Entries tagged with “Cafe des Arts”.


The explosion of restaurant openings in Cape Town and the Winelands in the last two months is a concern to many, both as restaurant lovers, in that one cannot keep up, and as restaurant owners, as there is not enough business for everyone.

Last month saw the opening of Seta at Villa 47, Le coin Français by Darren Badenhorst in Franschhoek, The Bistro and Deli at La Paris outside Franschhoek, Chef Duncan Doherty’s Eatery at Colmant in Franschhoek, and Boschendal at Oude Bank in Stellenbosch, amongst others.

We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously, and welcome such news.

Restaurant Openings

#  Villa 47 has relaunched its Stuzzico and Restaurant restaurants, as SETA and Pierino Penati, respectively. The latter restaurant (photograph) has opened in conjunction with Italian Michelin star restaurant owner Chef Theo Penati. (more…)

The explosion of restaurant openings in Cape Town and the Winelands in September is flowing into October too. Last month saw the opening of Tiger’s Milk Kloof Street, Marrow, Davy Croquettes, The Yard, Schoon de Companje in its new premises, Pierino Penati at Villa 47, and Firefish, amongst others. 

We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously, and welcome such news.

Restaurant Openings

#   Tiger’s Milk has opened its restaurant and Bar Splendido on Kloof Street and Rheede Street in Cape Town (photograph) (more…)

After a quiet August as far as restaurant openings in Cape Town and the Winelands are concerned, September is seeing a number of new restaurants opening between now and the end of the month. 

We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously, and welcome such news.

Restaurant Openings

#   Roast & Co has opened alongside HQ, in the former Bizerca Bistro space, in Heritage Square (photograph) (more…)

Tuk Tuk Beer vatsNew restaurant openings continue, especially in Cape Town, despite winter having arrived, and further restaurants have closed down.

We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously.

Restaurant Openings

#   A Mexican-style tapas restaurant has opened inside Tuk Tuk craft beer microbrewery in Franschhoek (photograph)

#   Mulberry & Prince has opened on the corner of Bree and Pepper Street, with owners American Cynthia Rivera and local Cornel Mostert  (more…)

imageSince selling my guest houses I have stayed at a mix of self-catering and guest houses in Franschhoek, and have been very disappointed. Franschhoek Boutique Hotel GM Llewellyn Lambert took pity on my Franschhoek accommodation experiences, as documented in Sour Service Awards on this Blog, and invited me to come and stay at the hotel. He had showed me around just after it was completed a few months ago, but this was my first stay.

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imageNew restaurant openings continue, especially in Cape Town.  Cape Town ‘s most successful restaurant opening, Locanda Restaurant at Villa 47 on Bree Street, has been followed by the opening of its new Stuzzico bar and small plate restaurant! Interesting news is Chef Ivor Jones’ departure from The Test Kitchen and his future plans (see POSTSCRIPT below).  Mulberry & Prince is an exciting new New York-inspired restaurant.

We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously.

Restaurant Openings

#   Mulberry & Prince has opened on the corner of Bree and Pepper Street, with owners American Cynthia Rivera and local Cornel Mostert (photograph) (more…)

When superb wine marketer and CEO Hein Koegelenberg is involved in a project one can expect it to be of a superlative quality, reflecting La Motte’s slogan of ‘A Culture of Excellence’. So it was on Wednesday, when we were invited to attend the launch of ‘sister’ wine brand Leopard’s Leap’s new Culinaria Collection of six wines, a range developed on the basis of terroir, inspired by the regionality of French wines, and its suitability for different food types. (more…)

The Sweet Service Award goes to the University of Cape Town College of Music, for its fantastic performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on Monday evening, and for finding concert-goer Bettie Coetzee Lambrecht’s purse which she had forgotten at the ticket table in the foyer of the City Hall.  Receiving details of Gillian Lindner of the College of Music when she discovered her loss at a restaurant after the concert, Bettie called Ms Lindner the following day, and could claim the purse as hers on the basis of its description.  She Facebooked:Last time this happened was a decade ago in New York. Cape Town, I LOVE you as much as NY!’

