Entries tagged with “cappuccino”.

The Sweet Service Award goes to the Twelve Apostles Hotel, and its F & B Manager Hilton Ruch. On my way home from dancing at Constantia Nek recently, I stopped by at their Café for a dry cappuccino. Not expecting Hilton to be at work after 22h00, I asked one of the staff to pass on my regards to him. She told me he was still at work, and called him. He chatted, and told me about their new Vegan High Tea, a first in Cape Town it would seem, as well as other news. The dry cappuccino was perfectly made, and they have marshmallows too, a weakness. When I requested the bill, I was told that Hilton had taken care of it,

The Sweet Service Award  goes to the head of the Service Division of Mercedes Benz Century City, St. Elmo Burger (yes, this is indeed his name), for turning around the poor service when I sent my car to this branch for a service for the first time, about 3 weeks ago.  On arrival, I was pointed to an outside parking bay, and then a trainee mechanic asked for the registration number and took the key.  I was not told anything further.  As I needed to be taken back to my home, I had to find out who would drive me.  There is no clear directive as to where to go to find the ‘service ambassador’.  Morne James looked for my booking but did not ask my name, and therefore could not find it.  He was rude when calling through a verbal quote, and when I asked him if he knew the new Consumer Protection Act requirement of written quotes, he said that he did know.  His written quote grew by R2000 relative to the verbal quotation. As soon as I called Burger, he took over the responsibility for the client interaction, was charming, and somehow the final price to be paid shrunk by abour R2000.

The Sour Service Award  goes to Mercedes Benz Century City, for its small-mindedness, and lack of appreciation of the lifetime value of its customers.  The incorrect replacement of a new windscreen wiper during the service three weeks ago meant that the car had to be taken back earlier this week, to have the problem fixed.  I was invited to have a coffee, while waiting.  At the Mercedes coffee shop I was told that I could have a coffee (R6) for free, as a client, but not a cappuccino (R13,50), even though I had the petrol cost of getting the car back to get the wiper fixed!  

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.

Sotano by Caveau Mediterranean restaurant opened officially today in the newly renovated funky La Splendida Hotel on Beach Road in Mouille Point, near the lighthouse.  Its name has caused confusion on Twitter, as it has been referred to both as Sotano (meaning ‘cellar’ in Spanish) and Sontano (the till slip spells it this way).  Given that the name is to link to Caveau (‘cellar’ in French), the spelling must be the former.  However, there is no cellar visible or accessible to patrons at Sotano!

The restaurant is operated by Caveau, a Wine Bar and Deli in Heritage Square on Bree Street, and At the Mill in Newlands.   The owners are the trio of Jean-Yves Muller, Brendon Crew and Marc Langlois.   It is a surprise that Newmark Hotels, who operate the new hotel, has chosen to contract out the running of the restaurant to Caveau, when it has restaurant interests in OYO (in its V&A Hotel) and Salt Restaurant (in its Ambassador Hotel).   Talk on the street is that Caveau has lost its charm and attraction, and lots of its good staff.  

General Manager of the restaurant is Bruce Philemon, who has worked at Buitenverwachting as Restaurant Manager, at Steenberg as Food & Beverage Manager, and as sommelier on cruise ships, he told me.  Chef Philip Myburgh was previously at Caveau, and before that at 48 on Hout Street, which no longer exists.  He was enthusiastic about his focus on ‘authentic Mediteranean’ food that will be served at Sotano, with an emphasis on seafood and shellfish.  

The wooden deck leading to the pavement, covered to protect patrons from the sun and wind (the south-easter can pump in that corner of Cape Town), with wooden chairs and tables locally made from “French wine barrels”, the imprint on each says, is clearly the most popular space on a good summer’s day.  The problem with the outside seating is that non-smokers have to endure the smoking habits of others.  The beauty of the interior design could be lost to those patrons sitting outside, Inhouse Interiors having constructed a fascinating bar in white with coloured bar stools.  The restaurant section caters for a substantial number of patrons inside, on rainy and windy days.   For ambiance, the restaurant could have done with music.

