Tag Archives: Savanna

2016 Eat Out Best Everyday Eateries announced for Western Cape!

eat-out-2016-logoLast night Eat Out presented its 2016 Western Cape Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Everyday Eatery Award winners, the second year that the awards have been presented provincially (previously presented nationally), and are less controversial than last year, with one exception! Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Betty Blue Bistro is not blue at all, best in Hermanus!

imageBetty Blue Bistro had been on the top of my Hermanus restaurant list, and I arranged to meet my UK friend Lisa Harlow there for lunch, seven months after my last visit to the famous whale-watching town. There is little blue (only on the exterior of the building), a fresh buttercup yellow dominating the decor! Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 14 May

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Former Capitec CEO Riaan Stassen appears to have bought Hidden Valley, the Stellenbosch wine estate on which Overture operates.   The staff at the wine estate say they have heard the rumour too, but it has not been confirmed by their boss yet!

*  ‘Budapest’ and ‘Blame it on me‘ singer George Ezra will perform in Cape Town on 29 August, at the Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 1 October

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   SAA and SA Express are in financial distress, and cannot continue operating as they not meeting the requirements of a going concern, meaning that they require financial support from the government.  The Department of Public Enterprise is withholding the financial statements of both entities, which means that the AGM of the SAA Board must be delayed for the third year running.

*   According to Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy tourists from countries that require visas to travel to our country (mainly China, Japan, and India) are cancelling due to the stringent new biometric visa requirements, tour operators reporting booking declines of 35 – 90 %!  The fear of Ebola on the African continent is compounding the problem.  Traditional source markets in Europe, the UK, and USA are not affected by the new Immigration Regulations.

*   Blaauwklippen has opened its newly named and relocated Tasting Room, which contains a Spirits Room with a selection Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 1 October

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   SAA and SA Express are in financial distress, and cannot continue operating as they not meeting the requirements of a going concern, meaning that they require financial support from the government.  The Department of Public Enterprise is withholding the financial statements of both entities, which means that the AGM of the SAA Board must be delayed for the third year running.

*   According to Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy tourists from countries that require visas to travel to our country (mainly China, Japan, and India) are cancelling due to the stringent new biometric visa requirements, tour operators reporting booking declines of 35 – 90 %!  The fear of Ebola on the African continent is compounding the problem.  Traditional source markets in Europe, the UK, and USA are not affected by the new Immigration Regulations.

*   Blaauwklippen has opened its newly named and relocated Tasting Room, which contains a Spirits Room with a selection of Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 14/15 September

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Cape Town has been selected to be on the route for the Volvo Oceans Race 2014/2015, which means that all five continents will be included in the race.

*   Distell owns 99% of the cider market in South Africa with its Savanna and Hunter’s brands.

*   Chinese tourists are spending less, a more middle class Chinese tourist focusing on practical purchases rather than on luxury top-end products.

*   While it benefits Franschhoek, this Australian travel article gets the food focus of Cape Town very wrong, referring to ‘5 star restaurants’!  But it does focus Australians on our Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room serves Reubens….and burgers!

It was on a visit to Birds’ Café about three months ago that I noticed the papered-up space two doors away, and heard from Birds’ Café that a restaurant was to open.  I was lucky to meet Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room owner Lyndall Maunder, who has worked with David Higgs and George Jardine, was ex-Superette chef, and has been an avid visitor of the USA, in the about-to-be renovated restaurant space, which previously housed a motorcycle repair shop.  An unbelievable renovation relative to what the space looked like before has created a buzzing and busy American-style hamburger joint on Bree Street, named after Lyndall’s mother’s maiden name.

The restaurant is L-shaped, one entering into a front section with a massive metal-top counter at which one can sit on wooden bar stools and see the three chefs prepare the dishes in rapid succession, and the waitron staff prepare the drinks.  Lamps are industrial, funky globes unhidden by any lampshade.  One non-descript artwork is too small to make any impact on the large wall, and there is a photograph of the motorcycle mechanics at the entrance.  Plants in terracotta pots line the shelves, even in front of the windows of a back section, adding a green touch to an otherwise white interior. On Saturday over lunchtime there was only space available at the counter, and Lyndall had her hands full in preparing all the food with her two assistants, one of them Chef Marcel, not stopping for one minute, not even having time to greet any customers or at least nod in recognition.  The busy restaurant is an amazing feat for a city which is quiet on weekend days, and which only really got going a week ago, having closed over the festive days after its early December opening, as business in the city centre was so quiet.  Sebastian was the most communicative staff member I spoke to, but appeared to know very little about his boss and the motivation for her American-themed diner, not even being able to obtain this information from his boss!  The rest of the restaurant has tile-topped tables with wooden chairs.  A paper serviette and Fortis cutlery is pre-set at the tables and on the counter, with bottles of Heinz ketchup, salt cellars, and pepper grinders.

