Entries tagged with “Jardine”.


I could not think it possible that the Eat Out Awards 2018 could be so refreshingly different, but it appears that new Head Judge Margot Janse has created a fresh new look at the restaurant judging criteria. Many of our top old-guard chefs took a severe beating at the Awards last night!  (more…)

This afternoon Eat Out announced its list of the Top 30 restaurants in our country for this year. The Top 20 restaurants will be revealed at the Awards ceremony on 18 November at GrandWest, and the Top 10 list within that ranking. There are some surprise inclusions and exclusions in this list.  (more…)

haute-cabriere-restaurant-views-2-exlarge-169In my book CNN is a credible news agency, but this image has been severely dented by an article entitled ‘7 stunning Cape Town vineyards with food as good as the wine’, written last week by one Griffin Shea. Not one of the seven wine estates featured are in Cape Town!

The article introduction is short and sweet: ‘It’s no secret that in Cape Town, good wine abounds. But wine farms also host some of South Africa’s best restaurants, which pride themselves on serving up meals from ingredients often grown just steps away from the tables. These restaurants have won enough awards to fill walls, but like so many of South Africa’s best places to eat, they’re generally relaxed, unpretentious affairs where the prices won’t break the bank. Many of the menus are deceptively simple, heavy on local ingredients and farm fare, but prepared with passion and care’.

It does not state on which basis the wine estates were selected, but obviously they had to have a ‘great‘ restaurant, (more…)

2011: what a year it’s been for the world, South Africa, and Whale Cottage – unpredictable, up and down, and a year in which one had to rethink every way in which one has run one’s business and life.  Most would say that it’s been one of the worst years ever!  But despite the tough times, there has been a lot to be grateful for as well.  I have summarised some of the high and low lights of the year:

1.  The knock which tourism took, especially from May – August, in being one of the worst winters ever experienced, had an effect on all sectors of the economy.  Restaurants frantically offered specials to gain cashflow, guest houses went back to dropping rates as they do in winter, and few took rate increases in summer, unlike their hotel colleagues, who suffered poor occupancy too.  More hotels and restaurants closed down than ever seen before. The recession in the UK hit South African tourism and wine sales badly, previously our major source market. From 50 % of our business in the summer months in Camps Bay, the UK business will be no more than 5 % this summer.  High airfares and the crippling UK airport taxes have not helped. The tourism situation was so bad that we wrote an Open Letter to national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, as Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited were not aware of how bad things were in the Cape, and therefore did nothing to market the region and to help the tourism industry. Cape Town Tourism spent all its energy on Twitter, not yet the medium of communication of our average tourist, and on wasteful promotions, and therefore we did not renew our 20 year membership. The welcome increase in German tourists has not made up this shortfall, but we have been delighted to welcome many more South African guests.   The World Cup has become a swearword, the reality of its lack of a tourism benefit becoming clear. A blessing from Santa has been a much improved festive season, with no snow-bound tourists or strong south-easter wind, as happened last year.

2.  Events are hugely beneficial for business, and the Argus Cycle Tour, J&B Met, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracted out of town guests. The U2 and Coldplay concerts helped fill beds and delighted Cape Town audiences.  A fantastic outcome of Coldplay’s performance is that the music video for ‘Paradise’ was filmed in our city, the Boland and the Karoo – no better part of the world could have been chosen for this song!

3.  Cape Town has had an exceptional year, the darling of the world, winning the World Design Capital 2014 bid, Table Mountain being named one of New7Wonders of Nature (amid some controversy and as yet subject to verification), named top destination in TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination (for what it was worth!), and featuring strongly in the new James Bond book ‘Carte Blanche’.  Our city hotels, especially the Cape Grace and Steenberg Hotel, featured on international top hotel lists. Good news was the sale of the V&A Waterfront to a local company, which is investing in the upgrade of and addition to the country’s most popular tourist destination.

4.   Despite the doom and gloom, there were more restaurant openings, and chef and restaurant staff changes this year than in many years: The Pot Luck Club, Hemelhuijs, Dash, Casparus, Dear Me Foodworld, The Franschhoek Kitchen, Il Cappero, Café Benedict, The Kitchen at Maison, Sotano by Caveau, Knife, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Ryan’s Kitchen, Caffe Milano, Mozzarella Bar, Cassis Salon de Thé, Power & the Glory, Haas Coffee, Johan’s @ Longridge, Skinny Legs & All, KOS Coffee & Cuisine, Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, Le Coq, Act and Play Bar at the Baxter, Sunbird Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Jason’s, Bird Café with new owners, Maria’s after a long renovation closure, Toro Wine & Aperitif Bar, Valora, Café Le Chocolatier, Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant after a renovation and chef change, Art’s Café, Spice Route, Mitico, Knead on Kloof, Chez Chez, La Bella, 5 Rooms, Terbodore Coffee Bar, Wale Rose Lifestyle, The Black Pearl, Bistro on Rose, Slainte, Babel Tea House, Rhapsody’s, Café Extrablatt, Harvest, McDonalds in the V&A,  The Mussel Bar, The Franschhoek Food Emporium, Makaron, F.east, Bean There Fair Trade, Sabrina’s, Harbour House in the V&A, MCC Franschhoek, Clarke Bar & Dining Room, Roberto’s, French Toast, Saboroso, Mezepoli, Rocca in the Cape Quarter, and Roca in Franschhoek opening their doors, and new suppliers Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and The Creamery opening too.

5.  Sadly, the recession was noticeable as it hit restaurants, and it was some of the newer restaurants that were badly hit, including What’s On Eatery, The Olive Shack, Bella Lucia, Blonde, Jardine, Caveau at the Mill, Nando’s in Camps Bay, The Sandbar, The Bistro, Restaurant Christophe, Doppio Zero in Green Point and Clarement, shu, Oiishi Delicious Caffe, Hermanos, The Kitchen Bar, Wildwoods, The Green Dolphin, De Huguenot restaurant, Wildflour, Depasco, Kuzina, and 221 Waterfront.

6.  The eating highlight of the year was the tribute dinner to the closing of El Bulli, one of the world’s best restaurants, by Tokara, Chef Richard Carstens excelling in serving a 13-course meal to a packed restaurant on 30 July, earning him and his team a standing ovation.  This meal alone should have made Chef Richard South Africa’s top chef in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, but sole judge Abigail Donnelly proved that she was incapable of handling this new role and responsibility, not only in excluding Chef Richard from her Top 10 list, but also in awarding the new Boschendal Style Award to her client Makaron.

7.   Franschhoek evolved as THE wine region, Boekenhoutskloof being recognised as South Africa’s top winery by the Platter Guide, and La Motte the top wine estate in South Africa by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.  In the latter competition, Tokara was selected as top wine estate restaurant in the country. The sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm was announced, and the operation closes mid-year in 2012. The winemaking will take place at Steenberg and at Graham Beck in Robertson, while a Graham Beck tasting bar Gorgeous will open at Steenberg in February.

8.   Hermanus was in the tourism marketing spotlight, when miraculously both the committee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau resigned, and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation was disbanded by the Overstrand Mayor.  We had written about the self-interest which had been served by the previous leaders of these two bodies in ‘Lermanus’!  A welcome product for Hermanus is the recently created Hermanus Wine Route, marketing of which will be in the capable hands of Carolyn Martin of Creation.

