Tag Archives: Place Vendome

New Restaurant openings in Cape Town and Winelands continue!

Tiger's Milk Main Table and lights Whale CottageEven though we are halfway through the summer season,  new restaurants continue to open, and more are planned before summer ends.  This list of restaurant openings and closings and restaurant staff movements is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Michael Townsend (who owns the Harbour House emporium, with La Parada, Lucky Fish, and Harbour House restaurants) has opened Tiger’s Milk in Muizenberg (photograph).  The Lucky Fish on Long Street will be transformed into Tiger’s Milk.

*    Kokkedoor judge and Chef Nic van Wyk and Roxy Laker have opened bistro 13 at Stellenbosch Vineyards (Welmoed)

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill has opened next to Sotano in Mouille Point. Continue reading →

Ryan’s Kitchen opens spicy small-plate space in Franschhoek! (reposted)

Ryan's Kitchen exterior Whale CottageRyan’s Kitchen has re-opened in Franschhoek, in a space double its former size, in Place Vendôme at the entrance to the village.  The restaurant now focuses on ‘small plates’,  even though ‘small’ is a relative term!  Chef Ryan Smith has simplified his dishes, reducing the number of ingredients, and added more spice to those on his new menu, each dish introducing itself through its fragrance before one tastes it.

For the past four years the restaurant operated from what was the breakfast room of Rusthof Guest House higher up the main road, a tiny space that could serve no more than 30 guests at a stretch, and up to 400 plates in an evening. A major blow to the restaurant in July was the sale of the guest house to Mr Analjit Singh, and Continue reading →

Cape Town and Winelands restaurant and chef changes continue!

Borage Bistro Interior 2 Whale CottageAn unusually high number of new restaurants has opened or will do so in the next month or two.  There have never been so many chefs leaving their employers to start their own restaurants, or to join other employers!  This list of restaurant openings and closings and restaurant staff movements is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Borage Bistro has opened in Portside, with Chef Frank Marks, previously of The Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, La Colombe, The Test Kitchen, and The Pot Luck Club

*   Chef Chris Erasmus has opened his own restaurant Foliage in Franschhoek, having previously been at Pierneef à La Motte.

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill has opened next to Sotano in Mouille Point.

*   Michael Townsend (La Parada, Lucky Fish, Harbour House emporium) is opening a steak restaurant in Muizenberg in November.

*   Neil Grant and his business partner Barry Engelbrecht (of Burrata) are opening a new restaurant Bocca on the corner of Bree Continue reading →

Good Food & Co Deli opens in Franschhoek!

Good Food & Co Michelle and Kim Whale Cottage Portfolio

The Franschhoek Food Emporium was a favourite stop in Franschhoek, until it closed down a year ago.  Fortunately it has just re-opened as Good Food & Co, with a new owner Johanita Henning and Chef Kim Cox, and does not look very different to its past interior.  It was a delight to see Michelle van Sittert again, who was at Sacred Ground when it opened, and was a fantastic asset for the bakery/coffee shop.

Kim is the chef, whom I have met twice already, and she prepares the cooked foods, and orders the stock from the best suppliers.  Her meat comes from Ryan Boon, for example, who distributes Spier’s Farmer Angus’ beef.  Her lamb comes from Fairview.  In her display cabinet Continue reading →

Chef Reuben Riffel’s endorsement of Robertsons is a marketing con!

We have been asking for some time how Chef Reuben Riffel can reconcile the international restaurant trend to foraging and growing vegetables and herbs, and endorsing the Robertsons spice range. Now it has become clear that Chef Reuben is just putting his name to the brand for advertising purposes, given that he uses fresh herbs in his Reuben’s restaurants.  This is a serious blow to the credibility of Chef Reuben, his Reuben’s restaurants in Franschhoek, at the One&Only Cape Town and in Robertson, the Robertsons brand, as well as MasterChef South Africa, which is sponsored by the spice and herb brand.

At the Franschhoek Literary Festival ten days ago we asked Chef Reuben a question in this regard, and he had a well rehearsed answer to it, justifying his endorsement of Robertsons on the basis of not all herbs being available all year round, and that fresh herbs and his restaurants are not affordable for all.  The question must have irritated him badly, as he wrote a disparaging comment about it on his Facebook page later that day.  He must have realised that it would get him into terrible trouble, and he has since closed down his Facebook page. Robertsons’ response to the disparagement and damage to their brand is surprising:We were alarmed when we received this complaint and assure you that we have taken this very seriously. We would like to clarify that as a brand Robertsons does not condone the use of inappropriate language in any forum or in any social media channels. We have  however discussed this further with Reuben and believe this to be a personal matter with a deeper history and would suggest that you address it directly with him. Our team of lawyers have reviewed the complaint and advised that contractually there is no breech (sic) or transgression to our contract. Our contract and relationship with Reuben is limited to his chef expertise and his appearance in our advertising, it only governs his opinions in relation to our brand and does not extend to personal opinions on a private matter’. There is nothing ‘personal’ about asking a valid question about Chef Reuben’s endorsement of Robertsons, and the impact it has on his credibility as a chef, a question asked by many of his chef colleagues too. One wonders what ‘personal’ issues Chef Reuben could have been referring to. The endorsement, and the resultant lack of attention to and focus on his Reuben’s restaurants, has already cost Chef Reuben dearly, in that he did not make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant shortlist of twenty late last year, the first time in Reuben’s Franschhoek eight year history.  He achieved a miraculous Top Chef and Top Restaurant accolade in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards six months after opening, an unheard of achievement at the time.

