Tag Archives: Relax with Dax

Eat Out explains its 2016 Woolworths Sustainability Award for restaurants!

imageAfter a question by Relax-with-Dax as to why the Woolworths Sustainability Award was not awarded to a restaurant at the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards held on Sunday, given that it was one of the Award categories, Eat Out issued a statement today!

The statement says that Eat Out wants to recognize a restaurant which ‘is making great strides towards running Continue reading →

Welcome research on Restaurant recommendations and review site credibility!

imageIn what initially looked like an Eat Out survey about restaurant recommendations when I saw the Facebook post very late last night was in fact a survey conducted by Tokara to research sources of restaurant recommendations and review platform credibility. I was delighted to see that our WhaleTales Blog was included in the Survey as a source of restaurant review information.

Tokara Restaurant owner Wilhelm Kühn is writing his dissertation for an Executive MBA at the UCT Graduate School of Business, and designed the survey.  He introduced it as follows on the Tokara Continue reading →

Social Media and Freedom of Speech: Censorship of Comments

Over the weekend this blog was in the news, when it was taken to pieces by the (now ex) ‘friend’ who introduced me to blogging more than two years ago.   It raised a number of interesting issues about blogging in general, blogging ethics, and the censorship or not of comments on blogs and website.

Background

Carl Momberg wrote a tourism newsletter CapeInfo for many years, and it was a cutting edge, incisive and often biting overview of the tourism industry.  He has no direct tourism experience, to our knowledge.  He was like a wolf at the doors of premiers and ministers of the province and of the mayor of the city, criticising their every tourism move.   He was very well connected, and had the good journalistic practice in those days of requesting comment from the persons he wrote about. 

I started my WhaleTales tourism newsletter 9 years ago, and could never match Momberg for his sting.  We often debated issues, but presented different perspectives, and we were both passionate about the retention of the then-Cape Town Tourism, of which I was the Deputy Chairman.  As Momberg wrote, I even offered the then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky money to pay the salaries of staff and other running costs to keep Cape Town Tourism alive, but the City of Cape Town was bent on bleeding the tourism body dry financially, until it capitulated and became part of the new regime, which resulted in a new Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, costing Cape Town the loss of its best marketer ever, being Sheryl Ozinsky!  

Carl travelled with his pet wolf Akela, about which he blogged.   We continued writing the WhaleTales newsletter,  and have been told that it has become the definitive tourism newsletter, with 25000 readers.   Momberg’s newsletter is irregular in its publication, and has lost its bite.  

More than two years ago Momberg invited me to blog on his website, and not knowing better, I accepted.   He clearly was looking for increased traffic to his site via my blog contribution.  When he started interfering with my writing style and content, setting conditions about what I was allowed to write about or not (to protect his own financial interests and relationships with the tourism industry), I started my own Whale Cottage blog and paid Momberg for the hosting of the blog and for his assistance for the short time that he had done so.  It is the best thing I could have done to not work with Momberg any more, and many asked me why I had associated with Momberg in the first place.  I love blogging and my blog, and have never looked back in the 26 months of writing it.  Momberg invited other bloggers to blog on his site too, but they have all left him and gone on their own, probably for the same reasons.

To create a stir, climb on a dubious bandwagon, and possibly to gain some new readers for his blog, Momberg has written a slanderous post about my alleged hand in closing down a tourism website.  He did not stop there – he has turned every word and action in our ‘friendship’ into a negative, and brought in other unrelated issues, to paint as dark a picture as possible.   He has forgotten the good journalistic practice of asking for my input and comment to his blog post before publishing it, and spewed forth malicious misinformation.  For the record, we have last spoken to each other more than two years ago!  My response to aspects of his blog post follows. 

Closure of Tourism website

I nor anyone else has any power to tell a server what to do or not to do.  As a website owner one usually deals with a webmaster, who has a relationship with the server, so that one cannot contact them directly.

Recently I spotted three defamatory comments made about me and Whale Cottage, by three persons whom I have never met and who have never stayed in my guest houses, in response to a comment I had written about my terrible stay at Sante Hotel and Spa.   The commenters wrote that Sante should ignore my comment, as I do not know anything about hospitality, it was claimed, and then made further defamatory comments.  As they were untrue and damaging, I followed the procedure of contacting the owner of the website, and requested the removal of the three comments.  He refused.  I then contacted the association of server companies in South Africa, and followed their procedure to request the removal of the three comments.  They contacted Hetzner, the server of the tourism website, and Hetzner in turn contacted the owner of the website, and gave him a specified period in which to remove the three comments, or face the closure of the website if he did not comply.   He refused to comply with the request from the Hetzner Abuse Department’s Gunther Breuninger, and the tourism website was closed down by Hetzner.   The owner has told Breuninger that he is moving to another server and reopening.   This website closure was laid at my door as an opening shot by Momberg, as if it was my doing.  He even implies that Breuninger is lying in his communication with him about this matter.

Fedhasa Board membership

I have written on this blog about the devious attempts made by then-FEDHASA Cape chairman Nils Heckscher to keep me off the Board of directors, when I had been nominated in the Small Accommodation category.  When I was elected to the Board, he made our Board meetings hell, constantly criticising my WhaleTales newsletters (prior to the days of blogging), and made me feel that we were having Whale Cottage instead of FEDHASA Cape Board meetings!   Heckscher was a very biased partial Chairman, and hand-picked his successor when his controversial reign was over to ensure that I did not get elected as Chairman!   From day one of being a  Board member I told my FEDHASA Cape Board colleagues that the MATCH terms and conditions were bad for small accommodation establishments.  I was ridiculed for this view, and was ultimately forced off the Board when the rest of the Board members cancelled my membership because of my anti-MATCH sentiments expressed in my newsletters.   

As they say in the classics, the rest is history – “MATCH” is the most hated word in the hospitality industry, and Hecksher got his karma returned, in that the hotel (Winchester Mansions) he is the GM of suffered one of the biggest cancellations of accommodation bookings by MATCH.

