The 34th Cape Winemakers Guild Auction achieved a record R10,6 million in sales on Saturday, held at the Spier Conference Centre, with wines of the wine industry greats sold and bid for by top wine collectors, including a mix of hospitality and private buyers. Continue reading →
I was invited to attend the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Showcase at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Thursday evening, tasting some of the superb wines of the 44 members of the Guild, representing the best of the best of our country’s winemakers. The Auction Showcase is in preparation of the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, which takes place at Spier on Saturday 29 September. It was impossible to taste all 44 winemakers’ wines, so I have reported on those wines I tasted and the winemakers I spoke to. Talk of the Showcase was the resignation of three senior members of the Guild.
Last night I attended a Charity dinner at Locandoa at Villa 47, cooked for by Chef Theo Penati, of one star Michelin restaurant Pierino Penati in Vigano in Italy. The focus of his dinner was pork, having been brought to our city and to Villa 47 by Beretta, cured cold meat supplier to Villa 47 and to Woolworths via Rialto. Chef Theo introduced us to traditional Italian food culture. Continue reading →
Chef Mike has been at Myoga for eight years, having opened the restaurant after leaving Ginja, at which he worked with a number of younger chefs who have Continue reading →
* Cape Town has a new feather in its cap, having been announced in Vancouver in Canada on Thursday as the WWF Global Earth Hour Capital 2014. Won in competition against 163 cities, including Colorado, Chicago, Cleveland in the USA; Seoul and Suwon in South Korea; Copenhagen; Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo; Antwerp; and Edmonton and Surrey in Canada, the accolade recognises Cape Town’s actions on climate change and its focus on creating a sustainable environment in the city. Cape Town’s reduction of its dependence on fossil fuels by retrofitting the City buildings, improving the energy efficiency of street and traffic lights, the introduction of its solar water heater program, the MyCiTi Bus network, the city centre cycle lanes, and the campaign to save electricity were recognised through the accolade.
* The potentially most crippling strike ever in Germany is the threatened 3 day Lufthansa pilot strike, from 2 – 4 April. which will ground all planes of the airline.
* Europe and the UK turned back the clock to Summer time today, Europe being in the same time zone as South Africa, and the UK Continue reading →
The AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction 2014 is an inaugural exclusive, almost elitist, charity event which aims to raise monies which are to be used for educational purposes in the Winelands. It takes place at Delaire Graff Estate over lunch today, with 250 guests, half of whom are likely to travel from overseas to the Cape especially for the auction.
With an aura of a by-invitation-only attendance, Auction organiser Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick Wines invited 30 Auction Ambassadors to assist him in spreading the word about the event, to assist in raising lots for the auction, and to invite guests as bidders to the event. Ambassadors include May de Lencquesaing of Glenelly, Wendy Appelbaum of De Morgenzon, Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte, Rose and Michael Jordaan of Bartinney, Delaire Graff, Charles Banks of Mulderbosch, Paul Cluver, Jeremy Ord and Kevin Arnold of Waterford, Chris and Andrea Mullieneux and their partner ‘Anlajit’ (sic) Singh, Zelma Long and Dr Phil Freese of Vilafonte, the Buys family of Vrede en Lust, Francois Pienaar, Eben Sadie, Ryk Neethling, Jean Engelbrecht, Ken Forrester, Anthonij Rupert Wines, Lanzerac Estate, Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, and Giorgio and George Dalla Cia. One wonders why so many of the country’s top winemakers have not been involved in the Auction, the list of Auction Ambassadors clearly concentrated in Stellenbosch. Missing from the list, one would think, is Babylonstoren, Backsberg, Boekenhoutskloof, and a winery or two from the Constantia, Paarl, Wellington, Robertson, Tulbagh, and Durbanville Wine Continue reading →
Not having been to Haiku in three years, and attending a concert close by in the Old Town House two weeks ago, I booked a table at what was once my favourite restaurant. While its prices have settled, service remains a problem, unforgivable after being in business for seven years already. Food presentation was most disappointing, and the food quality has declined.
It is seven years ago that Haiku opened to hype and fanfare. It was the bees knees of restaurants, becoming cult almost immediately, helped along by the difficulty in getting a table. It won Eat Out Best New Restaurant six months after opening, a category never awarded since. Those days are long past, the arrogant waitrons losing business for the restaurant, with patrons going elsewhere to get their Asian food fix. It was easy to book the table for a Saturday night, yet when I returned from the concert the restaurant was almost full. The loud disco-style music does not match the Asian theme of the restaurant nor makes it easy for one to communicate at the table and with the waitrons, and one wonders why they need to put up the volume. I remember this as a past irritation, introduced more recently. I was interested to know how the opening of the V&A Waterfront branch a few months ago had affected business in the original branch, and perhaps predictably the waitress said it had not at all. The manager told me later that their best chefs and waitrons had been transferred to the Waterfront, so it would be worth trying this branch too. The standard of the staff was evidenced by two incidents of clanging glasses, falling on the floor and breaking, for all to hear!
