we fear it could affect tourism arrivals from the UK and the rest of Europe negatively… Whilst SAA’s growth strategy’s emphasis on expansion of routes into Africa and new markets like South America and Australasia is encouraging, the issue of direct air access to Cape Town is again highlighted. Airlines must make economic sense. When a flight is cancelled this is the reason. Decreased business travel, as a result of troubled economies, continues to plague key source markets. The business traveler is a major contributor to covering flight expenses, which points to a need to work hard on forging stronger business ties in addition to the leisure market.”  ACSA’s Cape Town Manager of Service Standards Ian Bartes is the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, and one could expect that Cape Town International will lobby SAA to consider reversing its decision.

Surprisingly, the media release also contained a statement by Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten, now responsible for tourism in the Western Cape, in having taking over the operation of the ex-Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  His comment was far more practical and business-orientated, and one hopes that it will lead to action, especially given that ACSA’s Cape Town International GM Deon Cloete now is Chairman of the still-existent Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited: “Our research has indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds strong economic value for the Western Cape and neighbouring Eastern Cape. International airlines identified this and are increasing their capacity during peak season. Many business and leisure travelers from the United States are using London as a connecting flight into Cape Town and we are at risk of losing these visitors, as the traveling time has been extended even further. A national debate on airlift strategy is urgently required to discuss direct flights into Cape Town International Airport as well as the other regional airports. Poor economic conditions in the global north and escalating fuel prices were making it difficult for many international airlines to remain competitive. These market conditions would also have an impact on the pricing of domestic flights and the ability to move tourists throughout South Africa.”

Once again City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, has demonstrated how out of touch he is with the tourism industry, which has just experienced one of its worst May months since 2007 and thereby proving that Seasonality is getting worse, in his reaction to the SAA announcement in Cape Town Tourism’s media release: “In order to sustain tourism in Cape Town, we need to counter seasonality with year-round inbound tourism. It is vital that flights to Cape Town remain consistent throughout the year. The only way we can secure more direct flights to Cape Town is by stimulating both business and leisure tourism demand for Cape Town. This will translate in more visitors and ultimately more jobs for the sector, year round.  Perception does not shift overnight – and it needs proof – the industry must stand together to tackle our tourism weaknesses and grow a more complex offering of product to multiple markets. Leisure and business visitors need to see that Cape Town is a 365 destination for a thousand good and different reasons.”

Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde also expressed his concern to Southern African Tourism Update about SAA’s decision, and probably is the only tourism player able to come up with a viable solution to this tourism dilemma, affecting not only Cape Town but the whole Western Cape, describing it as sad and disappointing for the whole of the province’s economy, saying direct airlift was important for business, tourism and airfreight. ‘I have no doubt it will have a negative impact,’ he said. ‘We will push forward with our airlift strategy to encourage other airlines to fly here.’ He said the Cape must review its long-haul competitiveness and create the right economic conditions for airlines to fly there”.

One has seen in the past that Cape Town Tourism does not have the clout to address something as substantial as this tourism issue, despite its Board Chairman’s job at ACSA, and we have no confidence that this tourism body will do anything about turning around SAA’s decision, or in devising a campaign to ensure that Cape Town does not lose any more precious UK visitors, which already are in short supply.

POSTSCRIPT 7/6SAA agreed yesterday to pay a R18,8 million penalty to the Competitions Commission for fixing fuel rates and other surcharges for cargo, reports Southern African Tourism Update today! This probably is what they need the cost-cutting Cape Town-London saving for!

POSTSCRIPT 8/6: Columnist Tony Weaver wrote in the Cape Times today that it is clear that the tourism industry was not consulted by SAA in cancelling the Cape Town – London route as of 15 August. He wonders if it is a ‘punishment’ of the Western Cape to be DA-party led, seeking a reason greater than just cost-cutting for this drastic action by SAA.  A writer to the Letters page today highlighted that SAA’s decision is ‘bottom-line’ based, and not considerate of the ‘bottoms’ of its customers, many of whom have already migrated to other airlines serving the route, which may be the reason for the decline in demand on this route! The newspaper also provides response from some tourism players to the news:

*  Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten told the FEDHASA Cape AGM yesterday that they have “secured a ’round-table’ discussion with South African Airways..”, given that their ‘research indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds ‘strong economic value for the Western Cape and its neighbouring Eastern Cape'”. The increased travelling time for long-haul flights in having to travel via Johannesburg could adversely affect tourism to Cape Town, he said.

