Entries tagged with “supper club”.

imageFor the fourth year Hermanus FynArts is showcasing and celebrating the best of South African Arts, from 10 – 19 June. The theme of the Festival this year is ‘French Connection’. (more…)

Borage Bistro Interior 2 Whale CottageBorage Bistro has been on my list to try since it opened in May, and on Friday last week my friend Judy and I chose it for our lunch destination.  After a hesitant welcome by the waitress, we were well-attended to by front of house manager and co-owner Dennis Molewa, and found a sophisticated haven of German fusion cuisine and service standard.

Dennis told us that three co-owners opened the restaurant in the new Portside Building at the bottom of Bree Street, none of them having any experience in running a restaurant. Major shareholder is Christian Vaatz, a Cape Town based investment manager who loves outdoor eating.  He connected with Dennis, who has lived in Cape Town for four years, having worked for Amazon locally, and originally is from Frankfurt.  Chef Frank Marks is a German Namibian who studied at Silwood Kitchen, and joined Chef Luke Dale-Roberts when he was still at La Colombe, and then followed him when he set up The Test Kitchen. As if that wasn’t enough rubbing of shoulders with our country’s official best restaurant chef, Frank left his local job, and was accepted to do a stageBorage Bistro Dennis and Chef Frank Whale Cottage at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray in the UK, before becoming full-time employed by him at Dinner by Heston in London, spending two years there. working with Chef Heston’s head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, before returning to Chef Luke at The Pot Luck Club.  He likes to study the scientific aspects of food, experimenting with foams and gels, and to (more…)

The Sweet Service Award goes to Blues restaurant in Camps Bay, for its invitation to attend its inaugural Supper Club last week. Since the restaurant is back in family hands, they wish to get the personal touch back, said its Marketing Manager Christine Hommel. Once a month they will host a Supper Club dinner, by invitation only, with a special wine list.  Themes for the dinners will vary. Four half-size tasting portions were served, to give guests a taste of the menu, including Mushroom Risotto, Kingklip, Mediterranean Chicken Roulade, and Sticky Toffee pudding. Chef Lorenzo requested feedback for each dish from each guest, guiding him in his menu development.  They will also run a recipe competition, and the best recipe will become a dish added to the summer menu.

The Sour Service Award goes to Independent Newspapers and its Subscription department.  We have subscribed to the Cape Times and Cape Argus for years, in Camps Bay, Franschhoek, and in Fresnaye. While there is nothing nicer than having the paper arrive on one’s doorstep, there is nothing worse than not receiving it.  The company is extremely poor at responding to delivery complaints, delivers undelivered papers up to a week later when notified, and when it does respond, always has an excuse why the paper was not delivered.  Only one apology has ever been received for the delivery problems experienced in the past ten years.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

From being one of a handful wine estates using social media two years ago, Backsberg is now one of about 300 (around 50 %) of wine estates who do so.  This places pressure on all wine estates to constantly reevaluate their social media strategy, to remain ahead as well as relevant to one’s followers and friends, said Simon Back, Marketing Manager of Backsberg.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club last night met at Rainbow Experience in Mandela Rhodes Place, which will be the venue for the Cape Town Show supper club, which opens on 5 November as a musical and food showcase, including Cape Jazz, Goemma, Kaapse Klopse, Township jive, Kwela and Mpantsula on the music side.   The bloggers attending were spoilt with a taste of the menu that will be served with the Show: African Hummus and Cape Snoek pate served with Lavache as starters; Lentil cottage pie, Dukkah Crusted Beef fillet and traditional Cape chicken curry as main courses; and desserts were Malay koeksisters, Dutch melktert and a traditional chocolate brownie.  

Simon first became interested in social media when he read the Stormhoek case study initiated by marketer Chris Rawlinson, the wine having been marketed purely by means of blogging, long before most winemakers had even heard the word.  From early beginnings Simon’s blog readers grew to include regular readers.  He switched from Blogger to WordPress, finding it driving more traffic to the Backsberg website.  As the blog readership grew, Simon realised that he had to make a commitment to write regularly, and he advised new bloggers to not commit to blogging if they cannot keep up with the regular commitment, and to rather Tweet or Facebook.   Simon had to find his focus in writing the Backsberg blog, choosing specifically to write about his family farm Backsberg, and wine in general in South Africa.   Twitter and Facebook have grown tremendously in importance, and Simon says that the 900 or so Facebook friends are worth more to him than hitting thousands of ‘uncommited’ readers via an advertisement.   Simon writes from a personal Twitter account (@SimonBack) and a colleague writes from the @Backsberg Twitter account, to keep content fresh and unduplicated.  A monthly newsletter is sent to members of the Backsberg Wine Club, and the Facebook and Twitter presence of Backsberg is aimed at increasing the number of members.   Simon shared with the bloggers that he was shocked to hear recently that newsletters are dead as a form of communication, because they contain too much information, and do not appeal to readers whose attention span is reducing due to information overload.  Simon foresees an application like 4Square becoming more important, with incentives being offered linked to one’s brand.  Simon has been recognised as one of the most social media savvy wine marketers, and represented South Africa at a Prowein conference in Germany on social media earlier this year. 

