While we all love to eat out, it is disappointing when one gets taken for a ride by restaurants making false claims, or if they are dishonest in the presentation of their product and service.
My favourite hobby horse is wines-by-the-glass. I have discovered regularly that the chosen vintage for such wines is seldom that which is advertised on the winelist. Few winelists have a disclaimer, covering them for a vintage running out. I always ask for the wine to be poured at the table – I also want to taste it before a glassful is poured. Few restaurants do this. Last week, at Wijnhuis in Newlands, a restaurant that places wines prominently in the foreground, I ordered a glass of Delheim Shiraz 2004, as per the winelist. The waiter brought the poured glass to the table. When I asked him to pour it at the table he came with a 2006 bottle. When questioned about the vintage difference, he shrugged his shoulders. The vintages had run out, he said, as if to say â€“ so what?! The older the wine, the more expensive it is. So therefore, by deduction, a restaurant should charge less if the vintage is younger than advertised.
At Vaudeville earlier this month four glasses of wine were poured out of a bottle, and the bottle was not left on the table. When we asked for the rest of the wine, we were told that it was finished. Any restaurateur will tell you that you can pour up to 6 glasses of wine out of a 750 ml bottle. The GM begrudgingly brought 2 further glasses of wine to the table. Surprisingly they do not tell you that the bottle is finished, nor sell you another!
Newport Deli in Mouille Point wipes the mayonnaise off the tuna and chicken from the previous day’s sandwiches, puts them onto fresh bread, adds new mayonnaise, and calls the sandwiches “fresh”!
According to an ex-waiter of Bayside Cafe in Camps Bay, the left-over vegetables (usually butternut and spinach) returned from the table are put back into containers, and re-used for the next patrons!
A more devious dishonesty is when a restaurant makes a claim on its menu and website that it serves only organic beef, lamb and game from the owner’s farm in the Karoo, and an insider whistleblower tells friends that the restaurant in fact uses meat delivered from the same meat suppliers used by other restaurants in Cape Town. The restaurant in question is Carne, well-known as a specialist meat/steak restaurant, which states on its website: “Dedicated entirely to meat as is evident from its Italian name, Carne SA is a carnivore’s paradise serving a unique offering of the finest cuts of Romagnola beef, Dorper lamb and game, all organically grown on Giorgio’s own Karoo farms. To test this allegation before confronting Carne, the December statement and an invoice from one of Carne’s largest meat suppliers â€“ Gastro Foods â€“ which supplied about R60 000 worth of meat, including Romagnola “beef T-bone”, “beef prime rib Carne” and “Beef Rump Swiss”, to Carne in December, were checked. Botes Meat Centre also supplied Carne with meat to the value of about R15 000 in the same month. We then wrote to Carne owner Giorgio Nava, asking him to comment on the allegation that not all his meat, as claimed on his website and his menu, comes from his farm and that not all of it is organic. This was his reply: “The traditional meat suppliers in cape town supply us from time to time with offal ( because we need fresh daily, impossible from the Karoo ) and two traditional suppliers store my carcase when ,my two cold rooms are full. One traditional supplier cuts my meat from time to time when I cannot handle the amount of work. We buy samples of meat from many suppliers to compare regularly with our grass fed meat. Hope my answer satisfies you. Regards, Giorgio Nava”! With a purchase of R 30 000 â€“ R 60 000 per month of beef from Gastro Foods, and about R 15 000 – R 20 000 from Botes Meat Centre, it appears likely that most of the beef served at Carne is NOT from the Karoo, NOR is all of it organic!!! This is outright dishonesty, unacceptable for any restaurant, and especially for one on the Eat Out Top 20 list.
POSTSCRIPT (30 January)
Since this post was published, Giorgio Nava has called, and explained that he rears beef on his farm in the Karoo, and sells the carcasses to meat suppliers such as Gastro Foods at market-related prices. They cut these up, and he buys the beef cuts that he serves at Carne back from them, at market-related prices. This was his written reply: “Chris I think you’ve got the wrong information. The two butchers you mentioned in your article buy my whole carcases they mature for me they cut for me as I stated before and they sell back to me the cut I need for my menu as I cannot utilise the whole carcase in my restaurant.”
This was confirmed by Andreas Reichmuth, the GM of Gastro Foods, who called proactively to support Carne. HOWEVER, Mr Reichmuth spontaneously volunteered, without being asked, that he delivers ostrich and game to Carne too, which does not come from Mr Nava’s Karoo farm. Gastro Foods does not supply lamb.
Despite legal pressure from Mr Nava and his lawyer, we stand by our story that not all meat prepared at Carne is from Mr Nava’s Karoo farm, and may not all be organic,on the following grounds:
1. Mr Nava has confirmed that he does buy in “meat from many suppliers to compare regularly with our grass fed meat”.
2. Gastro Foods’ GM confirmed on 29 January that his company supplies to Carne game that is not from Mr Nava’s farm
3. Rossouw’s Restaurants wrote on 10 January 2009 that “….plus some of the meat comes from Nava’s own farm”, implying that not all of it does come from the Karoo farm.
We have requested Mr Nava to provide us with details of the lamb that he uses, and whether it is supplied by a meat supplier, and whether this is done on the same basis as the arrangement he has with Gastro Foods for the beef supply. We have also asked for organic certification of his meats. Both requests were denied, and the writer has been referred to Mr Nava’s lawyer.
We are surprised that Mr Nava did not explain the sale of his beef carcasses and buy-back relationship when he was approached for comment prior to the publishing of the post. He offered no information about his lamb and game supply. We asked Mr Nava: “I have been told that your website may be misleading in claiming that all the meats that you use are organically produced on your Karoo farms, and that they might in fact be delivered by traditional meat suppliers in Cape Town”.
POSTCRIPT (2 February)
Mr Nava’s lawyer has written to confirm that Carne has a similar sell/buy-back relationship with Botes Meat Centre as far as his lamb and game is concerned. He did not address the request for the organic certification. He also wrote that “Mr Nava considers this matter to be at an end”.
The controversial claim on the Carne website has not yet been amended.
POSTSCRIPT 3 (24 April)
Carne has finally “admitted” that its marketing has been misleading – read our follow-up story here.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com