Tag Archives: Susan Huxter

Are there too many new restaurant openings in Cape Town and Winelands?: November 2017!

The explosion of restaurant openings in Cape Town and the Winelands in the last two months is a concern to many, both as restaurant lovers, in that one cannot keep up, and as restaurant owners, as there is not enough business for everyone.

Last month saw the opening of Seta at Villa 47, Le coin Français by Darren Badenhorst in Franschhoek, The Bistro and Deli at La Paris outside Franschhoek, Chef Duncan Doherty’s Eatery at Colmant in Franschhoek, and Boschendal at Oude Bank in Stellenbosch, amongst others.

We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously, and welcome such news.

Restaurant Openings

#  Villa 47 has relaunched its Stuzzico and Restaurant restaurants, as SETA and Pierino Penati, respectively. The latter restaurant (photograph) has opened in conjunction with Italian Michelin star restaurant owner Chef Theo Penati. Continue reading →

September explodes with new Restaurant Openings in Cape Town and Winelands!

After a quiet August as far as restaurant openings in Cape Town and the Winelands are concerned, September is seeing a number of new restaurants opening between now and the end of the month. 

We update information about newly opened and closed restaurants continuously, and welcome such news.

Restaurant Openings

#   Roast & Co has opened alongside HQ, in the former Bizerca Bistro space, in Heritage Square (photograph) Continue reading →

‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa’ episode 4: Franschhoek food and wine highlight, Fairview moves to Franschhoek!

Hayden Quinn 4 Huguenot Monument Whale CottageLast night’s episode 4 of ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa’ was good marketing for Franschhoek, known for its food and wine, combined with its beauty, being filmed on a perfect summer’s day.  There was minimal, if any, Woolworths punting in the episode!

Hayden started his Franschhoek journey at the Huguenot Monument, erected in honour of the French Huguenots, ‘exiles‘ who picked Franschhoek to grow vines viewers were told, a bit of creative licence, as they were given the land.  Hayden explained that the village name, which he pronounced close to perfectly, means ‘French Corner’.  He  said that the monument represents peace, agriculture, and viticulture, copywriting nonsense, as the monument (erected in 1948) represents religious freedom, something the Huguenots could only experience in Franschhoek, having to flee France.  The village was previously called Olifantshoek, after the elephants roaming in the valley. The main road of Franschhoek was shown, and Hayden referred to it as having buildings with ‘French style architecture‘ (sic)! Continue reading →

Chef Chris Erasmus to branch out into new Franschhoek Folliage restaurant!

Folliage Chef Chris Erasmus Whale Cottage PortfolioA quick Easter Hot Cross Bun and coffee at Pierneef à La Motte was a double treat when Chef Chris Erasmus came to say hello and joined me at the table to share the news about his new Folliage restaurant, which he plans to open in the heart of the Franschhoek village just before the Bastille weekend in mid-July.

Chef Chris was beaming, clearly excited about his new project, even though he says that he is a little nervous about running his own business for the first time.  Chef Chris worked at Le Quartier Français, at Pied à Terre in London, and at Ginja in Cape Town before he joined Pierneef à La Motte almost four years ago, and took the restaurant to Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant last year.  He leaves La Motte on 15 June. He is opening his restaurant on the corner of Berg Street and main road, just two blocks from our Whale Cottage Franschhoek, in walking distance for our guests, who prefer to walk to the village for dinner than to drive to any of the good restaurants on theFolliage exterior building Whale Cottage Portfolio wine estates just outside the village. The restaurant will seat up to 70 for lunch, including outside, and 40 inside at night.  The building belongs to the owners of La Petite Dauphine, and one of its owners, Gert Gertzen, is a highly regarded interior designer, and he is working with Chef Chris in planning the decor, which will have a wood ceiling, and wood furniture, on a concrete floor.

Right next door is the IS art gallery, which moved into the same building a week ago, a Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: SeaFood at The Marine very grey, poor seafood, very poor service!

