Tag Archives: Johan Rupert

Anthonij Rupert Wines has largest wine range in Franschhoek, introduces High Tea!

Anthonij Rupert entrance Whale Cottage PortfolioYesterday we visited the Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room, one of two tasting rooms at Anthonij Rupert Wines, which previously belonged to Graham Beck Wines, and was bought by Johan Rupert from L’Ormarins next door, to enhance his access to water.  Anthonij Rupert Wines has five wine brands, and 25 sub-brands, the largest range in Franschhoek, to our knowledge.   Our invitation via PR consultancy Smart Communications & Events was to see the new tasting room and to try their new High Tea.

It was a grey wintry day, and the lit fire in the lounge was welcome and made the room cosy.  Hospitality Manager Gidi Caetano, whom we know from her days as Manager of Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, and then as GM of  the previous French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, explained the tasting room and company structure to us while we enjoyed the treats from the three tier High Tea stand, Anthonij Rupert High Tea close up Whale Cottage Portfoliowhich consisted of scones, cream and jam, chocolate cupcakes, and candied orange and gooseberry tarts, prepared by Chef HW Pieterse  and his team, beautifully decorated with rose buds, lavender, and pansies. We were served The Wellness Group teas,  with its tea leaves in muslin bags.  A range of flavours is available.   One can book the High Tea with 24 hour notice, and organise a tea party to celebrate a special birthday, anniversary, stork tea, or just a special spoiling. Anthonij Rupert Cutlery Whale Cottage Portfolio The High Tea will usually include smoked salmon blinis, and cucumber, dill and horseradish sandwiches too.  The treats offered change regularly, and could also include orange infused koeksisters, mini chocolate and hazelnut mousse pots, chocolate salami, and red berry tarts.  Gidi told us about the herb garden growing alongside the manor house, with 32 medicinal (for educational use) and cooking herbs, the latter used in the food preparation on the estate.  It was started from scratch a year ago.

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Antonij Rupert Wines opens new Tasting Room and Antipasto Bar!

It was a surprise to see that Antonij Rupert Wines (correctly speaking Antonij Rupert Wyne, as per the gates, there not being an English translation) has started operating from its new tasting room in the previous Graham Beck Wines premises outside Franschhoek, and an even bigger surprise was to discover the Antipasto Bar, which opened five days ago.

More than a year ago Johan Rupert, owner of the neighbouring Antonij Rupert Wines, bought the Franschhoek Graham Beck property, and moved into the property mid-year.  On the surface little has changed, but the tasting room has been moved upstairs to the light and spacious landing, and the Antipasto Bar has been created downstairs where the tasting room was. The security guard at the boom is much stricter than the Graham Beck Wines one used to be, and initially did not want to allow me to enter at 16h35, because they close at 17h00!  I promised to not do a tasting, and on that basis I was allowed in. It was a surprise to meet Gidi Caetano there, as the Hospitality Manager, having left French Toast about six months ago, to help set things up.  She was previously the manager of Salt Restaurant.

The Antipasto Bar seats about 35, and faces the tanks through a glass window.  It looks cosy with neutral decor greys and browns making the space look sophisticated. The Chef is HW Pieterse, who moved across when Café Dijon closed its restaurants in Stellenbosch, and was at Delaire Graff and the Grande Roche before.  The menu has a small selection of dishes, but this list will grow, Gidi assured me.  Three different olives, in three different marinades, cost R30; Artichokes marinated in thyme, lemon and olive oil cost R48; Caprese salad costs R60; Parma ham and melon costs R50; a selection of Italian cured meats costs R55; a platter with four Italian cheeses and fig preserve costs R75; artisanal bread is R20; a mixed antipasto platter R50/R85; and Biscotti costs R25.   I ordered the Franschhoek smoked salmon trout bruschetta, which was served with crème fraiche. lemon, and pink peppercorns (R60).   The restaurant will be sourcing supplies from the new L’Omarins (belongs to Johan Rupert too) organic herb and vegetable garden, and in future they will serve carpaccio from their own Wagyu cattle.  Marinated white anchovies will be added to the menu in future.  All dishes are offered with the L’Omarins olive oil, which won Silver in the recent Olive Oil awards, and the Terra del Capo olive oil range, which is still made for them by Willowcreek.  They bake their own breads, and marinade their own olives.  A new dessert special which is not yet on the menu, is Burrata, honey and strawberry, drizzled with balsamic, costing R35.

With one’s meal one can enjoy a glass or bottle of wine, very reasonably priced at mainly cellar door prices, at R13 – R21 per glass/R41 – R80 per bottle for the Protea range, R17 – 28/R59 – R115 for the Terra del Capo range, R17 – R43/R85 – R190 for the Cape of Good Hope range; and R30/R125 for the Antonij Rupert Optima.

The Tasting room opened three weeks ago, and the staff manning it looked professional, with white shirts, black pants and black aprons.  The 2013 Platter’s Guide is on the tasting counter.  The tasting offering is unusual, one tasting a choice of flights: Protea whites (Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Chenin Blanc 2011, and Chardonnay 2010) for R10; Protea reds (Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Merlot 2011, Shiraz 2011, and Reserve 2011) for R15; The ‘TDC’, which is the Terra del Capo range (Pinot Grigio 2011, Sangiovese 2009, Arne 2008) for R15; ‘The Blends’ are Protea Reserve 2011, Terra del Capo Arne 2008, and Antonij Rupert Optima 2008 at R20; ‘The Unusual’ is a collection of Terra del Capo Pinot Grigio 2011, Sangiovese 2009, Cape of Good Hope Semillon 2010, and Pinotage 2008, at R30; The Cape of Good Hope whites (Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Chenin Blanc 2010, Semillon 2010, and Chardonnay 2010 at R30; ‘Merry Merlot’ comes from the Protea 2011, Cape of Good Hope 2008, and Antonij Rupert 2007 ranges, at R40; and the Antonij Rupert range, being Optima 2008, Merlot 2007, and Shiraz 2007, at R60.  Some typos are unforgivable on this list.

Gidi shared that they are keeping the opening low key until they have completed setting up the late Mr Beck’s manor house, in which tastings of the Antonij Rupert and Cape of Good Hope wines will be done from the end of January onwards, ‘paired’ with High Tea.  The idea is to offer a ‘whole day package’ to visitors, Gidi said.