It is the programme for ‘Cook Franschhoek’, to be held in the gourmet village from 15 – 17 June, that is the confirmation that Chef Reuben believes in and uses fresh herbs.  The write-up for his outrageously-priced R1500 sessions, information which must have been supplied to the organisers by him, refers to a ‘stroll to our secret vegetable garden to pick fresh vegetables and herbs (Reuben believes firmly that only the finest ingredients should be used for the best results)’, a clear confirmation that he believes that fresh is best! This is confirmed in his latest cookbook ‘Reuben Cooks Local’, which does not have a single recipe in it necessitating any Robertsons herbs or spices. When asked, Franschhoekers said they have no idea where the ‘secret‘ herb and vegetable garden is, which must be in walking distance from his restaurant. Someone jokingly saying it must be his Robertsons’ spice rack! Another local has guessed that it must be the garden of Klein Olifantshoek, across the road from his restaurant parking, but staff of the boutique hotel deny this. It is said that when Reuben’s Franschhoek moves to its new location close to Place Vendome later this year, they will develop a vegetable and herb garden there. Currently Chef Reuben sources his restaurant herbs and vegetables from Roubaix in Franschhoek.

Robertsons has had a bad time in choosing its marketing partners, not only in signing up Chef Reuben to endorse its brand, and in running Masterclass videos with Chef Reuben on the Robertsons’ website aligned to its sponsorship of MasterChef SA,  but also in having appointed controversial Sonia Cabano as its Social Media Manager when MasterChef South Africa started in March, and then having to terminate her services when she abused the Robertsons’ Twitter account to settle personal scores.

Celebrities and brand endorsers are not protected from social as well as legal norms in writing what they think about others on Social Media forums such as Facebook and Twitter.  Cabano went on a shocking Twitter rage last week, making it unlikely that any brand would wish to be associated with her in future.  She is a cookbook writer, and her racist, religious, political, and other views expressed on Twitter last week could cost her potential book purchasers and publishers. Chef Reuben seems disillusioned by Social Media, even though he was looking for trouble in writing his disparaging Facebook comment, and it appears that he has given up on Social Media, writing on Twitter a few days ago:To all real friends on twitter, fb. See you in the real world. Unfortunately people with bad agendas makes (sic) this less enjoyable’.

We have always held Chef Reuben and his Reuben’s Franschhoek in the highest regard, and recommended it to our guests for seven years.  Last year we had a particularly bad service experience at the restaurant, and an unsatisfactory response to our feedback from Chef Reuben, and decided to remove the restaurant from our portfolio of restaurant recommendations in Franschhoek.  It would be a shame if it were true that Chef Reuben has sold his soul, in endorsing brands such as Robertsons and SAA Business Class on the African and USA routes, in writing books, in doing live and TV demonstrations, all for the revenue, and no longer caring about his Reuben’s restaurants, as the Franschhoek locals and fellow chefs say. Celebrities become the focus of media scrutiny, and even parody, Chef Reuben’s Robertsons’ endorsement being the subject of Another Damned Food Blog last year.

Chef Reuben was praised for his humbleness despite his fame for many years, but as the cover of his cookbook shows, there is a change in attitude with a taste of arrogance, confirmed by those who are looking to do business with him.  We wish for the return of ‘old’ Chef Reuben in the Reuben’s kitchen(s) again! He also owes Robertsons and its customers honesty in his endorsement of their brand.

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: The Advertising Standards Authority is an advertising industry self-governing body, and its Code governs what advertisements may or may not say.  The Preamble in section I states:

“1.1 All advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

1.2 All advertisements should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the consumer.

1.3 All advertisements should conform to the principles of fair competition in business.

1.4 No advertisement should bring advertising into disrepute or reduce confidence in advertising as a service to industry and to the public”.

Expanding upon this, clause 2 in section II focuses on honesty in advertising:

2.Honesty

Advertisements should not be so framed as to abuse the trust of the consumer or exploit his lack of experience or knowledge or his credulity”.

Testimonials are addressed specifically in clause 10:

10.1To be genuine

Advertisements should not contain or refer to any testimonial or endorsement unless it is genuine and related to the personal experience over a reasonable period of the person giving it. Testimonials or endorsements which are obsolete or otherwise no longer applicable (eg where there has been a significant change in formulation of the product concerned) should not be used.

10.2Conformance to the Code

Testimonials themselves should not contain any statement or implication contravening the provisions of this Code and should not be used in a manner likely to mislead”.

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: We accept Chef Reuben’s apology for the disparaging comment on his Facebook page, which he has reinstated (see the Comments to this blogpost).

POSTSCRIPT 22/5: In the Robertsons’ commercial in MasterChef SA last night, Chef Reuben is described on screen as ‘South Africa’s top chef’. As Chef Reuben did not even make the latest top 20 Eat Out Restaurant shortlist, this is a misleading advertising claim.

POSTSCRIPT 23/5: Elizabeth Pretorius, Communications Director: Africa for Unilever, has responded to our feedback and this blogpost as follows, not addressing the real issue: Unilever is committed to conducting its operations with honesty, integrity and with respect to human rights and as such we do not condone any actions to the contrary. We strive to provide our consumers branded products that meet their needs and aspirations, and Robertsons is one of the main brands in our stable, making herbs and spices available to the widest possible consumer base’.

POSTSCRIPT 29/6: The Wall Street Journal today published an interview with Chef Reuben, providing an interesting insight and confirming the essence of this blogpost!:

*   he first ate a restaurant at the age of 15

*   he would love to have Chef Heston Blumenthal (Fat Duck) cook for him at home

*   he loves making interesting sandwiches with unusual ingredient combinations

*   ‘making a great meal is one of the nicest gifts you can give’, referring to his home cooking for his wife and daughter

*   he would ‘struggle if I don’t have things like garlic and fresh chillies that I grow in my garden’. He admits to having spices in his cupboard at home, specifying ‘curry powder and garam masala‘, not quite the kind made by Robertsons.

*   when entertaining at home, contrary to the Robertsons TV commercial, Chef Reuben writes ‘I always try  and do steam pots. We have all sorts of raw ingredients and vegetables and a steaming pot of stock and you can cook your own food’.

*  He doesn’t work on Sundays, ‘being my family time‘.

POSTCRIPT 8/7: Chef Reuben’s ‘secret vegetable garden’ is at La Motte, where vegetable farmer Dan Kruger grows vegetables to order for a number of Franschhoek chefs, including Pierneef a La Motte’s Chris Erasmus, Haute Cabriere’s Ryan Shell, Ryan’s Kitchen’s Ryan Smith, Delaire Graff’s Christiaan Campbell, Dish restaurant’s Oliver Cattermole, Le Quartier Français’ Margot Janse, and Reuben’s Reuben Riffel.

