Tag Archives: Maze

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journal, Day 29 of Level 3, 24 August 2021

 

Tuesday 24 August 2021, Day 29 of Level 3 ūüė∑

Corona Gratitude ūüôŹ

#grateful for a lovely long day, which just got better, not feeling so well but all was forgotten when I got to newkings boutique hotel and Zest Restaurant and spent 7 hours there ūüėĪ, taking a one hour break to walk along the Sea Point Promenade, with waves crashing and creating spray, a very brave person standing very near the water‚Äôs edge; popping in at Woolies and Spar at Piazza da Luz, shopping for soup ingredients for the cold to come; for very good Status meetings with my clients; for Continue reading →

Delaire Graff makes history in Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards!

Delaire Graff Chef Christiaan Campbell kitchen Whale Cottage PortfolioFor the first time in the history of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards two restaurants belonging to one owner have been nominated for the honoured list. Both Delaire Graff Restaurant and Indochine, under the direction of Chef Christiaan Campbell, made it onto the Top 20 shortlist, which Eat Out announced yesterday.  We are delighted with our best ever Top 20 Restaurant shortlist prediction score, in correctly guessing 18 out of the Top 20 shortlisted restaurants.

The Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant Awards shortlist contained a few surprises, leading one restaurant representative to comment that despite the new judging system and panel, little had changed in the shortlist, with only two newly opened restaurants included, being Camphors at Vergelegen (Chef PJ Vadas) and five hundred (Chef David Higgs).  Surprises were the following:

  • The non-appearance of Terroir and Mosaic at The Orient, both restaurants having made the Top 10 Restaurant list last year.¬† We have been critical of Terroir‚Äôs perennial appearance on the Continue reading →

Café Dijon and Ou Meul Bakkery move to Cape Town, and other Spring restaurant news!

Our list of latest restaurant openings and closures lists more openings than closures, and a number of restaurant location changes. This list is updated continuously, as we receive information:

Restaurant Openings

*   Café Dijon has closed its restaurants on Plein Street and at Zorgvliet in Stellenbosch, and has opened in the Rockwell Centre in Green Point, Cape Town, on Napier Street opposite Anatoli’s.

*   Luke Dale-Roberts, Eat Out Top Chef at The Test Kitchen, is to open a real test kitchen, called The Kitchen of Dreams, a private experimental place to develop new recipes, at the Old Biscuit Mill

*  Chef Luke Dale-Roberts is opening a pop-up Pot Luck Club in Swiss ski resort Verbier, at the Hotel Farinet, from 8 December РApril, to be run by him, his chef Nicolas Wilkinson, and front of house Selena Afnan-Holmes.

*   Col’Cacchio has opened a new outlets in Westlake, and a new one is coming in Claremont too.

*   A new Vida é Caffe new branches are to open on Maindean Place in Claremont, at the new Wembley Square 2 development, at The Paddocks, and Groote Schuur.  Two more branches are planned for Mauritius.

* ¬†¬†¬†Honest Chocolate is opening a second outlet, a¬†‚Äėproduction kitchen‚Äô in the Woodstock Industrial Centre

* ¬†¬†Moyo is to open in November, where the Paulaner Bra√ľhaus was in the V & A Waterfront. ¬†It has taken over the tearoom at Kirstenbosch already.

*   TRUTH Coffee has opened on Buitenkant Street

*   FEAST is to open where Franschhoek Food Emporium was, in Place Vendome

*   Deluxe Coffeeworks has opened where Reuben’s Deli used to be in Franschhoek.

*   Okamai Japanese Restaurant has opened at Glenwood wine estate in Franschhoek

*   Cavalli restaurant is said to open on the stud farm on R44, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, this year or next

*   The Slug & Lettuce has opened where Beads was on Church Street in Stellenbosch

*   Stables at Vergelegen Bistro has opened as a lunch restaurant in Somerset West.  Its Lady Phillips Restaurant is being given a make-over by Christo Barnard, and will open on 1 November with a new name called Camphors at Vergelegen. The new chef will be PJ Vadas, previously of The Roundhouse in Camps Bay.

*   Coopmanshuijs in Stellenbosch is opening a restaurant.

*   Chef Johan van Schalkwyk has left the Stone Kitchen at Dunstone Winery, and has opened his own restaurant Twist Some More in Wellington.

*    Chef Bjorn Dingemans has opened The Millhouse Kitchen restaurant on Lourensford wine estate in Somerset West.

*   Chef Shane Sauvage (ex-La Vierge) has opened La Pentola restaurant in Hermanus.

*   Ali Baba Kebab (renamed from Laila) has opened as a small beef and lamb kebab take-away and sit-down outlet, next door to Codfather in Camps Bay

*   Gibson’s Gourmet Burger and Smoked Ribs has opened as a 70-seater restaurant in the V&A Waterfront, taking part of Belthazar. Owned by the Belthazar/Balducci group.