Antipasto Bar, Antonij Rupert Wines, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 874-9004.  www.rupertwines.com (Restaurant website under construction).  No Social Media. Monday – Sunday 10h00 – 17h00.

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

Franschhoek previews its MCC producers, for new Franschhoek Cap Classique Route!

Yesterday Franschhoek Wine Valley and the Vignerons de Franschhoek producing Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wines hosted a preview of twelve of their sixteen MCC producers and products, in the beautiful setting of the Le Verger restaurant at the Le Franschhoek Hotel.

The Franschhoek MCC Route will be officially launched early in 2013, we were told by new Vignerons Chairman Irene Waller, winemaker and GM at La Bri.  A full size map will be designed, for visitors to Franschhoek to use on their visits for MCC tastings. Ms Waller highlighted that the first MCC was made in Franschhoek by Achim von Arnim 32 years ago, while he was working at Boschendal, before he made his Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines in the French style on his own wine estate Haute Cabrière a few years later.  Ms Waller also explained that the Vignerons de Franschhoek has three geographical boundaries, being Backsberg on the R45, Val de Vie, and Boschendal on the road to Stellenbosch, potentially confusing to consumers wine writer Angela Lloyd felt, in not reflecting the Franschhoek Wine of Origin demarcation.

Divided into Blanc de Blancs, Bruts, and Rosés, each of the twelve winemakers addressed the writers attending the MCC Preview, and highlighted how their bubbly is made, its price, and other special product and production details.

Blanc de Blancs

*   Dieu Donné Methodé Cap Classique 2010 is made from Franschhoek vines, as  a fresh easy drinking sparkling wine for the increasing number of weddings being hosted on the estate. 100% Chardonnay.  Creamy, fresh apple, and lemon, with biscuity richness. 24 months on the lees.  Whole bunch pressed, fermented in French oak. Hand riddling and degorging. 8000 bottles produced.  R140 per bottle.

*   Pierre Jourdan Blanc de Blancs NV was presented by the youngest von Arnim family member Tamo, its Brand Ambassador.  In 1982 Achim von Arnim bought Cabrière, and in 1986 the first MCC was made, a blend of Chardonnay from De Wetshof (Danie de Wet and Achim von Arnim studying together at Geisenheim) and Pinot Noir at that time.  Now it is produced from 100% Chardonnay, 40% matured in French oak for 4 – 5 months, which brings out vanilla.  It is a perfect welcome drink, pairs well with a variety of foods, and is a perfect palate cleanser.  Tamo shared that his sister-in-law Christiane is launching new Pierre Jourdan labels soon.

*   Môreson Solitaire Blanc de Blancs NV is made by winemaker Clayton Reabow, whole bunch pressing being an important aspect of the production, he said, as is the ‘Cuvee juice’, being the first 250 litres per ton. All their production is non-vintage, keeping a reserve of four previous vintages. No fermentation or food additives make it the ‘cleanest bubbly’. 18 months on the lees. R89.

Brut

*   L’Omarins Brut Classique 2008 is made by Dawie Botha, its 2008 produced MCC not yet released, it being its first public tasting.  The bottle is label-less, embossed with JR (for Jean Roi, the first L’Omarins owner, and not Johan Rupert, we were told). Blend of 60% Chardonnay from Elandskloof and 40% Pinot Noir from Stellenbosch. 48 months on the lees, 4 months on cork. To be released in January 2013.  R100.

*   Colmant Cap Classique Brut Reserve NV owner JP Colmant (left) works with Nicolas Follet of Oenosense Consulting, a French winery consultant now based in Franschhoek.  The MCC is one of three produced by Colmant, the others being a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend, and a Brut Chardonnay Rosé.  Grapes come from nine vineyards in Robertson, Elgin, Franschhoek, Somerset West, and Stellenbosch.  42000 bottles per year.  Focus on fruit and freshness.  No malolactic fermentation.  Also endorses use of reserve wines of previous years, using 10% from previous vintage.  R130.

*   Plaisir de Merle Grand Brut 2010 is made by Neil Bester, and he explained that the Marketing department had recommended the development of a MCC, given the increasing number of weddings held at the wine estate.  The Chardonnay grapes come from the farm, while Pinot Noir comes from Stellenbosch currently, but will be available on the farm from next year.  Blend of 63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay.  Malolactic fermentation, 24 months on the lees. 12000 bottles, of which 4000 have been released. R140 – R150.

*   Backsberg Sparkling Brut 2008 is a blend of 40% Pinot Noir and 60% Chardonnay, and is hand riddled, said its marketing executive Alana Ridley.  It is made by winemaker Guillaume Nell.  Whole bunch pressed. R110.

*   La Motte MCC 2009 was presented by Edmund Terblanche, from grapes sourced from its own farm exclusively, a need that was stimulated by its restaurant Pierneef à La Motte. The Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1985 and the Chardonnay in the ‘Nineties.  60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, the blend proportion changing every year. Edmund said originally they had little knowledge of MCC-making, but learnt as they went along, experimenting with oaking. 25 months on the lees. Won Best MCC in the Terroir Awards in last two years. 3000 bottles.  R200.

*   Stony Brook The Lyle 2007 is now made by Craig McNaught, a fresh MCC blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir.  All grapes are from their farm.  450 cases produced. 50 months on the lees. Brioche flavours. R115.

Rosé

*   Rickety Bridge Brut Rosé 2010 is made by Wynand Grobler, a blend of 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Wynand joked and said he wanted to make a MCC, because he saw Achim von Arnim do the Sabrage and kiss the young ladies!  His MCC uses 10% of their Reserve wine, and is Wine of Origin Franschoek. Hand harvested. Fresh acidity, uses signe method, 3500 bottles. R115.

*   Boschendal Grand Pavillon Brut Rosé NV was presented by JC Bekker, but is made by Lizelle Gerber, saying that women winemakers are better at making MCCs.  Strawberries on nose, and cream on the palate. No barrels, no malolactic fermentation. 24 months on the lees. The back label has all the MCC terminology, JC said.