POSTSCRIPT 11/7:  Chef Reuben seems to be written out of the Robertsons’ TV commercials, appearing in only one commercial out of the six flighted on MasterChef SA last night.  From Twitter and a comment on this blog we have read that Chef Reuben is now endorsing another Unilever brand, being Rama margarine, an absolute no-no for chefs to be seen to be using anything but butter.

POSTSCRIPT 13/7: What a surprise it was to be in the same tiny Nedbank in Franschhoek with Chef Reuben Riffel today, and an opportunity to connect again. He justified the Rama commercial on the fact that many consumers cannot eat at top restaurants, and cannot afford to use butter. He shared that he and his wife Maryke are leaving for the UK and France to eat at top restaurants on a two-week trip next week, and that a little baby Riffel will make its appearance early next year.

POSTSCRIPT 16/7: Sonia Cabano, recipe book writer and Tweeter for Chef Reuben Riffel, is bashing Chef Reuben’s new Rama commercial in which Rama is added to rice: ‘Putting cubes of Rama margarine in rice is not part of our food culture. I’m sorry, but it isn’t. It’s not only wrong, it’s bad for health’ she Tweeted this evening.

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: The Sunday Times today has clarified what everyone has wanted to know about Chef Reuben’s use of Robertsons’ spices, when interviewed at The Sunday Times Chef of the Year Awards earlier this week: ‘Celebrity chef Reuben Riffel, one of the judges of the competition, told me people constantly asked him whether or not he really uses the spices he endorses. He said he uses them at home but uses herbs at his restaurant’. If this is true, it would be misleading to feature Chef Reuben in a chef’s outfit in the Robertsons’ advertising!

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

Franschhoek new Chocolate Capital of South Africa!

When Franschhoek does something, it does it really well!  No longer being able to claim Gourmet Capital status, due to the dominance by Stellenbosch, Franschhoek is now focusing on chocolate-making, with two new chocolate shops having opened in the past two months, in addition to the long-established Huguenot Fine Chocolates:

Huguenot Fine Chocolates: This started as an empowerment project for the local community with the aid of the Franschhoek Belgium Development Trust, and has operated for years on Franschhoek’s main road.  Staff have been sent to Belgium, to learn chocolate-making, and Belgian chocolate is used to make a range of 35 chocolates.  Partners Danny Windvogel and Denver Adonis run the operation, and offer ‘The Chocolate Experience’ half-hour tour of their operation. Chocolates with customised logos can be made. 62 Huguenot Road, Tel (021) 876-4096. www.huguenotchocolates.com

Le Chocolatier Factory:  This chocolate manufacturing facility and shop opened next door to Café Le Chocolatier in Place Vendome, and uses Lindt chocolate. Swiss owner Daniel Waldis is passionate about chocolate, and is closely involved in his business. They use very little cocoa butter, to make the chocolates less fattening, the dark chocolates containing little sugar. They have the largest selection of chocolates sold (photograph above), and also serve chocolate-related products in their restaurant, including the best cakes in the village, muffins, and drinks (including a chocolate liqueur). Tours as well as chocolate-making courses offered.  Place Vendome, Main Road.  Tel (021) 876-2233.

Bijoux Chocolates: This chocolate shop opened officially this week, and is owned by Suzette and Jason de Jongh, owners of Bijoux Square.  Bertie is the chocolatier, having previously worked at Huguenot Fine Chocolates, and having trained in Belgium.   Bertie did a specialist course in marzipan, ice-cream and chocolate-making in Anderlecht.  With him works Joshua, a Franschhoek local. They use ‘chocolate mousse‘ to make their chocolates, rather than ‘fattening chocolate‘, they say.  They plan to teach young locals the art of ‘chocolate tempering’, which gives chocolates a shiny finish.  Bijoux Square, Tel (021) 876-3407.  Website www.bijouxchocolates.com under construction.  Twitter: @BijouxChoc1

Time will tell if three chocolate shops are sustainable in Franschhoek.

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

Franschhoek coated in chocolate at new Le Chocolatier Factory

Franschhoek has been known for its gourmet status for many years, not only for its top restaurants, but also for the excellent ancillary food businesses in the village.   Now a new chocolate manufacturing facility adds another dimension to Franschhoek’s status, with the opening of Le Chocolatier Factory, offering 90 different chocolate types at any time, out of a total repertoire of 250.

While chocolates are made in the shop, Le Chocolatier Factory is no factory at all, and one can see the staff making the chocolate when coming in to buy chocolates, next door to their restaurant Café le Chocolatier, in Place Vendôme, as one enters Franschhoek.  Dark chocolate outsells milk chocolate by 60 to 40 %, and champagne truffles are the most popular seller.  The Le Chocolatier chocolates contain little cocoa butter, and the dark chocolates have very little sugar content.

Three ex-staff of Huguenot Fine Chocolates, of which two chocolatiers did their training in chocolate-making in Belgium, make the chocolates, using Lindt chocolate and also their equipment.  Passionate owner Daniel Waldis is Swiss, and his love for chocolate led him to buy the restaurant about two years ago, and to introduce more chocolate items to his menu, given the name of the restaurant.  They have wonderful cakes such as Black Forest, Vanilla Mousse, muffins, brownies and Chocolate Dreams, a well as chocolate frappé and hot chocolate.  All coffee is served with a complimentary chocolate.

Initially, chocolates were made on a small scale inside the restaurant, until they ran out of space, and the restaurant became busier, being one of few to stay open until 20h00, even in winter.  A shop which Waldis owned next door to his restaurant, for another business, has now become the home of his chocolate business. Waldis is seeing a tourist benefit in his business, and is offering packages for individuals and tour groups.   The Silver Tour costs R40, and one can observe the chocolate making and choose 5 chocolates.   The Gold Tour costs R69, and includes the observation of the chocolate making, as well as a selection of six chocolates, and a cappuccino or a hot chocolate.  The Platinum Tour costs R249, and allows one to make one’s own chocolates, with a certificate provided of one’s newly gained chocolate skills.  The price includes an hour with the chocolatiers, as well as a coffee. Children are enjoying this tour too, and are charged R149, with a minimum of two to be booked. Chocolates are charged at R79 per 100g, and R149 per 200g.  Hospitality turn-down packs will also be available on order. Chocolate-making demos are also taken to events.