Momberg has been at odds with Fedhasa in the past, and therefore I am surprised that he included them in the post.  He was highly critical of the accommodation booking website for the World Cup, started by FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, and slanderously described our national “Minister of Tourism and his Department (DOT) as a bunch of blundering idiots”for dealing with Dungan!

Restaurant bannings

Grasping at straws, Momberg writes on the basis of hearsay about the fact that I am not allowed into some restaurants in Cape Town, mentioning Beluga specifically.

Restaurateurs in Cape Town are a sensitive lot, and luckily it is only a few that cannot stomach feedback and the reality of a review.   Let me list them:

1.   Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek – long before my blogging and restaurant review days, whilst I was living in Franschhoek, I regularly went to then-bistro iCi.  A comment I made to a manager about declining value for money went to owner Susan Huxter, resulting in the barring from Le Quartier Francais and to Bread & Wine (the winefarm Moreson belongs to Huxter’s brother Richard Friedman).  Huxter tried to get other Franschhoek restaurants to follow suit, but while she has a strong influence over Franschhoek, none of her restaurant colleagues complied with her request.   I have tried to meet with her to discuss her heavy-handedness and discrimination against me, and she has refused all contact.  Twice in the past three months I have been invited to attend the opening of art exhibitions at Le Quartier Francais, only to be uninvited again on the instruction of Huxter, demonstrating the unprofessionalism and pettiness of this business owner!   

2.   Beluga/Sevruga/Blonde– I attended a Cape Times book launch at Sevruga last year, and gave the restaurant a Sour Service Award for its poor ability to handle a group of 150 women who were offered a very restricted “chicken or beef” type menu choice.  I received no response from owner Oskar Kotze or Marketing Manager Samantha Obery to it.  Six months later the Camps Bay accommodation association, which I head up, was invited to Beluga, to try out their Christmas and New Year menus, as a PR exercise, so that the guest houses should recommend the restaurant.  We were seated, and then Obery came to me, asking me to leave the restaurant, as owner Oskar Kotze did not want me there, due to the Sevruga Sour Service Award.  I said that I was happy to speak to him, as this was surely a mistake, but he was not there.  I gave her my cell number so that he could call me, but he refused.  I then called him on his cellphone, and he refused to take the call.   In the end Obery was instructed by Kotze to call the police, to escort me out of the restaurant.   Beluga received a Sour Service Award for this “PR exercise”, in full view of the guest houses that they were meant to be impressing.

3.   Sotano by Caveau –  a week ago I posted a review of the newly opened Sotano by Caveau in Mouille Point.  It was a fair review, and highlighted teething problems, with the full knowledge that they would be fixed.  I wrote about going back to finish writing about the winelist, as this was not yet available on the day that I was at the restaurant.  When I returned the following day, the Operations Manager Ross Stillford told me that the owners had asked me to not return to Caveau and to Sotano by Caveau, due to my Sotano by Caveau review.  To add insult to injury, one of the owners, Brendon Crew, tweeted about the barring and referred to me as a “bitch”.   This caused a furore, and more than 50 comments have been posted to this review, mainly scathing about Caveau and its owner’s behaviour, with 1253 readers (best read review ever)having read the review in the past week.

4.  Carne – our exposure about the dishonest claim by owner Giorgio Nava of only serving organic lamb, beef and game from his farm in the Karoo led him to remove this fraudulent claim.

We have written more than a hundred restaurant reviews, and all of them have fairly documented our experiences in those restaurants. It is a poor reflection on the handful of restaurant owners listed above, that they are so small-minded to not be able to take valid feedback. 

We have helped restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands who ran winter specials  and are currently running summer specials  in publicising these, and we know that our list is extensively consulted by those seeking good value.  Even though we have been barred from Beluga and Sevruga, their specials are on our list, demonstrating that we bear no grudges against these restaurants.  We tweet a link to the Specials page on this blog every day, as a community service.  We also tweet and blog Restaurant news and information about new specials being added.

Reviews of Crush!

We have written about Crush!1, 2 and 3, and Momberg questions my right to do so.  We note that it is Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, who first posted the link to Momberg’s blogpost on Twitter.   The Crush! team of Olivier,  and his contributors Andy Fenner (JamieWho? blog, now ex-contributor) and David Cope of The Foodie blog, as well his designers who tweet as @Crush_Online, initiated the terrorising Twitter campaign against me at a Crush! dinner party at Sophia Lindop’s house on 16 October, which has run non-stop for five weeks, with added input by Clare McKeon and Eamon McLoughlin of Spill blog, and to which Cope has added an SMS stalking campaign.   

Censorship of Comments

Most blogs allow comments to blog posts.   Early in my social media experience I experienced the vitriol and abuse of commenters to comments made on leading blogs such as Relax-with-Dax, Food24 and Rossouw’s Restaurants.  As I was honest enough to reveal my name, the comments became personal attacks against me as the commenter and lost track of the actual restaurant that was being commented upon.  JP Rossouw agreed to remove these, on the basis of a promise I made to him to never comment on his site again.   This may be why he has changed his review website, and one cannot see the latest comments listed anymore.   Dax Villanueva too has removed derogatory comments over time, and allows criticism up to a point.  He is receiving a fair amount of abuse himself at the moment.  Clare McKeon of Spill blog told me that she too has received critical comments, and deletes them when they disparage her or cause her blog embarassment, given that she is wanting to gain as many advertisers as possible on her site, even if it is at the cost of losing her readers.

The vitriolic attacks by other commenters has led almost all commenters to comment anonymously, only the inexperienecd commenters using their own name.   This means that comments can be even more scathing than if the real name is used.  When we are uncertain about the credentials of the commenter, we send an e-mail to the address provided, and have often found the e-mail address to be a bogus one.

As a topic, comments and censorship thereof, has been receiving a fair amount of airtime in our Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings.  General agreement has been that some comments are vitriolic and abusive towards the writer of the blog or to the commenters, not what one would want to have associated with one’s blog.  We have decided that it is perfectly in order to not accept abusive and disparaging comments on our blogs, and that we have the right to excise these from our blog.  No commenter has the right to expect to have such abusive comments published.   But having said that, we encourage debate – comments are good for web traffic, bring in new readers, and present different perspectives.  Such an example is Sotano by Caveau, where the action of the owner has led to a stream of mainly negative comments about the parent restaurant Caveau. 