Seafood at The Marine interior Whale Cottage PortfolioAfter seeing a Tweet by The Collection by Liz McGrath Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff about the new interior of SeaFood at The Marine earlier this week, I decided to lunch there yesterday, being in Hermanus for the day.  It was a most disappointing experience, given the five star and Relais & Chateaux status of the hotel.

The Marine hotel has a long heritage and was bought by Mrs McGrath a number of years ago. and sat on its own on the cliffs overlooking Walker Bay, technically a magnificent location, but little is made of the beautiful view.  A recent flurry of development across the road from the hotel has given it a lift.  Mrs McGrath appears to be like Le Quartier Français owner Susan Huxter who renovates her establishment annually.  Mrs McGrath did the latest interior design of SeaFood at The Marine, her staff told me.  The colour scheme now is grey, with grey chairs, grey tables, and grey Continue reading →

Franschhoek Literary Festival wins as book event, fails as tourism event!

Franschhoek Wine Valley tourism is much smarter than Cape Town Tourism, in that it understands that its members suffer greatly due to Seasonality in winter, and has therefore encouraged events to be held in the low season, a monthly event being organised to attract visitors to the wine valley.

In seven years the Franschhoek Literary Festival has become the second most popular event hosted in Franschhoek, with an estimated 11000 tickets having been sold.  Only the Bastille Festival attracts more visitors. The Franschhoek Literary Festival attracts mainly women, many from Johannesburg and Durban, reasonably well-off, and somewhat older. Because the Franschhoek Wine Valley has no hand in organising the event, we were surprised how many first-time visitors the village received this past weekend, and how few of them knew anything about the wine estates and wine farms in Franschhoek, and therefore how few visited them by car.  Particularly surprising was that the tourism bureau’s marketing office did not Tweet for most of the weekend, either to inform the thousands of visitors in the village about things to do, and where to eat and taste wine, or about fringe events like classic music concerts and art exhibitions.  The organisers see the Literary Festival purely as a book and resultant charity event, and have no tourism interest to allow the Festival to be of benefit to all Franschhoek businesses.  The newish Franschhoek Wine Tram and Bus would have been a great tourist service to delegates, driving them to their session venues, and so create awareness for this unique tourism product. Continue reading →

A-palling Bruce Palling in Cape Town to judge Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants!

New Eat Out judge, blogger Bruce Palling from the UK, has arrived in Cape Town to assist Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant and associated awards organiser Abigail Donnelly in selecting the top ten restaurants in the country and in ranking them.  He has barely set foot in the country, never having been here before, and he has attracted controversy already!

Palling is a rude Tweeter, and on Twitter yesterday afternoon he announced his arrival, having been to Clarke’s second hand bookshop on Long Street, and in having eaten springbok for lunch, commenting on its bland taste: Cape Town on a glorious sunny Spring day – and my first experience of Springbok – surprisingly mild…was expecting more depth of flavour...  A chef retaliated immediately: It’s not stag steaks stored in the deepfreezer for 3 years wrapped in wellington boots, boet”. Palling also Tweeted a comment which was criticised for its implied racism, by labelling a fellow guest on skin colour at the restaurant: Black guest excusing lateness@Cape Town restaurant: “Sorry but had to take taxi because my Ferrari cant make it over bumps at entrance here”. For that Tweet he was admonished too, including by Über-Tweeter Jane-Anne Hobbs.

Palling, who is being accommodated at the Taj hotel, will be visiting the Top 20 restaurant list, unless Ms Donnelly has already cut that list down to her Top 10, and he will assist her in ranking the list, and in choosing the winners in the categories introduced last year: Boschendal Style Award, Best Italian, Best Asian, Best Bistro, Best Steakhouse, and Best Country Style restaurant.  This is our prediction of where Palling can be expected to eat in potential 2012 Eat Out Top 10 restaurants in the next few days in the Western Cape (we have excluded Grande Provence, The Roundhouse, and Nobu due to chef changes, and other deserving restaurants at which the chefs have been at the restaurants for less than a year):

