Tag Archives: Doolhof

First South African Malbec Festival to be hosted at Benguela Cove Wine Estate in April!

 

The first Malbec Festival to celebrate a lesser-drunk cultivar in our country is to be hosted by the Benguela Cove Wine Estate outside Hermanus on 18 April 2020. Malbec lags other more popular cultivars in the Cape wine region, but put Mendoza in Argentina on the world wine map. Continue reading →

Doolhof wine estate launches new Signatures vintages, announces new developments!

imageDoolhof Wines launched the newest vintages in its Signatures range as well as of the new Legends of the Labyrinth Theseus, at Dash restaurant at Queen Victoria Hotel in the V&A Waterfront yesterday afternoon. Changes in its wine and accommodation offerings for next year were announced. Continue reading →

Doolhof launches latest vintages at La Mouette restaurant, introduces new winemaker Gielie Beukes!

imageThe Doolhof lunch held at La Mouette last Friday introduced us to three new aspects: the new Doolhof winemaker Gielie Beukes, the new Doolhof vintages, and the new interior decor of La Mouette.

New winemaker Gielie Beukes met the media for the first time at the function, having started at Doolhof last September. He comes across as a little shy in speaking, but his confidence will grow. I was lucky in sitting next to him, so could obtain more information from him after he introduced us to his range of wines, just after General Manager Johan Fourie welcomed us. Gielie handled all aspects of the 2015 harvest for the first time, which meant imagethat some of the wines we tasted (2014 and older) had been overseen by Rianie Strydom, who consults to the wine estate. Gielie moved across from Schalkenbosch, in Tulbagh, having previously worked harvests in Bordeaux and Napa, and having worked at Glen Carlou and La Motte. Gielie announced that they are discontinuing their Shiraz, and will sell off their grapes of this variety. They have also discontinued their Wooded Chardonnay, in a move to consolidate their range. Gielie shared with me that doing harvests in different countries was an immense learning experience, the French looking for optimum ripeness when picking grapes, while the Americans look for premium ripeness, picking grapes at an almost over-ripe state. Gielie is not only the winemaker, but has also been appointed as the Estate Manager. Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 3 June

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reacted to the additional Immigration Regulations introduced on Monday, requesting our government ‘to act in the best interests of the country and review‚ modify‚ and if necessary‚ rescind‚ the new measures if they do not have the desired effect and if they act as a handbrake on travel‚ tourism and economic growth‚ not just for South Africa — which is experiencing its weakest GDP performance in decades — but for the entire region. From a commercial and economic perspective‚ the industry is concerned that the harsh and onerous requirements South Africa has prescribed for travellers will negatively impact on the sustainability of air services‚ travel‚ trade and tourism to‚ from and via South Africa‘!

*   The inaugural Cabernet Franc Carnival will be held at Avontuur on 20 June, with thirteen producers presenting their wines to taste, including Ridgeback Wines, Avontuur, Lynx Wines, Hermanuspietersfontein, Camberley Wines, Cape Chamonix, CK Wines, Doolhof Wine Estate, Druk-My-Niet Wine Estate, Mont du Toit, Ormonde Vineyards, Raats Family Wines, and Nelson Family Vineyards. Entrance R120.

Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 13 May

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  The Good Food & Wine Show will be brought to Mumbai in India for the first year this year, after 16 years of running the show in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, show organisers Fiero Milano have announced. Continue reading →

Cape Town and Winelands restaurants have a heart for Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's DayNumerous restaurants in Cape Town are offering special Valentine’s Day offers for Friday 14 February. We will update the list as we receive new information.

Cape Town

*   Catharina’s at Steenberg: Seafood Menu platter R1750 per couple; 5 course Valentine’s Set Menu R750 per person; and Vegetarian Valentine’s Menu R750 per person.  All three options include a glass of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Rosé 2011.  Tel (021) 713-2222

*   The Restaurant at Cape Point Vineyards, Noordhoek:   4 course dinner R495, or R650 with wine pairings.  Nadine performing.  Tel 083 444 7088.