We will be interested to see how Momberg copes with comments to his blogpost, and whether he will resort to censorship.  He has already censored a word used by a commenter and has refused to allow commenter “Dieter” to comment.   He has already received criticism from outspoken blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs about not posting her comment, and therefore she has written her intended comment on her own blog.  Momberg has just closed down comments and one must register to comment, a new form of censorship –  “Due to increasing violations of CapeInfo’s Terms of Use with fraudulent emails being provided, we have introduced the requirement that only logged in users may post comments. You need to register on CapeInfo before you can log in. That you do near the top of the page. For help, please click on Frequently Asked Questions under the “Help” navigation tab.  Where people hide behind fraudulent email addresses, one can assume that they have something to hide and cannot participate in open discussion and debate. We do not censor content although we reserve the right to edit.”  Could it be that Momberg does not like comments which may be written in support of this blog?   He has allowed two Caveau staff (Sabrina – SD and Kirstie) to post comments unrelated to his content to his blog post which I refused to my Sotano by Caveau review! 

While he sets himself up as the “judge” of the tourism industry, Momberg has no ethics when he presents a one-sided perspective containing dishonest information on his subject matter!

We deplore the backstabbing and bitching taking place in social media, and while we recognise its importance in the marketing mix, we cannot agree with the low levels of personal attack that are allowed by companies such as Twitter and in blogs in the interest of Freedom of Speech.  Given the amount of disinformation being put out into the cyberspace, I welcome any questions you may have or comments you wish to make: info@whalecottage.com.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11: Martin Hatchuel, the editor of the Tourism website that has been taken down by Hetzner, has written a newsletter which Carl Momberg has distributed for him today.  In it Hatchuel writes: “I responded by refusing to remove the ‘offending’ material because it is my reader’s right to say what they want (within reason, of course – and only the courts can really decide what that reason should be). As a publisher, I can choose to let comments ride, and as a reader, you can choose to take offence – but if you don’t like what’s there, you do have recourse to the courts.  I felt that if von Ulmenstein can say nasty stuff about others, why shouldn’t others be able to say what they wanted about her?”.   We are shocked that Hatchuel is so unprofessional that he would allow untruthful abuse and disparagement to be posted as comments, when he writes that he has the right to edit and refuse commments, exercising his own censorship, exactly the issue he is complaining about in respect of Hetzner’s actions!  He cannot have read our newsletters or blog posts if he describes my writing as “nasty stuff”.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Reading the few comments to the Momberg blog post it is interesting to see that ex-Fedhasa Board colleagues and Cape Town Tourism Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, and Cape Town Tourism PR Manager Skye Grove (recipient of a Sour Service Award for her unprofessional behaviour) have written disparaging comments – interesting in that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is a member of Cape Town Tourism! 

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Now Momberg is crying wolf in that he has turned to Hetzner to complain about this blog post, and I have had to remove part of a sentence about him!  Wasn’t his blog post about my complaint to Hetzner about the removal of comments on Hatchuel’s website, widely publicised by him?!  Double standards!  His website is hosted in London, disallowing us to have defamatory comments removed from his blogpost – makes you think, as Nedbank used to say!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Skye Grove has also approached Hetzner, and has asked for the removal of our post about her Sour Service Award, awarded to her for retweeting a defamatory Tweet, motivating it as follows: “This has adversely affected my professional integrity”.  One wonders why she retweeted the Tweet, in the knowledge that it is defamatory, given her position as PR Manager of Cape Town Tourism.  She also has requested Hetzner to close down our blog.  She has not held back in her opinion about our blog in her comments on Momberg’s site, as well as on other sites, and retweets whatever negative she can find written about us – clearly a vendetta, and another case of double standards!   Our complaint about Ms Grove’s defamatory Tweet was rejected by her boss Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.  Ms Grove has no problem in disparaging Cape Town Tourism’s funder, the City of Cape Town, in terms of its supply of services to Cape Town residents.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Hetzner appears to have realised that it was too heavy-handed in its dealings with the Tourism website, and has reinstated it.  We welcome this move.  Momberg has not updated his blogpost to announce this, and it basically removes the foundation of his blogpost!   We await his apology for the defamatory comments made. 

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Skye Grove has returned to Hetzner, after we made an amendment.   She has now called for the removal of all references to her name on our blog.  Yet she has disparaged us widely in comments on other blogs and by retweeting defamatory Tweets.   She incorrectly blames me for the “(unlawful) action” of Hetzner in closing down the Tourism site (it is clear that this was Hetzner’s doing, and that the site has been reinstated), refers to our blog in its “lack of journalistic quality and substance thereof”, and to my lack of “journalistic ethics or standards”!  Her boss Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold has written a long comment about Social Media and Freedom of Speech, which we have published in the Comments section to this blogpost.  She calls for “honesty, transparency, respect, privacy, relevance, and responsibility within the social media communications realm”, yet her PR Manager Skye Grove does not play by these rules.   Today I declined a request for donating accommodation to the Cape Town Tourism staff function, given Ms Grove’s behaviour.

POSTSCRIP 23/11:  David Cope has also turned to Hetzner, wanting any reference to his name removed, and the whole blog closed down.  It is ironic that Cope complains to Hetzner about…. “damaged my reputation, but has brought my business name into disrepute”.  Yet Cope has had no shame in sending 285 shockingly disparaging Tweets about me, terrorised me with an sms stalker campaign, and retweeted defamatory Tweets.