*   The Test Kitchen

*   The Greenhouse

*   Planet Restaurant

*   Makaron Restaurant

*   Tokara

*   Delaire Graff

*   Pierneef à La Motte

*   Overture

*   Terroir

*   Babylonstoren

*   Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine

*   Waterkloof

*   La Colombe

*   Rust en Vrede

*   The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français

From Palling’s blogposts, of which variations are published in the Europe edition of the Wall Street Journal occasionally, one has learnt the following about his eating and drinking tastes:

1.   Local is lekker:  he wants to eat ‘native produce’ rather than it being imported  (e.g. ‘wallaby’ in Australia!)

2.   He is fond of wine, and it should be local and single varietal, and not blended

3.  His benchmark is Michelin-ism

4.  He is quick to describe food as ‘bland’

5.   He has a ‘boredom with egg-dominated dishes’

6.   He loves ‘Nordic’ (especially Swedish) cuisine

7.   He scoffs at molecular gastronomy, which he calls ‘pretend food’, and likes to be able to identify produce on a plate ‘rather than look at an inanimate mixture of textures and smears’

8.  He ‘cherishes food which exudes strong, not to say, disgusting odours’.

It will be interesting to see if Palling’s assistance to Ms Donnelly will make any difference to the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards results. Palling has already shown that he is a difficult and opinionated writer and judge, and a rude Tweeter.

POSTSCRIPT 5/9: Eat Out has just announced that it is hosting a weekend of food celebration from 23 – 25 November, with international chefs in attendance too: This is from their website:

On Friday 23 November, there will be an exclusive dinner with Massimo Bottura, chef at Osteria Francescana, number 5 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the prestigious annual awards sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Aqua Panna.

On Saturday 24 November, for the first time ever, we’ll be hosting an Eat Out Conference at The Westin Cape Town on Cape Town’s foreshore. Speakers at the inspiring, interactive day include top international chef Massimo Bottura; Bruce Palling (Wall Street Journal critic, World’s 50 Best Restaurants judge, blogger and Eat Out 2012 judge); and British food designer Andrew Stellitano (check out his incredible food landscapes, sculptural pancakes and edible Louis Vuitton handbagshere). Local speakers include reigning Chef of the Year, Luke Dale-Roberts, and prominent members of the local food and restaurant community, who’ll join a panel discussion led by Eat Out editor and judge, Abigail Donnelly.

On Sunday, the winners of the 2012 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony in the Grand Ballroom at The Westin Cape Town. A four-course meal will be prepared by top chefs, and the new Top 10 will be announced, along with the winners of the awards for best steakhouse, bistro, Asian, country-style and Italian restaurant, along with the Boschendal Style Award“.

POSTSCRIPT 9/9: Bruce Palling has been eating his way around the Cape, and the only clues that he is leaving is that he has eaten Springbok on more than one occasion, and he is Tweeting photographs of the wines he has drunk with his meals, which must be very frustrating for him, as he is a keen food photographer, but that would give the judging away!  His wine choice over the past five days has included Zorgvliet Cabernet Sauvignon (vintage not mentioned), Raats Cabernet Franc 2008, Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2010, Raats Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Paul Cluver 7 Flags Pinot Noir 2008, and Luddite Shiraz 2006. He is seeking wines with less than 14% alcohol content, to suit his wife’s requirement, and has been asking for advice on Twitter, a sad reflection on the restaurants at which he has eaten not being able to advise him!  He has taken back his criticism of springbok in his Tweet on his arrival (see above), and Tweeted on Friday: “Take back Springbok being boring/bland – had 2 non sous vide versions which lean + voluptuous helped along by Raats Cabernet Franc 08”. No local chefs, with the exception of Oliver Cattermole, who is not in the running for the Eat Out Top 10 Awards as he has not been at Dish at Le Franschhoek for a full year, have interacted with Palling on Twitter.  Chefs Peter Tempelhoff (Greenhouse), Jackie Cameron (Hartford House), Gregory Czarnecki (Waterkloof), Margot Janse (The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français), Scot Kirton (La Colombe), Tanja Kruger (Makaron), Eric Bulpitt (The Roundhouse), Marthinus Ferreira (DW Eleven – 13), and Tokara Restaurant are all following Palling on Twitter, perhaps hoping for a clue or two.  Further disparaging Tweets in reaction to our Palling blogposts have been posted by Palling, one of which was (unprofessionally) ReTweeted by Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room owner Susan Huxter).