*   Frères Bistro:  3 course dinner with complimentary glass of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne R 395 per person.  Tel (021) 418-1609

*   Diemersdal Farm Eatery, Durbanville: Tapas platters and desserts as well as complimentary glass of MCC R 550 per couple.  Tel (021) 976-1810

*   Azure at the Twelve Apostles: Welcome drink, rose, and 4 course candlelight dinner R 795 per person, includes chance of winning half carat diamond from Uwe Koetter valued at R15000.  Tel (021) 437-900

*   The Kraal at the Twelve Apostles: Kir Royal welcome drink, picnic basket includes a bottle of Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer, R1500 per couple.  Tel (021) 437-9000

*   Mondiall, V&A Waterfront: Oysters and glass of bubbly, 3 course dinner R350 per person.  Tel (021) 418-3003. Continue reading →

Doolhof showcases voluptuous Malbec in its Signatures of Doolhof range!

Doolhof Malbec wines Whale Cottage PortfolioAn unusual venue for the vertical tasting yesterday of the Doolhof Malbec wines in its Signatures of Doolhof range was Belthazar in the V&A Waterfront, where we tasted the five latest vintages of the wine, as well as some Argentinian and a French Malbec too.

Owner Dennis Kerrison welcomed us, after we had enjoyed oysters and Confrérie du Sabre d’Or champagne, explaining Doolhof Dennis Kerrison Whale Cottage Portfolio that they had planted Malbec with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, to create  a Château Lafite style wine. In the process they discovered the quality Malbec they were producing, and bottled it as a stand alone wine. Dennis said that baboons and the southeaster create a low yield for the variety. The Kerrisons have celebrated the tenth year of owning Doolhof this year, and celebrated the estate’s 300th anniversary last year.  Dennis introduced Rianie Strydom as their consultant cellarmaster.  As winemaker Friedrich Kühn could not attend, the tasting was led by Rianie. Continue reading →

SA wine tourism ‘revolution’ praised by leading wine writer Robert Joseph!

South Africa’s wine industry was praised for ‘amongst the most exciting wine countries in the world’ last week by top UK wine writer Robert Joseph, who also praised it for ‘the complete revolution in wine and wine tourism’ in the past 25 years, says the media release of Great Wine Capitals Global Network. The organisation hosted an awards lunch at La Motte, to celebrate the South African winners in the annual Great Wine Capitals Wine Tourism Awards, with Joseph as the guest speaker.

Despite praising the progress made in the R5 billion South African wine tourism industry, with about 300 local wine estates according to Business Report, Joseph said that wine tourism should be developed more aggressively around the world.  ‘There is a common misconception that wine tourism is about tasting and buying wine. It is not. It is about entertainment and building profitable relationships. Wine tourism needs to attract more visitors, get them to spend money, get them to become regular visitors and encourage them to become ambassadors. It is also about learning from your visitors and addressing their needs‘, he told the wine industry representatives.  He shared that 9% of the American wine purchases for home drinking is bought at the cellar door.

Joseph urged wine estates to not offer free cellar-door tastings. ‘If you charge, you have to think about what you are giving them and you have to give them fair value. Charging means your visitor knows where he or she stands. Paying implies a clear-cut and transactional relationship.  When you don’t charge, the parameters are not clear and often the interaction between producer and visitor can feel more like a bad blind date. It’s far better to subsequently give a complimentary offering and to be thanked than to be expected to give something for nothing at the outset’, he said.

Addressing customer feedback, Joseph urged wine estates to pay close attention to what visitors were saying about them, by monitoring tourism feedback sites and responding to both praise and criticism, to develop relationships with their wine customers.  He urged wine estates to pay attention to the search engine optimisation of their websites, to ensure that they are mobile-friendly, and that the labels and tasting rooms have QR codes to allow customers to seek further information about the wines.

