Tag Archives: Ireland

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 2 March

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The price of petrol is to increase by 96 cents a liter from Wednesday 4 March. The main price influencers are the increase in the price of crude oil, as well as the depreciation of the Rand against the dollar.

*   Mr ‘50 Shades of Grey‘ ‘Christian Grey‘, aka actor Jamie Dornan, is reported by the Weekend Argus to shoot his next film ‘Jadotville‘ in our country and in Ireland from April. The actor has already announced that he will not appear in any ‘50 Shades of Grey‘ movie sequels!

*   Cape Town Tourism has launched a walking tour of suburbs of our city, with VoiceMap Walking Route App. Capetonians ‘guide’ visitors to the city through their favourite suburbs. Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 30 September

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   A Global March for Rhinos and Elephants will be held on Saturday 4 October, with South Africa, the USA, Germany, Botswana, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Italy, and Mozambique being some of the countries participating. World Travel Market (WTM) Africa staff will also participate in the march in Cape Town, as one of its social responsibility projects. The march calls for a total ban on the trade of ‘wildlife body parts’.  WTM Africa runs from 15 – 17 April.

*   The Bureau of Economic Research quarterly survey has found a sharp drop in the expectation of business growth for the Accommodation sector in the third quarter (July – September), at 9%, compared to the previous winter period of April – June, which showed a 22% growth expectation. For the last quarter of this year, growth of 16% is expected. All other business sectors surveyed are showing negative growth expectations. The overall Western Cape business growth expectation in the second quarter was 15%, is an estimated 20% for the third quarter, and 31 % for the 4th quarter, whereas all other provinces show negative growth experience and expectations. (received via e-mail from the Bureau of Economic Research)

*   Luvey ‘n Rose is offering an interesting Cigar Appreciation Evening on 7 October, with Roque, a professional cigar roller from Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 3 episode 3: Proudly South African Masterpiece, Roxi Wardman’s tart jets her off to Dublin!

MasterChef SA 3 3 Roxi Mystery Box Whale CottageIt was the first episode in the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg in episode 3 last night, and it was much easier to follow the action of the twelve finalists, who had to deal with a Proudly South African Mystery Box.  Roxi Wardman was the creator of the winning dish, and jetted off to Ireland, while Phila Vilakazi, Ndumiso Mncwabe, and Melissa Sutherland were in the bottom three, their dishes putting them into the Pressure Test next week in episode 4.

The brief to the twelve finalists was to use any of the ingredients in the Mystery Box, which were only revealed after the first commercial break, keeping the tension high.  The Mystery Box included South African favourites such as Masterchef SA 3 3 SA products 2 Ouma rusks, Pecks Anchovette paste, Oros, spinach, butternut, Colman’s mustard, Lucky Star pilchards, ostrich, Cremora, Illovo golden syrup, Black Cat peanut butter, flour, chocolate, Maltabella, Mrs Balls chutney, Melrose cheese, and more, collectively described as creating ‘nostalgic foods and memories’. The use of Nederburg Winemakers Reserve Pinotage was mandatory.  Chef Pete Goffe-Wood told the finalists that Pinotage is a cultivar unique to South Africa. The time limit to create a ‘South African Masterpiece’ was set at 45 minutes.

As each finalist spoke to the camera, to share what dish would be prepared, we got to know a little more Continue reading →

Fine Brandy Fusion: an evening of fine flavours, Bisquit takes the cake!

Fine Brandy Fusion This Is Brandy Whale Cottage PortfolioOn Thursday evening my friend Bettie Coetzee-Lambrecht and I attended Fine Brandy Fusion at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, having been invited by Manley Communications.   Fine Brandy Fusion is a fine showcase for the local brandy industry, the Bisquit cognac with South African links being our highlight.