*   Morena Brut Rosé was presented by raconteur Nick Davies from Franschhoek Pass Winery, the highest vineyard in Franschhoek.  They do a ‘green harvest’, and then 3 staged pickings. Half the grapes from own vineyard, balance from Stellenbosch, Robertson and Franschhoek.  Zesty, fresh. No malolactic fermentation. 24 months on the lees. Blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir.  Nick has just returned from Champagne, and said that the international trend is to a fresher style, and that the target market is 25 – 40 year old females.  R100

La Bri will release its first MCC in 2014.  My Wyn, La Petite Ferme, Topiary, Noble Hill, and Cape Chamonix are also MCC producers on the new Franschhoek Cap Classique Route, but did not attend the presentation.

Le Franschhoek Hotel Chef Oliver Cattermole created a delicious feast of salmon dishes, an ideal pairing with the MCCs, and had prepared the salmon in various styles: Salmon and soy lollypops, Salmon California rolls with ginger and wasabi, Salmon marbles with rooibos and liquorice, Beetroot fermented salmon with mustard croissant, Salmon croquettes, Salmon pastrami on rye, Blackened salmon with “bloody orange” and vanilla mayo, and Sugar cured salmon and pain de épice sandwich.

The launch of the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route is a clever way of repackaging the Franschhoek wine estates, and will be an attraction to locals and tourists visiting what is now the most exciting wine region in South Africa, given that it is the home of the Platter Winery of the Year 2012 (Boekenhoutskloof) and 2013 (Cape Chamonix). MCC lovers can enjoy the Franschhoek MCCs, as well as those from other regions, at the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival from 30 November – 2 December.

MCC (with Chardonnay) consumption is expected to increase, with a greater focus on natural and eco-friendly wines, Woolworths’ Allan Mullins was told when he asked a question about wine trends at our lunch table, making the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route on trend!  It was unanimous at our table that the Colmant Brut Reserve was the best MCC tasted.

Disclosure: We received a bottle of MCC of our choice from the selection still available, ours being the La Motte MCC, with our media pack.

Franschhoek Cap Classique Route, Franschhoek Wine Valley.  Tel (021) 876-2861. www.franschhoek.org.za

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

Gorgeous bubbly bar bubbles with gorgeous Graham Beck bubblies, canapés and staff!

Having written about the opening of Gorgeous by Graham Beck, I was invited to visit Steenberg Hotel (also a Graham Beck Wines property) and try out the first brand-specific bubbly bar in Cape Town, a chic transformed space alongside Catharina’s restaurant.  Its staff are bubbly, the canapés well-paired with the Graham Beck MCCs tasted, and the interior is trendy.  The bubbly bar has been named after the late Graham Beck’s favourite descriptive word.

A nice surprise was to discover that Jenna Adams is the manager of Gorgeous by Graham Beck, having impressed with her friendliness at Bistro 1682, also on the Steenberg estate. She bubbles with charm and information about the Graham Beck bubblies, and was willing to search for answers to all my questions.

Guests are encouraged to sit at the counter, with a Carrara marble top, on comfortable leather bar chairs, facing the Gorgeous by Graham Beck branded glass doors.  Against one side of the wall is a constantly changing projection of gorgeous ladies across a broad spectrum, designed by Daniel du Plessis.  The walls have a glitter effect, and the ‘Paper Jewellery’ wallpaper was designed by Vivienne Westwood. The copper pendant lamps are by Tom Dixon. The design of the bubbly bar was by architect Johan Wessels and his wife Erna, who have been involved in the design of most Graham Beck property projects. Couch corners are also available as seating.

Jenna explained the seven Graham Beck MCCs as she poured them into Graham Beck branded frosted glasses, grouped as follows:

*   Non-vintage Collection (R40 per glass, R200 per bottle)

.  Brut, with light and yeasty aromas, and lime on the nose, with 15 – 18 months on the lees. Bubbly used to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and President Barack Obama’s presidential nomination.

.  Rosé, with 50 % Chardonnay and 50 % Pinot Noir, 15 months on the lees, with cherry and berry notes

.  Bliss Demi Sec, a bubbly I had not heard of before, with 49 % Chardonnay and 51 % Pinot Noir, 15 months on the lees, butterscotch, praline, and honeycomb notes, and has more residual sugar

This group was described by Jenna as a ‘palate cleanser’, to the more serious Vintage MCCs.

*   Vintage Collection (R65 per glass, R 325 per bottle)

.  Brut Blanc de Blanc 2008, with 100% Chardonnay, and 36 months on the lees, with crisp and citrus notes.

.  Brut Zero 2005, with 87% Chardonnay and 13% Pinot Noir, spent six years on the lees, with fresh green apple, baked brioche, and crispy notes, with only 2,4 gram residual sugar, with no dosage added in its making.  It was my favourite by far, and the driest of the MCCs tasted

.  Rosé 2008, with 80% Pinot Noir and 20 % Chardonnay, spending 36 months on the lees, with strawberry, mousse, and sherbet.

*   Icon (R100 per glass, R500 per bottle)

.  The Cuvée Clive 2005 is the Graham Beck MCC flagship, and is not available for tasting but can be bought by the glass and bottle, made up of 87% Chardonnay and 13 % Pinot Noir, and having spent five years on the lees.  It is only produced in excellent vintages.

One can taste flights of the Graham Beck MCCs, at R60 for a flight of the three Non-Vintage MCCs, R85 for a flight of the three Vintage MCCs, and R60 for a Rosé MCC flight.  Gorgeous to Go allows one to buy the Graham Beck MCCs to take home, at (reduced) prices: Non-Vintage Collection MCCs cost R105, also available in 375 ml and 1,5 litre bottles; Vintage Collection MCCs cost R205; and Cuvée Clive costs R450.

Catharina’s Executive Chef Garth Almazan created a gorgeous tasting platter of four savoury canapés (R95); and of four canapés and a sweet treat berry terrine, served on a modern glass plate (R110).  Each canapé can also be ordered individually: fresh Saldanha Bay oysters cost R18, and are served with lime wedges, Tabasco and crushed black pepper; a tian of cured Franschhoek salmon trout is served with poached quail egg and salmon caviar (R30); a poached tiger prawn is served with an avocado salsa, Japanese mayonnaise, pickled ginger and sesame seed salad (R30); and an asparagus and goats cheese risotto croquette is served with pickled shemeji mushrooms and  white truffle oil (R25).  The Graham Beck Brut berry terrine rests on a Valrhona chocolate foundation (R22).

