Entries tagged with “Fiona McDonald”.


A record 111 South African wines received a coveted 2018 Platter’s Guide five-star rating at the Awards ceremony held at the Table Bay Hotel tonight. Raats Family Wines was named as the 2018 Winery of the Year. (more…)

platters_wine_guide_2017A number of records were broken last night when 94 wines and one brandy were awarded 5 star status at the launch of  the Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide 2017 at the Table Bay Hotel, a new venue, the event having been held at the Mount Nelson for years. The colour of the 2017 Platter’s Guide is Harvest Green.  (more…)

imageThe participation by restaurants in the Western Cape in the Diners Club Winelist Awards 2015 is a shock, declining from 80 restaurants in 2014 (already a decrease from 96 in 2013) to 65 restaurants this year!  Diners Club will have to find a solution to the declining interest in its Winelist Awards.

The Diners Club Winelist Awards acknowledge restaurants which take pride and interest in their winelists, and how the wines match the food (more…)

Diners Club Winelist banner Whale CottageThe Diners Club Winelist Awards for the Western Cape were held at Shimmy Beach Club yesterday, saluting the restaurants in the province, and the standard of their winelist content and presentation. Bushman’s Kloof won best Winelist in the Western Cape.  During the course of this week the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal awards will also be presented.

A judging panel, led by wine judge Dave Hughes, and consisting of Winnie Bowman, Nikki Dumas, Fiona McDonald, and Christine Rudman, evaluated 208 winelists nationally, and 100 from the ‘Cape‘, a province which has not existed for years!  Diners Club threw the Western Cape and Eastern Cape into one ‘Cape’ pot in reporting on the results and in handing out the awards yesterday!  A substantial number of Western Cape restaurants did not enter the competition this year, down from 96 entries last year to 80 this year.

Odd was the choice of venue, being the Bar section of Shimmy Beach Club, which did not have Diners Club Pongracz Whale Cottageenough parking for the attendees, some walking for more than 1 km to get to the venue.  We were welcomed with a glass of Pongracz, and the food was very meagre, being macaroni cheese croquettes and sushi!  There was not enough seating for everyone, in a room which had some round tables, a few chairs and couches, but had no presence in making this function special for the award winners, compared to the venue used at the Vineyard Hotel last year.  It also was not a finalist for the Winelist Awards! Very odd was using Anna Trapido as the MC, not generally known to the local restaurant wine stewards and sommeliers, in being the editor of the 2015 ‘Diners Club Rossouws (more…)

Platter's South African Wine Guide 2014 'Aquamarine' EditionIt was a boisterous Diners Club Platter’s South African Wines 2014 ‘prize-giving’ last night, with a record 80 wines receiving the much-desired 5 star accolade, selected blind-tasted from double the number of 5-star finalists.  It was an evening that honoured publisher Andrew McDowall, and saw new publisher JP Rossouw in action for the first time.

A number of records were set last night, with the largest number of wines evaluated ever, at 7434, there being 49 new entries, and close to 900 producers of wine in the Guide.  After an absence, brandy and sherry-style wines were awarded again.

On arrival, sipping Klein Constantia MCC, a number of well-known winemakers and estate owners were visible, giving one a taste of some of the 5 star winners, including last year’s Winery of the Year winner Gottfried Mocke of Cape Chamonix, Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick, Razvan Macici of Nederburg, Anthony Hamilton Russell, Johann Laubser of Delaire Graff, and Ginny Povall of Botanica.    We commented that it was wonderful to see so many women winemakers amongst the top 5 star recipients!  Once we were allowed to enter the venue at the Vineyard Hotel, the wines were displayed in groups, for one to taste and to see the 5 star winners by their presence.

David Hughes sang the praises of Andrew, and his direct involvement with 29 of the 34 Platter’s Wine Guides.  He described Andrew as a man ‘massive in character’, who has a nickname ‘Grunter‘, who got himself smuggled into a Nederburg Wine Auction via the boot of a car when he did not receive an invitation, who fell onto a cannon at the bottom of the steps of the Mount Nelson when he slid down the bannister at his 40th birthday party, a man one can trust when he gives you his word, ‘and a hell of a good guy‘, warning JP that he has big boots to fill in taking over from Andrew.  There was roaring applause for Andrew.