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Carl Momberg has also returned to Hetzner’s door, complaining that I have not removed more content about him.  He incorrectly makes the deduction that my partial removal signals that I “acknowledged” publishing incorrect content – no Mr Momberg, I am subject to the same threat by Hetzner to have my website closed down if I do not make amendments, as was your friend Mr Hatchuel!  He contests almost every reference to him in this blogpost, describing them to be “untrue” , “misleading” and “she cannot prove otherwise”!   He demands of Hetzner : “I demand the whole post be taken down.  If there are further snide and defamatory comments about me or CapeInfo, I will issue further taken down requests, pending legal action”!   Momberg has not apologised for his defamatory blogpost, nor made any amendments, yet expects me to remove the whole blogpost in response to his!

The double standards of Cope, Grove and Momberg is interesting, in that they are quite happy to disparage me and my blog, yet do not want me to write about their actions.  We will not remove any further material from this blogpost or blog.

POSTSCRIPT 24/11: Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, is also crushed by our blog, and has requested that it be closed down, that all current content relating to Crush! be removed, and that any future writing about Crush! by me be disallowed!   Olivier writes a number of untruths, despite having to declare his information to be “true and correct”, to motivate the closure of my blog:  my reviews of Crush! are “full of incorrect information”; I did not consult him – we used e-mail, sms’s, phone calls and our blog to invite Olivier to respond and participate in each of our three reviews, all with no response; that I have created false comments about his magazines on my blog, which is devoid of all truth and is libellous; he claims that I have “affected the livelihoods of restaurants, publications (I have not written about any other than Crush!) and businesses”, a libellous claim once again; that I had This Tourism Weekly website taken down – we know that it is Hetzner that took down the site as Mr Hatchuel, its owner, refused to heed the Take-Down notice; that he is “missing out on important functions which I will not attend due to her presence”; and that he has lost clients for Crush! and his radio programme due to my writing.   Double standards once again, as Olivier was the first to Tweet the link to The Tourism Weekly disparaging blogpost by Momberg on Saturday.

POSTSCRIPT 28/11: We have decided to follow the example of Momberg and Hatchuel, in moving our website to an international server.   This ensures our freedom of speech, and that the likes of Momberg and his merry men (and woman) will not have any power to have any content removed from our blog, nor for them to have our blog closed down!  Predictably, Momberg is furious about our move.   Again, we deplore Momberg’s double standards in defaming and disparaging us, yet crying wolf when we write the truth about him. 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We have had to edit our writing about David Cope and Carl Momberg above, under threat of closure of the site by our server Hetzner, and also a blackmail threat by David Cope in his abusive Twitter campaign.   The edits we have done in no way reflect acknowledgement by us of any error or defamation, as suggested by Carl Momberg in his complaint to Hetzner.

 

 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We were forced by Hetzner to remove the content of this blogpost until we moved the website to an international server.   Talk about censorship! 

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

Food Blogger Relax-with-Dax paired with Wine Blogger Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte

The fifth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place on Wednesday 22 September, from 6 – 8 pm, at the Salt Vodka Bar in Bantry Bay, and will pair Dax Villanueva of Relax with Dax blog , and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and of Hein on Wine Blog.

Hein Koegelenberg grew up in the Karoo, and then on a family wine farm in Vredendal. He has an Honours degree in viticulture cellar technology from Elsenberg outside Stellenbosch. He became a winemaker, and then CEO of Windheuwel Cellars in Paarl. He was appointed as a director of La Motte in 1998. In 2000 he launched the Leopard’s Leap wine brand, a mass market product produced from the grapes of three Rupert wine farms in the Franschhoek area, selling 600 000 cases a year, largely through Meridian Wines, which he established to distribute his and 27 other top South African wine brands internationally. Under Hein’s guidance, the La Motte wine estate has recently undergone extensive changes, with an art gallery as well as a dedicated Pierneef Gallery, a Rupert family museum, and the Pierneef Ã  La Motte restaurant opening – he has created a world-class wine tourism destination at La Motte, and still finds time to blog and Tweet actively, understanding that social media marketing is the marketing force of the future.

Dax Villanueva writes the popular Relax-with-Dax blog, which documents what is happening in Cape Town. Dax moved to Cape Town, after growing up in Port Elizabeth and working in Durban, and loves Cape Town for its beauty, diversity and cultural wealth, loving to share what he is experiencing with others. His blog started as a newsletter seven years ago, and is one of the oldest in South Africa. He was a runner-up in the 2009 SA Blog Awards, and is a Finalist in the 2010 SA Blog Awards in the Twitter Microblogger category. He serves on the Slow Food Mother City Convivium committee. During the World Cup he was a blogger for the V&A Waterfront. He has more than 150 restaurant reviews on his blog.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Other writers that will be talking at future Bloggers Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 20 October: Simon Back of Backsberg Blog

Wednesday 24 November:  Marisa Hendricks of The Creative Pot Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Hein will introduce the La Motte wines served.  Snacks will be served.  The cost of attendance is R100.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Venue: Salt Vodka Bar, above Salt Deli, across the road from Ambassador Hotel, Victoria Road, Bantry Bay.

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

Whale Cottage Blog a ‘controversial’ Finalist for 2010 SA Blog Awards

Yesterday was a day of reckoning for the bloggers of South Africa, who had been judged by a committee of three, and voted for by their fans, in making the short-list of ten finalists in 25 categories of the S A Blog Awards.  We are delighted to have been selected as a Finalist in the Most Controversial Blog category, and thank our loyal blog readers, friends, commenters, and Twitter followers for their votes in making the Finalist selection possible.

Now we are like Idols contestants, in that we please request your vote for our Blog, to win in the category (there is no prize, other than a badge that goes onto the blog). The Most Controversial Blog category is quite far down the list, and you need to please click on our blog name to vote, and then to scroll down to the bottom of the list, to enter your e-mail address.  You are allowed to vote for us every 24 hours, per e-mail address, until the competition closes on 17 September.

The Whale Cottage Blog had been nominated in a number of categories, including Best Food & Wine Blog, Best Blog Post, Most Controversial Blog and Best Travel Blog.  Being a unique blog that does not fit fully into any specific category (e.g. Food, Travel), we were delighted to have made the finals (somehow we never got to enter last year).  The Most Controversial Blog category is a new one introduced this year, and it seemed to suit us ideally!   If we have created a unique identity for our blog, it has been to be “independent * incisive * informative”, and it is described as being controversial, due to our lack of fear to write the truth, no matter the consequences.

