Tag Archives: review

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journal, Day 3 of Level 2, 15 September 2021


Wednesday 15 September 2021, Day 3 of Level 2 ūüė∑

Corona Gratitude ūüôŹ

#grateful for another lovely day, a catch up work day and ending on a social note; for two Discovery Gameboard plays; for a catch up call from Barbara Lenhard, in Cape Town for a short visit; for a walk to Woolies in Camps Bay; for a wonderful dinner at the home of Nicholas Fjord, living next door to Gary Peterson, meeting each other via Facebook initially, and for the first time this evening, in addition to Helen Hicks, Nicholas‚Äô sister and also living in Camps Bay, and Renate Flint, who knows Continue reading →

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journey, Day 41 of Level 3, 5 September 2021.


Sunday 5 September 2021, Day 41 of Level 3 ūüė∑

Corona Gratitude ūüôŹ

#grateful for the bestest undisturbed sleep of the week; for a catch-up-on-me day, despite responding to client queries and reviews; for a fabulous honest review of Zest by Lorraine Mewett on the Cape Town Restaurants – the good, the bad and the nastyyyy …Facebook Group ūüíô; for pre-writing the Blogposts for the week to come; for a walk to Camps Bay and another to Bakoven; for rain this morning and afternoon, but it has cleared up now; and for being happy, healthy, and free. Continue reading →

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journal, Day 42 of Level 3 Adjusted, 6 February 2021.


Saturday 6 February 2021, Day 42 of Level 3 Adjusted, Day 318 of Lockdown ūüė∑

Corona Gratitude ūüôŹ

#Grateful for a lovely 26C day, with little wind; for a slow lazy start to the day; for an energetic walk to Clifton and back (earning 300 Discovery points), with the beach and picnic areas packed, almost as busy as on public holidays and many walkers between Camps Bay and Clifton, the fewest wearing masks at all or correctly; for a lovely chat and water stop at The 41 with Emma and Marius Blanc, the Restaurant having reopened three days ago; for getting my Daily Maverick 168 at Pick n Pay via Odwa, not having to stand in the queue outside the store; for a little afternoon snooze; for the most amazing review of Utopia Cape Town on the Good, Bad & Nasty Facebook page ūüĎŹ; for trying my best to clean up at the Tidal Pool, having asked Camps Bay residents to assist me during our Loadshedding starting at 18h00, but no one came, yet there was a sweet young boy who picked up the litter in the stream for me ūüíô; for bumping into Ashleigh Fleming and Dirk; for a call with Gary Peterson; for a call with my Alex earlier in the day; and for being happy and healthy. ūüôŹūüíô Continue reading →

Food blogger in ‚ÄėDeath Cup‚Äô murder mystery by Irna van Zyl modelled on WhaleTales Blog!

Last week I found a reference to my name in a review written about author Irna van Zyl‚Äôs second book, called ‚ÄėDeath Cup: Murder is on the menu‚Äô, a play on words with a mushroom by the same name, naming me as the model for one of the main characters in the book, as the writer of the ‚Äėinfamous food blog‚Äô. As I had been told this verbally on another occasion too, I had to go to Exclusive Books to buy a copy of the book. There is no mistaking the blog of the ‚Äėfood blogger‚Äô as being my WhaleTales Blog! Continue reading →

Manley Communications cannot distinguish between ‚Äėcopy and paste‚Äô cribbing by Michael Olivier and a ‚Äėreview‚Äô for the newly opened Grande Roche Hotel and Viande Restaurant!

It has been some years ago that I criticized lazy ‚Äėcopy and paster‚Äô Michael Olivier for his lack of ethics in posting stories about wine estates and restaurants on his Blog. Earlier this week my eye caught a glowing thanks to Olivier by Manley Communications, as follows: ‚ÄėThank you dearest Michael Olivier for the fantastic review‚Äô. Except that it wasn‚Äôt a review at all, it appearing that Olivier has not even visited the newly refurbished Grande Roche nor eaten at its new Viande restaurant! A PR company therefore praising its own media release content has morals as poor as those of the ‚Äėcopy and paster‚Äô Olivier!