The Sour Service Award goes to Café des Arts in Franschhoek, which started an sms smear campaign against a competitor restaurant/deli in Franschhoek.  Sacred Ground employed a baker previously working at Café des Arts, whereupon Café des Arts sent text messages to Franschhoek locals, requesting them to not support Sacred Ground! Staff moving between restaurants and other hospitality establishments is a natural occurrence, and is especially pronounced in Franschhoek.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Today we have reached an exciting milestone on our Whale Cottage Blog, in that this is our 1000th blogpost.  We thank our readers for their support in reading our blog, and for providing feedback, to help us improve as we developed over the almost three years. In numerology, 1000 symbolises multitude and perfection, we have learnt from Google, and we dedicate our next 1000 blogposts to be worthy of this definition.

Highlights have been making the Top 10 on the Most Controversial Blog category of the 2010 SA Blog Awards, achieving a cumulative unique readership of just under half a million in the last 16 months (about 30000 per month on average), and setting up the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club last year.

So what have we learnt about blogging and our blog in the close to three years:

*   Restaurant news in general, and reviews and special offers specifically have attracted the greatest interest on this blog.   Our most widely read restaurant reviews, since we went onto Google Analytics 16 months ago, are for Tokara DeliCATessen, Sotana by Caveau, Gaaitjie, Pierneef à La Motte, and Duchess on Wisbeach.  It was the enjoyment of writing the review of Portofino restaurant, owned by Cormac Keane, that got us started with reviews, and we have written more than 100 reviews since then.  We have seen negative reaction to some of these, and have been banned from the Caveau group of restaurants (including Sotano), the Caviar group of restaurants (Beluga and Sevruga), Opal Lounge, and Café des Arts as a result.  Restaurants generally are poor at Social Media, and only a handful blog and/or are on Twitter.  This means that a restaurant’s information most often is provided by a blog rather than by the restaurant’s own website, which can be to its advantage or diadvantage, depending on the reviews that are listed on the first page of Google.  Other highly read blogposts are the Winter and Summer Restaurant Specials lists, the Table Mountain vote for the New7Wonders of the World, Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock’s visit to Fresnaye in January 2009, and the Disney service training programme instituted just days before the World Cup. 

*   Tourism topics have also attracted attention, probably because there are far fewer writers on this topic.

*    Word spreads quickly if a blogpost is controversial, and brings in new readers to the blog.  Despite all allegations to the contrary, we have never written a blogpost to be controversial.  It is the reaction to it by our readers that causes the controversy. 

*   Comments have become harder to manage, and increasingly cowardly commenters write anonymously to slate the writer of the blog or the subject of a blogpost.  If one deletes such comments, one is criticised; if one publishes them, one is equally criticised!

*   While blog readers enjoy honesty, and probably read this blog for it, those that are on the receiving end of it plus their friends do react with venom, rather than using the feedback to improve their service and quality. The nastiness in ‘unSocial Media’, our new name for it, has been shocking, especially in a campaign by David Cope on Twitter, where anything goes!

*   Blogging has become very competitive, as bloggers chase readership, and want to be the first to review a new restaurant.  Achieving a first page Google listing for a restaurant, for example, can attract readership over time to the blog by new users when they Google the name of a restaurant.    

*   Readership is disappointingly low on public holidays and weekends.  Saturdays have the lowest blog reading numbers, dropping by up to half of weekday readership. Our highest readership of this blog was on 16 June 2010, during last year’s World Cup, when a tag for ‘2010’ was widely linked to this blog, attracting 9000 page views on that day alone. 

