Tag Archives: Koos Bekker

Cape Town residents Sweet Service Award; Multichoice Sour Service Award!

The Sweet Service Award goes to the people of Cape Town, who came to the party in donating clothing, food, beverages, and bedding for the residents of Imizamo Yethu, who were left destitute after a devastating fire this past weekend. Donations were dropped off at the fire stations in Sea Point and Hout Bay, at Pick ‘n Pay outlets, at La Parada Constantia Nek, and at schools in Hout Bay. A collection drive on Ryan O ‘Connor’s Breakfast Show on Kfm on Monday raised in excess of R1 million alone. All non- perishable foods and Continue reading →

freeRange Sweet Service and MultiChoice Sour Service Awards!

freeRange jewels Whale CottageThe Sweet Service Award goes to freeRange jewels in Cape Quarter, for sourcing a particular butterfly stabiliser for my pearl earrings a day before Christmas, and not charging for them.   I have received nothing but excellent service from this outlet in the past year. Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 11 March

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Speculation about the reason for the stepping down of Koos Bekker as CEO of Naspers at the end of last month is that Bekker may be planning to create the world’s largest global internet, media, and digital group.

*   Bloomberg Businessweek has highlighted Cape Town as the jet set holiday destination of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Oprah Winfrey, paying R50000 per day to stay in the new villa at Ellerman House, which houses owner Paul Harris’ art collection and new Wine Gallery (a serious one, not a six bottle one like that of the petite Pendock Wine Gallery)! Unfortunately the article contrasts the opulence of the villa and its guests with the poverty of the inhabitants of the townships in Cape Town, and highlights the city’s poor reputation as the ‘most violent city in Africa‘!

*   Top UK chef Michel Roux Jnr has resigned from the BBC produced ‘MasterChef: the Professionals’ and ‘Food and Drink‘, describing negotiations with the BBC as a ‘frustrating process’, the corporation not having an appreciation of Roux’s commercial relationships.

*   Moderate wine drinking could help prevent heart attacks and reduce heart-related deaths amongst Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 21 – 23 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Koos Bekker, Naspers CEO and founder of M-Net/Multichoice, is to step down on 31 March, the company which also owns M-Web and has internet interests in China has announced.  He and his wife own the magnificent Babylonstoren outside Franschhoek.
*   Qantas has announced the cancellation of its codeshare agreement with SAA, which will be effective as of July.   The move appears to be due to pressure from the Australian government to not collaborate with competitors.
*   President Jacob Zuma has declared 7 May, the date of the General Election, as a public holiday.
*   Cape Town International has been announced as Best Airport in Africa for the fourth year. Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde’s office has announced.   The other Top 5 African airports are Durban, Mauritius, Cairo, and OR Thambo.  Upington airport is top airport in the category of 2 million and fewer passengers.

 

*    The City of Cape Town clearly has too much money to waste, running a footbridge naming Continue reading →

Babylonstoren celebrates 3rd anniversary with Long Table in the Garden!

Babylonstoren Long Table early Whale Cottage PortfolioThe invitation I received from new Babylonstoren Food & Beverage Manager Simoné Rossouw did not reveal what a special honour it was to be invited to the third anniversary celebration of the innovative wine estate, with a top restaurant, boutique hotel, wellness spa, wine tasting and shop, and retail outlet.

We met outside the retail area, which has been expanded to add the shop which originally was located opposite Babel restaurant.  Owner Karen Roos (with husband Koos Bekker) has created the most amazing transformation of the wine estate, which had commenced behind the scenes three years prior to their opening, with their GM Terry de Waal and his team planning and implementing their future direction. Karen is one of the most stylish South Africans, having won most stylish dress awards when they were still awarded, and having been the editor of  Elle Decor.