Not American at all is the concept of a ‘Stammtisch’, a German tradition of regular guests having their ‘own’ table, with their name on it, which one can be requested to vacate if the Stammgäste arrive, the menu explains, and requests one not to be offended if this should happen.

As I sat down Sebastian brought a glass of water, without knowing me or asking for it, probably an American touch.   The menu is a very simple laminated white sheet, which is easy and cheap to update, even having a space for specials to be written onto it.  Unfortunately there are a number of typing errors on the menu. On Wednesdays – Fridays the menu says that the restaurant stays open until ‘late’, which could be as late as 2h00, Sebastian told me, depending on demand.  The customer profile to date is a mix of  businessmen from nearby, coming in for the all-day breakfast or lunch, or they are ‘poppies coming to be seen’, he said.  From the menu one can see that Lyndall is a no-nonsense type of lady, with every menu category having serving times specified, e.g. Breakfasts are served until 17h00, salads and sandwiches from 11h00 – 17h00,  burgers and sides from 11h00 until late, wine and beer are served from 10h00 until they close, and hot and cold drinks are served throughout the day and night.  The menu also has a ‘note on Clarke’s’, explaining ‘you may pick up from our menu that we’ve got a thing for that lump of land across the pond called the US of A – what with burgers, cheese fries, Reubens, Cobb Salad…They may have cursed us with the atrocities of fast food but the humble beginnings of their cuisine certainly wasn’t ill-intended and they have some cool, tasty as hell stuff that’s a lot of fun. If you do it right and with great produce you can end up having the greatest meal you ever ate’.   The suppliers are named, being Bill Riley Meats’ free-range beef, burger buns come from Trevor Daly in Worcester, coffee comes from Deluxe (supplying the machine as well as a full-time barista), breads come from the Bread Company in Muizenberg, Juicebox supply the juices, and from The Creamery comes a selection of four artisanal ice creams.  In my experience on Saturday, the last sentence in the welcome and introduction was not evident at Clarke’s: “We love being here and we love having you, so please enjoy your time with us and visit again soon”.  I popped in to say hello at Bird’s Café afterwards, and the warm welcome from Chef Leigh Trout was a delight, compared to what I had experienced at Clarke’s.

Breakfast options include a Fruit Cup, and raisin and pecan nut bread with maple butter, costing R20 – R25. Cooked breakfasts range from R40 – R55, and one can order scrambled egg with sausage, mushrooms and a muffin; eggs, bacon, sausage and mushrooms; hashed browns with poached eggs, asparagus and hollandaise; Huevos Rancheros, being refried beans, eggs, and avocado; omelette stuffed with spinach, smoked aubergine and goat’s cheese; and French Toast, sounding absolutely indulgent in consisting of a Nutella and banana-stuffed croissant with bacon, fruit, crème fraiche, bacon, and caramel Turtles, and Mrs Butterworth’s syrup. Sandwiches cost R25 – R45, and include grilled cheese, a pulled pork sub, ‘chicken parm’ sandwich (with tomato ragout and  Colby cheddar), a Reuben (brisket, braised cabbage, Emmental, blue cheese dressing), and a pressed vegetable sandwich.  For brunch one can have a Caesar or Cobb salad, smoked tomato soup, and macaroni and cheese, costing around R 40. I never eat hamburgers, but decided to order one as I believe this to be the essence of Clarke’s.  One can order any type of burger, as long as it is a Cheeseburger or Veggie Burger, at R50, with extra for bacon and fries.  The Cheeseburger was served in a big toasted bun, in a papered green plastic basket, with a tiny portion of pickled cucumber and onion relish on the side.  I missed a slice of tomato and gherkin.  The patty was prepared rare-ish, and one is not asked how one would like it. While one knows that the meat quality is excellent, it seemed expensive for what one got (without chips). For dessert one can order a ‘sweet pie’ of the day, or three scoops of The Creamery ice cream, from a choice of peanut butter, natural, cardamom, and coffee, at R35.  No cappuccino is specified on the beverage list, and probably the American equivalent is the Flat White, at R16.