*   Down South Food Bar, previously on Long Street, is said to re-open in the Riverside Centre in Rondebosch

*   Ou Meul Bakkery from Riviersonderend has opened a bakery and coffee shop in Long Street

*   Deluxe Coffeeworks has opened a roastery and coffee bar at 6 Roodehek Street

*    The Deli @ The Square has opened at Frater Square in Paarl.

*   David Higgs (ex Rust en Vrede) is opening a new 30 seater restaurant in The Saxon in Johannesburg.

*   Big Route Top Gourmet Pizzeria has opened on Main Road, Green Point, next door to Woolworths, serving 52 different pizzas, salads and crêpes.

*   Cousins has opened in the Parliament Hotel, where Il Cappero used to be.

* Aces ‚Äėn‚Äô Spades Bar has opened in ex-Boo Radley on Hout Street

*   No. 6 Restaurant at Welbedacht has opened at Welbedacht/Schalk Burger & Sons wine estate in Wellington, run by the ex-owners of Oude Wellington

*   Café Dulce is to open a new branch in Tygervalley Centre

*   Gourmetboerie is to open at the bottom end of Kloof Street, where Depasco used to be, in October.

*   Kushi Indian Restaurant has opened a branch on Main Road in Sea Point

*   Time & Place Restaurant and Bar has opened on the corner of Wale and Buitengracht Street

*   Make Sushi Bar has opened in Sea Point

*   Thai Café is opening on Plein Street, Stellenbosch

*   Simply Asia has opened in Paarl

*   Restaurant @ Zomerlust has opened in Paarl

*    Christina’s has opened at Van Loveren in Robertson

*   Bellini’s is said to be opening on Greenmarket Square in October

*   Moksh Authentic Indian Cuisine restaurant has opened in Paarl

* ¬† Vino’s has opened in Wellington

* ¬† Alfama’s has opened on Waterkant Street

*   Taj Mahal has opened in Sea Point

* ¬† It’s a House is to open on Jarvis Street in October, as a bar, coffee shop, and design art space.

* ¬† Lion’s Head Bar is to open on Bree Street in October, selling craft beer and food

*   An Indian restaurant is to open in the original Madame Zingara building on Loop Street, by the Madame Zingara Group

*   The Caviar Group is opening three new restaurants in the Gateway Centre in Umhlanga by the end of this year: Beluga, Sevruga, and Osetra

*   A new bar and Café is to open underneath the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, where Bamboo used to be

*   Cattle Baron has opened in Hermanus.

*   Café Blanc de Noir has opened on Brenaissance wine estate in Stellenbosch

* The Reserve is said to be opening a beach restaurant in the V&A Waterfront.

*   Chef Nic van Wyk, previously with Terroir, is opening a restaurant at Diemersdal in Durbanville during the course of this month.

* ¬† Lizette’s Kitchen has opened in V√∂elklip, Hermanus.

*   Cattle Baron is to open at Pontac Manor in Paarl

* ¬† Col’Cacchio is opening in Hermanus at the end of November

*   Merchant Café is opening on Long Street, opposite Merchants on Long, later this month.

* Paulina’s Restaurant is opening at Rickety Bridge in Franschhoek

*   Ocean Jewel Deli opens at Woodstock Junction on 22 October.

*   Buitenverwachting has opened a Coffee Shop and Roastery

* Wakaberry is opening on Kloof Street at the end of October

*   Rock Sushi Thai has opened in Meadowridge

*   Jimmy Jimanos sports bar is opening on Long Street

* ¬† Dolc√© Bakery is opening in St John’s Arcade in Sea Point

*   The Coffee Bloc has opened at Buitenverwachting

*   The Salzburger Grill has opened in Sea Point

Restaurant Closures

*   Sabarosa in Bakoven has closed down.

* Sunbird Bistro in Camps Bay has closed down

*   Limoncello in Gardens has closed down, but is continuing with its pop-up restaurant truck

*   Paparazzi has closed down on St George’s Mall

*   Wicked Treats in Franschhoek has closed down.

*   Casa Nostra has closed down in Sea Point, until it finds a new venue.

*   Bistro on Rose in Bo-Kaap has closed down as a restaurant

*   The Kove in Camps Bay has closed down, its space has become part of sister restaurant Zenzero

*   Sinnfull has closed down in Sea Point and Camps Bay

*   Liam Tomlin Food is closing down in Franschhoek at the end of October

Restaurant staff/venue changes

*    Il Cappero has moved from Barrack Street, to Fairway Street in Camps Bay.

*  Table Thirteen has reduced in size in Green Point and will open in Paarden Eiland later this year.

* ¬†¬†The¬†V&A Waterfront Food Court is closed for renovations until November. ¬†A sign outside the construction area lists the following businesses moving into or returning to the area: Primi Express, Anat, Carnival, N√ľr Halaal, Royal Bavarian Bakery, KFC, Boost Juice, Simply Asia, Steers, Debonairs, Subway, Marcel‚Äôs, and Haagan Dazs. ¬†Nando‚Äôs is also opening.

*   Fyndraai Restaurant will move to another building on the wine estate in November, and will offer fine dining.  The current restaurant will serve light lunches and picnics.

*   Josephine Gutentoft has moved to Makaron at Majeka House as Restaurant Manager and Sommelier.