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Twelve Apostles Hotel Sweet Service Award; The Vineyard Hotel Sour Service Award!

The Sweet Service Award goes to the Twelve Apostles Hotel, and its F & B Manager Hilton Ruch. On my way home from dancing at Constantia Nek recently, I stopped by at their Caf√© for a dry cappuccino. Not expecting Hilton to be at work after 22h00, I asked one of the staff to pass on my regards to him. She told me he was still at work, and called him. He chatted, and told me about their new Vegan High Tea, a first in Cape Town it would seem, as well as other news. The dry cappuccino was perfectly made, and they have marshmallows too, a weakness. When I requested the bill, I was told that Hilton had taken care of it,
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SA Tourism Review commissioned by Tourism Minister Hanekom released!

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Review: High Tea at 5Rooms at The Alphen bling-bling, not a high!

5Rooms Table Display full Whale CottageIt was an e-mail from the Kove Collection I received about two weeks ago which attracted attention to the new High Tea at 5Rooms Restaurant at The Alphen Hotel in Constantia.  On Thursday my friend Whitney and I went to try out the afternoon tea offering at the Stefan Antoni interior design hotel

Our interaction started off badly, when I first sought information about the High Tea, the Events Manager Nicola Howard not yet having details about what would be served, nor a photograph.  With the intervention of Hotel GM Hannelie Wiese, I received a menu of items to be served, and a photograph, which we blogged about.

I made the booking a day ahead of our planned visit, and this was efficiently taken by the switchboard hostess. ¬†Irritating therefore was the call from Lydia McGrail, the 5Rooms Restaurant Manager, who called on the morning of our booking, to check our booking, less than 24 hours 5Rooms High Tea menu Whale Cottageafter it was made! ¬†She is clearly from the UK, and I ¬†struggled to understand her, due to her broad British dialect, and a bad line, which meant that she called twice. ¬†Then she made Hannelie call me, to sort out any problems ahead of our arrival, which was an irritation, as such confirmation calls are intended as ‘a courtesy‘, Hannelie explained, but I said that it makes one feel distrusted¬†and that one does not have manners. ¬†I promised her that I would never not arrive for a booking! Hannelie ended off her call by saying ¬†that I would really be impressed with the service from Lydia, as all their guests feed back. ¬†When I heard this ‘hotelspeak’, I wanted to laugh, being sceptical already. Continue reading →

Review: Grand Dédale Country House is grand and relaxing!

For a mid-season break, I chose to spend a weekend at Grand Dédale Country House, on the Doolhof wine estate on the Bovlei Road in Wellington, about ten days ago.  I could not have chosen a more relaxing and grander place than this 5-star hotel and its excellent restaurant, which is on the Wellington Wine Route. 

Doolhof is part of a farm that was awarded to the first owner¬†in 1709, and means ‘labyrinth’ in Afrikaans.¬† It probably was given this name because it was at the end of a cul de sac.¬† The current owners Dorothy and Dennis Kerrison bought the farm from the neighbouring Retief family.¬†¬† The homestead was renovated by Mrs Kerrison, who is¬†an interior¬†designer in the United Kingdom, and her¬†initial R7 million budget had doubled at the end of the project.¬†¬† Money¬†does not appear to be¬†an object in the tasteful design of the very spacious rooms, and almost every detail has been thought of.¬†¬† Angelo and Tina Casu rent the¬†6-bedroom homestead and cottage¬†from the owners, having signed an eight year lease, and have called their establishment Grand D√©dale, which means ‘large labyrinth’ in French.¬†¬†The Casus¬†have managed Grand D√©dale for the past 17 months, and previously were with the Winchester Mansions in Sea Point and Palmiet Valley in Paarl.¬†