The opening of Gorgeous by Graham Beck stems from the closure of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm and tasting room in winter, due to the sale of the farm to Johan Rupert.   It is planned to transform a meeting room on Steenberg into a tasting room for the other Graham Beck wines.  Graham Beck Wines Cellarmaster Erica Obermeyer is completing her 2012 white wine harvest at Graham Beck Franschhoek and her red wine harvest at a cellar in Stellenbosch.

Gorgeous by Graham Beck, Steenberg Estate, Tokai. Tel (021) 713-7177 www.gorgeousbygrahambeck.com Twitter: @GorgeousbyGB  Monday – Sunday 12h00 – 22h00

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

Graham Beck Franschhoek Cellar Door operation to continue until mid-2012, despite Rupert sale

The sale of the Graham Beck Wines Franschhoek farm to Antonij Rupert Wines, the owners of the neighbouring L’Ormarins estate, resulted from a consolidation of the Graham Beck Wines’ assets, and should not create any visible changes at Graham Beck Franschhoek for the next 15 months or so in terms of cellar door tasting and sales.  The Graham Beck brand and its wine range will continue to be marketed as before, says Graham Beck Wines Global Sales and Marketing Manager Etienne Heyns.

It was announced last week that Antonij Rupert Wines had bought the Franschhoek operation of Graham Beck Wines, the culmination of discussions that had taken place over a number of years between Johan Rupert and the late Graham Beck.  With the passing of Mr Beck last year, the sale of the Franschhoek property reached its natural conclusion.  The deal was signed last week, and is subject to certain conditions, as well as regulatory approvals.  The sale includes 452 ha of land, of which only 16 % is planted to vine, a cellar each for red and white wine production, the tasting room and other administrative buildings, and the La Garonne manor house.  The bulk of the Graham Beck wines are produced in Robertson, including their award-winning Cap Classique sparkling wines. 

The sale to Mr Rupert’s company is considered to be of benefit to both parties.  Antonij Rupert Wines’ intention with the property after the sale is unclear, and could be to expand the thoroughbred stud they already have on L’Omarins, and/or continue the winemaking under the L’Omarins and Rupert & Rothschild wine brands.  For Graham Beck Wines the sale to Antonij Rupert Wines is one of comfort, in that the farm, which Mr Beck loved, will go to someone they know and trust, that Mrs Becks’ beloved gardens will be well looked after, that the good name and reputation of the Becks will be upheld on this property, and that the estate will continue to be operated with care and consideration for the beautiful buildings and cellars on the estate. 

For Graham Beck Wines ultimately it may mean finding a new cellar door for the Graham Beck wines, in addition to their Robertson tasting room.    They have a number of options, including using Steenberg Vineyards in Constantia (a sister Graham Beck property) as the tasting room and sales point,  or even being as bold as DGB’s Brampton, and setting up shop in a town such as Franschhoek or Stellenbosch, to continue connecting with their winelovers close to Cape Town.

 While Heyns would not commit himself to a figure of the percentage of sales that go through the Franschhoek cellar door specifically, it appears to be below 10 %, by far the larger percentage of Graham Beck wines being exported.  Only a small percentage of the wines is produced in Franschhoek, and this means that the sale of the property will lead to increased production in Robertson, or perhaps even at Steenberg Vineyards. The Graham Beck vineyards in Firgrove are not part of the sale.

Gary Baumgarten, CEO of Graham Beck Wines, said in the media release that “None of the other Beck family wine interests form part of this transaction, there will be no change in the ownership of the Graham Beck Wines group, and the management of the operations of the Graham Beck Wines group remains unchanged”.   Johan Rupert, owner of Antonij Rupert Wines, said:  “The late Graham Beck was a friend of over thirty years.  We have been neighbours for decades and he offered us the opportunity to acquire the land adjacent to L’Omarins some time ago.  As a farmer, it is generally accepted that if, during your lifetime, the neighbouring farm becomes available, you are very fortunate”.  

It will be a pity to see the closure of the Graham Beck Franschhoek cellar door next year, given that it is one of the most modern and professional tasting rooms in the Franschhoek valley, and that its sparkling wines in particular are so highly regarded.   I have no doubt that Graham Beck Wines will find a creative solution to creating a new cellar door, which will allow them to continue connecting with their winelovers.

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

Merchants on Long opens as new African Design ‘salon store’

Cape Town’s finest Art Nouveau building, at 34 Long Street, has been given a new lease of life, and has opened as ‘salon store’ Merchants on Long, a most wonderful showcase not only of the architecture of 114 years ago, but also of the talent of design from Africa.

Merchants on Long belongs to Hanneli Rupert jnr, and the renovation was driven by her, with input by interior designer Graham Viney.  The walls have been left as rough stonework in places, being coffee stone walls made from slate taken from Table Mountain, the first stages of the building having been built between 1652 – 1700.  The ceilings are original Oregon Pine timber beams.

Outside the store, a collection of vintage cars from the family collection at the Franschhoek Motor Museum lined the block in Long Street for the opening on Thursday.  Two live models showed off swim and summer ware in the shop window, to the amusement and interest of shoppers passing by. 

Beautiful marine-inspired silver jewellery by  Patrick Mavros, as well as the finest leather handbags under the Okapi brand name by Hanli Rupert, and Ardmore Ceramics were on display on the opening night. In general fair trade goods as well as products made from organic materials, where possible, are sold.

To accommodate the large number of guests, all of whom had been sent personalised calligraphy invitations, and were welcomed with Mumm champagne, many of the displays were removed from the floor.  Other products that are stocked at Merchants on Long are Suno clothes hand-made in Kenya from designs originating from New York; Frazer Parfum soaps made by organic perfumer Tammy Frazer; The Letterpress Company, ‘purveyors of bespoke stationery’;  La Lesso, who make khangas in Kenya;  SAWA, making sneakers in Cameroon; LemLem clothing and accessories from Ethiopia;  Sika shoes and dresses from Ghana;  and Madwa contemporary craft and functional art.

Said Ms Rupert: “I wanted to create an environment that has the ability to transport you, it is meant to remind our visitors why the world’s bravest explorers and pioneers of the arts and sciences came to Africa in the first place”. In welcoming her guests, Ms Rupert highlighted that her merchandise will inspire job creation, helping to uplift local communities whilst highlighting the best of design in Africa.

