Through a stroke of luck I was invited to visit Santiago in Chile for four days, and in this time I was able to drink some Chilean wines. I also visited Casablanca, a wine region outside Santiago, with my friends Guy and Pia, who live near Casablanca. Continue reading →
The Wade Bales Cap Classique & Gin Affair 2017 will be held at Grand Africa Café & Beach on Friday and Saturday late afternoon, offering more than fifty fine sparkling wines, as well as top local Gin brands to taste. Continue reading →
At the Bouchard Finlayson tasting at the Twelve Apostles Hotel last week ‘Wine Tourism Handbook’ publisher Monika Elias gave me a copy of her 2012 edition. It is a very handy guide to the wine estates of the Western Cape in particular, but also in the Northern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. It is ideal for tourists wishing to get a quick overview of our wine routes and regions, and for staff working in the hospitality industry.
‘The Wine Tourism Handbook‘ introduces the topic by painting a picture of the 350 year history of South African wine, as well as the making of the first wines in the world up to 10000 years ago! It tells the story of South African wine-making by Jan van Riebeeck, in February 1659 for the first time, the establishment of the KWV in 1918, the creation of Pinotage in 1941, and the launch of the first wine route, in Stellenbosch, in 1971. From these early beginnings South Africa has become the 7th largest wine producer in the world. It addresses equitable issues of winemaking via Fairtrade, which promotes ‘greater equity for small producers in the international trading arena. The ethos of their work is that trading partnerships should be based on transparency, respect and a sustainable and ethical system of production and purchase’. The growing trend to sustainability led to the development of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, with land of wine farms set aside for conservation, eradicating alien vegetation, and protecting endangered species such as the Cape Leopard, Geometric tortoise, the Cape Leopard toad, and the Riverine Rabbit.
A chapter is dedicated to winemaking, starting with viticulture, and describing the white and red wine making processes. The value of the label, in communicating the region and farm from which the wine comes, the alcohol content, the vintage, the variety, the origin of the grapes is explained. Details about the origin, cultivar and vintage are certified by a seal from the Wine and Spirit Board. Just more than half of vines planted are for white wine production, and Chenin Blanc is the single largest varietal, at 20% of planting. The methods used to make Fortified wines, Rosés, and sparkling wines are also described. A ‘South African Bubbly Route’ lists 69 producers of MCC sparkling wine. The best way to store wine is shared, and companies through which one can order South African wines in other countries are listed.
Brandy production is addressed separately to wine production, and the types of brandy, and tasting it, is covered. Two Brandy Routes are described – the R62 Brandy Route, and the one including Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Wellington, and Elgin. Twenty brandy producers are listed.
Most of the book is dedicated to the wine routes of the Western Cape, categorised as Central Region, Inland, East Coast, and West Coast. The Central Region consists of Cape Town wine production in Constantia and Durbanville, and also in Franschhoek, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch Berg, Bottelary Hills, Greater Simonsberg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Valley, Tulbagh and Wellington. Advice is provided on getting around on the wine routes, and drinking and driving is strongly advised against. Tour guides specialising in wine are recommended. A Top 10 ‘Things to do’ list is presented, which includes lunch at Jordan wine estae, Staying in a tented camp at Clara Anna Fontein Game Reserve, seeing a show and eating at Die Boer Theatre Restaurant, viewing the Hess Collection at the Glen Carlou art gallery, tasting Jorgensen Distillery’s ‘artisanal drinks’, visiting the first biodynamic farm Bloublommetjieskloof, making wine at Stellenrust, enjoying a braai at Midddelvlei, and going on a game drive at Villiera Wildlife Sanctuary.
Highlights of the Constantia Region include Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Eagle’s Nest, Constantia Glen, Constantia Uitsig, Steenberg, and Cape Point Vineyards, and the restaurants La Colombe, Bistro Sixteen82, and Buitenverwachting. Some top Durbanville wine estates include De Grendel, Durbanville Hills, Meerendal, and Nitida. The Franschhoek wine route includes Allée Bleue, Boekenhoutskloof, Boschendal, Cape Chamonix, Colmant Cap Classique & Champagne, Morena, Graham Beck, Grande Provence, Haute Cabrière, Holden Manz, La Motte, Rickety Bridge, Solms-Delta, Stony Brook and Vrede en Lust. Restaurants on this Route include Pierneef à La Motte, Fyndraai, Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, and Babel. The Paarl wine route includes Babylonstoren, Backsberg, Fairview, Glen Carlou, KWV Wine Emporium, Laborie, Landskroon, Nederburg, Noble Hill Wines, Perdeberg Winery, Scali, Veenwouden, Val de Vie, and Vondeling.
