Entries tagged with “Cape Grace Hotel”.


Once a year Blaauwklippen invites writers to attend a Zinfandel tasting, followed by a lunch. Last Thursday the focus for the tasting was Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest, held at the Cape Grace hotel. The launch of Triple Three Distillers Cut gin towards the end of the lunch will be covered in a stand-alone Blogpost, linked to a Triple Three gin tasting held at OpenWine on Monday.
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WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The Reserve Bank has increased the repo rate by 25 basis points, giving a new interest rate of 5,75%. Governor Gill Marcus blamed inflation for the rate increase.

*   Brazil welcomed more than 1 million visitors during the Soccer World Cup, almost double the estimated 600000 travelers.  Most tourists had never been to Brazil before, visiting from more than 200 countries.  The infrastructure and tourism services generally, and the hospitality and cuisine specifically, were praised by the visitors.  The soccer matches were seen by 3,4 million soccer fans in the stadia over the month-long event.  Visitors stayed in Brazil for 13 days on average.   Brazilians were good soccer fans too, more than 3 million travelling around their own country during the soccer tournament.

*   Melanie Verwoerd has compiled a book ‘Our Madiba: Stories and Reflections from those who met Nelson Mandela, containing short stories of numerous persons that met the late Nelson Mandela, including Pieter-Dirk Uys/Evita Bezuidenhout, Adam Small, Francois Pienaar, Amanda Strydom, Sir Richard Attenborough, and many by Mrs Verwoerd herself.

*   The Drinks Business and Intangible Business in the UK evaluated the world’s most powerful Champagne and (more…)

Saronsberg Tasting sheet Whale Cottage PortfolioFor the first time in the ten years of wine production, Saronsberg invited a group of wine writers to a tasting of its wines, followed by lunch at the Cape Grace Hotel.   Saronsberg, with Rijks, is synonymous with Tulbagh.

Saronsberg was bought by Nick van Huyssteen in 2002, previously being the Twee Jonge Gezellen farms, which they renamed after the mountain in the area.  A year later a large part of the then fruit Saronsberg Nick van Huyssteen Whale Cottage Portfoliofarm was destroyed by a fire, making them start from scratch and planting vineyards on 51 hectare of the farm, making Nick’s dream of a wine farm come true, necessitating the building of a cellar.  The day-time heat in Tulbagh was taken into consideration in the design of the cellar, we were told, to cool things down. Two years later they made the first wines.

It was the wedding of a niece three years ago that brought me to spend a (more…)

Cape Town Art Fair Ebony Whale Cottage PortfolioOn Thursday evening 800 art lovers descended onto The Lookout in the V&A Waterfront for the opening of the first ever Cape Town Art Fair, the largest mega art exhibition ever held in Cape Town under one roof, with 40 galleries exhibiting 800 works of arts of 130 top artists.  It was an excellent platform to enjoy the art of food, of visual art, and of wine art!

In a clever display design, the art galleries were given one, two, or three panels to display their artists’ work.  While most pieces were described, I did not see prices, giving the exhibition a classy feel.  It was more about meeting the gallery owners and representatives and connecting with them, based on the style of art they were exhibiting.  Some of the galleriesCape Town Art Fair Strijdom van der Merwe Whale Cotatge Portfolio, auctioneers, and artists at the Cape Town Art Fair include Strijdom van der Merwe, with an exhibit at the entrance to The Lookout and having recently created an impressive exhibit in honour of Nelson Mandela outside the Stellenbosch Town Hall; Strauss & Co; The AVA Gallery; holden manz collection; Whatiftheworld Gallery; Frank Joubert Art Centre; Stephan Welz & Co; Erdmann (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   American Express credit card holders will be rewarded (undefined as to how) for posting reviews on TripAdvisor, and will be flagged as cardholders on the rating site.  They will also receive trend information.

*   Signal at the Cape Grace has been ranked 39th and Le Verger at the Le Franschhoek Hotel has been ranked 46th in the 101 Best Hotel Restaurants around the World, the only South African entries on the list.

*   Comair and Skywise are facing a Social Media backlash for having their interdict against the commencement of FlySafair’s flights from next week granted by the court, and are calling for a boycott against the two airlines!