9.   The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in April, and has shown benefits in product deficiencies and returns.  Little effect has been seen for the tourism industry.  The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa tried to change its accommodation assessment standards, which caused a huge outcry.  Despite changing back to what they had before, many accommodation establishments lost faith in the organisation, and have not renewed their accreditation.

10.  The wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène in July put South Africa in the world spotlight, not only due to the televised broadcast of the wedding, but also as they celebrated their wedding with a second reception, at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, now the country’s best known hotel.

11.  This year proved that the ‘social’ in Social Media is a misnomer in many respects, but it is the marketing platform which cannot be excluded.  We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our WhaleTales newsletter, the 3rd year of blogging, and our 1000 th blogpost this year.  We are grateful to our Facebook friends and likers, Twitter followers, and blog and newsletter readers for their support.

It is hard to predict 2012, and we will go with the flow.  2011 has made us tougher and even more thick-skinned, we have learnt to change with changed tourism times.  We look forward to a stable world economy, politics, as well as weather in 2012!

POSTSCRIPT 2/1: The most read posts on our blog in 2011 were the restaurant winter specials, the Festive Season packages, the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charléne, the review of Casparus, the restaurant summer specials, the review of Gaaitjie in Paternoster, the death in Cape Town of the President of Ferrero Rocher,  the listing of restaurant openings and closures, the Consumer Protection Act, and Table Mountain making the New7Wonders of Nature.

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

Cape Town received wonderful coverage in a three-part article in the UK The Guardian on Saturday, praising in particular the beauty of the city, and the gourmet and wine wealth of the near-by towns in the Winelands, which should be good for attracting visitors from the UK to our city, given the weaker Rand.

The writer of the trio of articles is Gloria Hunniford, a highly regarded mature Northern Ireland radio and TV presenter, writer (including ‘Gloria Hunniford’s Family Cookbook’,) a travel writer for The Guardian and The Telegraph, and presenter of travel guides for National Geographic.  In the fineprint it is clear that the articles were sponsored by SA Tourism.

Gloria reports about her first ever visit to Cape Town, a city that she says she has never heard a bad word spoken about, and about which she had heard ‘glorious stories about the weather, the food, the wine, the people and, of course, Table Mountain’.  Worried that her high expectations could be disappointed, she writes that ‘it is more beautiful, more dramatic, and more extraordinary than anything I had imagined’. She writes that she was at a loss of words on top of Table Mountain, and fell in love with a dassie.

During her visit to the Cape, Gloria saw the Twelve Apostles, Cape Point, Lion’s Head, the city centre, the floral diversity of 2000 species on Table Mountain, Chapman’s Peak (exhilaratingly experienced on the back of a Harley Davidson), and stayed at the Camps Bay Retreat. She enjoyed the Camps Bay restaurants and its strip and beach, about which she wrote: “…you would be forgiven for thinking you were on a remote, palm-fringed island, not in South Africa’s second most populous city“!  She refers to Cape Town being ranked second in the Lonely Planet’s world 10 best beach cities (after Barcelona and ahead of Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, and Miami), an accolade for Cape Town I had not heard about nor seen publicised by our tourism authorities. She mentions the surfing beaches of False Bay, the ‘remote beaches’ of the South Peninsula, ‘fashionable Clifton’, and the ‘sundowner-haven of Llandudno’.  She was taken to Bo-Kaap, to eat Cape Malay food at the home of Zainie.  She also ate at the Cape Grace, and was served fresh fish in Camps Bay.  She highlights Kirstenbosch as the perfect picnic venue, having recently been named by National Geographic as one of the top 10 places in the world to have a picnic.

In the Winelands, Gloria visited L’Omarins in Franschhoek, enjoying its Cape Dutch architecture, flower paradise, and a wine-tasting.  Gloria saw a chocolate-making demonstration at Huguenot Fine Chocolates, raving generally about Franschhoek, with its ‘atmospheric shops and sampling the great food and wine on offer is a must for every visitor’s itinerary‘.  She had lunch at Delaire Graff, praising it highly for its setting in the Helshoogte Pass: ‘It’s sheer bliss. To be embraced by the sheer luxury of this elegant, beautiful crafted estate, sipping on fabulous wine and indulging in the tastiest food around, is what dream holidays are made off (sic).”  Then she tastes wines at Spier, calling it one of ‘South Africa’s oldest, biggest and most tourist friendly estates’, and its wines as being affordably priced and winning awards.  A highlight for Gloria was stroking Hemingway, the cheetah, at Spier.  She enjoyed her gourmet picnic at Warwick, writing about it: ‘Our picnic basket is filled  to the brim with delicious salads, cold meats, bread, smoked salmon, and sweet treats, a far cry from the picnics I am used to…. It introduced us to more South African culinary treats, from snoek pate to biltong’.

Despite being sponsored articles, it is Gloria’s concluding paragraph that is sure to connect with potential visitors to our city, and her valuable endorsement should be of benefit to tourism to Cape Town and the Winelands: “The last few days have been happy, happy days, thanks in no small part to the people of South Africa who have been so open and friendly and made us feel so welcome.  It is the people of a country who can really make an experience memorable. They are so proud of their country and it is this enthusiasm and South Africa’s sheer beauty that I will take away with me”.

POSTSCRIPT 25/10: Today Cape Town and the Winelands received further favourable coverage, this time in the Mail Online, in an interview with Suzi Perry, BBC motor sports correspondent and presenter of the Channel 5 ‘The Gadget Show’.  She described her honeymoon in South Africa last year as her ‘most memorable holiday’, having stayed in Camps Bay (staying at Cape View Villa), went on Safari at Richard Branson’s lodge Ulusaba in Sabi Sands, and went winetasting in Franschhoek, staying at Rickety Bridge.  She loved going up Table Mountain, recommending abseiling down it, hiked up Lion’s Head at full moon, raved about the vineyard picnics, she saw whales in Hermanus, and ‘baboons on the cape (sic)’.

POSTSCRIPT 27/10: Cape Town has been selected as runner-up as ‘Favorite City World-wide’ in the Telegraph Travel Awards announced yesterday, won by New York, and alongside Venice.  La Residence in Franschhoek was a runner-up with Shangri La’s Barr Al Jissah in Oman for ‘Favorite Hotel World-Wide’, a category won by Villa d’Este at Lake Como in Italy.

POSTSCRIPT 27/10: Cape Town is basking in the spotlight, and now the New York Times has written an article “36 hours in Cape Town’, published on-line today, and to appear in print on Sunday. It opens as follows: “Cape Town overwhelms the senses. Its cultivated side, the bright lights and big buildings of the city centre, collides with its geography – the dazzle and danger of the wind-whipped mountains and the two oceans that embrace it.” Writer Elaine Sciolino writes that prices soared in the city during the World Cup, and that the ‘tourist trade since then has disappointed‘, that some businesses have closed down, and some constructions sites stand unfinished.  ‘Despite the grinding poverty in the townships on the city’s outskirts, this is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world’, she writes.  Sciolino’s 36 hours in Cape Town were action-packed, and included a visit to the District Six Museum, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Table Mountain (stating that it is to Cape Town what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, defining and dominating the ‘cityscape’), dinner at Marco’s African Place, followed by drinks at Café Caprice and clubbing at St Yves in Camps Bay, which has just re-opened.   On Saturday it’s an ostrich burger for brunch at the Biscuit Mill, shopping at Greenmarket Square, and then off to ‘wine sipping’ at Groot Constantia, eating sushi at Sevruga in the V&A Waterfront, and then to Asoka on Kloof Street for cocktails, followed by Fiction DJ Bar and Zula Sound Bar.  On Sunday morning it’s a drive to Cape Point (Cape of Good Hope), stopping at Simonstown and Boulders’ Beach on the way, returning via Chapman’s Peak.  The article links to a travel guide, with accommodation (Mount Nelson and V&A Hotels strongly recommended) and restaurants (Africa Café recommended of all the 27 restaurants listed, but sadly out of date, with Jardine still listed) recommended.