*   The Reserve has changed its name to Reserve Brasserie. Seelan Sundoo, ex Grand Café Camps Bay and ex La Perla, is the new consultant chef and GM (Seelan Sundoo has since left, now running the Shimmy Beach Club).

*   Chef Andrew Mendes from ex-Valora is now at Nelson’s Eye restaurant, where they are setting up a lunch section and cocktail bar upstairs.

*   Giulia’s Food Café Restaurant has opened where Miss K was on Main Road, Green Point. Now serve Italian-style lunch and dinner, but have retained some Miss K breakfast and pastry items.

*   Having bought the farm about 18 months ago, Antonij Rupert Wines has taken over the Graham Beck Franschhoek property. They will re-open the tasting room in October, initially offering all its Antonij Rupert, Cape of Good Hope, Terra del Capo, and Protea wines to taste.  They are renovating the manor house, to which the Antonij Rupert and Cape of Good Hope wines will be moved for tasting at a later stage.

*   Orphanage is expanding into a property at its back, opening on Orphan Street, in December, creating a similar second bar downstairs, and opening Orphanage Club upstairs, with 1920’s style music by live performers

*   GOLD Restaurant has moved into the Trinity building

*   Opal Lounge has closed down on Kloof Street, and has moved into Blake’s Bar building, renaming it Dinner at Blake’s. A wine and tapas bar has also been opened, called Bar Rouge.

*   Mano A Mano has opened on Park Street, where Green’s used to be.

*   MondeVino Restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg, the MasterChef SA prize for the next two years, is to be renamed Aarya, and is to be run by Chef Deena Naidoo from November onwards.

*   Bizerca has moved into the ex-Gourmet Burger space in Heritage Square on Shortmarket Street.

*    Co-owner Abbi Wallis has taken over the running of The Stone Kitchen at Dunstone Winery in Wellington.

*   Marcelino has left Marcelino’s Bakery, leaving the control with Mr Zerban.  A Zerban’s style restaurant is being added onto the bakery and will open mid-October.  It will change its name to EuroHaus.

*   Chef Chris Erasmus from Pierneef à La Motte is doing a stage with Chef Rene Redzepi at Noma, the number one World’s 50 Best Restaurants, in Copenhagen this month

*   MasterChef SA runner-up Sue-Ann Allen is joining South Africa’s number one Eat Out Top 10 restaurant The Greenhouse as an intern for a month, from 21 August.

*   Vintage India has moved out of the Garden’s Centre to the corner of Hiddingh and Mill Street, around the corner.

*   Nook Eatery in Stellenbosch has been sold, with new owners.

*   Crêpe et Cidre has closed down in Franschhoek.  Gideon’s The Famous Pancake House has opened in its space.

*   Brampton winetasting bar on Church Street, Stellenbosch, is undergoing renovations to treble its current size, planning to reopen in the first week of September.

*   Noop restaurant in Paarl has new owners

*   Buena Vista Social Club has changed its name to Barbosa Social Club

*   Chris Marais is the new chef at Blaauwklippen, previously with The Oyster Box

*   Daniel de Villiers is the new chef at Grand Dedale in Wellington, previously with Delaire Graff

*   Phil Alcock is the new chef at Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point, having previously worked at The Cape Grace, The Showroom, maze, and more

*   Albert van der Loo, previously with Le Coq and Dieu Donne restaurants in Franschhoek, is the new Head Chef at Oude Werf Hotel in Stellenbosch.

* ¬† Chef Emile Fortuin, who was at Reuben’s Robertson for a very short time, has left and moved to Tokara

* ¬† Camil and Ingrid Haas (ex Bouillabaisse and Camil’s) have returned to Franschhoek, with the view to get involved in a restaurant

* ¬† Chef Cheyne Morrisby has left The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz, and has joined the Mantella Group (owners of Blake’s and ex-Opal Lounge). Update: Chef Cheyne has left the Mantella Group, after a very short time.

* ¬† Tiaan van Greunen is the new Executive Chef at Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel, after the departure of Emile Fortuin

*   Alex von Ulmenstein is the new Restaurant Manager at Indochine, at Delaire Graff Estate

* ¬† Manager Raymond Brown has left Reuben’s Franschhoek, and has been replaced by Martell Smith.

*   Zelda Oelofse is the new Manager of Harvest Restaurant at Laborie, having taken over from Yolanda Prinsloo.

*   Maryna Frederiksen is the new Executive Chef at The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz.

*   The ex-Caveau owners are said to be taking over the running of the Twankey Bar of the Taj hotel.

*   Sand at The Plettenberg hotel has changed its name to Seafood at The Plettenberg.

Restaurant breaks

*   Grande Provence is closing on Sunday evenings until the end of September.

*   Tokara is closing for a Spring break from 24 September Р4 October

*   Planet Restaurant is closed on Sunday evenings until the end of September

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

What’s On at What’s On Eatery? A new chef, a new menu to come!

