Last Saturday I had to be in the ‘Deep South’ of Cape Town, attending a media breakfast at the new Tintswalo at Boulders in Simonstown, so decided to have lunch at Stargarden Boutique Café in Fish Hoek whilst I was in that part of our city. The ‘Boutique Café’ descriptor in the name gives it away, a creative Eatery serving creative dishes. Continue reading →
Antonia Labia, Director of The Casa Labia Cultural Centre, provided a brief overview of the building, which was built in 1924 by her grandfather Count Natale Labia (later Prince Labia) as a family residence as well as the official residence of the Italian Ambassador, her grandfather being the first holder of this position in our country. The architectural style of the building is Venetian, and many fittings were imported from Italy. It was designed to impress statesmen, artists, and musicians who visited the residence. Continue reading →
I did a quick visit to Hermanus yesterday, and at a stop at Rivendell Restaurant, between Bot River and Hermanus, I was told that Chef Thomas Sinn was coming back from his overseas holiday especially to participate in a super-sounding feast, for which he is one of eight chefs cooking on Monday evening. The staff brought a copy of the programme, and I could not believe what the organisers have planned for the 11-day Festival, ‘A Celebration of South African Arts’ its 80-page Festival brochure proudly proclaims!
The programme consists of different themes: Continue reading →
* The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reacted to the additional Immigration Regulations introduced on Monday, requesting our government ‘to act in the best interests of the country and review‚ modify‚ and if necessary‚ rescind‚ the new measures if they do not have the desired effect and if they act as a handbrake on travel‚ tourism and economic growth‚ not just for South Africa — which is experiencing its weakest GDP performance in decades — but for the entire region. From a commercial and economic perspective‚ the industry is concerned that the harsh and onerous requirements South Africa has prescribed for travellers will negatively impact on the sustainability of air services‚ travel‚ trade and tourism to‚ from and via South Africa‘!
* The inaugural Cabernet Franc Carnival will be held at Avontuur on 20 June, with thirteen producers presenting their wines to taste, including Ridgeback Wines, Avontuur, Lynx Wines, Hermanuspietersfontein, Camberley Wines, Cape Chamonix, CK Wines, Doolhof Wine Estate, Druk-My-Niet Wine Estate, Mont du Toit, Ormonde Vineyards, Raats Family Wines, and Nelson Family Vineyards. Entrance R120.
Al Jarreau is the best known jazz musician who will perform at the 16th Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre tomorrow and on Saturday. The event, described as ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’, is an event that will attract about 37000 local and international jazz lovers to Cape Town. From a Jazz Festival initially, the event has grown into a ‘premier lifestyle festival’, contributing about R500 million to the economy of Cape Town!
With more than 40 jazz musicians performing on five stages at the Convention Centre over two evenings, jazz lovers can look forward to hearing artists such as Jarreau, Basia Trzetrzelewska (who achieved fame in the ‘Eighties when singing with Matt Bianco), Beatenberg, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Prophets of da City, Hugh Continue reading →
Forget Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, or even Scarlett Johansson. The star of ‘Chefs’ is Percy (played by Emjay Anthony), the 10 year old son of the main character in the movie, being Chef Carl Casper, played by Jon Favreau, the writer, director, and producer of the movie. The movie will boost Twitter, as much of it is based on Tweets sent by and about Chef Carl, as well as popularising buying from Food Trucks. Tourism to Miami, Austin in Texas, Los Angeles, and New Orleans should receive a boost too, while the image of food bloggers is unlikely to improve as a result of the movie!
Without giving away too much about the movie, Chef Carl is instructed by the restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) to cook the same old way he has done for the past ten years, despite a well-known ‘food blogger’ restaurant critic Ramsey Michel (played by Oliver Platt) coming to eat at the restaurant that evening. The blogger is described as being extremely powerful, having just sold his blog to AOL for $10 million. The reviewer looks a lot like top Cape Town Chef Liam Tomlin! Chef Carl’s son Percy had just set up a Twitter account for his dad, and when the reviewer writes a scathing review about his restaurant experience and insults Chef Carl, saying that he has gained weight from all the poor food returned to the kitchen and which is eaten by Chef Carl, he explodes, and retaliates. On Twitter he tells the reviewer what he thinks of him, thinking that the reply would only be seen by the reviewer, but of course it is seen by all his Followers. His Twitter followers increase to 2000+ overnight, and grows to Continue reading →
* SAA has received accolades from three American publications: Premier Traveler Magazine’s named SAA as ‘Best Airline to Africa’, and ‘Best Airline in Africa‘; Business Traveler Magazine honored SAA as the ‘Best Airline to Africa’; and Global Traveler magazine named SAA as ‘Best Airline in Africa’ for the 10th consecutive year, placing the airline in the Hall of Fame.
* The Mirror has an article about Cape Town, and how much one can do in a weekend break from London, visiting the Big 7 (not heard of before), which includes Table Mountain, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch, V&A Waterfront, Cape Point, Boulder’s Beach, and the Constantia Wine Route.
