Tag Archives: Queen Victoria

Chef Jean Delport continues his cuisine creativity at Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens in the UK!

Last Thursday my son and I visited Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens in Horsham, West Sussex, in the UK, on my first day of visiting the country. I loved seeing Chef Jean Delport, previously working at my then favorite restaurant Benguela on Main in Somerset West, and enjoying his creative take on Afternoon Tea at the estate.
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Chef Oliver Cattermole to open his first restaurant Bovine in Franschhoek on 3 February!

Yesterday I met with Chef Oliver Cattermole and his wife Becky for coffee in Franschhoek, to hear the latest details about their first self-owned restaurant Bovine, which opens today in two weeks on Franschhoek’s main road.  Continue reading →

‘Zu Gast im Süden Afrikas’ German documentary good for tourism to SA, Namibia, and Botswana!

Zu Gast ElephantWe have already predicted that Cape Town and our country will be overrun with German tourists in the next few months, given a documentary screened on 3sat German TV last week (Reisen in Ferne Welten: Kapstadt), as well as two movies about South Africa (‘Südafrika: Der Kinofilm, and ‘Der Geilste Tag ) showing in German movie theaters Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 1/2 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Despite the disaster in Cape Town harbour earlier this week, our country has a lucrative future as far as cruise tourism goes.  Nine cruise ships have scheduled stops off our coast for 2015, in Cape Town, Durban, Richard’s Bay, Port Elizabeth, and East London, a 70% increase in cruise liner passengers.   A number of the cruise ships are returning to the country, after previous visits.  The Queen Mary 2 will return for a second visit next year, and the Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth will visit in 2016.  Vital to the expansion of cruise tourism is world-class terminals in ports, and Cape Town’s inefficiency as far as Customs staff goes was in the spotlight this week.  Cape Town is one of the most popular stops in the region, for American tourists in particular.

*   National Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom will lead a local delegation representing our tourism industry to World Travel Market (WTM) in London this coming week, one of the largest (after ITB in Berlin) tourism trade exhibitions in the world.  More than 50000 tourism players are likely to attend WTM.  The Minister said: ‘The WTM is one of the premier events where South Africa engages with the global travel trade. Besides maintaining excitement about our destination, and all that we have to offer, this platform is about doing business and growing international tourist arrivals to our country.  We will be promoting the variety of experiences we offer in South Africa, and build on our reputation as a unique, diverse, friendly and accessible destination‘.  The Minister will address a summit relating to mega-events and tourism at WTM, based on our country’s FIFA 2010 World Cup experience.

*   Due to a cracked silo storing 10000 tons of coal, Eskom has announced load-shedding from today onwards, which is Continue reading →

Diners Club salutes top Western Cape winelists, Bushman’s Kloof judged best!

Diners Club Winelist banner Whale CottageThe Diners Club Winelist Awards for the Western Cape were held at Shimmy Beach Club yesterday, saluting the restaurants in the province, and the standard of their winelist content and presentation. Bushman’s Kloof won best Winelist in the Western Cape.  During the course of this week the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal awards will also be presented.

A judging panel, led by wine judge Dave Hughes, and consisting of Winnie Bowman, Nikki Dumas, Fiona McDonald, and Christine Rudman, evaluated 208 winelists nationally, and 100 from the ‘Cape‘, a province which has not existed for years!  Diners Club threw the Western Cape and Eastern Cape into one ‘Cape’ pot in reporting on the results and in handing out the awards yesterday!  A substantial number of Western Cape restaurants did not enter the competition this year, down from 96 entries last year to 80 this year.

Odd was the choice of venue, being the Bar section of Shimmy Beach Club, which did not have Diners Club Pongracz Whale Cottageenough parking for the attendees, some walking for more than 1 km to get to the venue.  We were welcomed with a glass of Pongracz, and the food was very meagre, being macaroni cheese croquettes and sushi!  There was not enough seating for everyone, in a room which had some round tables, a few chairs and couches, but had no presence in making this function special for the award winners, compared to the venue used at the Vineyard Hotel last year.  It also was not a finalist for the Winelist Awards! Very odd was using Anna Trapido as the MC, not generally known to the local restaurant wine stewards and sommeliers, in being the editor of the 2015 ‘Diners Club Rossouws Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Vovo Telo brings artisanal baking to the V&A Waterfront!