We are in excellent company in this category, with 2Oceansvibe being a fellow finalist – last year its editor ‘Seth Rotherham’ won almost every category in the Blog Awards, and his blog became the benchmark for many of us (this year a blog can only be nominated in two categories).   The rest of the Finalists’ list is a little more dubious, sex and swearing broadly summarising the content of the other blogs in the Most Controversial Blog category.

The WhaleTales newsletter has been distributed for the past nine years, and has been the foundation of our writing about controversial issues.   It has not always been easy to be outspoken, in that we have experienced the following:

*  being told to not come back to the Opal Lounge, due to an unfavourable review that we wrote (in fact the instruction to not return was issued telephonically by the co-owner before the review was written and published)

*  being escorted out of Beluga by the police during a invited lunch for members of an association of guest house owners in Camps Bay, of which I am the chairman, because sister restaurant Sevruga received a Sour Service Award on this blog for a Cape Times book launch lunch, which the restaurant handled poorly, both food and service-wise

*   being threatened with legal action when we tackled Carne about falsely claiming that all its beef, lamb and game served comes from its Karoo farm and is organic, our most controversial blog post in the two year history of blog-writing.  This blog post was nominated for Best Blog Post.  The Carne blog post, and its follow up, took investigative journalism of the bravest kind, in obtaining documentation from the suppliers of the meat, and in obtaining (by luck) a telephonic admission by a supplier of meat to Carne, resulting in Carne withdrawing its legal threat, declaring the matter closed, and taking the dishonest claim off their website.

*   being on the receiving end of FEDHASA Cape’s attempt to cancel our membership, which resulted in my resignation as a Director of the hotel old-boys’ club, when I wrote about the dangers of small accommodation establishments signing with FIFA’s MATCH for the World Cup, over the past five years.  My views about MATCH were not in line with the hotel interests which dominated the FEDHASA Cape Board, and Nils Heckscher, GM of the Winchester Mansions, tried his best to get me off the Board.  Ultimately, we were vindicated in our advice when MATCH cancelled the bulk of its booked small and hotel accommodation throughout South Africa, the Winchester Mansions being one of the hotels badly hit by the cancellation of booked rooms by MATCH.  

*   being threatened with legal action by the Cape Whale Coast DMO, after our blog post of 28 December 2009 raised questions about the conflict of interest created by Clinton Lerm being the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and of the DMO.   Nothing has come of this threat to date.  Yesterday we published a follow-up story on the DMO’s lack of transparency.

*  writing critical restaurant reviews, without “white-washing” them

*   awarding Sweet and Sour Service Awards on the blog every Friday.

We would also like to recommend the following blogging friends and colleagues, for your vote:

*  Food & Wine Blog category: Cooksister (Jeanne Horak-Druiff), My-Easy-Cooking (Nina Timm), JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) and The Foodie (David Cope) (all of last year’s finalists have dropped out of this category, other than Cooksister and My-Easy-Cooking)

*   Best Travel Blog category:   SA Venues and Cape Town Travel (Cape Town Tourism)

*   Best Twitter Microblogger category: Relax-with-Dax, Gus Silber, and Spit or Swallow

We thank you for your support and your votes.

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

Reuben Riffel becomes the One and Only Chef at One&Only Cape Town

What Spill Blog had predicted three weeks ago, but what Reuben Riffel had denied vehemently to the media and to ourselves, has been announced in the Sunday Times today – Reuben Riffel will take over the helm of one of the restaurants at the One&Only Cape Town, establishing a Reuben’s restaurant in the space vacated by Gordon Ramsay’s maze at the end of July, on 1 October.  This will be the third Reuben’s, joining the restaurant family in Franschhoek and Robertson.   Reuben has committed to spending three days a week at the Hotel, to look after the restaurant.

Following speculation about him taking over the restaurant, which he denied, Riffel had warned restaurateurs to heed the example of Ramsay spreading himself too thin, and in not having a hands-on control over one’s restaurants, as quoted in sake24.  

We congratulate Reuben and his team, and wish them huge success in a very large space of 170 seats to fill, with all eyes from the Cape Town and international market focused on how he will fill Ramsay’s shoes.  Reuben’s largest challenge will be the service level offered, it not having been a strength of his restaurants in more recent times. 

The full Sunday Times story follows:  

“One of South Africa’s top chefs, Reuben Riffel, has been picked to be the apple of hospitality tycoon Sol Kerzner’s eye.

Riffel – who has gone from eating pig’s head as a youngster to feeding well-heeled patrons his signature ginger and caramel pork belly – will replace famed UK chef Gordon Ramsay at Kerzner’s One&Only hotel in Cape Town. Ramsay’s Maze restaurant was expelled from the premises following rumours of crisis talks earlier this month. In an exclusive interview this week, Riffel recalled the day Kerzner, his daughter, Andrea Kerzner, and Alan Leibman, the president of Kerzner International, visited Reuben’s, his restaurant in Franschhoek. The high-profile party feasted on chilli salt squid starters, blue cheese tomato jam tarts, tomato soup with coconut sorbet and lamb shanks with waterblommetjies. Afterwards, Kerzner made Riffel a business offer he could not refuse. “I was flabbergasted. I mean, to be asked this by such a massive industry person. So I told him I’d think about it,” said Riffel. Leibman was full of praise: “Mr Kerzner enjoyed the experience tremendously, he described the food as bursting with local ingredients, extremely tasty and heart-warming. He was also impressed with the extensive wine selection.”

Riffel’s contract, signed on Tuesday, stipulates that he will man the restaurant at the hotel at least three days a week. This follows on Ramsay’s striking absence from Maze. Reuben’s at the One&Only will be decorated in Riffel’s trademark ox-blood red with bold artworks. “I want it to be more relaxed, unlike the traditional idea of hotel restaurants being stiff, that colonial feeling,” he said. The softly-spoken chef, who was raised in Groendal outside Franschhoek, got his big break when he landed a job at the Chamonix Restaurant in Franschhoek, where his mother worked temporarily as a kitchen hand. He has since risen to become one of South Africa’s most celebrated chefs”.  