The most exciting restaurant news in Cape Town must be the move of Chef Oliver Cattermole of Dash Restaurant at the new Queen Victoria Hotel, to What’s On Eatery at the end of this month, the ideal marriage of superb host Trevor Jordaan with a superb chef. ¬†The restaurant will be serving food with ‘simplistic elegance’, in a homely and hearty environment, and is set to become even more popular than it already is.

Chef Oliver attracted my attention with his most beautiful ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vegetable garden he created with the beef fillet and mash dish at Dash. ¬†Oliver is a quiet man who is passionate about what he creates, and told me about his plans for What’s On Eatery when we met with Trevor yesterday. ¬†He wants to position What’s On as a small neighbourhood eatery, and is looking forward to lifting What’s On to new heights. He will serve simple food, cooked impeccably, and beautifully presented. ¬†His menu is likely to change monthly, and some of the starters include Prawn cocktail, Roast beef salad, Caprese salad, Mussels with cider (his personal favorite), and Oysters with seaweed. ¬†Mains are likely to include Linefish of the day, Monkfish Masala, Breast of lamb, and Pork belly with apple puree, crackling and black pudding soil. ¬†On the Dessert menu could appear delectable items such as Lemon tart (using the Le Gavroche recipe but with an Oliver twist), Chocolate marquise, a Chocolate plate using chocolate by CocoaFair, and Elderflower berries and custard. ¬†The lunch menu will be lighter, with platters of charcuterie, fish, and cheese, as well as soups and gourmet ciabattas. ¬†Starters will range from R35 – R65, main courses from R95 – R165, and desserts around R40 – R45. Gorgeous sorbet palate cleansers will be served.

Chef Oliver grew up in Durbanville, and worked on weekends for George Jardine at the Cellars Hohenhort hotel whilst he was still at school. ¬†He did a kitchen internship with Matthew Gordon at Haute Cabri√©re Cellar Restaurant for 2,5 years, and worked alongside Scott Kirton, the La Colombe chef. ¬†Chef Oliver left for the UK, and worked at 2-Michelin star restaurant Le Gavroche, in which kitchen Michel Roux jnr reigned. He said it was tough working in a French kitchen, without being able to speak French, but it did give him a good grounding. ¬†The rule of the chef was ‘my way or no way’! ¬†This kitchen influenced Chef Oliver the most, and he owns ten Roux cookery books, and makes his jus and sauces the Roux way. ¬†In this kitchen they do things the old-fashioned way, and here Oliver learnt discipline, punctuality, time-keeping, and being organised, in a kitchen that was run with ‘military precision’. Here he worked with Phil Carmichael, ex-Maze chef at the One&Only Cape Town. ¬†He moved to The Ivy, one of London’s top restaurants with 400 covers, of which Giles Conran once said: “The most fashionable piece of furniture in London is a table at The Ivy”, and worked there for three years. ¬†This restaurant sees VIP’s such as Tony Blair, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, the Beckhams, John Travolta, and Elton John eat good British food here regularly. It is one of the ultimate places to be seen, and serves the ‘best of British’ food, Chef Oliver said. ¬†Even Gordon Ramsay used to eat at The Ivy every Friday evening, having beef tartar, and fish and chips. Oliver worked here as Chef de Partie, and was responsible for the vegetables, one of the hardest sections of this kitchen, the menu offering 37 side dishes.

Novelli’s at The London Capital Club, with Jean Christophe, for whom George Jardine worked, was Chef Oliver’s next employer. ¬†This one-Michelin star restaurant serves refined food with clean and sharp lines in its presentation. Foraging was a trademark of this restaurant. ¬†When most of his colleagues left, Chef Oliver left too, working on a Silverseas cruise liner for six months. ¬†Then he spent 2,5 years at Cannizaro House, which was awarded three rosettes by the UK AA Guide, first as Sous Chef and then as Senior Sous Chef. ¬†Foraging here too was important, and ’boutique’ ingredients were sourced in the preparation of modern British food. ¬†A snowed-in Christmas last year made him decide to return to his home city, and he was offered a job by Newmark Hotels, first at their V&A Hotel, and then at the Queen Victoria Hotel, where he and the team of chefs designed the exciting Dash menu. ¬†Chef Oliver says his job as Chef de Cuisine at Dash has broadened his horizons and pushed his culinary boundaries. Chef Oliver is the son of Nigel Cattermole, a co-founder and partner in Siris Vintners, owner of Wines @ the Mill, and lecturer at Varsity College.

Owner Trevor Jordaan is planning a number of changes to coincide with Chef Oliver’s arrival: the downstairs room will be set up as upstairs, with highback chairs, and some other decor upgrades; the counter will be set up as a bar, and bar snacks will be served, such as home-made biltong; a new awning and signage is planned; Chef Oliver will come out of the kitchen after the service; ¬†the opening hours will change to 9h30 – late, without closing in the late afternoon, Monday – Friday, and on Saturday evenings.

POSTSCRIPT 4/10: I have not wanted to eat at What’s On Eatery until new Chef Oliver has settled in, but could not help ordering the new starter Durbanville Asparagus with coddled hen’s egg and soldiers this afternoon, when stopping by for a coffee, excellent value at R45, and beautifully presented. ¬†I met the new sous chef Wesley, who also worked at Dash, and previously at Jardine.

