Tag Archives: Caviar Group

The ‘weakest link’ breaks restaurant reputations!

In eating at restaurants frequently, one can see which restaurants work and which don’t.  It is not the food that is usually the problem, but the ‘weakest link’ that can prevent a restaurant from making the top grade, such a shame when the front of house team can destroy the good work of the kitchen team.  Where the two are in harmony, it shows, and these are the ones one returns to and recommends. These are our experiences of some ‘weakest links’ we see regularly:

*   The telephone answering service is one of the biggest problems, either the phone not being answered at all, and going through to an answering machine, or just ringing.  Restaurants closing on Mondays are not good at having an answering service, preferably ‘live’, on such days.  Others have only two lines, and when these are both occupied, the call goes to an answering machine, which calls can take up to six hours in our experience to be returned!  Should one be lucky enough to have someone answer the phone, the restaurant person is usually a very weak link, either jumping into Afrikaans without also speaking English (in the Winelands), or speaking in a poor quality English (a cleaner, a waiter, etc – we have had them all).  When I have to start spelling my name it is a poor reflection of the quality of the restaurant.

*  The confirmation call on the day of booking is done for two reasons, it comes across – the restaurant suffers from no shows, or is fully booked and is looking for a table for a new booking.  No shows are a shocking form of bad manners, but a reputable loyal client should not have to be burdened with this procedure, as it questions one’s honesty and ethics.  Even worse is when a guest house is called to confirm a guest booking which the guest made directly with the restaurant, because the restaurant does not want to call the guest on his/her international mobile number!  Restaurants are unhappy when we tell them that we cannot confirm such bookings.

*   Restaurants on wine estates usually have booms, and these are operated by outsourced security companies.  They are poorly trained in customer interaction, they do not welcome the clients to the wine estate, and their English usually is poor.  They are the first point of contact of the restaurant experience, and a very BIG weak link in many instances.  As they work shifts, the quality of the interaction varies, depending on who is on duty.

*   Restaurants are a breed on their own, and those that close one or more days per week, especially in a city like Cape Town, should not complain about poor business.  It is hard for guest houses owners to book restaurants for their guests in Franschhoek, for example, when very few of the better ones are open for dinner on a Sunday evening, or open at all on a Monday, even if a public holiday falls on a Monday.  My recent ‘best’ blond reply to enquiring to a restaurant’s offering for New Year’s Eve was when I was offered the 1st or 2nd of January instead, the (blond) restaurant manageress not stating that they are closed on Mondays and therefore will not be open on that evening!

*   We all have our favourite restaurants we enjoy going to and these are the ones we recommend to our guests.  A fair proportion of restaurant bookings come from guest houses.  It is very easy to set up a guest house address book and notify them if a restaurant is closed for a function, so that one does not recommend it to guests. This past weekend Franschhoek became ‘Weddinghoek’, and it was almost impossible to find a restaurant that was operating on a wine farm on Saturday, as many had been booked out.  One of my favourites was booked up 24 hours in advance for the set up, and had its gates wide open, inviting one to enter through its signage outside, which they did not remove!  Restaurants could Tweet if they are closed for private functions, but that is not a foolproof method of communication.

*   Restaurant staff who turn guests away, especially when recommended by a guest house, because it is an hour before their closing time, should not be operating. One can always offer the guest a glass of wine, a coffee, or a light tapas meal.  Surely the kitchen cleaning should happen after 17h00, and not while the restaurant is still open!  Usually it is the waiters who are at fault, wanting to go home as quickly as possible!

*   Stretching from the right across the guest in laying a fork on the table on the left, or the other way round for a knife, is the biggest service issue we see amongst restaurant staff, a sign of lack of training. Poor English pronunciation is another irritation, when one cannot understand the waiter.  The waiter is not only an order taker and a plate carrier – he/she is the ambassador and relationship builder in most restaurants, making the difference in one coming back again or not.  Restaurant Managers should be doing a lot of relationship building too, and not do the job of the waiters in bringing out the food.

*   Restaurants without a staff dress code seem blind as to what their staff are wearing – we have seen restaurant managers and hostesses in low cut dresses, in knickerbockers, and clothing in colours that do not match the restaurant interior, or the traditional black and white, one not knowing what position the staff member holds in the restaurant.  Visible piercings, rings, studs, tattoos, and in-grown earlobe discs are off-putting!

*   Most chefs do not venture out of their kitchens, which means that they never receive compliments or even feedback first hand.  The more top notch the restaurant is, the more the chef’s visit to the table is a bonus.  Chef Reuben Riffel used to be excellent at this, but rarely is in his restaurants, and if he is, he escapes out through the back entrance. Only Chef Ryan Shell at Haute Cabriere and Chef PJ Vadas at Camphors at Vergelegen do this as a matter of course.  Being invited to see Chef PJ’s kitchen was an absolute highlight!

*   Typing errors on menus, especially of French terms, is an obvious no no, as is getting wine brands wrong on the winelist!  Most waiters are not able to pronounce the French terms, nor do they know what they mean.

*   Restaurants unable to graciously accept feedback of poor food and/or service, or who sit in other restaurants while they have clients in their own restaurant and then complain about their evening being spoilt due to the feedback, without consideration of the poor evening the client experienced at their restaurant, as well as managers who have no authority to deal with a guest complaint then and there, should not be in business!  Banning guests due to not being able to accept feedback, such as at Le Quartier Français, the Caviar Group (Beluga and Sevruga), and the ex-Caveau group (Sotano) is an absolute no-no!

*   Removing one’s plate when one has not finished eating, especially if one is Tweeting and eating, is a sign of poor training.  The cutlery lying at an angle to the right of a plate which still has food on it is not an invitation to remove the plate.

*   Asking for the bill is NOT a request to clear the table!  Increasingly one has to wait for the bill, and then for the credit card machine to be brought to the table, as the table is cleared first.

Restaurants one enjoys going to know one’s preferences, make a plan if one arrives without a booking, ask if one is having ‘The Usual’, check at numerous stages of the meal if everything is to one’s satisfaction, connect one to other clients one may have wanted to meet, and show their appreciation for business and referrals received.  A joy to experience is the hands-on owners and GMs, even if they are not in their restaurants,  whom one can sms or call if a problem arises, and react immediately and fix the problem. Chefs and managers requesting feedback from their customers proactively, and acting upon it, win the first prize!

POSTSCRIPT 19/12: Just to add the absolute weakest link of all, which I was reminded of at Casparus yesterday, the second time running, and that is the Tip question – how much should the waiter add!

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

Merchants Café, Bizerca, The Millhouse Kitchen, and more restaurants open!