*   Although most readers are unknown to the writer, one carries a huge responsibility in shaping people’s opinions through what one writes.   We try our best to remain objective in presenting information at all times.  We have been blamed for wishing to destroy restaurants and new initiatives, yet supply news about restaurant openings and specials all the time.  Attempts were made last year by Michael Olivier (Editor of Crush!), David Cope (The Foodie Blogger) and Skye Grove (Cape Town Tourism PR Manager) to have this blog closed down.  We moved our blog hosting to America, to prevent this. 

*   Information as well as images are most likely to bring traffic via Google to the website, followed by Twitter.   Facebook is far less likely to draw traffic.

*   The weekly Sweet & Sour Service are enjoyed by readers, and many readers read the blog on a Friday, to check who has received the Sour Award, and then catch up in reading the blogposts of the pevious week.  The Spar Sweet/Limelight Sour Service Awards attracted an unusually high readership, and still do.

Looking forward, we plan to continue being honest, no matter what the cost.  We will endeavour to remain relevant, and to remain heard in the increasing Social Media ‘noise’, as more and more blogs are started, and existing ones reinvent themselves.   We will try to write shorter blogposts!   We will continue helping others to become better bloggers, and will endeavour to never stop learning from others too.

Thank you 1000 times for your readership and support!

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

It’s been a long time since I have been to a restaurant that is as badly run and so overall disappointing as Café des Arts, previously Topsi’s.  It is an embarrassment for Franschhoek, a village that prides itself on its gourmet standards.

I had read feedback about Café des Arts on Twitter, both Rob Armstrong and Dax Villanueva praising it, and felt obliged to try it out, one of the few Franschhoek restaurants I had not been to yet.   I arrived at about 20h00 on Friday evening, to a restaurant which still has the Topsi’s signs outside on the main road and on Reservoir Street, dishonest I felt, given that the restaurant name change took place in August last year, and no attempt has been made to change the signs after taking over from esteemed chef Topsi Venter.  I was one of four tables, all Franschhoekers that I knew.  I was surprised in retrospect to see them eating there, one couple in particular, having come out from Cape Town and previously owning a wine farm in Franschhoek.

I take my time in ordering at a restaurant, assimilating the interior, making notes about what I have observed, and felt pressurised to order by the co-owner Louise Rambert, when I had not even looked at the menu board.  She brought the winelist blackboard to the table first, but oddly placed it behind me, which meant that I had to turn around to read it.   The menu blackboard was placed against a wall, which I could read more comfortably, yet not all the handwriting on it was legible.   The teriyaki pork belly with Asian noodle stirfry had sold out, but it had not been deleted from the menu board, and Louise snapped at me when I wanted to order this dish.

I had not been to Topsi’s for many years, but remember that she had tables on two levels of the restaurant.  Now it is contained to the higher level, the entrance section being an untidy mess, containing a bookshelf that had not appeared to have been touched in years and left in a haphazard state.  An industrial fridge and a counter with the coffee machine, as well as more menu boards, were visible, the room looking more like a storeroom than part of a restaurant.  Tables are wooden, with riempies-style chairs.  There are no tablecloths, and a paper serviette is offered.  The cutlery and glassware is cheap.   On the table was an Oryx desert salt grinder and an unbranded pepper grinder, as well as a green sugar bowl.   On a cold winter’s night the ceramic fireplace made the restaurant comfortably warm.  The kitchen is open to the restaurant.  There was artwork on the walls,  mainly by Wakaba Mutheki, but also by other artists, such as Koos de Wet, the only other artist’s name which Louise could remember, yet they sell the artwork for RED! The Gallery in Tokai.  A Mandela portrait is striking in its realism, and costs R30000.   One wonders how a gallery could place this expensive art in such a poor quality restaurant environment.  Louise told me that they have sold quite a few works already.

Chef Chris Hoffman previously owned Café des Arts in Kalk Bay, where he had a similar concept of displaying art in his restaurant, but these were local artists.  He was trained as a chef by Topsi 16 years ago, in her Franschhoek restaurant, and he took over Topsi’s after a visit last year, feeling that Topsi was struggling to run her restaurant after a serious knee operation, and that her family was neglecting her, one of the other guests told me.  Chris closed down his restaurant in Kalk Bay, and took over Topsi’s, renaming it Café des Arts, and Topsi can be seen there frequently, I was told, when she is not at her daughter’s good Franschhoek Food Emporium deli in Place Vendôme.