The restaurant opens at 7h00 every morning and will be serving breakfast until 11h00 every morning.  There are eleven breakfast options, and they seem expensive, but the prices can only be judged on portion sizes.   A health breakfast of muesli, yoghurt and honey costs R50; a charcuterie and cheese platter sounds an interesting breakfast option, at R 55; a salmon bagel with chive cream cheese and smoked salmon costs R60; French toast with fruit and mascarpone (R 55); full English breakfast costs R65; Eggs Benedict R60; and omelettes range from R58 – R70.   After 11h00 the blackboards offer snacking, as well as lunch and dinner options, until 23h00 every day of the week.  The staff are neatly dressed in white branded golf shirts and in grey aprons, with either Anthonij Rupert or Paul Cluver branding.

The Mediterranean menu is written onto two blackboards, and the writing is not easy to read for all menu items.   My eye caught the expensive Caprese salad at R 82 immediately, and in general the prices seem on the high side.  Chef Philip explained that the mozzarella has been sourced from an Italian in Cape Town, who makes the mozzarella from cow’s milk, and the full 100g ball is served in the salad.   Greek salad costs R58.  Oysters cost R 18 each.  Vitello tomato costs (R65), Beef carpaccio (R60), Tomato salad (R60), Fish soup (R70) and Gazpacho (R40).   The Gazpacho was spicy, and consisted of raw tomatoes, baguette slices, red and yellow pepper, as well as herbs, red wine vinegar and lemon juice blended together to make a thick refreshing summer’s day soup, a little on the oily side.   Mains range between R98 (chicken supreme) and R125 (for grilled salmon and poached egg), seafood paella and crumbed veal being the only other options.  One can order flat bread at R20, with hummus (R10) or Tzatziki (R8).   An avocado and feta pizza costs R70.   For dessert one can order fresh watermelon, a summertime treat one rarely sees on a menu (R25), as well as nougat glaze (R28) or lemon tart (R30).

Teething problems were the Cappuccino machine not working yesterday (although the hotel has a 70 % occupancy, and has been open since last week, and invitations on Twitter encouraged one to try the restaurant ahead of its official opening), and the toilet paper running out without any spare supplies.  Waiter training was happening in front of patrons.  A group of four next to me wanted to order a bottle of Pierre Jourdan Brut Rosé (R232), but the waiter offered to bring it by the glass, and the manager had to be called for assistance.   The winelist is not yet ready, but information on the winelist will be added to this review after it is finalised tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT 16/11:  I went back to Sotano by Caveau this evening, to finalise the winelist information for this blogpost.  When I looked for a table on the deck, I was blocked by Caveau/Sotano by Caveau Operations Manager Ross Stillford, who told me that the three owners of Caveau have decided that I am not allowed to eat at Sotano by Caveau, nor at Caveau, ever again because of the review I wrote about Sotano by Caveau.  To add insult to injury, co-owner Brendon Crew Tweeted about this incident, referred to me as a “bitch” in a Tweet, and continued in disparaging and defamatory vein in subsequent Tweets.  Not a good start to a restaurant that has only officially been open for less than 24 hours!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  I have managed to obtain details of the Sotano by Caveau winelist.  Seperated into “Bubbles, Whites, Rose, Reds, Desserts”, it details vintages but not region of origin.   Two sparkling wines (Graham Beck Brut – R49/R195 and Pierre Jourdan Brut – R 38/R150) are offered by the glass.  No champagnes are served.   About ten options per variety are offered, and each variety offers wines-by-the-glass.  Sauvignon Blancs range from R28/R110 for Haut Espoir to R51/R205 for the Warwick Professor Black.  I was interested to see the name of a wine (Parlotones Push me to the Floor), a white blend sold at R116, I had not heard of before, and its red blend ‘sister’ Parlotones Giant Mistake.   Shiraz options range from R25/R110 to R620 for De Trafford CWG 1999.  Magnums are available for Vriesenhof Grenache 2007 (R650), Jordan Cobblers Hill 2000 (R1000) and Meerlust Rubicon 2001 (R1250).

POSTSCRIPT 2/12:  Neil Markovitz, the owner of the La Splendida Hotel in which Sotana by Caveau is located, was most apologetic about the Sotano/Brendon Crew incident when I saw him at the Newmark Hotels function two days ago.  

POSTSCRIPT 4/12: Today we went to have breakfast at Caveau, to try out the restaurant, given the many negative comments it attracted to this blog post.  We were served by the charming Lilly, who brought the breakfast board to the table, and took our order of scrambled eggs (R19) and cappuccino.  The prices were most reasonable, and the coffee was served in Origin-branded cups I have not seen anywhere else.   We were shocked at how run-down the place looked on the outside, with paint peeling off the walls, the chairs wobbly, the tables and chairs not having been varnished for ages, and the Vin d’Orrance umbrellas dirty.  It generally smacked of neglect.   Before we could be served our egg orders, we were asked to leave by the Caveau Operations Manager Ross Stillford, but not before we paid for our coffees!      