He also urged a focus on designated drivers, given the stricter drink-drive legislation in most countries.  More should be done to make designated drivers feel welcome, he encouraged.  ‘The same goes for any non-wine drinkers who are part of a group, and also children. They also need to be entertained.  Offer more than just wine.  Offer activities that will also appeal to those not drinking wine. If you don’t provide food, allow people to use your facilities so they can barbeque or picnic at your venue. Let them bring their pets.

He recommended that wine buying by international tourists should be made simpler and cheaper. ‘Instead of shipping from your winery, arrange for distributors in the home countries of your visitors to deliver to them directly. This model is being used by some producers in Europe and is working successfully’.

At the Great Wine Capitals Global Network event, La Motte was announced the 2013 South African Best of Wine Tourism Awards winner, the second year running, and was a Global winner in the Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices category this year.  Although announced six months ago already, the awards per category were presented to the winners at the event last week:

*   Creation: Innovative Wine Tourism Experience

*   Grand Dedale Country House at Doolhof:  Accommodation

*   Grand Provence: Art and Culture

*   Tokara:  Wine Tourism Restaurant

*   Waterkloof:  Wine Tourism Services, and Architecture and Landscapes.

Cape Town/Winelands, Mainz-Rheinhessen in Germany, Bilbao-Rioja in Spain, Bordeaux in France, Florence in Italy, Mendoza in Argentina, Porto in Portugal, San Francisco/Napa Valley in the USA, Christchurch in New Zealand and Valparaiso/Casablanca in Chile are members of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

Joseph is editor at large of ‘Meininger’s Wine Business International ‘ and author of the ‘Wine Travel Guide to the World’. He is also the founder of the UK-based International Wine Challenge and of multiple Wine Challenges throughout Asia and eastern Europe. Joseph’s thejosephreport.com is one of the most respected and controversial international wine industry blogs.

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

Hotel Review: Taj Cape Town dinner good, but staff service not 5-star!

I often stay in five-star accommodation, to see what we can learn from it.  When a special offer was made to members of Gastronauts, attending a dinner at The Taj Cape Town last week, I grabbed the opportunity to experience this hotel, and made a booking.   I had booked the hotel room to share with my colleague, to allow her to experience the advertised 5-star service, but a last-minute guest arrival prevented her from joining me.  I was relieved in hindsight that she could not join me, because I would not want the service I experienced at The Taj to be her benchmark for service quality.  I was so frustrated by the poor staff service that I experienced that I checked out of this The Leading Hotels of the World member hotel just after midnight.

It started when I knew that my colleague could not join me, so I called the hotel at 16h00 on the day of my stay, to ask for the room to be changed from a twin-bed one to one with a king bed.  I asked for the Reservations Manager who had handled my booking, and the call went through to his answering machine. I did not receive a call back, and called again an hour later, to be told that he wasn’t feeling well, and that he had been sent home.  Clearly no one was listening to his messages. 

When I arrived, I parked at Mandela Rhodes Place (free parking here is included in the package, as the hotel does not have its own parking), and I had to carry my overnight bag, my computer bag, and my dress bag from the parking garage to the hotel.  A Taj doorman saw me coming along, and quickly opened the door, and welcomed me back (odd, as I had just arrived!), but made no effort to help me with my bags.   There was only one receptionist on duty, and she was assisting a security officer linked to a VIP room.  There was no acknowledgement of my presence until she had finished with the other person.  She then asked me mechanically “How can we be of assistance?”.  It was quite obvious that I was checking in, given the luggage that I had with me, but this seemed to be a surprise to her.   I was then told that I had to sign the ‘Legal document’ – this is when my hair started to stand on end.  She asked if I wanted to go to the lobby for the check-in.  As if I was a tourist, I was asked for my passport, not a document I normally walk around with in my home city of Cape Town!   I was offered a non-alcoholic drink in a tiny glass, but requested a glass of water, lemon and ice from Andrea, when she asked me what I wanted to drink.   I was served a glass of lukewarm tap water without ice and lemon.  When I fed this back to Andrea, she seemed quite relaxed about it, without apology, and the water was replaced with what I had ordered.  