At the registration desk we received a goody bag, and a booklet of coupons, to allow us to taste brandy cocktails and taste some of the 50 fine brandies neat.  Immediately on entering we passed a smallish restaurant, catered by the Convention Centre kitchen.  The food quality of the Convention Centre has been poor at every exhibition attended in the past, but picked up when its new Chef Warwick Thomas arrived a year ago, reaching a new low at World Travel Market Africa last month.  I was immediately sceptical, but the food options which were displayed in a refrigerated unit looked better (just from the plating) than I have ever seen there before.   We received two food couponsFine Brandy Fusion Food Whale Cottage Portfolio each, which Bettie used for linefish and I ordered tasty calamari rings, Bettie saying that it would be important to line our tummies for the brandy tasting to come.  We both ordered a cheese platter as well.  The service was excellent and professional, and the prices very reasonable at about R50 each.  We felt severely under-dressed when a fashionista wearing fur and her partner shared our table! Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 15/16 March

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   TravelMedia.ie has been appointed to handle the marketing of our country for SA Tourism in Ireland, with the number of tourists from Ireland expected to increase.  The marketing focus will be on our country’s music, art, fashion, adventure, and culinary travel.

*   The USA Department of Agriculture predicts that our country’s vine harvest will decrease by 5%, to 1,42 million metric tons, and that production will decrease to 1,1 billion bottles this year.  The export of wine is expected to decrease to 500 million litres.  Last year was regarded as a record year for South African wine exports due to the good harvest and the depreciation of the Rand.

*   The inaugural AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction, which was held at Delaire Graff yesterday, raised a phenomenal R8,9 million for three charities related to education. (via Twitter and Facebook) (NOTE 17/3:  the Auction total has been officially revised to R7 million this morning)

*   Receiving only 5% of the world’s 1 billion  tourists, Africa needs to develop itself as a tourism brand, the Tourism and Culture Minister of the Seychelles has said.  Minister Alain St.Ange called on African leaders to enhance Africa’s tourism awareness.  ‘The African continent needs an African Brand. We need a brand that will promote our region in tourism trade fairs. We need a brand that will work hand in hand with United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the UNWTO body‘, he said.  Africa must work with Africa, he added. South African Tourism Minister van Schalkwyk appeared to disagree, calling for each African country to do its own destination marketing.  He did however call for easier visa application processing for travel within the continent.

*   Hard Rock Café has returned to South Africa, and has opened in Johannesburg.  Branches in Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 7/8/9 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   President Jacob Zuma has announced that the General Election will take place on 7 May. (via Twitter)

*   Wifi availability and its smooth operation is a ‘deal breaker’ for business as well as leisure travellers, in choosing their accommodation, being more important than any other criterion.  In an analysis of 53 million reviews written in English, 2 million mentioned wifi/wi-fi and internet, and found a correlation between non-availability and poor connectivity with lower scores for the establishment out of a total of 5.  However, a perfect wifi service is not rewarded with a 5/5 score, as it is taken for granted that it should be available and work perfectly.

*   A Safari in Africa ranks third on the 10Best Readers Choice Best Bucket List.   Top of the Bucket List is the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, followed by Alaska.  The South Pacific Islands, Italy, Greece, Ireland, New Zealand, the Pyramids, and the Swiss Alps are also on the top 10 Bucket List.

*   A restaurant collection called bunnychow has opened in London, Bath, and Chester in the Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 16/17 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  Nando’s, Prince Harry’s and Beyonce’s favourite chicken take-out in London, will be opening its first store at Gatwick airport.

*   Heathrow needs a third runway to deal with the estimated doubling of traffic by 2030.  One plan is to build a floating runway on an estuary of the Thames, instead of demolishing houses in a village close to Heathrow.

*   Wide-spread flooding hit Somerset West, Franschhoek, Hermanus/Stanford, Strand, and Cape Town on Friday evening.  The Franschhoek Pass, Chapman’s Peak, Betty’s Bay/Gordon’s Bay road, and Victoria Road* between Camps Bay and Hout Bay are still closed.

*   Eben Sadie of The Sadie Family Wines is the winemaker featured in the weekly Terroirist blog interview!

*   Not only is Stellenbosch famous for its many wine estates producing excellent Continue reading →

Melanie Verwoerd Literary Lunch entertaining, Radisson Blu a disaster!

Gorry Bowes-Taylor does a great job for Wordsworth in ‘pairing’ authors of recently published books with good wines and meals at restaurants around Cape Town and the Winelands.  However, the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront in Granger Bay let her down badly on Saturday, with the most over-promised and under-delivered lunch ever experienced, for the launch of Melanie Verwoerd’s book‘The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied‘.