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

The number of 2012 American Express Platinum Fine Dining Programme restaurants has dropped for the first time in its 14 year history, down from 88 restaurants in 2011 to 78 this year, with twelve of last year’s winners having closed their doors, reports Chef!.  This demonstrates the severity of the hospitality crisis.

The dominance of the Western Cape, with 33 of the 78 awards, highlights that the province is the cuisine capital of South Africa.  New award entrants are also largely from the Cape, being Nobu, Bistro Sixteen82, Planet Restaurant, Reuben’s at the One&Only, and Pierneef à La Motte, out of eight new entrants.  Three re-admissions are The Restaurant at Grande Provence (photograph), Bosman’s at the Grande Roche Hotel, and Saagries in Johannesburg.

Chefs said that the recognition is welcome, in being a member of the fine dining programme, given the difficult time of the year, after a very long and bleak winter.  The major criterion for consideration by the Programme organiser Tamsin Snyman, in partnership with restaurant critic Victor Strugo, is accepting payment by American Express, which may have disqualified many other top restaurants (such as Dash, The Test Kitchen, Casparus, Johan’s @ Longridge, Terroir, Waterkloof, Indochine, Tokara, and Delaire Graff) from being eligible for evaluation. The judges evaluated the quality and creativity of the cuisine, the service, the wine list, decor and ambiance, the overall excellence, and acceptance of a booking for a table of four on the same day.

Eight of last year’s Programme restaurants did not make the 2012 list, including Rust en Vrede (probably due to the departure of Chef David Higgs), Haute Cabriére Cellar Restaurant (probably due to the recent change in chef), Emily’s, Myoga, Bizerca and Belthazar. Snyman said that ‘there is an increasing mediocrity on the South African fine dining restaurant scene’, reports Chef! The restaurants that have closed their doors in the past year include Auberge Michel, Linger Longer, Jardine, and Hunter’s Country Restaurant.

The 2102 American Express Platinum Fine Dining Programme restaurants are as follows, according to Business Day:

CAPE PENINSULAAubergine, Buitenverwachting, Bukhara (city bowl), Catharina’s, Constantia Uitsig, The Food Barn, Gold, The Greenhouse, Haiku; Il Leone, La Colombe, Roundhouse, Savoy Cabbage
CAPE WINELANDS:  96 Winery Road, Boschendal, Bread & Wine, Fraai Uitzicht 1798, French Connection Bistro, Jardine at Jordan, Mimosa Lodge, Overture @ Hidden Valley, The Pavilion, Reuben’s (Franschhoek), Seafood @ The Marine, Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français
EASTERN CAPE: Hacklewood Hill (Port Elizabeth)
FREE STATE:  De Oude Kraal
KLEIN KAROO:  Kalinka Karoo Cuisine
GARDEN ROUTE: La Locanda (George), Sand @ The Plettenberg, Zinzi @ Tsala (Plettenberg Bay), Serendipity (Wilderness), Trans Karoo (Great Brak), Pembreys, Zachary’s at Pezula (Knysna)
JOHANNESBURG: Bellagio, Bellgables, Bukhara (Sandton), Butcher Shop & Grill, Byzance, La Cucina di Ciro, Gramadoelas, La Campagnola, Le Canard, Mastrantonia, Metzuyan, Osteria Tre Nonni, Piccolo Mondo, Pigalle (Sandton), Roots @ Forum Homini, Saxon, Sel et Poivre, Wombles, Yamato
PRETORIA:  Geet, La Madeleine, La Pentola, Mosaic, Ritrovo Ristorante,
KWAZULU-NATAL: Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, Daruma, Hartford House, Harvey’s, Ile Maurice, Roma Revolving Restaurant, Spice, Sugar Club

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

The results from the second measurement of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s/FNB’s new Tourism Business Index shows a dramatic fall in confidence amongst business leaders in the tourism and travel sector for the first three months of 2011, reports Business Day.

From a measurement of 89 % for the last quarter of 2010, the Index has dropped by a massive 10 percentage points to 79 %.  An Index of 100 % reflects normality, and any score above it would reflect a positive tourism scenario.  Particularly hard hit within the tourism industry is the Accommodation sector, the Index shows, reflecting not only oversupply but also poor demand. The Index is an indication of the current and likely future performance of businesses in the travel and tourism sector. 

The Tourism Business Index is a sad reflection of the state of affairs in tourism and hospitality, given the hosting of the world’s largest sporting event in our country less than a year ago, the World Cup having promised business for years to come.  The reality is that the world is still suffering the recession, and South Africa seems worse hit by it this year compared to any of the recession years since 2008.  The strong Rand and the ailing UK economy have been serious knocks to our tourism industry.

The current Easter weekend and extended holiday period due to a number of public holidays has been a welcome boost for the tourism industry, yet accommodation establishments have not been as fully booked as one would have expected for the 11-day stretch, demonstrating that times are tough for locals too.

The restaurant industry is showing early signs of hardship, ahead of the dreaded winter start next week, with restaurants closing down.  The latest restaurant to close is Hout Bay-based Wildwoods, owned by Pete Goffe-Wood, a chef who has operated for many years, and who has been an Eat Out  Top 10 Restaurant judge for a  number of years – he of all chefs should have been able to keep a restaurant going and make his restaurant a success.  So too Mezzaluna, Jardine, the Green Dolphin (which has been trading in the V&A Waterfront for more than 20 years), Blonde, Cheyne, and Liquorice and Lime on St George’s Mall have closed in the past few months.   In less than a year, about fifty restaurants have opened in Cape Town and the Winelands, and about 25 have closed their doors.  One of Cape Town’s oldest hotels, the Alphen Hotel, also recently closed its doors.  Restaurants are fighting back, and are offering specials, not just in winter, but many have done so throughout the past summer, the first time that the restaurant industry has done so.

With no special events lying ahead for winter in Cape Town, and only the Franschhoek events in May (Franschhoek Literary Festival), June (Cook Franschhoek), and July (Bastille), a long dreary winter is certain to lie ahead.  However, the report states that an Index score of 94 % is expected for the second quarter of 2011.   It is hoped that SA Tourism’s investment in a marketing campaign to encourage locals to travel in their own country will pay off, in stimulating domestic tourism, to improve matters not just for the tourism industry, but for the economy in general too, given the knock-on effect of tourism.  Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said recently that 79 % of all tourists travelling in the country are South Africans.