POSTSCRIPT 12/9: Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room and McGrath Hotels’ The Greenhouse must be concerned about Bruce Palling’s attack on ‘Relais Chateau‘ (sic) on Twitter today, both hotel groups belonging to Relais & Châteaux.

POSTSCRIPT 13/9: One hopes that Bruce Palling’s restaurant judging is better than his a-palling spelling and photography. This was his Tweet from Biesmiellah last night: “Taking a break at Biedmiellah (sic) – Babotie (sic) and Denning Vleis (sic)”. Poor quality writing, especially from a ‘journalist’!

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

Restaurant Review: Café des Arts poor quality, lacks interest, gives Franschhoek a bad name!

It’s been a long time since I have been to a restaurant that is as badly run and so overall disappointing as Café des Arts, previously Topsi’s.  It is an embarrassment for Franschhoek, a village that prides itself on its gourmet standards.

I had read feedback about Café des Arts on Twitter, both Rob Armstrong and Dax Villanueva praising it, and felt obliged to try it out, one of the few Franschhoek restaurants I had not been to yet.   I arrived at about 20h00 on Friday evening, to a restaurant which still has the Topsi’s signs outside on the main road and on Reservoir Street, dishonest I felt, given that the restaurant name change took place in August last year, and no attempt has been made to change the signs after taking over from esteemed chef Topsi Venter.  I was one of four tables, all Franschhoekers that I knew.  I was surprised in retrospect to see them eating there, one couple in particular, having come out from Cape Town and previously owning a wine farm in Franschhoek.

I take my time in ordering at a restaurant, assimilating the interior, making notes about what I have observed, and felt pressurised to order by the co-owner Louise Rambert, when I had not even looked at the menu board.  She brought the winelist blackboard to the table first, but oddly placed it behind me, which meant that I had to turn around to read it.   The menu blackboard was placed against a wall, which I could read more comfortably, yet not all the handwriting on it was legible.   The teriyaki pork belly with Asian noodle stirfry had sold out, but it had not been deleted from the menu board, and Louise snapped at me when I wanted to order this dish.

I had not been to Topsi’s for many years, but remember that she had tables on two levels of the restaurant.  Now it is contained to the higher level, the entrance section being an untidy mess, containing a bookshelf that had not appeared to have been touched in years and left in a haphazard state.  An industrial fridge and a counter with the coffee machine, as well as more menu boards, were visible, the room looking more like a storeroom than part of a restaurant.  Tables are wooden, with riempies-style chairs.  There are no tablecloths, and a paper serviette is offered.  The cutlery and glassware is cheap.   On the table was an Oryx desert salt grinder and an unbranded pepper grinder, as well as a green sugar bowl.   On a cold winter’s night the ceramic fireplace made the restaurant comfortably warm.  The kitchen is open to the restaurant.  There was artwork on the walls,  mainly by Wakaba Mutheki, but also by other artists, such as Koos de Wet, the only other artist’s name which Louise could remember, yet they sell the artwork for RED! The Gallery in Tokai.  A Mandela portrait is striking in its realism, and costs R30000.   One wonders how a gallery could place this expensive art in such a poor quality restaurant environment.  Louise told me that they have sold quite a few works already.

Chef Chris Hoffman previously owned Café des Arts in Kalk Bay, where he had a similar concept of displaying art in his restaurant, but these were local artists.  He was trained as a chef by Topsi 16 years ago, in her Franschhoek restaurant, and he took over Topsi’s after a visit last year, feeling that Topsi was struggling to run her restaurant after a serious knee operation, and that her family was neglecting her, one of the other guests told me.  Chris closed down his restaurant in Kalk Bay, and took over Topsi’s, renaming it Café des Arts, and Topsi can be seen there frequently, I was told, when she is not at her daughter’s good Franschhoek Food Emporium deli in Place Vendôme.