There are few restaurant openings, and restaurant closures are minimal at present, a good sign of some recovery. This list of restaurant news is updated continuously, as we receive information:

Restaurant Openings

*   Merchants Café has opened on Long Street, opposite Merchants on Long, both belonging to Hanneli Rupert.

*   Luke Dale-Roberts, Eat Out Top Chef at The Test Kitchen, has opened a real test kitchen, called The Kitchen of Dreams, a private experimental place to develop new recipes, at the Old Biscuit Mill.  He is also opening a pop-up Pot Luck Club in Swiss ski resort Verbier, at the Hotel Farinet, from 8 December – April, to be run by him, his chef Nicolas Wilkinson, and front of house Selena Afnan-Holmes.

*   Col’Cacchio has opened a new outlet in Westlake, and new ones are coming in Claremont and Hermanus.

*   New Vida é Caffe new branches are to open on Maindean Place in Claremont, at the new Wembley Square 2 development, at The Paddocks, Groote Schuur, and Roeland Street.  Two more branches are planned for Mauritius.

*    Honest Chocolate is opening a second outlet, a ‘production kitchen’ in the Woodstock Industrial Centre

*   Moyo has opened, where the Paulaner Braühaus was in the V & A Waterfront.

*   TRUTH Coffee has opened on Buitenkant Street

*   FEAST is to open where Franschhoek Food Emporium was, in Place Vendome

*   Okamai Japanese Restaurant has opened at Glenwood wine estate in Franschhoek

*   Cavalli restaurant is said to open on the stud farm on R44, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, this year or next

*   Stables at Vergelegen Bistro has opened as a lunch restaurant in Somerset West.  Its Lady Phillips Restaurant is being given a make-over by Christo Barnard, and will open with a new name Camphors at Vergelegen. The new chef will be PJ Vadas, previously of The Roundhouse in Camps Bay.

*   Chef Johan van Schalkwyk has left the Stone Kitchen at Dunstone Winery, and has opened his own restaurant Twist Some More in Wellington.

*    Chef Bjorn Dingemans has opened The Millhouse Kitchen restaurant on Lourensford wine estate in Somerset West.

*   Down South Food Bar, previously on Long Street, is said to re-open in the Riverside Centre in Rondebosch

*   David Higgs (ex Rust en Vrede) has opened Five Hundred,  a new 30 seater restaurant in The Saxon in Johannesburg.

*   Cousins has opened in the Parliament Hotel, where Il Cappero used to be.

*   No. 6 Restaurant at Welbedacht has opened at Welbedacht/Schalk Burger & Sons wine estate in Wellington, run by the ex-owners of Oude Wellington

*   Café Dulce is to open a new branch in Tygervalley Centre

*   Gourmetboerie has opened at the bottom end of Kloof Street, where Depasco used to be.

*   Kushi Indian Restaurant has opened a branch on Main Road in Sea Point

*   Thai Café is opening on Plein Street, Stellenbosch

*   Simply Asia has opened in Paarl

*   Bellini’s is said to be opening on Greenmarket Square

*   Moksh Authentic Indian Cuisine restaurant has opened in Paarl

*   Vino’s has opened in Wellington

*   Alfama’s has opened on Waterkant Street

*   Taj Mahal has opened in Sea Point

*   It’s a House is to open on Jarvis Street, as a bar, coffee shop, and design art space.

*   Lion’s Head Bar is to open on Bree Street, selling craft beer and food

*   An Indian restaurant is to open in the original Madame Zingara building on Loop Street, by the Madame Zingara Group

*   The Caviar Group has opened three new restaurants in the Gateway Centre in Umhlanga: Beluga, Sevruga, and Osetra

*   A new bar and Café is to open underneath the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, where Bamboo used to be

*   Cattle Baron has opened in Hermanus, and at Pontac Manor in Paarl.

*   Café Blanc de Noir has opened on Brenaissance wine estate in Stellenbosch

*    The Reserve is said to be opening a beach restaurant in the V&A Waterfront.

*   Chef Nic van Wyk, previously with Terroir, has opened a restaurant at Diemersdal in Durbanville.

*   Lizette’s Kitchen has opened in Vöelklip, Hermanus.

*   Paulina’s Restaurant has opened at Rickety Bridge in Franschhoek

*   Ocean Jewel Deli has opened at Woodstock Junction

*   Buitenverwachting has opened Coffee Bloc Coffee Shop and Roastery

Wakaberry is opening on Kloof Street, and has opened in Stellenbosch

*   Rock Sushi Thai has opened in Meadowridge

*   Jimmy Jimanos sports bar is opening on Long Street

*   Dolcé Bakery has opened in St John’s Piazza in Sea Point

*   The Salzburger Grill has opened in Sea Point

*   Sacred Ground is opening as a Deli and Bakery in The Square in Franschhoek at the end of November

*   The Stall has opened as a Bar and Family Café in the old Pippin Farm Stall, at the entrance to Franschhoek, owned by Essence owner

*   The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap has opened.

*   Burger King will open its first South African branch in Cape Town next year!

*  A coffee shop, chocolaterie, bar, and fashion boutique will open in a 3-storey building on Long Street in February, as yet unnamed.

*   The Beer Bar is to open on Long Street

* Eataria is to open on Long Street

*   Portuguese restaurant Alfama has opened on Bree Street

*   Shimmy Beach Club is to open in the V&A Waterfront in December, involving Chef Seelan Sundoo.

*   McDonald’s is opening new branches in Cape Town, in Wynberg, Lansdowne, and Claremont

*   The Red Table Restaurant at Nederburg has opened for lunches Wednesday – Sunday

*   Wilderer Distillery and La Grapperie at Spice Route restaurant are opening in Spice Route wine estate, in addition to their existing location

*   Tridici has opened on the N2 near Swellendam.

*   TriBakery is to open near Moyo in the V&A Waterfront

*   Kloof Street House has opened, where the Opal Lounge was

*   Latitude33 has opened on Bree Street

*   Antipasto Bar has opened at the new Anthonij Rupert Wines tasting room, where Graham Beck used to be, outside Franschhoek

*  Luke Dale Roberts is continuing his expansion trail, and is opening in the current Long Street Café next year.

*   Mischu: The Coffee Showroom has opened on Regent Road in in Sea Point.

*   Urban Café Sushi & Asian Cuisine to open in the old Cape Quarter.

Restaurant Closures

*   The Kove in Camps Bay has closed down, its space has become part of sister restaurant Zenzero

*   Sinnfull has closed down in Sea Point and Camps Bay

*   Liam Tomlin Food has closed down in Franschhoek

* Planet Green Salad has closed down

*   Illyria in the Eikestad Mall has closed down

*   Freedom Hill Restaurant has closed down.

*   Wale Rose Lifestyle has closed down in Bo-Kaap.

