The Sweet Service Award goes to the Opening of Parliament, and the SABC2 coverage of the President’s State of the Nation Address last night, the best one hour comedy show which the TV channel has ever broadcast! It was an entertaining mix of the cellphone signal being blocked in the House, no water provided, regular TV black-outs, ‘scrambled’ audio which made it impossible to hear President Zuma, the Speaker, and other speakers speak, the continuous raising of questions by members of the House, the eviction of the EFF by armed police from the House, and the voluntary walk-out by the DA. Comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys Continue reading →
* The Reserve Bank has increased the repo rate by 25 basis points, giving a new interest rate of 5,75%. Governor Gill Marcus blamed inflation for the rate increase.
* Brazil welcomed more than 1 million visitors during the Soccer World Cup, almost double the estimated 600000 travelers. Most tourists had never been to Brazil before, visiting from more than 200 countries. The infrastructure and tourism services generally, and the hospitality and cuisine specifically, were praised by the visitors. The soccer matches were seen by 3,4 million soccer fans in the stadia over the month-long event. Visitors stayed in Brazil for 13 days on average. Brazilians were good soccer fans too, more than 3 million travelling around their own country during the soccer tournament.
* Melanie Verwoerd has compiled a book ‘Our Madiba: Stories and Reflections from those who met Nelson Mandela‘, containing short stories of numerous persons that met the late Nelson Mandela, including Pieter-Dirk Uys/Evita Bezuidenhout, Adam Small, Francois Pienaar, Amanda Strydom, Sir Richard Attenborough, and many by Mrs Verwoerd herself.
As the 8th Franschhoek Literary Festival draws near, it is advisable to book the writer panel sessions as soon as possible, as they get booked out well in advance. The more well-known the writer/s on the panels, the quicker they are booked out. In addition to an intensive programme of talks from Friday until Sunday this coming weekend (16 – 18 May), entertainment is also available in the evenings.
The Festival is noble in generating funds for the Franschhoek Literary Festival Library Fund, for the following:
* donating books to schools and creches
* employing a librarian to work with four primary school libraries in the Franschhoek area, and part-time library assistants
* visiting schools, reading and story-telling
* Book Week for Young Readers, which is being held this week
* Wine Writers prizes of R12500 each, in two categories: six to eight short pieces of 1000 words each, from a blog or column; and a long piece of 1000 – 4000 words. Winners to be selected by a panel, usually chaired by John Maytham. Last year the prize was Continue reading →
* What was once known as Trinity, with a restaurant and club, is being relaunched as the Bennett Street Complex next week, as an events venue, comprising of the Bennett Street function room to be called “Funktion” (named after its Funktion 1 sound system), Gold Restaurant, and Trinity, the music brand. The venue will be an alternative to the Cape Town International Convention Centre, for hosting functions and events. (via Hype Media release)
* The Cape Town Festival of Beer, South Africa’s biggest beer festival, will be held for the fourth year running, on 22 – 24 November at the Hamilton’s Rugby Club in Green Point. The Festival celebrates the brewing heritage, culture and beer craft from around South Africa and the world. Craft, micro, and mega brewers will showcase over 200 local and international beers. There will also be food and beer pairings, guided beer tours, workshops, blind tastings, and home brewing demonstrations.(via KL PR & Events).
* Darling is hosting the 10th Voorkamerfest from 6 – 8 September, a collection of theatre, music, and dance shows performed by local and international artists in Darling locals’ ’voorkamers’. The festival is organised and run by the local community, under the auspices of the Darling Festival Trust. It was started by Dutch producers Wim Visser and Inge Bos, together with Pieter-Dirk Uys. The hub of the event is Evita se Perron, where festival-goers can collect tickets for one or all of the Voorkamerfest routes. Each route takes one on a journey between three different Darling homes, at which three varied 25-minute performances are showcased. There are four different time slots during the weekend, each with seven routes, with 21 performances in total. (via Hazell PR & Communications)
* The City of Cape Town has announced that the MyCiTi Bus station at the Civic Centre will undergo upgrade renovations from Monday, for the next 3 – 4 months.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Gorry Bowes-Taylor has built up a loyal following of book lovers as well as book launch lunch lovers on behalf of Wordsworth. The launch of Tony Leon’s latest book, ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, which was released two weeks ago, was sold out at Myoga on Saturday, not only due to the witty smart speaker but also the excellent menu offered by Chef Mike Bassett for the event.