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

I was invited to try out the 34-seater Dash restaurant in the Queen Victoria Hotel, which only opened in the Waterfront on Saturday, last night.   Chef Steven Tempelton is the leader of a creative team at Dash, whose food not only was visually appealing, but excellent too, and was responsible for a most dashing dinner.  Dash is one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Cape Town, and an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant coontender for 2012.

The 35-bedroom Queen Victoria Hotel, previously the V&A Waterfront company head office, cost R53 million to transform into 5-star luxury, and the interior decor was done by master ‘craftsman’ Francois du Plessis, who has also just done Dear Me restaurant.  Cleverly, Newmark Hotels MD Neil Markovitz has arranged for the nearby Everard Read gallery to hang some if its artists’ works in the hotel, benefiting both parties. Dash has been honoured by a dominant work by Beezy Bailey.  The work is called “The Storm has passed”, and reflects the style of food created at Dash.  The back of the painting has a poem by Bailey:  “As the storm cleared/The dove escaped the cat’s claws/While the blueberry elephants passed by./As God’s tears hit the sky,/they turned into flowers”.

I was welcomed on arrival in the lobby, in which the 30-year old bonsai imported from China holds centre court, by Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon, whom I had already seen in action last week, when I popped in for a tour around the hotel, led by Markovitz and the hotel’s PR consultant Ian Manley.  Alton has always been a most charming host when he worked at Balducci in the past four years, and has impressed with his knowledge of and passion for wine.  He started his career in retail. He moved into hospitality, and worked at Belthazar and Poplars before managing Balducci.

Chef Stephen Templeton grew up in Somerset West, and has been the Executive Chef at Sun City and the Mount Nelson Hotel.  He also was head of a team of 47 chefs at Harrods, the largest Food & Beverage operation in Europe, he said.  After a four year period in running Four Oaks guest house and restaurant in Montagu, he had an opportunity to sell it, and move back to Cape Town. It was in this time that he was approached by Newmark Hotels to become Group Chef, mainly responsible for their restaurants at the V&A Hotel, Dock House and Queen Victoria Hotel, all in the V&A.  Chef Stephen says that he was hands-on in the development of Dash, in sourcing its crockery, cutlery and glassware, in developing a fine winelist, and creating the unique menu.   The name for the restaurant was the result of a five hour brainstorm with the hotel’s executive team, and it was Ronan Jackson from the design agency that suggested the name, after Queen Victoria’s spaniel.  Chef Stephen and Francois du Plessis worked together to create a ‘New York sexy’ interior and menu that complement each other, and Du Plessis has said that it is the first time that his decor has been so well matched by a menu.  Chef Stephen is aiming at presenting ‘sophisticated, stylish, contemporary yet simple food’ at Dash, which he more than achieves.  He wants the food’s personality to shine through, not that of the chef.  Chef Stephen has an interesting team of nine chefs in the kitchen, with an average age of 24 years.   We laughed when we discovered that there is a Chef Jamie and a Chef Oliver in the kitchen.  I met Chef Oliver Cattermole, who created the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’ of vegetables that is served with the beef fillet.  He worked at one-Michelin-star Novelli, and at The Ivy in London.  All staff have been taught to make coffee, and have tested the menu, to allow everyone to assist guests, as if one were in a guest house and not in a hotel, Chef Stephen said.  The waitress looking after me was Coral, and was honest in saying that she has just finished studying, and that Dash is her first job.  She was sweet, willing to execute every request, but still lacked some knowledge on how the magic is created in the kitchen.  She went to ask the kitchen all my questions. The staff wear a white shirt with the Queen Victoria Hotel logo on it, black pants and a white Dash-branded apron.

The welcome was warm, with Alton taking me through to the lounge, where I was invited to have a drink.  I chose a coffee.  Chef Stephen was happy to hear that I had starved during the day, in anticipation of the dinner.  Vegetable crisps were brought to the table as a snack.  I asked Chef Stephen what would happen if the 34-seater would run out of space in the 35-room hotel, and he assured me that they would pass the business on to the other Newmark Hotel restaurants in the Waterfront. Chef Stephen sees Dash operating in the league of The Roundhouse, The Test Kitchen and Aubergine

The restaurant has a black tile floor, an impressive black marble surround fireplace dividing the lounge/bar area from the restaurant, beautiful silver curtains, and a wonderful view onto Table Mountain.   The Beezy Bailey is the only colour splash in the room.  The tables are black metal, made by ‘in’ designer Gregor Jenkin I was told by Francois du Plessis, with white leather chairs.  There are no table cloths, but a good quality serviette, with very heavy and solid Sambonet cutlery imported from Germany, the first time I have seen this locally.  The glassware is excellent.  There is a little candle, and rather ordinary tiny white salt and pepper cellars, probably superfluous anyway, given the excellent food, not requiring seasoning.  The only criticism I shared with Alton was the music selection, being heavy jazz initially, and sounding hotel-like generally.  I reminded him of the great music one hears at Belthazar and Balducci.  The bar is lit with purple lighting at night, and bounces off the bar chairs, creating an interesting visual affect as one enters the bar area.  The colour of the lighting changes throughout the day.

I chose a starter of confit of crayfish on a cucumber sockle with a coriander and paw paw salad (R145).  The impressive part of its presentation was the paw paw crisp, creating a centerpiece to the starter, and tasting sweet and crispy.  Chef Stephen explained that paw paw is liquidised, then glycerine is added, it is baked for nine hours, and then thin slices are cut to create the crisp.  The cucumber was as fresh as could be, as was the salad, the paw paw in it echoing the crisp.  Sorrel foam completed the presentation.  No sauces got in the way of the natural fresh taste of the elements of the dish. No fish knife was served with this starter.  Other starter choices, ranging in price from R55 – R145, include beetroot cured salmon, oysters served on seaweed, wild mushroom ragoût, Ceasar salad, seared foie gras, and caviar (SQ).  The surprise was the most amazing sorbets that were served, and I was allowed three: I chose the Tomato Granite, to which Coral added vodka; a most refreshing Lime & Lemon; and the most amazing Rose, complete with its own rose petals dipped in egg white and crystallised.  The sorbets cost R25 for a choice of three.

The main course choice of Grilled fillet of beef with herb mash and spinach purée with vegetables and port jus (R140) has created a stir.  This menu description does not do justice to the amazing creation that arrived – three slices of fillet on mash, but it was the presentation of the vegetables that created the ‘wow’ response, dubbed by the staff as the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’, an amazing symphony of carrot, tomato, mushrooms, orange-coloured mini corn-cob, baby radish, baby aubergine, baby turnip, sheets of cauliflower stalk, and tomadillo (tasting of tomato with the texture of aubergine, looking like a green gooseberry), so beautifully presented.  Chef Oliver called it ‘psychedelic vegetables’, and told me that he sources them from the Magic Man in the Karoo.  Main courses are reasonably priced, some being cheaper than the starters, and range from R95 to R145 for roasted sea bass, lobster tortellini, venison, tomato and beetroot tart, scallops, lamb noisette, and duck confit risotto.  The dessert list consists of four options, ranging from R50 – R70, in addition to a Cape cheeseboard (R115), and I chose the Pimms jelly, mint bavois and strawberry sauce, beautifully presented with a long elegant spoon, and well paired with a glass of Silverthorn The Green Man sparkling wine (made by Steenberg GM John Loubser in his private capacity). Other dessert options are chocolate fondant, coconut panacotta, and liquorice macaroons.  Coral brought a cappuccino made with Origin coffee to have with the dessert, and a sweet touch was a jug of extra froth, showing that Alton must have read a Tweet of mine a few days ago about the extra froth a waiter had brought me at Salt Deli, also a Newmark Hotel property.