A surprise addition to the V&A Waterfront is Vovo Telo, a small, boutique and petite artisanal bakery and restaurant franchise which opened its first branch in Cape Town at the beginning of this week.  It is homely and welcoming, very un-V&A Waterfront and very un-franchise, and sells a range of excellent artisanal breads, as well as pastries.  The essence of the brand is ‘love, bread, coffee’.

There are five branches in Johannesburg (the one in Parkhurst being the flagship), two in Pretoria, and two in Port Elizabeth.  Mark Burger is the franchisee of the V&A branch, and is already eyeing other locations in Cape Town, Constantia being a potential.  Mark has been in the food franchising business for the past thirty years, having started Skippers Fish & Chips and creating franchise branches, owning Debonairs, Bravo, and Fontana before selling these.  He joined Famous Brands, the company which owns the Steers, Vivo Telo, Debonairs Pizza, Wimpy, Mugg & Bean, House of Coffees, and Tashas chains, and was their New Business Director when it was still called Steers Holdings. He has opened 300 – 400 franchises in the past 20 years, and is likely to be a tough-negotiating V&A Waterfront tenant.  He says that they have become far more flexible already. When he signed the contract, he was not told that the V&A Food Court would be closed until November, inclusive of the seating area outside it, curtailing the traffic to his store.

To keep the business in his ‘bloodline’, he has teamed up with his nephew Jade and his wife Adele. Mark lives in Johannesburg, having a son at school there, but plans to move to Cape Town eventually. The store can seat 75 customers inside the 210 m² and outside, and has a classy yet friendly interior, with chandelier, and Persian carpets. A fun mural above the bread shelves reflects Cape Town, with Table Mountain, at which ‘table’ Queen Victoria is depicted, with a ‘I want my coffee’ tattoo on her arm. The decor is standard across all the Vovo Telo branches, done by Mary from Famous Brands.  The name ‘Vovo Telo’ means ‘grandfather’s place’ in Portuguese, and comes from a holiday the three original owners spent in Madagascar, where they stayed at a Vovo Telo hotel, and saw a local with a baguette on his bicycle, igniting an interest to start a bakery named Vovo Telo in Port Elizabeth.  The three original owners are still very hands-on in and passionate about their business.  During the day one can sit outside in good weather, and the Marimba band performing nearby adds a good vibe.  Tables are a mix of aluminium and wood, and chairs are white moulded plastic.  Vovo Telo branded brown and white sugar sachets, and coarse sea salt and black pepper grinders are on the tables.  The menu design mirrors the fun feel of the website.  Paper serviettes are offered.

Because Vovo Telo is primarily a bakery, customers do not necessarily think that it will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as coffee and tea all day, with a selection of good pastries.  I had heard on my first visit that a Master Patissier starts with the group next week, and he will be travelling between the different franchises, to do staff training on pastries, still an area with improvement potential, Mark said honestly.  Part of the interior is the restaurant seating on the mezzanine level, and a few tables downstairs alongside the pastry counter and the massive bread oven.  A small table has pieces of bread which one can sample with Olitalia olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread is special in that Eureka stone-ground flour is used, to which is added a special culture which is passed on from store to store.  The bread dough leavens for 14 – 16 hours, to ‘ferment and rise’, I was told, and no preservatives are added.  Dough is hand-rolled, making the baking artisanal.  The baking staff were sent to a Johannesburg branch for training. Everything in the store is made from scratch, even the pasta, which Mark told me is already receiving rave reviews.  Bread styles which are made are Ciabatta (R16), 70% Rye and 30% Italian flour (R22), Sourdough (R20), Cheese Sticks (R15), Olive breadsticks (R18), Panini (R6), Baguette (R11), and Olive Sourdough (R30).  Ready-made sandwiches cost around R29, including salami, Reuben, ham, and Pastrami.

The pastry section displays whole cakes (e.g. orange almond, carrot, chocolate, pecan nut, cheesecake) available by the slice (R18 – R25), as well as pastries such as croissants (R10), berry pin wheel (R18), Pain aux Raisin (R15), Pain au Chocolate (R14), Cheese straws (R18), muffins (R18), apple tart, a delicious strawberry and fresh cream tart, and pear tart at R18.  Coffee is by Ciro, and it is preferred that the cappuccino be served as a flat white (R16), but I was served a perfect dry cappuccino when I asked for it.

