Tag Archives: Kent Scheermeyer

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 2/3 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Mark Shuttleworth may be the large Moyo investor who has forced the restaurant group to be placed under business review.

*   The 17th Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, with 10000 delegates, will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 7 – 10 December.

*   Warwick Wines has added its Twitter handle @WarwickWine to its corks, in anticipation of the New York Stock Exchange listing of Twitter. (received via media release from Hazell PR and Wine Consultants)

*   Nick Compton, editor of design magazine Wallpaper,  is running a Twitter competition, requesting photographs of the best of South African art and design, to tie in with World Travel Market (WTM) this week.

*   The Kimberley Diamond Cup world skateboarding championships have just been held in Kimberley.

*   Cape Town has been named Africa’s Leading Meetings and Conference Destination, and its The Westin Cape Town the continent’s Continue reading →

Tony Leon charming beyond expectation at Buitenverwachting book launch lunch!

Despite having attended the Wordsworth launch lunch of Tony Leon’s book ‘The Accidental Ambassador: From Parliament to Patagonia‘ at Myoga about a month ago, I accepted Buitenverwachting PR Consultant Sandy Bailey’s invitation to attend Leon’s talk at her Thursday Club lunch at Buitenverwachting, not having been there for a while. Leon delivered on eloquence in speaking, as he does in writing, and he proudly shared that the lunch was the 22nd launch function for his new ‘best seller’ book, the first 6000 copies almost having sold out, and the book being in reprint already. Continue reading →

Orphanage Cocktail Emporium expands, opens The Dining Room!

Earlier this week Katie and Jonny Friedman invited me to see the expansion of their Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, The Dining Room having opened in an adjacent building three weeks ago.  This is the first step of the expansion, with the Orphanage Club opening later this year.

One can enter The Dining Room directly from around the corner in Orphan Street, or via The Parlour on Bree Street, and down a flight of stairs.  The interior feel in the long rectangular space is similar to that of The Parlour, with blue and white striped upholstery on the couch seating all along the wall, and is dominated by a similar crystal and key chandelier.  The space has been cleverly used, with a bar counter, as well as an open kitchen.

The menu has evolved, and is no longer the sheet of folded brown paper, but a neatly bound menu of cocktails, wines, and food.  The food offering has grown vastly, a number of the original dishes having been retained.  The same menu is offered in the Cocktail Emporium and in The Dining Room, meaning that one can choose to eat in the relatively more quiet The Dining Room, or in the ‘clubby’ Cocktail Emporium.  The prices are good value, with none of the dishes exceeding R135. One of the new dishes is the Brewers & Union Beer Battered Linefish, which a most delicious kingklip covered in a thick tasty batter, wrapped in paper and served with crispy fries (R85).  Rui Esteves, co-owner of the brewery, Tweeted his approval of how his product has been used when he saw our Tweet: ‘Had it last night…it was good’. Katie had the new Sesame Chicken Skewers, a colourful dish (R85). The menu is divided into

*  ‘Sharing Plates’, being starter or tapas styles dishes (R50 – R85), meant to be shared with friends, including Cauli Fritters, cheese poppers, smoked snoek paté, breaded prawns, octopus crunch, spicy fish cakes, mini chicken pitas, and little lamb buns.

*   ‘Light Plates’ are meant to be eaten individually, and range from R40 – R75.  One can choose between Orphanage omelette, Gazpacho, feta and roasted butternut ciabatta or salad, corn and avocado salad, Caesar salad, and Tricolore salad.

*   ‘Main Plates’ range from R55 – R135, and include the signature crayfish on butter buns, chicken Milanese, espetadas, Quesadilla, large lamb bun, spicy meatball subs, large Wiener, Orphanage Risotto made with porcini mushrooms, Arrabiata pasta, Beef fillet Robata served with mustard aioli, springbok carpaccio, cheese slate, charcuterie, and an Orphanage Mezze platter.

*   I chose the Panna Cotta with a berry coulis from the ‘Pudding’ selection, which also offers cheesecake, a sorbet trio, and the popular molten cocoa fondant, all costing R40.  The cappuccino was made perfectly, as per my request.