Andrew looked well, and his dry humour was on full form, saying thatPlatter's Andrew McDowall Whale Cottage Portfolio the romance with Diners Club last year had led to marriage during the year.  He was full of praise for his ‘young, strong and virile’ successor JP.  He was proud that the edition was printed locally and not in Singapore.  He revealed the ‘Walker Bay blue’ cover, saying that they had considered calling it ‘Pendock sea sick’, which brought the house down!  He praised editor Philip van Zyl as the ‘most ethical man’, which led to applause from the floor. The 80 5 star winners include 7 brandies, up from 62 last year.  I asked Andrew what he would be doing with his time, and he said he wasn’t sure, but getting better at bridge is one of his goals. (more…)

Diners Club Winelist Awards 2More restaurants in the Western Cape than in any other province entered and received a Diners Club International Winelist Award 2013. At the 30th Awards function held for the Western Cape at the Vineyard Hotel on Wednesday,  MasterChef SA Judge and Tsogo Sun Chef Benny Masekwameng announced the 38 winners in the Diamond, 30 in the Platinum, 26 in the Gold,  and 2 in the SilverDiners Club Chef Benny Whale Cotatge Portfolio Award categories, 96 awards in total.

Veteran wine critic Dave Hughes chaired the judging panel, which included fledgling judge Chef Benny, restaurant guide editor JP Rossouw,  wine judges Christine Rudman and Fiona McDonald,   Winestyle.biz owner Nikki Dumas, and the Cape Wine Academy head Marilyn Cooper.  He said that it was fitting that the Awards ceremony was held at The Vineyard hotel, the Newlands area having been the first in Cape Town in which grapes were grown, but soon (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*     South Africa has two of CNN Travel Top 10 golf courses in Africa:  The Gary Player Country Club at Sun City, and the Fancourt Links course.

*   All Gold is South African’s best loved brand, and the top 10 brand list includes nine FMCG household brands and the Clicks Club Card.   No beverages other than Coca Cola feature on the Top 10 list, and no wine nor beer brands feature on the Top 30 list, in a study conducted about 8000 brands amongst 15000 South Africans.

*    Durbanville Hills is offering a tasting on 22 August of Sauvignon Blancs and Merlots, from Durbanville Hills, Chile, France, New Zealand and Australia,  led by cellar master Martin Moore.  The tasting will be followed by a Thai green curry dinner. (via De Kock Communications)

*   Madame Zingara’s ‘The Miracle Tour’ is extending its run in the V&A Waterfront to include the rest of winter, the company has announced by e-mail today. (more…)

Doolhof wine estate celebrated its 300th anniversary with the launch of its Theseus 2009 wine at a wine tasting and lunch at Signal restaurant at the Cape Grace hotel yesterday.  Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, a traveller in search of adventure.

Owner Dennis Kerrison is a charming British gentleman, and explained why he had bought a farm in Wellington, and such a large one, having only wanted a 5 ha piece of land to be a garagiste!  He had regularly travelled to South Africa, and found the soils of Wellington to be very good, and the land reasonably priced, in contrast to Franschhoek!  He bought the 398 ha Doolhof, ‘with lots of fynbos and rock’, in 2003, loving the valley.  Doolhof means labyrinth in Afrikaans, and describes its mysterious, alluring, and hidden treasures, even having once been home to witches, according to legend.  Jacques Potier of the Dutch East India Company was allocated the land in 1712, and over the years the property has had Thomas Bain, builder of Bain’s Kloof Pass in Wellington, live on the farm, as did Lady Anne Barnard, who loved its 44 orange trees, she wrote.  The Grand Dédale Country House is one of my favourites, and the decor for it has been very tastefully done by his wife Dorothy.

Mr Kerrison stated that they are committed to Biodiversity (100 hectares have been identified for clearing of alien plant invasion, and are commited to preserve the fynbos on the farm), Fairtrade, and other ethical wine farming methods and policies.  He and his staff are committed to producing wines of excellence.