* The 2014 soccer World Cup is expected to generate $ 10,4 billion for the Brazilian economy. The FIFA Confederations Cup earlier this year generated $311 million, and the visit by Pope Francis generated $502 million.
* Cape Town has been the focus of media attention from around the world, for the wrong reason, as the city’s most notorious visitor Justine Sacco flew into Cape Town from London yesterday, just after she had Tweeted what has been deemed the worst Continue reading →
A chance notice about Ike Moriz performing at the recently opened The Crypt Jazz Restaurant below St George’s Cathedral last night caught my eye, and turned out to be a most enjoyable evening, with excellent music and ambiance, live jazz being on offer five evenings a week. The service was sadly lacking.
The termination of the lease of the coffee shop which previously operated in the space led the Dean of St George’s Cathedral to contact Mario Thompson, the first owner of Gourmet Burger, which he had sold on to the owners of the ex-Caveau around the corner. Simultaneously the Dean had been approached by Derk Blaisse, a jazz lover from Franschhoek, and leader of the Cape Continue reading →
The 12th Cape Town International Jazz Festival, taking place in Cape Town from tomorrow, is estimated to inject R475 million into the economy of Cape Town, to contribute R685 million to the GDP of South Africa, and has created 2000 jobs, reports the Cape Argus. The headline act is Earth, Wind and Fire, and 42 artists will perform at the Jazz Festival, half of them from Africa and the rest from other countries.
Last year the International Jazz Festival attracted 34000 jazz lovers over two days, making it the single largest event in Cape Town, said Joey Pather, the CEO of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, inside and outside of which the Jazz Festival takes place. President Jacob Zuma acknowledged the economic importance in terms of income and job creation of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival during his State of the Nation address in February.
The attendance is expected to grow when the Convention Centre expands its capacity. Sponsorship of the Jazz Festival has been under pressure, especially last year, due to the World Cup, but 95 % of the tickets have been sold to date. More visitors to the Jazz Festival are from Gauteng, with the Western Cape surprisingly having the lowest number of Jazz Festival attendees. About a quarter of all attendees are from overseas.
The spokesperson of the Western Cape Department of Tourism said that the direct benefit of the International Jazz Festival is R 43 million, spent on flights, hotels, restaurants, shopping and other expenditure. The CEO of S A Tourism, Thandiwe January-McLean, praised the contribution of the Jazz Festival: “South African Tourism takes great pride in supporting this world-class event that has helped showcase our country as a (sic) unique lifestyle and musical destination”.
Some of the acts performing at the International Jazz Festival include Youssou N’Dour, Gang of Instrumentals, Chad Saaiman, Mathew Moolman, Lloyd Jansen, Hugh Masekela, Larry Willis, David Ledbetter and the Clearing, and Bebe Winans. Some ‘concept bands’ will be created especially for the Jazz Festival, such as the ‘Tribute to Oscar Peterson’ concept band, which will consist of Jack van der Poll, James Scholfield and Hein van de Geyn, and play Peterson’s repertoire. Guitafrika is another concept band, and consists of beloved local guitarist Steve Newman, Eric Triton from Mauritius, and Alhousseini Mohammed Aniviolla from Niger. The Cape Town Tribute Band will be put together to do exactly that, paying tribute to the many jazz musicians who passed away in the past year, including Tony Schilder (‘Montreal’), Winston Mankunku, Robbie Jansen, and Hotep Galeta (‘Harold’s Bossa’). The fourth concept band includes bassist Victor Masondo, and will see him perform live – he was recently invited to perform at the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington. The ‘concept bands make the festival unique. People have the opportunity to see bands that they are unlikely to see somewhere else or in their lifetime” said Rashid Lombard, the creator and Festival Director of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town. www.capetownjazzfest.com 25 -27 March. Book at Computicket.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I have loved the Grand Café and Rooms from the time it opened in Plettenberg Bay four years ago, and I stayed in it whilst I was having the building renovated that has become my Whale Cottage Plettenberg Bay. It has had its ups and downs over this period, but seems to have lost its edge since it was taken over by new owner Sue Main, and who subsequently added the Camps Bay and Granger Bay branches in Cape Town. We were most disappointed with our last visit a week ago.
But to start at the beginning of The Grand Café and Rooms. Enterprising entrepreneur (Homework clothing) Gail Behr opened this unusual pink-painted 8-bedroom boutique hotel and restaurant in Plett. It was at the time that I travelled to Plett once a month to oversee the renovations to what was to become our newest guest house. The Grand became my home from home for a year of travelling, and I was well looked after by the friendly staff, including Steven, Sydney, Robert and Eric. The room decor is unusual, extravagant in its use of red velvet, extra-ordinarily high beds with bedside stools, and generous baths. But it was the Café part of The Grand that we loved especially, and the music collection played boldly throughout the day via an iPod compiled by Behr’s son Steven Whiteman was amazing – Mozart for breakfast, opera for late morning, light jazz during the day, Sinatra for the early evening, more jazz at night. It gave the restaurant the most wonderful atmosphere at any time of the day, and a character which I have never experienced before. To add to the charm created by the music is the Café deck, with a wonderful view over the Plett lagoon, from which one can see amazing moon rises. In early days The Grand was a meeting point of all Behr’s friends from Cape Town, Johannesburg and other corners of the world. It took a long time to meet Gail, and I was quite intimated by her initially, given quite a stern sounding set of house rules. But she was much nicer than the rules made her sound when we did finally meet.