Kent Scheermeyer has acted as consultant for the Orphanage house wines, the range including Chenin Blanc (R40/R150), Sauvignon Blanc (R42/R160), Chardonnay (R42/R160), Rosé (R46/R180), Red Blend (R46/R180), and Pinot Noir (R50/R195), each wine made by a different winemaker.  The Red Blend, for example, comes from Mullineux Family Wines.  An additional wine, which we enjoyed together, was Thunderchild, made for Die Herberg children’s home in Robertson, of which 5 ha on their property have been planted to vines, with the support of a number of Robertson winemakers. The wine has made by Springfield winemaker Abrie Bruwer, its maiden vintage 2008 now being available.  All the profit of the wine goes to the children’s home.

The Orphanage Club will open when they have received their licence to operate until 4h00, likely to take another six months, Katie said.  She showed me the space upstairs, above The Dining Room, which will have its own bar, and entertainers performing.  It has a terrace, with a good view over Cape Town.  Both the Orphanage Club and The Dining Room can be booked for events.

The Dining Room, Orphanage Cocktail Emporium.  Corner Bree and Orphan Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-2004. www.theorphanage.co.za Twitter: @OrphanageClub Monday – Saturday.  Occasional opening on Sundays and public holidays.

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

SA Sommeliers Association to add sparkle to MasterChef SA winner prize!

As one of the main sponsors of MasterChef SA, Nederburg brand owner Distell has appointed the recently-formed South African Sommelier Association to develop a 50 hour programme that will enhance the wine knowledge of the MasterChef South Africa winner.  This MasterChef prize is valued at R100 000, monies which will go to developing the Sommeliers Association

Neil Grant, the Chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association, and co-owner of Burrata, said that he met with Distell, and they brainstormed what the winner of MasterChef should know about wines, to complement his/her food knowledge.  As they do not know who has won, they can only finalise the exact course outline once the MasterChef South Africa winner is announced on 17 July.  The Wine education course will introduce the winner to the wine regions in the Winelands, and to the wineries of the region.  The winner will meet some of the winemakers, will be taken to eat at Eat Out Top 10 restaurants, will meet other sommeliers, will do sparkling wine tastings, will be taught how to open a bottle of wine and sparkling wine, and how to pour them.  The Sommeliers Association will also be available to the Masterchef South Africa winner on a consultative basis.

Neil will be supported in presenting the wine course for the MasterChef South Africa winner by his fellow Sommeliers Association committee members of Miguel Chan of Southern Sun, Jörg Pfùtzner of Fine Wine Events, Mia Mârtensson of The Winery of Good Hope, and Francis Krone of The Saxon.  Nederburg will provide a year’s supply of its Winemaster’s Reserve, and its winemaker Razvan Macici will conduct masterclasses with the MasterChef South Africa winner.

The South African Sommeliers Association was established in 2010 to help uplift and promote the service of wine, and its mission is “To promote a culture of fine wine, food and service excellence in Southern Africa”. The Association will offer training and mentorships to grow the professional standards. It represents the profession in this country, and liaises with similar associations internationally.  It will accredit sommeliers educated and trained by the association, promote the Sommelier profession, offer a platform for information exchange, and encourage an interest in the ‘culture of fine wine, food and service excellence’, writes Sommelier Miguel Chan on his blog.  The Executive Committee also includes Higgo Jacobs and Kent Scheermeyer.

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

Restaurant Review: Orphanage cocktail emporium key to class, quirkiness, and social responsibility!

The most unusual name for a classy cocktail bar must be that of newly opened Orphanage on Bree Street, which is on the corner with Orphan Street, a street name I had not noticed previously. I was impressed with its elegant and classy interior, unusual cocktails and other drinks, and interesting value for money food.

As I was driving to the Labia cinema last Saturday, I drove past the former Rhubarb Room space, and saw the new brown painted exterior, with candle-holders outside attracting one’s attention.  With the front door open, one could also see a massive chandelier, which runs along the length of the room.  I stopped to take a quick interior photograph, and returned after the movie, when the venue had filled up a little more, its first day of opening to the public and also the birthday of Johnny Friedman, the owner of the building and a partner in the business. Manager and co-partner Raymond Endean seemed a bit hesitant about sharing information initially and about letting me have a menu to take along for this story, but mellowed as more guests arrived and all appeared to be running smoothly.