We were welcomed with three drink options, being home-madeBabylonstoren Bread Sticks Whale Cottage Portfolio ice tea with waterblommetjie, mint and lime; melon and mint cordial with fresh thyme; and strawberry and rose geranium with lavender and lime.  Alternatively one could drink the Babylonstoren wines.  On the table was the most interesting ‘pick up sticks’ presentation of smoked salmon and Serrano ham bread sticks.  The new Spa will be the reason for a future visit, as I never saw it, being distracted with the extensions to the retail building. Continue reading →

Babylonstoren the centre of ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ in its new wine tasting centre!

Even though it shouldn’t have been a surprise, it was a most impressive visit to the new wine tasting center at Babylonstoren, not only offering a tasting of its own four wines, but also offering for sale two wines from each of the wine estates surrounding the Simonsberg, as well as gorgeous produce in its cheesery, bakery, and charcuterie, which opened two months ago.

One enters the tasting centre, housed in the original smithery and stable on the farm, which has been beautifully restored by owner Karen Roos and her GM Terry de Waal, to keep the building as authentic as possible. Flooring which looks weathered and as if it has been there for ever, comes from the old Dietman piano factory in Wellington.  The walls are part raw brick and part plastered and painted.  As Ms Roos has shown on the estate, she is a ‘less is more’ decorator, giving the tasting room a spacious feel, with only a central table displaying the Babylonstoren wines and one other Simonsberg wine, as well as a cheese of the day to taste. A small wooden table with a bench on one side is the only seating in the room, beautifully ‘decorated’ with a box of just picked and washed vegetables, including carrots and purple potatoes. From the central room the cheesery and charcuterie are on the right, behind modern glass doors, and the bakery is to the left.

Koos Bekker, husband of Ms Roos, has a passion for the terroir of the Simonsberg, and came up with the idea of a ‘home’ on his wine estate for the wines produced at the wine estates on the ‘inner circle’ surrounding the mountain.  When Babel restaurant opened on the wine estate over a year ago, it served wines from the neighbouring wine farms when it had not yet made its own wine, a commendable service. A ‘map’ showing the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is painted onto a tile collage on the wall, showing where each of the 27 wine estates, being Vuurberg, Zorgvliet, Thelema, Tokara, Neil Ellis, Rustenburg, Glenelly, Morgenhof, Remhoogte, Quion Rock, Knorhoek, Muratie, Delheim, Uitkyk, Kanonkop, Natte Valleij, Marianne, Mt Vernon, Anura, Glen Carlou, Neil Joubert, Backsberg, Noble Hill, Rupert & Rothschild, Vrede & Lust, Plaisir de Merle, and Babylonstoren, is located.  A shelving unit stores the wines of the other Simonsberg estates, and as they are lying, it is difficult to see the estate names. Each is price marked, and sold at the cellar door price of each wine estate. Because the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is not a formal one, there are no maps, no price list, nor information about any of the wines, including the Babylonstoren ones, a surprise, given the marketing and advertising background of Mr Bekker (Y&R, M-Net/Multichoice/MWeb, Naspers).  None of the four Babylonstoren wines have their 2011 vintage indicated on their bottles, and the staff could not explain this unusual strategy. They called winemaker Charl Coetzee to come over for a chat, and he seemed to think it odd that I was asking questions about this, only mentioning that they were matured in tanks (with the exception of 20% of the Viognier, which was matured in barrel). He was generally cagey about providing information about the Shiraz, Viognier, Mourvèdre Rosé, and Chenin Blanc.  He explained that there is no price list, as the two wines sold per Simonsberg wine estate will change over time, depending on their customers’ interest in them.  He referred to the launch of their flagship Chardonnay and Shiraz in September, and these will have the vintages on them, having been matured in barrels.  He was previously at Clos Malverne and Kaapzicht, and has been at Babylonstoren for about eighteen months. He said that he personally loves Pinotage, but this grape variety is not grown on the estate.  Grapes were on the farm when it was bought by the Bekkers, and the vines are 14 years old. This is the first winemaking on the farm. The wine side is so new to the wine estate that it is not even on their website yet, he said.  In the upstairs section there is a private winetasting and wine storage area, with minimal decor.