*   Col’Cacchio has added Breakfast to its menu at select branches, the (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Durban is setting itself a goal to become the top beach destination in Africa by 2030, which would be at the expense of Cape Town!   The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Michael Mabuyakhulu, launched his province’s Tourism Master Plan in Durban last week. ‘By 2030, KZN will be globally renowned as Africa’s top beach destination with a unique blend of wildlife, scenic and heritage experiences for all visitors‘, he said!

*   Hotels and Facebook users are the two largest sources of credit card fraud says the Airline Information Group.  Staff at hotels, especially those at the front desk, have access to guest card details and tend to use these to buy airline tickets for themselves!

*   Interesting (and surprising) is a proposed ‘Fly South African‘ policy to be implemented for travel by government officials or government-funded travel.  The officials appear to not (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   BA is seeing increased business on its Africa routes and has already announced that it is putting ts A380 onto the Johannesburg route from February 2014.  The airline also is increasing its flights to Ghana, Uganda, Liberia, and Serria Leone,  whilst cutting those to Lusaka.

*   Increasing power and staff costs are major threats to the local wine industry, a study by PricewatershouseCoopers has revealed.

*   The Captain DoRegos take-away franchise is to be expanded into the rest of South Africa, and even into Africa, the Spur Corporation has announced.

*  Hein Koegelenberg has written an informative blogpost about how to protect (more…)

Every year around this time, the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards are announced, resulting in a flurry of media releases to praise achievements in various categories.  TripAdvisor sceptics know how easy it is to generate both positive and negative false reviews on the world’s largest travel customer feedback site, and therefore take the results with a pinch of salt.

This year the Cape Grace hotel made it to the number two rank on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards 2013 Top 25 Hotels in the World category, and is ranked top hotel in Africa.  The Africa list included the Twelve Apostles Hotel at 14th position, the Mount Nelson Hotel at 18th place, The Oyster Box at 19th place, the One&Only Cape Town at 21st place, Kapama River Lodge at number 22, and the Table Bay Hotel at 23rd position.

Ironic for the Cape Grace hotel is that in the same week as the TripAdvisor award ranking was announced, yet another scandal hit the hotel, this time a hotel guest from the UK allegedly having been drugged by having her drink spiked, filmed in a comprising position in her hotel bedroom with her tour guide, and subsequently robbed of all her money, computer equipment, and jewellery over the festive season, reported the Sunday Times.   The hotel shot to ‘fame’ for all the wrong reasons when it was the honeymoon home of Shrien Dewani, who allegedly organised the murder of his bride Anni from the hotel two years ago.  The hotel’s most famous guests to date have been ex-USA President Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary, and James Bond, in the latest ‘Carte Blanche’ 007 novel by Jeffery Deaver.

Out of her depth in the wording she used in a media statement, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is quoted as saying: ‘The Cape Grace has always been an exemplary hotel and a benchmark for the best in Cape Town hospitality. We are so pleased  that it has been recognised in such an authoritative way‘ (our underlining), immediately offending many other top Cape Town hotels!

The TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards do not reflect the results of the highly regarded Conde Nast Travelers’ Awards, in which the Steenberg Hotel was voted as the best hotel in Africa in 2011, and was ranked 9th on the continent last year.

It is fortunate that TripAdvisor does not do a similar Restaurants Awards list, as a week doesn’t go by that a restaurateur in Cape Town and Franschhoek does not refer to colleagues posting false positive TripAdvisor reviews about their own establishments, or posting false reviews about restaurants near the top of the list in their city or village, to topple them from the top position.  ‘Reviews’ by aggrieved ex-employees are another source of negative reviews, as are customers who are angry when they do not receive refunds when they contravene agreed cancellation policies.

Anyone that reads and believes TripAdvisor reviews deserves to get what they receive when they make their accommodation and restaurant choices based on this website! TripAdvisor is a particularly important reference guide for tourists from the UK, and it is shame that they allow themselves to be deceived by so much false information.  TripAdvisor would enhance its credibility vastly if it had a review verification system, and demanded a response from the owner or manager of the establishment, before posting any review, to allow both sides of the story to be presented jointly and fairly.