Stellenbosch is the oldest and largest wine region, and has a number oif wine routes. Some of the best known estates on these routes include Waterford, Blaauwklippen, De Trafford, Flagstone, Kleine Zalze, Neil Ellis, Stark-Condé, Beyerskloof, Hartenberg, Hazendal, Villiera, Delaire Graff, De Meye, Bartinney, Kanonkop, Mont Destin, Rustenberg, Slaley, Thelema, Tokara, Uitkyk, Warwick, Alto, Dombeya/Haskell, Graceland, Ken Forrester, Longridge, Rust en Vrede, Vergelegen, Waterkloof, De Toren, Dalla Cia, Jordan, Meerlust, Spier, and Vilafonté. Recommended restaurants are the Postcard Café, Terroir, Delaire Graff, Towerbosch, Overture, and Jordan Restaurant by George Jardine.
The Inland region consists of the Breedekloof, Klein Karoo (Boplaas is one of the best known), Swartland, Robertson (dominated by Graham Beck, but also with Zandvliet, De Wetshof, and Van Loveren being better known) and Worcester wine routes. The Swartland wine route is growing in stature, and very fine wines are being made in this region, including Mullineux, Sadie, AA Badenhorst, and Allesverloren.
Agulhas and Elim (Jean Daneel and Raka are best known), Bot River (Beaumont is best known), Elgin (a wine route with increasing recognition for Almenkerk, Paul Cluver, Shannon, and Iona), and Walker Bay are the wine routes classified under East Coast in the book. The new Hermanus Wine Route has excellent wineries, including Creation, Hermanuspietersfontein, Ataraxia, Bouchard Finlayson, and Hamilton Russell.
The West Coast region consists of the Darling (Cloof is best known) and Olifants River (Cederberg and Stellar better known) wine routes. The Garden Route is not well-known as a wine region, and Bramon makes an organic sparkling wine in Plettenberg Bay. In KwaZulu-Natal Abingdon and Meander wines are made.
Twenty-seven wine-related festivals are also listed, with dates for the year ahead.
The Wine Tourism Handbook is a wealth of wine information, and should ideally be given to all tourists arriving in Cape Town, as compulsory reading about the excellent and extensive wine range on its doorstep.
Wine Tourism Handbook 2012: Enjoying Wine at the Source, World Focus Media, Tel 083 631 3393 www.winetourismhandbook.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
The Haute Cabrière wine cellar and restaurant are an institution in Franschhoek, having opened sixteen years ago, with a location on the slopes of the Franschhoek Pass that has one of the best views of the village. Chef Matthew Gordon’s departure earlier this year allowed the Von Arnim family to take over the management of the restaurant, creating an opportunity for the restaurant interior to be redone, and for new chef Ryan Shell to be appointed, re-opening on 1 September.
The best part of the refurbishment is that the restaurant has received permission from the powers-that-be to serve guests outside, to capitalise on the beautiful view over the Franschhoek valley, which one does not see much of when sitting inside. Winetasting too can now be done outside at special tables and chairs, outside the next-door cellar, home to the Saturday morning 11h00 cellar tour which ends with the Sabrage highlight. Christiane von Armin, daughter-in-law of flamboyant legend owner Achim von Arnim, took on the restaurant project, and her first step was the furnishing. She has added the most comfortable white leather chairs, and two white couches with a coffee table with a vase of deep red roses are a friendly homely welcome as one enters through the massive glass doors. Achim is a painter too, and his works are hung in the restaurant and the wine cellar. New chandeliers have been added, the glass crystals having an almost identical shape to the chair backs. The winetasting room and restaurant are now visibly connected, in that a new window allows each side to see the other, and creates a display space for all the Haute Cabrière wines, best known for the Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines. Tables have white table cloths, and the abundance of white in the restaurant makes it look fresh. French-style café music plays in the background.
Having tried to eat at the restaurant on Thursday evening (they only open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday in September), I returned yesterday for lunch and arrived just as Achim’s wife Hildegard, son Tamo, Christiane, Jos Baker, and Ian and Lise Manley arrived, and I was privileged to be spontaneously invited by Christiane to join their table. The Manleys have been appointed to handle the publicity for Haute Cabrière. Jos Baker was the first shareholder of the wine estate, and was a good friend of ‘Omi’ Theodora von Arnim, Achim’s mother, and Tamo regaled us with stories about what sounded like a wonderful colourful character. Jos still judges the San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants, and is off to Europe shortly to do her judging. I got to know Jos as a member of Cape Town Slow Food, and she was the most creative planner of exciting events for the club. Sadly she is no longer involved.
Exciting is the young chef Ryan Shell, who will position the Haute Cabrière restaurant as one of Franschhoek’s best again. Chef Ryan left the Prue Leith Chef’s Academy as a lecturer, and has worked in Franschhoek before, with Chef Margot Janse at Le Quartier Français, with Chef Chris Erasmus (now at Pierneef à La Motte) when at Ginja, and with Mike Bassett at Myoga. He has also worked at the Michelin-starred Longueville Manor on the Isle of Jersey. His inspiration to cook came for his aunt, who encouraged him to go to chef’s school. Ryan says he is part of a team of eight making the cuisine magic happen, and that it is easy to do so in the beautiful cave-design building, to which guests come because they want to be there, making them easy to please. His menu will evolve, much like the wines in the cellar next door, he says, and he has made three changes to the menu in the past ten days already, ensuring that it remains fresh. Zelda Oelofse-Cornthwaite is the manager, and she has retained most of the previous Haute Cabriére restaurant staff, and has added Desiree, the previous manager of Bouillabaisse. Staff wear white shirts and black pants, with a strongly branded red Haute Cabriére apron. Their service is friendly and efficient.
The menu and wine list are presented in a black leather holder. The menu introduction refers to the changes that have taken place in the restaurant, but that it is still committed to established traditions and the ‘true marriage between food and wine, setting the scene for our food to dance with our wines for your enjoyment’. What was started by Chef Matthew Gordon has been carried on by Chef Ryan, in that almost all dishes, even the desserts, are available in full and half portions, allowing one to taste a larger number of dishes, and making eating at the restaurant cost-effective. Most of the Haute Cabrière wines are available by the glass too. The table setting has a glass of sparkling wine on each table, and probably would make one order a glass of bubbly as a start. We were offered a glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose. The menu has a wine pairing recommendation for each dish, and dishes containing nuts are marked.
Chef Ryan impressed by coming to the table, to introduce his amuse bouche of a trio of roast tomato soup, prawn beignet, and buffalo mozzarella, tomato and onion salad. His lovely freshly-baked bread was quickly finished. The starter choices are Malay curried butternut soup with a lime prawn mousse and coconut (R30/60), very yummy duck liver parfait (left) served on blueberry toast, and a celery and orange salad (R45/65), confit lamb terrine filled with apricot (R40/60), and pickled beetroot salad (R35/55). The six main courses offer a variety of choices, including meat, fish and vegetarian: braised pork belly is served with peach pommes puree, roasted porcini and a peanut froth (R60/R100), Beef Wellington (R76/R125), a beautiful light and healthy lasagna of Franschhoek salmon trout (right) with orange-buttered baby vegetables (R65/110), tomato and buffalo mozzarella tart (R50/90), crown roasted chicken breast with sweet corn couscous (R65/110), and porcini-crusted wildebeest loin served with a bitter chocolate jus (R75/145).
It is on the dessert side that Chef Ryan’s creativity really comes to the fore, in the elements the desserts are composed of. I chose lemon thyme panna cotta, for its unusual addition of butternut anglaise, and was served with a blueberry tuille and grilled vanilla chiffon (R40/55). Other options are bitter chocolate crème brûlee served with banana and rosemary beignets, mint syrup and sour cherry sorbet (R40/60); Pierre Jourdan poached pears served with molasses pudding and vanilla and rooibos ice cream (R30/55); and strawberry and champagne jelly served with spicy walnut ice cream (R40/60). Coffee is by LavAzza.
The Pierre Jourdan Cap Classiques Brut, Cuvée Belle Rose, Brut Savage, and Blanc de Blanc range in price from R32/R129 to R42/R169. The Cuvée Reserve is only available by the bottle, at R264. Pierre Jourdan is honoured in the brand name, having been the first owner of the Cabriére wine estate. Haute Cabriére Chardonnay/Pinot Noir 2010 (R27/109), Unwooded Pinot Noir 2011 (R30/119), Pinot Noir 2011 (R47/189); Pierre Jourdan Tranquille lower alcohol wine (R21/82); Pierre Jourdan Ratafia (R16/129) and Fine de Jourdan potstill brandy (R27/R219) are also offered, all at very reasonable prices.
Haute Cabriére Cellar Restaurant is an exciting reinvented rediscovery, and Chef Ryan is a breath of fresh air in this well-established restaurant. It offers a good variety of creatively prepared dishes as well as wines at affordable prices.
POSTSCRIPT 30/10: Lovely lunch at Haute Cabriere today, and well looked after by Desiree and her staff. Spoilt with glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose. Excellent tender fillet in Beef Wellington (starter portion), and interesting sour cherry sorbet, with cherry and cinnamon soup for dessert.
Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, Franschhoek Pass, Monday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner (in September, from October lunch and dinners daily). Tel (021) 876-3688. www.cabriere.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
We have written about Crush!1, Crush!2 and Crush!3, Michael Olivier’s digital food and wine magazine, which he launched last year. As other publications are being launched which embrace food and wine, both digitally and in print, I chose to evaluate Crush!4 against its competitors, putting myself in the shoes of a food and/or wine marketer, deciding where to spend a marketing budget, and as a food and wine lover, deciding where to spend my time reading. I evaluated Winestyle, TASTE, and Crush!4, all three magazines focusing on food and wine, with a Postscript on Crush!5.
The first (Summer) issue of Winestyle was sent to subscribers (note one does not pay to receive the magazine) in December, and its concept is a most creative and environmentally-friendly “print on demand” one. This saves the publishers from over-printing, saving paper and costs, and ultimately the environment. It is published quarterly. What makes it unique is that a weekly newsletter is sent by e-mail to each subscriber, updating them on food and wine news. While the brand carry-over is not strong in terms of the banner design of the newsletter (initially I thought the newsletters were from wine consultant Nikki Dumas, who has a similar company name). This builds brand awareness weekly, and bridges the quarterly print publishing period.
The 88-page magazine is larger than the standard A4 size, and has an attractive cover, although it is not photographed in a vineyard. The paper quality is outstanding, as is the photography. Editor Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright is from Warwick wine estate originally, where her mother Norma and brother Mike make excellent wines, and this makes Jenny well-connected to the wine industry. In her editorial Jenny writes: “It is our intention to help everyone make full use of every wine-drinking day …. it’s your passport to all things enjoyable, to in-the-know wines, delicious and simple-to-prepare food and accessible travel – all in a large, sexy, glossy, collectible magazine”. The theme of the Summer edition is celebration, and therefore champagnes and sparkling wines are predominantly featured.
Advertising support is impressive for a first edition, and reflects the confidence of the advertisers in the publication, and wine estates Graham Beck, Glen Carlou, Clos Malverne, Kleine Zalze, Nederburg, Highlands Road Estate, OBiKWA, Creation, Eikendal, Adoro Wines, Muratie, and Morgenhof have taken full-page ads. Jenny anticipates having 2500 subscribers by the time the next issue is launched in March.
The editorial content includes a focus on sparkling wine producers in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, including JC le Roux, Simonsig, Villiera, Morgenhof, Cabrière, Graham Beck, Anura, and Sterhuis, and recommends accommodation and restaurants in the area. A profile on a very casual looking Jean-Philippe Colmant, making excellent bubbly in Franschhoek and importing champagnes, is written by Cape Talk’s John Maytham. A travel feature focuses on the Champagne region, which is informative and has beautiful photographs. A food feature focuses on Tapas, with short recipes, and amazing photography by Christoph Heierli. A Restaurant feature recommends places offering ‘alfresco dining’ in Johannesburg, Durban, the Winelands and Cape Town. A feature on cocktails has some that call for sparkling wine. The results of a wine-tasting, a panel comparing South African sparkling wines Silverthorn, Colmant Brut, Villiera, Jacques Bruére, and Simonsig, with champagnes Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger and Tribaut Brut Tradition, are featured. Joint first winners were Silverthorn the Green Man Brut and Tribaut Brut Tradition. A tasting panel evaluation of the 2010 vintage Sauvignon Blanc of Groote Post, David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner, Neil Joubert, Arabella, Sophie Terblance, Delaire, Diemersdal, Klein Constantia, De Grendel and Du Toitskloof ranks them in this order. An article on cigars concludes what must be the most excellent food and wine publication available locally now.
I cannot wait for the Autumn edition. I do recommend that there be more synergy between the magazine and the newsletter as well as its website in terms of branding and design. Of the three magazines reviewed in this blogpost, Winestyle is the best by far, and we congratulate editor Jenny on this achievement for her maiden issue.
Woolworths’ in-house magazine is written and published by New Media Publishing, and they have regularly won ADMag and Pica Awards for Customer Magazine of the Year for it, most recently in 2009. It costs R20,95, is published monthly, and is sold in outlets other than Woolworths too. It is A4 in size, with 134 pages, and does not have a statement to describe what it stands for, but its cover photograph represents food. Wines appear to be a secondary focus. The editor is highly regarded Sumien Brink, with Abigail Donnelly ably at her side.
Advertisers are a mixed bunch, including car retailers, liquor brands (Darling Cellars, Krone, Bombay Sapphire, Veuve Cliquot, Brand House), watch brands, kitchen suppliers, decor brands, food brands (Lancewood, Lindt), investment companies, a restaurant (Cape Town Fish Market), and accommodation, most of the brands not sold by Woolworths at all.
The editorial content of the December issue includes a Trends feature, and food related trends are featured with beautiful large photographs by Lee Malan and Jan Ras. Where recipes are featured, they are short and sweet, and do not dominate the look of any page (something competitors House and Leisure Food can learn from). A Foodstuff feature focuses on products that are sold at Woolworths, but most are non-branded items, and the Woolworths link is very low key. It even has an interview with and one done by Andy Fenner, who writes the JamieWho? blog, a contributor to Crush! issues 2, 3 and 4, but he has withdrawn his support, probably due to his new (not yet clearly defined) involvement with Woolworths, and not wanting to be associated with his friend David Cope’s disparaging Twitter campaign against ourselves, in retaliation to our review of Crush!3. A chicken feature by man-of-the-moment Justin Bonello, a fish focus by Sam Woulidge, a canapé feature by Mariana Esterhuizen of Mariana’s, a feature on Dewetshof by Woolworths wine consultant Allan Mullins, and a feature on Oded Schwartz of Oded’s Kitchen and his relishes, chutneys and preserves, follow. Christmas recipes are featured, but are few in number. Restaurants featured are the fabulous Babel on Babylonstoren (next door to Backsberg), and the heavenly Hemelhuijs. Blueberries are featured, with recipes, as are Summer lunch recipes. An exclusive extract from Australian Bill Granger’s receipe book “Bill’s Basics” is featured. A travel feature by Judy van der Walt focuses on the Dordogne region, and the magazine ends off with a month’s worth of recipes for snacks, lunches, tea time, and suppers.
I hadn’t bought a TASTE magazine for a while, and remembered it to be more attractive and impactful. The focus may be too much on recipes, and too little on wines. The features are written by good quality journalists, and could possibly be expanded. I liked the way Woolworths as a brand is not ‘in your face’ when reading the magazine – in fact I wouldn’t have minded more direct brand-linkage, to know what to look for when next I shop. There are so many organic and other quality suppliers to Woolworths of fruit and vegetables and other foods, as well as of wines, which could all be the subject of features, not necessarily linked to recipes only. A “new Woolworths products” feature would be welcome. For a marketer, TASTE would be an important advertising medium to consider, given its association with Woolworths, and the profile of the Woolworths shopper, with a reasonable disposable income. There is little carry-over between the magazine and its website.
The digital food and wine magazine Crush! has no print partner, and is haphazard in its publishing frequency. On Twitter the editorial team hint at how busy they are in doing work for the publication, but on average it appears to take them two months or longer to publish a new issue. The arrival of the new magazine is announced on Twitter and by e-mail, as one has to subscribe to receive a link to it, and is free of charge.
Crush!4 has 44 pages and was published early in December. It appears to have lost its restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, and Olivier has taken over writing the restaurant reviews, something we suggested in one of our earlier Crush! reviews. We are delighted with another of our recommendations that Olivier adopted, which was to let (lady) bloggers participate in his magazine, and he has done so by giving highly regarded blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs from Scrumptious blog a recipe feature, and he has introduced a recipe competition, in which the recipes of bloggers Colleen Grove, Jeanne Horak-Druiff, Meeta Khurana-Wolff and Nina Timm can be evaluated by readers.
The navigation of the pages, and more particularly the content on each page, remains tedious. The front cover looks better, the copy on top of the photograph being easier to read, but it is not yet perfect, especially when one compares the ‘less is more’ covers of the two other magazines above. Most flashing gimmicks have been removed from the front cover, and have largely been discontinued. Advertising support is poor, and appears reduced relative to previous issues, and compared to the two other publications above, with only Hidden Valley, Pongracz, Laborie, Old Mutual and Ultra Liquors advertising.
The content consists of a wine page written by Olivier, and features premium brandy cocktails, a vineyard dog, wine finds, a wine myth and an overview of Sauvignon Blanc. The Essentials page, as before, has products with poor brand recognition, but the names are typed alongside each product. A Plaisir de Merle feature is a good promotion for the wine estate. The recipe pages by Jane-Anne Hobbs have fantastic photography done by herself (perhaps she should become the Crush!photographer!), but I could only get to see three recipes (soup, dessert, gammon) – I am sure there were more, judging by the six bottles alongside the opening recipe, and Olivier recommends a wine per recipe. The names of the wines are not typed alongside the bottles. The JamieWho? page by Andy Fenner is blocked by a Laborie promotion box, still has silly moving balloon captions, and focuses on Absinthe, Champagne, Hangover Cures, Jardine’s Christmas cake, and Christmas cocktails. In two of his mini-stories the copy ends mid-sentence. The review of Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren is blocked by a competition box, and one does not know how to close it. Restaurant names at the bottom of the Babel article are harder to read on the right hand side, especially ‘Cafeen’.
A seven-day recipe card feature by Carey Boucher-Erasmus (a food consultant to the Pick ‘n Pay Cookery School, according to Google) is easy to follow and read, but no information is supplied about who Carey is. There is no consistency in the colours used for the names of white and red wines alongside the bottles, the white wine names typed in blue (High Five) or in green (Quaff Now). Sophia Lindop does great food features, but has used herbs in the last two issues (rocket in the current issue and rosemary last time), making it hard to see dishes prepared with these, and thus to have attractive photographs, even if they are photographed by star photographer Russel Wasserfall. David Cope outs himself as a guest house reviewer, of South Hills, presented on a messy red and white check background which is similar to that which he uses on his ‘The Foodie’ blog. A summer picnic spead looks good enough to eat off the screen, and is prepared by Luisa Farelo, but there is no indication as to who she is (I could not find any information about her on Google). The focus on Parlotones wines, named after the group, is fun in having their music videos, but I did struggle to get one to play properly. I also struggled to find the way to open the Prince Albert feature by Russel Wasserfall, eventually finding it at the bottom right, in the smallest possible type size. A feature on trendy Artisan Breads tells the Knead story, with colour photographs, and mentions the names of only five other artisanal bakeries around the country – there are that many others in Cape Town alone! Helen Untiedt’s organic vegetable garden, and a Book Review page conclude Crush!4.
My overwhelming frustration with Crush! is the difficulty of reading it, and the struggle to move forward or to close what one has opened. The promotional boxes blocking copy remains a problem, which cheapens the magazine and is irritating to have to close. Perhaps Olivier and the design team can look at Opulent Living’s e-magazine, only 8 pages long but published regularly – it is easy to read, has no promotions, with beautiful photographs – a top class digital magazine! I was interested to see the Crush! blogger recipe rating, and the low participation is a surprise (the highest vote is by only 100 readers after two months), given Olivier’s claim that the magazine would go to more than 1 million readers! If I were a marketer, I would not advertise in Crush!, as a digital magazine cannot present a food or wine brand with the appetite appeal that a print magazine can, especially given the poor pack presentation. I would therefore love to see a print version of Crush!, as it contains lots of good information, and could make for beautiful pages of copy and photography, something one would want to keep.
Crush!5 was launched today. JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) has been replaced by Neil Stemmet, a talented interior designer, and he adds an Afrikaans dimension to Crush!, with all five his recipes in Afrikaans on his “Soutenpeper” page (this is causing a problem for English readers!). David Cope has lost his name, and is only referred to as “The Foodie”, with no red and white check background to his contributions anymore, and both his article on Paternoster, and on FoodWineDesign in Johannesburg (held in November!!), are long-winded and boring, with few attractive photographs. Jane-Anne Hobbs (unfortunately) has been replaced by Clare Bock (owner of Appetite catering company, I learnt from Google) in a food/wine matching feature – by chance I worked out how this feature works – if you click on a wine bottle, an appropriate recipe pops up, rather than finding an appropriate wine to match the recipe! The five food bloggers in the recipe rating section are complete unknowns. Luisa Farelo (with an introduction in this issue – she is a chef and food stylist) does another feature, this time on Sunday lunches, and the styling is good enough to eat again. A food and wine events calendar is a good new addition, while a classifieds section probably is not, the ads being so small that one cannot read them. A feature on The Test Kitchen, and owner and chef Luke Dale-Roberts, is good with great food photographs, as is the one on Jordan Winery, but the labels underneath the bottles are so tiny that one may not see them. The interview with Bertus Basson of Overture (Michael is a stickler for spelling, but misspells the restaurant name in his introduction) is weird, and probably does not do him a favour. Advertisers are Fairview, Pongracz, Old Mutual, and Avocado magazine.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleCottage
Five Flies restaurant in Cape Town has been around forever, and I had not been there for ages. When my friend Elisabeth Kretschmer suggested it as a city restaurant for lunch in early June, we decided to make use of the Monday-Wednesday-Friday winter special offer, a 2-course meal at R125 per person and 3 courses at R 150, inclusive of a glass of wine (the normal prices are R 200 for 3 courses, R 230 for 4 courses and R 279 for 5 courses).
The restaurant once was the home of the Dutch Club, and is a Historical Monument. It has a namesake D’Vijff Vliegen in Amsterdam. It is located on Keerom Street, home to the city’s lawyers and advocates, and probably gets a lot of business from these learned persons. The restaurant has not had an update in ages, other than having had the interior painted. It is a conglomeration of two buildings, with a central courtyard linked to interleading rooms. We could not sit in the courtyard (it was a summery winter’s day) because it is the smokers’ area. However, all the doors connecting the courtyard to the other rooms of the restaurant are wide open, contrary to the smoking legislation. The rooms are smallish, allowing one to book them for private functions. Elisabeth noticed the beautiful bunch of fresh roses in the entrance, whereas I loved the artwork which brightened the cream walls. Strangely. no one had a pricelist for these, because the walls had recently been painted, we were told, and the prices had been removed and lost in the process. The artworks are rather modern, a contrast to the historic Cape Dutch feel of the restaurant interior with the “riempies”-style chairs.
I arrived to find the hostess in the reception hall rather short and abrupt. She took me to the end room and mumbled that I could choose any table. When I chose the one nearest the window, she told me it was already booked, although none of the tables had a “Reserved” sign on them. Not a welcome start. I was given the menu/winelist, but not told that it was a Winter Specials price day, given that it was a Friday. The waitress was quick to offer the price when I asked her. I wondered if she would have told us and charged us correctly if I had not asked. The waitresses are dressed in a casual black T-shirt with the Five Flies logo on it. The hostess seemed out of place, wearing her “civvies”. The music was blaring, and I had to ask the hostess to turn down the volume.
We each chose two dishes from the menu, and realised what a problem this causes when different dishes are ordered – Elisabeth ordered a salad and a main, and I had a main and a dessert. Elisabeth loved the bread and could not get enough of it. I had to wait for Elisabeth to eat her beautifully presented salmon, rocket and dried caper salad, served with shaved parmesan and a red mustard seed dressing, which she loved the taste of, before we both received our mains together. My sirloin steak was a little chewy, and was served with pumpkin, courgettes, potato gallette, camembert (I did not taste the cheese) and Madeira wine jus. Elisabeth loved her veal escalopes with spinach fettucini, stir-fry vegetables and parmesan cream sauce. It meant that Elisabeth then had to watch me eat my dessert (delicious layers of meringue and Lindt chocolate, served with pecan nut ice cream and chocolate sauce), a waste of time for both of us working persons, given that it was lunchtime, and that our working day had not yet finished. I ordered a cappuccino to be served with my dessert, but it arrived when I had almost finished the dessert.
The winelist is short and sweet, and seems to reflect how many cash-strapped restaurant-goers choose their wines, unfortunately white and red wines mixed, in price bands of R115 (e.g. Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Leopard’s Leap Shiraz, Groote Post ‘The Old Man’s Blend’), R135, R165, R185, R205, R300, R400, R475, R550 (e.g. Vergelegen White, Cloof Crucible Shiraz, Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmonde), and R750 (includes Vilafonte Series C, Rudera Cabernet Sauvignon, Rust & Vrede, Sterhuis Astra). The champagnes and sparkling wines had no prices, and it took some time for the prices of these to be found. The Moet et Chandon costs R850 and the Louis Roederer Crystal R4500 a bottle. The Simonsig bubbly costs R180, while the Pongracz Desiderius costs R475. The free glass of white wine, which is part of the special, was an unwooded chardonnay from Leopard’s Leap, and the red was Peacon Stream Pebble Hill by Waterford. Surprisingly, one size fits all at Five Flies, in that only one size of wine glass is on the table, irrespective of one drinking white or red wine.
In a clever move to keep one coming back to Five Flies, each guest receives a R 100 voucher towards the next meal (on checking the detail, the voucher is for a table of two, and can only be used in October, November or December this year!).
The Five Flies brochure says: “It’s classic in a contemporary way. It’s a restaurant but it’s also bars. It’s got a lot of heritage but it’s very now, and it’s well worth a visit”. I am not sure if it is still “very now”. Five Flies is a professional restaurant, where things work functionally, but it lacks warmth, character, care for and interest in its patrons. No management, other than the pushy hostess, was visible or came to our table in the two hours that we were there. Yet the food was generally good, well presented, and the winter special package is excellent value-for-money.
Note: The Five Flies special has changed to two main courses for the price of one (the content of this special seems to change regularly, despite its ad in the Weekend Argus of today claiming that this has been the special since July – I have seen it advertised as 50 % off as well, which does not apply if you are a single diner), on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The special offer was sent by e-mail, but is not featured on the website.
Five Flies, 14 – 16 Keerom Street. Tel 021 424-4442. www.fiveflies.co.za (Not the most exciting restaurant website, but functionally good detail, with winelist, menu, nice photographs of dishes, but not of those that we had). Open for lunch Mondays – Fridays, and for dinner from Mondays – Sundays. Ian Bergh was the Executive Chef, who trained under Franck Dangereux of the Food Barn, but has since left. (Greg Baverstock is the new chef).
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
Yesterday we set the scene for the Sante Hotel and Wellness Centre, which re-opened just over two months ago. In our review of the Hotel and Spa, we painted a picture of mis-management, and our tale continues with our review of the Hotel’s restaurant Sommelier, a disappointment, in not having a sommelier, for being expensive in what it offers, and for its below-average service. The restaurant Sommelier was in place when the Hotel originally opened. I am not aware that a sommelier was ever in operation. The new owner of the hotel has maintained the restaurant name.
The restaurant is large, and not well filled with furniture, seating about 50 persons on four completely different styles of chairs, which makes it look more empty. There was no music, no candles, nothing to create some mood – even if I was the only person eating there on the first night. The menu was neatly typed on a sheet of paper, presented on a brown leather holder which I have seen often recently (Restaurant at Majeka House, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, Overture), but nothing like the “gourmet menu” nor offering a “choice of South African and international cuisine”, as claimed by the Hotel website. Three choices are offered per course.
The “Wine Collection” (nice name) is an impressive looking document, bound in brown leather, and commendably has the Platter star-rating of every wine listed. Each of the more than 70 wines is described in detail. It is however the most difficult winelist from which I have ever chosen a wine. Instead of going the predictable wine variety route in classifying the wines, the “authors” of the winelist (the GM Kristien de Kinder and two wine consultants) went the wacky route of trying to be “clever” in classifying the wines stocked in terms of sometimes funny, sometimes weird headings they have given, which means that one does not understand what the headings refer to, and therefore one must go through each of the 17 pages to find a wine one knows or would like to try, which could easily take half an hour. The Wine Collection must be so new that one feels that one is touching its pages for the first time.
Only one Wine Collection category is understandable (“French Champagnes”), but most are not. So, for example, “Taste the Stars” lists sparkling wines (e.g. Miss Molly from Moreson, Krone Rose Cuvee Brut); “Great Whites” (all Sauvignon Blancs); “White Collar Whites” (e.g. Groote Post Unwooded Chardonnay, Bosman Old Bush Vines, Veenwouden Vivat Bacchus, Warwick Professor Black); “The Crowd Pleaser” (e.g. Altyd Gedacht Gewurztraminer, Glen Carlou Chardonnay); “Rich Whites” (Constantia Uitsig Semillon); “Scented Garden Wines (all Rose’s); “The Outsiders” (De Krans Tinta Berocca (sic), Idiom Sangiovese); “Cheerleaders” (Seidelberg Cabernet Sauvignon); “Sensual Reds” (Seidelberg Un Deux Trois); and “Incredible Reds” (De Toren Fusion V). Wines-by-the-glass cost between R40 – R50, and the vintages of the two reds (Seidelberg Cabernet Sauvignon and Bell Post Merlot) are both 2006. I enjoyed a bottle of Rijks Shiraz 2004, which I spread over my two dinners whilst at the hotel. Commendably, they have a special closure to pump out the oxygen once the bottle has been opened, to keep for the next day.
I was interested in finding out about the chef, and Terence told me his name is Neil. He went to find out his background, and told me that he came from the restaurant at Rickety Bridge outside Franschhoek. I asked if I could meet him – when he came to the table, his name had changed to Neville, Chef Neil Rogers having been one of the 20 staff to have been fired the week prior. Sous Chef Neville Appollis came to the table wearing the chef’s outfit of Proviant Hospitality, a catering company he worked at more than two years ago. He had been at the “old” Sante, and his last job was at Rickety Bridge. There is no Executive Chef at Sante, I was told. (Guests Larry and Heather Katz I met in the restaurant on the second night were told that a chef from Grootbos is to start in September).
I was not offered any bread, and when I questioned the waiter Terence about it, he said they don’t serve it. The chef Neville was more honest in admitting that they had forgotten to bring it to the table! Starters are a choice of butternut and orange soup, expensive at R50, a smoked “salmon gravadlax” salad, and a chicken salad, both at R55.
The main course (Pan-grilled lamb noisette rolled in marjoram, coriander and paprika) was served within 5 minutes of giving the go-ahead, after the difficult wine choice. This meant that the food had been pre-prepared, even though I had asked for it not to be prepared until I had been through the Wine Collection, which explained why the food was not served hot. The lamb was very fatty, served on mash (which I had requested instead of the couscous), and served medium rare, even though the waiter had suggested it should be served medium. Stirfried red cabbage and red pepper strips were served with the dish, and had a surprising sweet taste. The dish was served with a Red Wine jus. I felt that the cost of R130 was expensive for a restaurant stuck away in the middle of nowhere, not having a sommelier, not serving bread, and for having no ambiance at all. Chef Neville admitted that he may not have cut off enough of the fat before preparing the dish. Other main course choices were Grilled Dorado (R95) and Oxtail (R140).
I had springrolls with an orange and chocolate filling, with a spoonful of vanilla pod ice cream served in a Chinese spoon for dessert (R45) – the rolls were very crispy, but I felt that the orange was dominated by the chocolate filling. Other options are creme brule (sic) and chocolate fondant with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce, at the same price.
Things looked up on the second night, as there were more guests in the restaurant, music was played and a candleholder was on the table, but the candle was not lit. A new waitress was far more efficient in service, but once again there was no bread (I had been promised it for the second night). Mannie, the Duty Manager of the hotel, came to the rescue, and bread was brought to the table. I had chosen to eat at the hotel again, because of the bad condition of the gravel road off the R45 to the hotel, and because the waiter Terence had promised that the menu changes every day. Only one of the three dishes per course was different to the menu of the night before. A Greek salad was brought to the table, which was not for me, and was not a menu option. I had the Beef fillet served on shitake mushroom risotto, served with vegetables, and could not help but think that the mushrooms were fresh out of a tin, chopped up. The size of the steak was tiny, meant to be 200 gram, I was told, and the risotto was heavily overcooked, cloying and mushy.
The bottom line is that the restaurant name is misleading, in there not being a sommelier. The quality of the service staff is poor, and there is no Restaurant Manager on duty in the evenings. The food is not well prepared, portion sizes are small, prices are high, and the kitchen seems to be out of its depth without an Executive Chef. The winelist is odd, the ambiance non-existent, and there is poor co-ordination between the kitchen and the waiters. The retrenchment of 20 staff last week, only two months after opening, plus the threatened further staff cuts, have created a staff complement that is ready to jump off what could become a sinking ship, badly influencing the operation of every aspect of the hotel, spa and restaurant.
Sommelier Restaurant, Sante Hotel and Spa, off R 45, between Klapmuts and Franschhoek. Tel (021) 875-1800. www.santewellness.co.za (The website does not feature the menu of Sommelier, but it does have a menu for Cadeaux, a restaurant which is meant to be run in the Spa building, but has not re-opened. It states that Chef Neil Rogers is running both these restaurants, but is dishonest in that only Sommelier is open, and that the Chef has been fired. The food photographs are extremely misleading relative to the presentation of the food).
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com