POSTSCRIPT 31/10: Sadly and unexpectedly What’s On Eatery closed down today.

What’s On Eatery, 6 Watson Street, Cape Town. ¬†Tel (021) 422-5652. ¬†www.whatsoneatery.co.za. ¬†Twitter: @Whatsoneatery

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

Hotel Review: Rijk’s Country House is country kitsch, tries too hard!

I am very fond of Rijk’s Shiraz, having drunk it for the first time just after maze at the One&Only Cape Town¬† opened¬†two years ago.¬† When I saw the name of Rijk’s Country House as the only five-star accommodation option for a wedding weekend in Tulbagh, I¬†booked, given my¬†positive association with the wine.¬† But I should have known that a five-star “Boutique Hotel”, charging R 3000 per room per night in Tulbagh, was too good to be true, even though I was offered a hospitality industry rate reduction of 50%. ¬† The Hotel is not five star, in my evaluation, and tries too hard to please, and thereby fails.¬† It has a very kitsch taste in some aspects.

The reservation ran relatively smoothly with¬†Rijk’s directly,¬†but I did not receive a confirmation of my booking after transferring the 50 % deposit, and no response to my e-mail request¬†for the confirmation.¬† I therefore called Rijk’s, but only saw the number of a central reservations line, being that of African Pride Hotels, the luxury arm of Protea Hotels, who do the marketing of and bookings for Rijk’s.¬† The African Pride Hotels link to Rijk’s gave me confidence in its calibre.¬† I was put through to the sales department, and spoke to an unfriendly ‘machine’, who was speaking too fast, and he must have got annoyed when I told him that I could not understand him, and requested that he slow down.¬† He responded by putting down the phone. I then found the Tulbagh number of¬†Rijk’s lower down on the website, and called them directly.¬† Here too the telephonic communication was a struggle, until I was put through to Andretti, who did confirm telephonically that all was in order, and he¬†did so by e-mail as well.

Louisa Colquhoun, the General Manager of the 15-bedroom Rijk’s Country House, called a few days before our arrival, and apologised for the problems with the interaction with African Pride Hotels, and requested more details about the person I had spoken to there.¬† She told me that she had been sent a link to this blog by her boss, and that her boss is a regular reader.¬†

Our journey was beset¬†with delays, and we only arrived at 8.30 pm on Friday.¬† We had to call en route,¬†to find the best way to drive to Tulbagh from Franschhoek, not having been sent any directions.¬† Here too we had communication problems, in getting¬†clear guidelines as to how to drive to Tulbagh from Wellington.¬† There is no signage in Tulbagh to direct one to the town centre, or to Rijk’s¬† from there, so we had to call again.¬† When we arrived, Louisa came out to the car, to greet us, and walked us inside.¬†Two staff members almost ‘sang’ a welcome to ‘Chris and Alex’, even before we were introduced to them, and we were ‘Chris and Alexed’ by all staff throughout our stay, a little too familiar, I felt, quite a contrast to the ‘Ms von Ulmenstein’ treatment experienced at the 5-star Taj Hotel¬†recently.¬† One of the staff had a tray of welcome Rijk’s Shiraz 2004¬†for us, very generous in its pouring.¬† The other tray had towel cloths for us to use, but we did not have enough hands to take the glass and the cloth plus what we were holding already, so we could not partake of this service.¬† Louisa showed us the lounge, the Polo Wine Bar, where they do winetastings too, and the Que Sera dining room, where they serve breakfasts and dinner, and we stayed¬†to have dinner¬†immediately, without first seeing the room.¬† Louisa gave me the Guest Registration Form to complete, and most of its clauses would not pass the new Consumer Protection Act¬† with its ‘legalese’, and the waivers and indemnities.

Dinner at the 32-seater Que Sera was a hit and miss affair, mainly because we were left with a junior waitress Chantel, who was generally unknowledgeable.¬† We were the only guests dining.¬† I asked¬†Chantel who the chef was, and she said¬†her name is¬†Joan.¬† She knew nothing more about her, other than that she had worked at Rijk’s for 21 years.¬† I did not realise that it had been open for so long.¬† She said the owners of the Rijk’s Country¬†House are Stuart and Mason Cranswick, who lease the buildings from Neville Dorrington, the owner of the Rijk’s wine farm and Private Cellar.¬†The staff wear a turquoise shirt and black pants and black apron. Chantel said that she has been at Rijk’s for three years already, and worked at Paddagang restaurant previously.¬† The lighting was very low, until we asked for it to be turned up a little.¬† The room walls are bare, except for two pictures over the fireplace, but did not seem to be original works of art.¬† The white table cloth¬†had a runner over it, and the beige chairs were comfortable.¬† A vase with a carnation and a candle were on the table.¬† Eetrite cutlery was modern in design and functional.¬† A wooden board arrived with a tasty seed-topped mini-bread, olive tapenade, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.¬† When my son asked if the tapenade contains anchovies, the waitress confirmed this, so she found us some anchovy-less tapenade.¬† The menu is in a brown plastic cover, and refers to “Rijk’s Boutique Hotel”, showing some confusion as to its identity and positioning.¬† Each page of the menu is dominated by the blown-up Rijk’s¬† Country House logo, over which the menu items¬†are printed, making it hard to read them all, especially in the low light.¬† My heart sank when I saw that three of the starters were served with sweet chilli sauce.¬†