At first I thought Louise was a waitress, as she had attitude, but she pointedly told me that she was the ‘owner’ of the restaurant, until I asked her about the chef, and she admitted that he co-owns the restaurant with her.  I have never met a restaurant owner who is so disinterested in her clients, who deals with them functionally, who takes no interest in finding out what makes them come to the restaurant, and whether one is a local or not.  Louise told me proudly that they do not advertise, as they are only there to serve the locals, and want to get known by word-of-mouth.   A waitress worked with Louise, but stood near the kitchen most of the time, only bringing one dish to the table, and not communicating at all.  Louise asked for feedback about my main course dish, being lamb’s liver, and when I told her it was tough, she did not respond, walking away from the table.   It became clear to me why she was pressuring me to order – the chef Chris left at 8.45 pm, once he had cooked my liver, walking through the restaurant in his odd-looking civvies, blatantly demonstrating that he had finished with us and his restaurant for the day!

The lamb’s liver (R75) was served with mash, bacon, and balsamic onions, and a rather tasty sauce, but was tough, but the pedestrian knife may have been partly to blame. I am so used to Reuben’s calf’s liver, that I did not like the lamb’s liver by comparison.   I felt the dish to be expensive for what one got.  Other options are two salads, a soup (R48) and mussels (R55/R85) for starters, two fettuccine dishes (R65 – R75), and main course choices were Red Snapper and Lamb loin chops (R110 – R115).   I ordered the apple crumble for dessert, and was assured by Louise that it came with fresh whipped cream, but it was not whipped, and there was barely any on the plate, so that I had to ask the waitress for some more.  I had also asked Louise to only warm up the dessert a little, but it arrived piping hot.  I liked that it contained raisins, but the crumble topping was burnt.  Other dessert options were chocolate tart, and a bread and butter pudding made from croissants, Louise said verbally, but the board stated that it was made from hot cross buns.  All desserts cost R30.   I was told by one of the patrons that the menu is changed regularly, and that she likes to eat at this restaurant, as they make dishes that vegetarians like she can order. 

The winelist offered one or two wines per variety, a house Helderberg Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon (Louise told me that this belongs to Boekenhoutskloof) for R25 per glass.  Haut Espoir Shiraz costs R130, and Stony Brook Shiraz 2006 cost R35/R170.  I was disappointed with it, given its age.

I will never go back to Café des Arts, after my experience.  I found it absolutely amateurish in all respects, and cannot see how it can survive.  With a disinterest in the patrons, mediocre food, lack of food presentation, the chef leaving early, no interior design, no website, false marketing riding on the Topsi’s name,  and a hand-written invoice with no contact details should one want to book in future, Café des Arts cannot be taken seriously in Franschhoek, nor is it a tribute to what went before at Topsi’s.  I was happy to leave and have a lovely cappuccino at Reuben’s across the road.

POSTSCRIPT 4/5:   The owners’ reaction to the review has been surprisingly unprofessional, and has led to them banning me from their establishment.  See the Comments to the blogpost. 

POSTSCRIPT 14/5: I photographed the Topsi’s sign on Huguenot Road today, still up 10 months after Topsi’s closed down, and became Café des Arts!

POSTSCRIPT 22/5:  Seeing a number of extremely positive TripAdvisor reviews for Café des Arts via a Franschhoek Restaurant Google Alert today, I noticed that a review that I posted on TripAdvisor about my dinner at Café des Arts, condensed in content to my review above, has been removed!  TripAdvisor has not sent a notification as to the reason for the content removal.

Café des Arts, Reservoir Street, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2952.  No website, and none intended.  Facebook page.  Tuesday – Saturday.   Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  

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

Social Media and Freedom of Speech: Censorship of Comments

Over the weekend this blog was in the news, when it was taken to pieces by the (now ex) ‘friend’ who introduced me to blogging more than two years ago.   It raised a number of interesting issues about blogging in general, blogging ethics, and the censorship or not of comments on blogs and website.

Background

Carl Momberg wrote a tourism newsletter CapeInfo for many years, and it was a cutting edge, incisive and often biting overview of the tourism industry.  He has no direct tourism experience, to our knowledge.  He was like a wolf at the doors of premiers and ministers of the province and of the mayor of the city, criticising their every tourism move.   He was very well connected, and had the good journalistic practice in those days of requesting comment from the persons he wrote about. 