The menu is printed in green on cream paper, and states that any changes requested to menu items could lead to an additional 20 minute waiting time.  It also states that all prices include VAT, something one does not see on other restaurant menus.  All food is served on a sheet of branded paper on top of a branded wooden board.  Breakfast is served until 11h30, and free-range eggs are used.  Eggs can be ordered scrambled or poached (R22), with their breads, as well as a number of variations to which are added ham, cheeses, sauces, or boerewors.  Croque Madame (wilted spinach, Gruyere cheese, poached egg, and sourdough bread) costs R52. Toast/croissant and jam and cheese or Nutella costs R 26/25.  For the rest of the day, one can order gourmet sandwiches (R29 – R 39). Pissaladiere, being thin crust pizza bases made from ciabatta dough, range from R59 for Marinated tomatoes, and an olive and bocconcini mozzarella pizza, to R72 (ham and Brie, four cheeses, and Avocado, Gorgonzola, and Salami).  I enjoyed their Classic pizza last night, with crispy Gypsy ham, feta, and avocado after (R69). ‘Handcrafted’ Tagliatella is made daily, and is served with fresh tomatoes (R48), steak (R69), zucchini and pine nuts, smoked salmon (R69), and basil pesto and pine nuts. Salads offered are green, honey mustard chicken, roast vegetables, and a harvest board, peaking at R59. No main course costs more than R82 (fillet steak), and one can also order a lamb burger (R67), salmon trout, and an antipasta platter.

To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s reign this weekend, Vovo Telo is offering an amazing value R14 offer of warm scones with mascarpone cheese, strawberry jam, and Boerenkaas for all of next week, making one ‘good to go for another 60 years!’, says its flyer.  The application for the liquor licence has already been lodged, and is awaited.  A small range of alcoholic beverages will be sold, including &Union beers, five or so boutique wines, and some whiskies.

For being in the V&A Waterfront, the prices of Vovo Telo are exceptionally good. The quality of the breads and the good coffee are a further reason to make a stop at this outlet.  The staff is friendly, and the management is present all the time. The arrival of their credit card machine is eagerly awaited.

Vovo Telo, next to Vaughn Johnson, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-3750. www.vovotelo.com (Not much information on the website, Cape Town not yet listed). Twitter: @VovoTelo  Monday – Sunday, 7h30 – 21h00.

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

V&A Waterfront Historical Walking Tours connect Cape Town to its past!

Recently my colleague Charmaine and I were privileged to be taken on a Historical Walking Tour of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront by Willem Steenkamp, a historian with a passion for Cape Town and its past, an ex-editor of the Cape Times, and author (of ‘Poor Man’s Bioscope’ and more). The tour is an interesting way to confirm that the V&A is at the heart of Cape Town and its history, with 22 historical landmarks of interest to both local Capetonians and to tourists.

The V&A is the oldest working harbour in South Africa, and was redeveloped in 1988 by Transnet Limited, with first commercial trading commencing in 1990.  It started as a jetty built by South Africa’s founder Jan van Riebeeck in 1654.   A harbour had to be built when insurer Lloyds of London would not insure the ships coming around the Cape in winter if a safe harbour was not built here, given the winter gales and the damage they could do to the ships. The harbour was named after Queen Victoria and her son HRH Prince Alfred, and he inaugurated the construction of the harbour in1860, with a monument dedicated to him, to mark the occasion.  Ten years later he returned for the official opening of the harbour, commemorated with another monument close to the Amphitheatre.

Willem started the tour at the Chavonnes Battery Museum, beautifully dressed up in a uniform of the 18th century, despite the extreme heat of the day, and certain to attract attention where he went in the V&A.  He said some children refer to him as Captain Jack Sparrow on his tours. He traced the history of the discovery of Cape Town by boats connecting the spice-rich East and Europe in a 6 – 8 month journey, having to come around the Cape, where they picked up fresh water, plants to counter scurvy, and meat. At times the inhabitants were short of supplies themselves, and had to obtain supplies from passing ships.  To safeguard the 25000 VOC (Dutch East India Company) Cape Town employees against the threat of pirates, Cape Town was protected with a battery and heavy artillery, the Chavonnes’ Battery Museum paying tribute to the defence of Cape Town.  The Battery disappeared in 1860 when the harbour was built, and was excavated in 1999 when the Board of Executors built its head office on the site, the Battery originally having been at the water’s edge. The Battery was completed in 1726, and was named after the Marquis de Chavonnes.