The house is an old Cape Dutch house, with new additions cleverly married into the Cape Dutch origin of the house.¬† Some aspects, notably the staircase to the upstairs loft rooms, are extremely modern.¬†The high gloss marble tiles in the public rooms on the ground level¬†have been¬†criticised by some as not being suitable for¬†a Cape Dutch house, but I felt that they looked perfectly clean and chic.¬† The star attraction for me was the 15 meter salt water pool.¬† Parking is away from the homestead, at the winery, a benefit in not seeing any cars, but a disadvantage in not being able to keep an eye on one’s vehicle.¬†¬† The bedroom I stayed in had three sections, a very spacious bedroom, although a slanting ceiling does create space limitations too, with a more than king size bed,¬†and excellent quality linen.¬†¬† A second section has a basin,¬†the safe and the hanging space.¬† The bathroom is in the third section, has a bath with shower over it,¬†and a collection of¬†Charlotte Rhys products.¬† The high gloss tiles are a bit scary to walk on with wet feet, but a very generously sized bathmat is made available.¬† Airconditioning is a great advantage to cool things down in the renowned Wellington heat.¬†¬† There are more than enough towels provided, hung on two heated towel rails.¬† Towels are refreshed continuously.¬†¬† A fruit platter is in the room, and there is a turn-down¬†treat every night (tasted like fudge).¬†¬†An iPod player is next to the bed, and one can request iPods to listen to.¬†¬†

From the terrace and pool area one looks onto the side of Groenberg, and below is the most lucious looking field, on which cows graze.¬† Angelo laughed when he told me that they are the eco-friendly “lawnmowers” at Doolhof.¬† A paddock with ex-racehorses is adjacent to the field.

The Room Directory is one of the most comprehensive and best presented that I have seen, bound in a neat brown leather cover, and detailing information about the wine estate (380 ha, Kromme River runs through it, located between Groenberg, Limietberg and Sneeukop), suggestions for day trips, a description of the public areas in the house, the location of the TV lounge in the upstairs loft (there is no TV in the bedrooms, strange for 5-star), and the location of the Spa Room (which I had read about, but was not proactively informed about), the Breakfast serving time, that light lunch and snacks are available, that a complimentary high tea is served in the afternoons (a combination of cake, fresh fruit and a savoury item), and the invitation to enjoy canapes and a glass of Pierre Jourdan sparkling wine before dinner with the other guests (quite colonial in its nature, but a good way to meet the other guests, as one is separated when dining).  Three bar fridges stock beverages in various sections of the guest house, and are complimentary to guests.  The bar fridges are a great idea, as mini bar fridges in rooms are noisy.  The Doolhof winetasting is complimentary to the guests of Grand Dédale.

Breakfast is served on the terrace, and is a generous buffet of different cereals (I loved the Chef’s mix of crunchy and healthy muesli ingredients), fresh fruit as well as a fruit salad (one morning I was intrigued to see a bowl with an unknown white fruit, which was made by the Chef from the inside peel of a watermelon) and different yoghurt flavours.¬†¬† Cold breakfast treats are offered, and on one of the mornings it was salmon and cr√©me fra√ģche served on rosti.¬† Cold meats and cheeses are available, as are home-made jams and¬†breads.¬†¬†A treat was that John organised frothy cappucinos for me each morning, and kept the ice water supply coming.¬† A beautiful vase with a rose and a bougainvillea was on each table.¬†¬† At breakfast one is shown the dinner menu for that day, and one can say if one does not eat a particular ingredient.¬†¬† I saw the menu changed for one dinner due to my couscous feedback, which¬†reflects great flexibility.¬† There are no choices on the menu, and therefore the kitchen checks proactively on its guests’ tastes.