I started my WhaleTales tourism newsletter 9 years ago, and could never match Momberg for his sting.  We often debated issues, but presented different perspectives, and we were both passionate about the retention of the then-Cape Town Tourism, of which I was the Deputy Chairman.  As Momberg wrote, I even offered the then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky money to pay the salaries of staff and other running costs to keep Cape Town Tourism alive, but the City of Cape Town was bent on bleeding the tourism body dry financially, until it capitulated and became part of the new regime, which resulted in a new Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, costing Cape Town the loss of its best marketer ever, being Sheryl Ozinsky!  

Carl travelled with his pet wolf Akela, about which he blogged.   We continued writing the WhaleTales newsletter,  and have been told that it has become the definitive tourism newsletter, with 25000 readers.   Momberg’s newsletter is irregular in its publication, and has lost its bite.  

More than two years ago Momberg invited me to blog on his website, and not knowing better, I accepted.   He clearly was looking for increased traffic to his site via my blog contribution.  When he started interfering with my writing style and content, setting conditions about what I was allowed to write about or not (to protect his own financial interests and relationships with the tourism industry), I started my own Whale Cottage blog and paid Momberg for the hosting of the blog and for his assistance for the short time that he had done so.  It is the best thing I could have done to not work with Momberg any more, and many asked me why I had associated with Momberg in the first place.  I love blogging and my blog, and have never looked back in the 26 months of writing it.  Momberg invited other bloggers to blog on his site too, but they have all left him and gone on their own, probably for the same reasons.

To create a stir, climb on a dubious bandwagon, and possibly to gain some new readers for his blog, Momberg has written a slanderous post about my alleged hand in closing down a tourism website.  He did not stop there – he has turned every word and action in our ‘friendship’ into a negative, and brought in other unrelated issues, to paint as dark a picture as possible.   He has forgotten the good journalistic practice of asking for my input and comment to his blog post before publishing it, and spewed forth malicious misinformation.  For the record, we have last spoken to each other more than two years ago!  My response to aspects of his blog post follows. 

Closure of Tourism website

I nor anyone else has any power to tell a server what to do or not to do.  As a website owner one usually deals with a webmaster, who has a relationship with the server, so that one cannot contact them directly.

Recently I spotted three defamatory comments made about me and Whale Cottage, by three persons whom I have never met and who have never stayed in my guest houses, in response to a comment I had written about my terrible stay at Sante Hotel and Spa.   The commenters wrote that Sante should ignore my comment, as I do not know anything about hospitality, it was claimed, and then made further defamatory comments.  As they were untrue and damaging, I followed the procedure of contacting the owner of the website, and requested the removal of the three comments.  He refused.  I then contacted the association of server companies in South Africa, and followed their procedure to request the removal of the three comments.  They contacted Hetzner, the server of the tourism website, and Hetzner in turn contacted the owner of the website, and gave him a specified period in which to remove the three comments, or face the closure of the website if he did not comply.   He refused to comply with the request from the Hetzner Abuse Department’s Gunther Breuninger, and the tourism website was closed down by Hetzner.   The owner has told Breuninger that he is moving to another server and reopening.   This website closure was laid at my door as an opening shot by Momberg, as if it was my doing.  He even implies that Breuninger is lying in his communication with him about this matter.

Fedhasa Board membership

I have written on this blog about the devious attempts made by then-FEDHASA Cape chairman Nils Heckscher to keep me off the Board of directors, when I had been nominated in the Small Accommodation category.  When I was elected to the Board, he made our Board meetings hell, constantly criticising my WhaleTales newsletters (prior to the days of blogging), and made me feel that we were having Whale Cottage instead of FEDHASA Cape Board meetings!   Heckscher was a very biased partial Chairman, and hand-picked his successor when his controversial reign was over to ensure that I did not get elected as Chairman!   From day one of being a  Board member I told my FEDHASA Cape Board colleagues that the MATCH terms and conditions were bad for small accommodation establishments.  I was ridiculed for this view, and was ultimately forced off the Board when the rest of the Board members cancelled my membership because of my anti-MATCH sentiments expressed in my newsletters.   