Winemaker Friedrich Kühne is of German descent, the German names proudly having been carried over in the family over the generations since a forebear moved to South Africa, he said.  He has been at Doolhof for the past four years, and took the wine writers and bloggers through a tasting of the Doolhof Legends of the Labyrinth range:

*  Lady in White 2010 is a blend of 59% Chenin Blanc, 27% Semillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, of which 28% is wooded.  The Chenin Blanc comes form 35 year old bush vine. It has lemongrass, citrus, floral, and wood on the nose, and 12% alcohol.  It pairs well with seafood and sushi, and costs R80 at the cellardoor.

*   Lady in Red 2008 is a Bordeaux blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot, with cedarwood, oak, plum, black fruit, and cinnamon notes, ideally suited to drinking with pasta and pizza, and red meats. Each wine was matured separately in French oak for 14 months. It costs R80.

*   The Minotaur 2008 is the top of the range Cape blend made from handpicked grapes form the estate’s premier vineyards, only the best barrels selected, with 5000 – 7000 bottles produced every year, with 21% Pinotage, 21% Malbec, 21% Shiraz, 17% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Petit Verdot.  Best drunk with red meat, rich sauces, and game. It costs R150.

*   Dark Lady Pinotage 2011 has strong coffee mocha notes, with dark fruit, black berry, and cherry, ideal to be drunk with coffee, Christmas pudding, ostrich, duck, curry, and chocolate mousse.  It costs R70.

*  The new Theseus 2009 is a Bordeaux blend of 33% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 17% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot, with 80%  matured in new wood. It will only be made in the years in which the grapes are good enough.  It has red fruit, cassis, and plums on the nose. Matured for 24 months in French oak barrels. Best served with steak and lamb.  It costs R230.

After the tasting we moved through to the Signal restaurant, and had a fun table, entertained by Fiona McDonald and Greg Landman.  The first starter was a pan fried scallop, charred sweet corn, cauliflower pureé, black forest ham velouté, topped with pea shoots, which was paired with Lady in White.  The second starter was beautifully plated, being Springbok carpaccio, with a smoked capsicum salsa, with balsamic and olive oil drizzled rocket, and herb dusted croutons, which was paired with the Minotaur and Lady in Red.

A palate cleanser was an interesting mix of cucumber, mint and lime sorbet, and summer melon salad.  The main course was an outstanding tender grilled Chalmar beef fillet with roasted garlic mash, sautéed baby spinach and a delicious mushroom and truffle sauce, paired with the new Theseus.  The dessert was a pretty looking dark chocolate tart, praline ice cream, and cherries, paired with the Dark Lady, and accompanied by a cappuccino.

Doolhof is a lovely wine estate at the end of the Bovlei Road, an oasis to escape to from a busy schedule in staying over, or to taste the strong and bold Doolhof wines, which also offers a Cape Range and Signature Range.

Disclosure: We received a bottle of The Minotaur and Theseus with our media pack.

Doolhof wine estate, Bovlei Road, Wellington.  Tel (021) 873-6911 www.doolhof.com Twitter: @DoolhofWines Tasting Room open daily, 10h00 – 17h00 (closes at 16h00 on Sundays).

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

More Western Cape restaurants were recognised for their winelist quality than those in other provinces, it was announced at the Diner’s Club Winelist Awards 2012 yesterday.  A total of 30 Western Cape restaurants won a Diamond Award, 36 received a Platinum Award, 25 received Gold Awards, and two received Silver Awards.  La Colombe was recognised as having the best winelist in the province, and its Ewan Mackenzie was acknowledged as the Best Wine Steward.

Judged by MasterChef SA judge Pete Goffe-Wood, Cape Wine Academy head Marilyn Cooper, Winestyle owner Nikki Dumas, restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, Fiona McDonald, Christine Rudman, last year’s Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year winner Matthew van Heerden, a panel which was chaired by David Hughes. The Diner’s Club Winelist Awards has been run for more than twenty years.  The judges evaluated the winelists on the basis of creativity; choice offered in respect of ‘price, producer and area’; the range of wines-by-the-glass offered; the range of price points offered; the listing of boutique winery brands; the description of the wines; guidelines for food and wine pairing; vintage information; and the overall impression, layout and legibility.

