Tag Archives: ‘Crush’

Cape Town and Johannesburg have almost equal number of Eat Out Top 500 Restaurants!

Eat Out magazine 2014 Whale Cottage PortfolioAs the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards were held early in November, it was the first time that we did not receive the annual Eat Out magazine at the gala dinner. It was however sent by post, a surprise gift, last week. A real surprise was that Johannesburg (24%) has almost as many Top 500 restaurants as Cape Town (26%) out of the total of 500.

New Media Publishing changed a number of aspects of its judging of the Top 10 Restaurant Awards this year, and this included their magazine as well. Instead of sending a number of freelance evaluators out to find the best restaurants country-wide, and to write a short summary review about them, they sent theireditorial panel‘ of 50 persons a spreadsheet of their restaurant database, requesting them to rate the restaurants they had eaten at in the last six months.  A number of aspects of the restaurants were evaluated, and the scores were added up, from which the top scoring 500 restaurants were selected.  The restaurant summaries in the magazine are based on a summary each restaurant that applied to be on the Top 500 restaurant list had supplied!

Cape Town has 132 ‘top‘ restaurants on the list, which oddly includes Cattle Baron (a steak restaurant chain), Col’Cacchio (a pizza chain), Dias Tavern (!), Hudson’s Burger Joint (a mini hamburger chain), Hussar Grill (a steak house chain), Jason (a bakery), My Basaar (a coffee shop), Reuben’s One & Only (!), Sababa Kitchen & Deli (predominantly take-away, with only a few chairs at the Bree Street branch), and taschas (coffee shop chain), all in the company of Eat Out Top 10 restaurants The Greenhouse and The Test Kitchen.  It is nice to see the relatively new Cheyne’s Continue reading →

Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards 2014: Best event ever, some highs, some shocks!

Eat Out magazine cover Whale Cottage PortfolioAfter two disastrous years, New Media Publishing was brave enough to take stock earlier this year, and asked the industry what it wanted in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards.  Last night that hard work paid off, with a new venue for the event, a slick and short presentation, new Awards introduced, and three new restaurants making the Top 10 Restaurant list.  The surprise was the emotion which the chefs expressed when receiving their plaques, challenging MasterChef SA Season 2 on tears!

We were one of the interviewees, meeting with Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, its GM Aileen Lamb, MD Bridget McCarney, and Director Irna van Zyl.  We were forthright in our feedback and suggestions, including that a team of judges would be needed again (we suggested Garth Stroebel, and have yet to meet him!). We fed back that the preferential relationship with Luke Dale-Roberts in TASTE magazine (also published by New Media Publishing, and of which Abigail is the Food Editor) was unfair towards all other chefs, by featuring him every month – we were told that Woolworths had a contract with him, and therefore he received the coverage in the magazine.  This contract was terminated earlier this year, which is excellent news.  Other recommendations can be read here.  Flowing from the interviews and discussions with previous Top 20 chefs and restaurant managers, owners, and suppliers, as well as media representatives and bloggers, New Media Publishing allowed restaurants to apply to be included in the Eat Out Top 500 Restaurant List, which was selected by a Continue reading →

Delaire Graff makes history in Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards!

Delaire Graff Chef Christiaan Campbell kitchen Whale Cottage PortfolioFor the first time in the history of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards two restaurants belonging to one owner have been nominated for the honoured list. Both Delaire Graff Restaurant and Indochine, under the direction of Chef Christiaan Campbell, made it onto the Top 20 shortlist, which Eat Out announced yesterday.  We are delighted with our best ever Top 20 Restaurant shortlist prediction score, in correctly guessing 18 out of the Top 20 shortlisted restaurants.

The Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Awards shortlist contained a few surprises, leading one restaurant representative to comment that despite the new judging system and panel, little had changed in the shortlist, with only two newly opened restaurants included, being Camphors at Vergelegen (Chef PJ Vadas) and five hundred (Chef David Higgs).  Surprises were the following:

  • The non-appearance of Terroir and Mosaic at The Orient, both restaurants having made the Top 10 Restaurant list last year.  We have been critical of Terroir’s perennial appearance on the Continue reading →

Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Awards 2014 shortlist: a prediction!