The book, Leon’s second (the first was ‘On the Contrary‘), tells the story of Leon’s retirement from DA (Democratic Alliance) opposition politics after twenty years, and taking up an appointment as ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, ‘jumping before I was pushed’ from his party, as good politicians should do, he said. The book launch made it clear that politicians have the gift of the gab, and Leon is no exception. He is an excellent salesman for his book, attracting one’s attention with a provocative question – e.g. how does the previous Leader of the DA promote an ANC government in South America – and then encourages one to buy the book without answering his question, so as to not do Wordsworth (and himself of course) out of revenue!
Leon names-drops a lot – he is a close friend of Joost van der Westhuizen, and Pieter-Dirk Uys’ Evita Bezuidenhout is quoted too: ‘As a fellow accidental ambassador, reading Tony Leon’s adventures in the land of the original Evita and the gauchos, reminded me there are reasons to be grateful we live in South Africa after all‘. Even ex-President Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying about Tony Leon: ‘Your contribution to democracy is enormous. You have far more support for all you have done than you might ever read about‘, high praise indeed!
Myoga is located in the Vineyard Hotel grounds, and there was a severe traffic jam in getting to park on the property, given a huge exodus of a church group with had used the conference hall, made worse by a hotel security person who could not cope with this nor speed things up. All 100 guest had pre-booked, and were seated according to a plan. The seat at the table that I was allocated to had two adjoining table legs where one’s own legs were meant to be, making it impossible to sit there. The manager Shameemah was most unhelpful, saying that she could do nothing at all, and that is how it is! Eventually she made a plan by offering a seat at a table with the most friendly ‘Wordsworthians’, who were delighted I had taken the last seat at the table, as it prevented someone else whom they had experienced at the previous lunch from sharing the table with them. One of the table companions is a regular blog reader, and she quoted reviews she had read on our blog. Ingrid Crowther and her mother were lovely guests too, and we shared notes about restaurant experiences.
Most of the guests at this table attend each of Bowes-Taylor’s Wordsworth book launch lunches, not necessarily because they like the author, will buy the book, or are avid readers, but because they get to experience new restaurants, meet nice people, eat good food, taste unknown wines, and are entertained by the authors talking about their new books, all at the cost of R250. The ‘Wordsworthians’ were more than delighted with the Tony Leon book launch lunch, as it ticked all the right boxes, despite some problems experienced in making the bookings! The disasterous Penny Vincenzi book launch lunch at Sevruga three years ago got the restaurant removed from the Bowes-Taylor list, while De Grendel restaurant appears to be one of the popular venues.
Chef Mike and his team put on a lunch of note, which was paired with the wines of the Hemel en Aarde Valley’s Domaine des Dieux. Shane Mullis introduced the wine estate, each guest having received a glass of Rose of Sharon MCC 2008 as a welcome drink, made of 75% Pinot Noir and 25 % Chardonnay, and which spent 42 months on the lees. The boutique wine estate name means ‘place of the gods‘, and is owned by Sharon Parnell. At 320 meters above sea level, the wine estate is one of the highest in the country. It is particularly known for its sparkling wines, the Claudia MCC 2007 being made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Other wines in the range are the Chardonnay 2010, and Josephine Pinot Noir 2010.
The ‘Tantalizer’ was a superb starter of pan fried prawns with the Myoga signature sweet chili, crowned with coriander infused cream, which was paired with the Domaine des Dieux Sauvignon Blanc 2009, with asparagus notes and ripe fruit aromas. The sauce was so delicious, that everyone at our table requested a spoon, to finish every last drop! ‘The Main Event‘ was a sous-vide beef fillet, which was served with crispy potatoes, pan fried mushrooms, smoked bordelaise jus, and finished off with a sun-dried tomato mousse. The main course was paired with an excellent Domaine des Dieux Syrah/Mourvédre 2010. A perfectly made dry cappuccino accompanied ‘The Crowning Glory’, a refreshing dessert of golden tart, which was filled with lemon custard on peach jus, complemented with a most unusual goat’s cheese ice cream.
Leon concluded that if one was not interested in reading his book for the South African or Argentinian politics, one could buy it for the handy tips of where to shop and what to see in Buenos Airies, which his wife Michal had written for the book. His time in South America showed him that Argentina is even more corrupt than South Africa. He said it was sad to see how Argentina, once the seventh largest economy, now has a smaller economy than that of South Africa. He says the country is very focused on its past rather than on its future, and mocked it for representing a ‘vote for a better yesterday‘! The decline of the country appears to have been triggered off by the death of ex-First Lady Eva Duarte Perron in 1952. Leon also told the story of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who would not set foot in the cathedral of Buenos Aires, as its Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had criticised her government. Yet she traveled to Rome to attend his investure as the new Pope Francis earlier this year! He referred to other famous Argentinians: soccer star Lionel Messi and new Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Leon took his post in 2009, and the forthcoming soccer World Cup in South Africa helped him to leverage off big events, including rugby. The book details what happens in an embassy, his budget of about R20 million employing 27 staff per year. Leon told a funny story about his lunch with ex-South African Nobel prize winner JM Coetzee, who had been painted as being a recluse. Coetzee was participating in a Literary Festival in Buenos Aires, and Leon mistakenly invited him to the city’s best steak restaurant, the writer being a strict vegetarian! Leon found him to be anything but reclusive. Leon said that one should live in another country to appreciate one’s own country!