Backsberg is synonymous with environmental care and reducing its carbon footprint.  Backsberg was the third carbon neutral wine estate in the world, and the first in South Africa, a pioneer in this important eco-orientated wine production. It is the first South African wine company to bottle its wines in plastic bottles under the Tread Lightly brand, a further environmental-concern action by Backsberg.  The Food and Wine Bloggers were spoilt with Backsberg Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and the Merlot.   Simon’s talk was so successful, various aspects of it having been tweeted by the Food & Wine Bloggers during the meeting, that “Simon Back” became a “breaking” trending topic about three hours after the meeting.

Tom Robbins only recently started his eatcapetown Blog, focusing purely on Restaurant Reviews.  He has been a journalist at Business Report, and has written about most things other than food in this capacity.  He is a freelance journalist writer and “hobby” reviewer, he says.  He is interested in the anthropology of food, and regularly reads international restaurant reviewers’ reviews.   His policy is to be fair and objective, and he likes to tell the story, making his reviews longer.  He likes to discuss the type of clients he sees in the restaurant, its interior and exterior look, including the type of cars parked outside, and does not focus on the food alone.  

Tom calls for independence from bloggers, and asks that they declare the free meals and wines reviewed.   Tom feels that free gifts make one loose objectivity.  Yet, he says, one can argue that an invitation may give one access to a chef, and a chat to him/her may give one interesting insights into the restaurant and its food, which could add to one’s review.  He prefers anonymity, and therefore uses an illustration of himself on his blog so that he is not recognised when he enters a restaurant.   He does not ask many questions, hoping to experience as average a meal as possible.  Tom quoted the example of Jancis Robinson, who refers to www.wine-searcher.com in her reviews, and discloses in them that she receives a fee for her referrals.  Guaranteeing editorial coverage for advertising placed in a wine magazine, for example, has no credibility for the reader, when they spot the advertisement a few pages along.  “I believe disclosure indicates respect for readers” he said.  Disclosure of freebies is currently being debated in the USA and is likely to be legislated.   It is already included the American Bloggers’ code of conduct.   A question from a blogger about why chefs ands restaurants take reviews so badly was debated, and it was felt that chefs are known to have enormous egos, and that they are ecstatic when the review is good, and tend to ban patrons when it is critical.  Tom said this is ‘human nature’, and probably most people would react this way.

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

The next meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club is on Wednesday 24 November, from 6 – 8 pm, at the Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street.  Food blogger Mariska Hendricks from The Creative Pot Blog and Emile Joubert from the Wine Goggle Blog will be ‘paired’.  Contact Chris at info@whalecottage.com to book.

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

Wow! wow! wow! What a show!   Bravo to the owners and cast of Vaudeville, who put on the most amazing show last night.  Vaudeville has been described as “mischievous mayhem, eye candy and magical circus”, and features South African as well as international acts.

Vaudeville opened a week ago, in an old rubber factory on Mechau Street (no one has heard of it – it is one street parallel to Hans Strydom Avenue, between Buitengracht and Bree Streets) – and has been cleverly decorated to create a theatrical space with a stage, close to most tables, with cottonwool clouds, huge dangling birdcages, VIP seating upstairs, for a R 40 premium per head for the view, with lots of red drapery from the ceiling and red velvet curtains.

Vaudeville was a popular form of entertainment in the USA and Canada from 1880 – 1930.  “Each performance was made up of a series of unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill”, says Wikipedia.

The arrival booking checking was quick, a complimentary glass of bubbly presented to us as we walked through to the table,  with two stilt walkers already evident in the entrance area – a lady in red with her French poodle, also on stilts.   The chairs are covered in red velvet, have an unusual design, and are most comfortable.