Sotano by Caveau, 121 Beach Road, Mouille Point, Cape Town.  Tel 0711962660    www.sotanobycaveau.co.za (website under construction)  Monday – Sunday.   7h00 – 23h00

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

I love seeing innovation in a restaurant, and was excited when I saw the first menu of Societi Bistro’s nine-cycle “Tour of France”, which started at the beginning of this month.  Three French speciality dishes representing a particular region are presented at R150, and the menu changes every Wednesday over the nine week period.  A suitable wine is recommended week on week, and the prices charged are most reasonable.  One does not have to order all three courses, and there is no choice per course.  One is able to order from both the a la carte and the French menu.

I am a slow convert to Societi Bistro, not having been overwhelmed by it in the past.   I enjoy their tongue starter, and two enjoyable dinners there with Clare and Eamon McLoughlin from Spill Blog have improved my opinion.  I invited Jacqui from Charly’s Bakery to join me, but we did not realise that the Onion Soup and the Pot au Feu would contain pork, so Jacqui ate from the a la carte menu.  What impressed me was the passion for the French tour by Chef Stef Marais, who came to the table regularly to explain the French menu to us and to check on our satisfaction with it, and let his staff bring a media release to the table – it is not often that restaurants are good at marketing themselves, and have such documentation available.  Stef is third generation South African, and is proud of his French heritage.

Chef Stef explained the background to the “Tour of France” coming from the Bistro style of the restaurant, and this is an annual “thanksgiving” to the regions that they represent in their menu.  Stef had worked with French chefs in London, and has travelled in France.   He comes from Nelspruit, did his apprenticeship at the Table Bay Hotel, went to work in London, before returning to the Mount Nelson Hotel, and from there he came to Societi Bistro, just as it moved from the V&A Waterfront to its Orange Street location.  Chef Stef spontaneously invited us to visit the kitchen and we did so when it was all cleaned up after the dinner service.  He told us that he had a paying guest, journalist Richard Holmes, on his “Kitchen UnConfidential” programme, working alongside him in the kitchen all day.

Societi Bistro has a bistro feel, with chanson music, dimmed lighting, candles, a fireplace in almost every room, almost making it too hot for the unseasonally warm August evening.  There are blankets over some of the chairs, if it is really cold, and they add touches of colour.  Subtle paint effects are on most walls, with an unplastered brick wall in one room.  Material table cloths cover the tables, and the chairs are Bistro style.  A ‘chef’s table’ close to the kitchen is cosy, and right at the action, with its own special menu.  A very cosy bar/lounge The Snug is popular for smokers, in winter especially, and it is here that Jacqui and I retreated to after our dinner, chatting to Chef Stef again, and bumping into Mervyn Gers, the founder of Radio Kontrei, which became Kfm. Our waitress Julie was exemplary in her ability to make one want to order every menu item she described, and in looking after us and checking on us regularly.  

The a la carte menu offers an interesting mix of very local dishes and Bistro ones .  The starters offered are “skilpadjie” (lambs liver) with “krummelpap” – cooked mealie meal (R32), Beetroot carpaccio (R38) and ox tongue (R49).   The pasta dishes have two prices, ranging from R36 – R65 for half portions, and R53 – R96 for a full portion of Limone Fettucine and Mushroom Risotto, respectively.   Specials on offer were a stuffed and deboned harder, and a winter salad of ricotta, beetroot and orange.  Jacqui loved her roasted bone marrow (R40) and her Sirloin Bearnaise (R98), being a Bearnaise sauce addict, she said.  One can also order the steak with a Cafe de  Paris sauce.  Other main course choices include prawns, lamb shank, venison bourguignon, an ostrich and oat burger, coq au vin, and Vietnamese pork belly.  Dessert choices are disappointing in only being cakes (baked cheesecake, lemon tart, chocolate nemesis), creme brulee and ice cream, costing between R40 – R46.  We both did not like our coffee, my cappuccino being too milky and the coffee just not of a good quality, and we were not charged for it.   We were impressed with the nice packaging for Jacqui’s doggy bag.