All good things come to an end, and Behr decided to move into the hotel, and only use the top four rooms for guests, and she lived downstairs. The Café was no longer open to the public, falling into Behr’s private space, and guests were served a very restricted breakfast relative to what we were used to, in a non-view courtyard. The building was painted white, and it lost its charm. Then The Grand Café and Rooms was sold to Main, who built on the success of this brand to open first in Camps Bay (buying the building for about R40 million), and then The Grand on the Beach a year ago. It was odd to see The Grand crockery in other restaurants, such as Nguni, before it was sold to Main. One welcome change Main made was to have the building repainted its landmark pinky colour. Admirably she changed little about the decor, which also reflects Behr’s initial lush red velvet look. Main even used Adam Whiteman, another Behr son, who is an interior decorator, to decorate the Camps Bay restaurant.
One comfortable thing about The Grand Café is that its menu has not changed much over the four years, and that the prices seem to have largely remained the same too. The first problem we encountered with the nice branded maroon menu folder is that the starter and main course/dessert pages were swopped around in it. The menu does not resemble the A3 “newspaper” feel of those in the Cape Town restaurants. Our order was taken, before we were asked if we had been told about the specials by Sybil, who seemed to be in charge and who has been at The Grand from the time it opened. She sent another waiter, but he too struggled to tell us the specials, which will be on the new menu introduced this week, but that had been available to order for the past week already. Before we could not even reconsider our order, given the specials, our food was served!
The tempura prawn starter (R70) is absolutely mouthwatering, and is a signature dish. None of the other The Grand branches can prepare it like the Plett branch can, Camps Bay using shrimps which just do not match the wonderful Plett prawns. The slice of Caesar has also been a standard, costing R60 for the iceberg served with bacon, croutons and parmesan, and R80 with chicken added. The Waldorf salad costs R 55; tuna (R45) and vegetable (R35) spring rolls; salmon naan (R 75); and calamari rings cost R40 as a starter and R65 as a main. One of the problems with a menu is that restaurants take them away when one has placed the order. Only when leaving did I recheck the menu, and realise that our served calamari (crumbed calamari tubes) were not as described on the menu at all – they were not “tender” nor “rings”! Mussels and chips cost R 75, a prego roll R60/R65 for beef chicken/beef fillet. There are only five main courses, including fish and chips (R70); line fish (R95); fillet “Bernaise” (R115); and Durban lamb curry (R115), which my colleagues ordered, with super poppadoms, basmati rice and sambals of yoghurt, bananas, tomato and cucumber, and chutney. Desserts have not changed in five years, being Afagato (R35), Phina Afagato (R45), and Cake of the day (R34).
The new menu was e-mailed to me, and a new addition is pizzas, ranging in price from R70 for the Grand “Margerita” to the blockbuster Grand Seafood Pizza at R220! Sugared Salmon (R100), an old standard, is back. Oysters and cold crayfish (both SQ) have been added as starters.
The winelist has a small selection of wines per variety, but vintages are not specified. The (unspecified) house wines are offered in white, Rosé, red, sparkling, and sparkling Rosé, ranging from R35 per glass/R195 per bottle. Suzette Champagne costs R150 for 375 ml. Sparkling wines cost R 220 for Steenberg 1682, “Pierre Jordaan (sic) Belle Rose NV” R275, and Bramon Brut R265, a local Plettenberg Bay bubbly. Billecart-Salmon Rose costs R900, Moet & Chandon R800 and Dom Perignon R 2800. Sauvignon Blancs range from R95 for Glenwood, to R180 for Springfield Life from Stone. Kevin Arnold Shiraz costs R340.
The Grand Café bubble has burst in Plettenberg Bay. While it is commendable to see it still operating, given how depressed Plettenberg Bay is, the service was shocking, a regular complaint about The Grand on the Beach, but for all the wrong reasons – there were only three of four tables eating in total, and both waiters were very new and poorly trained, and one of them came with attitude too. Our calamari served was completely different to what the menu described. The trademark magical music is gone. Sadly, The Grand Café in Plettenberg Bay is no longer grand!
The Grand Café and Rooms, 27 Main Road, Plettenberg Bay. Tel (044) 533-3301. www.thegrand.co.za (the website is minimalist, quite contrary to the lush interiors, and is shared across the three Grand restaurants. Surprisingly, no menu, winelist, nor any food photographs are in the Gallery of any of the three website sections). Open for lunch and dinner Monday – Sunday for the season.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com