Waldis says of this course that it is better than the one at the Lindt Chocolate Studio in the Cape Quarter in Cape Town, which is not owned by Lindt. Their course was attended by one of his staff, and they had to ask him questions about chocolate-making!  He explained how complicated chocolate-making is, in getting the base thinner rather than thick, and to keep the exterior of the chocolate shiny.  He is a strong supporter of Lindt, preferring its taste to Belgian chocolate, which has a higher cocoa butter content.

Seeing a gap in the Franschhoek market, Waldis has also introduced a little deli, selling predominantly German but also Italian, imported goods such as pudding powders, bulk Lindt chocolate, waffle biscuits, Schwartau jams, créme cappuccino, Haribo sweets, sour cherries, bottled gherkins, bottled garlic, Remoulade sauce, German mustard, black olives, German mayonnaise, biscuits, and lemon tea.   They will be adding Valrhona chocolate slabs to the range too.

Due to the popularity of the restaurant, as well as the additional business that the Le Chocolatier Factory is bringing to the restaurant, a part of the Place Vendôme garden space has been allocated alongside the restaurant, providing additional seating for 36 guests.

Le Chocolatier Factory, Place Vendôme, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2233.  Website under construction.  Monday – Sunday, 8h00 – 18h00

POSTSCRIPT: Le Chocolatier has closed down in Franschhoek, and has moved to The Apprentice in Stellenbosch.

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

Restaurant Review: Reuben’s Franschhoek 7-year marriage comes to a ‘wipping’ end!

Reuben’s Franschhoek and our Whale Cottage Franschhoek both opened seven years ago, and I fell in love with Reuben’s when I first stumbled upon it in 2004.   It was fresh and different, with a unique menu, the service was outstanding with Maryke Riffel heading front of house, a young French sommelier was charming, and Chef Reuben Riffel cooking and often coming out of the kitchen to chat to his guests.  Despite the last visits having been disappointing, we kept supporting his restaurant, well positioned for our guests to walk to in Franschhoek.  We have reached the end of our tolerance of poor service and mediocre food at Reuben’s Franschhoek.

Reuben Riffel had opened a restaurant in Cambridge for friends when Boekenhoutskloof directors Tim Rands and Marc Kent invited him to come back to his home town to open a signature restaurant on the main road.  Reuben had started working as a barman at Chamonix in Franschhoek, and started cheffing when a chef did not come to work.  He loved it so much that he developed himself without any formal chef training. Reuben’s fame in Franschhoek was instant, with an Eat Out Top 10 award in 2004 for Best Restaurant and Best Chef, a mere 6 months after opening, something that had never occurred before.  Reuben’s opened a branch at the Robertson Small Hotel, owned by Rands, about three years ago, and last year it was a huge honour for him to have been invited by Sol Kerzner to open a branch at the One&Only Cape Town.  It was obvious that the food and service quality would suffer as Reuben tried to stretch himself across his three restaurants, and it is in Franschhoek that we have heard other locals complain, and other guest houses too no longer send business there.  Chef Reuben tried to get help, having chefs Richard Carstens and Camil Haas working with him in Franschhoek, but both left him at short notice.

The main restaurant interior is large, with a separate room for functions or more guests, and an unpopular passage close to the noisy kitchen.  The bar has an interesting counter made from a plane wing.  Reuben’s has a large fireplace, making it warm and cosy, but it was smoky at times, due to the heavy wind on my last visit.  Tables are wooden, with the Reuben’s name engraved into the top, with white leather chairs, and a bench against the wall.  The managers sit behind a counter, in front of a Reuben’s branded wall, and it looked rather untidy from my angle, with a silver handbag on the floor, and boxes visible.   A bowl of fruit was on the counter, looking more like a hotel dining room reception than that of a restaurant,  with no flowers at all, as they used to have.  Each table has a little ceramic jar of coarse salt.  No pepper grinder is on the table, nor is it offered for any dish. Cutlery is by Maxwell Williams. Staff wear white shirts, and black pants and aprons.  There are no tablecloths on the tables.

When I popped in at Reuben’s, just wanting something warm but light, after a long two and a half hour concert in the church, a table was available, after a five minute set-up, in a still busy restaurant.   I was handed the standard menu, and saw with a shock that it has changed: individual prices have been removed, and the prices are listed as R220 for 2 courses, R268 for 3 courses, and R315 for 4 courses, which was not what I was looking for.  I asked about the winter special, but the Manager Carmen, Chef Reuben’s sister, looked at me as if I had lost it.  The Winter Special (3-courses for R150) is no longer available, she said. She then fetched the Street Smart special menu, which ran until the end of last week in honour of all the Street Smart restaurants collecting monies to help street children rebuild their lives, with a voluntary R5 donation at 57 participating restaurants, which offered four courses for R195.  This is also not what I had in mind.  I was then told by Carmen that locals are allowed to order individual items off the menu, at R65 per starter, R 120 for a main course, and R65 for a dessert.  Somehow the maths did not add up, in that a starter/dessert and main would only cost R185, instead of the quoted R220.  I also want my guest house guests to enjoy a meal without the pressure of having to order for a minimum of R220 per person, given the tight financial times.  As guest house owners we were not informed by Reuben’s that this had changed.

In the confusion of the two menus presented and the price issue, I chose the Street Smart option, and Carmen kindly allowed me to replace the oxtail main course with a steak.  It was the worst ever dining experience at Reuben’s Franschhoek (our previous dinner on 24 April coming a close second, with the fireplace not lit on a chilly night, two wines on the list being out of stock, no vintages specified for the wines by the glass, the lunch menu still on the blackboard at dinner, very expensive wine by the glass, messy pouring of the wine, kingklip served for the ‘tuna pickle’ and blamed on a typing error, no cheese on the French Onion soup, and very slow service in a long wait for the main course).