MasterChef-2-14-Chef-David-dish-Whale-Cottage-Portfolio-300x225It’s that time of the year again, and this week Eat Out will announce its shortlisted Top 20 Restaurants for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards 2014.  The judges have been furiously eating their way around the country, and top restaurants are licking their lips in the hope of cracking the Top 20 list, from which the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants will be announced at the gala dinner in the V&A Waterfront on 10 November.

Given the turmoil in the judging of our country’s Top 10 restaurants in the past two years, Eat Out publisher New Media Publishing communicated with the industry, and invited past Top 20 chefs and some restaurant owners to chat about what they want in restaurant awards.  The overwhelming majority of respondents requested a panel of South African judges (British blogger ‘judge’ Bruce Palling used last Continue reading →

Crush! 32: greatly improved mouthwatering food & drink online magazine!

Crush! 32 cover-fin-2048When Michael Olivier first launched Crush! food and wine digital magazine three years ago, it was evident that he and his team had no experience in the design and publishing of a  magazine generally, and a digital magazine specifically.  We wrote critically about the first few issues, but no feedback was accepted nor reacted to, and Olivier appeared to have lost advertising revenue as a result, thus leaving the magazine about a year ago.  His departure appears to have rejuvenated the magazine, and it has improved vastly!

The response by Olivier and his Crush! writers David Cope (@Foodie_za) and Andy Fenner (@JamieWhoSA in those days) to our feedback about the magazine at that time was to create the Whalespotter Twitter defamation account led by Cope, and condoned by Continue reading →

Michael Olivier has double standards: defames others, yet sends lawyer’s letter for alleged defamation!

Ten days ago we wrote about the unethical reviews of wines by Michael Olivier, without acknowledging that most of his ‘Winery Partners’ have paid for the coverage on his blog, on his Twitter account, and in his FMR wine slot.  We also wrote about the unethical restaurant reviews done on IntertwEAT/TweetCritique by Lionel Lelyveld, without disclosing that every three course meal for two persons he has written about is received free of charge.

Interesting is how differently the two writers have reacted to our blogpost:

Lelyveld has not responded to the blogpost at all, but we have noticed in the past week that he has started simultaneously Tweeting restaurant reviews from the UK and the Cape.  We have also noticed that he has added a hint of criticism to some of his ‘review’ Tweets, which we have not seen before.  What is funny, but probably not visible to most of our Followers, is that Lelyveld has been particularly generous with his Retweets of our Restaurant-related Tweets, Continue reading →

Cape wine drinkers and restaurant-goers are misled by unethical ‘reviews’!

Tweeters are starting to express their frustration at being misled by two Cape Town based reviewers, Lionel Lelyveld, Tweeting about restaurants as @IntertwEAT, and Michael Olivier, Tweeting as @FoodWineGuru about wines.

What the two Tweeters have in common is that neither reveal to the readers of their blogs/websites nor in their Tweets (nor to the Fine Music Radio FMR listeners) that they have received their meals for free in the case of Lelyveld, and that the wine reviews are part of an advertising package offered by Olivier, showing that both the reviewers have no ethics in misleading their Twitter Followers and blog readers, and radio listeners.

Michael Olivier has been around for a while, and appears to have needed a new source Continue reading →

New Year kicks off with Twitter bullying, bashing, and blackmail!

The past twenty four hours have seen bullying, bashing, and blackmail on Twitter, kick started by an abusive Tweet by über Tweeter Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, who accused us of ‘cyber bullying‘ her ‘friends’ Mariette du Toit-Helmbold (CEO) and Skye Grove (Communications and PR Manager) of Cape Town Tourism, supermarket wine promoter Michael Olivier, and Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly!   Not only was her stream of Tweets disparaging, but she also blackmailed her 5000-odd Followers with the threat of being unfollowed!  One would have expected the New Year to have had a gentler start!

Hobbs is a ‘mommy food blogger‘, her Juno and now Scrumptious blogs having impressed in the past with the quality of her photographs, and portfolio of recipes.  In the time that we have known her, we have had little interaction, seeing each other at odd Franschhoek Continue reading →

Crush! celebrates first anniversary – good improvement, still inconsistent quality!