*   Surprising to read is that City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe has written to SAA Chairman Cheryl Carolus and CEO Siza Mzimela, expressing his ‘concern and disappointment‘ on behalf of the tourism and conference industries, importers and exporters, and investors, given that the tourism industry adds R14,6 billion to the GDP of the city annually, and employs 300000 staff.

*   Provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde sounded more upbeat, saying that other airlines servicing this route ‘will pick up the slack‘.

*   Mossel Bay Tourism said that the ‘province seems to be under-supplied with direct flights’, and that the quickest way in which foreign tourism arrivals can increase is to ‘land larger numbers at Cape Town International‘.  The ‘hinterland‘ has suffered greatly since the soccer World Cup, with an over-supply of accommodation in Cape Town, and related offers,  making it attractive to stay in the city for longer, and to do day trips into other parts of the Western Cape, instead of staying over in towns and villages in the province, it added.

POSTSCRIPT 8/6:  On Twitter negative Tweets about SAA’s decision met with strong resistance from @JamesStyan, a journalist for Beeld and Die Burger today.  We met for coffee this afternoon.  He had met with SAA on Wednesday afternoon, after their announcement of the cancellation of the Cape Town-London route, and was told verbally, not documented in their media statement, that should the economics improve, that the route could be reinstated.  He is adamant that this decision is based on economic considerations and SAA’s hub strategy, making Johannesburg its hub from/to which all its flights connect.  He also reminded me that other airlines have cut their Cape Town routes since the World Cup too.

POSTSCRIPT 13/6: The band Roxette performed in venues around the country last week, and flew out of OR Thambo airport to their next destination. On their Facebook page they wrote: ‘Just spent 90 minutes at one of the world’s worst airports, Johannesburg. Could actually be the no.1 on that scary list.. how about some organisation with customs’, reported The Times on Monday.

POSTSCRIPT 14/6:  The MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index 2012 shows, according to Southern African Tourism Update that ‘the majority of international visitors to Cape Town are from London, with 185000 visitors expected to spend US$361 million throughout the year. This is followed by 127500 travellers from Dubai spending US$118 million, and 76000 visitors from Amsterdam spending US$68 million’. Once again this survey makes a mockery of the SAA decision to axe its Cape Town-London route!

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: The irony grows – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it will hold its AGM and World Air Transport Summit in Cape Town from 2 – 4 June 2013, reports Southern African Tourism Update!  SAA is the host airline for the event!

POSTSCRIPT 4/7: Reuters reported today that Lufthansa will no longer service Cape Town from Frankfurt, due to the night flying ban over this airport.  All Cape Town flights will be serviced from Munich five times a week from 28 October.

POSTSCRIPT 6/7: The meeting with SAA and the Cape tourism industry representatives, hosted by Wesgro yesterday, has not made any impact nor reversed SAA’s decision to cancel the Cape Town – London route from next month. Instead it was agreed that greater demand needs to be built in attracting visitors to the Cape, so that SAA can then meet the demand and reinstate the route. Other airlines must be attracted to service the city with direct flights, it was agreed.

POSTSCRIPT 17/7: News24 has reported today that SAA has sold one of its three slots, being its Cape Town – London route, at Heathrow for an estimated R300 million!  The cancelling of the route therefore appears more cash driven than motivated by the low demand!

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

‘Black Butterflies’ movie honours poet Ingrid Jonker, good for Cape Town tourism!

The just-released (in South African cinemas) internationally-produced movie ‘Black Butterflies’, about the life and death of South Africa’s Sestiger poet Ingrid Jonker, is a contrast between the most beautiful Cape Town scenery, and the dark days of our political past and the unhappy life of this talented writer.   The movie location is identified as Cape Town, and should attract international movie-goers to our beautiful city.