Reuben’s brother Jevon was the waiter, and brought two slices of dry-looking wholewheat bread, the nice bread tray with a choice of breads baked by Chef Reuben’s mother clearly no longer being offered.  Jevon ‘wipped’ when I asked him to remove the bottled water he brought to the table without checking with me.  I only drink fresh Franschhoek water!  After bringing a jug of water, and pouring a glassful, he did not top it up again.  Chef Reuben was not on duty, and it was Chef William Carolissen doing the honours in the kitchen.

The only Shiraz by the glass available was a Reuben’s house wine made by Goose wines, at R45, which I declined.  It surprised me that Reuben is not Proudly-Franschhoek in his choice of branded wine. The ‘pre-starter’ was a French Onion soup, with epoise toast and gruyere, nothing special at all.   Of the four courses, I enjoyed the Warm duck salad the most, a rather busy collection of shredded duck, toasted cashews, avocado slivers, papaya, orange, sprouts, radishes, cucumber, served with a cinnamon soya dressing and miso honey.  Listing the ingredients, only two or three items of each, seemed an overpromise, and perhaps more of fewer ingredients would have been better.  The biggest disappointment was the grilled Chalmar beef sirloin, served with what was called ‘glazed vegetables’, but were steamed mange tout and green beans, ‘swimming’ in a port and mushroom ‘jus’!  In a separate bowl came the worst ever chips, thick cut, over-dosed with salt and pepper, and raw inside.  I asked Carmen if it is customary to bring chips, as the menu did not state it, and she said it was.  I suggested that she check with clients about the choice of starch, as I am not a chip eater and would have preferred something healthier and saltless.  She ‘wipped’ and did not respond to my feedback, nor to my returned bowl of chips!  The steak was more medium than the ordered medium-rare, and the very heavily salted and liquid ‘jus’ spoilt it completely.   Things looked up with the attractive dessert, being Apple tarte tatin (delicious), apple panna cotta (nice green colour but bland and tasteless), and a most odd-tasting green vanilla Calvados sorbet, the description sounding better than the actual dessert.

Wishing to understand why Reuben’s had changed the menu to a non-price one (not seen in seven years), and how I could still bring my guests to the restaurant with responsible pricing, I spoke to Carmen once more.  She showed her irritation, stating that no one else had complained about it (neither had I – I was just trying to understand it), and that if guest house guests arrived, they would offer them the local price choice as well.  What she did not know was that the Pohl family of four staying with us over the same weekend had reserved a table directly on the same evening, on our recommendation.  They were not offered any special pricing on the a la carte menu, nor the Street Smart menu.  Carmen became more and more defensive about the menu, and said that I should question Reuben about it, as he had designed it.  She could not explain the rationale for such an expensive winter menu, but she did tell me that individual prices will be added to the menu in summer again, which confused me even further! I was struggling to pick up 3G for Twitter inside the restaurant, and when checking this with Martell Smith, the Deli Manager who doubles up as a hostess in the restaurant at night, she assured me that the internet was switched on.  When I stepped outside, the internet worked perfectly, as it did when I returned inside the restaurant.  Martell seemed to ‘wip’ about this.  Martell had come to the table to check on my satisfaction with the steak (no other course was checked), and it was so bad that I just shook my head, not wanting to have anyone else ‘wipping’ around me if I were to express what I was feeling!

Reuben’s brother Jevon had worked for us a good six years ago, and had run off in a huff and a puff without giving notice when he was reprimanded for making a costly error.  He has never served me at Reuben’s previously.   He did not speak a word to me, just being a ‘fetcher and carrier’, except at the end, when he demanded that I sign the credit card slip.  When I questioned his lack of communication, he walked off while I was speaking to him, throwing a ‘wip’ with his colleague.  When he walked past my table, I asked him why he had walked away, and I received a rude torrent of abuse from him, which was completely uncalled for. I told Carmen about Jevon’s rudeness, and she then lashed out at me, saying that I should speak to Reuben, as Martell had called Reuben, complaining to him about our interaction about the internet, and then she walked off while I was speaking to her!

The menu has shrunk in size to A4, with many more menu items that on the previous A3 menu we had.  I was surprised to see advertising on the menu for Reuben’s recycled ‘stemware’, as well as for Moniki chocolates from Tulbagh, when Franschhoek has the excellent Cafe Le Chocolatier and Huguenot Fine Chocolates!  The menu no longer lists the who’s who of the kitchen.   The menu is changed daily, Carmen told me.  On the evening that I was there, the soup choices were French Onion, mushroom, and rich cauliflower.  Eleven starters included the signature squid, blue cheese and onion tart, salmon sashimi, chicken liver parfait, mussels, oysters, and a butternut salad.  There were 10 main courses, including chicken and prawn curry, pork belly, sole, gnocchi, oxtail, springbok steak, calf’s liver (always been my favourite), and beef tartar.  Ten dessert options included lime creme brûlee, Valrhona chocolate pave, carrot cake pudding, poached pears, and a cheese platter.   Sides of vegetables can be ordered at R35.

For the seven years of daily business sent to Reuben’s in the summer months, with regular problems tolerated over the years in making bookings with Reuben’s staff telephonically, the last dinner was a sad one, as it appears that Reuben’s staff feel that they can lash out at customers.  The service standard is inconsistent, as I have had nothing but excellent service from another Manager Raymond, and from Jessica, a long-standing waitress.  It is sad that Chef Reuben’s family members should have been the rudest of all the staff on Saturday, and disappointing was his nepotistic “my staff are perfect” response to an e-mail I sent after the dinner, informing him that I no longer felt comfortable in sending guests to the restaurant after the rudeness I had experienced.  There was no apology nor thanks for all the business that we had sent there over the years, nor acknowledgement of our almost evangelical promotion of what was a favourite restaurant for a long time.