The Food & Beverage Assistant Manager at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town has confirmed Reuben’s appointment, as has Maryke, Reuben Riffel’s wife.  Maryke has confirmed that they will take over some of the existing staff at the hotel’s restaurant, and that the Franschhoek and Robertson staff of Reubens will assist in the opening of Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town on a temporary basis.  She said that Reuben is itching to get into the One&Only kitchen, to “eat it and smell it”, but will be spending the next few days in Robertson to run a cookery course.

POSTSCRIPT 23/8:  The One&Only Cape Town’s media release, released today, is short and sweet, and appears rushed in containing unforgivable typing errors:

“(23 August 2010) It has been announced that Reuben Riffel – one of South Africa’s best loved celebrity chefs – will open his first urban restaurant at One&Only Cape Town later this year. The annoucement (sic) was made in Cape Town late last week by Alan Leibman, President of Kerzner International (EAME). 

Talking to the annoucement (sic) Sol Kerzner, Chairman and CEO of Kerzner International explained that he had dined at Reuben’s restaurant in Franschhoek while he was in Cape Town over World Cup. “I saw in Reuben an opportunity to capture the essence of South African spirit and pride the world saw as we hosted this major event and invited him to bring his acclaimed local flair to a new restaurant at One&Only Cape Town. We are very pleased to have him on board and feel it’s quite fitting that One&Only’s first urban resort is also the setting for Reuben’s first urban restaurant.”

“I’m really excited and proud about the pending launch of my new restaurant,” said Reuben Riffel. “Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will serve wholesome bistro fare, made from locally-sourced produce. With the resort’s central location, I hope to not only introduce my food to more Capetonians, but also visitors to the Mother City. The restaurant will have a sophisticated – but decidedly unfussy – brasserie feel to it, while the food will provide an exciting combination of local flavours appealing to any palette.” 

Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will open on Friday 1 October and reservations can be made by calling 021 431 5222 or emailing restaurantreservations@oneandonlycapetown.com 

 

POSTSCRIPT 23/8: Fin24.com writes about the appointment of Reuben Riffel at the One&Only Cape Town today, and questions his denial to them two weeks ago about expanding his Reuben’s restaurant chain: http://www.fin24.com/Business/Gordon-Ramsays-replacement-named-20100822 

 

POSTSCRIPT 31/8: The One&Only Cape Town website describes the opening of Reubens at the One&Only Cape Town as follows:

“One&Only Cape Town is proud to launch Reuben’s first urban restaurant on 1 October 2010. Reuben’s serves deceptively simple, wholesome bistro fare, with fresh flavours, generous portions and beautifully plated dishes. The restaurant has a sophisticated, but unfussy, brasserie feel and the food provides the exciting combination of local flavours that one would expect from one of South Africa’s most loved chefs, Reuben Riffel.

Riffel rose to fame when his first restaurant, Reuben’s, opened to much acclaim in the historical town of Franschhoek in 2004. Reuben’s has since won the coveted Eat Out ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and ‘Chef of the Year’ awards.  Reubens’s appeals to the culinary side of the soul and will be enjoyed by young and old. Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will open on Friday, 1 October and reservations may be made by calling +27 21 431 5222 or e-mailing restaurantreservations@oneandonlycapetown.com

POSTSCRIPT 20/9 : Reubens at One&Only Cape Town has opened ahead of its 1 October opening date.  Dinner two days ago was a-maze-ing.  Read our review 

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

Food & Wine writing explodes in Cape Town, bloggers told

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting held at Brio restaurant last night was a huge success, with five Haut Espoir wines tasted, and Rob Armstrong of the wine estate and Sam Wilson of Food24 informing and entertaining the food and wine bloggers attending.   There were lots of laughs, and bloggers attending participated in the discussion.  Cape Town was highlighted by Rob as seeing an “explosion” of food and wine writing, mainly via bloggers, which was not evident in other areas in South Africa.

Sam Wilson, Editor-in-Chief of Food24, Woman24 and Parent 24, impressed by doing her presentation using an iPad, which most bloggers had not seen before.  She challenged bloggers to find their “barrier of authenticity”, in that each blogger should define how far one can go, who one is via one’s blog, and how much of one’s self one wants to reveal.  Each blogger should set their own parameters. “How much of you do you want to be?” she asked the bloggers.   She argued for honesty in blogging, and for not following the magazine route of “selling out”, in only writing good restaurant reviews.  She said that Food24 would be following a policy of saying it as it is in their restaurant reviews.   Brad Ball, chef of Bistro 1682, in discussion of restaurant reviews, said that they welcome the feedback from reviews, and act upon it.  He does take the feedback “from whence it comes”, he said.    Restaurant owners and chefs were advised to not respond when they have had something to drink!   Restaurants should contact the clients posting negative reviews, and sort the issue out as quickly as possible.

Sam warned bloggers to not set themselves up as an expert, as one can easily be ridiculed by others.   She advised them to be humble and honest in their writing.  She reminded bloggers to not take their blogging too seriously, and not be too earnest, but rather enjoy it and to blog for fun.   Each individual blogger’s writing will not change the world, and “does not matter in the bigger scheme of things”.   Sam advised that Google Analytics be used to measure the blog’s readership.   Food24 has a special page on its website to provide a platform for 440 food bloggers, with 50000 readers and 200000 page impressions per month.  She advised new food bloggers to join the Blog platform that had been set up for them on the Food24 website, and then to start up their own independent blogs once they have gained in confidence.  Photographs should be captioned and tagged, to help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and should be well-shot in good light.  Headlines should have “Googable” words in them, for SEO.   The most popular recipes posted on the Food24 Blogs platform are for fundamental meals such as chicken pie, macaroni cheese, bobotie, and anything with chocolate in it.   A recent post of a “Braai pie” recipe attracted 10 000 hits for a first-time blogger.  Sam concluded that she no longer sees herself as a journalist, but as a “conversation shepherd”.