The wine list does not specify vintages, and a good number of wines-by-the-glass is available, but some seem expensive in that the costing for the Shiraz brands is based on three glasses per bottle, while the norm is four.   Three Shiraz brands are stocked, for example, a Hoopenberg (R35/105), Joubert Tradouw (R55/165), and Saronsberg (R90/R269) .  For the Sauvignon Blancs, however, the glass of wine is based on 1:5, and the prices are very low (Joubert Tradouw Unplugged R13/R75, Warwick Professor Black R26/R155).

Paris was the first region to be represented by Societi Bistro, and its three courses were Gratinee de (sic) Halles – French Onion soup – (R30), Pot au Feu of braised pork belly (R90) – described as a “porkbelly potjie” – and Paris Brest dessert (R30).  The onion soup was brown and rich, made with bacon, sherry and chicken stock, served with gruyere cheese croutons, a lovely way to start the meal, with a glass of Thelema Mountain Manor good value at R 32.  However, the bacon in the soup is not a conventional ingredient, according to ‘Larousse Gastronomique’.  The Pot-au-Feu is usually made from beef or chicken, says my French guide, and I felt that Chef Stef had taken some creative licence in its preparation, with potato, leek, celery, onion, garlic, thyme and carrot cooked with the pork, and served with the broth as well as a gherkin and Dijon mustard relish.   The 200 gram pork slice was tough to cut, until I discovered that it had been rolled and was held together with string, which one could not see.  The highlight of the menu is the Paris Brest dessert, which represents the story of a cycle race between Paris and Brest in 1891, and a local patissier creating a dessert in its honour in the shape of  a bicycle wheel.  It is made from choux pastry, a little dry Jacqui and I thought, making it too crispy and hard and unlike eclairs, but filled with the most amazing creme patisserie, and sprinkled with caramelised slivered almonds, making it creamy and crunchy.

Currently (until tomorrow) the ‘Massif Centrale’ is the featured region, and its menu is ‘Tourain Blanchi a l’Ail’ (garlic soup), Cassoulet, and Creme Caramel.  The rest of the ‘Tour of France’ at Societi Bistro is as follows:

*   From 18 August the focus is the ‘Pays de la Loire’ – the Gardens of France (Oysters a la Poitou-Charentes, Pork Noisettes with prunes and ‘Crepe Angevines’- served with apple marinated in Cointreau, and Chantilly cream).  There is no French menu from 24 – 31 August. 

*   From 1 September the featured region is ‘Normandie and Bretagne’ (Moules au Cidre – mussels cooked in cider, Baked Gurnard with fennel, leaks and capers, and Apple Tarte Tatin).   

*   From 8 September the focus is Alsace and Lorraine (Quiche Lorraine, La Potee Lorraine – smoked bacon, white beans and pork shoulder – and Tarte Alsacienne – an apple tart). 

*   Week 6 (from 15 September) focuses on the ‘French Alpes’ (Salade Lyonnaise, Fricassee de poulet a la creme – chicken in a white sauce – and Profiteroles with warm dark chocolate sauce). 

*   There is a break, and the next French region focus is on Burgundy from 6 October (Pork rillettes, Beouf Bourguignon and Pain d’epice et poires au vin – a Honey Cake with pears in wine). 

*   The South West of France is the focus from 13 October (Garbure – “rustic country soup” with confit duck and vegetable broth – Beouf a la Bordelaise, and Labnah cheese served with brandy prunes.  

*   The focus on the Cote d’Azure starts on 20 October, and the menu consists of Bouillabaisse, La Daube Nicoise – braised beef with black olives, celery and carrots – and Gratin de (sic) fruits rouges.

We had a lovely and long evening, and enjoyed the attention from the excellent waitress and from Chef Stef, the homeliness and friendliness, and the care taken in compiling this interesting menu (except for some of the typing errors).  The disappointment was the poor coffee, and the bathroom I used was shocking – dirty floor, old-fashioned, so bad that I had to run out.  Jacqui had used another one, and was equally put off by it.   Chef Stef is really trying hard, but I got the feeling that they are not quite there yet in terms of food quality.