It would appear that Reuben realises that he has grown too big, and he has bought a building up the road from Place Vendome, to which he will move his restaurant in November, being a smaller sized 50-seater, with space for an extra venue at which he can do cooking demonstrations, to keep business going in winter, and ensuring a big saving in rent, he told me at the Mandela birthday meal media conference at the Drakenstein Prison a few weeks ago.  His Manager Raymond told me that both Franschhoek restaurants will run concurrently until the lease of the current restaurant expires, meaning that Reuben will have four restaurants for at least another year, which can only mean further service problems. Talk about Reuben trying to get out of his contract at the One&Only Cape Town continues to circulate in Franschhoek, despite his denial, but then he blatantly denied that he was opening at the One&Only Cape Town a year ago!

Reuben’s Franschhoek is not worthy of an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant nomination any more.  If one dares to pass on any feedback to the staff, one might be reported to ‘headmaster’ Chef Reuben, and be abused by the staff!  Reuben has lost the passion for his business, and the Franschhoek restaurant needs a professional full-time Manager who can go beyond the Groendal-syndrome.  Reuben has to be at the One&Only Cape Town restaurant three times a week, appears in Robertson’s spice advertising, does cooking demo’s, and increasingly appears to be ‘commercialising’ himself, losing touch with what is going on in his restaurants as a result!  The current pricing policy is cheeky, and communicates that Reuben’s does not seek the support of locals.  We wish Reuben well in balancing all his balls!

POSTSCRIPT 8/8:  We are delighted to hear from our guests who went to Reuben’s on Saturday evening that the 2-, 3-, and 4-course price option has been dropped, and that each item on the menu is back to being individually priced!  They found the food excellent, especially the bean soup, but were disppointed that the waitress had no knowledge about the wines on the board at all.

POSTSCRIPT 7/9: We have heard that the sale of the building that Reuben’s was buying in Franschhoek fell through.  They may be considering another option close by.

Reuben’s Franschhoek, 19 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. Tel (0-21) 876-3772.  www.reubens.co.za (The website contains an Image Gallery, but one must click onto thumbnails to view them.  The menu is an out of date one for 11 August of last year.  A Winter 2011 Special menu, looking very similar to the Street Smart one, is listed!).  Monday – Sunday Lunch and Dinner.

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

Restaurant News: Update on openings, closures and changes in Cape Town and Winelands

We have been tracking recent restaurant opening, closure, and restaurant and chef change information in Cape Town and in the Winelands on our Winter Restaurant Specials blog post, but have decided to do an update for those not looking for specials necessarily.  

Restaurant openings

*   La Mouette has opened at 78 Regent Road in Sea Point.  

*    Brio is a new jazz restaurant, in half of the ex-Riboville in town (on the Adderley Street side)

*    Van Hunks has opened at 1 Union Street, off Kloof Street in Gardens

*   Cafe Nood has opened in Wilderness Road, Claremont

*    Ryan’s Kitchen has opened at Rusthof guest house in Franschhoek – the chef Ryan Smith is ex-Mont Rochelle. 

*   The House of Meat has opened in the Pepper Club Hotel, corner Long and Bloem Streets, offering a full braai for R 295  

*   Spiros has opened in Hout Bay

*   La Cantina has opened in the Alliance Francaise.

*   The De Leuwen Jagt restaurant on the Seidelberg wine estate outside Paarl has opened The Fabulous Bakery.  

*   Gesellig has opened on the corner of Church and Regent Roads in Sea Point, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

*   Indochine has opened at the Delaire Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch. 

*   The Long Table Restaurant and Cafe has opened at Haskell Vineyards in Stellenbosch. 

*   The Wild Peacock Food Emporium has opened in Stellenbosch.  

*   De Oude Bank Bakkerij has opened in Stellenbosch.  

*   Knife Restaurant has opened in the Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, a sister restaurant to Fork.

*   Sommelier Restaurant has re-opened, after a two-year closure, at Sante Hotel & Wellness Centre

*   Illyria coffee shop has opened in the Eikestad Mall in Stellenbosch

*   Pierneef à  la Motte has opened at La Motte in Franschhoek.

*   The Artisan Cafe has opened inside Table Thirteen in Green Point, with a barista

*   The Fish Shack has opened in The Paddocks, Milnerton

*   Maison in Franschhoek is to open a restaurant

*   Etienne Bonthuys (ex-Tokara) has opened his long-awaited restaurant on Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, called Casparus, in partnership with artist Strijdom van der Merwe.

*   Luke Dale Roberts, award-winning chef whilst at La Colombe (reaching 12th place on Top 50 Restaurants in the World list), has opened The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.

*   Sofia’s at Morgenster has opened.

*   Down South has opened on Long Street 

*   Victoria Eatery has opened in Hermanus.

*   French Toast has opened at 199 Bree Street, a wine and tapas bar

*   DISH has opened at Inn on the Square, Greenmarket Square

*   Babel has opened at Babylonstoren near Klapmuts/Simondium (next to Backsberg)

*   Hemelhuijs has opened at 71 Waterkant Street, for breakfast and lunch

*   Barracudas has opened  with ‘simply sumptious seafood’ served, in Fish Hoek.

*   The Olive Shack at Allora in Franschhoek has opened as a deli, doing olive oil tastings, and serving Breakfast, Greek lunches and picnics

*   Sotano by Caveau has opened in the La Splendida Hotel in Mouille Point

*   Tables restaurant has opened at Nitida wine estate in Durbanville

*   Mozarella Bar has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens

*   Café Benedict has opened on the main road in Franschhoek.

*   Trinity has opened as a ‘super club’ in Bennett Street in Green Point

*   Il Cappero Italian Restaurant has opened in Barrack Street

*   Sugar Hut Club has opened in the old Castle Hotel building on Canterbury Street, next door to Charly’s Bakery

*   Caffé Milano has opened on Kloof Street, Gardens

*   The Stone Kitchen has opened at Dunstone Winery in Wellington

*  The Franschhoek Food Emporium has open in Place Vendome, and is owned by legendary Topsi’s daughter Danielle

*   What’s On Eatery  has opened in Watson Street, between Loop and Bree Street

*   Haas Coffee Collective  has opened on Rose Street in Bo-Kaap

*   Crush coffee shop and bakery has opened in Paarl, owned by Gerard van Staden, previously chef at le Franschhoek Hotel, and later overseer of all restaurants owned by Robert Maingard in Franschhoek.