Dutch actress Carice van Houten and actor Rutger Hauer, who both don’t get the South African English pronunciation perfectly correct, play Jonker and her father, respectively.  The movie tells the unhappy story of how Jonker’s mother died when she and her sister were young children, were sent to stay with their grandmother, and sent back to their ‘Pa’ when she passed away.  He was a severe and critical father, and Member of Parliament, heading up the Publications Control Board, and ironically even her book of poems had to be vetted by him and his Board. They were never close, and it was his rejection of her that probably led to the sad end to her life.  Desperate to find love, she had relationships with great writers such as Jack Cope, Uys Krige, Jan Rabie, and André Brink.  The movie weaves the political history of the country in the ‘Sixties into the story, and ends with the reading of her poem “Die Kind wat Doodgeskiet is deur Soldate in Nyanga” in English by the then newly inaugurated President Nelson Mandela at the opening of Parliament in 1994.  He called her ‘one of the finest poets of our country’.  Ex-President Thabo Mbeki awarded the Silver Order of Ikhamanga to Jonker posthumously, for her contribution to literature and human rights.

The movie was shot in March and April last year, and contains the most beautiful beach and sea shots at Llandudno, and Cape Town generally is the location for the movie, with the exception of a few scenes shot in Amsterdam. Other Cape Town locations are the playgrounds and the Promenade in Sea Point, Clifton’s Second Beach (where Cope and Krige shared a bungalow), Bo-Kaap, Table Mountain, Chapman’s Peak, Strandfontein, and Noordhoek Beach. The movie ends with Jonker walking into the sea at Three Anchor Bay in July 1965, becoming our country’s Sylvia Plath.

The movie is a co-production between the German Comet Film GmbH and South African Spier Productions (Pty) Limited, with post-production done by Bavaria Films in Germany. The name of the movie comes from the line in one of Jonker’s poems: “For the sun that I now cover forever with black butterflies”. While Jonker wrote her precious poetry in Afrikaans, the movie has the English translations, for practical purposes. Paula van der Oest is an Oscar-nominated director from Holland, reports the Cape Argus.  She loved the work of Jonker, and wanted to expose it to a larger audience.  South African actor Graham Clarke, playing Krige, does not do a believable Afrikaans-speaking-English accent. Irish actor Liam Cunningham is a most sympathetic Cope, whose relationship with Jonker dominates the movie.  Oddly, André Brink is not mentioned by name in the movie, even though the movie notes outside the cinema refer to his name. Brink is called ‘Eugene Maritz’ in the movie, played by local Nicholas Pauling.   Brink’s book A Fork in the Road contains an overview of Jonker’s life, and her effect on his life.

‘Black Butterflies’, Cinema Nouveau, Cavendish Square.  See the movie trailer here.

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

Restaurant review: Five Flies good winter special, but doesn’t fly!

Five Flies restaurant in Cape Town has been around forever, and I had not been there for ages.   When my friend Elisabeth Kretschmer suggested it as a city restaurant for lunch in early June, we decided to make use of the Monday-Wednesday-Friday winter special offer, a 2-course meal at R125 per person and 3 courses at R 150, inclusive of a glass of wine (the normal prices are R 200 for 3 courses, R 230 for 4 courses and R 279 for 5 courses).

The restaurant once was the home of the Dutch Club, and is a Historical Monument.  It has a namesake D’Vijff Vliegen in Amsterdam.  It is located on Keerom Street, home to the city’s lawyers and advocates, and probably gets a lot of business from these learned persons.   The restaurant has not had an update in ages, other than having had the interior painted.   It is a conglomeration of two buildings, with a central courtyard linked to interleading rooms.  We could not sit in the courtyard (it was a summery winter’s day) because it is the smokers’ area.  However, all the doors connecting the courtyard to the other rooms of the restaurant are wide open, contrary to the smoking legislation.  The rooms are smallish, allowing one to book them for private functions.   Elisabeth noticed the beautiful bunch of fresh roses in the entrance, whereas I loved the artwork which brightened the cream walls.  Strangely. no one had  a pricelist for these, because the walls had recently been painted, we were told, and the prices had been removed and lost in the process.   The artworks are rather modern, a contrast to the historic Cape Dutch feel of the restaurant interior with the “riempies”-style chairs.

