I ate at KONG Bar & Grill in De Waterkant last Thursday for the first time, at the invitation of its PR Consultant Marina Nestel, and then watched the World Cup Rugby Semi-Final there on Sunday. Not expecting much from the ‘Grill’ part of the name, I was surprised to meet Chef Coenraad Spauner, who heads up the kitchen and who worked at a Michelin Plate restaurant in France last year. Continue reading →
I had the misfortune to experience Dubai under less than perfect conditions, and with it Emirates airline, which once was the best airline in the world (now dropped to number four, as rated by Skytrax)! A City Tour by Sun Tours helped to restore my appreciation for what Dubai has to offer! Continue reading →
* The price of petrol will increase by R1,60 per litre in the Cape at midnight tomorrow, unfortunately not an April Fool’s joke, driving the price of petrol to R12,46. The higher price reflects the higher oil price, the weaker $/Rand exchange rate, and the increase in the Road Accident Fund levy announced in the 2015/16 Budget last month.
* European beer brands such as Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, SABMiller PLC, Heineken NV, and Carlsberg A/S will be detailing the calories and other nutritional details on their products. Diageo brands Smirnoff and Guinness will soon specify their calorie content. The salt, fat, and carbohydrate content will increasingly be seen on beverage packaging.
* Catharina’s at Steenberg is hosting a 5-course lunch on 30 May, pitting Constantia Sauvignon Blancs against those from Continue reading →
For the first time in the history of MasterChef SA a contestant was flown to another country alone, for winning best dish. Roxi Wardman made the best Proudly South African Mystery Box dish in episode 3, her butternut and peanut butter tart winning her the trip of a lifetime to eat at 2 Michelin star restaurant Thornton’s in Dublin. Phila Vilakazi was the first MasterChef SA Season 3 contestant to be sent home. For the first time a MasterChef SA episode contained an off-putting hard-sell punt for its main sponsor Robertsons!
Roxi arrived in a chilly Dublin, at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, where Chef Kevin Thornton spoilt her with an exclusive lunch at Thornton’s, one of the Top 25 restaurants in the world, and one of the top 10 for special occasions. Chef Kevin’s philosophy is that ‘food is about life. There are so many people starving in the world and then we have all this stuff to play with, so it’s very important that you have a huge amount of respect for it’, he told Roxi. He added: ‘If I was to describe our food, I would say it’s a natural energy based food so it’s all about natural energy’. Roxi was impressed with Chef Kevin’s introduction to his dish, a ‘circle of life‘ story and bringing a pigeon in a nest with pigeon eggs, before he served it in three parts. He explained that they use Eireyu beef, reared on mother’s milk for the first six months, and then on grass and two pints of Guinness, for a month, with massages too. Thornton’s website reflects the food journey of Chef Kevin: ‘His cooking, while Continue reading →
For my last World Cup viewing I chose The Twankey Bar at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town, a bar I had wanted to visit on a previous occasion, but which was closed for stocktake on that day (the Germany versus England match). Last night it was the 3rd and 4th play-off between Germany and Uruguay, and the five Germans at The Twankey Bar were delighted with their team’s 3-2 win.
I did not know that the Widow Twankey is a well-known character in Alladin. According to Wikipedia, she is a “pantomime dame portrayed as a man” (read more here). The Widow Twankey figurine is a feature outside on the erstwhile Board of Executors building in which The Twankey Bar is housed, and gave the bar its name.
The Twankey Bar has a swanky feel, as you step into it from the corner of Adderley and Wale Streets, in a venue separated from the Taj Hotel. It has beautiful wooden floors, marble table and bar tops, red leather tub chairs (uncomfortably high and very sharp arm rests), bar chairs and some of the other tub chairs are in silver leather, a silver painted pressed steel ceiling, beautiful art deco lamps, and silk-like curtains in a deep red and silver. The silver and red theme is not carried through in the staff uniforms, which are a creme shirt, black cap and black pants, odd given the colourful uniforms the staff wear in Mint and Bombay Brasserie inside the Hotel. A lone black and white photograph of a boat decorates one wall, and echoes the “seafood” theme, probably picked up from the anchor in the Twankey statuette. I would have liked a little more light, especially to read the bill.