The massive chandelier dominates the interior, almost detracting from the massive wooden bar running along the length of one wall.  On the opposite side are striped couches with coffee tables, creating sections, as well as a collection of high bar tables and stools.  More seating is available in the little courtyard, which one had not noticed before.  In the far end a DJ had set up his equipment, and played mood music, which became progressively louder, but did not overpower the conversation.  He was later joined by saxophonist Jamie Faull, and they performed together.  Jamie plays his sax on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. The staff wear amazing outfits, with waistcoats, black pants, Orphanage aprons with the key logo, and bowler hats, and are all very friendly and eager to serve.  There is low lighting, despite the chandelier, with many candles.  Cleverly the high table tops have been cut out to hold a bucket, into which a candle had been placed.  If one orders sparkling wine or white wines, it becomes an ice bucket, a clever touch, as it is space-efficient too.  A chest of drawers allows one to store one’s left over bottle for a next visit, and hence the key is the symbol printed on the brown serviettes, on the business cards, and is incorporated in the design of the menu too. The decor design was done by Inhouse architects. A large rectangular serviette contains the Inox fork and unbranded knife in a brown sleeve, with the key logo, brought to the table on a silver tray. Everything is printed on brown paper, with the key logo, and even the bill was presented in a brown sleeve. They purposely try to steer away from what everyone else does, wanting to be unique.

The first indication I had that things are different at Orphanage was when the cappuccino was served in a ‘blikbeker’, the sugar sticks being served in a smaller size.  Raymond explained that he managed Asoka Bar for seven years, and Eclipse and Caprice in Camps Bay prior to that.  The idea behind Orphanage is to go back to the time of the Prohibition, to create the feel of a ‘hidden bar’.  In deciding on a name, they were aware of their location on Orphan Street, also the home of the St Paul’s Church across the road.  A dreadful influenza epidemic swept through the region in the early 1900’s, leaving many children in the Cape orphaned.  Children would come to the church for food, giving the street its name, and Reverend Sidney Warren Lavis helped set up the first ‘orphanage for boys’ in Cape Town in 1919, called the St Francis Childrens’ Home, in Athlone. The placemat proudly shares: “ORPHANAGE are very proud supporters of the St Francis Children’s home that we derive our quirky name & rich heritage from.. because this type of tomfoolery has a social conscience too”. R15 of the ‘More Tea Vicar?’ drink of Finlandia vanilla, rooibos syrup, cranberry, and lemon, which costs R55, is donated directly to the St Francis Children’s Home. In December and January R 10 will be added to every bill, to donate to the St Francis orphanage.  The Rector of St Paul’s blessed Orphanage on its first day of opening. Raymond said that they understand that the name is controversial, as showed when we Tweeted about it.

The drinks list has a number of Orphanage branded wines, and Raymond told me that sommelier and consultant Kent Scheermeyer is helping them to source two red and two white wines, as well as a sparkling wine.  He wasn’t sure where they were coming from, but the Pinot Noir will be from De Grendel, and Mullineux will supply a red blend.  The cocktail list was compiled from a study of bar trends and 200 cocktails were evaluated. Most have a quirky name, and are served in quirky ‘vessels’ too, such as a fine Victorian tea cup.  A cucumber Martini is served with a cucumber sandwich on the side.  Interesting is that a drink is named after the police commissioner in the Western Cape, Hilton Hendricks, who arrived for the birthday party too, with his bodyguards, who (surprisingly) were very hesitant to share his first name.  Moët & Chandon costs R800, Ruinart R1000, Dom Pérignon R1800, and Krug R3600.  &Union beers, Grolsch, Peroni, and some commercial beers are available.  More than twenty cocktails, with interesting names, many related to the name of the establishment (e.g. ‘Innocent Orphan Annie’) cost between R35 and R65.

The menu will be changed every three months or so, and is restricted to only ten items at the moment. It is the domain of Chef André Hendricks, with consultant chef Mac Mulholland, who has worked with HQ, Asoka and Tank.  A kingklip carpaccio (‘Fishy on my Dishy’ – photograph right) sounded unusual, and was exceptional, drizzled with lemon and olive oil (R50).  I was less impressed with ‘Rabbit Food’, with too much rocket, and little asparagus and aged pecorino (R45). Other tapas options are Cauli-fritters (R40), ‘Crayfish Signature’ (R95), ‘Milanese Chick Chick’ (R65), ‘Octopus Crunch’ (R55), and ‘Little Lamb Buns’ (R60).  One senses that the team had great fun in coming up with the names.  One can also order platters of mezze or charcuterie (R95 each), and cheeses (R75), olives, nuts and truffle chips, or a dessert (at R35 each) of ‘pineapple thins’ or ‘Molten Coco Loaf’, which turned out to be a lovely chocolate fondant served with vanilla ice cream. The dessert and the salad were served in bowls set inside wooden blocks, again an interesting and unusual presentation.