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

The Sweet Service Award goes to Chrisna Kok of BURO in the V&A Waterfront, upstairs next door to Woolworths, a shop selling Apple-complementary products such as phone covers, and stylish laptop carry cases. Chrisna assisted in changing an iTunes account on an Apple iPhone, and setting up the apps again, and offered practical and understandable technical advice without charge, an exceptional service compared to the Apple store in the Waterfront, which forces one to make an appointment for technical assistance.  She has offered additional help, with an open door for questions relating to any Apple products.

The Sour Service Award goes to the V&A Waterfront for its poor handling and lack of co-operation in the search of Wilkes McDermid, who ‘disappeared’ in or around the V&A Waterfront, having last been seen leaving the Cape Grace hotel on 26 December. McDermid is a food and beverage blogger in the UK and is very active on Social Media, and it was his lack of Facebooking and Tweeting that raised the alarm. He had been at Orphanage the night before and had Tweeted about his experience there. McDermid is a good friend of whisky aficionado Bernard Gutman of Cape Town, and he raised the alarm about his friend’s disappearance.  As we found too, the whole management of the Waterfront was on holiday from about 18 December until the beginning of this week, and therefore Gutman could not obtain permission to view the Waterfront’s security camera footage, and it was not made available to the police.  In simple terms there was nobody on-site who appeared to have any proper authority’, wrote Gutman. An acting manager could not contact any of the V&A management, saying that she would be fired if she were to contact any of them while they were on holiday! For days the Waterfront’s PR Manager Carla White interacted with Gutman, stalling, and stating that the matter was ‘subjudice’ and therefore Gutman was not allowed to see the footage from the claimed 1000 security cameras in the Waterfront.  Gutman expressed his concern to the V&A about the UK media interest in the story, but this did not appear to be of concern to Ms White. Gutman believes after this experience that the Waterfront overclaims the extent of its security and protection of its property, and that there are blind spots‘ in the security camera coverage, which would make it dangerous for parents to leave their children at the Waterfront. He believes that the V&A did not want to hand over the footage to prevent the security breaches from being exposed. The V&A Waterfront’s Tweeter Emma Jackson unsympathetically Tweeted that they could not help Gutman as she worked for the Marketing department, which does not deal with missing persons!  She was out of her depth in managing a crisis in the V&A.  Gutman is relieved that McDermid was traced via his cash withdrawals and credit card payments, and appears to have been in the V&A every day since he ‘disappeared’, but this was not picked up by the Waterfront’s security cameras at all!

POSTCRIPT 12/11 The V&A Waterfront has retaliated to this blogpost and the Sour Service Award, by blocking us on Twitter!  We are regular shoppers at the V&A, so this is poor service indeed.  Surprisingly, they did not protest their tenant BURO winning the Sweet Service Award.

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.

It seems that every second MasterChef SA episode is an exciting one, making the one hour reality TV show fly past, and keeping one on edge. Last night’s episode 12 was one of these, with Finalist Khaya Silingile cooking against Chef Reuben Riffel for an Immunity Pin, and the three Pressure Test Finalists Thys Hattingh, Deena Naidoo, and Jade de Waal being put to a three hour challenge to bake and make a Passion Hazelnut Gateau.

One knew from last week’s episode that Chef Reuben and Khaya would be facing a cooking duel, Khaya having won last week’s food and Nederburg wine pairing. The stakes were high for both parties – Chef Reuben’s reputation would be damaged if he lost against a MasterChef SA Finalist, whereas Khaya could win an Immunity Pin, which would offer her immunity against participation in future elimination challenges, bar the last two episodes. This was the first battle for the Immunity Pin in this series.  Chef Reuben brought along a beautiful looking Seafood fricassée with gnocchi and vegetables, a colourful dish with prawns, an unidentified fish, and the vegetables adding colour.  Given that it was Chef Reuben’s receipe, and had been prepared prior to the filming, so that Khaya could see and taste it, she was given a 15 minute headstart in the total of 80 minutes preparation time.  She was given the recipe for the dish, and Chef Reuben was very nice in checking how she was doing throughout the cooking process.  Khaya liked the look of the dish, saying that it has ‘very clean lines, a technical dish’, suiting her style, and admitted that she had never prepared gnocchi before, making her a ‘bit worried’ about it. Cheekily she asked Chef Reuben how she could beat him, and he said she should stick to the recipe! Chef Reuben said she was ‘doing very well’, when he was checking on her progress.  The judges also praised Khaya, talking amongst themselves, saying she is ‘giving him a run for his money’, having energy, and being dedicated. Khaya seemed relaxed, and was cheered on by and advised about ingredients from her fellow Finalists from the gallery above.  Talking out loud, Khaya told herself that she should ‘relax’ and ‘focus’. When done, she said that her dish did not taste like Chef Reuben’s.  As we have seen in precious episodes, she expressed her lack of self-confidence, saying that her fish had not cooked properly.