I was shown my table by the hostess, booked as a table for one, only to be asked in a most irritating manner by the waiter if I was on my own. He then wanted to clear the table of superfluous dishes, rather than bring the menu. He is one Continue reading →
The opening of KOI Bantry Bay at The Ambassador Hotel has been eagerly awaited, after it was announced that Salt Restaurant would be replaced with a Gauteng-based group restaurant, KOI restaurants already operating in Sandton, Rosebank, and in Pretoria. The KOI restaurants are sister restaurants to the Wakame (with Wafu) restaurant group in Cape Town, which was founded 15 years ago, and is headed up by co-directors Stewart Bond and Rory Jossel. There are no koi at KOI, and other than a logo on a business card, there is no representation of the decorative carp in the restaurant. The website defines the KOI name as being Japanese for ‘Come, Love, Fish‘.
Always on the lookout for a good restaurant on the Atlantic Seaboard, a rarity, I was looking forward to seeing how the restaurant group would give the hotel restaurant space new life. Despite having the most magnificent location, ideal to see sunsets as it faces west over the Atlantic Ocean, the restaurants at The Ambassador just do not seem to have staying power, and neither do their chefs and staff for that matter! Some decor changes have been made, wooden grids guiding one to the end of the passage, with only one entrance now, the previous entrance to the lounge and bar area having been closed. The lounge area now is restaurant seating too, with space for a total of about 100 patrons the Manager Chris Somhohlo said. Wood dominates the decor style (Chris couldn’t remember the name of the decorator), with wooden table tops, wooden chairs with woven seats, and the woven grid theme picked up in the visual display covering an entire wall, in the new ceiling lighting, and in the lampshades too. The Continue reading →
On Saturday I was introduced to De Brasserie in Strand by Annette Beller-Sogor, whom I had met at an art exhibition recently and who lives in Gordon’s Bay. She raved about the excellence of the restaurant, and mentioned that it is owned by the Belgian wine family Van Almenkerk from Elgin. We found an unexpected European haven in a most unlikely town!
It was the most beautiful clear day, with the snow capped mountains of Somerset West visible from Beach Road. False Bay looked flat and one could even see Cape Point, the raised former Kaapzicht restaurant offering an excellent view. The restaurant exterior looks very modern from outside, but the restaurant name could be difficult to read, being partially blocked by beams. In smaller type size it states ‘Est 2012 by Almenkerk’, which one cannot read from the road. Having booked last minute, we were seated at the bar counter first, but were promised a table as soon as one became available.
De Brasserie is Joep van Almenkerk, who is a most amazing host, friendly, attractive, charming, attentive, and he makes one feel that he knew what was happening at each table, and that he made every Continue reading →
Newly appointed Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards international judge Bruce Palling left Cape Town on Monday, ‘after stupendous fortnight of feasting and tasting in South Africa…’, he Tweeted. His Tweets caused a stir when he arrived in Cape Town, and he left on a poor note, in criticising his meal at Belthazar at the V&A Waterfront with an unfair and misleading Tweet about his last dinner in Cape Town!
As we have written, food blogger Palling was invited to the country to restore Eat Out’s reputation after last year’s Awards were judged solely by its editor Abigail Donnelly, leading to controversial decisions. Palling had to confirm Mrs Donnelly’s Top 20 finalist list, revealed yesterday after Palling had left Cape Town, assist her in the ranking of the Top 10 restaurants, and assist in the decision as to which restaurants would receive the category awards for Best Bistro, Best Italian Restaurant, Best Asian Restaurant, Best Country-Style Restaurant, Best Steakhouse, and receive the Boschendal Style Award.
Palling set about ‘feasting and tasting’ his way around our country, and seems to have done 26 lunches and dinners in Cape Town predominantly, with only a lunch at DW Eleven-13 in Johannesburg on Saturday, and Pretoria and Durban not appearing to have featured on his travel agenda, judging by his Tweets. Anyone following Palling’s Tweets would have picked up that he was censored by his hosts, as he was revealing too much about the dishes he was eating, especially the Springbok, which he ate on at least three occasions and was less than complimentary about initially, so much so that he had to apologise to our national game dish: “Take back Springbok being boring/bland – had 2 non sous vide versions which lean + voluptuous helped along by Raats Cabernet Franc 08″‘! One senses from his Tweets prior to his arrival in Cape Town that he loves to Tweet what he eats (we know the feeling!), but he must have been most frustrated in not being able to do so locally, so he had to resort to Tweeting photographs of wine bottles instead, which were clues as to his whereabouts in themselves.