Dinner is served on the terrace, with the most wonderful view onto the greenery below.¬† John and Angelo are in attendance.¬†¬†¬†Canap√©s are served with the glass of bubbly.¬†¬†¬†Heila Basson is the Chef, and Angelo calls her a ‘boeremeisie’.¬†¬† She previously worked at Grootbos and at Seasons at Diemersfontein.¬† She has been at the Taj, to train in their kitchen, and will soon join Luke Dale-Roberts at The Test Kitchen for a short session, before he comes to Grand D√©dale to cater for a wedding with Chef Heila on the wine estate. ¬†The table is beautifully set, with a silver underplate, professional folding of the serviette, and three sets of Italian Pinti cutlery, to prevent any stretching across clients.¬†¬† The butterdish and salt and pepper containers are all in silver, making the woven bread basket out of place. However, its content was wonderful, being bread rolls with different toppings.¬† I love poppy seed rolls, and was amazed to find these in Wellington, of all places!¬†¬† An amuse bouche is served, prior to the three course meal.¬† On the first night it was a spicy bobotie, served with mango chutney.¬† The bobotie was unusual,¬†made from diced rather than minced meat, and with an unusual taste, colourfully presented.¬†¬† The starter was a beef sirloin carpaccio served with feta crumble and a sesame dressing, adding a sweet taste.¬†¬†¬† The main course was Norwegian salmon¬†served with sweet and sour balsamic beetroot, mash,¬†a vodka cr√©me fra√ģche sauce, and roasted pumpkin seeds, creating a good colour contrast on the plate.¬† I found the pumpkin seeds too hard relative to the soft textures of all the other ingredients.¬† Dessert was a nougat terrine with berries, moreish, and chewy in texture.¬† On the second day the amuse bouche was a courgette and brie cappuccino, served in a little coffee cup, an unusual combination and very tasty.¬† The oregano potato gnocchi starter served with a wild mushroom and gruyere sauce was¬†absolutely delicious, but¬†did not¬†have any contrast in colour.¬†¬†We were spoilt with a second starter when we discussed mozzarella, and Angelo proudly allowed all the dinner guests a taste of Wellington’s Buffalo Ridge mozzarella, in the form of a small Caprese salad.¬†¬† The main course was lamb rump, served a¬†little too rare and with too much fat.¬†¬† The¬†dessert was a pineapple tarte tatin served with homemade milktart ice cream, an unusual combination, but was delicious.¬†¬† Dinner costs R335, for a three course meal, but includes an amuse bouche and a cheese platter as well, actually making it a generous 5-course meal.¬†¬† One must book to eat dinner at Grand D√©dale if one is not staying over.

The winelist offers Pierre Jourdan for R170 as a Cap Classique, and Champagnes offered are Dom Grossard and Brugnon Brut.¬†¬† Wine by the glass is from Doolhof and costs R40, but is not mentioned on the winelist.¬†¬† It is poured at the table from a bottle (I ordered a glass of Doolhof Shiraz 2007) in a silver basket.¬†¬† The Doolhof wines are good value: Unoaked Chardonnay R 90; Oaked Chardonnay R 154; Cape Robin Ros√© R 63; Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon¬†R116.¬† In the Legends of Labyrinth range, Dark Lady pinotage and Lady in Red each cost R117 and The Minotaur R250.¬† Wellington wines offered are Nabygelegen’s Lady Anna (R120), its Chenin Blanc (R130) and Snow Mountain Pinot Noir (R235).¬† Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Viognier and Chenin Blanc cost R190.¬† Each wine¬†is described, and the vintage¬†specified.¬†

There is little to suggest to improve at Grand D√©dale:¬†a desk lamp on the desk/make-up area; training staff to not move one’s belongings from a chair or a bed (this is¬†a common problem in accommodation establishments¬†and is an irritation); allowing one to park outside the house; any means of improving cellphone reception would be very welcome, and the limited reception should be mentioned in correspondence (I am on 24/7 duty for my business, even when away for a weekend, and I had not made arrangements to divert the company phone line to a colleague’s cellphone, until I arrived and realised the impact of the reception problem on my business); addressing the blocking of outgoing e-mails by the server (incoming e-mails arrived safely), which problem was solved by downloading e-mails at The Stone Kitchen/Dunstone winery, which has a free wireless service which works easily and perfectly, but is only open until 16h00; a TV in each room; instructions on how to switch off the lights in the various sections of the bedroom; a blind for the bathroom window, so that one is not woken up by the light coming through in the morning; a warning to guests that there is 4 km of dirt road, the first part being very bumpy, and therefore not suitable to drive for all motor vehicles.¬†¬† What I did request while I was there was attended to immediately by Angelo.