Having got stuck on the wine information, Karen ‘Bread’ Pretorius came to my rescue before the winemaker could be found, and she was extremely friendly and informative. She is in charge of the tasting centre, and also doubles up as the baker, having previously worked in the Babel kitchen. The breads baked vary every day, cost R25 each, and include baguettes; a 50% Rye, with Rooibos and raisins; and a tomato relish on a white loaf.  All are baked with Eureka stoneground flour in their wood-fired oven, which looks like it has been there for ever.  Karen is not formally trained in breadmaking, she said honestly, learning through ‘trial and error’, and ‘stealing with my eyes’, describing herself as a passionate breadmaker.  She was the Head Chef at Umami in Stellenbosch previously, and praised Maranda Engelbrecht for what she has learnt at Babel.  The Charcuterie is a large room, and its painting of a duck, bull’s head, and a pig onto the white brick wall, which is visible from the tasting room, reminds one of the bull painted on the Babel restaurant wall. The meats are supplied by Jason Lucas’ Jamon from Prince Albert, who also was the thatcher of the building roof.  They sell pre-packed portions of Black Forest, Parma ham, Pancetta, and Coppa hams, salami, Kalbsleberwurst, and biltong.  The cheeses come from nearby Dalewood predominantly, but also from Kleinrivier and Nuwehoogte.  The cheeses are displayed in fridges, and also in the airconditioned cheese room, which opens into the charcuterie.  Karen told me that they have a close relationship with their suppliers, all having passion for their products in common with Babylonstoren, being chemical-free, MSG-free, and healthier.

Babylonstoren is bound to come up with further surprises in future.  A Loyalty Card is in the pipeline.  A visit to see their extensive vegetable and fruit garden, to eat at Babel restaurant or at the Babel Tea House, to try their wines in the winetasting centre, and shopping at their bakery, charcuterie, and cheesery is highly recommended.  As the tasting centre is only two months old, there were some information deficiencies amongst the staff, which Karen will fix through training.  A coffee machine may be in the pipeline for the tasting centre too, as Babel does not serve coffees only, and the Babel Tea House is a long walk away.

Babylonstoren Tasting Centre, Bakery, Charcuterie, and Cheesery, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter: @Babylonstoren.  Cellar Tour 12h00 Wednesday – Sunday, must be booked ahead as they only take 12 – 15 persons, R100. 10h00 – 16h00 for tasting centre. R10 per person entry fee to the wine estate.

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

Sinatra’s at Pepper Club Hotel Sweet and DSTV Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award goes to the Pepper Club Hotel and its restaurant Sinatra’s, for their invitation to try out the R50 Business Lunch in 50 Minutes, which includes free parking too.  An order of a Smoked Chicken salad, with Danish feta, corn kernels, peppadews, avocado, and lettuce was brought to the table 10 minutes after arrival, and the generous portion eaten within 25 minutes from arrival.  Other lunch choices are Grilled Beef Burger, Chicken curry, mushroom penne pasta, and cajun spiced chicken pita, all costing R50. Service by Sally, the manager, and the waitress Noku, was friendly and efficient.  The restaurant is a peaceful haven relative to the buzz of the city.

The Sour Service Award goes to DSTV, for changing its Dish TV magazine to a smaller format, and removing the movie schedules.  Multichoice has motivated the change on the long printing lead times, which make programme schedule information unreliable due to short-term schedule changes.  The company also believes that its viewers will be able to access up to date programme information on their PVR, but it appears that not all viewers are technically proficient to find this information, and want a printed guide.  Complaints are directed against the company for its ‘arrogance’ in making the change without announcement nor conducting market research, once a hallmark of the company when it was launched by Koos Bekker, when we were part of his initial team, and everything was researched.  Subscribers received an after-the-fact sms survey on the Thursday before the long weekend, at 21h00, hardly a consumer-friendly time for a business survey!