At first I thought Louise was a waitress, as she had attitude, but she pointedly told me that she was the ‘owner’ of the restaurant, until I asked her about the chef, and she admitted that he co-owns the restaurant with her.  I have never met a restaurant owner who is so disinterested in her clients, who deals with them functionally, who takes no interest in finding out what makes them come to the restaurant, and whether one is a local or not.  Louise told me proudly that they do not advertise, as they are only there to serve the locals, and want to get known by word-of-mouth.   A waitress worked with Louise, but stood near the kitchen most of the time, only bringing one dish to the table, and not communicating at all.  Louise asked for feedback about my main course dish, being lamb’s liver, and when I told her it was tough, she did not respond, walking away from the table.   It became clear to me why she was pressuring me to order – the chef Chris left at 8.45 pm, once he had cooked my liver, walking through the restaurant in his odd-looking civvies, blatantly demonstrating that he had finished with us and his restaurant for the day!

The lamb’s liver (R75) was served with mash, bacon, and balsamic onions, and a rather tasty sauce, but was tough, but the pedestrian knife may have been partly to blame. I am so used to Reuben’s calf’s liver, that I did not like the lamb’s liver by comparison.   I felt the dish to be expensive for what one got.  Other options are two salads, a soup (R48) and mussels (R55/R85) for starters, two fettuccine dishes (R65 – R75), and main course choices were Red Snapper and Lamb loin chops (R110 – R115).   I ordered the apple crumble for dessert, and was assured by Louise that it came with fresh whipped cream, but it was not whipped, and there was barely any on the plate, so that I had to ask the waitress for some more.  I had also asked Louise to only warm up the dessert a little, but it arrived piping hot.  I liked that it contained raisins, but the crumble topping was burnt.  Other dessert options were chocolate tart, and a bread and butter pudding made from croissants, Louise said verbally, but the board stated that it was made from hot cross buns.  All desserts cost R30.   I was told by one of the patrons that the menu is changed regularly, and that she likes to eat at this restaurant, as they make dishes that vegetarians like she can order. 

The winelist offered one or two wines per variety, a house Helderberg Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon (Louise told me that this belongs to Boekenhoutskloof) for R25 per glass.  Haut Espoir Shiraz costs R130, and Stony Brook Shiraz 2006 cost R35/R170.  I was disappointed with it, given its age.

I will never go back to Café des Arts, after my experience.  I found it absolutely amateurish in all respects, and cannot see how it can survive.  With a disinterest in the patrons, mediocre food, lack of food presentation, the chef leaving early, no interior design, no website, false marketing riding on the Topsi’s name,  and a hand-written invoice with no contact details should one want to book in future, Café des Arts cannot be taken seriously in Franschhoek, nor is it a tribute to what went before at Topsi’s.  I was happy to leave and have a lovely cappuccino at Reuben’s across the road.

POSTSCRIPT 4/5:   The owners’ reaction to the review has been surprisingly unprofessional, and has led to them banning me from their establishment.  See the Comments to the blogpost. 

POSTSCRIPT 14/5: I photographed the Topsi’s sign on Huguenot Road today, still up 10 months after Topsi’s closed down, and became Café des Arts!

POSTSCRIPT 22/5:  Seeing a number of extremely positive TripAdvisor reviews for Café des Arts via a Franschhoek Restaurant Google Alert today, I noticed that a review that I posted on TripAdvisor about my dinner at Café des Arts, condensed in content to my review above, has been removed!  TripAdvisor has not sent a notification as to the reason for the content removal.

Café des Arts, Reservoir Street, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2952.  No website, and none intended.  Facebook page.  Tuesday – Saturday.   Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  

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