Beer is served in quarts at R28, or at R16 – R20 for Corona, Savanna, Hunter’s Dry, Amstel, Windhoek, Black Label, and Tafel beer.  Surprising is that there is no craft beer, given the restaurant’s proximity to AndUnion.  The wine selection is disappointingly small for a ‘Bar’, with four options (no vintages specified), but at least each is available by the glass, for Groote Post Old Man’s Blend, Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc, Springfield Life from Stone, and Fat Bastard Shiraz, in a range of R 25/R95 – R 40/R150.

Clarke’s is a great new addition for the city centre for a drink, a bite to eat, or a coffee, given its excellent opening hours and easy-to-park convenience after hours and on weekends.  Owner Lyndall can be a caring person, as experienced at Superette, but needs to let go as chef and take on the role of owner, to connect with her customers, so that she can build relationships with them, to ensure that they return.

Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room, 133 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-7648. www.clarkesdining.co.za Twitter: @ClarkesDining.  Monday – Tuesday 7h00 – 18h00, Wednesday – Friday 7h00 – late, Saturday 8h00 – 15h00.

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

Pub Review: Watching the World Cup at Pure, Hout Bay Manor

Having seen two World Cup matches at Paulaner Braeuhaus in the Waterfront, I was looking for a new venue to see the match between Germany and Ghana in the past week.   I had heard good things of Pure at the Hout Bay Manor Hotel, and its German chef and GM Alex Mueller, so chose this as the venue. I had not been there in years, not since Rick and Collette Taylor owned the hotel.

What a mistake I made to choose the venue, as far as World Cup “gees” goes, as I was the only person in the hotel watching the match on the massive screen filling the whole wall of the lounge.    Only one couple was dining in Pure restaurant.

On arriving outside the Hotel, a security guard followed me into the hotel, and appeared quite unwelcoming and confrontational, asking me what I wanted at the hotel!  She disappeared, so I settled down in the lounge.  I had seen the photographs on the hotel’s website, and was told that the decor had been done by Block & Chisel.   It is hard to describe, other than that the lounge decor is very busy, with a dominant African design feel to it.   For me, the oranges and pinks in the upholstery clashed with the red and white curtains, and while I liked the African dress hanging on one wall, I thought a lot of it was very forced.   The African decor flows through all the way to the bar counter and reception, but the decor tone changes completely in Pure restaurant, which is very earthy (screen made from ‘interwoven’ branches, marine touches added on the tables, hanging crystal stands, again feels overdone).

Generously sized couches and armchairs in the lounge, where the TV was set up, had an English feel.  The coffee table was very low, making it uncomfortable to eat and to make notes at.  I struggled to get comfortable in the armchair throughout my two-hour visit, even adding a scatter cushion, but nothing helped.   The “pub” part of the hotel is nothing more than some bar stools at the bar counter in an open-plan room coming out of the reception, on the way to the restaurant. 

The waiter brought three white leather bound documents, but did not explain the difference between them. One was Pure restaurant’s a la carte menu, not an option due to the uncomfortable table.  The full winelist was brought as well.  The bar menu was difficult to fold open, due to the way it is bound, making it difficult to read the prices.  It had a very small selection of ten food choices, reminding me of a room service menu.  One can order two portion sizes (quantity not specified) of tartar of tuna and spring rolls for R 70 or R 90, a herb salad with mozarella for what sounds like an expensive R 95, croque monsieur costs R 60, and focaccia with a choice of salmon, chicken or parma ham costs R 75.  The Hout Bay Manor sandwich, which includes roast beef and bacon, costs R 75, while the Hout Bay Manor Burger can be ordered for R 75 – it also can be ordered with foie gras, at double the price.   From the menus I could see the ‘Pure’ and ‘Hout Bay Manor’ brands fighting each other, the former young and modern, and the latter old fashioned and steeped in history. 

I chose the croque monsieur, which was just the right snack after a long day, and the presentation of the food on a large white dish was creative, with chips stacked neatly – they were hot but not crisp.  What was a cute touch, but may have just been my imagination, was a decorative touch of aubergine, red pepper and yellow pepper, creating the German flag colours!  Unfortunately they were over-salted, but the idea behind it was much appreciated. The cutlery looked brand new, and was elegant, and a good quality material serviette was offered.  I was a little annoyed when the waiter seemed very anxious to remove my plate and glass so quickly, but this may have been intended as good service.  