Of his 26 lunch and dinner opportunities in Cape Town, only two were deemed ‘private’, which meant that he could provide their names, and Tweet about them. His Tweet about Biesmiellah in Bo-Kaap was an a-palling example of poor journalism, riddled with typing errors: “Taking a break at Biedmiellah (sic) – Babotie (sic) and Denning Vleis (sic)”. Poor quality writing, not what one would expect from a ‘journalist’! The photograph he Tweeted (right) was most unappetising.
It was his last Cape Town dinner at Belthazar that caused outrage, at the unfair attack in a Tweet on what is judged by most as the city’s best steak restaurant: “Private dinner @ Belthazar – first steak so dry had to send it back – then rare fillet still chilly inside – what’s problem? -v frustrating”. As Belthazar is not on Twitter, we contacted the restaurant to check what had happened, given its good reputation. We discovered an a-palling misrepresentation by Palling in the Tweet, reflecting his unprofessionalism. We spoke to Executive Chef Gracious Phakamani, the Sommelier Bantu Masseti, the junior manager Serge Kabuya, and the waiter Hassan, all of whom had been on duty that evening, and the following emerged about Palling’s dinner at Belthazar: Palling arrived alone, and the first thing he told the Sommelier was that he is a ‘restaurant reviewer’, but that he was not reviewing Belthazar, something no professional reviewer would do, and was unnecessary as he was eating there ‘privately’! He then showed the Sommelier a list of wines he was interested in tasting, and not all were available by the glass, so Sommelier Bantu suggested alternatives that were close to the ones Palling wanted to try. Palling drank a glass of Tokara Director’s Reserve 2004 (yet Tweeted a photograph of the 2008 bottle) at R165, a glass of Bellingham The Bernard SMV at R150, and a glass of Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz at R110. As a starter Palling ordered a 700g Chicago Cut steak (R310), which he ordered rare, but was advised by the waiter to order medium rare, which he was happy with. Not having eaten enough (despite an earlier two course lunch at a restaurant on the Top 20 list) and the 700g steak, he decided on eating a 250 g fillet steak (R169) too, which he ordered rare. He sent it back, saying it was cold inside. Chef Gracious put it back on the grill, and the now Medium Rare steak was returned, judged by Palling as still being too cold inside. The Chef prepared a fresh steak for Palling, again prepared Rare, and the third time round he was happy with it. Chef Gracious has been at the Slick Group of restaurants (owning Belthazar and Balducci’s) for fifteen years, and rarely has had a steak returned, let alone two by the same customer, he related. There was no feedback to the Belthazar staff about the steak being too ‘dry’. Palling had such a good time at the restaurant that he gave his newly acquired Mount Nelson ballpoint pen to the waiter as a present, tipped the waiter R160 (15%) on the R1086 bill, and told the Manager Serge that he had an enjoyable evening, and that he would return to the restaurant in November, when he returns to Cape Town for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards evening. All four Belthazar staff were shocked when they read Palling’s Tweet about his dinner, not reflecting the events truthfully, and he was even mis-steak-en about the sequence of the orders and the nature of his four steaks!
Palling also showed up Mrs Donnelly, in saying in a Cape Talk interview last week that two of the potential Eat Out Top 20 restaurants which he had to judge were ‘ghastly‘, although he did acknowledge that a ‘couple could rank in the top 10 -12 in the world‘. He admitted that he is ‘keen on wine’, and this seemed to be a greater focus of his eating than the food, reflected in his Tweets too. In the radio interview Palling also said in general there was too much of a preamble about the dish when it was served, when ‘it is already described in detail on the menu’. He admitted that he had not understood springbok initially, ‘but now I like it’! He found that our restaurant dishes are too busy, with 6 – 9 ingredients on the plate, which he called ‘confusion food‘, and advised chefs to simplify their dishes, to ‘focus on what is good’.
