Entries tagged with “lifestyle”.

The new The Yard in the Silo District of the V&A Waterfront opened last week, as a multi-cultural cuisine restaurant, but also offering a bar, a homeware shop, and a Deli. It is the most unique restaurant I have experienced, in its diverse food offering. (more…)

image Having survived the demonstrations against the Pharrell Williams concert earlier this week, Woolworths aggressively took over the Sunday Times today, getting the newspaper to change its masthead and branding colour to green, with the placement of two double page spread advertisements, and getting a front page story out of it too! Woolworths shouts about its green and responsible (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The theme song ‘Ordinary Love’ of  ‘Mandela; Long Walk to Freedom’ won a Golden Globe last night for Best Original Song, written and performed by Bono and U2, reports The New Age.

*   SA Tourism USA has launched a new website, with the theme ‘What’s Your Big 5?’, highlighting the top travel experiences our country offers in addition to safaris.  The focus now is on ‘Big 5 Ambassadors’, focusing on ‘celebrities, tastemakers and travel influencers’.   The website accessibility has been improved, making it easier to search, navigate, and book the next South African holiday.  The website also provides travel itineraries by theme: Adventure and Exploration;  Culture and Heritage;  Safari and Nature;  Entertainment and Lifestyle; and Luxury and Romance.

*   Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde is delighted by two top accolades for Cape Town, being top listed by the New York Times and The Guardian.  He reacted as follows: ‘This is great news for our city’s tourism sector and excellent publicity for our destination.  These awards will no doubt help to elevate Cape Town to the top of (more…)

Nic Dawes, writing in the Mail & Guardian Online last week about the poor presence of good restaurants in Johannesburg relative to Cape Town, with the alliterated headline ‘Dining in the Dumps’, has stirred a North-South culinary debate.  It was restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw’s  response to this article that motivated me to write, to add to the debate about Cape Town’s culinary prominence.

Dawes slates the Johannesburg restaurant scene, blaming restaurants and their chefs for not following international trends, for being expensive, for offering poor service, for offering food which is ‘rote’, for there being too many steakhouses, and for chefs being ‘restaurant entrepreneurs competing to extract money from your wallet”.  He writes about Johannesburg: “…for all its creativity and cosmopolitanism, for all its monuments to material consumption, this town is a culinary desert or, perhaps more accurately, parking lot — which is what you will find yourself looking on to from most of the very few places I do feel able to recommend. The fine-dining scene is most impoverished. Not a single serious restaurant in Johannesburg sets the national food agenda in any way. They don’t even try very hard to follow the big global trends a few months in arrears, as so many Cape restaurants do, or to give them local relevance as the best South African chefs are able to”.

Rossouw responded to the controversy created by Dawes by stating that good restaurants open where there are tourists, stating that :“…the Cape gets the lion’s share of tourism.  Eating out as a tourist means you are ready to spend.  You’re likely to be relaxed.  Restaurant industries naturally do well in these environments”.    It would appear that Rossouw knows more about restaurants than tourism, and almost every part of his quote can be challenged and refuted:

*   Cape Town does not get the most tourists – KwaZulu-Natal receives more tourists than the Western Cape

*   South Africa’s major tourist source countries are Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mocambique, ahead of the UK, USA and Europe, and these tourists mainly visit Johannesburg

*   Tourists have become cash-strapped too, due to the recession, and are therefore far more demanding in respect of value for money and good service.  Bertus Basson, Chef at Overture, says they have seen far more demanding foreign diners this past season than ever before.

To respond to Rossouw fairly, we called three 2010 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant chefs, one each from Johannesburg (Marthinus Ferreira from DW Eleven-13), the Cape (Bertus Basson from Overture), and KwaZulu-Natal (Jackie Cameron of Hartford House), to hear their views on the North/South culinary debate.  The following emerged:

1.  The Cape is ‘sexy’ as a culinary destination, and therefore young chefs are seeking work in the Cape, where they can work alongside the country’s top chefs. Linked to this is that the cost of living is lower in the Cape, compared to Johannesburg, motivating young chefs to start off in the Cape, to retain more of their income.  It is this young blood that helps feed the top restaurants.  Cameron said it was a shame to see talented young chefs leave KwaZulu-Natal, and head for Cape Town.