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

POSTSCRIPT 23/5: DStv has announced that, after its subscriber poll, it will send subscribers who voted for a TV schedule in their DISH magazine a custom magazine with the schedule.  One can still request a custom magazine with the TV schedule from them.

Garden of Babylonstoren is its heart, reflects passion of owner Koos Bekker!

I have previously written about the new Babel Tea House and also about Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren.  On each of these visits I did not fully comprehend the wealth of work that has gone into planning, developing and maintaining the extensive 3,5 ha fruit and vegetable garden, with 350 edible fruit and vegetable varieties.

Wishing to spoil my parents, I invited them for a visit to the wine estate, and we were taken around by head gardener Liesel van der Walt, a charming and passionate ambassador for the garden, providing lots of information, and picking edible flowers (Day lilies) and berries for us to eat, and vegetable flowers (carrot and onion) for us to keep.  Liesel was at Kirstenbosch for 20 years, and originally did some contract gardening on the estate before joining Babylonstoren a year ago, managing a team of 15 gardeners.  She showed us the Babylonstoren, a hill after which the estate has been named, and laughingly said that soon they too can have the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’! There are three ponds closest to the shop, and we started the garden tour here. A dam each contains waterblommetjies, tilapia fish, and rainbow trout. Continue reading →

Babel Restaurant: a fabulous fresh feast!

I went to the Babel restaurant at Babylonstoren just after it opened over a year ago, and was in awe with it, but never wrote about it at that time.  Hearing about the opening of the Babel Tea House, it was a good opportunity to return to Babylonstoren, and I was lucky to obtain a table outside for lunch after visiting the Babel Tea House on Sunday.

Babylonstoren was awarded to ‘vryburgher’ Pieter van der Byl in 1690, and he started planting vineyards on the farm.  The current gardens were inspired by the Company Gardens, which Jan van Riebeeck had developed to supply ships of the Dutch East India Company, and ‘hales back to the mythical garden of Babylon’, its website says.  Patrice Tarravella from France, who owns a property with a garden layout which impressed the owners Karen Roos and Koos Bekker, was contracted to do the garden layout at Babylonstoren. The massive garden contains about 350 fruit and vegetable varieties.

The menu is most unusual – first, in terms of its presentation, written on a tiled white wall with a bull’s head painted on the side.  It is also available in printed form for those patrons sitting outside, and the paper looks recycled, in a beige colour, added as a loose sheet within a cover with a decorative drawing of vegetables. The same drawing is also on the billfold.  Second, the menu has two sections, one more traditional, in offering main course and dessert options, and the other something one has never experienced before, salads forming the base of the meal, to which one can add smoked trout (R45), home-made yoghurt cheese (R25), warm smoked chicken (R35), or cured moist biltong (R40).  The Green salad costs R50, and contains green kohlrabi, green beans, cucumber, fennel, pear, celery, avocado, asparagus, and garden greens, served with a mint geranium and yoghurt dressing.  The Red salad costs R55, and contains beetroot, watermelon, strawberry, radishes, plums, bloody sorrel, tomato berries and garden greens, served with a strawberry, pink peppercorn and rose dressing.  The Yellow salad costs R60, and contains, carrots, granadilla, pineapple, paw paw, apricots, corn, butternut, gooseberry, melon, nectarines and garden greens, with a nasturtium, mustard and verjuice dressing.  The menu introduction states: “At Babylonstoren we have luxury offerings of freshly picked fruit & vegetables, as nature intends, from our gardens.  We would like to inspire you with our menu suggestions. Our gardeners will introduce you to new cultivars and our chefs will offer you new, exciting flavour combinations”.