We have written about six issues of Crush! since it was launched a year ago, and the initial excitement of opening a new copy of the digital food and wine magazine edited by Michael Olivier has faded, to such an extent that three issues of Crush! were sitting unopened in the Inbox.  The magazine appears to have developed a rythym, and regular features can be expected in each magazine, with few new surprises in it.  After reading Crush! 7, Crush! 8, and Crush! 9, and looking back at the pevious Crush! issues, our evaluation is that Crush! has settled down, that it knows where it is going, and that it has mastered most of its technical and design problems highlighted initially.  But its quality remains inconsistent:

1.   The design flashes have been largely removed, having been irritating in initial issues. Yet they remain in the focus on a personality (Squashed Tomato’s Linda Harding in Crush! 7; I’m no Jamie Oliver’s Matt Allisson – nice that the five point overview is about his lifestyle of food writer, stay-at-home father, and avid vegetable gardener – in Crush! 8; and Norman McFarlane in Crush! 9), distracting one in reading the content.

2.  The covers don’t need to sell a magazine as the print equivalent have to, but it was disappointing to note how the cover photograph choice in the last three issues was far more unattractive than those of some earlier issues.  The cover pic is usually one of four recipes developed by Sophia Lindop and beautifully photographed by Russel Wasserfall.  The problem lies in the choice of photograph for the cover, and the placement of text on the pics, often making the text unreadable.  Most front-cover flashes have been removed.  The Crush! design and publishing team has no print magazine experience, and it still shows!

3.  It is easier to navigate the magazine now, with clearer instructions of how to continue reading a story, but one does make the odd mistake in jumping to a next page, and not finishing a story.

4.    A problem that continues is that pack shots in the ‘Essentials’, ‘High Five’ and ‘Quaff Now’ features are too small to allow pack recognition, bad news for the marketers of these products, no doubt paying a placement fee. It was odd to see a sunhat in an ‘Essentials for the kitchen’ collection, in Crush! 9!

5.  Advertising support remains poor, and the state of the economy must be making itself felt at Crush! too, with the last two issues reduced to 42 pages, and carrying very few advertisements – only Old Mutual and Fairview having been regular advertisers.  Insurer 1st for Women started advertising, and Le Creuset and Tokara olive oils have had once-off ads.

6.  The contribution by ‘The Foodie’ blogger David Cope has changed dramatically – from initally having messy looking red-and-white check pages reflecting his blog design, the design linkage has been dropped in the past two issues.  This has been replaced by far smarter looking features, but they have no credibility, as the pot and the knife features have the Chef’s Warehouse branding on them, almost hidden in a corner, and Cope does not declare that he does the Public Relations for the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School!   The photography however is excellent, probably the best ever seen in any issue of Crush!

7.   The main features vary in their quality, and there has never been consistency in their design and quality – the Hermanuspietersfontein feature looks fantastic, with many beautiful photographs.  The Glen Carlou and Hidden Valley features look less attractive due to black and white photographs on the first page of the features.  It seems as if Oliver has run out of material to write about, in featuring Hidden Valley, and Overture’s Bertus Basson, twice in the first year.

8.   Re-opened Massimo’s Pizza Club in Hout Bay is featured in Crush! 9, but does not have enough pizza photographs to create appetite appeal.  The oddest restaurant feature, a six page story by David Cope on Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room, does not contain a single photograph, and it takes Cope three pages to start writing about the Tasting Room, via a profile on Spanish chef Ferran Adria!  Cope did not make notes of his nine-course meal, and therefore he is quite vague about what he ate there!

9.  Recipe features do not interest me generally, but the most stunning feature ever is that of soups paired with Monis products in Crush! 9, including the lesser known Monis Muscadel and Port.  The photographs are outstanding, and one wonders why all the photography used for and design of Crush! cannot be of this quality. 

10.  The features on winemakers Morné Vrey of Delaire Graff and Russell Retief of Van Loveren, on charcuterier Richard Bosman, and on the Steenberg Hotel are ineffective, in being broken down into blocks, some profiles having as many as 27 blocks to click, a guarantee that one would lose interest to read it all.  Chef Christiaan Campbell of Delaire Graff, the Foodbarn, as well as the Vineyard Hotel are also featured.  However, none of the three issues contain a restaurant review anymore.

11.  The ‘Fine Print’ book page and ‘Crushifieds’ remain too busy, although the latter has improved greatly – ‘less is more’ should guide design in these features.

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

Celebration: Reaching the milestone of 1000 blogposts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you 1000 times for your readership and support!

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