The shop has a coffee bar, serving Fairtrade coffees from different African countries, as well as home-made cake.   African music adds to the ambiance.   Wonderful snacks were served on beautifully styled trays.

Tourists will love the quality of the African design, art and fashion experience at Merchants on Long, compared to the flood of bead items they can find on many a street corner in Cape Town, whilst locals will also be impressed with the quality and variety of design from Africa.  All shoppers at Merchants on Long will love the character of the building.

Merchants on Long, 34 Long Street. Tel (021) 422-2828.  www.merchantsonlong.com.  Open Monday – Friday 10h00 – 18h00, and Saturdays 10h00 – 14h00.

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

Introducing the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route!

Stellenbosch has always been top of the pops as far as its wine selection and quality goes (i.e. wines winning awards), but has played poor cousin to Franschhoek for many years when it comes to its restaurant status, that is until recently, when the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list included more Top 10 restaurants in Stellenbosch (Rust en Vrede, Overture and Terroir) than in Franschhoek (The Tasting Room and The Restaurant at Grande Provence).  Stellenbosch has always been the best marketed collective wine region, and was the first to introduce the Wine Route concept, which has been adopted by most wine-growing regions now.

My visit to Stellenbosch last week, to experience recently opened restaurants, confirmed my view that Stellenbosch by rights now should be called the Gourmet Capital of South Africa, not only due to the Eat Out Top 10 listings, but also in terms of the newer restaurants bubbling under.  I believe that the tourism authority should be ahead of the game, and introduce a Restaurant Route for Stellenbosch, given the wealth of its creative and gourmet talent.   It is easy to see that opening good quality restaurants on wine estates is a growing trend in Stellenbosch, and is good for business, as Werner Els told me at Haskell Vineyards, its Long Table restaurant leading to wine sales from restaurant patrons.

My recommendation for the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route is the following, based on own experience and recommendations.  It is not comprehensive.  I have added links to the restaurant listings that I have reviewed, and reviews of the newer restaurants will be published shortly.

Rust en Vrede – probably the best restaurant in the town currently, a slick operation, run by modest but talented chef David Higgs, on the Rust en Vrede wine estate.  Featured on the Eat Out Top 10 list 2009 and 2010, number 74 on 50 Best Restaurants in the World 2010 list, and Top vineyard restaurant of 2010 Great Wine Capitals in the World – read the review here.  Tel (021) 881-3881  CHEF DAVID HIGGS LEFT THE RESTAURANT ON 25 JUNE, NOW WORKING AT RADISSON’S BLU GAUTRAIN HOTEL IN JOHANNESBURG. 

*   Overture – Chef Bertus Basson is a hard-working re-inventor of his menu and operation, always looking to improve his complete package.   On the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list for 2009 and 2010.  Fantastic views from the location on the Hidden Valley wine estate – read the review here.  Tel (021) 880-2721

*   Terroir does nothing for me, I must admit, and therefore I do not understand that it is a perennial on the Eat Out Top 10 list (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 – the Terroir website does not list the awards after 2006, so some awards may have been left out!).  I have been there a number of times, and have not been excited about its menu, restaurant interior, and service.  The outside seating on the De Kleine Zalze wine and golf estate is great for a warm day.  Tel (021) 880-8167

*   Restaurant Christophe – Die Skuinshuis is the setting for this exceptional restaurant, Chef Christophe Dehosse being the hands-on owner and chef, who talks to his customers in his charming French accent, a rare treat in restaurants.  The foie gras, served with toasted brioche, is to die for – read the review here.  Tel. (021) 886-8763. THE RESTAURANT CLOSED DOWN ON 24 JUNE.

*   Delaire at Delaire Graff –  no money was spared in building and decorating this restaurant and winery building, and it houses a most impressive art collection.   Chef Christian Campbell is doing outstanding work, and his crayfish lasagne is exceptional.  Turnover of staff has reduced the quality of service  – read our latest review     Tel (021) 885-8160

*   Indochine at Delaire Graff – this is the newest Stellenbosch restaurant, and is relatively less opulent in its interior design compared to its sister restaurant.   Young chef Jonathan Heath is a star to watch, and his Asian fusion menu is sure to attract the attention of the Eat Out Top 10 judges.   He explains the menu, and the dishes when he serves them personally.  The two course special at R225 sounds expensive, but it does not reflect the amuse bouche, sorbet and sweet treats (with cappuccino) one receives at no extra charge.  The Tikka Duck Marsala starter is excellent –  read our review.  Tel (021) 885-8160

Restaurant at Majeka House –the restaurant is overshadowed by the Boutique Hotel in terms of its branding, and is not known to most foodlovers, a hidden gem in Paradyskloof, a suburb opposite the Stellenbosch Golf Course.   Its young Chef Anri Diener trained at Tokara and Delaire, and is a rising star, presenting exciting French cuisine.  The Millefeuille of chocolate mousse served with coffee meringue bars is to die for – Read the review.  Tel (021) 880-1512

*   Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine –  a mouthful of a brand name but also a mouthful in value and excellent quality, a far cry from Jardine, which he co-owns in Cape Town, but rarely still cooks at.  It is set at the end of a long road, on the Jordan wine estate, overlooks a big pond and the beautiful Stellenbosch mountains in the far distance, teeming with birdlife.  Interior functional, as in Cape Town.  Most beautiful and unique “bread” plate ever seen.   Read the review.  Tel (021) 881-3612

*   The Long Table Restaurant and Cafe – set at the end of a long road up a hill, above Rust en Vrede, on the Haskell Vineyards (marketers of Haskell and Dombeya wines), the food of Chef Corli Els is a wonderful surprise.  The restaurant interior and waiter service do not match the excellence of her food or the quality of the Haskell wines. The Papaya and Avo salad stands out as one of the special treats I enjoyed last week.   Read the Review.  Tel (021) 881-3746

*   The Big Easy – set on Dorp Street with some parking, and owned by Ernie Els and Johan Rupert, the restaurant is large, but divided into different rooms, allowing private functions.  Average food, below average service generally.  Sweet Service Award.  tel (021) 887-3462

*   Warwick wine estate – owner Mike Ratcliffe is a good marketer, and his gourmet picnics, designed by Chef Bruce Robertson, and prepared by their chef Bruce, are a great hit in summer.  Winter warmer foods available too – read the picnic review here.  Tel (021) 884-3144