The more standard menu contains main courses only, the idea being that one orders a salad as a starter, one assumes, and the choices are lightly smoked Franschhoek trout with strawberry and lemon thyme crème fraiche served with a strawberry and Babylonstoren viognier drizzle (R125).  What the menu does not state is that the very large portion of trout is served with bowls of delicious and crispy hand cut chips, tzatziki and carrots, a tamarillo (which is a tree tomato but tastes of peach too), a baked onion topped with herb pesto, cauliflower in the most delicious goat’s cheese white wine cream sauce containing shredded roasted hazelnuts, herb pesto, and two slices of bread, an absolute feast and far too much to eat.   There is also a choice of 300 gram of sirloin (R135) or fillet (R155), served with calamata olive and shiraz butter sauce and olive salt.  Lamb cutlets served with gooseberry, lemon, caper and mint pesto and fresh pear julienne cost R140 for 300 gram. An artichoke tart with tamarillo, caramelised onion, chevin, fresh bloody sorrel and basil costs R85.  For dessert one chooses between a type of taste: Bitter is a white chocolate and bay leaf crème brûleé with warm almond brittle and almond wafer (R50); Sour is an apple, lime, yoghurt, mint and pea popsicle with radish carpaccio (R35); Savoury is a gorgonzola soufflé, served with beetroot infused cream, fresh apple and walnut as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon drizzle (R45); Sweet is a chilled plum soup served with beetroot sorbet and crystallised basil (R40). Wines by the glass are the first Babylonstoren wines, at R20 for Chenin Blanc and Dry Rosé, R33 for Shiraz, and R40 for Viognier.

On Friday and Saturday evenings dinner is served, at R300 per head for a 4-course meal, and the menu is varied for each dinner.  If the restaurant picks up that one has been there for dinner before, they will make sure that the menu is different to the one experienced on the previous visit.  The dinners appear to be excellent value, and Chef Simoné Rossouw printed out three past dinner menus, to give me an idea of what she serves: a ‘petal salad’, and a starter of beetroot carpaccio with goat’s cheese mousse and yellow plum relish, or even a nectarine-poached crayfish tail with cauliflower and vanilla puree, mizuna and crisp leeks.  For the main course a choice of meat (probably a 300 gram steak, or lamb shank), fish (trout with Kei apple hollandaise and eureka lemon) and vegetarian (Gorgonzola soufflé with apple and walnut relish, or grilled parsnip with poached duck egg and gratinated blue cheese) are offered.  For dessert one could expect a nectarine and smoked chilli tart tatin, a plum sorbet, scarlet peach mousse and an almond crisp; or a peach brioche with cardamom and citrus-scented ice cream; or a hazelnut meringue with Port-poached plums, white chocolate yoghurt and fresh berries.  It is the innovative dinner menu that could earn Babel its first Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant listing in 2012.  Chef Simoné sat with me for a short while, being very busy, and explained that they serve ‘honest food’ at Babel, their menus designed around what they can harvest from the garden, and even having to buy in produce on occasion, if the garden produce is not yet ripe.  She sources her meat from Tomi’s abattoir in Hermon, and they have their hens laying eggs, but not enough to meet their demand.  Babel Restaurant is ‘inspired’ by ‘food fundi’ Maranda Engelbrecht, who previously owned Manna Epicure on Kloof Street, says the Babylonstoren website.

I sat outside in the courtyard, these tables being unreserved, and arrived early enough to book one last-minute. A cooling water spray system has been installed, helping to cool one off on the hot Boland days. The Reserved sign was put in a wreath made of woven twigs, no doubt from the farm, and they are sold in the Babylonstoren shop too. The shop stocks an interesting collection of Panama and crocheted hats, fig and brandy paste, spiced plum jam, yellow plum chutney, strawberry and sage jam, scented candles, books (including the book ‘South’ by Karen Roos and Annemarie Meintjies, beautifully ‘wrapped’ with a ribbon), wines from the Simonsberg terroir, toffees, rusks, fresh produce from the Babylonstoren garden (carrots, rhubarb, beetroot and cauliflower), green fig preserve, Boeremeisjes, strawberry and lemon cordial, pickles, and lots more.  Next to the shop is the Library, a quiet space in which one can sit and read or page through the extensive collection of books.   The bathroom is done in cream tiles with a green line, and reminded me of my school facilities, yet the basins are very modern.