Restaurant staff/venue changes

*  Table Thirteen has reduced in size in Green Point and will open in Paarden Eiland later this year.

*   The V&A Waterfront Food Court is closed for renovations until November.  A sign outside the construction area lists the following businesses moving into or returning to the area: Primi Express, Anat, Carnival, Nür Halaal, Royal Bavarian Bakery, KFC, Boost Juice, Simply Asia, Steers, Debonairs, Subway, Marcel’s, and Haagan Dazs.  Nando’s is also opening.

*   Fyndraai Restaurant will move to another building on the wine estate in November, and will offer fine dining.  The current restaurant will serve light lunches and picnics.

*   Chef Andrew Mendes from ex-Valora is now at Nelson’s Eye restaurant, where they are setting up a lunch section and cocktail bar upstairs.

*   Giulia’s Food Café Restaurant has opened where Miss K was on Main Road, Green Point. Now serve Italian-style lunch and dinner, but have retained some Miss K breakfast and pastry items.

*   Having bought the farm about 18 months ago, Antonij Rupert Wines has taken over the Graham Beck Franschhoek property. They will re-open the tasting room, initially offering all its Antonij Rupert, Cape of Good Hope, Terra del Capo, and Protea wines to taste.  They are renovating the manor house, to which the Antonij Rupert and Cape of Good Hope wines will be moved for tasting at a later stage.

*   Orphanage is expanding into a property at its back, opening on Orphan Street, in December, creating a similar second bar downstairs, and opening Orphanage Club upstairs, with 1920’s style music by live performers

*   MondeVino Restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg, the MasterChef SA prize for the next two years, is to be renamed Aarya, and is to be run by Chef Deena Naidoo from November onwards.

*   Bizerca has moved into the ex-Gourmet Burger space in Heritage Square on Shortmarket Street.

*   Marcellino’s has changed its name to EuroHaus, with a Zerban’s style restaurant added to the bakery.

*   Crêpe et Cidre has closed down in Franschhoek. Gideon’s The Famous Pancake House has opened in its space.

*   Brampton winetasting bar on Church Street, Stellenbosch has trebled its current size

*   Chris Marais is the new chef at Blaauwklippen, previously with The Oyster Box

*   Phil Alcock is the new chef at Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point, having previously worked at The Cape Grace, The Showroom, maze, and more

*   Albert van der Loo, previously with Le Coq and Dieu Donne restaurants in Franschhoek, is the new Head Chef at Oude Werf Hotel in Stellenbosch.

*   Chef Emile Fortuin, who was at Reuben’s Robertson for a very short time, has left and moved to Tokara

* Camil and Ingrid Haas (ex Bouillabaisse and Camil’s) have returned to Franschhoek, with the view to get involved in a restaurant

*   Chef Cheyne Morrisby has left the Mantella Group (owners of Blake’s and ex-Opal Lounge), and is starting his own pop-up restaurant.

*   Tiaan van Greunen is the new Executive Chef at Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel, after the departure of Emile Fortuin

*   Alex von Ulmenstein is the new Restaurant Manager at Indochine, at Delaire Graff Estate.  Raymond Brown has left Reuben’s Franschhoek, and is the new Maitre’D at Indochine.

*   Zelda Oelofse is the new Manager of Harvest Restaurant at Laborie, having taken over from Yolanda Prinsloo.

*   Maryna Frederiksen is the new Executive Chef at The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz.

*   The ex-Caveau owners are said to be taking over the running of the Twankey Bar of the Taj hotel.

*   Sand at The Plettenberg hotel has changed its name to Seafood at The Plettenberg.

*   Lasse Presting is the new Manager of the Haute Cabriere restaurant

*   Chef Alistair Lawrence has taken over from Fernando Romano at 5 Rooms at The Alphen Hotel

*   De Oude Bank Bakkerij is expanding, and will open a retail section selling charcuterie, fresh meats, home-made ice cream, and wines, collectively called De Companje, from February

*   Taste restaurant has moved to Bilton Wines

*   Bar1 has opened where Sunbird Bistro was in Camps Bay.

*   Oppie Dorp has opened where Cognito was on Dorp Street in Stellenbosch.

*   Kloof Street House has opened where Opal Lounge used to be.

Restaurant breaks

*   Massimo’s is closing between 6 – 15 November.

*   The Pot Luck Club is closed until it re-opens in its new venue in the Old Biscuit Mill in January.

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

Café Dijon and Ou Meul Bakkery move to Cape Town, and other Spring restaurant news!

Our list of latest restaurant openings and closures lists more openings than closures, and a number of restaurant location changes. This list is updated continuously, as we receive information:

Restaurant Openings

*   Café Dijon has closed its restaurants on Plein Street and at Zorgvliet in Stellenbosch, and has opened in the Rockwell Centre in Green Point, Cape Town, on Napier Street opposite Anatoli’s.

*   Luke Dale-Roberts, Eat Out Top Chef at The Test Kitchen, is to open a real test kitchen, called The Kitchen of Dreams, a private experimental place to develop new recipes, at the Old Biscuit Mill

*  Chef Luke Dale-Roberts is opening a pop-up Pot Luck Club in Swiss ski resort Verbier, at the Hotel Farinet, from 8 December – April, to be run by him, his chef Nicolas Wilkinson, and front of house Selena Afnan-Holmes.

*   Col’Cacchio has opened a new outlets in Westlake, and a new one is coming in Claremont too.

*   A new Vida é Caffe new branches are to open on Maindean Place in Claremont, at the new Wembley Square 2 development, at The Paddocks, and Groote Schuur.  Two more branches are planned for Mauritius.

*    Honest Chocolate is opening a second outlet, a ‘production kitchen’ in the Woodstock Industrial Centre

*   Moyo is to open in November, where the Paulaner Braühaus was in the V & A Waterfront.  It has taken over the tearoom at Kirstenbosch already.

*   TRUTH Coffee has opened on Buitenkant Street

*   FEAST is to open where Franschhoek Food Emporium was, in Place Vendome

*   Deluxe Coffeeworks has opened where Reuben’s Deli used to be in Franschhoek.

*   Okamai Japanese Restaurant has opened at Glenwood wine estate in Franschhoek

*   Cavalli restaurant is said to open on the stud farm on R44, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, this year or next

*   The Slug & Lettuce has opened where Beads was on Church Street in Stellenbosch

*   Stables at Vergelegen Bistro has opened as a lunch restaurant in Somerset West.  Its Lady Phillips Restaurant is being given a make-over by Christo Barnard, and will open on 1 November with a new name called Camphors at Vergelegen. The new chef will be PJ Vadas, previously of The Roundhouse in Camps Bay.

*   Coopmanshuijs in Stellenbosch is opening a restaurant.