Rob Armstrong impressed the bloggers by being himself and honest (as was Sam), and is incredibly tall.  Haut Espoir was bought by his family in Franschhoek ten years ago, and Rob took the bloggers through an informal tasting of his Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz Rose (he says they cannot make enough of it), Gentle Giant (named after Rob’s brother) and Shiraz.  Half of Haut Espoir is planted with vines, and the other half with fynbos, over 7 000 fynbos cuttings, representing 600 – 700 species, having been planted.  The goal is to follow organic and biodynamic farming practices, and  Haut Espoir supports the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative.   The winemaker is Nikey van Zyl, and Rob says that he is in charge of sales and quality control, in testing the wines.  He has a personal relationship with his clients (including &Union and Caveau), and personally delivers his wines to them, so maintaining the good relationship.  Rob writes a “Fynbos Friday” post about the wonderful plants they have on their farm.  One can do a Fynbos and Vine Tour with Rob, by making an appointment.   In contrast to Sam, Rob does not know his website readership, and does not really care what it is.  He does however know that they produce 80 000 bottles of wine per year.

It was interesting to hear the Canadian statistic that the average time between buying and drinking a bottle of wine is 17 minutes, meaning that wine drinkers are not ageing their wines any more.   In South Africa the statistic is 72 minutes.  Rob shared that the number of Vignerons of Franschhoek has more than doubled since 2004, and now stands at 54.  Discussions are in place to stretch the new Franschhoek Wine of Origin region, to include such wine estates as Backsberg and Glen Carlou.   Rob is the Chairman of the Vignerons’ Sustainability Committee, a joint action by the vignerons to self-audit their sustainability.  Wine buyers can check the sustainablity of the wines they buy and drink via the new sustainability seals.  Rob is on Twitter, as @Rambowine, while the farm’s Twittering (@HautEspoir) is done by Raoul de Jongh.   Rob was asked whether wine sales had increased due to his blogging and Twitter activity, and he said that he could not quantify that, but that it was easier to sell his wines due to the awareness that had been created for Haut Espoir.

The next Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will be held on Wednesday 22 September, at the Salt Vodka and Champagne Bar, above Salt Deli and across the road from the Ambassador Hotel in Bantry Bay.  Food blogger Dax Villanueva from Relax-with-Dax and wine blogger Hein Koegelenberg from La Motte will be the speakers.   To make a booking to attend, e-mail info@whalecottage.com.

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

Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs “paired” with Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir

The fourth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place on Wednesday 18 August, from 18h00 – 20h00, at Brio Restaurant, and will pair Sam Wilson of Food24 food blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir wines in Franschhoek.

Sam Wilson is the Editor-in-Chief of Woman24, Parent24 and Food24.  Food24 has a special page on its website to provide a platform for 440 food bloggers, with 50000 readers and 200000 page impressions per month.  Sam was previously a commercial lawyer, and turned to freelance writing after the birth of her sons, before joining Media24. She was a speaker at the Food Bloggers’ Conference earlier this year.  She has also worked as a copywriter, a customer publishing strategist, a columnist and a cocktail bartender. Her websites collectively attract over 500 000 readers, and she says she “specialises in community management and the art of oversharing”.

Rob Armstrong has a BA in Archeology and Environmental and Geographical Science, and runs Haut Espoir in Franschhoek.  It is celebrating the 10th anniversary of turning this family farm into a red wine farm and planting it with Franschhoek Fynbos.  Rob is committed to “minimal intervention” with “mother earth”, both in terms of winemaking and their farming.  He is a proud member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Other writers that will be talking at future Bloggers Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog

Wednesday 20 October: Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog

Wednesday 24 November:  Marisa Hendricks of The Creative Pot Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Rob will introduce the Haut Espoir wines served.  Snacks will be served.  The cost of attendance is R 100.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Venue: Brio Restaurant, 130 Adderley Street (ex-Riboville), two doors down from the Twankey Bar of the Taj Hotel.

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

Warwick/Vilafonte wine and Scrumptious food bloggers paired

The third Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place next Wednesday 28 July, from 18h00 – 20h00, and will pair Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious food blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte wine blog.

Mike Ratcliffe is the Managing Director of Warwick wine estate and Managing Partner of Vilafonte.  He has a B.Comm (Economics) from the University of Stellenbosch and a Graduate Diploma in Wine Marketing from the University of Adelaide. He is a Board member of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), has been involved on the marketing committee of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, is the Deputy Chairman of the South African Wine Industry Trust (encouraging black economic empowerment and land redistribution), and is President of the United States/South Africa Foundation, a fundraising charity based in the USA.  He is an international wine judge, industry commentator and marketing co-ordinator, and is an industry leader in embracing social media marketing in the marketing of his wines.

Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious blog is a freelance journalist, editor, author of three books (on local touring routes, and on raising toddlers), cook, food writer and recipe developer.  She writes as Juno, and her blog is independent, in that she does not accept any advertising or sponsorship, nor does she accept freebies.  She does use Google Adsense.  She is passionate about “food, fresh local ingredients and punchy flavours”. She loves writing recipes.  Jane-Anne was a speaker at the Food Bloggers’ Conference earlier this year. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Other writers that will be talking at future Bloggers Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 18 August:       Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir 

Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog

Wednesday 20 October:     Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog

Wednesday 24 November:  Marisa Hendricks of The Creative Pot Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Mike will introduce the Warwick wines served.  Snacks will be served to match the Warwick wines.  The cost of attendance is R 150.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

The meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club will be held at Cafe Max, 126 Waterkant Street, in De Waterkant, Cape Town.   From Somerset Road turn up Highfield Street (opposite Green Point Traffic Department), alongside the Tafelberg Furnishers/Kfm building, and turn left into Waterkant Street.  Cafe Max is about 200 meters further down the road, on the left.