Alton indulged my love for Shiraz, and poured a glass of Quoin Rock 2006 (R208 per bottle), with violet notes.  Coral brought tap water with an ice bucket and slices of lemon.  The winelist is impressive, bound in grey leather, with the hotel logo on it.  Champagnes and MCC sparkling wines are at the back of the winelist, normally found at the front.   Each wine variety is described, and the origin and vintage of each wine is presented, as are the tasting notes for each wine, generated from a tasting panel’s evaluation of each of the about 100 wines listed.  This is a future Diner’s Club Diamond Award winelist candidate.  The champagnes start at R 940 for Guy Charbaut Select Brut NV, going up to R3500 for Dom Perignon Vintage. Veuve Cliquot Rosé, Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve, and Pol Roger Brut Reserve are also available.  MCC’s start at R200 for Moreson Solitaire, with High Constantia Clos Andre costing R445.  Shiraz choices start at R 205 for Raka Biography, up to R 1390 for Saxenburg SSS Shiraz 2005. The wine-by-the glass policy is interesting – there are no prices for these, but one can order any wine on the list by the glass, within reason, and then Alton and his staff will try to sell the rest of the bottle to other guests.

If there is one taste at Dash that I will never forget it is that of the Rose sorbet – a taste I have never experienced before.  Dash is excellent, and perfect, and I know that the music selection will be addressed, as will the waiters’ food knowledge evolve.  They are so many items on the menu to return to, to try out.  From photographs of the other menu items it is evident that each dish is a work of art in presentation alone. The kitchen closes at about 22h30, but one can pop in at the 24-hour Dash bar for a drink, a coffee or even a dessert, ordered from the room service menu, after the kitchen has closed.  After being a loyal V&A Waterfront shopper for twenty years, it is refreshing to have such an excellent quality restaurant so close by, yet away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial Waterfront area.  I salute Newmark Hotels’ MD Neil Markovitz and his team in creating such an exceptional restaurant.

POSTSCRIPT 14/4: I went back to Dash for a quick coffee and more sorbet, and to show my colleague the Queen Victoria Hotel and Dash restaurant.  Restaurant Manager Darren looked after us, and organised the extra cappuccino foam on the side, from reading this review.  The hotel is almost booked out with delegates from Brazil attending a Tupperware conference.

POSTSCRIPT 8/5: Staying over at the invitation of the Queen Victoria Hotel presented an opportunity for me to introduce my son to Dash, which he was very impressed by.  Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon was most generous in offering us a bottle of Hartenberg The Stork Shiraz 2005, knowing my love for an old-style shiraz.  The chef sent out two complimentary dishes to those we had ordered: the appetizer was a tomato, basil, and mushroom dust, served on a heavy slate plate, reminding me of the work of Eric Bulpitt, previously of Jardineand now at The Round House.  We both ordered a filling starter of wonderful wild mushroom ragout in puff pastry, served with green beans and bearnaise (R65).  Alex had the beef fillet with the ‘Alice in Wonderland vegetable garden’, while I ordered Springbok loin, carrot purée and turnip gratin (R135).   We shared a trio of Rose, Lemon and lime, and Orange and citrus sorbets (R25).   The chef sent out a complimentary pannacotta and lemon sorbet for usto share.   A wonderful evening, once again with an excellent meal, and charming and highly-impressive service by Alton.

POSTSCRIPT 15/5: I returned to Dash with Carole, my colleague in Hermanus, and we were well looked after by Restaurant Manager Darren and Chef Oliver Cattermole.  I tried the Duck Confit Risotto with citrus and herb potpourri, the potpourri containing tea, dried duck (tasting like biltong) and herbs, and served in a separate bowl, which I sprinkled over the risotto.  Carole had the Beef fillet and the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vegetable garden.  For dessert we had the Chocolate Fondant, which oozed Valrhona chocolate sauce when we opened it, with orange ice cream, a beautiful presentation.  I had my cappuccino with a jug of extra foam, always a nice touch! It was great to meet One&Only Cape Town Hotel Executive Chef Jason Millar, who was celebrating his anniversary at Dash, and to hear a chef’s reaction to the food of another chef – he was most complimentary.  Chef Oliver Cattermole is the driving force in the Dash kitchen, in my opinion, and has created a vegetable and herb garden on the roof of Newmark Hotels’ V&A Hotel, from which he will harvest for his kitchen in future.  

POSTSCRIPT 25/5: Another lovely lunch with excellent service at Dash today, spoiling my friend Jenny to a birthday lunch.  She was surprised to receive a birthday card from the hotel, and a surprise chocolate fondant dessert with her cappuccino.  Jenny’s Beetroot cured salmon with horseradish apple slaw was beautifully presented.

POSTSCRIPT 1/7: Today I took Trevor Jordaan for a birthday lunch at Dash.  I ordered a Cape Malay butternut velouté, while Trevor had a chicory and pickled pear salad, both beautifully presented.  Happy to hear how well the restaurant is doing, and has appointed an Assistant Manager Andrea.

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: Sadly, Restaurant Manager Darren Morgan left the hotel on Monday.  F&B Manager Alton van Biljon has taken a leave of absence, and his return date is uncertain, if he returns at all.  Andrea confirmed this evening that lunch will not be served at Dash for the time being.

POSTSCRIPT 12/8: I had the Mushroom Ragout again this evening, and the pastry casing was tough, and the size of the dish has definitely shrunk.  No Andreas Shiraz was available, which I had tried at Dash for the first time a month ago, when Michael McKenzie and I popped in. The waiter asked how I enjoyed the dish.  I said I didn’t, due to the shrunk size and tough pastry, to which he confidently retorted that the perfect pastry casing is tough! Chef Jamie was in the kitchen this evening. I shared the problem with Hostess Connie, and she apologised.  The waiter told me that the kitchen was sending out a second Ragout, but Connie arrived with the bill, having taken the Ragout off it, saying that the waiter had told her I didn’t want the replacement Ragout.  I got up and left in disbelief at this comedy of errors, the first evening of serious dissatisfaction at Dash.

POSTSCRIPT 25/9: We had a ‘last supper’ at Dash this evening, one of the last nights that Chef Oliver Cattermole will be in the Queen Victoria Hotel kitchen, before he starts at What’s On Eatery on Saturday.  I chose the Foie gras with apple, excellent, but pricey as a starter at R140.  My son enjoyed his Duck risotto (R125).  The Rose sorbet no longer is dark pink, as photographed above, and doesn’t taste as amazing as I remember it. Service efficient but functional, and the personal touch has gone. Excellent Andreas Shiraz 2008 now my favourite Shiraz.  Sad to see us being only one of two tables.  Despite being told in early days that all wines on the winelist are available by the glass, the limit is that only bottles under R300 may be opened for wines by the glass.