Diamond Award winners, scoring 91% or more for their winelists, are: 96 Winery Road, Abalone House in Paternoster, Aubergine Restaurant, Azure at the Twelve Apostles Hotel, Bientang’s Cave in Hermanus, Bombay Brasserie, Bosman’s at Grande Roche, B’s Steak House in Hermanus, Bushman’s Kloof, Catharina’s at Steenberg hotel, Dash at the Queen Victoria hotel, Durbanville Golf Club, Ellerman House, Flavours at the Devon Valley hotel, Harvey’s at the Winchester Mansions, Karibu in the V&A Waterfront, La Colombe, Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House, Monneaux Restaurant at the Franschhoek Country House, Mint at The Taj, Pure at the Hout Bay Manor, Rust en Vrede, Signal at the Cape Grace hotel, The Atlantic Grill at the Table Bay hotel, The Bayside Café, The Mount Nelson hotel, The Plettenberg hotel, The Square at The Vineyard hotel, Tokara, and Zachary’s at Pezula.

The Platinum Award category (81 – 90%) was won by the winelist of Pierneef à La Motte, and other winners were 95 Keerom, Belthazar, Blakes, Blowfish, Buitenverwachting, Balducci’s, Carne, Chatters Bistro, City Grill, Cru Cafè, Den Anker, Greek Fisherman, La Capannina, Meloncino, Milkwood in Hermanus, Panama Jacks, Peddlars on the Bend, Pembreys Bistro, Pistachio, Simola Hotel, Surval Boutique Olive Estate, The Garden Lounge, The George, Hussar Grill branches in Green Point, Camps Bay, Steenberg, Stellenbosch, Willowbridge, and Rondebosch, The Slug and Lettuce in Newlands, The Wild Fig, Turbine Boutique Hotel, Wild Peacock Food Emporium, and La Pentola in Hermanus.

Surprising was the low score of the winelist of The Roundhouse, its Gold Award (71 – 80%) putting it into a category dominated by Col’Cacchio Pizzeria branches.  Notable exclusions from the Awards list (signalling that they did not enter, or predominantly offer their own wines if the restaurant is located on a wine estate) are Grande Provence, The Tasting Room, Le Franschhoek, Delaire Graff, Overture, Terroir, Waterkloof, Burrata, The Test Kitchen, The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenhort, Nobu, and Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine.

POSTSCRIPT 18/9: La Colombe has informed us that they have also won the Best Winelist in South Africa, in addition to being the best in the Western Cape!  We have been promised the national results on Friday.

POSTCRIPT 19/9: La Colombe Chef and Manager Scot Kirton has corrected its Diner’s Club Winelist Award achievement, as follows: May we please offer a correction and our humble apologies. La Colombe was awarded best winelist in the Western Cape and not the entire South Africa. Perhaps in his excitement our Scottish Wine Steward got a little over excited and forgot that the Western Cape is not the entire South Africa :) We apologise for the misinformation and we abide by the National results out on Friday”.

POSTSCRIPT 21/9:  The national Diner’s Club Restaurant Winelist Award winners were announced today, and La Colombe did indeed take the honours of having the best winelist in the country!  Ewan Mackenzie also took the national honours as best Wine Steward in South Africa.

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

Last night the country’s top restaurants and their chefs were crowned in the annual 2011 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards, held at the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay.  Despite controversial changes to the running of the Awards, most attendees appeared happy with the results, which saw Cape Town regain its crown as the Gourmet Capital of South Africa with five Top 10 restaurants, after a dip last year.  Stellenbosch has three Top 10 restaurants, and Franschhoek and Johannesburg one each, giving the Cape nine out of the Top 10 restaurants.