*   Nook Eatery – has been operating for a year, and has developed a reputation for good value, healthy (organic where possible) and wholesome food.  Restaurant location in ‘League of Glory’ TV series, and next door to Restaurant Christophe.  Good value buffet lunch, Wednesday pizza evenings, and sweet treats throughout the day.  Hands-on owners Luke and passionate Chef Jess do not open the Eatery if they are not there themselves.  Read the review here.  tel (021) 887-7703  

*   Tokara DeliCATessen – has a buffet lunch too, very large restaurant space combined with a deli, but service poor and food quality average – read the review here.   Tel (021) 808-5950

*   Eight at Spier – the menu was designed by Judy Badenhorst, ex-River Cafe, and now running the Casa Labia Cafe in Muizenberg.  Have not read much about it, and not experienced yet.   Tel (021) 809-1188

*   Melissa’s on Dorp Street – a perennial favourite, with a limited menu and standardised across all the branches.  Fresh and wholesome foods, service not always great.  Sour Service Award Tel (021) 887-0000

Wild Peacock Food Emporium on Piet Retief Street (ex Okasie) – this is the newest eatery to open, belongs to Sue Baker and is managed by ex-Rust en Vrede front of house manager and daughter Sarah, selling deli items, a range of cold meats, imported French and local cheese, fresh breads, and has a sit-down menu as well.    Review to follow.  Tel 082 697 0870

*   Mila, The Cake Shop– this must be the tiniest eatery interior in Stellenbosch, next door to The Big Easy, but it is crammed full of the most delectable cakes and pastries.  Service not great when sitting outside.  Review to follow.  Tel 074 354 2142.

*   Cupcake – serves a range of cupcakes, but not as wide a variety as one would expect.  Good sandwiches and cappuccino, pretty square with water feature in which to sit.  No review written.  Tel (021) 886-6376

*   Umami – set in the Black Horse Centre on Dorp Street, this restaurant had not wowed me, but serves satisfactory lunches and dinners.   No review written, and I rarely hear anyone talk about it.  Tel (021) 887-5204

*   Wijnhuis – located on Andringa Street, in the vicinity of tourism outlets.  Given its name, it should be very popular in this town, and given the connection to its namesake in Newlands, and its parental link to La Perla, it should offer a lot better food quality and service than it does.  Not reviewed, and would not recommend.  Tel (021) 887-5844

  Pane E Vino – this food and wine bar is hidden to those who do not come to Bosman’s Crossing.  Owned by Elena Dalla Cia, husband George and father-in-law Giorgio do wine and grappa tastings in the restaurant too.  Good Italian fare. Not reviewed yet.  Tel (021) 883-8312 

*   Cafe Dijon – French-style bistro on Plein Street.  One experience not satisfactory due to owner not being there.  Rated by JP Rossouw of Rossouw’s Restaurants.  Tel (021) 886-7023

*   Bodega @Dornier – I have not been to this restaurant on the Dornier wine estate, and have not read any reviews yet.  Tel (021) 880-0557

*   Cuvee Restaurant, Simonsig – Interesting Cape Dutch modernist interior curation by Neil Stemmet. Excellent quality food, Simonsig wines, napery, cutlery, tableware, stemware, and service.  Read the Review Tel (021) 888-4932

*   De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Church Street – newly opened, opposite Vida e Caffe, this artisan bakery and cafe allows one to order from a list of cold meats, cheese and preserves what one wants to eat with the breads they sell.  Read the review.  Tel (021) 883- 2188  

*   Tokara – Etienne Bonthuys has left Tokara, and Richard Carstens is said to be stepping in his shoes, when his contract with Chez d’Or in Franschhoek finishes in September (he left in July already). Tokara denied that Carstens is taking over the restaurant lease.   It has now (30/7) been confirmed that Jardine’s Wilhelm Kuehn is taking over Tokara, and that Richard Carstens will be the Executive Chef.  Opened on 19/10.  Read the review. Tel (021) 808-5959.

*   Towerbosch Earth Kitchen on the Knorhoek wine estate. Lovely fairy-like setting, fantastic Boerekos feast served in bowls rather than dishing up per plate.  Read the review.   Tel (021) 865-2114.

*   Stellenbosch Slow Food Market, Oude Libertas – previously the Bosman’s Crossing Market, it moved to Oude Libertas late last year.    Good quality and often organic foods, not quite as top level and exciting as in its previous location, only open on Saturdays

*   Casparus is the name of Etienne Bonthuys’ new restaurant on Dorp Street, an amazing marriage between the cuisine creativity of Bonthuys and the interior design creativity of partner Strijdom van der Merwe.  There is no restaurant like this in South Africa!   Read the review.   Tel (021) 882-8124.

*   Johan’s at Longridge is a refreshing new restaurant on Longridge Winery, with a focus on fresh vegetables from its large vegetable garden alongside the restaurant.  Co-owner Chef Johan comes from a Michelin two-star restaurant in Holland, as does Chef Marissa.  Attentive service led by Chris Olivier, excellent food, great wines.  Read the review.   Tel (021) 855-2004 

*  de Huguenot, on De Huguenot Estate in Johannesdal, Pniel, is a superb fine-dining restaurant which opens in July, headed up by Chef Tanja Kruger, a member of the South African Culinary Olympic team.  Beautiful view onto Groot Drakenstein mountains.  Read the review.

POSTSCRIPT 17/10:  The Top 20 finalists for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards were announced at the end of last month, and the list contains five Stellenbosch restaurants (compared to only two from Franschhoek):  Rust en Vrede, Overture, Terroir, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, and Restaurant Christophe.   The Top 10 winners will be announced on 28 November.

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  Stellenbosch now wears the Gourmet Capital crown, with four Eat Out Top 10 restaurants:  Overture, Rust & Vrede (now South Africa’s number one restaurant and top chef David Higgs), Terroir, and Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine.

POSTSCRIPT 15/4:  It has been announced that David Higgs has resigned, and will leave Rust en Vrede mid-June.

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

Franschhoek’s top class on the run at L’Omarins

Franschhoek’s finest vintage cars, which are showcased in the Franschhoek Motor Museum on the L’Omarins wine estate, will be put on show today and tomorrow, when the first Franschhoek Motor Museum Concours and Time Trial takes place on the wine estate.