It was commendable that Verwoerd came to the lunch, having flu, but she was witty for most of the talk about her book, until it came to the sad part about her losing her partner Gerry Ryan (she had divorced her Verwoerd husband Wilhelm some years before).  The ‘talk’ was in the form of a question and answer session, with a witty and sharp summary of key phases in Verwoerd’s life by actress and writer Marianne Thamm (currently writing Helen Zille’s biography, and author of ‘I have Life’ about attack victim Alison, which sold 85000 copies), who clearly was very well prepared and knew the book well.

The book was launched in Ireland and the UK as ‘When we Dance‘ last year, and was subject to an interdict in Ireland for a while, brought by Ryan’s friend David Kavanagh, her South African book containing a statement at the back of the book confirming the state of the relationship between the two friends.  She had been warned against speaking out, but always a rebel, she felt she had the ‘right to write’ her book, and was surprised that despite the court action it became a best seller in Ireland. Verwoerd traces her history, from growing up in Fochville as a Van Niekerk, and then in Stellenbosch, after she was adopted as a Fourie in her late teens.  She met Wilhelm Verwoerd at the University of Stellenbosch, and got married to him at the age of 20, giving up her studies in Theology to join him at Oxford, where he was studying on a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, to the shock of his parents, given that he is the grandson of the late Prime Minister HF Verwoerd, said to be the architect of apartheid. She did however graduate with Honours and Masters degrees. His parents feared that he would be ‘corrupted’ by England’s liberal values, and did not want him to be linked to Cecil John Rhodes either!  In London they met many ANC officials living there in exile, hearing about a South Africa they had never experienced. Returning to South Africa, they met President Mandela, and Wilhelm wanted to apologise to him for what his family had done to him, but Mandela told him that his surname could be a burden or a blessing – it would be Wilhelm’s choice as to how he would use it, in true Madiba style, Verwoerd said.  They became ANC members, under the radar initially, but eventually the news leaked, and it caused mayhem when his family found out, his father banning him from the house and disinheriting his son. Verwoerd ensured that her children stayed in touch with their grandparents.  She spoke fondly about ‘Ouma Betsie’, Wilhelm’s late grandmother, who lived in the all-White enclave of Orania, where she was visited by Mandela, described by her as a visit resembling that of a ‘foreign head of state‘.

Her book reminds one about the country’s conservative past, and we laughed when she related that she could not open a bank account in her own name, earning more than her husband as an ANC Member of Parliament (the youngest ANC MP ever), as it could endanger their marriage, the bank argued!  She did ultimately get her way with the bank.  Having achieved what she wanted as MP, she requested then-President Mbeki if she could head the South African embassy in Dublin, which he agreed to.  She laughed when she said that she was not ‘a born diplomat’ (much too direct, much like her ‘colleague’ Tony Leon, who headed the embassy in Buenos Aires). She fell in love with Ireland from the first day. She saw her challenge as ambassador to give the government a return on its investment in the embassy, and focused on tourism (130% increase) and wine promotion in the period 2001 – 2005, to great success in part due to the rise of the ‘Celtic Tiger’, she said, the demise of which she experienced too.  She then became UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Ireland Executive Director, travelling in Africa on a number of occasions, working with Sir Roger Moore, Bono, Vanessa Redgrave, and Liam Neeson.  She was voted the Irish Tatler International Woman of the Year in 2007.  It was in this time that she met renowned radio presenter Gerry Ryan (with 500000 listeners, and a daily three hour show which ran for 25 years), and fell in love with him within half an hour of her first date with him, despite initially resisting his advances.  He was separated, but could not divorce before four years of separation had passed, as per the Irish divorce law.  They were a couple for two years, when he suddenly died alone in his apartment three years ago, and she became the shunned ‘other’ woman, who was told that she was lucky to be able to attend his funeral!  She and her children were hounded by the media, and Verwoerd ultimately lost her job at UNICEF due to the controversy surrounding Ryan’s death, and her relationship with him, her dismissal settled out of court.  All the VIP supporters other than Bono resigned from UNICEF Ireland to protest her dismissal! She denied that Ryan was a cocaine and drug user, but is open about his financial problems, in that he relied on Verwoerd for his living expenses, despite his big salary, which appeared to have been spent on his five children and an extravagant lifestyle.  Despite being divorced from Wilhelm, she retains his surname, she told me, quite contrary to her self-proclaimed feminist nature.  She still lives in Dublin, having dual citizenship now, and she loves the ‘softness of the country’, and how ordinary people will stop her in the street and give her a hug. Her two children are students at Trinity College.  She visits ‘home’ regularly though!  She is looking forward to the next 45 years of her life, which will include her coming back to live here, she said to conclude her talk.  In reading her book, it is clear why Ireland is so important to her, the memorial bench which she had erected for Ryan in a park in Dublin being an important link to him, despite the terrible treatment she received in Ireland as a result of her relationship with him.  Her children studying in Dublin must be another important reason.