Eat Out Editor Abigail Donnelly came under fire this year, for announcing herself as the sole judge of the 1000 restaurants in South Africa, letting go of her fellow judging panel of Pete Goffe-Wood, Arnold Tanzer, and Anna Trapido, and instead relying on the 70 000 Eat Outreviewers’ posting on the magazine’s website, with the risk of them being open for manipulation, and not necessarily ‘fine-diners’. In the Eat Out 2012 magazine we received last night, 19 ‘reviewers’ were listed, being ‘these people ate their way around the country on our behalf’.  The reviewers include bloggers Andy Fenner and Dax Villenueva, as well as food and/or wine writers such as Graham Howe, Greg Landman, Fiona McDonald, and Clifford and Maryke Roberts.

The Cape Times on Friday described Mrs Donnelly’s judging criteria of the ‘hidden gems and forgotten favourites’ restaurants (this description was not a reflection of the Top 10 list): that the chef had been at the restaurant since last November (an exception was made with the Azure chef, who fell a few weeks short of this criterion), the owners and chef must be passionate about their business (odd in that Mrs Donnelly did not chat to all chefs of the restaurants that she visited, booking under a false name often), must be dedicated to ‘upliftment of the industry’ (a new criterion), the chefs must care about the sourcing of their produce, and the restaurant must be consistent in everything it does.  Food counts for 70% of the evaluation, and is scored on menu composition, seasonality, presentation, taste, price and value, wine choice, and dishes eaten.  Within menu composition, Mrs Donnelly evaluates choice, cooking techniques, variety of ingredients, and dietary requirements.  For seasonality, the variety of ingredients is evaluated, as is use of ‘local ingredients’, choice of fish, use of imported products, and out of season produce. Food presentation is judged on visual appeal, reflection of menu description, garnishing, and plates used.  Taste of the dishes is evaluated on balance, texture and complementary flavours.  Additional criteria are food and wine pairing recommendations, service levels, linen, cutlery, the bathrooms, reservations and arrivals, and the billing.  Interesting is that Mrs Donnelly says that 2011 is the ‘year of the egg and the wild sorrel’.  She adds: “Many chefs have displayed a strong sense of nature through foraging in forests or veggie gardens, and pure South African storytelling has also been celebrated”.

In the past the Top restaurant was usually awarded the Awards for Service Excellence and Chef of the Year too, but this year this was awarded separately, making the top accolade shared across three restaurants:

Restaurant of the Year: The Greenhouse, with Chef Peter Tempelhoff

Chef of the Year:  Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen

Service Excellence Award: The Roundhouse

The Top 10 Restaurants were announced as follows:

1.  The Greenhouse, with Peter Tempelhoff, Cape Town

2.  The Test Kitchen, with Luke Dale-Roberts, Cape Town

3.  The Tasting Room, with Chef Margot Janse, Franschhoek

4.   The Roundhouse, with Chefs PJ Vadas and Eric Bulpitt, Cape Town

5.   Overture, with Chef Bertus Basson, Stellenbosch

6.   Terroir, with Chef Michael Broughton, Stellenbosch

7.   DW Eleven-13, with Chef Marthinus Ferreira, Johannesburg

8.   Jordan Restaurant, with Chef George Jardine, Stellenbosch

9.   Nobu, with Chef Hideki Maeda, One&Only Cape Town

10.  La Colombe, with Chef Scot Kirton, Cape Town

The other restaurants that were Top 20 Finalists were Azure Restaurant, Babel, Bosman’s Restaurant, Hartford House, Pierneef à La Motte, Planet Restaurant, The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Restaurant Mosaic, Roots, and Tokara.

The winners of the newly introduced Restaurant category Awards were announced at super-speed, and what was interesting was that no nominees nor finalists were mentioned per category (some had been announced for some categories in the Eat Out newsletter in the last few weeks), with the exception of the Boschendal Style Award. We requested details of the nominees of the categories, but were refused these, only being sent the Boschendal Style Awards nominees list.  No criteria were revealed for these awards, and seemed to be Mrs Donnelly’s personal pick:

Boschendal Style Award: Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House was the winner, a surprise in two respects – the R10 million newly constructed and decorated restaurant only opened its doors in September, a month before the Eat Out magazine went to print, and Mrs Donnelly is a consultant to the restaurant!  The designer was Etienne Hanekom, the art director for VISI, a sister publication to Eat Out at New Media Publishing!  The other finalists, out of 18 nominees, were Babel, Kream in Pretoria, Hemelhuijs, and, very surprisingly, The Test Kitchen!