Sixty of the approximately eighty vintage cars, dating between 1900 and 1980, in the Motor Museum’s collection will be taken through their paces on one of three routes:  up to 50 km/hr, 70 km/hr and 90 km/hr, to showcase the pedigrees and speeds of the various vintage cars. 

The Concours will showcase Africa’s finest vintage cars, a panel of judges finely examining the detail of each masterpiece, from the upholstery, the paint, to the mechanical condition of each vintage vehicle.

The Franschhoek Motor Museum was established by Johan Rupert, in honour of his father Anton Rupert, who was an avid vintage car lover.  Anton Rupert built up a museum of vintage cars in Heidelberg in the Cape, and his son Johan moved the car collection to the L’Omarins farm, which belonged to his late brother Antonij, after his father’s passing.   More than 80 vehicles, including motorcycles, bicycles and memorabilia, are showcased in four air-conditioned halls, The Motor Museum is closed on Mondays, so that all vehicles can be polished for the visitors arriving on subsequent days of the week.

The event is so popular that most accommodation in Franschhoek has been sold out for tonight.

For further details, visit Franschhoek Motor Museum www.fmm.co.za.  Tel 021 874 9000. Buy tickets at Computicket only.

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

Restaurant Review: Waterkloof blows food lovers away

An outstanding new restaurant opened on the Waterkloof Winery in Somerset West two weeks ago, marrying a magnificent view with a deconstructionist approach to food.

The Waterkloof wine estate in Somerset West, which belongs to one of the largest wine distributors in the UK, Paul Boutinot, who calls himself the “Custodian” of the wine estate, according to its website, with chef Gregory Czarnecki in the kitchen and Julian Smith, previously from Grande Provence, managing the restaurant.  Czarnecki was previously at The Big Easy in Stellenbosch, the restaurant belonging to Johan Rupert and Ernie Els, amongst others, and left when he was expected to cook hamburgers, it is said.    He worked with 3*** Michelin chef Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton.   Waterkloof’s website states that it makes ‘slow wines’, with fermentation taking place between one to eleven months instead of the usual 20 days.

One takes a dirt track off the road to Sir Lowry’s Village, and passes an empty security hut.   Soon the road is tarred, and it is clear that one is entering Waterkloof, in that the road is neatly tarred as it winds its way up the mountain on which the winery perches.  At first one cannot see the vineyards, but they are high up, suddenly visible around a corner.  One sees the very modern “block” building almost hanging off the edge of the Schaapenberg Mountain as one drives higher and higher,  and the comparison to Hidden Valley cannot be avoided.    The winery juts out further than the restaurant does, blocking the view from the restaurant on its west side.   One’s first reaction to the wonderful view over False Bay (and the townships of Strand/Somerset West below) is of wonderment – one probably is only this high up on Sir Lowry’s Pass, but from a different angle.

As one enters the building, one is dazzled by the view.  There is familiarity, in that the inside has a lot of glass, allowing one to see the vats and tanks, as at Tokara.  What is unusual is that the restaurant and tasting room are one large open space, separated by an unusual large brown leather couch with fireplace, over which towers a massive fire extractor – one can imagine how cosy winetasting and lunch will be at Waterkloof in winter, accompanied by a roaring fire.

The occasion was a birthday celebration, and we felt lucky to have known Julian from the years of dining at Grande Provence.  He is a gentle soul, always eager to please.  His wife Mandy, also previously at Grande Provence, now co-ordinates events at Waterkloof.   He made a huge difference to the service received and information provided, some of the waiters still a little unsure of themselves. 

The Waterkloof logo of a face blowing furiously is meant to depict the southeaster, which must blow strongly from the Helderberg mountains.   The logo is proudly displayed outside the building, on the menus, on the staff aprons, and on the wine bottles.

The restaurant is buzzing and close to full.   One is offered a table inside or outside, but the outside tables with shade from the building have been taken already, and at 30 C or more it is too hot to sit in the sun.   The air conditioners cool the interior, and we are given a lovely table near the outside sliding door, and a cool breeze blows in when the door is opened.  The chairs are an unusual light beechwood with black leather seats, and the black leather theme is carried through in the menu and bill folders.

A platter of olives, hummus and bread sticks is brought to the table.  We see some rolls passing, and are brought these to the table, and they are lovely.   We are offered complimentary mineral water, a choice of still or sparkling, brought in a decanter.   The water comes from a spring on the estate.  Julian tells us that slow and organic dominates wine-making at Waterkloof.   No tractors are allowed, and horse-drawn ploughs develop the land.

The menu presents a selection of 5 starters, all costing R 60, and include ink and squid tagliatelle and asparagus risotto.  There are 7 main courses, ranging from R 95 for the pastilla of duck leg confit to R 150 for the lamb shoulder confit and baby rack.  Kingklip and Red Roman are also on the menu.  The duck comes shredded, wrapped in a (small) pastry parcel with sultanas, and 6 tiny roast potato slices, topped with a coriander foam.   It is very tasty, but the portion is VERY small.   For dessert one has 4 options, all costing R 55, as well as a cheese platter, to choose from.   Here the chef is at his most deconstructionist, in that the lime pie has separate bits of almond crumble, the lime content, topped with a tequila sorbet ball.  The rooibos tea poached apple dessert is the tiniest miniature apple balls on a plate with cabernet reduction jelly, with a ball of plain sorbet.

A special Waterkloof coffee blend of 40 % Mandheling from Sumatra, 40 % Yirgalheffe from Ethiopia and 20 % Linu from Ethiopia is roasted for Waterkloof at Lourensford, and is brought to the restaurant warmly roasted.

We were told by Julian that the Waterkloof wines are made to suit a European palate, and therefore the Waterkloof Circumstance Shiraz 2007 was a disappointment, being very light-bodied – it tasted like non-sparkling grape juice with alcohol.   Only Waterkloof wines, with their Circumstance and Peacock Ridge secondary labels, are included in the menu cover, but they do appear to have other wines in stock, e.g. the Steenberg 1682 bubbly, as Waterkloof does not make a bubbly.   The owner wants to sell his wines first and foremost, and therefore these are the only wines offered.   The wines range from R 91 for a bottle of Peacock Ridge Sauvignon Blanc (R 23 per glass) to R 245 for the Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc.   All wines in the range are decanted three hours before the dinners and lunches, to allow them to breathe.