It is not inexpensive to stay at Grand D√©dale Country House, but I was lucky to benefit from a hospitality discount.¬†¬†The accommodation cost includes a full breakfast, all drinks from the¬†guest bars, a small high tea,¬†canap√©s¬†before dinner and a glass of Pierre Jourdan.¬† ¬†¬†If one stays for two nights, dinner is free of charge on one of the two nights, as is a bottle of Doolhof wine.¬† One has little choice to eat out in Wellington, so one is almost ‘forced’ to eat there, but it is an absolute pleasure to do so, to not have to drive on the gravel road,¬†or to¬†drive all the way to Diemersfontein, or even to Paarl, to find a relatively acceptable restaurant.¬†¬† If I can manage to leave the laptop and cellphone at home, I would be back for a next visit, to have a¬†proper break!¬†

Grand Dédale Country House, Doolhof Wine Estate, Bovlei Road, Wellington.   Tel (021) 873-4089.  www.granddedale.com

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

Crush!3 food and wine digital magazine remains unexciting, tries too hard!

We have been critical of Crush!1 and Crush2!,¬† the new food and wine digital magazine under the editorship of Michael Olivier, respected food and wine guru, as he calls himself on Twitter.¬†¬† Our opinion has not changed after seeing Crush!3¬† We are heartened to see that our feedback is being acknowledged and implemented up to a point.¬†¬† The overwhelming feeling is that the designers are trying too hard to add design ‘bells and whistles’ which distract rather than add to the magazine.¬†This was reflected in¬†the following¬†Tweet on Twitter earlier this week:¬† “luv your magazine idea but the technology you using is not user friendly. Why don’t you do trad website?”¬†¬†

We are sad that Michael, a friend for many years, has taken our feedback about the magazines so personally that he has chosen to not comment on our blogposts at all, no longer acknowledges my presence at functions, and has blocked us on Twitter, a rather unprofessional reaction from what we have always believed to be a mature gentleman.

Our review of Crush3! is as follows:

1.   The cover page has appetite appeal, but a new design feature is to show the cover shot change into a dirty used plate, not looking appetising at all.   The photography of this plate of food, from a feature on rosemary, does not come near the beautiful shot which was used for the cover of Crush2!   The type relating to the content runs over the photograph, making most of it unreadable.

2.¬†¬† We are delighted that the video button has been taken off Micheal’s face on the Introduction page, our complaint of the previous two issues.¬†¬† Michael also talks on the video without any clanging kitchen noises, as was the case in Crush2!¬† The Content listing is an improvement.

3.¬†¬† Advertisers Old Mutual, The Kovensky Quartet of restaurants, Pick ‘n Pay, Pongracz, Arumdale and Welmoed remain faithful, with new advertiser Avontuur.¬†¬†Arabella wines¬†is no longer advertising.

4.¬†¬† When reading the Chenin Blanc sub-page on the “Michael says” page, the page rolls down too quickly when one clicks onto the arrow, for one to be able to read the page.¬†¬†

5.¬†¬† On the ‘Essentials’ page there are no distracting flashes, and the brand names are typed at each¬†product, but brand and pack recognition for Dalla Cia, Imhoff Jams, Fairview Chevin and Mad√ɬ©casse Chocolates¬†is poor.

6.   The Morgenhof advertorial is visually intriguing but totally spoilt by the Uwe Koetter ring competition block, spoiling the appeal of this page.   The promotional box stays open when one clicks onto one of the four editorial boxes, making it impossible to read the windows about the restaurant, the coffee shop, the cellar and the owner, defeating the object of the exercise.

7.¬†¬† The double page spread on snoek pate has five beverage bottles on it too, and one can only recognise the brand name of Steph Weiss beer.¬† Even when “rolling” over the pics of the bottles of Danie de Wet Cape Muscadel, Klein Constantia Rhine Riesling, Douglas Green Fino No 1, and Mullineaux¬†one cannot read their labels.

8.¬†¬† Andy Fenner’s “Jamie Who?'” page looks as it did in the previous issue, but the flashes are no longer petal-shaped, now being balloons.¬† The content of these is boring.¬†¬† One bubble opens onto ‘After Work Drinks’, and three are meant to be featured, but only Harvey’s Bar is visible.¬†¬† The balloon bubbles flash even when one opens the balloon,¬†giving it a tacky feel.

8.¬†¬† The “High Five” page is blocked by a promotion “Share the High Five with your friends”.¬†¬† The Table Bay MCC Brut brand name is barely legible, being light blue.