As an ambassador, Leon spent a lot of time in restaurants, and at dinners and cocktail parties at other embassies, and at the homes of Argentian contacts he got to know in his three years. He raves about the typical Asado barbeque, and the steaks served in the ‘parillas’, their meat cuts differing to ours. His guests will have been served samoosas, bobotie, and malva pudding, he shares. Funny is his chapter in not being able to find any Big Macs in Buenos Aires, the world famous burger being the benchmark for the real value of country’s currencies as measured by The Economist, as it would have shown up Argentina’s high inflation rate (of about 25%). No mention is made by him of any South African wines or the role they may have played in enhancing trade and cultural relations between South Africa and Argentina! He did visit Mendoza, the Argentinian wine region, on a number of occasions, but does not reveal which Malbec wines appealed to him.
Leon is articulate as a speaker and as a writer too, and the book is easy to read and hard to put down. One senses that he must have bitten his tongue on numerous occasions about his host country and his home country in the three years of his ambassadorship, having ended his latest career a year early, not explaining clearly why he did not end the term of his post. He now is a consultant, writer, and speaker.
Tony Leon: ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, Picador Africa, 2013. www.tonyleon.com Twitter: @TonyLeonSA
Myoga, Vineyard Hotel, 60 Collinton Road, Newlands, Cape Town. Tel (021) 657-4543. www.myoga.co.za Twitter: @MyogaRestaurant
Domaine des Dieux, Hemel en Aarde valley, Hermanus. Tel (028) 313-2126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The World Cup has always been said to have the benefit of showcasing South Africa, and the world’s media are descending on the country to prepare profiles of South Africa. Some of it is negative, but much so far has been positive, especially in showing off the beauty of Cape Town.
A South Africa-based correspondent for SkyNEWS seems to be in the townships every day, negatively reporting about the poverty of these residents, while the ‘rich’ sector of the country benefits from the World Cup, it is highlighted continuously.
Much more positive reporting is coming from ZDF, Germany’s largest TV station, which is pulling out all the stops to showcase South Africa. Yesterday, for example, the station did a 24 hour broadcast on its online channel, about our country, a conglomeration of various documentaries the station had produced on previous occasions. Unfortunately an on-line broadcast is not as powerful as a television broadcast, but it will have attracted a young audience. ZDF put a lot of advertising muscle behind the 24-hour broadcast, so it created strong awareness amongst ZDF viewers. The country brand ‘Suedafrika’ is definitely top of mind.
However, 90 minutes of the on-line broadcast was broadcast on ZDF TV throughout the day, in three sets of 30 minutes each. The programme started with beautiful shots of Table Mountain, and then of Cape Town filmed from Table Mountain. It was said that a trip up the mountain by cable car is a must for every visitor. Then the documentary jumped in contrast to a school in Wuppertal, showing children in a boarding school having to brush their teeth in an irrigation canal, because there are not enough facilities in the hostel for all the children. Then it moved to showing burning tyres, set alight by taxi drivers protesting against the new BRT bus system to be introduced. A township resident was interviewed, who positively stated that he would never leave his township : ‘I do not want to change my life for anything’, despite the poor facilities in the township. Children receiving a swimming lesson in Khayelitsha were filmed, and a sangoma throwing the bones interviewed. Then the production team interviewed Pieter-Dirk Uys, who initially spoke in German, but switched to English when he spoke about how dangerous it was for him to have mocked the Government when he first started, and melodramatically stated that had he been black, he would have been imprisoned! (He did not tell the interviewer that he has declared Evita se Perron in Darling soccer-free during the World Cup!).
Then the action moved to Captain Crash, who chases after stolen cars and minibus taxis in his helicopter (I have seen this insert twice already), and then to a Soweto-based Event Manager Tshepiso Mohlala, who is involved in the organisation of the World Cup Concert on 10 June. A lot of airtime was given to a German wedding co-ordinator from Wedding Concepts, who was organising a wedding at Allee Bleue outside Franschhoek.