Chef Reuben hugged her when the judges provided their feedback, having evaluated the two dishes by tasting them ‘blind‘.  What turned out to be Khaya’s dish (number 1) was awarded 7/10 by Chef Andrew Atkinson, and was praised for its beautiful colours, for being very tasty, perfectly cooked fish, but that the sauce could have been seasoned more. Chef Benny Masekwameng gave her 8/10, liking the ‘lovely aromas‘, while Chef Pete Goffe-Wood gave her 7/10, saying that it was delicious. Chef Reuben’s dish (number 2) was awarded 8/10 by Chef Andrew, and was praised for its ‘lovely deep colour of the sauce’. Chef Pete awarded it 9/10, saying it was ‘beautifully crafted’, ‘superb’, the fish was perfectly cooked, and said that the sauce pulled the dish together. Chef Benny also rated it as 9/10, and said that the only problem with the dish was that there was not enough of it. The gnocchi of his dish was criticised, not being as good as Khaya’s, and let the dish down. Chef Reuben’s dish won with a 4-point margin, not surprising in that it was his dish made many times before, while Khaya made it for the first time, an unfair challenge. Realistically, MasterChef SA and its main sponsor Robertsons could not have allowed being embarrassed by Khaya beating their ‘seasoned’ spokesperson Chef Reuben!

Interesting is a new Robertsons’ commercial, which was flighted in this episode for the first time, in which Chef Reuben reflects what he likes to cook for friends at home, clearly aimed at addressing the criticism that he probably does not use Robertsons’ herbs and spices in his three Reuben’s restaurants. His three course meal of a butternut soup with cinnamon, a roast chicken main course, and chocolate mousse with a touch of chilli for home entertaining lacks credibility, given that he is a chef.

The Pressure Test was a three hour nightmare for all three the Finalists, in that they had to bake and make a Passion Hazelnut Gateau. Cape Grace hotel Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney had worked at the Prue Leith School of Cooking for eight years, Chef Pete said when he introduced her. The three finalists tasted her gateau, praising its texture. Jade was amazed that ‘one can see one’s reflection in the cake’. Chef Lorraine explained that the gateau had a pastry base, with layers of hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate mousse, cream, and passion fruit, covered with a chocolate glaze.  She told the finalists that a successful gateau lies in its timing, the accuracy in weighing the ingredients, and the technique in making the different elements.

Thys was over-confident initially, given that desserts have been his speciality and passion in the episodes up to now, and he repeatedly said that he ‘love(s) desserts so much’, ‘this is what I love doing’, ‘I am comfortable with sweet stuff, and am in my comfort zone’, and was so excited to prepare the gateau. The judges talked amongst themselves, saying that Thys had probably made all the individual elements in the past, but not put them together in a gateau before. Disaster struck when Thys’ mousse had not set, because he had whipped it, and the second lot he made had the same fate, remaining liquid. Finalist Sue-Ann Allen tried to encourage him from the gallery, and looked very worried for her fellow finalist. He served his gateau without the chocolate mousse, admitting ‘I messed up’.  The judges liked the taste of the crunchy biscuit base with a lovely texture, and well-balanced passion fruit of his ‘gateau’, Chef Andrew saying that it was ‘not far off‘, despite the lack of the chocolate mousse.  Thys said that he loves desserts so much, but now saw that it could have become his downfall.