The bookings for the Literary Lunch were taken by the hotel’s event co-ordinator Carmen Jansen, who followed up despite the paperwork having been faxed.  She was abrupt on arrival, and chased the payment after the first course, usually done at the end of the meal.  I discovered afterwards that she had left to go home, hence her eagerness to receive the payment!  The menu sounded fantastic on paper, but what was presented differed vastly from the description.  We had to Google most of the descriptions, to know what to expect on our plates!  Baguette and rye bread was served, with what looked like butter curls but was margarine. I asked the waitress for some real butter, and she brought branded Floro.  Another request led to branded butter arriving at the table!  The same waitress filled the water jug with so much ice that she poured most of it over the table, wetting my notebook.  Service had to be requested, nothing being done proactively, such as refilling the water jug.  Each table had a central display of a hand with flexible fingers holding an exercise book, to tie in with the literary theme, one assumes, but the naughty men at the table had fun in changing them to rude signs!  The venue was most unsuitable, a long rectangular room that had more than a hundred guests squeezed in, meaning that guests had to get up to let others get through.

The starter was ‘Baby Chicken 2ways‘, described as ‘confit leg cannon, grilled maize sage beurre (which must have been the wheel of pap), courgette roulade (which must have been the loosely wrapped vegetable strips), supreme pan seared (the other chicken style, we assumed) with napage (sic) of port wine spuma‘ (no foam was visible).  The pink mayonnaise was not included in the menu description!  For the main course ‘Crisp Salmon Scaloppini’ (thin slices of scallop with the salmon) was served with ‘crumbed aromatic fresh gremolata (lemon zest, garlic, parsley, olive oil), salsa di burro bruciato (appears to be burnt butter salsa), caper berries, gentle braised fondant potatoes and carcisfo frito (sic – the closest wording we found on Google was ‘carciofo fritto’ – fried artichoke!). We could not see the caper berries, but we found olives!  An elderly gentleman at our table asked the waitress if she could put the leftover salmon in a ‘doggie bag’, to spoil his cat, but she refused. I called the Deputy GM (they do not have a F&B Manager in this hotel), and I got the company policy talk (mainly for health purposes, and thus legal reasons, should the customer get ill if he ate it at home). Very kindly, after some persuasion, he relented!  The vegetarian eaters at our table had a rough time, their risotto being burnt.  For dessert we were promised a ‘Decadent Tasting Plate’, being anything but decadent, consisting of ‘Dark chocolate no bake cheese cake (tick) with angel hair (none to be seen), coconut crème brûlée with caramel crackling (curdled, no caramel topping!), coco rico (coconut soda?) jelly (tick), pistachio ice cream (tick) on coffee shortbread soil’ (tick).  No feedback was sought about the meal during the function. We were shocked to hear that Chef Grant Kennedy had not been on duty, and unfortunately it showed!

Allée Bleue sponsored the wines for the lunch, its MCC Brut Rose being a welcome drink if one did not want to start the lunch with a glass of decadent Hendrick’s Gin, served by dapper young men at a table with an interesting table display with cups.  Ansgar Flaatten, brother of Wesgro CEO Nils, heads up the wine division at the wine estate, and will be taking over as MD from Wolfgang Leyrer shortly.  He reminded the audience about the herb production, and their newly introduced herb tours and lunches on Friday mornings. The Starlette range was offered with the different courses, including a Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Rouge, and Shiraz Rosé, all sold for around R40 a bottle.

The Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront has such a wonderful location at the water’s edge near the V&A Waterfront, and one wonders why they would have handled the book launch Literary Lunch so badly, with poor and over-promised food, and poor service!  We requested Gorry to not use this venue for her lunches again.  Verwoerd’s story ends sadly, yet bravely, in that she wrote the book, thereby fulfilling her promise to Ryan to tell his story, warts and all, and corrects many of the terrible things that were said about him after his death. she explained, Ryan appearing to be more controversial after his death, yet having had such a large following for so many years.  The book combines her love story with Ryan with her (and her ex-husband’s) story, using a local title that does not do this brave lady justice, with an odd typeface, and may not encourage book sales as much as the original title may have done.

POSTCRIPT 28/5: We posted our feedback about the lunch at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront on Saturday on this blog and on Twitter only.  Today we received the following reply from the hotel’s Executive Assistant Manager Marcel Eichenberger:  ‘Dear Cherissie (sic), I would like to thank you for the feedback regarding your lunch experience in Harbor View, this is a vital aspect of our business and without feedback such as yours we would not find a platform to grow and improve our quality of product and standards. I would like to apologize for your experience as this is certainly not our standard of food quality, presentation and service. We pride ourselves on what we serve and the personal service which our team provide.  By your feedback this was not the case and I am disheartened by our actions. I have and will address these issues with my team both service and kitchen to ensure we up our game to make sure this does not happen again. I have spoken to chef regarding the execution of the menu as per the menu and he too is very apologetic with regards to the outcome of his menu.  Our team is well trained and we invest a lot of resources to ensuring we serve the highest quality produce so that each guest has a great experience, our lack of execution is with great regret and I do apologize for this.  I have spoken to Mark our banqueting manager and he too will ensure that service delivery is executed on every function according to our standards.  With regards to the “doggy bag”, I do apologize that it was so difficult to arrange but it is to safeguard us as a global brand to ensure food safety is adhered too and I know at times exceptions can be made and we will look into this going forward.  The venue is a fantastic venue for functions and weddings up to 120 guests but we did go over our capacity and therefore making the venue very full, we are however are looking to make some changes to the venue and we hope to see this happen in the following year.  I am confident that this will make functions such as the lunch a more comfortable venue.  We get allot of our business via word of mouth so I would like the opportunity to make this up to you and if you would consider coming for a lunch or dinner to our Tobago’s restaurant I can assure you we will meet and exceed your expectation in both food quality and service. To my understanding you will also be joining us for the Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner and we hope to change your perception of our abilities.  Should you wish to take me up on my offer please contact me directly.  Once again my sincere apologies‘.

Melanie Verwoerd: The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied’, Tafelberg Publishers.

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

Restaurant Review: Postcard Café at Stark-Condé a picturesque place!

Chef Christoph Dehosse had recommended a visit to the Postcard Café at Stark-Condé wine estate when it first opened just over a year ago, and I only managed to get to it last Friday.   Its picturesque setting in the fertile and higher rainfall Jonkershoek Valley must be one of the most exceptional in the Winelands, at the edge of a dam, with the mountains in the background.

My son and I did a tasting of the Stark-Condé wines first, in the Bali-inspired tasting venue which opened in 2010 on an island in the middle of the dam, on the Oude Nektar farm, next door to the well-known Old Nektar, belonging to 99-year old Una van der Spuy, well-known for her garden and the books she has written about it.  One can sit inside or out, and sitting outside to enjoy the spectacular view, despite the cooler and cloudy day, was a natural choice.  Rick was the winetasting host, and would not allow us to pay for the tasting, despite the board at the entrance indicating that they charge R30 for five wines tasted.  He explained that the name of the wines comes from a combination of the maiden name of the mother of owner Hans Schröder (Stark) and the husband of Schröder’s daughter Marie (Jose Condé from Kansas City), who is the winemaker.  The Stark-Condé price list introduces the wine estate as follows: “We are a small family-owned winery dedicated to making hand-crafted wines. We use traditional techniques: hand-picking, meticulous sorting of the grapes, open fermentation, hand-punchdowns, basket pressing and maturation in French oak barrels. The Stark-Condé wines are from our own estate vineyards and the Pepin Condé wines are from select vineyards outside the valley”.