9.¬† JP Rossouw has been overseas, so there¬†is no¬†review by him¬†in this issue.¬† Michael has taken over the role, and has done a feature on La Motte, but once again a¬†competition block blocks the photograph of the grounds and buildings of the “new” La Motte.¬† One cannot see how to close this block, which incorrectly spells the wine estate as ‘Lamotte’.¬†¬† The competition does not call the reader to action – it leaves one feeling confused as to how to enter the competition. Whilst the La¬† Motte pages have three La Motte wines on the page, with unreadable brand names, the placement of the Pongracz ad on the same page¬†seems to be¬†an error of judgement, especially given that La Motte recently launched its own sparkling wine!

10.¬† The ‘Quick & Delicious’ page is also blocked with a “make sure you are subscribed” block over the week’s recipe cards.¬† A tiny packshot of Bisquit Cognac is barely readable and when one clicks onto it, it is yet another attempt to get one to subscribe.

11.¬†¬†The “Cellar for later” page is fine and all¬†wine brand names¬†are clearly readable below the packs.¬† However, on the “Quaff for now” page, the brand names of the white wines are typed in green, making them barely legible.¬†

12.¬†¬† A dreadful old-fashioned burlesque-type typeface is used for the main food feature, being “4 Ways with Rosemary”.¬† As it is an ingredient, it is not visible in the food shots, other than in its subtle use in the styling.¬†¬† The information about each of the four recipes in respect of¬†baking time and the number of persons that the recipe serves is barely readable.¬†¬† This food feature is nowhere as yummy as the Lindt chocolate one was in the previous issue.

13.¬†¬† David Cope’s “The Foodie” page looks much better than in Crush2!, and has some brand carry-over from his blog with the red tablecloth.¬† The “Midlands roadtripping” story has little interest to the mainly Cape Town readers.¬†¬† There are tiny links at the bottom of the page that are barely visible,¬†being so small.

14.¬†¬† On the “Fresh Summer Food” one dish for Thai prawn cakes can be seen, yet a flash¬†highlights ‘five delicious recipes’.¬† When one clicks onto that flash, it¬†just enlarges it, and does not¬†reveal the¬†other four recipes.

15.   The feature on The Kitchen restaurant has a collection of photographs to the left, but one cannot see that they are linked to the restaurant story.

16.¬† The endlessly long “We love Real Beer” feature is blocked by yet another subscription sign-up block!

The design team clearly still tries too hard, making¬†Crush! off-putting to read.¬† It is also too hard-sell, in¬†pushing its free subscription (most readers would not be reading the magazine if they had not subscribed to it)!¬† Pushing its competitions at the expense of its own features or of advertisers’ brands is off-putting too, and reduces the value of their brands.¬†¬†¬†Our invitation to Michael to comment, issued in each of our reviews, still stands.¬† To read Crush!3, click here.¬†(page 1 of the magazine has not been loading for a week now).

POSTSCRIPT 17/10: We are shocked that Michael Olivier, as editor of Crush!, can endorse a malicious campaign against us on Twitter as of last night, born out of a dinner of the Crush! editorial team, which included Michael Olivier, Sophia Lindop, Andy Fenner (Jamie Who?) and David Cope,¬†in reaction to our three reviews of Crush!.¬† The driver of the campaign appears to be David Cope (the so-called ‘The Foodie’).¬† This is a most childish and unprofessional reaction, that one would not have expected from the once highly regarded Michael Olivier.¬†

POSTSCRIPT 18/10:   David Cope has taken great exception to having been outed, and is now hurling abuse at this writer via e-mail.  Surprisingly Michael Olivier has done nothing to protect his honour and that of his publication.  His broken page 1 has also not been fixed. 

POSTSCRIPT 4/11:¬† Andy Fenner (JamieWho?) has announced his exit from Crush!¬† He bases the decision on a collaboration with Woolworths, which has just been signed.¬†¬† He may be smart in using this as a way out of Crush! to save his reputation, as he was part of the Crush! editorial team that launched the Twitter smear campaign, and is David Cope’s best friend.

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