Deena expressed his fear, being up against one of the best bakers in the competition, saying that he had ‘no experience with this type of cooking and baking‘. While he was working, he said that he is ‘struggling along’ and that he was in ‘foreign waters‘, when talking to Chef Pete. He started in the wrong sequence, which made him even more nervous. Talking about him, the judges said that he was ‘all over the place’, and ‘falling behind’.  He seemed to lose faith in himself, saying repeatedly ‘I can’t do this’, and that he was ‘giving up’. Saying that he was ‘battling to survive’, and ‘have to draw on inner strength‘, he shared how a ‘strength came over me‘, and ‘they guided me today’, looking upward.  Deena’s gateau had set perfectly, and so the Finalist that was most likely to not make it in terms of experience and confidence prepared the best gateau of the three contestants. Its form and presentation was praised, and so was Deena in having done a ‘good job‘. Chef Pete praised the ‘lovely glaze‘, and said that he didn’t think that he would see a cake of this calibre‘, to which Deena replied: that makes four of us‘! Holding Chef Andrew in awe as a pastry chef, Deena was delighted when he was praised by him. His cake was described as ‘absolutely superb‘, and with beautiful flavours and textures‘. Deena was delighted, saying the feedback hadrekindled his self-confidence’.

Jade saw the making of the gateau as an ‘adventure’, confidently saying ‘let’s do this’.  She said that ‘baking is all about perfection‘.  She received advice about her cream from Chef Pete.  Jade too had concerns with her mousse, ‘praying’ that her mousse had set. Her panna cotta had not set, and ‘melts into nothingness’, she said.  As she did her glaçage, which was too hot, the cake ‘starts running away’, she said, just as she wanted to refrigerate it, making her heart melt, and saying that her ‘cake is all over the place‘.  Jade said that she had not done her cake justice. Chef Pete said her biscuit base was too thick but was ‘beautiful and crisp’, and that her meringue was still raw in the middle. Chef Benny added that her glaze was too thick, saying that her gateau was ‘a mess on a plate’.  Chef Andrew praised her biscuit base, and ‘delicate and rich chocolate mousse’.  In eliminating Jade, she was praised for starting well, but then went ‘haywire’, and that the meringue was not properly baked.  Chef Pete sent her on her way, saying that she is a ‘crazy young woman‘, of whom he expects ‘huge things’ in future.

The remaining eight finalists were reminded that they should always expect the unexpected on MasterChef SA, and Thys was told that he should pack his bags… and so should the other seven finalists, as they were heading for the spice islands of Zanzibar!   This news was met with great excitement.

POSTSCRIPT 6/6: I popped in at the Cape Grace hotel this afternoon, to see their Afternoon Tea, and found two of Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney’s cakes – a delicious chocolate cake, and a gluten-free orange and lavender cake.  She was able to chat, and was generous with her time, and we were ‘entertained’ for a while by Andre Pentz, who happened to be in the hotel too.  On Saturday and Sunday the hotel is offering mini versions of Chef Lorraine’s MasterChef SA Passion Hazelnut Gateau from 12h00 – 18h00, at R50 each.  She shared that the leaf gelatine had been the biggest challenge in making the gateau in the episode last night. She remembered how hot it was in the MasterChef SA kitchen on the day that the Pressure Test took place, and that influenced the Gateau preparation.  She had brought her Gateau from Cape Town, and glazed it at Nederburg on arrival, ‘praying‘ that it would arrive in good condition. She said that the episode last night was a ‘triumph for Pastry Chefs’, to show ‘how technical pastry is’, that it is a ‘specialisation’, and not just something ‘just banged together‘.  Chef Lorraine uses Valrhona chocolate for her baking. She lectured at the Prue Leith School of Cooking in Pretoria, the finest in the country she said, spending eight years there and becoming its principle, before she left eighteen months ago to move to Cape Town and to join the Cape Grace.

POSTSCRIPT 10/6: Errieda du Toit, her husband Ian, MasterChef SA cookbook publisher Daleen van der Merwe, and I loved Cape Grace Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney’s mini Passion Hazelnut Chocolate Gateau, a special which was offered for afternoon tea this weekend. The special treat may be extended, Library Manager Roxy told us.

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