As they say in the classics, the rest is history – “MATCH” is the most hated word in the hospitality industry, and Hecksher got his karma returned, in that the hotel (Winchester Mansions) he is the GM of suffered one of the biggest cancellations of accommodation bookings by MATCH.

Momberg has been at odds with Fedhasa in the past, and therefore I am surprised that he included them in the post.  He was highly critical of the accommodation booking website for the World Cup, started by FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, and slanderously described our national “Minister of Tourism and his Department (DOT) as a bunch of blundering idiots”for dealing with Dungan!

Restaurant bannings

Grasping at straws, Momberg writes on the basis of hearsay about the fact that I am not allowed into some restaurants in Cape Town, mentioning Beluga specifically.

Restaurateurs in Cape Town are a sensitive lot, and luckily it is only a few that cannot stomach feedback and the reality of a review.   Let me list them:

1.   Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek – long before my blogging and restaurant review days, whilst I was living in Franschhoek, I regularly went to then-bistro iCi.  A comment I made to a manager about declining value for money went to owner Susan Huxter, resulting in the barring from Le Quartier Francais and to Bread & Wine (the winefarm Moreson belongs to Huxter’s brother Richard Friedman).  Huxter tried to get other Franschhoek restaurants to follow suit, but while she has a strong influence over Franschhoek, none of her restaurant colleagues complied with her request.   I have tried to meet with her to discuss her heavy-handedness and discrimination against me, and she has refused all contact.  Twice in the past three months I have been invited to attend the opening of art exhibitions at Le Quartier Francais, only to be uninvited again on the instruction of Huxter, demonstrating the unprofessionalism and pettiness of this business owner!   

2.   Beluga/Sevruga/Blonde– I attended a Cape Times book launch at Sevruga last year, and gave the restaurant a Sour Service Award for its poor ability to handle a group of 150 women who were offered a very restricted “chicken or beef” type menu choice.  I received no response from owner Oskar Kotze or Marketing Manager Samantha Obery to it.  Six months later the Camps Bay accommodation association, which I head up, was invited to Beluga, to try out their Christmas and New Year menus, as a PR exercise, so that the guest houses should recommend the restaurant.  We were seated, and then Obery came to me, asking me to leave the restaurant, as owner Oskar Kotze did not want me there, due to the Sevruga Sour Service Award.  I said that I was happy to speak to him, as this was surely a mistake, but he was not there.  I gave her my cell number so that he could call me, but he refused.  I then called him on his cellphone, and he refused to take the call.   In the end Obery was instructed by Kotze to call the police, to escort me out of the restaurant.   Beluga received a Sour Service Award for this “PR exercise”, in full view of the guest houses that they were meant to be impressing.

3.   Sotano by Caveau –  a week ago I posted a review of the newly opened Sotano by Caveau in Mouille Point.  It was a fair review, and highlighted teething problems, with the full knowledge that they would be fixed.  I wrote about going back to finish writing about the winelist, as this was not yet available on the day that I was at the restaurant.  When I returned the following day, the Operations Manager Ross Stillford told me that the owners had asked me to not return to Caveau and to Sotano by Caveau, due to my Sotano by Caveau review.  To add insult to injury, one of the owners, Brendon Crew, tweeted about the barring and referred to me as a “bitch”.   This caused a furore, and more than 50 comments have been posted to this review, mainly scathing about Caveau and its owner’s behaviour, with 1253 readers (best read review ever)having read the review in the past week.

4.  Carne – our exposure about the dishonest claim by owner Giorgio Nava of only serving organic lamb, beef and game from his farm in the Karoo led him to remove this fraudulent claim.

We have written more than a hundred restaurant reviews, and all of them have fairly documented our experiences in those restaurants. It is a poor reflection on the handful of restaurant owners listed above, that they are so small-minded to not be able to take valid feedback. 