I arrived to find the hostess in the reception hall rather short and abrupt.   She took me to the end room and mumbled that I could choose any table.  When I chose the one nearest the window, she told me it was already booked, although none of the tables had a “Reserved” sign on them.     Not a welcome start.  I was given the menu/winelist, but not told that it was a Winter Specials price day, given that it was a Friday.  The waitress was quick to offer the price when I asked her.  I wondered if she would have told us and charged us correctly if I had not asked.   The waitresses are dressed in a casual black T-shirt with the Five Flies logo on it.   The hostess seemed out of place, wearing her “civvies”.  The music was blaring, and I had to ask the hostess to turn down the volume.

We each chose two dishes from the menu, and realised what a problem this causes when different dishes are ordered – Elisabeth ordered a salad and a main, and I had a main and a dessert.  Elisabeth loved the bread and could not get enough of it.   I had to wait for Elisabeth to eat her beautifully presented salmon, rocket and dried caper salad, served with shaved parmesan and a red mustard seed dressing, which she loved the taste of, before we both received our mains together.  My sirloin steak was a little chewy, and was served with pumpkin, courgettes, potato gallette, camembert (I did not taste the cheese) and Madeira wine jus. Elisabeth loved her veal escalopes with spinach fettucini, stir-fry vegetables and parmesan cream sauce.   It meant that Elisabeth then had to watch me eat my dessert (delicious layers of meringue and Lindt chocolate, served with pecan nut ice cream and chocolate sauce), a waste of time for both of us working persons, given that it was lunchtime, and that our working day had not yet finished.    I ordered a cappuccino to be served with my dessert, but it arrived when I had almost finished the dessert.

The winelist is short and sweet, and seems to reflect how many cash-strapped restaurant-goers choose their wines, unfortunately white and red wines mixed, in price bands of R115 (e.g. Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Leopard’s Leap Shiraz, Groote Post ‘The Old Man’s Blend’), R135, R165, R185, R205, R300, R400, R475, R550 (e.g. Vergelegen White, Cloof Crucible Shiraz, Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmonde), and R750 (includes Vilafonte Series C, Rudera Cabernet Sauvignon, Rust & Vrede, Sterhuis Astra).  The champagnes and sparkling wines had no prices, and it took some time for the prices of these to be found.   The Moet et Chandon costs R850 and the Louis Roederer Crystal R4500 a bottle.  The Simonsig bubbly costs R180, while the Pongracz Desiderius costs R475.    The free glass of white wine, which is part of the special, was an unwooded chardonnay from Leopard’s Leap, and the red was Peacon Stream Pebble Hill by Waterford.  Surprisingly, one size fits all at Five Flies, in that only one size of wine glass is on the table, irrespective of one drinking white or red wine.

In a clever move to keep one coming back to Five Flies, each guest receives a R 100 voucher towards the next meal (on checking the detail, the voucher is for a table of two, and can only be used in October, November or December this year!).

The Five Flies brochure says: “It’s classic in a contemporary way.  It’s a restaurant but it’s also bars.  It’s got a lot of heritage but it’s very now, and it’s well worth a visit”.  I am not sure if it is still “very now”.  Five Flies is a professional restaurant, where things work functionally, but it lacks warmth, character, care for and interest in its patrons.   No management, other than the pushy hostess, was visible or came to our table in the two hours that we were there.   Yet the food was generally good, well presented, and the winter special package is excellent value-for-money.

Note: The Five Flies special has changed to two main courses for the price of one (the content of this special seems to change regularly, despite its ad in the Weekend Argus of today claiming that this has been the special since July – I have seen it advertised as 50 % off as well, which does not apply if you are a single diner), on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  The special offer was sent by e-mail, but is not featured on the website.

Five Flies, 14 – 16 Keerom Street. Tel 021 424-4442.  www.fiveflies.co.za (Not the most exciting restaurant website, but functionally good detail, with winelist, menu, nice photographs of dishes, but not of those that we had).  Open for lunch Mondays – Fridays, and for dinner from Mondays – Sundays.  Ian Bergh was the Executive Chef, who trained under Franck Dangereux of the Food Barn, but has since left.   (Greg Baverstock is the new chef).

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