Best Steakhouse: The Local Grill in Johannesburg (29 nominees)

Best Italian Restaurant:  No other contenders appear to have been evaluated, the award predictably going to 95 Keerom.  (The full list of Italian restaurant contenders was revealed today – 23/11)

Best Asian Restaurant: Kitima in Cape Town (no nominees list)

Best Bistro: Bizerca Bistro (43 nominees)

Best Country-Style Restaurant: A surprise win for the unknown The Table at De Meye, no nominee list having been revealed

City Press ViP Sunday Breakfast Award: Salvation Café at 44 Stanley in Johannesburg (this award was not pre-announced, and does not even appear in the Eat Out magazine with the other award listings).

The Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award : Garth Stroebel

In the past the food has always been prepared by Finalist chefs, and increasingly those invited to prepare the food were the ones that did not make Top 10.  However, this year each one of the invited chefs was from a Top 10 restaurant.  One admires the challenge of the chefs to prepare the meal for 360 persons, and Pete Goffe-Wood was the co-ordinator of the event on the food side.  Chef Peter Tempelhoff made the canapés, but these were not seen when Boschendal Grand Cuvée Brut 2007 was served on arrival.  The ‘bread’ came from Giorgio Nava, it was said, but was croissants and other sweet pastries from Caffe Milano, it appeared.  Chef Hideki Maeda prepared a baby spinach salad with dried miso and crayfish starter, which was paired with Groot Constantia Reserve White 2009.  This was followed by Chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ Ballotine of rabbit and gammon, duck liver purée, red cabbage crumbs and relish, and Everson’s pear cider jelly, paired with Chamonix Chardonnay 2009.

Michael Broughton’s trompette dusted fillet of beef with cep butter sauce, baby beet, asparagus and parsley was my favourite, for its sauce in particular, paired with Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. George Jardine served his dessert of Valrhona Ivoire torte, raspberries and Ivoire chantilly on a slate plate, and this was paired with Jordan Mellifera Noble Late Harvest 2010.

The food and wine service has been disappointing for the past three years that I have attended the event, with serving staff contracted in, last night’s staff leaving much to be desired, there being no wine service initially, no ice buckets on the table for the white wine and water, and bottles arriving at the table but not linked to the course they were meant to be paired with, and other wines not listed on the menu arriving as well.  What the event needs is a Manager on the service side, walking the floor, to check on the satisfaction of the guests and the smooth flow of the event.  There were no steak nor fish knives, and many of the aspects which Mrs Donnelly mentioned as her criteria in judging the Top 10 restaurants were lacking on the food and wine side of the event.  The Eat Out Restaurant Awards should be a showcase of food and wine service perfection, at R1000 a ticket, but this has not been the case in the past three years, and particularly not last night.

The Eat Out DStv Food Network Awards did not award any Top 10 positions to any new restaurants, a disappointment, all restaurants making the Top 10 list having been on it before, with the exception of Nobu, but some with new chefs.  Some excellent chefs were overlooked, in our opinion, ‘safe’ selections having been made!. Perhaps a Top 20 finalist list should not be pre-announced, as was the case in the past. The Restaurant category Awards may need some consistency in announcing all or no finalists/nominees, and in providing a motivation why a restaurant has won a category.  Scope exists for different categories, while some current ones could be dropped. The conflict of interest by Mrs Donnelly acting as a consultant to restaurants cannot be acceptable.

POSTSCRIPT 21/11: On Twitter this morning, in reaction to this blogpost, there is feedback that The Table at De Meye is owned by an ex-photographer for TASTE magazine, a sister publication to Eat Out, and of which Mrs Donnelly is Food Editor.

Eat Out 2011: www.eatout.co.za Twitter: @Eat_Out

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