Raymond said that they are almost purposely ‘anti-marketing’, wanting to grow their business on the basis of word-of-mouth, on the strength of their service, which was friendly and kind. I was lucky that charming and passionate co-owner Katie Friedman was at Orphanage too, and that she spent time with me to give me more background to the establishment. She has worked in marketing film production companies in the USA, and her business card describes her as the ‘House Marketeer’. She emphasised how blessed they are to have St Paul’s as their neighbours, and that they can contribute to the work that they do for the St Francis orphanage.

Orphanage cocktail emporium is a definite must-see and try, and a convenient stop before and after a night out, with ample parking at night.  It is a classy place to visit, fun and quirky, and having a drink there has a social benefit too.

POSTSCRIPT 5/4: A lovely 26°C evening, at the start of the Easter weekend, was a good opportunity to go back to Orphanage.  I couldn’t believe that it was jam packed outside, and some customers said they had come because of this review.  Co-owner Katie Friedman came to chat and thank me for the review, and told me that next summer they will do breakfast (with porridge options) and lunch too. She also said that they will be open every night of the week now. I tried their crayfish buns.

POSTSCRIPT 18/4: Talk about customer service.  On a last visit I asked if Orphanage had Bailey’s or Cape Velvet, and they told they only had Amarula.  When I went back to re-photograph the kingklip carpaccio in better light tonight, Raymond proudly showed me the Bailey’s they now stock!

Orphanage cocktail emporium, 227 Bree Street, corner Orphan Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 424-2004. www.TheOrphanage.co.za Twitter:@OrphanageClub  Monday – Sunday 17h00 – 2h00, Fridays from 15h00.

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

maze not quite a-maze-ing yet!

Since the opening of the One&Only Cape Town last week, Capetonians are coming to check out the hotel, and are having dinner at its two branded restaurants, Nobu and maze.

maze is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, the first to merge maze Tapas and maze Grills, which are separated elsewhere in the maze world.    Sol Kerzner, the One&Only owner, encouraged Ramsay to add a South African touch to the menu.   The touch is most visible in the dessert menu.

But, to get to the beginning.   We had dinner five days after the opening day.  We were greeted with confusion as to what we should do with the car.  Mistakenly we had assumed we could just drive in at the low key entrance (at night), and a lit up One&Only sign was the only branding one saw upon entering the grounds, surprising for one of the world’s leading hotel operations.   The car problem was quickly solved, when it was valet parked, organised by a most impressive looking and charming doorman, wearing a waistcoat with leopard print over his smart black suit – it looked superb.   Unfortunately this dress theme was not carried through once one steps inside the foyer.  One’s first impression is the stunning chandelier in the Vista Bar.  The Bar has a magnificent view onto Table Mountain in the day, but it is not visible at night.   Staff were on hand, proactively assisting in providing directions for the two restaurants, to the left and right of the bar.

As one comes down the staircase to maze, a manager comes to greet his guests with the reservations list, and one is quickly seated.   The menu is cream-coloured, and its cover understated, with the zen-like maze logo on the outside.   The menu pages number three in total, with a surprising small selection of starters, mains and desserts.   The pleasant surprise was the affordability of the dishes – not inexpensive, but on a par with the more expensive restaurants in Cape Town:  R 160 for a 250 gram South African or Namibian fillet, Karoo lamb at R 130, kingklip at R 90, and dessert prices range from R 60 – R 90.   All side dishes for the main course are charged extra, at R 25 – at that price, the portion sizes are small.   Interesting is that a side order of bobotie can be ordered with one’s steak or fish.   In addition to chips, one can have side orders of sherry mushrooms, mash, braised carrots, french beans, etc.    We learnt that the signature dish of maze is the beetroot salad.

Staff in the hotel wear uniforms designed by local fashion designer Jenni Button.   A strong turquoise blue is used throughout – in the waistcoats of the bar staff, the ties of the male managers, in the scarves/sashes of the female managers.   The less blue the staff member wears in the uniform, the more senior he/she is.