The ‘Legal document’ I signed had no details about my stay, other than my name, the rate, and the date of stay.   However it had eleven Terms and Conditions, in very small print, that I was asked to sign.  Being very cautious of such ‘legal documents’, especially as she used this term, I studied the document in detail.  Some of these terms are rather scary.  For example, it states that the rate on the ‘registration card’ is exclusive of taxes and is ‘for room only’.  It was confirmed to me that the rate included Breakfast, but this is not stated in the terms and conditions, and I had to write this into the ‘legal document’.   The hotel has the right to take a ‘lien’ on guest luggage and belongings if one does not pay what is due, and these can then be sold or auctioned off.   No responsibility at all is taken for theft or other loss.   The clause that caught my eye was the following: “The Management reserves to itself the absolute right of admission to any person in the hotel premises and to request any guest to vacate his or hers (sic) room at any moment without previous notice and without assigning any reason whatsoever and the guest shall be bound to vacate when requested to do so” – not the best way to inspire confidence and trust in the hotel and its operation on arrival.   A clause relates to ‘tenancy’ and ‘sub-tenancy’  and is not understandable at all, it is so full of legalese!   Very nervously I signed the ‘Legal document’; and asked for a photocopy, to record which rights I had signed away!

I was then chased along to go to the room.   Again I had to carry all my own luggage to the room!  I had to laugh when the staff member asked if she could book a table for dinner for me, but I had booked specifically due to the Gastronauts dinner at the hotel, which Andrea said was not reflected on my booking!  She kept calling me by my surname, which is a 5-star hotel habit, but it is so formal.  I asked her to call me “Chris”, but she clearly felt uncomfortable doing so.  It reflected what the problem is in this hotel – a lack of communication between staff members and departments.  Andrea asked me if I would be using the internet, a rather silly question, as I was clearly lugging my laptop with me.    Proactively she offered to expand my internet allocation to a 24 hour one, instead of the half an hour free service guests are entitled to, the only good service I received outside of the Mint restaurant at the Taj Hotel.   I do question the half an hour allocation – surely internet connection is an entry level service accommodation establishments should offer these days, especially at 5-star level.  The cost of the 24 hour service is a preposterous R230.   Andrea called for an ice bucket so that I could add ice to my bottle of water, which was at the bed.  It arrived without ice tongs, and I had to take the ice with my fingers.   Andrea asked me if I would need to know anything else, having switched on the TV, showing a promotional Taj programme.   She did not explain how to find the TV channels or how to use the phone, all of which became an issue later on.  Luckily I referred to the room directory, and I was guided to find it in the drawer of the desk – I would never have thought of looking for it there.  I found a welcome letter in my room, signed with ‘warmest regards’ from the Assistant Front Office Manager, and I was asked to note the ‘key facilities’ of the hotel, so that I could enjoy a ‘memorable stay’!  The room card holder gushes on this theme too: “Our team is committed to making your stay not only comfortable but also memorable in every way” – I am sure the experience I had is not the ‘memorability’ that the hotel had in mind!

The room has a beautiful view onto Table Mountain, especially on the 8th floor level.   It has a comfortable desk, with the clever placement of plug points above the desk, and not below it.  A table had a welcome bottle of Doolhof wine, some fruit, chocolates and a plate with pannacotta on it.  The bathroom is well-appointed, with bath and shower, and Molton Brown  bathroom amenities.  It is not the most luxurious hotel room that I have stayed in, but it appeared comfortable and spacious.