2.  The Cape chefs are less motivated by money, and more by lifestyle.  They love being able to go for a walk on the beach before or after service, or forage on the mountain.   They love the beauty of Cape Town and the Winelands.  Basson said he blew all his money on a walk-in fridge this month, and he is excited about the new chairs that are due to arrive in August.  One can imagine chefs being inspired by beautiful Cape days on a wine farm (an increasing number of wine estates are opening restaurants, Leopard’s Leap being the next to do so in Franschhoek), or in the bustling city close to the sea. 

3.   The Cape chefs have excellent quality suppliers, which helps them make excellent food.  This is not unique to the Cape, as Cameron says she too is blessed with superb supply sources close to Hartford House.  This supplier quality is not seen to be available to Johannesburg restaurants.

4.  A very real consideration for the location of chefs is where their families and partners are.  Chef Marthinus studied at the Stellenbosch Institute of Culinary Arts, and worked at La Colombe, Le Quartier Français, and Schulphoek in the Cape before working overseas.  When he returned to South Africa, there was only one city for him – Johannesburg – as his family lives here.  So too Cameron grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, and loves living in this province, where she needs five minutes to get to work, and the only reason why she would be late would be because the cows have blocked the road! 

5.   The client profile seems to have a huge influence.  Overture has seen an upswing in local guests, on average of about 65 %, he said.  For Hartford House, it is exactly the opposite, about two-thirds of its clients being international patrons.  In winter, however, their clients are predominantly Johannesburgers, easily reaching the Hotel restaurant in a 3 – 4 hour drive, as well as receiving guests from Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Umhlanga, thinking nothing of driving up to 90 minutes to get to Hartford House.  Similarly, Capetonians will drive up to an hour to travel to Franschhoek or Stellenbosch for lunch.  Cameron was complimentary about her Johannesburg clients, saying that they understand about good food, and are appreciative about what she and her team prepares for them.

It was depressing to hear Ferreira talk about his experience.  First, his Johannesburg clients appear to have a short time window for a three course meal, few staying longer to relax and really enjoy the meal.  At lunch, they arrive at about 12h00, and are out by 13h30, the average lunch period being only 45 minutes.  At night patrons arrive at 18h30, and his restaurant is almost empty by 21h00, the dinner being a ‘starter’ to an evening of entertainment, which could include clubbing, the movies, and/or the theatre.  The businesspersons eating at his restaurant by day are under time pressure and less demanding in terms of their food, almost becoming ‘functional eaters’, rather than ‘dining appreciators’, but they eat at the restaurants as often as five times a week, making the restaurant an extension of their office, he said.   The short time that the guest spends at his restaurant has restricted Ferreira from offering a Tasting Menu.  It was something Ferreira tried when he first opened, but he dropped it, due to his patrons’ time constraint.  He is introducing it again on Monday evenings. 

Ferreira also spoke about the Johannesburg restaurant clients being hyper-critical, posting disparaging comments on websites such as Trip Advisor, but not passing on feedback directly to him and his staff while they are at the restaurant, probably to not offend him.  Yet these clients come back to his restaurants regularly.

Cameron said that Cape Town’s regular international visitors raise the bar for the restaurants in the city, as these patrons want to experience better meals on their subsequent visits, helping to improve the quality that the Cape restaurants offer.  She said that her Johannesburg clients are of a high standard, know their food and wine, and do not order a ‘well-done’ fillet! 

It emerged that the Cape restaurant client tends to be more appreciative of the food and wine that is served, and makes an occasion of a meal at a restaurant, making it the evening’s entertainment, rather than using it as a quick stepping stone to the rest of the evening’s entertainment programme. 

6.  Competition attracts more competition, Ferreira said.  This means that good restaurants in an area attract more restaurants.  He is starting to see this in Johannesburg, and talked about Cube, Roots, Mosaic, The Saxon, and Linger Longer being good Gauteng restaurants.  By contrast too, he said, the lack of good restaurants in Johannesburg had been a good opportunity for him to do something good and different, and it clearly has paid off for him.  He is confident that Johannesburg will improve its culinary performance as new restaurants open.  The move to Johannesburg in July, by Rust en Vrede Eat Out Top 10 chef David Higgs,  to join an hotel group it is speculated, is a huge vote of confidence for the Johannesburg restaurant industry, Ferreira said.