The restaurant interior is very brown, earthy, chocolatey and darkish, with dark woods, and oval-shaped orange lights.  With only a little tea light on the table, it was very hard to read the menu.   Special clip-on reading lights are available, but this was not communicated in advance.   Turquoise is not reflected in the decor at all.   The restaurant carpet had massive geometric blocks on it – garish, hotel-like, but fortunately one’s attention is not on the floor.   Tables for two are on the side, with one person sitting on a fixed bench, not well matched to the height of the table, making this an uncomfortable seat.    The cutlery is beautiful and new, and no table cloths or overlays decorate the tables.    The use of slate as coasters and underplates is unusual but practical.

The winelist is impressive, with 35 pages of varietals of 150 international and  450 local wines, and more than hundred wines-by-the-glass.   Irritating for a winedrinker preferring wines by variety, is the winelist that is arranged by Wine of Origin region.   So, for example, one has to check every region to find a preferred Shiraz.  Complicating this further is the Wine of Origin grouping, so that  Boekenhoutskloof will be found under Paarl, and Franschhoek does not appear at all.   The prices are reasonable – R 590 for the Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz 2006, Meerlust Rubicon is available per vintage, ranging in price from R 560 for the 2004 to R 1 850 for the 1993.

If one compares the service from the superb One&Only sommelier Steven Towler with the waiters at maze, the former wins hands-down.  His personal approach,  extensive knowledge, and ability to assist in selecting a suitable wine could not be matched by his maze counterparts.   The recommendation of a Rijk’s 2004 Shiraz, which had been enjoyed by Nelson Mandela and Sol Kerzner at their lunch in the hotel last week, was spot on, and was priced at a reasonable R 320.   After the main course, a special invitation was extended to show the customers the Wine Loft, with 6 000 beautifully displayed bottles of wine on silver racks in a glass-enclosed space, with its own tasting table, and wines cooled at 18 C.   The cherry on top was the complimentary Joostenberg Chenin Blanc sent to the table with the desserts. 

On the maze side, things were a little slow.   The crayfish starter, priced at R 65 per 100 gram, was beautifully presented on ice, with the meat displayed on the open tail.   It took an hour after the starter was cleared (2 hours after arrival) to be served the main course of a steak and kingklip.   The kingklip was very bland and boring, and served with the skin side up, not very attractive.  It had bones, which was an immediate no-no.   The steak was juicy and good, but served on a Spur-style wooden board that captures the juices.   The main course certainly was a disappointment, in terms of the reasonably small portions, and the bland display of the food, by comparison to the attractive presentation of the starters and desserts.

The dessert list is interesting, with unusual combinations, and almost overdone-South African touches (“melktert, pink grapefruit granite, lemon curd” and “malva pudding with poached apricots, gingerbread ice cream”).   The most interesting sounding dessert was the “maze peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich with cherry sorbet”.   A delectable range of sorbets (including lime, cream cheese, basil) and ice creams (including gingerbread, honey and milk, smoked salt and almond) can also be ordered, costing only R 15 for three small scoops.   The melktert dessert was disappointing, in that the milk part of it was soft and runny, and not set, as one is accustomed to in South Africa.  Ramsay’s chefs will have to learn how to make their South African dishes.  

The maze waiters are supported by local waiters, and the gap between the service levels is understandable, and will need more training to reduce.   It was encouraging to learn that former Grand Roche sommelier, and ex-Steenberg and Singita staffer Kent Scheermeyer is the Food & Beverage Director of One&Only Cape Town.

The food preparation is largely done inside the restaurant, and electric equipment is used, sounding just like a vacuum cleaner, disturbing the ambiance of the restaurant.

The bill took a long time to come, and had a price error for the crayfish, it being charged at R 500 instead of at the R 130 for the 200 gram ordered.    It took two revisions to get the bill fixed to reflect the correct amount.

The cloakrooms are bizarre, with a glass panel on one wall, and blown-up photographs of a woman’s fishnet stockinged legs, plastered on all the toilet doors.   Bins holding the toweling cloths overflowed and only two of the nine toilets had toilet paper.

maze will improve, and needs to meet the standard of the One&Only Cape Town service levels as far as the wine side of the hotel goes.    Impressive was Assistant Manager Phillip, who came to the table, to request feedback about the evening.

The car was returned promptly, and ten out of ten for the driver for moving the seat back to its original position before getting out of the car.

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