The bar list offers two Methode Cap Classiques sparkling wines by the glass, from Ambeloui, which I did not know but discovered to be from Hout Bay, according to a Google search.  Olga costs R 50, and her ‘sister’ Roseanne R56.  Amstel costs R20, Castle R18, Heineken R 20, Savanna R22, and Windhoek R18.   An extensive list of 43 spirits and liqueurs is on offer, and includes Wilderers Grappa, Bols, Cointreau, Butlers, and a further list of cocktails.  The cappuccino I ordered was a lovely foamy one, served with a meringue on the side. 

This review would have been very different had it not been for the wonderful sommelier Tatiana Marcetteau, previously from Delaire Graff.  She recognised me from past visits there, and the level of service rose dramatically, with her checking regularly on my well-being, reminding me very much of Aleks’ care and service at Salt Vodka and Champagne Bar the week before.   Unasked, Tatiana offered to show me a guest bedroom in the half-time, as well as the Pure restaurant.  She also proudly showed me her wine cellar. The receptionist offered me a copy of the hotel’s book, including a book sticker that one can write one’s name into, and detailing the history of the hotel (built in 1871), yet reflecting the colourful decor of the interior.  A photo album feel is created by a swatch of curtaining material, and photographs look as if they have just been glued into the book.   Each of the 21 bedrooms is different, and one can choose the Zulu, the Xhosa or even the Sangoma room!   The book ends off with two pages of photographs, presented as if they are postage stamps.  This is one of the most creative hotel promotional documents I have ever seen.

I would not watch another World Cup match at the hotel again, despite the lovely service from Tatiana, given the lack of guests to watch the soccer with, and the lack of ‘gees’.  But the visit has definitely whet my appetite to visit Pure restaurant, and to try Chef Alex Mueller’s cuisine after the World Cup.  The prices are not cheap, but the restaurant is running a winter special at the moment.   My croque monsieur was better value than a horrid pizza I had eaten at Foresters Arms earlier in the day (review to follow).

Pure at Hout Bay Manor, Baviaanskloof, off Main Road, Hout Bay.  Tel 021 790 0116. www.houtbaymanor.co.za (The website design does not reflect the design of the beautiful hotel book, and appears hard sell in having an accommodation booking window open on every page, even if unrelated to accommodation.  The Home page looks cluttered, and the Blog, Facebook and Twitter links are made very prominent – only problem is that the last post on the blog is dated 12 May, and the hotel tweets about once a month, making its social media marketing tool symbols look like window-dressing!).  Open Tuesdays- Saturdays.

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

Pub Review: Watching the World Cup at Salt Vodka and Champagne Bar

An important match like England versus Algeria deserved a better pub visit than the one to Caprice earlier in the day.   Salt Vodka and Champagne Bar, which opened about 3 weeks ago, and has taken four months longer than planned to open, met the brief.

If I had not known about it having opened, having been told about it by Newmark Hotels’ PR consultant Ian Manley, I would not have gone, as there is no signage outside.   I first tried to enter via Salt Deli, but the entrance is separate, so I entered via an outside side passage.  It is not clear that one must go up the steps, as there is no further signage down the passage, and the initial steps are dangerous, first down a tile step, and then up wooden steps. 

It was a surprise to enter a large bar area, sparsely furnished.   The amazing and charming Manager Aleks Kopertowska came to me and greeted me by name and with a handshake, having taken my reservation earlier in the day.  She did tell me later on that she remembered me from the time that she worked in Franschhoek four years ago.

She seated me with an American brother and sister, who are travelling in South Africa, and Botswana and Kenya thereafter, and were staying at the Ambassador Hotel across the road.   They bravely watched the soccer with me.   Aleks explained that there had been a problem with the ordered furniture, and the lovely white leather chairs appear to be temporary.  We had a very artistic, but very low, table made from white-painted wooden logs bound together, so Aleks organised that a table from the Deli be brought to us, which made eating and writing far more comfortable.   The decor has grey tones in the ceiling, a rich wooden floor, a long bar counter with modern black leather and chrome bar stools, and a large flatscreen TV which is visible to all in the Bar.   There was only one soccer touch in the Bar, but impressed with its stylishness – two beaded soccer ball-shaped holders for the orchids. 

Aleks’ service did not stop.  She offered to show me the special Champagne Room, a beautiful display of chilled bubbly brands, especially the creative Veuve Cliquot display container in orange, which can serve as a ice-bucket at the same time.   She showed me the terrace, which has attractive grey outdoor furniture, modern but classic in design, and in summer one can predict that it will be one of the coolest places on the Atlantic Seaboard.  One can see the sea from it.