Dash Restaurant, Queen Victoria Hotel, Portswood Close, Portswood Ridge, V&A Waterfront.   Tel (021) 418-1466.   www.queenvictoriahotel.co.za (The Dash menu and winelist are now listed on the website, but the Image Gallery does not contain enough photographs to reflect the amazing creativity of the Dash chefs).

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

I had read about What’s On Eatery on Watson Street in the city centre on Twitter, with Hennie Coetzee (@Batonage) and Maggie Mostert (@BlackDelilah) recommending the new restaurant highly.  I was welcomed warmly by co-owner Trever Jordaan from the minute I stepped into the restaurant, and I felt completely at home in the elegant interior that has been created in the double story building that once was Platinum restaurant.  What’s On’s promise is “Food l People l Passion”, with a ‘fusion of family & friends’, and this is what I experienced last Friday evening.  It offers very good value food (the starters and desserts in particular) and wines.

Watson Street connects Bree and Loop Street, one block from Buitensingel Street.  I found parking easily, and a canopy identifies the eatery, and what it stands for.  One enters the attractive light grey Deli and Breakfast space, which doubles up as the bar, with wines stored on shelves, and a glass counter containing salads, pies and sandwiches during the day, with croissants, cakes, pastries, and other sweet bakery treats available too.    Trevor led the way to the restaurant upstairs, and showed me the private dining room, which can be used for functions with up to 10 persons.  The restaurant has ten tables, and the walls are a stronger grey colour.  There are lovely wooden floors, interesting paintings by Joseph Lucaks, beautifully upholstered chairs, and wallpaper on some walls, all creating a warm, homely and elegant space.  One wall has quirky-shaped mirrors on it.   Trevor and his partner clearly have a good decor hand.  The highback chairs are attractive, and reminded me of those at La Mouette – in fact the hearty welcome was reminiscent of La Mouette when it first opened.  The light was soft, created with a mix of candles, lamps and modern downlighters.  The tables have a white table cloth, and the white serviette had a silver pattern running through it.  Glassware is good, the cutlery is by Maxwell Williams, and the food is served on white plates and bowls, some of them not holding the cutlery, in that they slide into the plate, a common restaurant problem.  A Woolworths salt and pepper grinder are on the table, as was a vase with real roses.   What made an impression in being so unusual yet clever was a card with “Thank You” lying on the serviette, continuing as follows: “…for sharing our dream…please spread the news to family & friends and join our facebook group on our website…”.

Trevor is a most amazingly warm person, who clearly loves people and his new restaurant.   He was hands-on throughout the evening, asking for feedback continuously.  He was receptive to hearing my opinion and suggestions, and I was impressed by his positive reception thereof, and his immediate implementation of changes.  He joined Twitter immediately and is planning to start a blog too.   Trevor was previously a guest house owner, and that is probably why we connected so well.   His goal is to make his guests feel at home, as if they are visiting his home, and he wants to get to know his guests better, as he does not want any ‘strangers’ in his home, he said.   Trevor’s partner and co-owner is Chris Mears, but is not involved in the running of the restaurant.   I was served by Nina, previously with Col’Cacchio in town, and she was friendly and looked attractively dressed in a white shirt and black slacks, with a branded apron from Vrede & Lust.  Uri from Jardine, which closed down at the end of February, now works at What’s On.   The chef is Kerin D’Offize, previously with the Foodlovers’ Market in Claremont and Harbour Rock in Hermanus. 

The menu, winelist and bill holders have the same blue-green cover, with branding in white.   The pages are neatly affixed to the cover, but can be easily removed when any pages have to be updated.   Nina brought  a plate of delicious freshly-baked olive bread to the table, which was more-ish.  I ordered the duck liver parfait, served with morello cherry sauce and garlic crostini (R40).  I felt that the garlic and parfait were fighting each other, the garlic being overpowering.   The cherry compote was an unusual but good marriage with the parfait.  Other starter options ranged in price from R35 – R 45, and included braised leek and gorgonzola tartlet, springbok bobotie spring rolls, smoorsnoek and feta crepes, black mussels, and baked camembert fondant.  Unusual is that all salads can be ordered in half-portions too, at R 40 – R60 per half portion, and R60 – R80 for a full portion, probably meant to be shared.   Interesting sounding salads are the rooibos-smoked chicken salad; steamed prawn and baby calamari salad; and biltong, mango and feta garden salad.    I was surprised when a complimentary wild mango, mint, melon and vanilla pod sorbet palate cleanser was served.  I loved the taste combination, and never eat mango usually.

The Beef Wellington main course I ordered had porcini mushrooms, garlic and bacon in the pastry casing, but no chicken liver paté (R135).    It was served in two halves, the fillet perfectly prepared medium rare as ordered, with roasted beetroot ‘chips’, mash and butternut.  It was served with a green peppercorn Bordelaise sauce, which I found too sharp and salty.  Other main course options are oxtail, line fish and calamari, confit of lamb rib, roulade of chicken and spinach, venison fillet, sole, rib eye steak, tiger prawns, ostrich burger, and a grilled wild mushroom risotto, ranging from R 85 – R145.   Side dishes are available at R15 each.  I didn’t have a dessert, but the options are a chocolate and hazelnut fondant, a trio of sorbet, crème brûlee, chocolate truffle and espresso tart, and honey and almond cheesecake served with basil and chilli ice cream, ranging in cost from R40 – R50.  I had a foamy cappucino (R17), made with Tribeca coffee, and I liked Trevor’s description of the foam looking like a meringue!

The winelist is introduced as follows: “This list has been prepared to showcase the very best wines to complement our culinary concept.  We constantly search and hand-pick the perfect selection of wines so that you, as our guest, experience ultimate wine and dining at What’s On”.   The list specifies the regions from which the wines come, but there are no vintages for most of the wines listed.   The wine-by-the-glass choice is restricted to one white and one red, and my recommendation to Trevor was to expand the selection.  I had a generous glass of Vrede & Lust’s Boet Erasmus Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot blend, at R45 a glass/R265 per bottle, and I was allowed to taste the wine first.   I am not one for blends usually, but this was an excellent wine.      The white wine-by-the-glass is Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc (R35/R140).   Sparkling wines include Graham Beck Brut MCC (R185) and Boschendal Brut Rosé (R195).  Shiraz options are Brampton (R100), Graham Beck (R135) and Bernard Series Basket Press (R215).  A number of ‘cellar selection’ wines are also available, such as Kanonkop Pinotage 2008 (R440), Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2006 (R565) and Hamilton Russell Chardonnay (R475).  Corkage costs R30.    

Breakfast choices include French Toast; omelets; flapjacks; oats; muesli, fruit and yoghurt; and a cooked breakfast, none of these choices costing more than R32.   Lunch options include a variety of fillings on ciabatta (R39 – R55), salads (R45), beef fillet (R65); prawn, chorizo and saffron risotto (R65); chicken breast (R48); and chicken roulade (R55).

The bill says “Thank you for visiting us at What’s On.  We look forward to have you back ‘home’ soon”.  It is so refreshing to see a restaurant thanking its clients on arrival and on their departure.  I felt at home, and Trevor has found an opportunity to ‘chat’ by e-mail almost every day since I went to What’s On, and he is a strong relationship builder, something many restaurants fail at, taking one’s custom for granted.  As I did for La Mouette when they first opened last May, I spent time with Trevor to run through Social Media Marketing with him subsequent to my dinner.

POSTSCRIPT 19/5: Food bloggers and clients of What’s On Eatery were invited to try out the new winter menu this evening – two courses cost R125, 3 courses R150.  One can also order off the menu, at R 39 for a choice of nine starters (including grilled brown mushrooms – left, stuffed calamari tubes, tempura snoek and prawn); R98 for one of eleven main courses (including Duck la orange – right, Coq au vin, Beef Wellington, Beef fillet, Karoo lamb shank); and R40 for one of five desserts.  The winter menu is good value for money, and the portion sizes are very generous.

POSTSCRIPT 16/9: Exciting news is that Chef Oliver Cattermole from Dash Restaurant at the Queen Victoria Hotel will start as Chef at What’s On Eatery from 1 October.

What’s On Eatery, 6 Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 422-5652.   www.whatsoneatery.co.za (The homepage on the website has attractive food photographs, which will make one want to come to What’s On Eatery, but these are not carried over to the Image Gallery, which has more photographs of guests than of the food.  The menu is on the website). Twitter @WhatsOnEatery.  Deli open Monday – Friday 7h30 – 16h00.  Restaurant open Tuesday – Saturday evenings.

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

We have written about Crush!1, Crush!2 and Crush!3, Michael Olivier’s digital food and wine magazine, which he launched last year.   As other publications are being launched which embrace food and wine, both digitally and in print, I chose to evaluate Crush!4 against its competitors, putting myself in the shoes of a food and/or wine marketer, deciding where to spend a marketing budget, and as a food and wine lover, deciding where to spend my time reading.   I evaluated Winestyle, TASTE, and Crush!4, all three magazines focusing on food and wine, with a Postscript on Crush!5.

Winestyle

The first (Summer) issue of Winestyle was sent to subscribers (note one does not pay to receive the magazine) in December, and its concept is a most creative and environmentally-friendly “print on demand” one.  This saves the publishers from over-printing, saving paper and costs, and ultimately the environment.  It is published quarterly.  What makes it unique is that a weekly newsletter is sent by e-mail to each subscriber, updating them on food and wine news.  While the brand carry-over is not strong in terms of the banner design of the newsletter (initially I thought the newsletters were from wine consultant Nikki Dumas, who has a similar company name).   This builds brand awareness weekly, and bridges the quarterly print publishing period.

The 88-page magazine is larger than the standard A4 size, and has an attractive cover, although it is not photographed in a vineyard.  The paper quality is outstanding, as is the photography.  Editor Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright is from Warwick wine estate originally, where her mother Norma and brother Mike make excellent wines, and this makes Jenny well-connected to the wine industry.  In her editorial Jenny writes: “It is our intention to help everyone make full use of every wine-drinking day …. it’s your passport to all things enjoyable, to in-the-know wines, delicious and simple-to-prepare food and accessible travel – all in a large, sexy, glossy, collectible magazine”.   The theme of the Summer edition is celebration, and therefore champagnes and sparkling wines are predominantly featured.

Advertising support is impressive for a first edition, and reflects the confidence of the advertisers in the publication, and wine estates Graham Beck,  Glen Carlou, Clos Malverne, Kleine Zalze,  Nederburg, Highlands Road Estate, OBiKWA, Creation, Eikendal, Adoro Wines, Muratie, and Morgenhof have taken full-page ads.  Jenny anticipates having 2500 subscribers by the time the next issue is launched in March.

The editorial content includes a focus on sparkling wine producers in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, including JC le Roux, Simonsig, Villiera, Morgenhof, Cabrière, Graham Beck, Anura, and Sterhuis, and recommends accommodation and restaurants in the area.  A profile on a very casual looking Jean-Philippe Colmant, making excellent bubbly in Franschhoek and importing champagnes, is written by Cape Talk’s John Maytham.  A travel feature focuses on the Champagne region, which is informative and has beautiful photographs.  A food feature focuses on Tapas, with short recipes, and amazing photography by Christoph Heierli.  A Restaurant feature recommends places offering ‘alfresco dining’ in Johannesburg, Durban, the Winelands and Cape Town.   A feature on cocktails has some that call for sparkling wine. The results of a wine-tasting, a panel comparing South African sparkling wines Silverthorn, Colmant Brut, Villiera, Jacques Bruére, and Simonsig, with champagnes Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger and Tribaut Brut Tradition, are featured.  Joint first winners were Silverthorn the Green Man Brut and Tribaut Brut Tradition.  A tasting panel evaluation of the 2010 vintage Sauvignon Blanc of Groote Post, David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner, Neil Joubert, Arabella, Sophie Terblance, Delaire, Diemersdal, Klein Constantia, De Grendel and Du Toitskloof ranks them in this order.  An article on cigars concludes what must be the most excellent food and wine publication available locally now.

I cannot wait for the Autumn edition.  I do recommend that there be more synergy between the magazine and the newsletter as well as its website in terms of branding and design.  Of the three magazines reviewed in this blogpost, Winestyle is the best by far, and we congratulate editor Jenny on this achievement for her maiden issue.

TASTE

Woolworths’ in-house magazine is written and published by New Media Publishing, and they have regularly won ADMag and Pica Awards for Customer Magazine of the Year for it, most recently in 2009.   It costs R20,95, is published monthly, and is sold in outlets other than Woolworths too.   It is A4 in size, with 134 pages, and does not have a statement to describe what it stands for, but its cover photograph represents food.  Wines appear to be a secondary focus.  The editor is highly regarded Sumien Brink, with Abigail Donnelly ably at her side.

Advertisers are a mixed bunch, including car retailers, liquor brands (Darling Cellars, Krone, Bombay Sapphire, Veuve Cliquot, Brand House), watch brands, kitchen suppliers, decor brands, food brands (Lancewood, Lindt), investment companies, a restaurant (Cape Town Fish Market), and accommodation, most of the brands not sold by Woolworths at all.

The editorial content of the December issue includes a Trends feature, and food related trends are featured with beautiful large photographs by Lee Malan and Jan Ras.  Where recipes are featured, they are short and sweet, and do not dominate the look of any page (something competitors House and Leisure Food can learn from).  A Foodstuff feature focuses on products that are sold at Woolworths, but most are non-branded items, and the Woolworths link is very low key. It even has an interview with and one done by Andy Fenner, who writes the JamieWho? blog, a contributor to Crush! issues 2, 3 and 4, but he has withdrawn his support, probably due to his new (not yet clearly defined) involvement with Woolworths, and not wanting to be associated with his friend David Cope’s disparaging Twitter campaign against ourselves, in retaliation to our review of Crush!3.   A chicken feature by man-of-the-moment Justin Bonello, a fish focus by Sam Woulidge, a canapé feature by Mariana Esterhuizen of Mariana’s, a feature on Dewetshof by Woolworths wine consultant Allan Mullins, and a feature on Oded Schwartz of Oded’s Kitchen and his relishes, chutneys and preserves, follow.  Christmas recipes are featured, but are few in number.  Restaurants featured are the fabulous Babel on Babylonstoren (next door to Backsberg), and the heavenly Hemelhuijs.  Blueberries are featured, with recipes, as are Summer lunch recipes.  An exclusive extract from Australian Bill Granger’s receipe book “Bill’s Basics” is featured.  A travel feature by Judy van der Walt focuses on the Dordogne region, and the magazine ends off with a month’s worth of recipes for snacks, lunches, tea time, and suppers.