The service was slow, with the waiter serving outside struggling to serve all our needs. It was noticeable how many group tables of 6 – 10 guests there were, so the service speed probably was less important to them. The serviette was tiny, compared to the generous size of the serviettes at the Babel Tea House. Impressive was the waiter’s knowledge about the exotic fruit and vegetables served, the preparation thereof, and of the garden.  The visit to Babylonstoren was memorable, in seeing the new Babel Tea House, meeting up with Koos Bekker again, also chatting to the very humble Karen Roos, and enjoying the outstanding food at Babel Restaurant.

Babel Restaurant, Babylonstoren, R45, next to Backsberg on road to Franschhoek. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter: @Babylonstoren Wednesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.  R10 entrance fee.

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

Babel Tea House: a refreshing new stop in the gardens of Babylonstoren

Babylonstoren is the flavour of the year, and is on everyone’s lips.  Just over a year after opening, the hotel has made the Conde Nast Hot 100 list, and Babel Restaurant the Eat Out Top 20 shortlist.  Now the owners Karen Roos and Koos Bekker have opened the Babel Tea House on the impressive property, as a refreshment stop for visitors to their garden.

Designed to emulate a Victorian ‘kweekhuis’, the glass conservatory is positioned under oak trees about 400 meters from Babel Restaurant.  To get there, one must walk through the massive 1,2 km x 700 meter 3,5 ha fruit and vegetable garden, with 350 species, which was designed by Patrice Tarravella, who has a  Relais & Chateaux property about two hours south of Paris, which is well-known for its garden.  The Bekkers contracted Patrice to design their garden in the same style, with a lot of trellising of roses in-between the vegetables, and especially along the pathway.  One needs a hat, and comfortable walking shoes to walk on the part stony and part peach-pip path to the Tea House.  Tables with a collection of colourful chairs are set up under the trees outside the Tea House.  Inside the Tea House one can sense the decor style of Karen Roos – a collection of flowers, including blue lillies, just lying as if they are still to be put in a vase.  Another table has a collection of vegetables on a table, making a decor statement.  A third table has herbs from the garden, with Nigiro glass tea pots and warmers.   One can choose one’s herb from a collection from the garden – e.g. rose geranium, sage, mint, lavender – and have one’s own tea made, at a mere R10 a cup.  Cupcakes were also on display.

When one arrives one receives a brochure with the layout of the grounds, and of the vegetable garden specifically.  I heard that a guide can take one through the garden, but this is not communicated on arrival nor when one is at the Tea House.  Some interesting sounding garden sections include the prickly pear maze, the historical mulberry, ‘mulberry meditation’, the citrus block, the ‘guava avenue’, and many more.