A beautifully produced folder contains the menu and winelist, and allows for the replacement of its content as the menu changes.   A French flair is immediately evident, with French-style music played.   One large and a smaller screen, on opposite ends of the venue, features non-stop movies, mainly in black and white.  Whilst one takes a seat one senses a buzz, with waitresses in red bustier tops and black skirts serving the tables, offering drinks, and bringing the starter.   A bride who lost her husband at the altar roams around , looking very lost, a penguin shuffles along making appropriate penguin noises, and a showmaster looks for his cast, all building an excitement about the show to come.

Rene is our hostess, and takes our main course order, a choice of three.  She organises the drinks, is friendly, and obliges all our requests, including more paper to make notes of all we experience.   She worked at Madame Zingara, as did her GM Jennifer, who comes to say hello.

The menu is simple, and relatively easy to cater for the 350 or so guests attending per show.  The starter is a “house salad”, with mainly green leaves, the odd piece of beetroot, crumbled feta and avacado, as well as slices of ordinary bread and a meze platter of five dishes : yummy butternut and ricotta, olives, tzatziki, hummus, and aubergine.   The main course offers the choice of “free-range Namibian sirloin served with chunky potato wedges, roasted vegetables and a rich red wine jus”, a “ravioli of prawn and smoked paprika in a brandied lobster bisque with wilted baby spinach”, and “roast butternut, pea and lemon zest risotto with caramelised ginger and wild rocket”.     These menu descriptions were an over-statement relative to the food served, especially as far as the “sirloin” was concerned – while one expected a steak to be served, it was 4 small slices of rare roast beef (we were told we could only have it served “medium-rare”) served on top of a collection of vegetables, and a container of tough unexciting “unchunky” potato wedges.   The vegetarian risotto was very bland, and was a poor compensation for non-meat eaters.   The dessert was billed as “adult fantasy platters with a selection of decadent sweet delights”, difficult to predict that it would be a colourful plate of shared biscuits, chocolate brownies, homemade marshmallows, cupcakes and meringues.  No coffee at all is served, but they are working on this, says Rene.   Only the “dessert” was in keeping with the differentness of the show and the venue – the starter and main courses did not reach the very high level set by the outstanding show, and it felt as if they were saving money on the food offering and putting it all into the show.   The catering is outsourced to DISH, a company doing in-home catering, not with the best reputation in town.

The winelist is not very extensive, with two bubblies (Graham Beck at R 180 and Douglas Green at R 110), ten red wines range in price from R 95 for an unknown Ink Spot Vin Noir to R 550 for the Vergelegen Estate Red.  Vergelegen supplies both the cheapest (Vin de Florence, at R 95) and most expensive (estate white, R 540) of the eight white wines.  Two rose’s, and wines by the glass, are also offered.   No vintages are specified on the winelist.

The Vaudeville show is divided into four sections, with food served in-between these.  The show does not stop, with 19 acts ranging from trapeze artists on rings and ropes, dangling from the ceiling, jugglers, to acrobats on stage, to Tango dancers, singers and dancers led by Irit Noble, tapdancers, and an interesting band called Jinx playing a “blend of circus Balkan and oompah” on Bass, saxophone and violin, providing non-stop energy and excitement with fast-paced music, mainly with a French flair and incorporating swing music.   The show is slick, extremely professional, and must have about 30 performers in total.  It felt to be world-class.   The movies run on the screens throughout the evening, so one has lots to see and enjoy.

Upstairs in the building is the new Moroccan-themed Fez Club, to which one can enter for free if one has been to see the show.  The Fez was a popular club in Cape Town, but closed down some time ago.    The cloakrooms are fun, with doors that make them look like little “Heidi-houses”, but are not in keeping with the rest of the interior design.   It felt warm inside, despite it being a coolish evening.  One hopes that air conditioning will cool things down when it gets hotter.

The owners are Tom Pearson-Adam and Robert Sawyer, with hotel/entertainment interests, including the Fez Club, in London.  Together with the show producers Will Hutton, Andrew Florenca and Dirk Vervaeke, their goal is to create the “most sought-after nightspot in Cape Town”.

If you are looking for a quiet night out, then Vaudeville is not for you. You will leave the show energised, ready to dance and party the night away. 

Vaudeville is open from Tuesdays – Saturdays, costs R 350 per head.  Arrive at 19h00, the show ends at 22h30.  To book call 0861SUPPER, www.vaudeville.co.za .  15 Mechau Street, off Buitengracht or Bree Streets.

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

NOTE: A return visit three weeks after this review was written was a huge disappointment – read our latest review.