We stopped at the Clock Tower, which was originally painted white, and Willem said he did not know why it has changed colour.  We were reminded of Bertie’s Landing, named after well-known sailor Bertie Reed, with a bust in honour of ‘Biltong Bertie’, as Willem called him.  The building is now the Robben Island Museum and Nelson Mandela Gateway ticket office.  Prior to the construction of the Swing Bridge, the Penny Ferry connected the two sections of the harbour.  We were shown the Alfred Basin; the Robinson Dry Dock (the oldest of its kind still in daily use in South Africa, and oldest of the old style dock in the world.  Galas were held in the Robinson Dock in the old days, and it has been a quarry); the Pump House (which pumped water in and out of the Robinson Dock); the Old Power Station (having supplied Cape Town’s power); the Breakwater Prison (built in 1902, and which still has the treadmill to punish the prisoners who were locked up there.  It is now a hotel and the UCT Graduate School of Business operates from there; Portswood Ridge (Moorings Lane has five cottages for small businesses, and we rented one of these called Sea Cottage when the V&A first opened this business section of the Waterfront in 1991); Dock House was the home of the Port Captain; the Time Ball Tower, which was critical to navigation around the Cape; the Portswood Tunnel that few have seen before; the Rocket Shed; the Union Castle Building designed by Sir Herbert Baker’s firm; at Quay 5 hides, fish, and wood were unloaded from arriving ships; and Victoria Basin.  We were not able to see the SAS Somerset boom defence vessel, probably the last of its kind in the world.  Willem was sad that Iziko Museums had closed down the Maritime Museum near the Aquarium. The NSRI uses the same slipway as did previous rescue vehicles in the history of the harbour.  Amidst the history of the Cape in the V&A Waterfront is the history of South Africa’s political transformation, and the statues of Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Albert Lithuli, all Nobel Peace Prize recipients, can be seen at Nobel Square near the V&A Hotel.

We loved Willem’s dry sense of humour and his wealth of knowledge of the history of Cape Town in general, and of the V&A Waterfront in particular.  We would recommend this Historical Walking Tour to all Capetonians and visitors to Cape Town.

V&A Waterfront Historical Walking Tours. Tel (021) 408-7600. www.waterfront.co.za Monday – Sunday 11h00, tour takes about an hour.  R50 per adult, R20 per child 10 – 18 years old. Minimum of 4 persons, maximum 10. Tours start at Chavonnes Battery Museum.

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

Hotel Review: Queen Victoria Hotel chic and classy – fit for a Queen!

The Queen Victoria Hotel, which opened about a month ago in the business section of the V&A Waterfront, is a chic and classy addition to the accommodation collection in Cape Town, and is a unique tribute to Queen Victoria, after whom the V&A Waterfront is named, with her son Alfred.   I felt like a queen for the stay with the royal treatment we received, it co-inciding with Mother’s Day.

A Google search led me to a review of a biography of Queen Victoria, and I learnt from it that Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 at the tender age of 18, and was a short (“less than 5 feet tall”) and feisty lady, who took to wearing “black robes with white caps and veils” after the death of her husband Prince Albert.   These two colours, to which Newmark Hotels’ consultant interior designer Francois du Plessis has added a modern silver and grey, and regal shades of lilac/purple, create the stylish interior of the hotel, developed out of the original office building of the V&A Waterfront management company by architect Tarryn Cohen of Peerutin Architects.  It is hidden to the Waterfront visitor, and that adds to its charm in not being in the midst of the V&A hustle and bustle.

One is greeted at the dramatic black marble entrance by a doorman, and the reception desks are immediately visible at the entrance.  We were welcomed by GM Bobby Pringle (ex-Oyster Box), who was the Duty Manager for the day, and we were impressed to be taken to our room by him personally.  He was meticulous in showing us the room directory, the tea/coffee facilities, the mini-bar, the bathroom amenities, telling us what one could take home, and the free internet service.  The comfortably-sized rooms (40 – 50 sq. m) have grey walls, discreet white bedding, a lilac couch, a silver headboard to the comfortable bed, beautiful silver raw silk curtains, a crystal chandelier, and black furniture, while the bathroom is in black and white, with touches of silver and grey, and quality linen bathrobes are hung here.   There are three showers in the bathroom, one over the bath and two in the shower, the hand-held one having a wonderful strong flow.  A large drawing of Queen Victoria is in every room, a clever way of communicating the hotel brand name.  Being new, everything in the room was in perfect working order. The rooms have double-glazed doors to ensure that the minimal Waterfront sound is heard in the room.  A nice turn-down touch was the colour-matched black macaroons with white filling, placed next to the beds, continuing the colour theme.