We were given the choice of rugby or soccer, as the initial guests in the Bar were not watching any sport. When they left, soccer won, and the volume was turned up. Nothing in The Twankey Bar reflected the world’s largest sport event taking place in the country. With five of us in the Bar during the match, we certainly made the “gees”, but there were not enough customers on the rainy and cold Cape Town night to give it the spirit. But when your team wins, you don’t need other people’s “gees”! It was an exciting match, and kept one holding thumbs and begging Paul the Octopus to make his prediction of a win for Germany come true, his seventh correct prediction!
The menu is a simple yet elegantly designed one, laminated, and I was encouraged by the Manager Leslie Heaven to take it home with me so that I did not have to write it all down. The menu states “Seafood * Champagne * Guinness * Oysters” on the front, and this gives one a feel of its focus immediately. The manager told me it is an Irish pub, due to the Guinness served. The Seafood focus is odd for a pub, but it is only Calamari (R55), Tempura Prawns (R85), and the Tuna Tatiki (R85) that meet this description. On the table were heavily spiced cashew nuts, wasabi peanuts and chilli poppers, encouraging one to drink more beer to get over the spiciness. On the reverse side it refers to its “Tapas Menu”.
Our food and beer were brought quickly after placing the order, with new-looking quality cutlery and very small material serviettes. The Guacamole and spicy tortilla dish (R50) was massive – despite having asked for the least spicy tortillas, they were still pretty hot, and the manager organised some toast instead. The guacamole was spicy too, with a strong taste of onion. I am used to guacamole being smooth – The Twankey Bar’s was chunky. The Quail spring rolls were served with chilli plum sauce, and were an expensive choice at R 65 for four small rolls, but were enjoyable. I liked the Karoo Lamb Samoosas, four small ones costing R 55, not having any spices in them. The serving of four large prawns came with a very diluted soy sauce, but I was brought the real thing when I requested it. Oysters cost R90 for six. Other “Small plates” one can order are Chicken Tikka Wrap served with mint chutney (R55), Tequila Salmon Gravlax (R75) and Jalapeno Poppers (R45). What I liked was that as far as pub food goes, this was the most creative menu of all the pubs I visited during my World Cup journey. What I disliked was the spiciness of almost all the dishes, limiting my choice.
The Menu is dominated by the drinks on offer; including ten Cocktails all costing R40; four non-alcoholic ones (R30 each); two draught beers (Guinness at R 29 and Jack Black at R 20); and bottled beer – Heineken, Peroni and Windhoek are very reasonably priced at R 20, while the Brewers Union Unfiltered, Dark and Stepheiss (sic) all are charged at R 40, the same price at which it is sold at &Union up the road. One can order Moet et Chandon at a precious R 225 per glass, or at R 900 per bottle, and even splurge on a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut Rose at R 8000! Seven of the thirteen Methode Cap Classique wines offered can be ordered by the glass, and seem expensive – Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Brut and the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel are the cheapest at R 50 per glass, while the Teddy Hall Blanc de Blanc costs R 100 per glass. I was proud to see Melissa Nelsen’s Genevieve Blanc de Blanc listed – what a prestige for the new sparkling wine producer who only launched her brand earlier this year! A small selection of red and white wines is offered, by the glass and per bottle, and commendably the vintages are specified. The prices seemed more reasonable here – for example the 2007 Villiera Merlot costs R 35 by the glass, and the Warwick First Lady Red Blend 2008 costs R40.
I was grateful when the Manager took over looking after our table when our waitress seemed more interested in chatting to her colleague and watching the soccer. She was asked to bring the prawn tempura dish to the table in the halftime, but this did not happen and had to be requested. While the World Cup is history after tonight, it surprised me that, generally speaking, bar staff do not seem to understand that one would like to hear the commentator during a match – a problem I picked up at Harvey’s Bar and Salt Vodka Bar too. It irritated me that they kept coming to ask something and even blocked the TV screen during what was a most exciting match. At one stage we had to ask them to stop the icemaking machine because it made such a noise. It was one of few pubs (also Salt Vodka Bar, and Pure at Hout Bay Manor) in which I saw a manager, and whilst he could have been more assertive with his staff about the disturbances, he was good at reading customer irritations, coming to check with us, and acting upon feedback immediately.
The Twankey Bar is not a food destination in itself, but would be the start or end to a special evening in town. Recently it was decided that The Twankey Bar should stay open until 23h00, as guests were popping in for a late snack. The food is expensive and spiciness dominates, but the drinks are more reasonably priced.