Aleks was honest in admitting that the food served at the Salt Vodka Bar currently is from Salt Deli downstairs, as Chef Jacques de Jager is still working on the menu.  Also, the full complement of 15 champagnes and 15 local sparkling wines to be offered by the glass are not yet all on the menu, that I had read about. The Salt Vodka Bar beverage list is beautifully bound in a black leather cover, and reflects the look of the Salt restaurant in the Ambassador Hotel.  The Salt Deli menu is a poor quality photocopy with the Breakfast options (clearly not applicable), and the Light Meals listed.   There are 13 options for the latter, ranging from the soup of the day (a delicious thick butternut soup, with a swirl of cream and sprinkled with bacon and decorated with fresh basil, served with toasted rye bread and butter, excellent value at R35), some salads (R30 for the garden salad), sandwiches, lasagne (R50) and Chicken Supreme (R85).  The butternut soup was so delicious that I asked for a take-away portion for my son working at the Stadium that evening.   Aleks came back to report that I had been served the last portion, but given that I would be at the Salt Vodka Bar until the match finished, she had asked Salt restaurant across the road to make another portion – a continuation of her excellent and attentive service (if only there was more like this in Cape Town!)

The Beverage List offers fifteen vodkas, many costing R 19, and the most expensive is Wyborowa Exquisite, at R38.   The heading “Champagnes” is used for both “South African” and “French” bubbly sub-headings, with five locals (Moreson R50, and Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc and its Brut Rose both costing R95 a glassful, prices on the high side) and eight imported ones (Guy Charbaut Millesime costs R160 per glass, and Veuve Cliquot costs R360 per glass).  The list of wines-by-the-glass is very limited, with just one per variety in general, and not all varieties represented – Bosman’s Rose costs R31, Sauvignon Blanc Waterford Pecan Stream and Springfield Life from Stone cost R33 and R50, respectively, and Waterford Chardonnay costs R63.  The Springfield “whole berry” Cabernet Sauvignon costs R63, a Vriesenhof Enthopio at R55, and Diemersfontein Carpe Diem pinotage (R65) disappointingly are the only three red wines by the glass.    Windhoek Lager and Castle cost R 17;  Millers, Peroni, and Amstel cost R 19; Heineken and Pilsner Urquell cost R22; Savanna costs R21; and Hunter’s Dry R19.  The Americans and I were offered a complimentary glass of chocolate martini, another Aleks touch.

Would I go back to watch another match?  Probably not, as there was little World Cup atmosphere and support.  The Danish team girlfriends, who were staying at the Ambassador Hotel, took over most of the Bar initially, and were not interested in watching at all, talking and blocking the screen. Then some dubious looking ladies (of the night?) came in, and had a loud chat with the two barmen, who talked back at the top of their voices, not caring about us watching the match – I was surprised that Aleks did not address this with her staff.  The barman was more considerate when using the cappuccino machine, compared to his Harvey’s Bar colleague two days earlier, in making less noise on it.   Salt Vodka Bar seems unfinished in terms of its temporary furniture, lack of signage, and lack of menu, probably hastily opened due to the World Cup.   The service is outstanding. 

Salt Vodka and Champagne Bar, above Salt Deli, 34 Victoria Road, Bantry Bay.  Tel 076 728 7487 (Aleks’ cell, no dedicated line upstairs yet). www.saltrestaurant.co.za (website is for the main restaurant in the Ambassador Hotel only – no information about Salt Deli and Salt Vodka Bar on the website).  Closes at midnight on all nights, except Thursday and Friday evenings, when it closes at 2h00.

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

Shaka Zulu restaurant in London to showcase South Africa

The new restaurant Shaka Zulu, scheduled to open in London in April, is to play an important role in marketing South Africa, and in promoting tourism to the country, says Paul Bannister, CEO of the International Marketing Council, a body tasked with marketing South Africa internationally, reports the Weekend Argus.

The new restaurant is being developed to the value of R 66 million in Camden Market, London, as a nightclub, a restaurant, a cocktail lounge and an African theatre. It can seat 750 patrons, and will feature a water-garden and crystal leopards.     Patrons will be able to eat South African food, and taste South Africa’s best beers and wines.   Savanna cider is expected to be one of the brands stocked, given its popularity in the U.K.

At the entrance to the venue a display cabinet will show off South African products, including Zulu artwork.   King Goodwill Zwelithini, head of the Zulu tribe, has endorsed the project.

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