Capetonian and ex-Miss South Jo-Ann Strauss features regularly in a ZDF TV advert for the World Cup Concert, from which Strauss and revered ZDF talk-show host Thomas Gottschalk will be presenting for ZDF. She speaks near-perfect German, her partner being from Munich, saying: ‘Suedafrika begruesst die Fussballwelt’ (South Africa welcomes the football nations).
Other programmes, like ‘Traumstaedte’ (Dream Cities), start off positively, with beautiful views of Camps Bay beach, the Promenade, the Bay Hotel, the Waterfront, but soon move to the townships, and interviews are conducted with extremely negative residents, talking about the crime and drug situation in the townships. The ZDF reporters talk about Cape Town’s ‘Hell and Paradise’ not the lasting impression we would like to create marketing-wise amongst international viewers.
‘Traumflug durch Afrika: Von Kapstadt nach Kenia’ (Dream flight through Africa: from Cape Town to Kenya) was far more positive, documenting a Eurocopter pilot flying over beautiful Cape Town (Table Mountain and Cape Point), flying 3 meters above the sea, the Garden Route to George and Knysna for some golf and oysters at the Dry Dock restaurant, to the Addo Park for a safari, to St Francis, Coffee Bay, the Hole in the Wall, and then off to Lesotho, reaching his end destination of Kenya.
In a cooking program with some of Germany’s top chefs, the cooking stars all wore German soccer jerseys, to show their pride in and support for the German team, indirectly attracting attention to the World Cup.
Given that Cape Town Tourism has appointed PR companies in Germany and the U K, and in other European countries, we trust that the city’s tourism body will help influence the content of documentaries of our city, and that they show the tourist side of Cape Town, without having to focus so much on the townships.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
I am an occasional attendee of the ‘Brutal Review of Restaurants’ Facebook group, which is the initiative of Dirk Odendaal, owner of 17 on Loader Street in De Waterkant. An invitation to attend an evening at the new 6 Spin Street Restaurant (it opened two months ago) was accepted immediately, even if it meant that I only arrived after the City Hall classical concert had finished at 22h15. It is a restaurant in a setting with a difference, with excellent food.
Spin Street is hard to find the first time, yet it is a street most of us have driven past a million times, except that we did not know that this short section of the road near the Groote Kerk and opposite Church Square is called Spin Street. The street is one of the oldest in Cape Town, and was once the home of a short-lived silk spinning industry. The building in which the restaurant is housed was once the home of the South African Association bank, with vaults in the basement, the safety deposit boxes still in place. When one steps inside the massive entrance hall, one enters IDASA’s Cape Town Democracy Centre, and sees the bookshelves of its book shop Lobby Books, and the tables of the restaurant. The ‘marriage’ between the restaurant and the bookshop has led to a shared ethos: “eat.drink.talk.read.think”.
The Brutal Reviewers were in a cosy room, a perfect size for the group of 10. The 1902 Sir Herbert Baker building has high ceilings, and the room used by the Reviewers had copper light fittings, reminding one of Five Flies.
I arrived as the Reviewers were taken on a guided tour, and were in what is the seminar room, with a fascinating piece of art – a “windswept” chandelier with a flying archbishop hanging on to it for dear life (the artist has intended it to depict that the Archbishop is “having the time of his life”) – called simply “Arch”. It is a real conversation stopper, especially as one does not know how the artist Ed Young managed to create the windswept look and attached the figure to the chandelier without using strings or wire. Apparently the artist called in engineering help to cantilever this piece of art. Another unusual work of art is a large metal mobile at the entrance to the restaurant.
As I was running behind on the menu, I expected to join my fellow reviewers for a coffee and dessert. Robert Mulders, the owner of the restaurant and previous owner of Rozenhof at the bottom end of Kloof Street, and who has an uncanny resemblence to violinist Andre Rieu, immediately offered me a starter and a main course. I was strongly recommended the cheese souffle as a starter, something I would never have chosen myself, but it was outstanding, served with a herb and mustard cream. It costs R 70. Other starter choices are a Chicken and roast pepper salad (R 56) and a Mixed six leaf salad (R 32). The Suppli with pancetta and zucchini (R 55) sounded wonderful too.
Six main courses were offered, ranging from R 105 for linefish and a vegetable trio, to R160 for beef fillet served with a mustard crust, Bearnaise sauce and mushroom ragout, sounding delicious. A second linefish dish costs R110, kingklip R125, and Moroccan lamb with couscous is R165. I heard duck mentioned, a special at R 175. I had read a brutal review earlier in the week about the duck (and the restaurant), and thought that I must give it a try. Two generous pieces of duck were served in an orange sauce, with roast potato slices, as well as a large portion of diced carrots and courgette. I loved the duck with its crispy skin, but I did not like the roast potato slices, which were too tough for my taste. I did not have dessert, but saw them served: citron tart, chocolate nougat terrine, panna cotta with smyrna figs, an unusual sounding olive oil and muscadel cake, and date almond and white chocolate torte, ranging between R36 – R45. They were well received by my fellow reviewers. (I heard later that Rozenhof was known for its cheese souffle and duck).