7.  There is no doubt that the money is in Johannesburg, and Cameron noted that more recipe books are sold in this city than in any other in South Africa, there is a larger potential market due to its larger population size, and it has better weather throughout the year, allowing more outdoor eating.   She does not understand why the top-end Johannesburg restaurants are not better supported, and that chefs are not attracted to these restaurants, given the better Johannesburg salaries.

8.  The type of restaurants that patrons support differ vastly in the two cities.  Rossouw wrote that Johannesburg has better steakhouses, and Asian and African restaurants.   Ferreira said that Johannesburg has wonderful restaurants, but these are not necessarily fine dining ones, being ‘curry houses and tratorrias’, more relaxed than fine dining restaurants.  In his two years of running his own restaurant in Johannesburg, Ferreira says he has seen an increase in the number of better restaurants.

 Dawes’ article about Johannesburg’s poor culinary performance is a challenge to the Johannesburg restaurant industry, to prove Dawes and the Cape wrong, Ferreira said.   I loved Basson’s analogy of the difference in the restaurants in Cape Town and Johannesburg, likening them to wines from different terroirs, “both tasting delicious for what they are”!

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

George Jardine is a highly respected chef, and has been a regular on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards list.  His move to the Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch, to open the mouthful of a brand name ‘Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine’ in November last year probably cost him the Top 10 listing, but has been a welcome lifestyle change for him and his family.  The new restaurant has added substance to the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route, and to Stellenbosch taking over the Gourmet Capital crown of South Africa.

The setting of the Jordan wine estate at the end of the Stellenbosch Kloof Road is special, with lots of birdlife, and no traffic noise.  A huge dam in front of the winery and the restaurant attracts even more birds.   The parking area reflected the popularity of the restaurant, filled with cars on a Friday afternoon.   A compliment to the chef is that Hein Koegelenberg and his wife Hanlie (Rupert) of La Motte had brought some of their staff for a treat (their new Pierneef a la Motte restaurant opens in the next few days), whilst Gary Jordan (Jordan Wines owner) also had a table of eight in the restaurant.  I enjoyed chatting to both.

When I reviewed Jardine’s in Cape Town, I noted that George Jardine was not visible in that restaurant, despite marketing information which led one to believe that Jardine would be looking after his Cape Town restaurant a few days per week.   This does not seem to be the case, as Jardine is very hands-on in his restaurant at Jordan’s (one has to remain sober to get around the Jordan/Jardine brand names)!

The restaurant brand name is on the building near its entrance door (but not visible from the parking area), in silver lettering, adding a modern touch to a building that is not!  It looks functionally designed and built from outside, and this perception does not change when one is inside.   The interior is a Jardine’s Cape Town deja vu – the open plan kitchen (much bigger preparation space here though), functional interior, some paintings of pomegranates and figs, very functional kitchen counter from the customer perspective, almost old-fashioned, not particularly attractive lightwooded chairs, and modern stacking glass doors. The lovely overlay over the white tablecloth reminded me of Overture’s new tablecloths.  The glassware and cutlery is average, but I noticed David Walters’ ceramic touch in the square side plate.  The serviette seemed superwhite, of very good quality.  The waiters look neat in white shirts, black pants and black aprons.

The waiter Andrew was perfect – not pushy, not arrogant, helpful, informative, patient in answering all my questions, just disappointing when he did not e-mail the winelist on the same day, as promised (it appears he had delegated this to Jardine’s wife, who did not attend to it until I called for it).  He presented the menu on a black leather holder (similar to that of Overture, Majeka House and others I have seen recently).

The first thing I noticed on the menu was the date with a weather description “A misty 23rd July”.   One has two choices on the menu – a three-course Menu Du Jour winter special at R 180, and R220 if one has two wines – one does not have any choices on this menu.   Alternatively the three-course a la carte menu allows one to choose two dishes for R 200, and 3 courses for R225, and one has up to four choices per course.   There is little difference in value between the two options, and therefore I ordered from the a la carte menu.