Prior to the Gastronauts dinner we had sparkling wine in the lobby, being a glass of Môreson Solitaire MCC NV (Veritas Gold).   The hotel would have known how many persons were booked for the dinner, but the sparkling wine had run out when I arrived, the waiter told us.   It took some time before he found some more of it.  We were served canapés, being gruyere profiteroles and white asparagus jelly.  We were ushered into Mint restaurant, and I was told at which table I was to sit.  I chose a place in the middle of the table, and was then forced to move from this seat, as the chair was booked by another member, I was told.  There were no name cards on the table, and I was most determinedly moved by the Beverages Manager.   In the end it turned out to be a blessing, sitting with Angelo and Tina Casu from Grand Dedale, Samarie Smith from Die Burger and her partner Paul Swanepoel, with Takuan von Arnim and his wife Christiane of Haute Cabriere, and Michael Pownall, GM of the Taj Hotel.   Michael came to South Africa for the opening of the Cape Sun in 1994, then opened La Vendôme Hotel in Sea Point, moved to the Mount Nelson Hotel, and then spent some time in America for Orient Express, the owners of the Mount Nelson, amongst others. Michael and Angelo worked together at the Cape Sun and at the Mount Nelson.  In 2008 Michael returned to open the Taj Cape Town, a challenge as he was involved in the renovations, which incorporated the old Board of Executors and the South African Reserve Bank buildings.

The set menu, without choices, was printed on hand-made paper with an orange and gold-embossed backing, and rolled up with a ribbon, looking elegant and unusual.   Three sets of cutlery were laid out per guest.  Willowcreek olive oil and balsamic vinegar were on the table, as was a basket of delicious mixed rolls.  The Gastronauts dinner and wine pairing was good, and the service excellent.   The dinner had been specifically paired with 2010 Gold and Double Gold Veritas award-winning wines, Bennie Howard, the Gastronauts’ chairman and Veritas Awards’ Deputy Chairman, and the Taj head chef Sayam Longani pairing the food courses and the wines.  The starter was a duck and goose liver terrine which was served with an interesting grape compote, and thinly sliced toast, and was paired with De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay 2009 (Veritas Gold).  Bennie told us that De Wetshof makes eight excellent Chardonnays, and that the Finesse goes well with food, being rich and elegant.  I did not enjoy the sage-baked kabeljou, finding it dry and rather boring, but it was paired with a heavenly Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2010 (Veritas Double Gold), a delicious fruity wine.  For the pairing of the softest deconstructed Karan Beef Wellington, served with the cutest porcini mushroom pie, we were offered two wine choices – Bilton Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Veritas Gold) and the Lamond Cape Agulhus Syrah 2008 (Veritas Double Gold), and for many the Bilton was the preferred wine.   Dessert was an unexciting dark chocolate parfait with orange jelly, and one had the choice of pairing it with a yummy Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2009 (Veritas Double Gold), or a Van Rhyn’s 12 year brandy (Veritas Double Gold).   Friandises were served with a choice of coffees, to round off a lovely evening.

After dinner I wanted another cappuccino, and I asked a staff member of the hotel when the Twankey Bar closes.  She told me at about midnight or 12.30 am.  I went to pop in at Brio first to have a coffee there, and then went to Twankey.   It was 23h20.   There were other guests in the bar.   When I asked for a cappuccino, I was told that the bar was closed, as they had cashed up already, despite the other guests still being there.  I asked the waiter if he could add the coffee to the room bill, to which he answered in the affirmative, but no coffee ever arrived.  He was very keen for me to use the hotel bar, which I did not see nor was I shown – I thought it was the Twankey!  When I returned into the hotel, I was welcomed back once again by the doorman, clearly a standard line.

On my return to the room at about 11.30 pm the turn-down had been done, and a letter of departure (I had not used the room for more than an hour at that time) was already waiting for me, thanking me for my choice of hotel, trusting that I “had a memorable time”, and wishing me “a safe journey onwards”.   It also requested that I complete a Guest Feedback Survey, and stated that “all at Taj Cape Town look forward to welcoming you back to our special hotel in the very near future”.   The survey has some oddities – it refers to “associates anticipating and meeting your personal preferences” and the “ability of our associates to ensure no disturbances occur…”, meaning that the staff must be referred to as ‘associates’, a first in the hospitality industry, to my knowledge.