As the wines had been chosen by Dirk, I did not see the winelist. Dirk raved about the 2002 Yonder Hill cabernet at R65, excellent value for money. I did not like my red wine poured into a small wine glass, but I did see larger ones on the table. We left long after midnight, Robert generously having brought us a dessert wine, and he gave no sign at all that he wished us to please go home.
Whilst writing this blogpost I vowed to go back to try the Suppli starter and Beef fillet main course. An opportunity presented itself two days later, after an early finish of the acclaimed play ‘London Road’ at the nearby Fugard Theatre. The Suppli (a very filling and most unusual starter of deep fried rice and herb croquettes stuffed with mozarella, topped with crispy pancetta) and Beef Fillet were excellent. The fillet was served a little too rare (ordered medium rare) for my liking, but the roast potato slices were much better second time around. I was unable to finish the beef, it was such a generous portion.
As the restaurant is based within a space shared with IDASA’s book shop, it opens for breakfast at 8h30 on weekdays, served at a counter facing Church Square, at a communal “Melissa-style” table, or at an individual restaurant table. Muffins, croissants and cooked breakfasts are served. Parliamentarians and nearby office workers pop in for snacks throughout the day. The “Quick Spin” 2-course lunch, served in a guaranteed 50 minutes, costing R 150, is very popular. It is also called for as a “take-away” by well-known ministers and members of parliament. A free Wi-fi service will be offered shortly.
An interesting spin on 6 Spin Street is its themed Cookery Book menu. Every two weeks a cookery book is an inspiration for a special menu. Currently it is Phillippa Cheifitz’s “South Africa Eats”, and a sweet potato and squash soup, or a warm salad of grilled yellowtail, parsley, haricot beans and fresh rocket is offered at R50. Pieter Dirk-Uys’ “Kossie Sikelele” cookery book will be the next to be featured, Tannie Evita having approved the restaurant. Mulders is planning a ‘Show and Dinner” promotion when Dirk-Uys has a show at The Fugard theatre in September.
POSTSCRIPT : I returned to 6 Spin Street on 13 May, after a concert at the City Hall, with two friends, both artists. They were overwhelmed by the artworks on the walls and the interior of the building in which the restaurant is located. We shared a Citron Tart with fresh cream and fresh figs (my first taste of figs ever), and we loved its lightness, tanginess and smoothness. It emerged that Robert Mulders is also the Chairman of the Friends of the National Gallery, and he chose the paintings on the restaurant walls.
6 Spin Street Restaurant, 6 Spin Street, Cape Town. Tel 021 461 0666. www.6spinstreet.co.za(The website is disappointing, with only the opening times, address and map, and contact details. No menu or winelist). Open Mondays – Fridays from 8h30 including dinner, Saturdays dinner only.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
Just as the New Space Theatre on Long Street, previously home to the original Space Theatre of many moons ago, has closed down, the Fugard Theatre has opened on Caledon Street, in what was previously District Six. The theatre is named in honour of South Africa’s greatest playwright Atholl Fugard.
The 270-seat theatre, a three-level National Heritage site building which was previously the Sacks Guteran Building, connected to a church for its foyer, opened last week with a performance of ‘The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo’, with dignitaries such as Athol Fugard, David Kramer, Pieter-Dirk Uys and Trevor Manuel attending.
The “distressed walls reveal bricks through peeling plaster, and a glass panel on the floor displays the old stone work, which adds a beautiful historical ambiance to the foyer”, reports the Cape Times.
Two shows are performed on alternate nights: ‘The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo” and ‘The Mysteries -Yiimimangaliso’. ‘The Magic Flute’ has been performed internationally to great acclaim, and has won an Olivier and Globes de Cristal awards. The cast comes from the townships, and all wear traditional dress. Marimbas are played. “…The Magic Flute will no doubt appeal to a large percentage of the population who enjoy big, loud musicals with elaborate props and decadent costumes”, says the review.
In March a new production, ‘The Train Driver’, written by Fugard, will be performed under the direction of Fugard.
The Fugard Theatre: www.thefugard.com tel 021 461 4554. Open Tuesdays – Saturdays. Ticket prices range from R 50 – R 120.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com