I hadn’t bought a TASTE magazine for a while, and remembered it to be more attractive and impactful.  The focus may be too much on recipes, and too little on wines.   The features are written by good quality journalists, and could possibly be expanded.   I liked the way Woolworths as a brand is not ‘in your face’ when reading the magazine – in fact I wouldn’t have minded more direct brand-linkage, to know what to look for when next I shop.  There are so many organic and other quality suppliers to Woolworths of fruit and vegetables and other foods, as well as of wines, which could all be the subject of features, not necessarily linked to recipes only.  A “new Woolworths products” feature would be welcome.  For a marketer, TASTE would be an important advertising medium to consider, given its association with Woolworths, and the profile of the Woolworths shopper, with a reasonable disposable income.    There is little carry-over between the magazine and its website.

Crush!4

The digital food and wine magazine Crush! has no print partner, and is haphazard in its publishing frequency. On Twitter the editorial team hint at how busy they are in doing work for the publication, but on average it appears to take them two months or longer to publish a new issue.  The arrival of the new magazine is announced on Twitter and by e-mail, as one has to subscribe to receive a link to it, and is free of charge.

Crush!4  has 44 pages and was published early in December.  It appears to have lost its restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, and Olivier has taken over writing the restaurant reviews, something we suggested in one of our earlier Crush! reviews.   We are delighted with another of our recommendations that Olivier adopted, which was to let (lady) bloggers participate in his magazine, and he has done so by giving highly regarded blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs from Scrumptious blog a recipe feature, and he has introduced a recipe competition, in which the recipes of bloggers Colleen Grove, Jeanne Horak-Druiff, Meeta Khurana-Wolff and Nina Timm can be evaluated by readers.

The navigation of the pages, and more particularly the content on each page, remains tedious. The front cover looks better, the copy on top of the photograph being easier to read, but it is not yet perfect, especially when one compares the ‘less is more’ covers of the two other magazines above.  Most flashing gimmicks have been removed from the front cover, and have largely been discontinued.   Advertising support is poor, and appears reduced relative to previous issues, and compared to the two other publications above, with only Hidden Valley, Pongracz, Laborie, Old Mutual and Ultra Liquors advertising.

The content consists of a wine page written by Olivier, and features premium brandy cocktails, a vineyard dog, wine finds, a wine myth and an overview of Sauvignon Blanc.  The Essentials page, as before, has products with poor brand recognition, but the names are typed alongside each product.  A Plaisir de Merle feature is a good promotion for the wine estate.  The recipe pages by Jane-Anne Hobbs have fantastic photography done by herself (perhaps she should become the Crush!photographer!), but I could only get to see three recipes (soup, dessert, gammon) – I am sure there were more, judging by the six bottles alongside the opening recipe, and Olivier recommends a wine per recipe.   The names of the wines are not typed alongside the bottles.   The JamieWho? page by Andy Fenner is blocked by a Laborie promotion box, still has silly moving balloon captions, and focuses on Absinthe, Champagne, Hangover Cures, Jardine’s Christmas cake,  and Christmas cocktails.  In two of his mini-stories the copy ends mid-sentence.  The review of Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren is blocked by a competition box, and one does not know how to close it.  Restaurant names at the bottom of the Babel article are harder to read on the right hand side, especially ‘Cafeen’.

A seven-day recipe card feature by Carey Boucher-Erasmus (a food consultant to the Pick ‘n Pay Cookery School, according to Google) is easy to follow and read, but no information is supplied about who Carey is.  There is no consistency in the colours used for the names of white and red wines alongside the bottles, the white wine names typed in blue (High Five) or in green (Quaff Now).   Sophia Lindop does great food features, but has used herbs in the last two issues (rocket in the current issue and rosemary last time), making it hard to see dishes prepared with these, and thus to have attractive photographs, even if they are photographed by star photographer Russel Wasserfall.   David Cope outs himself as a guest house reviewer, of South Hills, presented on a messy red and white check background which is similar to that which he uses on his ‘The Foodie’ blog.  A summer picnic spead looks good enough to eat off the screen, and is prepared by Luisa Farelo, but there is no indication as to who she is (I could not find any information about her on Google).  The focus on Parlotones wines, named after the group, is fun in having their music videos, but I did struggle to get one to play properly.  I also struggled to find the way to open the Prince Albert feature by Russel Wasserfall, eventually finding it at the bottom right, in the smallest possible type size.  A feature on trendy Artisan Breads tells the Knead story, with colour photographs, and mentions the names of only five other artisanal bakeries around the country – there are that many others in Cape Town alone!  Helen Untiedt’s organic vegetable garden, and a Book Review page conclude Crush!4.

My overwhelming frustration with Crush! is the difficulty of reading it, and the struggle to move forward or to close what one has opened.  The promotional boxes blocking copy remains a problem, which cheapens the magazine and is irritating to have to close.  Perhaps Olivier and the design team can look at Opulent Living’s e-magazine, only 8 pages long but published regularly – it is easy to read, has no promotions, with beautiful photographs – a top class digital magazine!   I was interested to see the Crush! blogger recipe rating, and the low participation is a surprise (the highest vote is by only 100 readers after two months), given Olivier’s claim that the magazine would go to more than 1 million readers!     If I were a marketer, I would not advertise in Crush!, as a digital magazine cannot present a food or wine brand with the appetite appeal that a print magazine can, especially given the poor pack presentation.  I would therefore love to see a print version of Crush!, as it contains lots of good information, and could make for beautiful pages of copy and photography, something one would want to keep.

POSTSCRIPT 8/2

Crush!5 was launched today.  JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) has been replaced by Neil Stemmet, a talented interior designer, and he adds an Afrikaans dimension to Crush!, with all five his recipes in Afrikaans on his “Soutenpeper” page (this is causing a problem for English readers!).  David Cope has lost his name, and is only referred to as “The Foodie”, with no red and white check background to his contributions anymore, and both his article on Paternoster, and on FoodWineDesign in Johannesburg (held in November!!), are long-winded and boring, with few attractive photographs.   Jane-Anne Hobbs (unfortunately) has been replaced by Clare Bock (owner of Appetite catering company, I learnt from Google) in a food/wine matching feature – by chance I worked out how this feature works – if you click on a wine bottle, an appropriate recipe pops up, rather than finding an appropriate wine to match the recipe!   The five food bloggers in the recipe rating section are complete unknowns.  Luisa Farelo (with an introduction in this issue – she is a chef and food stylist) does another feature, this time on Sunday lunches, and the styling is good enough to eat again.  A food and wine events calendar is a good new addition, while a classifieds section probably is not, the ads being so small that one cannot read them.  A feature on The Test Kitchen, and owner and chef Luke Dale-Roberts, is good with great food photographs, as is the one on Jordan Winery, but the labels underneath the bottles are so tiny that one may not see them.  The interview with Bertus Basson of Overture (Michael is a stickler for spelling, but misspells the restaurant name in his introduction) is weird, and probably does not do him a favour.  Advertisers are Fairview, Pongracz, Old Mutual, and Avocado magazine.

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