We were warned that the Beef Wellington (served with a choice of starches, my mash topped with fresh coriander) would take 20 minutes to make, which we said was fine, given that I had ordered a nicely presented Avocado Ritz¬†starter.¬† I enjoyed both dishes, except that the Beef Wellington (R120)¬†only contained mushrooms and no chicken liver pat√©.¬†¬†The fillet was perfectly cooked medium rare, as requested. My son was not happy with the Wild Mushroom and Thyme¬†Risotto (R80), being completely overcooked,¬†too salty,¬†not containing any identifiable thyme, and tasting of a spice which made it inedible.¬† We sent it back, but were still charged for it, until I asked Chantel to take it off the bill, which she did.¬† Starter options range from R37 for calamari steak strips.¬†Tempura prawns, peri peri chicken livers, gazpacho and¬†a soup of the day¬†are some other starter options. Main course prices start at R80 for the risotto, and¬†Pan-fried Citrus Salmon Trout costs R155,¬†expensive for Tulbagh, I felt.¬† Steak is served three ways, and costs R100 – R140, and one can order a 150g¬†or 200g portion.¬†¬†¬† The menu states that one can order a salad or seasonal vegetables¬†as part of¬†the main course, but this option was not presented to us, and I did not see it on the menu when we were ordering.¬† We did not order any desserts, costing about R30, but could have had desserts from a trolley, a cheese platter (R66), fruit salad or sorbet. When I ordered a cappuccino, it took a good half an hour to get one.¬†¬† The very noisy industrial-looking coffee machine is in the dining room, so we could observe the process.¬† It took three attempts to get a cappuccino served in a cup, and not a latte in a glass, despite our clear request to Chantel. ¬† We were told that the coffee comes from ‘Beans for Africa’ and was called ‘Peru Organic’.¬† Just after the starter was served, Louisa came to check on us, and we did not see her again during the dinner, and she did not ask us later¬†for feedback about the dinner.

The wine list also has a¬†brown plastic cover, and no vintages are indicated.¬† House wines by the glass cost R28 for an unspecified white and R31 for a red wine.¬†¬†¬†Organic white and Ros√© wine by the glass can be ordered at R22, but the origin of it is not identified.¬† Moet et Chandon costs R750, Billecart Brut R690, and Billecart Salmon Ros√© R1088. Cap “Classic” sparkling wines include Krone Borealis Brut, at R120, and the Nicolas Charles Krone Marque 1 is the most expensive at R420. The winelist offers a Rijk’s wine¬†in each variety, and is not always the cheapest one offered – in fact it was the most expensive option in most cases.¬† There is a heavy 50 % mark-up on the Rijk’s’ wines relative to the next-door cellar prices, the Shiraz costing R205.¬† A page in the winelist provided prices of wines one could buy from the Rijk’s Gift Shop, at R128 for the Rijk’s Shiraz, and even the three champagnes on the winelist can be bought at about 50 % less!

The welcome letter from Louisa¬†introduced Tulbagh, described Rijk’s Country House as “country living at its best”, and¬†stated that “the hotel makes use of the farms water supply and is being treated”, which I did not read on arrival, and the bottled water drinking recommendation¬†was not explained to us verbally.¬†¬†I was impressed that the letter was personalised, in referring to the wedding we were attending.¬† Surprising too was the invitation to enjoy a winetasting in the Rijk’s Polo Wine Bar in the Rijk’s Country House, rather than in the Rijk’s Private Cellar¬† tasting room.

The rooms are actually cottages away from the core¬†reception building, so we had to drive to the cottage that we were allocated.¬† It is an open plan lounge and bedroom, with a large bathroom, and a separate loo.¬†¬† My heart sank as soon as I saw the rug,¬†a cheap floor decoration, and not a Persian carpet, which would have been¬†befitting of a five star room.¬† Also, the windows have cheap plastic blinds with a net curtain, shouting ‘cheap and nasty’.¬† The end result of such¬†‘curtaining’ is that it let in the light at 6h00, not exactly what one wants on a¬†precious weekend away.¬† The beds were requested to be twin, but the beds had been separated, so each of us had to sleep on a¬† precarious single bed, something I have not done in more than 30 years (in our guest houses we keep the beds together, but use single bed linen to make up the beds).¬† There was a nice selection of magazines, but I was surprised to find a ‘Franschhoek Style’ amongst them, marketing Franschhoek, competition to Tulbagh, especially when it comes to weddings!¬† Worst of all about the¬†cottage was a sickly sweet smell in the room, probably coming from a heavy dose of Charlotte Rhys room spray that had been sprayed¬†at turn-down, prior¬†to our arrival!¬† I had to open all the windows to get the smell out of the room, and almost froze to death, not being able to sleep as a result.¬†Spread out on the bed was a dressing gown, which may be the highlight of other visitors’ stay, but certainly is not a requirement, in my book.¬† On top of this was presented the turn-down ‘treat’, the most bizarre and kitschy¬†I have ever experienced – a pink wrapped mini ‘Christmas cracker’, with silver ribbon, containing … a pink and a white marshmallow!¬† There is a Belgian chocolatier (Moniki)¬†in Tulbagh, and it would have been more fitting to use their products.¬† I got up to write when I could not sleep for most of the night, and heard the loud staff arrival just after 6h00.¬†¬† The crowning glory was that there was no water coming out of the taps the next morning, something Louisa had mentioned the night before could be a possibility.¬† Whilst we had bottled water for brushing our teeth, we could not have a shower or bath in the musty smelling bathroom – to open its window one has to step into the bath to get to the latch!¬†¬†Water clearly is¬†a problem at Rijk’s, as a letter from Louisa, which must have been in the room, but which I only read on our return, explained about “water shortages and other difficulties”, urging us to use the bottled water supplied for drinking and in the kettle.