Seeing the very safe and predictable Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Awards Finalist List yesterday, despite some controversy, one can ask whether Mrs Donnelly made a mis-steak in involving Palling in judging the Top 20 Restaurants, as she could quite safely have chosen the same list without Palling’s help. Palling has been a bolshy visitor to Cape Town, embarrassed himself and his host New Media Publishing in being a very rude and defamatory Tweeter, had to be reined in about his Tweeting so as to not give away where he was eating, kicked off his visit with controversy about his springbok and race-insensitive Tweets, and ended off his visit with a dishonest Tweet disparaging Belthazar! No matter how much Eat Out has puffed up Blogger Palling’s profile to justify its choice of him as a judge, it appears to have been a mis-steak!
POSTSCRIPT 19/9: Mr Palling has retaliated nastily to this blogpost with a number of Tweets: ‘@GrandDedale @WhaleCottage @Eat_Out Belthazar sommelier nice guy, though only 1 of 10 wines I enquired was available but steaks the problem’; a more nasty one: ‘@GrandDedale @WhaleCottage @Eat_Out Confucius say : Always let lying dogs sleep’; and even worse, disparaging both Belthazar and ourselves ‘Avoid Belthazar in Cape Town – not only are their steaks unrested tough + tasteless, they discuss your incompetent meal with cetacean trolls’; and the fourth insult ‘@Konfytbekkie Tks for sharing – Belthazar meal v depressing but even more that they reveal all details of guests dinner to serial trivialist’. Palling himself Tweeted the content of his Belthazar dinner! The fifth missile he fired was aimed at ourselves too, showing he does not understand the role of Social Media: ‘ @Konfytbekkie Tks for sharing but must say the blogger so insignificant that her absurd mentions are never noticed by my Google Alert’. One wonders how New Media Publishing must be feeling about their offensive Eat Out judge! The stream of Tweets is continuing from a-palling Mr Palling: ‘@Gabbles17 @GrandDedale @WhaleCottage @Eat_Out A liar too – chides me for tweeting wrong wine pix when I spelt out that it was different one’; and ‘@MarinaOLoughlin Stalked by moronic lying troll while in SA – loves shit-stirring and will report this to my employers and demand retraction’.
POSTSCRIPT 19/9: Despite Mr Palling’s assistance in the compilation of the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Finalist List, it did not prevent Mrs Donnelly from showing her bias yet again, by having included The Pot Luck Club, a restaurant which has not been operating for a full year. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts withdrew his newer restaurant from the Top 20 list today, which means that both Mr Palling and Mrs Donnelly, with Eat Out and its publishers New Media Publishing, have lost face completely, and that the Eat Out Restaurant Awards have become a farce! This is how Eat Out ‘packaged’ the announcement: ‘Our original communication listed The Pot Luck Club as one of the nominees. However, on discussion with chef Luke Dale-Roberts, we discovered the restaurant only opened in December 2011, and not in November 2011. (One month short of the cut-off.) Therefore, as per our judging criteria, The Pot Luck Club is not eligible for the awards this year. Luke fully supports our decision and we wish him all the best with the restaurant for 2013!’
POSTSCRIPT 21/9: We have been alerted to a glowing review of Belthazar, written by JP Rossouw in Business Day on 14 September, just two days prior to Palling’s visit to the restaurant, and which confirms the stature of this steak restaurant.
POSTSCRIPT 26/9: Michael Olivier conducted an interview with Bruce Palling via Skype, after his visit to South Africa, which he published on his blog yesterday. The interview provides some more insights into Palling. He has no culinary background, his first exotic food encounter being with the avocado pear. He emphasised that he is a ‘food writer’, and not a restaurant reviewer or food critic! Palling looks ‘to have fun’ in a restaurant, ‘it’s not an intellectual exercise’. He likes to be ‘made to feel special’, recommending ‘make celebrities feel like ordinary people, and ordinary people like celebrities’. The 2005 and 2007 Vriesenhof Pinot Noirs were the most interesting that he drank whilst in South Africa, recommended to him by Majeka House. He admits to eating burgers. The Platter South African Wines 2012 is one of the books on his bedside table, most others being food related, but none from South Africa.
POSTSCRIPT 5/11: It would appear that the question we asked in the headline of this blogpost was apt, as Bruce Palling Tweeted today that he will not be attending the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards Gala Dinner on 25 November: “Sorry to announce that will not be attending Eat Out Awards ceremony – due to “unforeseen circumstances” New Media won’t provide me a ticket”. Eat Out and its publisher New Media Publishing have not responded, and the magazine website does not provide any information about this turn of events. At all times blogger judge Bruce Palling was going to attend the Gala Dinner! We have called Stephanie from Eat Out PR company Mango, and she said that they are in discussion with their client. She could not confirm whether a media statement will be issued. We have requested a statement from New Media Publishing MD Bridget McCarney.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage