Tag Archives: Sotano

UberEats launches in Cape Town, restaurant meals delivered faster!

On Thursday afternoon I attended the launch of UberEATS in a private home in Willesden Road in Camps Bay, with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. The launch follows that in Johannesburg four months ago, the city having seen 200000 downloads of the UberEATS App in the first two months of its launch.  Continue reading →

Cape Town and Winelands Restaurant Winter Specials (and winter closures) 2015

Bungalow fireplaceIf it depends on the Cape weather, it is hardly winter yet. However, the first restaurants are sending out their Winter Specials information, summarised below.  The list is updated continuously. We welcome information about new specials:

Cape Town

*   Umi in Camps Bay: 2 course set menu R155, 3 courses R195.  Beef shortrib R105, beef sirloin R95, fish & fries R85, Tataki Beef R55, Beef sliders R55, Baby squid R45. Half price sushi. Cocktails R40  Tel (021) 437-1802 (added 1/5/15)

*   Pepenero in Mouille Point : 2 courses R150, 3 courses R190. Sirloin R90, Rump R90, Lamb cutlets R120, Seafood platter R160, Sushi platter R130, Veal schnitzel R110, Oxtail R110, prawn platter R130, chicken liver pasta R80, and chicken curry R90 .  Half price sushi (selected items) all day. Cocktails R35. Daily. Tel (021) 439-9027 (added 1/5/15)

*    5 Rooms, Alphen Boutique Hotel: 2 courses R160; 3 courses R 200; Sirloin R95, slow braised lamb shank Continue reading →

Why do hotel restaurants not have better patron support and win awards?

five hundred dishIt was a recent article by Nick Lander, husband of renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson and restaurant critic in the UK, about restaurants in hotels he had visited in Dubai that made me consider once again why hotel restaurants fare so poorly in patron support and in the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant awards in our country.
Lander writes that specific rules about restaurants and liquor licences force restaurants to be linked to hotels in Dubai.  In our country no such rules apply, and as a service to guests, hotels have over the years added dining facilities, in early days being the only restaurants offering tea and cake, and lunch and dunner.  My parents drove us with overseas visitors to Franschhoek’s Swiss Farm Excelsior (now the Le Franschhoek Hotel), the benchmark of restaurants in those years.

Continue reading →

New Restaurant openings in Cape Town and Winelands continue!

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

Restaurant Openings

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

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

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

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

Cape Town and Winelands restaurant and chef changes continue!

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

Restaurant Openings

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

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

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

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

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

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

High Chef turnover in Cape and Winelands restaurants, new restaurant openings continue!

Foliage Chef Chris Erasmus at table Whale CottageFor the first time in many years Cape Town has seen barely any restaurant closures this winter. There have never been so many chefs leaving their employers to start their own restaurants, or to join other employers! An unusually high number of new restaurants have opened or will do so in the next month or two.

This list of restaurant openings and closings, restaurant staff movements, and winter holiday closures, is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

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

*    Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen has opened Street Food below the neighbouring hotel, offering Deluxe coffee, pastries, and Asian-inspired lunch take-outs. Operates from 7h00 – 15h00 Monday – Friday.

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill is opening next to Sotano in Mouille Point.

*   Michael Townsend (La Parada, Lucky Fish, Harbour House emporium) is Continue reading →

Many restaurant openings in Cape Town and Winelands contrary to past winter trend!

Chef's Warehouse Street Food logo Whale Cottage PortfolioCape Town is seeing an amazing number of restaurant openings in mid-winter, a time during which one expects the opposite, it being usual to see restaurant closures.  Although a concern to some, we are seeing a rise in restaurant entrepreneurs, opening more than one restaurant in Cape Town, including Neil Grant with business partner Barry Engelbrecht (opening on Bree Street, as well as at the former River Café; Michael Townsend of the Harbour House Group, who must be the fastest restaurant-opener at the moment, also bringing star Chef Andres Conde from Michelin star restaurants in Spain to Cape Town; and grumpy Giorgio Nava, who is opening two Carne restaurants shortly! This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen has opened Street Food below the neighbouring hotel, offering Deluxe coffee, pastries, and Asian-inspired lunch take-outs. Operates from 7h00 – 15h00.

*   Idiom Wines is said to be opening a restaurant.

*   Lucky Fish & Chips has opened on Bree Street, on Regent Road in Sea Point, on Long Street, in Kalk Bay, and in Muizenberg, belonging to Harbour House group.  

*   The Butcher Shop & Grill is opening next to Sotano in Mouille Point.

*   Ragafellows has opened on Main Road in Hout Bay.

*   The Dogfather has opened in Sea Point.

*   The Restaurant at Cape Point Vineyards has opened, with Chef Clayton Bell of the former Constantia Uitsig Continue reading →

Cape Town & Winelands Winter Restaurant specials 2014 (and winter closures)!

Restaurant fireplaceThe Winter 2014 specials for more than 90 Cape Town and Winelands restaurants follow below, and are updated continuously. We welcome information about new specials, and the feedback about your meals at these restaurants:

Cape Town

*   Umi in Camps Bay: 3 course set menu R260, 5 courses R360, both include a shared bottle of Warwick First Lady. Order 3 meals off a la carte menu, get the 4th free.  Slow cooked shortrib R110, Karan beef sirloin R95, Japanese beer marinated Karan beef fillet R120, pork belly R90, warm salmon and black bean R120, and fish & fries R85.  Tel (021) 437-1802 (added 10/5/14)

*   Pepenero in Mouille Point : Order 3 meals and get 4th (cheapest) free; Sirloin R89, Rump R89, Lamb cutlets R99, Seafood platter R149, Sushi platter R129, Crayfish tails R169, Veal schnitzel R95, Soup of day R40,  Prawn platter R139, Oxtail R110, and Osso Buco R89.  Half price sushi (selected items) all day. Daily. Tel (021) 439-9027 (updated 10/5/14)

*    5 Rooms, Alphen Boutique Hotel: 2 courses R170; 2 courses with bottle of Warwick First Lady (shared between two) R220; 3 courses R 220; 3 courses plus bottle of Warwick First Lady (shared between two) R 270. Sirloin R95, Baby chicken R95, Braised oxtail R110, Seafood bouillabaisse R135, Grilled Prawn R99, Slow braised lamb shank R115. Tel (021) 795-6313 (updated 10/5/14)

*   Zenzero, Camps Bay:    2 courses R160; 2 courses with bottle of Warwick First Lady (shared between two) R210;  3 courses Continue reading →

Many new restaurants open in Cape Town and Winelands! How long will they last?

Umi Interior Pink blossoms Whale Cottage PortfolioMany restaurants are opening and have opened this summer, with only three months of the summer season left in which they can create awareness and make an impact before the dreaded winter arrives after the Easter weekend.  New restaurants are far more casual, with informal dining.

This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Umi Asian restaurant  opened in December with The Marly hotel in the Camps Bay Promenade, owned by The Cove (Kovensky) Group  (photograph above).

*   Equus restaurant on the Cavalli stud and wine farm on the R44 has opened. Carl Habel left the Mount Nelson Hotel as Restaurant Manager and Sommelier to join the restaurant, but left before it opened. Chef Henrico Grobbelaar from the Twelve Apostles heads up the kitchen.

*   Shake your Honey is to open in the original Madame Zingara building on Loop Street this year, according to an iolTravel report.  The ‘vibrant spirit of India’ is to be reflected in the 5-storey building, with a theatre, markets, restaurants, and shops.

*   A new restaurant and micro brewery is to open next door to The Bromwell in Woodstock (name not yet known).

*   TriBakery has opened on Bree Street.

*   Vida e Caffe is opening coffee shops at Shell petrol stations, 40 initially and 300in total.  It has also opened in Garden’s Centre, and in St John’s Piazza in Sea Point.

*   The Black Sheep Restaurant has opened on Kloof Street. Continue reading →

The ‘weakest link’ breaks restaurant reputations!

In eating at restaurants frequently, one can see which restaurants work and which don’t.  It is not the food that is usually the problem, but the ‘weakest link’ that can prevent a restaurant from making the top grade, such a shame when the front of house team can destroy the good work of the kitchen team.  Where the two are in harmony, it shows, and these are the ones one returns to and recommends. These are our experiences of some ‘weakest links’ we see regularly:

*   The telephone answering service is one of the biggest problems, either the phone not being answered at all, and going through to an answering machine, or just ringing.  Restaurants closing on Mondays are not good at having an answering service, preferably ‘live’, on such days.  Others have only two lines, and when these are both occupied, the call goes to an answering machine, which calls can take up to six hours in our experience to be returned!  Should one be lucky enough to have someone answer the phone, the restaurant person is usually a very weak link, either jumping into Afrikaans without also speaking English (in the Winelands), or speaking in a poor quality English (a cleaner, a waiter, etc – we have had them all).  When I have to start spelling my name it is a poor reflection of the quality of the restaurant.

*  The confirmation call on the day of booking is done for two reasons, it comes across – the restaurant suffers from no shows, or is fully booked and is looking for a table for a new booking.  No shows are a shocking form of bad manners, but a reputable loyal client should not have to be burdened with this procedure, as it questions one’s honesty and ethics.  Even worse is when a guest house is called to confirm a guest booking which the guest made directly with the restaurant, because the restaurant does not want to call the guest on his/her international mobile number!  Restaurants are unhappy when we tell them that we cannot confirm such bookings.

*   Restaurants on wine estates usually have booms, and these are operated by outsourced security companies.  They are poorly trained in customer interaction, they do not welcome the clients to the wine estate, and their English usually is poor.  They are the first point of contact of the restaurant experience, and a very BIG weak link in many instances.  As they work shifts, the quality of the interaction varies, depending on who is on duty.

*   Restaurants are a breed on their own, and those that close one or more days per week, especially in a city like Cape Town, should not complain about poor business.  It is hard for guest houses owners to book restaurants for their guests in Franschhoek, for example, when very few of the better ones are open for dinner on a Sunday evening, or open at all on a Monday, even if a public holiday falls on a Monday.  My recent ‘best’ blond reply to enquiring to a restaurant’s offering for New Year’s Eve was when I was offered the 1st or 2nd of January instead, the (blond) restaurant manageress not stating that they are closed on Mondays and therefore will not be open on that evening!

*   We all have our favourite restaurants we enjoy going to and these are the ones we recommend to our guests.  A fair proportion of restaurant bookings come from guest houses.  It is very easy to set up a guest house address book and notify them if a restaurant is closed for a function, so that one does not recommend it to guests. This past weekend Franschhoek became ‘Weddinghoek’, and it was almost impossible to find a restaurant that was operating on a wine farm on Saturday, as many had been booked out.  One of my favourites was booked up 24 hours in advance for the set up, and had its gates wide open, inviting one to enter through its signage outside, which they did not remove!  Restaurants could Tweet if they are closed for private functions, but that is not a foolproof method of communication.

*   Restaurant staff who turn guests away, especially when recommended by a guest house, because it is an hour before their closing time, should not be operating. One can always offer the guest a glass of wine, a coffee, or a light tapas meal.  Surely the kitchen cleaning should happen after 17h00, and not while the restaurant is still open!  Usually it is the waiters who are at fault, wanting to go home as quickly as possible!

*   Stretching from the right across the guest in laying a fork on the table on the left, or the other way round for a knife, is the biggest service issue we see amongst restaurant staff, a sign of lack of training. Poor English pronunciation is another irritation, when one cannot understand the waiter.  The waiter is not only an order taker and a plate carrier – he/she is the ambassador and relationship builder in most restaurants, making the difference in one coming back again or not.  Restaurant Managers should be doing a lot of relationship building too, and not do the job of the waiters in bringing out the food.

*   Restaurants without a staff dress code seem blind as to what their staff are wearing – we have seen restaurant managers and hostesses in low cut dresses, in knickerbockers, and clothing in colours that do not match the restaurant interior, or the traditional black and white, one not knowing what position the staff member holds in the restaurant.  Visible piercings, rings, studs, tattoos, and in-grown earlobe discs are off-putting!

*   Most chefs do not venture out of their kitchens, which means that they never receive compliments or even feedback first hand.  The more top notch the restaurant is, the more the chef’s visit to the table is a bonus.  Chef Reuben Riffel used to be excellent at this, but rarely is in his restaurants, and if he is, he escapes out through the back entrance. Only Chef Ryan Shell at Haute Cabriere and Chef PJ Vadas at Camphors at Vergelegen do this as a matter of course.  Being invited to see Chef PJ’s kitchen was an absolute highlight!

*   Typing errors on menus, especially of French terms, is an obvious no no, as is getting wine brands wrong on the winelist!  Most waiters are not able to pronounce the French terms, nor do they know what they mean.

*   Restaurants unable to graciously accept feedback of poor food and/or service, or who sit in other restaurants while they have clients in their own restaurant and then complain about their evening being spoilt due to the feedback, without consideration of the poor evening the client experienced at their restaurant, as well as managers who have no authority to deal with a guest complaint then and there, should not be in business!  Banning guests due to not being able to accept feedback, such as at Le Quartier Français, the Caviar Group (Beluga and Sevruga), and the ex-Caveau group (Sotano) is an absolute no-no!

*   Removing one’s plate when one has not finished eating, especially if one is Tweeting and eating, is a sign of poor training.  The cutlery lying at an angle to the right of a plate which still has food on it is not an invitation to remove the plate.

*   Asking for the bill is NOT a request to clear the table!  Increasingly one has to wait for the bill, and then for the credit card machine to be brought to the table, as the table is cleared first.

Restaurants one enjoys going to know one’s preferences, make a plan if one arrives without a booking, ask if one is having ‘The Usual’, check at numerous stages of the meal if everything is to one’s satisfaction, connect one to other clients one may have wanted to meet, and show their appreciation for business and referrals received.  A joy to experience is the hands-on owners and GMs, even if they are not in their restaurants,  whom one can sms or call if a problem arises, and react immediately and fix the problem. Chefs and managers requesting feedback from their customers proactively, and acting upon it, win the first prize!

POSTSCRIPT 19/12: Just to add the absolute weakest link of all, which I was reminded of at Casparus yesterday, the second time running, and that is the Tip question – how much should the waiter add!

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