The newness of the restaurant and its staff was most visible when we asked the waiter as well as the friendly Maitre’d to explain what each element of the dessert was, but both said they did not know, and that the chef had not yet had a chance to explain the menu to them!   Our waiter had a very shaky wine-pouring hand, and messed some as a result.   His Lithuanian colleague was very professional, and clearly far more experienced.  Julian came to the table regularly, and made a big difference to the service satisfaction.

The total cost of two mains, two desserts, a cappucino, 2 glasses of red wine, 2 glasses of Steenberg Brut and the sparkling water was R 402. 

Waterkloof restaurant, tel 021 858 1491, off Sir Lowry Village Road, Somerset West,  www.waterkloofwines.co.za

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

Restaurant openings bright light in gloomy recession

Restaurant closures seem to have ground to a halt, the last being the final liquidation of celebrity chef Conrad Gallagher’s Geisha Wok in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, and his Sundance coffee shops.   His departure from Cape Town and his shady business dealings have also influenced the operation of Crepe Suzette and Bouillabaisse in the Rockwell Centre in De Waterkant, which opened on the basis of Gallagher setting up an Epicurean Food Market on the ground floor, around the two new restaurants.   This deal fell flat earlier this year already, just as the restaurants were moving into the building.

Last month Reuben Riffel opened his second Reuben’s restaurant, in the new Small Hotel in Robertson.   Nook is the cutest ‘cosy eatery that specialises in homemade pastries, cakes, sandwiches and a wide variety of daily specials’,  that also opened last month in Stellenbosch’s Van Reyneveld Street, where the Greek Kitchen used to be.  The owners Luke and Jessica are young, and this is their first restaurant venture.  They are refreshing in the way they connect with their clients, and understand customer relationships. 

Last week Portofino opened where the Showroom used to be in De Waterkant, by fun and hands-on owner Cormac Keane with chef Stephen Kruger, previously working with Richard Carstens, in the kitchen.   See the review on this blog.

Yesterday the 12th branch of Doppio Zero opened on Somerset Road, Green Point, in a lovely renovated Victorian building with modern lighting, and is fantastically positioned opposite the Green Point stadium. Doppio Zero is a franchise operation, which has an impressive website that is upfront about what the company stands for.  Its promise is “to consistently deliver beyond your expectations”.   The company’s vision is to be a “leader in our industry and in the market in which we trade, and to imprint the Doppio experience in the culture of our guests.”   Its mission is to ensure that guest satisfaction is “number 1”, to offer staff growth opportunities, to offer uncompromising best quality food, service and people, to develop lasting relationships with guests, to continuously improve, and to make a “fair profit.”   Its values are passion and enthusiasm, integrity and honesty, an unconditional commitment to the brand, and individual responsibility and accountability.  These are strong words, and one hopes that the company can keep its promises, especially as they are stated so publicly.

Bruce Robertson’s Showroom Cafe and The Quarter on Long Street are doing well, and he was bubbling last week about four restaurant openings he is consulting on, all scheduled for October.   October also sees the opening of Vanilla, owned by the Newhouse father and son duo from Tuscany Beach in Camps Bay, in the new Cape Quarter building on Somerset Road.   Cru Cafe will also open in the center.

Kathy and Gary Jordan from Jordan Wines in Stellenbosch will also open a restaurant for light lunches in October, on their wine estate, reports The Sunday Independent.   Critically, they comment:”Too many people chase Michelin stars, but I am not a fan of that system.  To win those stars, you have to throw away your food from one sitting, and start again in the evening.  To me, it is just a waste.  It adds a huge cost to the restaurant bill.  Almost all the food rejected is still perfectly good.  I can’t stand seeing food wasted.”  Their restaurant will “offer simple, well-cooked, wholesome food”.  The Jordans are co-owners of the High Timber restaurant in London, with Neleen Strauss, and “a significant percentage” of the 40 000 wines in the restaurant are Jordan wines. 

The Waterkloof wine estate in Somerset West, which belongs to one of the largest wine importers in the UK, Paul Boutinot, and who calls himself the “Custodian” of the wine estate, according to its website, will open its restaurant in November, with chef Gregory Czarnecki in the kitchen and Julian Smith from Grande Provence managing the restaurant.  Czarnecki was previously at The BIg Easy in Stellenbosch, the restaurant belonging to Johan Rupert and Ernie Els, amongst others, and left when he was expected to cook hamburgers, it is said.    He worked with 3*** Michelin chef Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton.   Waterkloof’s website states that it makes ‘slow wines’, with fermentation taking place between one to eleven months instead of the usual 20 days, and it would be excellent if its new restaurant embodies “slow food”.

Little has been said or written about maze and Nobu locally lately, and one wonders what the effect of the poor reviews Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in the UK got in the 2010 edition of The Harden’s restaurant guide will be on the local restaurant in the OneandOnly Cape Town hotel.  According to a report in the Daily Mail, the guide has placed four of Ramsays’ restaurants on the “10 most disappointing restaurants” list.    Three of the restaurants also featured on the ‘most overpriced’ list.  The author of the guide, Richard Harden, said of maze and of Ramsay that it is suffering from “imperial over-reach” and feels that ‘it has deep-seated problems’.   Harden continues about Ramsay: “He wants to be an international film star and be accorded Beckham levels of international fame yet he wants to run this internationally recognised group of restaurants.”   Ramsay’s profits fell by 90 %, according to the report, in the last year, and received negative feedback when it was discovered that some of his restaurants serve mass-produced food, prepared off-site and delivered to the restaurants.

Word about Stellenbosch town is that Etienne Bonthuys will not be at Tokara restaurant in the Helshoogte Pass for much longer.   He is opening up a new restaurant in Stellenbosch later this year, it is rumoured. No doubt Tokara owner GT Ferriera will look for a heavyweight chef to counteract the competition from Delaire Graff across the road.

A late-comer to social media marketing is Le Quartier Francais, which announced with fanfare that it was starting a blog at the beginning of this month.  It has only posted two posts, of which one has already been removed again.   Perhaps the owner does not know that a blog needs a dedicated commitment to regular posting to be credible and to help with search engine optimisation.

Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com