Needing to do some work, and always working with the television on, I tried to find channel 23, which the TV list said was Deutsche Welle.   I wanted to pick up on the latest news about the resignation of the German Defence Minister.  I could not get the remote to change anything on the TV, and had to work out how to use the phone to call for help.  I could not be advised about the TV channels on the phone, and was told that someone would call me back.  A knock on the door presented the duty manager and her colleague.  She arrogantly told me that the use of the remote to find the TV channels was self-explanatory!   However, it was not that clear to her either, as she struggled for about ten minutes to get to channel 23 !  However, channel 23 was set on ProSieben (an irritating common channel) and not on Deutsche Welle.  I was told that they could not send an IT person to my room to fix the problem immediately, and would only be able to do so the next morning, when I was due to check out!   I explained to the Duty Manager that they just needed to change the programme selection within the German bouquet.   I heard nothing further, and had to call again.  I was promised a call back, which did come some time later, but I could not work out how to answer the room phone.  I then called the Front Desk.  Here a new person answered the phone, telling me that his colleagues had left for the day, and that I would have to wait for IT for the next day to fix the “Dutch TV” problem!!!   Once again a communication problem between staff was evident.  By now I had quite enough, and decided that I could only escape this service nightmare by checking out and going home.   Michael Pownall was standing at Reception when I left, and asked what was wrong.  I promised him a report.  Kindly he sent a staff member to accompany me to the Mandela Rhodes Place parking garage, and once again I carried all my belongings myself.  So I did not get to try out The Taj Cape Town bed, the bathroom, the pool, or the breakfast, but I was far happier once I had left for home.

The Taj Hotel has a nice GM, and good staff at Mint Restaurant, but the Reception staff have a ‘falseness’ about them, being like ‘tape recorders’, saying the same thing over and over again to each guest without the ability to vary their standard message, and do not have complete information about the hotel (e.g. the Twankey Bar closing time), or about their guests.   The staff arrogance is a shame, as The Taj Cape Town is so beautiful, and could be welcoming to Capetonians too.   I did not experience five-star service at The Taj Cape Town, and certainly did not have a ‘memorable stay’!

Taj Cape Town, Wale Street, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 819-2000.  www.tajhotels.com 

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

Restaurant News: Chef Reuben Riffel cooks up a Cape Town storm in the USA!

Chef Reuben Riffel’s connection with the One&Only Cape Town is putting him, and Cape Town with it, on the world map, and he recently returned from a whirlwind tour of New York, with the compliments of SAA and the One&Only Hotel group. 

He stepped off the aircraft with his Reuben’s Franschhoek chef William Carolissen, and was whisked off to the studios of the Martha Stewart Show  immediately.  Despite her poor performance at the Design Indaba a year ago, Stewart remains an icon of American domesticity, and her show is watched by an audience of about 80000.  Chef Reuben had to prepare South African dishes in front of the camera and studio audience, and had pre-organised which ingredients he would require for it.  He had a time limit of 4 minutes to create Cape Malay pickled fish, and a grilled peri peri beef salad.  The Reuben’s slot ran for 15 minutes and had shots of the One&Only Cape Town too, with Stewart endorsing the hotel by stating that it is her favourite resort in South Africa.  The show will be broadcast on 9 March. 

He was also invited to appear on NBC’s Today Show, with a viewership of 3,3 million on the day of broadcast. Chef Reuben cooked with Today Show personalities Al Roker and Natalie Moralis, and here too he had to prepare two dishes (crisp prawn dumplings with rooibos tea salt, and pan roasted red snapper prepared in a West Coast basting sauce of apricot jam, garlic and soya, served with a salsa of tomato, cucumber, chilli and cilantro) in front of the audience.  