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

Pub Review: Watching the World Cup at &Union Beer Salon and Charcuterie

&Union Beer Salon and Charcuterie is a very trendy pub that is one of the favourite haunts of bloggers Dax of Relax-with-Dax, The Foodie and JamieWho, and they give its beer brands regular coverage via Twitter,  so much so that I had to try it out – the first time about a month ago – and then I went back for the Brazil versus Portugal match last week. 

To review &Union one needs to know that the owners were the founder owners of Vida e Caffe (Brad Armitage and Rui Esteves), who broke away to create &Union.  &Union does not give one a Vida franchise feel at all – exactly the opposite is true, and it is commendable that the owners could start and maintain a business so radically different to what they did before.  Also, untypically for Vida e Caffe, &Union has no visible exterior branding on Bree Street, but those that love the brand and share the passion, know where it is!

&Union is not a traditional pub – one sits outside on wooden tables and benches in summer, and for the World Cup a Moroccan style tent has been erected to cover all Cape Town winter weather options, with heaters if it gets cold.  The tent has three strips of material on it, which are linked to a painting near the entrance, all related to the Puma Africa Unity Kit.   It would be lost to most present, unless they had been invited to the launch of the new Puma beer a few days before.

We arrived just before the match starting time, and there was only a little bench available to sit on, a little removed from all the other benches, and without a table.  I was impressed with Simon Wibberley, the Operations Manager, who seemed to know everyone coming into &Union, hugging and kissing (the ladies at least), and the guys all seemed to be friends.   Simon stood near the entrance, and kept an eye on things continuously – no sitting back and having a beer and watch the soccer for him.   It became so full that he eventually locked the gate, yet it did not feel crowded.  The only problem was a lack of seating for everyone.

The beer list is an unusual brown A3 recycled sheet which shows its seven beers and tells the &Union story.  The owners wanted to develop beer brands that are authentic, truthful and honest, and that stand for quality, heritage, tradition and taste.  This led them to find “some of Europe’s oldest family-run breweries in search of artisan-produced beers that we are not only proud to produce for our customers but love to drink ourselves.  We don’t believe we can single-handedly change the world of beer as it exists but with a little raw passion, blind optimism and reckless resolve, we can perhaps make a difference”, the beer list says.

This mission for &Union has led to the development of “luxury beers, handcrafted by our artisans from the finest natural ingredients.  Our pils and amber ale are brewed using only 100% barley malt, yeast, hops, and water”.  The beer is brewed for up to 8 weeks.  The Pils and Amber are unpasteurised, the beer list says, to allow a “fuller, richer taste”.   The passion comes from “Eating. Drinking. Living. That’s what we love. Pairing real beer with real food…”.  This passion is lived in a small selection of food options, the seven beer choices, and, surprisingly, wines.

The beer list has a prominent packshot of each beer sold, and as an infrequent beer drinker and having been ignorant about the brand, the seven beer names meant nothing to me at all.  The beer list is there to help, with better-than-wine descriptions of each:

*   Unity Lager was developed for Puma’s “African Unity Kit” football campaign.  It is “medium-bodied”, “silky smooth”, “malty”, “hints of apple and honey”, and has a “bittersweet floral finish”.  It costs R40 for 500ml

*   Brewers &Union Unfiltered Lager is “unfiltered, unpasteurized”, “bursting with flavour”.  Cost is R 40 for 500ml

*   Steph Weiss is a wheat beer, “delicate, smooth and creamy”, “aromas of vanilla and clove”. Cost is R 40 for 500ml

*   Berne Unfiltered Amber is German-style, “buttery”, “toasty, bready malts”, “hints of caramel and toffee”.  It costs R 40 for 500ml

*   Brewers &Union Dark Lager is “beautifully hopped”, “dark roasted malt flavor” (sic). Cost is R 40 for 500 ml

*   Touro Tripel Blond has a “creamy palate”, “fruity spicy malt flavour” It costs R 125 for 750ml

*   Touro Tripel Amber has a “honeyed-amber malt aroma”, “hints of vanilla and caramel”.  Cost is R 125 for 750ml

The menu is short and sweet: eight food options- a biltong bowl (tasted a bit vinegary) at R25; pate – made from charcuterie off-cuts and a bit too coarse for my taste – at R35;  grilled weisswurst with mustard was excellent – at R60;  Prego rolls cost R 60, available in beef and pork; the Charcuterie Board costs R65, and consists of coppa, parma ham and felino sausage; the “grilled juicy saucisson” board  – a North African sausage made with 16 spices – costs R60;   a 3-cheese board costs R65; and the salmon carpaccio board R75.  Three “sweets” are offered, almond croissants (R15), Italian chocolate liqueur (made by Massimo from Hout Bay Pizza Club) at R20, and an espresso chocolate at R25.  &Union also serves organic coffee.  One can also have an early breakfast at &Union.

Two white and two red wines are served by the glass: Haut Espoir Sauvignon Blanc (R35) and Tamboerskloof Viognier (R40), and Landskroon and Boer & Brit ‘The General’ red blends, both costing R 40.  Ten wines by the bottle start at R 130 for the Haut Espoir, and The Hedonist is the most expensive at R 210.  I loved the name of the sparkling wine brand – Suikerbossie ‘Ek wil jou he’, made in Kimberley, a surprise wine region.

&Union is a refreshingly (pardon the pun) different ‘beer salon”.  It cares about beer, food and its clients.   It knows how to build relationships with its customers.   It is not pushy nor hard-sell, maybe a little too laid back on the service, but regulars go inside and order what they want, not waiting to be served.  The soccer did not have much “gees”, despite there being so many soccer fans.   It is trendy, and no doubt will grow into an eatery and beer salon that will set new standards in responsible eating and drinking in Cape Town.   The only dissonance for me is that wines are served (with some unfortunate typos in the wine list), given its name and beer focus.   The challenge for the owners will be to keep it small and personal, the opposite to what they achieved with Vida e Caffe.

&Union Beer Salon and Chacuterie, 110 Bree Street. Tel 021 422-2770. www.brewersandunion.com. Twitter @andUnion. Blog: www.andunion.blogspot.com  Free wireless internet.  

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