Rick explained that ‘Pepin’ means short, Condé’s nickname in Spanish, coming from Columbia. The Pepin Condé range consists of a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Elgin, Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, ranging from R75 – R95, and Pinot Noir from Rowey Vineyards in Elgin (R185).  The Stellenbosch range consists of a Cabernet Sauvignon (Platter 4,5 star rating for 2008 vintage) and Syrah (Platter 4 star rating for 2008), both costing R130. The Three Pines range has a Cabernet Sauvignon (the 2009 vintage was awarded 5 stars in the latest Platter, and the 2008 vintage which we enjoyed even more was awarded 4,5 stars), and Syrah (Platter 4,5 star for the 2008), all costing R260.  The Stellenbosch and Three Pines ranges spent 22 months in French oak barrels and a further year in the bottle. Lingen is a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Syrah (40%), and Petit Verdot (20%), and costs R145.  Rick said the terroir of granite gives the wines spiciness and complexity, while the clay adds a soft roundedness to the wines.

As Rick did not know all the details of the family connections, he referred us to Marié Condé, who owns the Postcard Café, but she unfortunately was not at the restaurant over lunch.  We were delighted that wine estate owner Hans Schröder was around, and he came to sit down for a chat. He told us that he grew up in Namibia, but moved to South Africa.  He was in the Navy, and then in shipping for a number of years before he went to Japan to study business administration, regarding Japan as the leader on this topic at the time. He had to learn Japanese to be able to study.  He started a consultancy, guiding companies in doing business in Japan.  He could only bring his Japanese wife on holiday to South Africa, but could not live here with her in the pre-1994 apartheid era. In 1998 he returned to South Africa, and bought the farm in the Jonkershoek valley.  He enjoyed wines, but wasn’t a winemaker, and appointed my school classmate Neil Ellis to make the Neil Ellis branded wines.  The Neil Ellis tasting room and cellar was set up at their Helshoogte Pass property a year ago, but some of his wine will still be made at Oude Nektar for a year or two, Neil told me, by chance having a table next to ours on Friday, at which he was entertaining Irish clients.  Mr Schröder does the marketing of both sets of wines, going on separate Stark-Condé and Neil Ellis marketing trips to Japan, China, Korea, and Hong Kong, as well as Germany, while Neil markets his wines in the UK and Ireland.  They produce about 1,2 million Neil Ellis and 70000 Stark-Condé bottles of wine per year.

The Postcard Café is set alongside the edge of the dam, and its water lilies remind one of Renoir paintings and Japan.  Wooden tables and chairs are set up on the terrace of the restaurant, and a few steps down alongside the poplar tree forest.  A small shop sells wine cooler bags, aprons and Rozendal fynbos vinegar. There is no hostess or manager on duty, and Bella was the first waitress we asked about the table.  She was very abrupt and uncommunicative.  Having booked, our table was in the lower section. A piece of paper with the guest name is on each booked table.  There are no table cloths or placemats, cutlery is ordinary, serviettes are of paper, and a holder contained an unbranded olive oil, salt and pepper grinders, and Il Torrione balsamic vinegar.  The menu is printed on the same yellow paper as the wine price list, and contains only ten options, ranging from R54 – R 82.  There is no distinction between starters and mains. The menu options are ordinary: roasted pepper and baby marrow quiche, bacon and cheddar omelet, and a ham and cheddar toasted sandwich.  I chose the smoked trout salad with cucumber, boiled potato and a most delicious dill cream sauce, served with sourdough rye from De Oude Bank Bakkerij (owner Fritz Schoon was also enjoying lunch there on Friday). My son ordered  a cheese and preserves plate, with Brie, gruyere, blue cheese, and a chevin and dill cream cheese served with fig preserve, gooseberry jam, and sourdough rye, heavily covered with rocket.  One can also order a cold meat plate, with pork terrine, salami and ham, which come from Joostenberg Deli, served with olives and pickles, or a combination cheese and cold meat plate.  The cheeses are supplied by Get Stuffed.  In winter the lamb curry dish must be a winner.  Each of the menu items has wine recommendations.  Wines cost R27 – R35 per glass, commendable low prices, and most of the bottle prices are on a par or even cheaper than those on the tasting room price list, the first time I have seen this at a wine estate restaurant.  Water is served in a wine bottle. Our waitress Zelda looked after us well at the table, but was tardy when it came to preparing the bill.