It is very ‘gesellig’ at the Tea House, as a number of visitors came to say hello, including radio man Nico de Kock, the F&B Manager Annelle van Tonder, who brought me a Winner plum as a welcome, and both Karen Roos and Koos Bekker.   Karen Roos is a very private person, and had her own decor magazine ‘Red‘ many years ago, and ended her editorship of Elle Decoration, no doubt to devote more time to her new project.   She has won awards for her stylish dressing, and her impeccable taste shows in her understated decor at Babylonstoren.  Koos Bekker and I have crossed paths three times – as members of the editorial team for Die Matie whilst we were students at the University of Stellenbosch; as a client when I was seconded from Y&R Johannesburg to work with him as a market researcher when he set up M-Net 25 years ago; and as a research consultant to M-Net a few years later. Now he is the CEO of Naspers. Koos’ touch is evident in the Chinese on the signage, with English or Afrikaans, and his company has lost a lot of money there, he told me. He is still very active in China, having returned from a trip to there the day before, he told me. Babylonstoren must be the only South African tourism player that is recognising the potential power of the Chinese market. Admirably he has taken Mandarin lessons, to master this difficult language.  Koos looked like a country gentleman, with a Panama hat, was friendly and relaxed (he is an extreme work-a-holic), and he even brought me a hat to protect my face from the sun.  He has invested an inordinate amount of money in Babylonstoren, one assumes.  Koos told me that they will start producing their first wines next year in their 300 ton cellar, Charl Coetzee, previously of Clos Malverne, being their winemaker.  In the meantime they are selling wines drawn from the terroir surrounding the Simonsberg in their shop and in the restaurant.  I have read elsewhere that a tasting room for these Simonsberg terroir wines is on the cards at Babylonstoren, with a deli selling cheeses too.

The GM Terry de Waal also came to introduce himself, and told me that his background is industrial engineering and not hospitality at all.  He was the project manager when Babylonstoren was first developed, and now takes overall responsibility for the estate.   His industrial engineering skills were useful when the Tea House was designed, working with Patrice, Koos, and Karen to come up with the design of the building. I saw Terry being hands-on, carrying food boxes from the kitchen to clients.

Water is offered for free in branded bottles, and must be from the farm. Cutlery is the most stylish patterned perspex.  The food is served in a branded wooden box.  The paper table cloth is also branded, with a Delft plate, which has become a new symbol for Babylonstoren, remnants of which have been found on the grounds during the renovations.  The table cloth states that it is recycled, going into the compost after use. The concept is very simple – from a blackboard choose for a ‘sandwich’ a bread style (ciabatta, wholewheat, rye, farmstyle white), a cheese (Dalewood Huguenot, Gorgonzola, goat’s cheese, pecorino), and/or a charcuterie item (Black Forest ham, smoked chicken, soft cured biltong, smoked trout).  The cost of both the meat and cheese sandwich is R65, and R55 for either the one or the other.  A fresh garden salad with herbs is served in a separate glass jar, and there are two further jars: one with plum relish with granny smith apple and pineapple sage, and the other with a mixed herb oil. My rye ‘sandwich’ was a roll, and was rather tough, filled with the ham and cheese, and wrapped in branded paper, with the perspex cutlery tied to it with a serviette.  I took my roll home with me, and only had the salad, spontaneously booking for lunch at Babel restaurant.  I am not sure how one would eat the ‘sandwich’ without having a plate, the wooden box in which it was served possibly serving this purpose. Chef Simone Rossouw confirmed that the cakes and cupcakes are made for them by Kelly in Franschhoek, who transforms the produce they have in abundance into cake.  I took a chocolate cupcake (R25) home with me, and it was wrapped in the branded paper, with six cherries giving it a beautiful finishing touch. Slices of cake cost R45, and the selection includes lemon meringue, carrot cake and chocolate cake.  Cappuccino costs R18; red, yellow or green juices cost R20, homemade iced tea R25; homemade ginger beer R16 and lemonade R20; Marriage Freres teas cost R30.

Service is slow, but Babylonstoren is not the place to go to if one is in a hurry, and the service should improve as the Tea House settles in.  Neither the blackboard nor the staff explain clearly how the sandwiches work, and what the prices are.   One needs a hat and comfortable shoes.  I was disappointed that they buy in the cakes, and do not make them on the farm. But the overall delight of walking through the gardens, of getting an opportunity to experience a taste of Babylonstoren without pre-booking Babel Restaurant, and of seeing style personified makes the food disappointment secondary.

Babel Tea House, Babylonstoren. R45 to Franschhoek, next to Backsberg. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter:@Babylonstoren.  Wednesday – Sunday. 10h00 – 16h00. No reservation required.  R10 entrance fee to the estate.

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