*   Chef Johan van Schalkwyk has left the Stone Kitchen at Dunstone Winery, and has opened his own restaurant Twist Some More in Wellington.

*    Chef Bjorn Dingemans has opened The Millhouse Kitchen restaurant on Lourensford wine estate in Somerset West.

*   Chef Shane Sauvage (ex-La Vierge) has opened La Pentola restaurant in Hermanus.

*   Ali Baba Kebab (renamed from Laila) has opened as a small beef and lamb kebab take-away and sit-down outlet, next door to Codfather in Camps Bay

*   Gibson’s Gourmet Burger and Smoked Ribs has opened as a 70-seater restaurant in the V&A Waterfront, taking part of Belthazar. Owned by the Belthazar/Balducci group.

*   Down South Food Bar, previously on Long Street, is said to re-open in the Riverside Centre in Rondebosch

*   Ou Meul Bakkery from Riviersonderend has opened a bakery and coffee shop in Long Street

*   Deluxe Coffeeworks has opened a roastery and coffee bar at 6 Roodehek Street

*    The Deli @ The Square has opened at Frater Square in Paarl.

*   David Higgs (ex Rust en Vrede) is opening a new 30 seater restaurant in The Saxon in Johannesburg.

*   Big Route Top Gourmet Pizzeria has opened on Main Road, Green Point, next door to Woolworths, serving 52 different pizzas, salads and crêpes.

*   Cousins has opened in the Parliament Hotel, where Il Cappero used to be.

* Aces ‘n’ Spades Bar has opened in ex-Boo Radley on Hout Street

*   No. 6 Restaurant at Welbedacht has opened at Welbedacht/Schalk Burger & Sons wine estate in Wellington, run by the ex-owners of Oude Wellington

*   Café Dulce is to open a new branch in Tygervalley Centre

*   Gourmetboerie is to open at the bottom end of Kloof Street, where Depasco used to be, in October.

*   Kushi Indian Restaurant has opened a branch on Main Road in Sea Point

*   Time & Place Restaurant and Bar has opened on the corner of Wale and Buitengracht Street

*   Make Sushi Bar has opened in Sea Point

*   Thai Café is opening on Plein Street, Stellenbosch

*   Simply Asia has opened in Paarl

*   Restaurant @ Zomerlust has opened in Paarl

*    Christina’s has opened at Van Loveren in Robertson

*   Bellini’s is said to be opening on Greenmarket Square in October

*   Moksh Authentic Indian Cuisine restaurant has opened in Paarl

*   Vino’s has opened in Wellington

*   Alfama’s has opened on Waterkant Street

*   Taj Mahal has opened in Sea Point

*   It’s a House is to open on Jarvis Street in October, as a bar, coffee shop, and design art space.

*   Lion’s Head Bar is to open on Bree Street in October, selling craft beer and food

*   An Indian restaurant is to open in the original Madame Zingara building on Loop Street, by the Madame Zingara Group

*   The Caviar Group is opening three new restaurants in the Gateway Centre in Umhlanga by the end of this year: Beluga, Sevruga, and Osetra

*   A new bar and Café is to open underneath the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, where Bamboo used to be

*   Cattle Baron has opened in Hermanus.

*   Café Blanc de Noir has opened on Brenaissance wine estate in Stellenbosch

* The Reserve is said to be opening a beach restaurant in the V&A Waterfront.

*   Chef Nic van Wyk, previously with Terroir, is opening a restaurant at Diemersdal in Durbanville during the course of this month.

*   Lizette’s Kitchen has opened in Vöelklip, Hermanus.

*   Cattle Baron is to open at Pontac Manor in Paarl

*   Col’Cacchio is opening in Hermanus at the end of November

*   Merchant Café is opening on Long Street, opposite Merchants on Long, later this month.

* Paulina’s Restaurant is opening at Rickety Bridge in Franschhoek

*   Ocean Jewel Deli opens at Woodstock Junction on 22 October.

*   Buitenverwachting has opened a Coffee Shop and Roastery

* Wakaberry is opening on Kloof Street at the end of October

*   Rock Sushi Thai has opened in Meadowridge

*   Jimmy Jimanos sports bar is opening on Long Street

*   Dolcé Bakery is opening in St John’s Arcade in Sea Point

*   The Coffee Bloc has opened at Buitenverwachting

*   The Salzburger Grill has opened in Sea Point

Restaurant Closures

*   Sabarosa in Bakoven has closed down.

* Sunbird Bistro in Camps Bay has closed down

*   Limoncello in Gardens has closed down, but is continuing with its pop-up restaurant truck

*   Paparazzi has closed down on St George’s Mall

*   Wicked Treats in Franschhoek has closed down.

*   Casa Nostra has closed down in Sea Point, until it finds a new venue.

*   Bistro on Rose in Bo-Kaap has closed down as a restaurant

*   The Kove in Camps Bay has closed down, its space has become part of sister restaurant Zenzero

*   Sinnfull has closed down in Sea Point and Camps Bay

*   Liam Tomlin Food is closing down in Franschhoek at the end of October

Restaurant staff/venue changes

*    Il Cappero has moved from Barrack Street, to Fairway Street in Camps Bay.

*  Table Thirteen has reduced in size in Green Point and will open in Paarden Eiland later this year.

*   The V&A Waterfront Food Court is closed for renovations until November.  A sign outside the construction area lists the following businesses moving into or returning to the area: Primi Express, Anat, Carnival, Nür Halaal, Royal Bavarian Bakery, KFC, Boost Juice, Simply Asia, Steers, Debonairs, Subway, Marcel’s, and Haagan Dazs.  Nando’s is also opening.

*   Fyndraai Restaurant will move to another building on the wine estate in November, and will offer fine dining.  The current restaurant will serve light lunches and picnics.

*   Josephine Gutentoft has moved to Makaron at Majeka House as Restaurant Manager and Sommelier.

*   The Reserve has changed its name to Reserve Brasserie. Seelan Sundoo, ex Grand Café Camps Bay and ex La Perla, is the new consultant chef and GM (Seelan Sundoo has since left, now running the Shimmy Beach Club).

*   Chef Andrew Mendes from ex-Valora is now at Nelson’s Eye restaurant, where they are setting up a lunch section and cocktail bar upstairs.

*   Giulia’s Food Café Restaurant has opened where Miss K was on Main Road, Green Point. Now serve Italian-style lunch and dinner, but have retained some Miss K breakfast and pastry items.

*   Having bought the farm about 18 months ago, Antonij Rupert Wines has taken over the Graham Beck Franschhoek property. They will re-open the tasting room in October, initially offering all its Antonij Rupert, Cape of Good Hope, Terra del Capo, and Protea wines to taste.  They are renovating the manor house, to which the Antonij Rupert and Cape of Good Hope wines will be moved for tasting at a later stage.

*   Orphanage is expanding into a property at its back, opening on Orphan Street, in December, creating a similar second bar downstairs, and opening Orphanage Club upstairs, with 1920’s style music by live performers

*   GOLD Restaurant has moved into the Trinity building

*   Opal Lounge has closed down on Kloof Street, and has moved into Blake’s Bar building, renaming it Dinner at Blake’s. A wine and tapas bar has also been opened, called Bar Rouge.

*   Mano A Mano has opened on Park Street, where Green’s used to be.

*   MondeVino Restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg, the MasterChef SA prize for the next two years, is to be renamed Aarya, and is to be run by Chef Deena Naidoo from November onwards.

*   Bizerca has moved into the ex-Gourmet Burger space in Heritage Square on Shortmarket Street.

*    Co-owner Abbi Wallis has taken over the running of The Stone Kitchen at Dunstone Winery in Wellington.

*   Marcelino has left Marcelino’s Bakery, leaving the control with Mr Zerban.  A Zerban’s style restaurant is being added onto the bakery and will open mid-October.  It will change its name to EuroHaus.

*   Chef Chris Erasmus from Pierneef à La Motte is doing a stage with Chef Rene Redzepi at Noma, the number one World’s 50 Best Restaurants, in Copenhagen this month

*   MasterChef SA runner-up Sue-Ann Allen is joining South Africa’s number one Eat Out Top 10 restaurant The Greenhouse as an intern for a month, from 21 August.

*   Vintage India has moved out of the Garden’s Centre to the corner of Hiddingh and Mill Street, around the corner.

*   Nook Eatery in Stellenbosch has been sold, with new owners.

*   Crêpe et Cidre has closed down in Franschhoek.  Gideon’s The Famous Pancake House has opened in its space.

*   Brampton winetasting bar on Church Street, Stellenbosch, is undergoing renovations to treble its current size, planning to reopen in the first week of September.

*   Noop restaurant in Paarl has new owners

*   Buena Vista Social Club has changed its name to Barbosa Social Club

*   Chris Marais is the new chef at Blaauwklippen, previously with The Oyster Box

*   Daniel de Villiers is the new chef at Grand Dedale in Wellington, previously with Delaire Graff

*   Phil Alcock is the new chef at Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point, having previously worked at The Cape Grace, The Showroom, maze, and more

*   Albert van der Loo, previously with Le Coq and Dieu Donne restaurants in Franschhoek, is the new Head Chef at Oude Werf Hotel in Stellenbosch.

*   Chef Emile Fortuin, who was at Reuben’s Robertson for a very short time, has left and moved to Tokara

*   Camil and Ingrid Haas (ex Bouillabaisse and Camil’s) have returned to Franschhoek, with the view to get involved in a restaurant

*   Chef Cheyne Morrisby has left The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz, and has joined the Mantella Group (owners of Blake’s and ex-Opal Lounge). Update: Chef Cheyne has left the Mantella Group, after a very short time.

*   Tiaan van Greunen is the new Executive Chef at Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel, after the departure of Emile Fortuin

*   Alex von Ulmenstein is the new Restaurant Manager at Indochine, at Delaire Graff Estate

*   Manager Raymond Brown has left Reuben’s Franschhoek, and has been replaced by Martell Smith.

*   Zelda Oelofse is the new Manager of Harvest Restaurant at Laborie, having taken over from Yolanda Prinsloo.

*   Maryna Frederiksen is the new Executive Chef at The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz.

*   The ex-Caveau owners are said to be taking over the running of the Twankey Bar of the Taj hotel.

*   Sand at The Plettenberg hotel has changed its name to Seafood at The Plettenberg.

Restaurant breaks

*   Grande Provence is closing on Sunday evenings until the end of September.

*   Tokara is closing for a Spring break from 24 September – 4 October

*   Planet Restaurant is closed on Sunday evenings until the end of September

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

Restaurant closures sign of tough times in the Cape! Yet new ones opening!

It would appear as if the world-wide recession has only hit South Africa, and the Cape in particular, now and with a severe bang.  There is almost daily news of restaurant closures, three alone in the past three days, sad given how much the restaurants have invested in building a brand name and a regular following for their businesses.

The more than 100 restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands that are offering such generous Winter specials must be commended, and we will do our best to make their specials known to as many persons as possible.  We encourage our readers to do the same, to prevent any further closures.

We have created a new blogpost, with the restaurants opening and closing, and chefs moving, since spring 2011.

The following restaurants have closed down in the past few months, and these may not be the only ones as the winter takes its toll:

*   Jardine’s Restaurant has closed on Bree Str

*   Liquorice and Lime has closed down on St George’s Mall

*   Cheyne has closed on Bree Street

*   The Kitchen Bar in the Quarters’ Hotel in Hermanus has closed

*   The Bistro in Franschhoek has closed down

*   The Sandbar in Camps Bay has closed down

*   The Blonde building is up for sale, and does not appear to be re-opening in August, as was announced by The Caviar Group, owners of Blonde

*   The Green Dolphin Jazz Club in the V & A Waterfront has closed down

*   Mezzaluna in Loop Street has closed down

*   Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge Pete Goffe-Wood’s Wild Woods Restaurant has closed down.

*   Restaurant Christophe closed down in Stellenbosch on 25 June. Eat Out Top 20 Chef Christophe Dehosse will be back at Joostenberg from August.

*   Nando’s in Camps Bay has closed down

*   Haute Cabriere, under the chefmanship of Matthew Gordon, closed on 7 June at the wine tasting venue with the same name in Franschhoek.  See below for re-opening.

*   Karma closed down in Camps Bay

*   Hermanos in Hermanus has closed down

*   Fizz Affair Champagne and Wine Bar has closed down in Franschhoek

*   Doppio Zero in Green Point has closed down

*   Nzolo Brand Café has closed down in Church Street

*  L’Aperitivo has closed down.  See below for Valora.

*   On Broadway’s in-house restaurant has closed down.  Re-opened as Roberto’s on 7 July – see below.

*   Doppio Zero Claremont has closed down

*   Brio 1893 is closing down on 12 August

*   Chenin has closed in the old Cape Quarter

*   Cafe Max has closed down in De Waterkant

*   Bella Lucia has closed down in Wynberg

*   Iconic restaurant Linger Longer has closed down in Johannesburg after the death of chef Walter Ulz, 2010 Eat Out Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

*   Postocini Express has closed on Greenmarket Square

*   De Huguenot Restaurant, only having open for six months, closes at the end of October.  The Harry Q bar will continue operating, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The De Huguenot Estate will concentrate on weddings and events.

*   Wildflour has closed down on Regent Road in Sea Point.

*  The Olive Shack in Franschhoek has closed its restaurant operation, and will only operate as a shop selling olive-related products.

*   221 Waterfront has closed down in the V&A Waterfront

*   What’s On Eatery in Watson Street has closed down

But all is not doom and gloom, and the restaurateurs that are opening restaurants in these difficult times must be congratulated and wished well.  These restaurants opened their doors this year :

*   Etienne Bonthuys (ex-Tokara) has opened his long-awaited restaurant on Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, called Casparus, in partnership with artist Strijdom van der Merwe (left).

*   DISH has opened at Inn on the Square, Greenmarket Square

*   The Olive Shack at Allora in Franschhoek has opened as a deli, doing olive oil tastings, and serving Breakfast, Greek lunches and picnics

*   Tables restaurant has opened at Nitida wine estate in Durbanville

*   Mozzarella Bar has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens

*   Café Benedict has opened on the main road in Franschhoek.

*   Trinity has opened as a ‘super club’ in Bennett Street in Green Point

*   Il Cappero Italian Restaurant* has opened in Barrack Street

*   Caffé Milano* has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens

*   The Stone Kitchen has opened at Dunstone Winery in Wellington

*  The Franschhoek Food Emporium has open in Place Vendome, and is owned by legendary Topsi Venter’s daughter Danielle

*   What’s On Eatery* has opened in Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street

*   Haas Coffee Collective has opened on Rose Street in Bo-Kaap

*   Crunch:The Pastry Shop coffee shop and bakery has opened in Paarl, owned by Gerard van Staden, previously chef at Le Franschhoek Hotel

*   Dear Me Brasserie and Tjing Tjing Bar has opened on Longmarket Street (right).

*   Act Restaurant and Play Bar have opened at the Baxter Theatre

*   Le Coq has opened in Franschhoek

*   Dash has opened in the Queen Victoria Hotel in the Waterfront

*   Café Dijon has opened another branch at Zorgvliet wine estate

*   Harbour House has opened a branch in the V & A Waterfront, where Fisherman’s Choice was

*   KOS Coffee & Cuisine has opened in The Regency on Regent Road in Sea Point

*   Café Extrablatt has opened where shu used to be, in Green Point

*   Skinny Legs & All has opened on Loop Street

*   Leopard’s Leap will open its picnic facility, tasting room and cookery school outside Franschhoek in November/December

*   De Huguenot Estate has opened The Marianne, Harry Q Bar and Fraiche, with ex-Hunter’s Country Lodge chef Tanya Kruger in the kitchen. (The De Huguenot restaurant closes at the end of October – see in closures above, and Fraiche Deli will no longer open).

*   Cicciobella Pizzeria has opened in Hout Bay

*   Takumi has opened, with Chef Papa San the Sushi Master

*   Sunbird Bistro has opened in the ex-Sandbar space on Victoria Road in Camps Bay, with Lana Doyle as chef and Pamela Trevelyan as Manager. Smart blue/white interior. Serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails and tapas.

*   The Grand Camps Bay will be operated by the ex-Sandbar for Breakfast and lunch.  The Grand takes over from 4 pm.

*   Mezepoli from Johannesburg is opening in the Nando’s space in Camps Bay on 20 October

*   Saboroso has opened in Bakoven, where Marika’s used to operate

*   Café Le Chocolatier has opened a chocolate manufacturing and demo outlet Le Chocolatier Factory, next to its restaurant, in Franschhoek, utilising Lindt equipment and chocolate

*   Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant has re-opened, with new chef Ryan Shell.

*   Cavallo restaurant is said to open on the stud farm on R44, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, in 2012 or 2013

*   Roberto’s has opened underneath On Broadway, owned by Chef Roberto de Carvalho, ex-chef at the Twelve Apostles Hotel and the One & Only Cape Town

*   Luigi’s is opening in Paarl where Ciao Bella used to be

*   Our Place is opening in Durbanville where Avocado used to be

*   Friends Café has opened at 44 Belvedere Street, Claremont. Tel (021) 674-5510

*   Valora has opened where L’Aperitivo was, on Loop Street

*   Rococoa has opened in The Palms Decor and Lifestyle Centre in Woodstock

*   Luke Dale-Roberts (The Test Kitchen) is opening another restaurant in Wynberg, said to be where Bella Lucia is – this report, initially announced on the Spill blog, has been denied by Luke Dale-Roberts

*   Reuben’s is opening another Franschhoek branch off the main road, and will run it concurrently until its main road branch lease expires next year.

*   Toro has opened in the old Cape Quarter, near the back entrance of Andiamo, as a Wine/Aperitivo Bar, with an ex-Overture chef

*   Goloso Italian Deli and Wine Bar has opened on Regent Road in Sea Point, next door to Wildflour.

*   Franschhoek Famous Pancake House, with owner Gideon, has opened as a take-away pancake outlet, in Mont View Centre, next to the gym, in Fabriek Street, Franschhoek.

*   Cafeteria has opened in De Waterkant, initially selling wraps, sandwiches, coffee, and beautiful pastries, cakes and macaroons by Martin Senekal as take-aways, and planning to expand into a sit-down coffee shop in October.

*   A late night dinner and dance restaurant will open in the ex-Brio space in October, with a chef from St Tropez, and a DJ from Cannes

*   LM Grills has opened in Onrus, outside Hermanus, previous owners of restaurants with same name in Johannesburg and Mocambique

*   Chez Chez has opened as an Espresso and Cheesecake Bar (serving 13 different cheesecakes), 3 De Lorentz Street, Tamboerskloof.

*   Bistro on Rose has opened at 35 Rose Street

*   The Slug & Lettuce has opened on Long Street

*   Rhapsody’s franchise restaurant, mainly in Pretoria, is to open next door to Café Extrablatt in Green Point, where Doppio Zero used to be

*   Wale Rose Lifestyle has opened in Bo-Kaap, on the corner of Wale and Rose Street, serving Cape Malay as well as ‘cosmopolitan food’.

*   Andy Fenner (JamieWho?) and friends are opening Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants on Kloof Street, opposite McDonald’s, in December

* The Kitchen at Maison opens on Maison wine estate in Franschhoek on 16 November, with Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg (ex-Ginja, ex-Myoga), and Manager Julian Smith (ex-Grande Provence, ex-Waterkloof, ex-Pierneef a La Motte)

*   McDonald’s is opening a ‘concept store’ in the V&A Waterfront, where 221 Waterfront used to be

*   Batho’s Place African Restaurant has opened in the township in Franschhoek.  082 090 8660

*   Liam Tomlim’s Cookery School opens at Leopard’s Leap at the end of November, next door to La Motte in Franschhoek, also serving picnics.

*   F.east Indian Restaurant has opened corner Long and Bloem Streets, in Cape Town

Restaurant changes:

*   Chef Jacques de Jager, has left Salt Restaurant, after about 18 months

*   Restaurant Manager Darren Morgan has left Dash Restaurant, and is now at the One&Only Cape Town

*   Food & Beverage Manager of Dock House, Queen Victoria Hotel and V&A Hotel, Alton van Biljon, has left

*   Chef Lucas Carstens has left Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town, and joined Cuvée Restaurant, at Simonsig wine estate

*   Blues in Camps Bay is reducing the size of its restaurant, and re-opens as Blues Beach House on 14 October

*   Chef Leigh Trout has left Mange Tout at the Mont Rochelle Hotel, and has bought Bird Café and Gourmet Eatery on Bree Street, with Kevin Mink.  They re-opened on 1 September with an amended interior and a new menu.

*  Ex-Hermanos chef/owner Wayne Spencer is now at Burgundy in Hermanus

*   Carl Habel, Sommelier of The Mount Nelson Hotel, has been appointed Restaurant Manager of Planet Restaurant too

*   Peaches and Cream on the Main Road in Paarl has been taken over by Anica Bester

*   Mediterrea in Hermanus has changed its name to Grilleri

*   Patron Chef Stefan Louw has taken over the running of Heaven on Newton Johnson wine estate in the Hemel en Aarde wine valley.

*   The Black Pearl is the new name of the Tapas, Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, with new owners, of the ex-Seven Sins on Kloof Street.

*   Chef Oliver Cattermole has left Dash restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel, and joined What’s On Eatery on 1 October.

*   Cocoa Oola has opened on Kloof Street, where Oishii used to be

*   Chef Anri Diener has left Majeka House, and Chef Tanja Kruger from De Huguenot Restaurant takes over her position

*  Chef Daniel Botha has left Le Franschhoek Hotel, and starts at Salt Restaurant on 1 November

*  Chef Oliver Cattermole, previously with Dash and What’s On Eatery, has started as Executive Chef at Le Franschhoek Hotel on 7 November.

*   Chef Matthew Gordon in Franschhoek is opening a new restaurant in Paarl

*   Dieu Donné in Franschhoek has leased its restaurant to Martin and Marco from Durban, and they have renamed it La Rocca. Chef Jo van Staden has returned to Durban with her husband, Chef Gerard van Staden, who has returned to the Beverley Hills Hotel.

*   Chef Chris Smit of Café BonBon has resigned

*   Chef Christo Pretorius, previously of De Huguenot, has started at 1800 Restaurant at the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel

*   Sommelier Neil Grant of Rust en Vrede has resigned, leaves at the end of November, and is said to open a new restaurant in the Old Biscuit Mill

The following restaurants are taking a winter break:

*   La Colombe: 30 May – 20 June

*   River Café:   10 – 30 August

*   Constantia Uitsig:   4 – 26 July

*   The Grand Café Camps Bay:   June and July

*   Pure Restaurant: 1 – 31 July

*   Terroir: 1 – 11 July

*   Grande Provence:   18 – 31 July

*   Pierneef à La Motte:  15 June – 15 July

*   French Connection: 30 May – 20 June

*   Freedom Hill: July and August

*   Overture: July

*   Waterkloof: 27 June – 20 July

*   French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar 18 – 24 July

*   Tasting Room and Common Room at Le Quartier Francais closed until 31 July

*   The Olive Shack at Allora in Franschhoek is closed until the end of September

*   Tokara Restaurant: closed 8 – 22 August

*   Blues in Camps Bay is closing for a month from 22 August – 2 October, for renovations to reduce the size of the restaurant

*   Allée Bleue will not be serving lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays during September.

*   The Kove in Camps Bay is closed until mid-September for renovations

*   Laborie Restaurant in Paarl is closed for renovations until end October.

POSTSCRIPT 28/7: Pete Goffe-Wood, ex-owner of Wild Woods in Hout Bay, has written a frank article on Food24 about why he recently closed his restaurant. He blames Capetonians for not supporting restaurants in winter months, which means that they have to cover costs out of savings created in summer, to keep the business afloat in winter (this is a general Cape winter scenario for all businesses in the tourism industry – if one does not know about this, one should not be in the business in the first place!).  He writes that Johannesburg restaurants do not suffer this seasonality.  The recent 2-week summery spell proved what an important role the weather plays – business was booming for restaurants and accommodation as Capetonians left their homes, went out, and spent money, a welcome cash injection in these difficult times.  The Bastille Festival in Franschhoek had record attendance during this period.

Restaurant Specials cause cost undercutting, which attracts business and provides cashflow, but does not help the industry, he writes. If specials weren’t offered, one probably would have seen a far greater number of restaurants closing down. They are hugely popular, and on this blog the Restaurant Specials listings are the most popular of all blogposts.  He also blames restaurant owners, often chefs, for being too ’emotional’ about their businesses, and for not seeing the signs of tough times early enough, which may call for closing one’s restaurant.  Clearly opening any business at the moment is high risk, and for a hospitality business the risk is even higher.   Goffe-Wood also lashes out at the recent Weekend Argus article about Restaurant Closures, using names from this blogpost.  As much as he blames journalist Helen Bamford for getting her facts wrong, he does too, in calling her Linda!  Describing a non-renewal of a restaurant lease as not being a restaurant closure or failure is very debatable – if things were going well, leases would have been renewed, especially for a restaurant like Haute Cabriere, where Chef Matthew Gordon had operated for 16 years!

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

Restaurant Review: Food and prices at Blonde more than a little ….blond!

The Caviar Group (Beluga, Sevruga, Caviar Fine Foods) owner Oskar “Blonde” Kotze has a weakness for blonds, or so his marketing tells us, as most photographs used to market his restaurants feature sexy girls, particularly blond ones.  Blonde, the newest restaurant of the Caviar Group, opened earlier this month as a dinner-only venue on Hatfield Street.   While the female staff are all blond, the male waiters are not, and the food as well as the prices of Blonde leave much to be desired.

If one drives to the restaurant from the Parliament side, one will see an ueber-massive billboard with a ……blond on it, and the name of the restaurant (but only during the day, and not at night, as it is not lit).  If one comes down Hatfield Street from Orange Street, one would not notice the 110 year old Victorian restaurant building, and drive past it.  The red carpet entrance is through stylish glass double doors, down a passage with a massive chandelier.   The white walls are adorned with large murals of ……blonds drinking Moet et Chandon.  The chairs have a black and white floral design, and are very comfortable.   The double story house, home to a number of failed restaurants previously, is divided into a number of small dining rooms, none having more than 3 or 4 tables or so in them, giving one a feeling of being cramped inside the small rooms after a while. 