*   Dear Me Brasserie and Tjing Tjing Bar has opened on Longmarket Street.

*   Quilter & The Workmen is to open in Bree Street in May

*   Act Restaurant and Play Bar  have opened at the Baxter Theatre

*   Le Coq has opened in Franschhoek

*   Dash  has opened in the Queen Victoria Hotel in the Waterfront

*   Café Dijon has opened another branch at Zorgvliet wine estate

*   Harbour House is to open a branch in the V & A Waterfront in September, in the Fisherman’s Choice site, near Sevruga

*   KOS Coffee & Cuisine has opened in The Regency on Regent Road in Sea Point

*   Café Extrablatt opens where shu used to be, next door to Doppio Zero in Green Point, in August

*   Skinny Legs & All That has opened on Loop Street

*   Leopard’s Leap opens its new picnic facility, tasting room and cookery school in October

Restaurant closures

*  Josephine’s Patisserie on Loop Street

*   Ginja on New Church Street

 maze at the One&Only Cape Town 

*   Panarotti’s and Shimmi’s Bar in Hermanus

*   Bouillabaisse in Franschhoek.     

*   Yum in Vredehoek. 

*   Cape Town Fish Market in Camps Bay

*   Vista Mare in Camps Bay

*   La Table de France in Sea Point

*   La Brasserie in Franschhoek

*   shu on Main Road in Green Point

*   Camil’s on Main Road in Green Point

*   Madame Zingara has left Cape Town

*   Fiesta in the Old Cape Quarter

*   Jardine’s Restaurant has closed on Bree Str

*   Liquorice and Lime has closed down on St George’s Mall

*   Cheyne has closed on Bree Street

*   The Kitchen Bar in the Quarters’ Hotel in Hermanus has closed

*   The Bistro in Franschhoek has closed down

*   The Sandbar in Camps Bay has closed down

*   The Blonde building is up for sale, and does not appear to be re-opening in August, as was announced by The Caviar Group, owners of Blonde, two months ago.

*   The Green Dolphin Jazz Club in the V & A Waterfront has closed down

*   Mezzaluna in Loop Street has closed down

*   Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge Pete Goffe-Wood’s Wild Woods Restaurant has closed down.

*   Restaurant Christophe closes down in Stellenbosch on 25 June. Chef Christophe Dehosse will be back at Joostenberg from August.

*   Nando’s in Camps Bay has closed down

*   Haute Cabriere under the chef-manship of Matthew Gordon closes on 7 June at the wine tasting venue with the same name in Franschhoek.

Restaurant name-changes/take-overs/chef changes/address changes

*   Leaf Restaurant and Bar has opened where The Showroom/Portofino used to be.  

*   Mason’s Cafe and Grill has opened where Cafe Gainsbourg used to be

*   On Broadway has moved to the New Space Theatre building, and is using the ex-Anytime restaurant space as one of the restaurants its patrons can eat at before the show.

*   Camil Haas, the co-owner of Camil’s in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, has left the restaurant (which has since closed down).  He is working for Reuben Riffel at Reuben’s in Franschhoek and at the One&Only Cape Town.  

*   Tank in the old Cape Quarter has changed its name to Aqua.

*   Luke Dale-Roberts is no longer the Executive Chef at La Colombe, but will consult to the restaurant.  

*   Cafe Rouge in Franschhoek has been renamed Chez d’Or.

  Richard Carstens has left Chez d’Or in Franschhoek, and is the Executive Chef and Wilhelm Kuehn the owner of Tokara Restaurant in Stellenbosch

*   Buena Vista Social Club has moved to the top end of Portswood Road in the Waterfront. 

*  Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town has opened, where maze used to be.

*   Cafe Le Chocolatier has taken over from Cafe Vendome in Place Vendome in Franschhoek.

*   Dutch East has taken over from Burgundy in Franschhoek

*   Cafe des Arts has taken over Topsi’s in Franschhoek.

*    Amazink, ex-Roots, in Khayamandi in Stellenbosch, has opened, with Bertus Basson from Overture an advisor.

*   Chef School owner Kevin Warwick has taken over Kate’s Village in Hermanus, now called The Class Room

*   Da Luigi has opened where Vista Mare was in The Promenade in Camps Bay

*   Satay Bar has opened where Zucca was in Kloof Street

*   Le Quartier Francais has closed its bistro iCi, and opened The Common Room

*   Franko’s Kitchen in Plettenberg Bay has reopened as a sushi restaurant called Kitchen Café

*  Fu.shi in Plettenberg Bay has closed down, and has a new owner and a new name The Terrace

*  The Old Post House in Plettenberg Bay has closed down, but is set to re-open for three months with a new owner

*   Blakes has opened on Buitengracht/New Church Street, where Relish/Ninja used to be, belonging to Rochelle Bushelle, owner of the Opal Lounge, and offering a lounge, bar and dining services

*   Franschhoek Kitchen is the new name of Genot restaurant on the renamed Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek (previously Klein Genot)

*   Chef Eric Bulpitt has moved to The Roundhouse, due to the closure of Jardine’s

*   Woodlands Eatery is the new name of ex-Yum in Vredehoek, with chef Larry, previously with Emily Moon in Plettenberg Bay

*   ZAR nightclub has opened in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, where Camil’s used to be 

*   Marika’s Greek Restaurant from Bakoven has moved to a new venue, at 176 Buitenkant Street, above 7Eleven.

*   The Rhubarb Room moves to 227 Bree Street

*   David Higgs is leaving Rust en Vrede  on 18 June and is moving to Johannesburg.  John Shuttleworth will step into his chef’s shoes.

*   Vanessa Quellec is to leave Caffe Milano  in July

*   Restaurant winter break closures

*   The Mount Nelson’s Cape Colony has re-opened, with a new name, Planet Restaurant, and menu. 

*   Vaudeville has reopened. 

*   Massimo’s Pizza Club in Hout Bay will re-open on 20 April, in their original venue in Hout Bay. 