Desserts are basic rustic apple pie, which had a sugar coasted crust and was served with cream on a Postcard Café branded plate; rustic apricot pie; baked cheesecake; dark chocolate cake; pear and blackberry crumble; chocolate pecan bars; and chilled pears in red wine syrup, most costing a very reasonable R26.  Disappointing is that no cappuccinos are served – only filter coffee is available, at R14.  A ceramic Melitta coffee filter was a plant holder on a table inside, generating a feeling of nostalgia from our family home, which had one too.

Postcard Café has the most amazing location, and its Stark-Condé wines on the estate are exceptional and very affordable. The food choice is disappointingly basic and over-dominated by rocket and greens on top of all dishes, not matching the quality of the wines. Service time between order placed and serving is exceptionally fast, making one suspect that all dishes are pre-prepared.  Most ingredients are bought in, instead of being created on the fertile farm.  The lack of a manager and a hostess to seat arriving guests and to look after the guests is a weakness.

Postcard Café, Stark-Condé, Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 887-3665.   www.postcardcafe.co.za.   www.stark-conde.co.za Twitter: @StarkCondeWines Tuesday – Sunday 9h30 – 16h00.

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

Restaurant Review: 1800 Restaurant at Cape Royale still not hot, winter special dishonest!

In my Hausfrau past, I was a mean Beef Wellington preparer for dinner parties.  When I saw this dish advertised as the new Winter Special (at R 99 with a glass of sparkling wine, until the end of the month) at 1800 Restaurant at the 5-star Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, I had to have it!  We had tried the Winter Special almost a year ago, and were disappointed then (read review).  Unfortunately our return visit was no different.

It started when we arrived – I was finishing a call in the car, and a staff member of the hotel interrupted my call and hassled us about parking, even though we were in a legitimate bay outside the hotel.  He was intimidating, and I asked him to step back.  Two security staff we walked past upon entering the hotel did not greet us.  The manager seated us at a table next to one of those odd “confession” screens, which allows one to be heard, and to hear every word of the table on the other side of the screen, near a drafty entrance to the restaurant.

We had barely settled in, when we received a complimentary glass of sparkling wine as a “token of our appreciation for dining with us tonight” – nice touch, but the rest of the introduction sounded straight off a script.  When I asked what we were drinking, I was told by the waiter Alex that it was “Kleine Zalze”.  From the little I know about wines, I could not recall a sparkling wine made by this wine estate, and asked him to bring the bottle to the table – it was a Kleine Parys Cuvee Brut in fact!

The bread was brought to the table immediately, really not exciting at all, and I left it to one side.  We received a sermon about the location of the cloakrooms, the meaning of the name of the restaurant (steak is prepared at 1800F), and the menu.  The waiter talked us through everything, including the eight special sauces of which one can order one for free, and did not mention the Beef Wellington special we had come for.  For the special, there is no choice of sauce – you must have it with the Red Wine jus, as prescribed.   The restaurant service is affected by this long introduction to the restaurant, as no other tables close by can be served.  I ordered a starter and the special, and the starter arrived within 5 minutes, commendably quick (compared to the slow service for the rest of the evening).  I had not even placed the order for the wine.  Three spiced salts were brought to the table as well, but the waiter only knew the origin of them (smoked paprika salt from Africa; Sumac salt from Arabia; Allepo salt from South America) but could not describe their taste to us.

The focus of 1800 is on steak, and the restaurant’s website states:  Owner, Paschal Phelan, brings with him many years of experience in the meat industry in Ireland, and under his direction, his team ensures the best quality by inspecting suppliers’ farms to maintain the highest standard of their meat offering.  The restaurant’s succulent beef and other selected meats are grass reared and then grain fed for a short period to enhance the flavour and ensure tenderness.  It is then matured to perfection in the grill room’s temperature controlled storage”. I could not help thinking of Carne when I read this.