The Twankey Bar, Taj Hotel, corner Wale and Adderley Streets, Cape Town. Tel (021) 819-2000. www.tajhotels.com (The website exaggerates, in my opinion, when it describes The Twankey Bar as a “seafood restaurant”. It also claims to have “sublime jazz”, but we did not experience any music). Open from 11h00 – 23h00, Mondays – Saturdays.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
Foresters Arms, or Forries as it is commonly known, is a Newlands landmark, having been built as an inn in 1880, as a halfway station between Cape Town and Simonstown. With its English Tudor style building, I chose it as the pub to watch the England versus Slovenia match.
I had not been to Forries since an Ikeys/Maties Intervarsity rugby match about 35 years ago, and it felt as if the interior of the pub had not changed one bit since then! It comes across as a goldmine, into which no money has been re-invested for years, at least not as far as its decor goes. Its wagon-wheel lamps, black and white photographs of the original inn, its wooden benches and tables, set up school-wise so that one sees the backs of the persons in front of one, and old-fashioned menu design all date the pub. I was disappointed with the lack of “gees’ of the predominantly England supporters, even though the pub had lots of flags up outside the building, the staff wore soccer shirts (the only pub visited that showed its World Cup spirit in this way), and England was winning.
In addition to the very extensive menu, a reduced World Cup laminated menu is presented. The reduced menu offers 200 gram baskets of crumbed mushrooms for R 47, and barbeque ribs for R 43, and a 250 gram basket of peri-peri chicken wings for R 40. A 250 gram “super rump” steak sounds good value at R 78, while three wrap choices cost around R 60. A Moroccan chicken salad costs R 58. I saw some patrons order chips, probably the most popular item on the menu, which cost R 17/R34.
The main menu, whilst offering varied choices, almost seems overdone, especially as I hardly saw anyone eating during or before the match. It offers every possible food type, starting with breakfast options ranging from R 28 – R 49; eight starters range from R 35 – R 58, and include chicken livers, mussels, springbok carpaccio; all steaks are 250 gram, and the most expensive is the fillet steak at R 135, not inexpensive at that price. Salads range in price from R58 – R 65, and it is surprising there is such a choice available, given that most patrons I saw were male. Fourteen pizza options are offered, the most expensive being a Figaro Pizza (bacon, blue cheese, and figs). I had the pizza with a mushroom, asparagus and avocado topping, and was extremely disappointed – I could not taste the asparagus, yet tasted something in a sauce, covered in cheese. It tasted most unappetising, and was not attractive either, yet cost R 68. Fish and chips cost R 60. Schnitzel, chilli steak and steak rolls are also available. As if this is not enough choice, they have a section called “A la carte” – was the rest of the menu not that already? – with a mix-match of Gourmet Karoo Lamb Burger (R65), calamari strips, tiger prawns (8 for R 135), steak and kidney pie, chicken pie, mussels, gammon steak, green chicken curry and pork ribs. A carvery at R 95 is another option, but is only served on Sundays and public holidays. The manager told me that the steak and kidney pie, the Forries pizza and their burgers are by far the most popular menu items.
The winelist is introduced as follows: “The wines we have selected have also been accredited by the Platter Wine Guide”. One cannot imagine anyone drinking other than beer at Forries, but they do sell some very inexpensive wines by the glass (R18 for Robertson Chapel white and rose), Savanha Chardonnay costs R 22, and Spier Cabernet Sauvignon and Barista cost R 35 each. John B wines cost R23. But Forries also stocks Moet et Chandon at R 700; Simonsig and Graham Beck sparkling wine at around R 200; Spier Private Cellar shiraz costs R 230. Corkage is charged at R 30.
“Forries offers the largest selection of draught beer in the Cape”, according to the winelist, and its 500ml Amstel and Windhoek cost R20,50; Castle costs R18,50; Hansa R18; Mitchels R20; Peroni R22,50; Pilsner Urquell R24,50; and Guinness R25,50 – these prices are very good value compared to bottled beers served at other pubs. The quantity of beer is not specified nor requested when ordering, and I was only told afterwards that a 330ml size was available for all the draught beers.
It is hard to imagine what attracts clients to Forries, other than the tradition of going there from varsity days, good parking availability, and its good value and range of draught beer. It cannot be the food (the worst of all the pubs to date) nor the decor. I rated it luke-warm on World Cup “gees”, and nothing would drag me back to Forries again.
Foresters Arms, 57 Newlands Avenue, Newlands. Tel 021 689-5949. No website, but www.forries.co.za will go live in “about a month”!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com