Societi Bistro, 50 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town.  tel (021) 42 42 100. www.societi.co.za (The website has the Tour of France menu details, but has a technical problem in that text is written over other text on most pages.  The website is short on food pics, with three only, and has no Image Gallery. Innovative is the You Tube video on the site).  A newsletter is sent out weekly, creating top of mind awareness and appetite appeal.   Twitter @SocietiBistro

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

A little hidden gem in the center of Cape Town, that offers a warm and welcome escape from the cold winter, is the recently opened Piroschka’s Kitchen.   It offers a very small selection of only four dishes, inspired by the Hungarian grandmother Piroschka of sisters Jutta Frensch and Inge Niklaus.

I had heard about Piroschka’s Kitchen a few months ago, but could not find it when described as being opposite the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, but I was looking on Loop Street.  It is one of a collection of outlets underneath the Saint Stephen’s Church on Bree Street, near Cheyne restaurant and &Union.  Jutta was on duty, and our German roots and guest house experiences connected immediately.  When the other guests had left, she sat down, and told me about herself.  She came to South Africa to follow her sister Inge, who came to live in Cape Town fifteen years ago.  Jutta is an architect by training, and worked on a house she saw in De Waterkant, which became the guest house Cedric’s Lodge that they created, followed by another in Greyton.

As if the two guest houses are not enough to challenge them, the two sisters took on the responsibility of looking after the two children of their late housekeeper, and put them into private schools.  To pay for their education, the sisters had to earn extra income, and they decided to start at the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, selling Flammkuchen there.  The downside for them was that their home smelt of onions, and so they sought a venue in which to prepare it.  They found the Bree Street premises, and loved the space, its natural stone walls, and the fact that it offered them a small and cosy space in which to set up a tiny restaurant with a few tables inside.  A bar counter takes four chairs, and one can sit outside when the weather is good.

The first thing you feel on entering is how warm it is inside, a modern gas fireplace creating the heat.  A welcome sight is the sign that says that Gluehwein is served – a good start to the weekend on a Friday afternoon.  The menu is on a flyer on the table and also written on a blackboard, the latter containing the prices.  The tables are covered with a sheet of white paper, and a small container with crayons encourages the inner child to come to the fore, and to decorate one’s own table cloth.   Jutta tells me that they will photograph the best designs, and make tablecloths from them.  Mine served as a handy sheet on which I made all my notes while we chatted.

I ordered the “Hungarian Original Puszta Goulash soup”, which one could say is expensive at R 50, but it was a broth with lots of shredded beef, slow cooked with seven paprika spices in Gypsy style, says the menu.  I found the broth a bit thin, and would have preferred it thicker and creamier.  It was well matched to the Gluehwein (R25).  The Goulash soup is served with a slice of delicious rye bread from Jardine Bakery, but no butter is served with it.  The split pea soup costs R 40, while the Flammkuchen costs R 50.   Flammkuchen is a thin crispy base covered with creme fraiche, smoked ham, baby leek and red onions, for the savoury option.  I had the sweet one, containing vanilla cream, apple slices with cinnamon and sugar, and topped with almond shavings.   It was huge, served on a wooden board, and I could only manage a few small pieces, taking the rest home with me, Jutta generously giving me the board as a memento of my visit.

Excelsior and Arabella wines are sold, both being from Robertson, in fact from two neighbouring farms owned by two brothers who do not get on, Jutta tells me, and both love horses and have these as the logo on their wine labels.   Pierre Jourdan bubbly is sold at R 160.   I missed a cappuccino to have with my Flammkuchen, and Julia quickly organised a good one for me from another restaurant close by.  We discussed Social Media Marketing, and I encouraged Jutta to embrace Blogging and Twitter – they are already on Facebook.

Jutta and Inge do private catering, and also offer private functions for up to 30 persons in their restaurant.  I will be back, to try the savoury Flammkuchen and the split pea soup, especially on a cold winter’s day, Piroschka’s Kitchen being the warmest place in Cape Town, in its temperature and its welcome!  On Saturdays the Piroschka sisters can still be found at the Old Biscuit Mill.

Piroschka’s Kitchen, 106 Bree Street, Cape Town.  Tel 083 327 3203.  www.piroschka.co.za.  (The website is more focused on the activities at the Old Biscuit Mill, and does not have the menu or the wine prices.  A large part of it is in German).  Open Mondays – Fridays, 11h00 – 19h00.

POSTSCRIPT 27/7 : I returned 10 days after my first visit, and Jutta proudly told me that they have addressed some of the issues raised in this review.  Bread is now served with butter, and they have added the menu to the website.

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