Reuben is no stranger to cooking in front of a camera, making more and more TV appearances, on Pasella in particular, so this stood him in good stead to do our city and country proud.  Chef Reuben said the American TV staff are well organised.   Chef Reuben also prepared food for an One&Only Hotel event for travel agents and tour operators, as well as one for the media (journalists represented the New York Times Style Magazine, Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Post and Travel Africa.)    

Meeting Chef Reuben and his wife Maryke at Reuben’s at the One & Only Cape Town last week was an opportunity to catch up, and to check whether he is still connected to his restaurant in Cape Town, given my observations after my last visit.  He laughed when we chatted about how incorrect deductions can be made from bits of staff information one receives, and it showed him how important it is for him to communicate with all levels of staff.  Talking of staff, a number of changes have taken place since Reuben’s opened in Cape Town in October:   The Manager Samantha Housden has left, after only a short stint, and has been replaced by Kagiso Mmebe.  In the kitchen Maritz Jacobs has been joined by Aviv Liebenberg, previously at Reuben’s Robertson, and Chef Reuben is encouraging them to visit the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, so that they can stay in touch with interesting food suppliers, and they come back with fresh products for a new special “Market Day” menu on Saturdays. Reuben’s staff will ‘cross-pollinate’ between Cape Town and Franschhoek, so that they get to experience the other branch.   Camil Haas, who was meant to shadow Chef Reuben in Franschhoek and Cape Town, will be more behind the scenes now, and will manage Chef Reuben’s appearances, and the requirements linked to these, as well as the preparation for outside events. 

Chef Reuben explained why the current menu does not have the chefs’ names on it, and why the Reuben’s branding is so low key, in that the hotel had printed it at a time when the regular Reuben’s printer was closed over the festive season.  The new menu to be launched on 16 February will go back to its “Reuben’s” look, and its content will have a stronger Cape Town focus, with a new dessert for example called ‘Taste of Cape Town’, with small tastes of Hertzoggies, date slices, melktert, rooibos tea ice cream and a coconut koeksister.   In Franschhoek a menu change can be expected at the end of the month, but will have a different focus to the Cape Town one.   A Sunday buffet lunch will be introduced in Cape Town on 27 February, costing R 195.  The Reuben’s Cape Town menu indicates which dishes contain alcohol (for Sol Kerzner, who does not drink alcohol, and for Muslim guests), shellfish, nuts, and pork.

We spoke about the winelist, which I see as overpowering, and not really suiting a Bistro-style restaurant.  Chef Reuben said that Singita is buying up a portion of the wine collection, and he said that they may develop a reduced winelist for Reuben’s.  The One&Only Hotel has influenced the operation of Reuben’s in Cape Town, and has meant more paperwork and adherence to systems, but there are benefits too, such as the international marketing that the hotel group does.  Chef Reuben emphasised that Kerzner does not interfere with his operation of the restaurant. In fact, there is a good relationship between the hotel and the restaurant management, and they meet regularly to address common issues.  Reuben is featured in the international One&Only Hotel newsletter, which was sent out earlier this week.

The decor is evolving, and new multi-coloured glass menu boards have been erected on the columns of the restaurant, to advertise specials.  When I visited last week, a West Coast seafood special was advertised, consisting of a number of dishes.  The boards help the Cape Town branch make spontaneous additions to the menu, without having to reprint it, a greater logistical challenge here than in Franschhoek, Chef Reuben explained. 

A new cookbook is in the pipeline, and will focus on seasons.   It will allow Chef Reuben to continue with the format of his first recipe book, and to reminisce about his childhood in Franschhoek, and his mother’s influence on his cooking.   Richard Carstens is highly praised by Chef Reuben, and he says that Richard “is one of the best” and that “no one can touch him”.

Chef Reuben says there are definitely no further restaurant openings on his agenda, and he is learning to delegate more, to enjoy a more balanced personal and business life.  I left him and Maryke with the feeling that they will make the best of their new relationship with the One&Only Hotel, and that there will be no repeat of Gordon Ramsay’s distant relationship with the ex-maze, the previous restaurant at the One&Only Cape Town, and the resultant demise.

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