*   The Salmon Bar in Franschhoek has moved into a new main road outlet in The Yard (part ex-Bouillabaisse and Pam Golding) and has re-opened.

*   Miguel’s in Plettenberg Bay has re-opened in the same location.

*   Rust en Vrede will close from 18 June – 18 July

*   Tokara will clsoe between 2 – 9 May

*   The Test Kitchen will clsoe between 7 – 23 May

NOTE: This information will be updated regularly, as we receive new information.

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

Restaurant Review: Cafe Le Chocolatier has no chocolate on menu!

The new Place Vendome, at the entrance to Franschhoek, is a most chic and attractive centre, that has a collection of small outlets (although at least three shops are standing empty currently).  The Cafe Vendome that opened in it initially has a new owner, and is challenging the well-established Huguenot Fine Chocolates by changing its name to Cafe Le Chocolatier, and by making the most delicious chocolates.  However, the chocolate delights are not incorporated into the menu.

The Cafe originally was owned by the owners of the centre, but they were not at the Cafe enough, running a busy estate agency in the village. The rude and agressive attitude of the staff has been a problem since they opened.  When I saw the new name of the restaurant on a recent visit to Franschhoek, I popped in to try it again.  Sadly the same waitresses are still there, but a chocolatier, trained at the Lindt Chocolate Studio in Cape Town, is a new member of the kitchen team.

Cafe Le Chocolatier is now owned by Dr Daniel Waldis, a Swiss national who lives in Franschhoek, who says he bought the Cafe as a “hobby” at the beginning of July.  He owns the Swiss Dermal Technology company in the V&A Waterfront, which offers skin rejuvenation without plastic surgery.  He only goes through to Cape Town three times a week.  His “Botox clients” see the brochure for his new restaurant, he says, and then come through to Franschhoek.  Dr Waldis wants to establish a “European style” restaurant, with good quality coffee, cake and meals, and wants to help to lift the standard of Franschhoek’s claim of being the Gourmet Capital of South Africa.   He introduced the chocolate-making inside the Cafe, and will be introducing a deli with cold meats and cheeses as well.

The menu has been compiled by Dr Waldis, who selected light meals that were requested by customers.  Its opening line is “An experience for the connoisseur” – this is a claim that Dr Waldis will find hard to live up to, given his two waitresses’ attitude, and the selection of dishes that are offered, even though the quality of the food is good.  The menu also states “Our menu is created with the freshest of locally sourced products and is therefore subject to change on an almost daily basis.”   The prices of some dishes are on the high side.  Breakfast options include bacon, mushroom and eggs (R59); poached eggs on croissant, with salmon (R69); scrambled eggs with Emmentaler cheese and bacon or salmon (R69); and filled Omelettes (R69).  Sandwiches cost R69, and two choices are offered: grilled chicken, char grilled aubergine, mozarella, pesto and tomato; and smoked salmon, light wasabi creme fraiche and rolled cucumber sheets.  Soup of the day costs R29; chicken pie and salad R49; beef lasagne (R69); Quiche Lorraine with salad (R69); Club Sandwich (R69); and Penne Salad, with organic feta, olives, tomato, basil, lots of herbs, and a wonderful dressing was delicious (R59).  The Cappuccino was excellent, good and frothy, and cakes are expensive at R39 for a small slice.  The chocolates cost R8 each.

A small selection of beverages is offered, including Heineken (R20) and Peroni (R24), and wines-by-the -glass are reasonably priced (R25 for Haut Espoir Sauvignon Blanc, Simonsig sparkling wine R45, Beyerskloof Pinotage R35).  One wonders why such a small selection of wines is not proudly-Franschhoek!

It was when I asked the staff about Dr Waldis’ background, and about the new chocolate-making, that the waitress Sony became rude and aggressive in answering the questions, stating that I had “not asked her permission to interview her”!   She referred me to her “manager” (apparently she is a waitress too), who in turn said I should make an appointment with Dr Waldis and ask him the questions directly, that is after she first spent 10 minutes doing other things and returning the ice to a freezer. I had requested to speak to the new owner when we arrived.  Luckily Dr Waldis was at the restaurant, and sat with me for 10 minutes, charmingly giving me his background, and that of the thinking behind his new “hobby”, and offered us some of the chocolates to try.  They are absolutely wonderful, with melt-in-the-mouth liquid Lindt chocolate fillings.

Cafe Le Chocolatier could become a threat to Huguenot Fine Chocolates (an institution in Franschhoek), because its chocolates are better, and due to its location at the entrance to Franschhoek.  However, the chocolates are twice as expensive.   The waitressing staff need serious training in customer interaction, and need a manager looking after them.   Branding is a problem, with a Cafe Vendome sign still on one side of the shop, and the door mats having the old branding too.  The chocolate-focus in the restaurant name contradicts the menu that offers everything but chocolate (except hot chocolate).  The delicious cakes (carrot cake, chocolate mousse, etc) are not listed on the menu.  If one did not anticipate chocolates to be sold from the name of the restaurant, one would not know about them, as there is no proper display counter in which to see them.  A ball of chocolate brought with the bill, or served with the coffee, could be a good chocolate sampling opportunity.

POSTSCRIPT 2/1/11:  I returned to Café Le Chocolatier after 6 months, and was pleasantly surprised about the vast improvement in the service, mainly due to the departure of the two staff members who were so unpleasant on my previous visits.   The menu also is far more focused on treats containing chocolate, including cakes, cupcakes and chocolates made in the Café.

POSTSCRIPT 22/4:  For Good Friday I had kingklip (R99) at Café le Chocolatier for dinner.  Commendably they stay open until 8 pm.  While the vegetable mix was too salty for my taste, I liked the Basmati rice and kingklip.  A material serviette for dinner would be nice.  The service has improved greatly, and it is one of my favourite Franschhoek coffeee shops now.

Cafe Le Chocolatier, Place Vendome, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2233.  No website.   Monday – Sunday, 9h00 – 20h00.

POSTSCRIPT 10/7/13: Le Chocolatier has moved to The Apprentice in Stellenbosch.

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