The triple-volume entrance hall is dominated by the regal purple carpet, a modern glass lift, a beautiful curved stairway made from Corian, with marble steps, and a 30 year old bonsai imported from Japan.  It leads one to the bar and lounge area, where a homely gas fire is lit on chilly nights, and from which one can see Dash restaurant, which serves the best meals in Cape Town.   The bathrooms near the bar are done in black with silver basins, one of the nicest I have seen.

Neil Markovitz, Managing Director and hands-on driving force of Newmark Hotels, is proud of his new 35-room addition to his hotel portfolio, developed at a cost of R53 million, and he has cleverly appointed Alton van Biljon (ex-Balducci) as the Food & Beverage Manager for all three his Waterfront properties (Dock House and V&A Hotel too), as well as Executive Chef Stephen Templeton.  Both are charming assets to his business, as is the creative and talented chef Oliver Cattermole. The lounge/bar at the Queen Victoria Hotel is the type of place one can pop in for a coffee, and the staff already know about my preference for frothy cappuccinos.  Outside of lunch and dinner times one can order from a 24-hour menu, which is available to the hotel guests, whether one is staying over or not.

Breakfast is served in Dash, and was a most beautiful display on a striking silver table, of fresh fruit, citrus fruit compote, berry compote, breads, salmon with capers and lemon, cold meats, cheeses, three cereals, three yoghurts, a beautiful stand with pre-made cereals, and yoghurt and custard treats, nuts, croissants and more.  In addition, an a la Carte menu is available, with interesting names of cooked dishes which relate to the Newmark Hotel properties: Royal Breakfast is salmon on a bagel; Dock House is bacon, mushroom and scrambled egg; V&A is fried egg, bacon, sausage, potato and onion rosti, and baked beans; Nautilus is poached haddock and kipper, served with poached quail eggs; Forum is a vegetarian Eggs Benedict, made from duck eggs, with creamed spinach and a herb hollandaise sauce, served on an English muffin, which we had, on the recommendation of Restaurant Manager Darren; Cape Breakfast is an omelette with a range of filling choices; and Waterfront is bacon served with raisin toast, warm maple syrup and crême fraiche.  Breakfast costs R250 for hot and cold breakfast, and R 135 for the Continental only, if one is not staying at the hotel.

Parking is available inside the Waterfront business area.   Anything one may need, that the hotel may not have, can be sourced from one of the two other Newmark Hotels’ properties in the Waterfront – for example, I wanted firmer pillows, and these were made available from the V&A Hotel.  The hotel check-in form gave me a fright, when I saw seven clauses in literal fine print, written in heavy legalese, which would no longer be acceptable in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. I panicked when I was asked by the receptionist to hand over my credit card for a R500 pre-authorisation for ‘incidentals’.  I wasn’t planning on having any extras, was staying for one night only, and paid for my dinner at Dash immediately, so this request was waived.  I was staying at the hotel on a complimentary basis, having attended an invited media lunch at the V&A Hotel OYO restaurant  last summer, and all guests were given a voucher for a one night stay at the Queen Victoria Hotel.   I was impressed with a feedback card which was placed in the room, signed by Markovitz and which one posts to him, providing feedback on Reception and Porterage, Room appointment and Housekeeping, the Restaurant, Bar and Room Service, and the Spa and Gym facilities (one goes to Dock House for these).

I feel at home at the Queen Victoria Hotel, being a frequent visitor to its lounge already, and am made to feel very special every time I am there.  I predict Dash will become an Eat Out Top 10 restaurant in 2012.  The hotel is offering a winter and opening rate until 31 July, at R1875 per room, including English breakfast, an amazing price when one sees that many other 5-star Waterfront and Cape Town hotels charge more than double this rate. 

Queen Victoria Hotel,  Portswood Close, Portswood Ridge, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-1466.  www.queenvictoriahotel.co.za

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