When we came for breakfast, Louisa came to apologise for the water situation.¬† She also said that she felt that¬†Rijk’s could not meet our requirements, and offered to refund our deposit payment.¬†I told her that we had already booked alternative accommodation for the second night. ¬†Whilst the water situation was inconvenient, but out of her control, I suggested to Louisa that she waive the restaurant bill of the night before as a make-good, which she accepted.¬† However, she wrote the following day: I spoke with my Shareholders on your departure and relayed the details of your stay. ¬†I explained that you had declined a full refund but requested the dinner be complimentary.¬† They requested I get in touch with you and request your bank details as they would like to ensure the return of your deposit.¬† I would be grateful if you would allow us to facilitate this.¬† Once again we apologise that your stay did not meet your expectations and look forward to hearing from you.”¬†

The Breakfast was served outside on the vine-covered Iceberg Terrace, with a lovely view onto iceberg roses, the vineyards, and the Wintershoek mountains.¬† The colour scheme for the table runners and outdoor chair cushions is grass green and turquoise, quite ‘loud’.¬†¬†The vase of fresh roses on¬†each table was a nice touch.¬†No breakfast buffet was laid out, but a collection of breakfast items was brought on a tray and put onto a stand next to our table, consisting of two yoghurt flavours, two cereals, a cold meat and cheese platter, fresh fruit served on a chipped plate, and a basket of muffins, scones¬†and¬†croissants.¬† I was served a perfectly made cappuccino, but was initially told that it was not possible to make one due to the water problem.¬† I suggested to Chantel that she use some bottled water.¬†¬†As we were the only guests having breakfast, it was surprising that the service was so slow.¬†¬†Chantel waited until we had finished our cereals before she asked for the egg order, and this took a good 20 minutes to be brought to the table, the eggs arriving quite some time before the toast, which I had to remind Chantel¬†about.¬† The orange juice was not freshly squeezed, and came out of a bottle.¬†¬† The estate handyman came to our table to also apologise for the burst water pipe, and explained that they were working on it.¬†¬†The music at Rijk’s made one very nostalgic, and included ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and a ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’.¬†¬† As happened¬† at dinner, Louisa was barely present at breakfast, and did not check on how we enjoyed it, and if there were any problems.¬† Understandably, she was stressed about the water situation.¬†Her deputy¬†did not¬†come to our table during¬†our breakfast.

So what can I praise: the free easy wireless (but slow) internet connection, even reaching to the cottage.¬† The lovely roses.¬† The generosity of the welcome drink.¬† Louisa’s apologies for things going wrong.¬† The good breakfast scones.¬† The setting and the view.¬† However, so many other aspects appeared amateurish and the staff poorly managed, that they¬†spoilt the enjoyment of our stay.

Rijk’s Country House, Tulbagh.¬† Tel (023) 230-1006. www.rijkscountryhouse.co.za¬†(The website refers to ‘Fine Dining’, but there is no menu nor winelist.¬† The Image Gallery does not contain a single food photograph.¬† The breakfast description includes reference to a daily newspaper, but we did not see one).

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

Restaurant News: Chef Reuben Riffel cooks up a Cape Town storm in the USA!