The winelist is cute and neat, a small square size, bound in a black leather cover, and each page has a quotation relating to wine on it.  Corkage is indicated at R50, and only one bottle is allowed.  The winelist is introduced as follows: This is a selection of wines we enjoy. Each bottle is full of love, passion and a story and if you listen carefully with your taste buds some part of that story may show, explaining terroir, slopes, altitude, climate and other interesting details. A wine however is not made by one person alone, much like the food you are about to enjoy. Thousands of people from farms, most of which can be seen from where you are sitting, have had an effort in making your wine – whether that is planting, pruning, squashing or bottling it. Please enjoy our effort in presenting their effort.”

The wine range contains a mix of Jordan and other wines, and the price band is such that it offers an affordable wine for every pocket.  Wines-by-the-glass are surprisingly affordable, a glass of Chameleon (a Jordan brand) Rose’ costing R25, and a glass of Jordan Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mellifera does not cost more than R40.  White wine bottle prices start at R90 for a Chameleon Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, peaking at R700 for a Jordan CWG Auction Reserve Chardonnay.  De Waal Pinotage costs R85, a Jordan Sophia R963.   While the winelist shows vintages, it does not describe any of the wines. I ordered a glass of Jordan Syrah 2006, which was very smooth, smoky and full-bodied, reminding me of a shiraz made the old-fashioned traditional way.

The bread plate was the most creative I have ever seen, refreshingly different, and reflects that Jardine is an ardent bread baker.   The square bread plate had a bowl of aoili, a block of farm butter, crisp strips made from sweet potatoes, and a breadstick made from vetkoek dough.   It wasn’t just the individual items that looked amazing, but the way in which they were presented made it look like a course in itself.

What I found interesting, having been at Jardine’s in Cape Town where “organised chaos” seemed to dictate food presentation, is that Jardine is very angular, his food presented in square containers.  The starter, for example, was presented on a black slate tile (I remember slate at Jardine’s in Cape Town for the cheese platter) and this was set inside a square glass container, with a serviette neatly placed between the two containers, making its presentation look very smart.

The duck liver parfait starter, with a confit duck bonbon rolled in sesame seeds, served with prune and celeriac chantilly and tiny slices of toasted brioche, was melt in the mouth (the bonbon had been left off the plate by mistake initially).  Other starter options were Saldanha Bay mussels, pan fried west coast mackerel, and hand rolled fettuccini.   The main course arrived after about a 45 minute wait, which seemed long, in that I had run out of questions to ask, been to the bathroom, and read all my Twitter updates.  My main course intrigued me, in that it was not any old pork, but “Penny Verburg’s suckling pig roasted”, which was served with braised cavolo nero (a type of black cabbage), parsnip and gremolata.  Penny is the wife of Botriver-based Luddite winemaker Neels Verburg, and she has a good hand with organic pig rearing, Andrew told me.  The pork was thinly sliced, and every now and again one had a bite of the thinnest pieces of crackling, giving good mouthfeel as well as taste. Other starter choices were Chalmar ribeye, hake, and gnocchi.   I felt that I had hit the jackpot in both choices, they were so outstanding.   I didn’t have any dessert, but I could have chosen between chocolate souffle, an interesting sounding baked Pimm’s creme catalan (just saw a very similar dessert on the La Colombe menu), or a cheese board.

The Menu du Jour was Vichyssoise with a warm salad of sauteed tongue, gnocchi and gremolata; braised veal brisket; and chocolate hot pot with vanilla ice cream and praline.

I will go back to Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, on a summery day, so that I can sit outside, and try more of Jardine’s creations.   It is a pity that Jardine is so hands-on that he does not allow himself to leave the kitchen at all to greet his customers, a contradiction as he is visible to all diners, but he makes no eye contact, and barely responded when I thanked him for the lovely lunch when I left.

Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, Jordan Winery, Stellenbosch Kloof Road, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 881-3612.  www.jordanrestaurant.co.za (The website is not operational.  Surprisingly, no information about the restaurant is available on the Jordan Wines’ website www.jordanwines.com ). Open for lunch Wednesdays – Sundays, and on Thursday and Friday evenings for dinner.   On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route

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