Prior to the starter being served, an amuse bouche served on a spoon was brought to the table – it was a smoked paprika cheese and mash ball with sweet chilli sauce, a non-event.  The starter Duck Rillettes were served on white toast.  I was attracted to the description of the dish on the menu: “Duck liver parfait, toasted pecan nut and honey broiche and brandied sultanas”.  The toast looked like ordinary white bread, and there was no sign nor taste of nuts nor honey in it, even when the manager brought us an untoasted slice of the “brioche” to taste.  The manager could not answer when I said that this was not as described in the menu.

The service problem came from there being no heavy-weight manager on duty.  Our waiter of last year, Emmanuel, whose service we were not happy with then, now is the manager, out of his depth we felt.  The owner of the hotel was also dining at the restaurant, and perhaps the staff had their attention focused on him and his party.  The music was far too loud, and not pleasant, but luckily was turned down as soon as the owner arrived.  Nothing has changed in terms of the decor in the year since our last visit.

The “Beef Wellington” at 1800 Restaurant is not made with pate de foie gras, nor are the duxelles mixed with leeks, nor do they cover the whole steak – a tiny teaspoonful of the mushroom mix was placed on the top of the fillet, underneath the puff pastry, like a crown!  The steak was prepared medium, as specified by the waiter.  I asked the manager why there was no foie gras, and the answer he brought back from the chef was that it would make the dish costing too high – a con!  We felt that the portion of steak also was not close to the advertised 200 gram.   When the plate of food was brought to us, the mash and the vegetables on the plate were cold, so we sent them back.  The second set of vegetables was extremely salty. The red wine jus had a very rich dominant taste, and I felt that it spoilt the taste of the steak.

We ordered the Allee Bleue Shiraz 2007, at R 50 a glass, and while the portion served was very generous, it was not a particularly pleasant wine.  The “Wine Portfolio” (nice name) is divided into wine type, and then by wine region within that, with listings of local and international wines.  The house wine is a Capaia Blue Grove Hill Sauvignon Blanc (R35/R140), and its Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend (R40/R160).   Graham Beck’s sparkling wines are listed under Stellenbosch and not Franschhoek!   Champagnes range from R680 for Lacombe and Leillier to R 2400 for Dom Perignon.   Some of the wines are expensive, but I counted eight white and seven red wines by the glass that cost less than R40, which is good value, especially as none of the red wine vintages were younger than 2007.  One can indulge in such international wines as Giovanni Corino Barolo Vigne Giachini, Domaine Ussegilo Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Imperial Cuvee, Chapoutier St Joseph Les Grantis Rouge, and Alain Chavy Puligny-Montrachet les Purcelles, all upwards of R 1000.

The manager could not answer our challenge that serving the “Beef Wellington” short of its identifying ingredient was dishonest.   The Executive Chef Jonathan Gargan, who took over the restaurant only about three months ago after service on cruise ships, was not on duty, and his deputy Chad Booysen (ex-Beluga) clearly was not coping with the room full of diners.

We knew it a year ago, and we should have known better in returning to 1800 Restaurant.   What they are offering as a Winter Special is dishonest, and does not do their reputation, nor that of the 5-star Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, by whom it is owned, any good.  The staff and manager need a serious training hand, and the Executive Chef should be on duty on busy weekend nights.  The name of the chef of a year ago (Lindsay Venn) is still on the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel website, while the restaurant website does not mention the chef’s name at all!

In re-reading my review of a year ago, it is clear that little has changed – the special is not mentioned when one arrives, the service slows down as the restaurant fills up, and the wait for the main course is long.  The prices have not moved much compared to a year ago, which is commendable – the price of the 200 gram fillet has come down to R120, that of the 400 gram has remained the same, while that of the 300 gram has increased.  The price band of the starters (Paternoster mussels, Franschhoek salmon trout, baby calamari, Kalahari springbok carpaccio, two salads and chicken livers), being R40 – R69, has not changed much.  The linefish price has however increased by 19 % to R115, while the cheapest dessert has come down to R28 now, to a maximum of R45.  Desserts include ice cream and sorbets, souffle cake, cheese cake and a plateful of miniature desserts.

1800 Restaurant, Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, Main Road, Green Point, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 430-0506.  www.18hundreddegrees.com. Monday – Saturday.

POSTSCRIPT 4/8: Read the reply to this review from Jonathan Gargan, Executive Chef of the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, in the Comments section.

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