Chef Reuben Riffel’s connection with the One&Only Cape Town is putting him, and¬†Cape Town¬†with it, on the world map, and he recently returned from a whirlwind tour of New York, with the compliments of SAA and the One&Only Hotel group.¬†

He stepped off the aircraft with his Reuben’s Franschhoek chef William Carolissen, and was whisked off to the studios of the Martha Stewart Show¬† immediately.¬† Despite her poor performance at the Design Indaba a year ago, Stewart remains an icon of American domesticity, and her show is watched by an audience of about 80000.¬† Chef Reuben had to prepare South African dishes in front of the camera and studio audience, and had pre-organised which ingredients he would require for it.¬† He had a time limit of¬†4 minutes to create¬†Cape Malay¬†pickled fish, and a¬†grilled peri peri beef salad.¬†¬†The Reuben’s slot ran for 15 minutes and had shots of the One&Only Cape Town too, with Stewart endorsing the hotel by stating that it is her favourite resort in South Africa. ¬†The show will be broadcast on¬†9 March.¬†

He was also invited to¬†appear on NBC’s Today Show, with a viewership of 3,3 million on the day of broadcast. Chef Reuben cooked with Today Show personalities Al Roker and Natalie Moralis, and here too he had to prepare two dishes (crisp prawn dumplings with rooibos tea salt, and pan roasted red snapper prepared in a West Coast basting sauce of apricot jam, garlic and soya, served with a salsa of tomato, cucumber, chilli and cilantro) in front of the audience.¬†¬†

Reuben is no stranger to cooking in front of a camera, making more and more TV appearances, on Pasella in particular, so this stood him in good stead to do our city and country proud.  Chef Reuben said the American TV staff are well organised.   Chef Reuben also prepared food for an One&Only Hotel event for travel agents and tour operators, as well as one for the media (journalists represented the New York Times Style Magazine, Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Post and Travel Africa.)    

Meeting Chef Reuben and his wife Maryke at Reuben’s at the One & Only Cape Town¬†last week was an opportunity to catch up, and to check whether he is still connected to his restaurant in Cape Town, given my observations after my last visit.¬† He laughed when we chatted about¬†how incorrect deductions can be made from bits of staff information¬†one receives, and it showed him how important it is for him to communicate with all levels of staff.¬† Talking of staff, a number of changes have taken place since Reuben’s opened in Cape Town in October:¬†¬† The Manager Samantha Housden has left, after only a short stint, and has been replaced by Kagiso¬†Mmebe. ¬†In the kitchen Maritz Jacobs has been joined by Aviv Liebenberg, previously at Reuben’s Robertson, and Chef Reuben is encouraging them to visit the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, so that they can stay in touch with interesting food suppliers, and they come back with fresh products for a new special¬†“Market Day” menu on Saturdays.¬†Reuben’s staff will ‘cross-pollinate’ between Cape Town and Franschhoek, so that they get to experience the other branch.¬† ¬†Camil Haas, who was meant to shadow Chef Reuben in Franschhoek and Cape Town, will be more behind the scenes now, and will¬†manage Chef Reuben’s appearances, and the requirements linked to these, as well as the preparation for outside events.¬†

Chef Reuben explained why the current menu does not have the chefs’ names on it, and why the Reuben’s branding is so low key, in that the hotel had printed it at a time when the regular Reuben’s printer was closed over the festive season.¬†¬†The new menu¬†to be launched on 16 February will go back to its “Reuben’s” look, and its content will have a stronger Cape Town focus, with a new dessert for example called ‘Taste of Cape Town’, with small tastes of Hertzoggies, date slices, melktert, rooibos tea ice cream and a coconut koeksister.¬†¬† In Franschhoek a menu change can be expected at the end of the month, but will have a different focus to the Cape Town one.¬†¬† A Sunday buffet lunch will be introduced in Cape Town on 27 February, costing R 195.¬† The Reuben’s Cape Town menu indicates which dishes contain alcohol (for Sol Kerzner, who does not drink alcohol, and for Muslim guests), shellfish, nuts, and pork.

We spoke about the winelist, which I see as overpowering, and not really suiting a Bistro-style restaurant.¬† Chef Reuben said that Singita is buying up a portion of the wine collection, and he said that they may develop a reduced winelist for Reuben’s.¬† The One&Only Hotel has influenced the operation of Reuben’s in Cape Town, and has meant more paperwork and adherence to systems, but there are benefits too, such as the international marketing that the hotel group does.¬† Chef Reuben emphasised that Kerzner does not interfere with his operation of the restaurant. In fact, there is a good relationship between the hotel and the restaurant management, and they meet regularly to address common issues.¬† Reuben is featured in the international One&Only Hotel newsletter, which was sent out earlier this week.

The decor is evolving, and new multi-coloured glass menu boards have been erected on the columns of the restaurant, to advertise specials.  When I visited last week, a West Coast seafood special was advertised, consisting of a number of dishes.  The boards help the Cape Town branch make spontaneous additions to the menu, without having to reprint it, a greater logistical challenge here than in Franschhoek, Chef Reuben explained. 

A new cookbook is in the pipeline, and will focus on seasons.¬†¬† It will allow Chef Reuben to continue with the format of his first recipe book, and to reminisce about his childhood in Franschhoek, and his mother’s influence on his cooking.¬†¬† Richard Carstens is highly praised by Chef Reuben, and he says that Richard “is one of the best” and that “no one can touch him”.

Chef Reuben says there are definitely no further restaurant openings on his agenda, and he is learning to delegate more, to enjoy a more balanced personal and business life.¬† I left him and Maryke with the feeling that they will make the best of their new relationship with the One&Only Hotel, and that there will be no repeat of Gordon Ramsay’s distant relationship with the ex-maze, the previous restaurant at the One&Only Cape Town, and the resultant demise.

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