One is greeted by a hostess (Nikita), who is so new that she does not know where table 301 is, as per the booking sheet.   The service from waitress Karien is professional, but she seemed incredibly nervous, stuttering and shaking.   Three Managers were on duty, and each one of them regularly came to check if all was in order at the table, meaning that up to seven persons ask one the same question in an hour, a nagging irritation.   One receives an A3 menu, with a full page …… blond on the reverse side, and another …… blond at the top of what is called the “Unofficial Menu”.   A “menu explainer” comes to each table, and he explains the menu, making his personal recommendations, not surprisingly for the most expensive items on the menu (the Foie gras balentine and the Roasted foie gras starters, at R 139 and R 129, respectively) and the Truffle-infused fillet as a main course, indicated as being the restaurant’s signature dish, at R 189.

Very nice bread rolls were served, with a complimentary generous platter of little toasted breads, duck liver pate, roast beef, pickled onions, and homemade sweet chilli sauce.   An amuse bouche was then sent to the table, butternut soup served in an espresso cup.

The wine list has about 60 wines, and eleven each are by-the-glass.  For white wines the wine-by-the-glass choice is mainly from Greyling (“The Doppie”, Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, “Botterbek”, “Mengelmoes”), all at R 29, up to R 59 for Sterhuis Barrel Select and a Mulderbosch 2006.  Red wines by-the-glass also start at R 29 for Saxenburg and Greyling HMI Collection, up to R 55 for Boschendal 1685, Greyling Family Reserve and Clos Malverne Pinotage Reserve.   Between 5 – 10 options are offered per wine variety, and then an additional heading adds about 20 further options, being more select and more expensive (e.g. the “Special red wines” list includes Vergelegen V 2006 at R 1685, Meerlust Rubicon in various bottle sizes and vintages, and Raats Mr De Compostella 2007 at R 1065).  The “Special white wines” list includes a Vergelegen White 2006 at R 665.  Very few of the wines have vintages provided on the list.  The Graham Beck Merlot was served in an odd glass, very bulbous at the bottom and a very narrow top, almost like a larger wine estate tasting room glass, which does not allow the wine to breath well.

The 40 minute wait for the main course is long, but the restaurant was almost full.  The “truffle-infused fillet”, served with “garlic galette potato, mushroom ragout, bordelaise jus and beef reduction”, was a huge let-down.  Not only was the 220 gram fillet bland, but the truffle infusion could not be detected.  The terrible taste of the potato bake cannot be described in words without making the reader of this review run to the bathroom.  The mushroom ragout was the most tasty element on the plate.   When the complaint was lodged with the Manager, she was very condescending, saying that maybe it just was not to the liking of her patrons.   When this approach to “customer service” was questioned, she apologised, said that she would reprimand the chef, and offered complimentary desserts (a chocolate terrine, and a peach cobbler) and Glen Carlou dessert wine.    It was clear that the Manager does not yet know the Blonde menu, in that she did not know the detail about all the desserts.   A basil sorbet palate cleanser was sent to the table before the desserts were served. 

The menu uses an interesting pricing technique, in that the prices are not written in numbers but in words, making it harder to “see” the R number, perhaps to hide the high Blonde prices!   The Starter choice of ten dishes ranges in price from R 49 (Roast vegetable salad, Baby calamari, or Herb salad) to R 129/R139 for the two foie gras dishes.   Roast tomato tarte tatin, calamari cerviche, duck breast, and onion veloute are other options.   Ten Mains are offered, ranging in price from R 109 (smoked aubergine and goat’s cheese cannelloni) to the beef fillet at R 189.  Other choices are Chicken breast, Smoked springbok, Ostrich, Confit duck roll, Kingklip, Linefish (Cape Salmon), and Beef rib.   A second column offers lighter, smaller and less expensive dishes , under the heading “Simply Blonde” – it is not explained if these are for the ladies?  Nine options include Roasted chicken breast, at R 99; East coast sole and linefish cost R 109; Kingklip, Salmon, Lamb rump and Lamb shank pie cost R119; and Fillet steak and Duck breast cost R 129.  A choice of sides includes an unusual selection of pickled vegetables; beef and poultry reduction; chilli jam, tomato compote, beetroot and onion chutney; and “braised” mixed vegetables, each at R 25.   Last, but not least, the menu makes a recommendation for “Next time at Blonde”, being a “whole roasted fillet steak for two, roasted vegetables, duo of potato, herb salad and a beef reduction.”  No price is provided, and it does not encourage one to order it during one’s current visit to the restaurant.  

Underneath the menu a line is printed : “anything but pepenero” – obviously a private joke, in that it could be a reference to another restaurant group that also has 4 restaurants (Pepenero, The Kove, Zenzero and Paranga – I have been told that there is no love lost between the owners of the two restaurant groups), and that no black pepper (only …… blond pepper, i.e. white peppercorns) is available.   The menu also states that “A discretionary 13 % service charge will be added to your bill.  Please feel free to ask us to remove it if you are not comfortable with this addition”.   The tip was removed before the bill came to the table, due to the problems experienced with the main course. 

The dessert menu is short, offering lemon sabayon tart, creme anglaise soup, and Absolut mango chocolate martini as options in addition to the peach cobbler and chocolate terrine, in a price range of R 49 – R 59.  The Glen Carlou “The Welder” is offered on the Dessert menu at R 59.

The bathroom is very ordinary, with average standard fittings, and feels tiny and cramped.

Blonde, 129 Hatfield Street, Gardens. Tel 021 462 5793.  Tuesdays – Sunday dinners. www.blondedining.co.za (website still under construction!).

POSTSCRIPT: A further sign of the ……blondness of Blonde’s marketing department is an ad with a ……blond in the Business Report of 19 May, which lists the telephone numbers and website addresses of all four the restaurants in the Caviar Group – for Blonde it says “opening soon” and provides the web address, which is still under construction!

POSTSCRIPT 7/2: Blonde is to close down at the end of February, the current concept not having brought in the feet nor revenue, despite heavily discounted prices of its expensive menu and winelist.   This is the e-mail that was sent today:

“Our sexiest socialite Blonde had an amazing summer , met some remarkable people and brought out some incredible dishes. In fact, we’re so happy with our concept kitchen’s wonderful creations, that over winter we’ve decided to send her shopping for even more exciting new ideas!! Sadly, this means we’ll be closing our doors for a while, but don’t despair we’ll be back with a brand new menu concept, served with our signature style and charm. In the meantime, look for your favourite Blonde creations at Beluga and Sevruga, or book Blonde as a private venue for your event, and get a sneak peek at what spring will bring. For her farewell, we are giving you 50% discount on your entire food and drinks bill for the entire month of February. Closing dates: March 2011 – August 2011”

POSTSCRIPT 28/2:  Blonde has closed today, until September.

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