We have helped restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands who ran winter specials  and are currently running summer specials  in publicising these, and we know that our list is extensively consulted by those seeking good value.  Even though we have been barred from Beluga and Sevruga, their specials are on our list, demonstrating that we bear no grudges against these restaurants.  We tweet a link to the Specials page on this blog every day, as a community service.  We also tweet and blog Restaurant news and information about new specials being added.

Reviews of Crush!

We have written about Crush!1, 2 and 3, and Momberg questions my right to do so.  We note that it is Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, who first posted the link to Momberg’s blogpost on Twitter.   The Crush! team of Olivier,  and his contributors Andy Fenner (JamieWho? blog, now ex-contributor) and David Cope of The Foodie blog, as well his designers who tweet as @Crush_Online, initiated the terrorising Twitter campaign against me at a Crush! dinner party at Sophia Lindop’s house on 16 October, which has run non-stop for five weeks, with added input by Clare McKeon and Eamon McLoughlin of Spill blog, and to which Cope has added an SMS stalking campaign.   

Censorship of Comments

Most blogs allow comments to blog posts.   Early in my social media experience I experienced the vitriol and abuse of commenters to comments made on leading blogs such as Relax-with-Dax, Food24 and Rossouw’s Restaurants.  As I was honest enough to reveal my name, the comments became personal attacks against me as the commenter and lost track of the actual restaurant that was being commented upon.  JP Rossouw agreed to remove these, on the basis of a promise I made to him to never comment on his site again.   This may be why he has changed his review website, and one cannot see the latest comments listed anymore.   Dax Villanueva too has removed derogatory comments over time, and allows criticism up to a point.  He is receiving a fair amount of abuse himself at the moment.  Clare McKeon of Spill blog told me that she too has received critical comments, and deletes them when they disparage her or cause her blog embarassment, given that she is wanting to gain as many advertisers as possible on her site, even if it is at the cost of losing her readers.

The vitriolic attacks by other commenters has led almost all commenters to comment anonymously, only the inexperienecd commenters using their own name.   This means that comments can be even more scathing than if the real name is used.  When we are uncertain about the credentials of the commenter, we send an e-mail to the address provided, and have often found the e-mail address to be a bogus one.

As a topic, comments and censorship thereof, has been receiving a fair amount of airtime in our Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings.  General agreement has been that some comments are vitriolic and abusive towards the writer of the blog or to the commenters, not what one would want to have associated with one’s blog.  We have decided that it is perfectly in order to not accept abusive and disparaging comments on our blogs, and that we have the right to excise these from our blog.  No commenter has the right to expect to have such abusive comments published.   But having said that, we encourage debate – comments are good for web traffic, bring in new readers, and present different perspectives.  Such an example is Sotano by Caveau, where the action of the owner has led to a stream of mainly negative comments about the parent restaurant Caveau. 

We will be interested to see how Momberg copes with comments to his blogpost, and whether he will resort to censorship.  He has already censored a word used by a commenter and has refused to allow commenter “Dieter” to comment.   He has already received criticism from outspoken blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs about not posting her comment, and therefore she has written her intended comment on her own blog.  Momberg has just closed down comments and one must register to comment, a new form of censorship –  “Due to increasing violations of CapeInfo’s Terms of Use with fraudulent emails being provided, we have introduced the requirement that only logged in users may post comments. You need to register on CapeInfo before you can log in. That you do near the top of the page. For help, please click on Frequently Asked Questions under the “Help” navigation tab.  Where people hide behind fraudulent email addresses, one can assume that they have something to hide and cannot participate in open discussion and debate. We do not censor content although we reserve the right to edit.”  Could it be that Momberg does not like comments which may be written in support of this blog?   He has allowed two Caveau staff (Sabrina – SD and Kirstie) to post comments unrelated to his content to his blog post which I refused to my Sotano by Caveau review! 

While he sets himself up as the “judge” of the tourism industry, Momberg has no ethics when he presents a one-sided perspective containing dishonest information on his subject matter!

We deplore the backstabbing and bitching taking place in social media, and while we recognise its importance in the marketing mix, we cannot agree with the low levels of personal attack that are allowed by companies such as Twitter and in blogs in the interest of Freedom of Speech.  Given the amount of disinformation being put out into the cyberspace, I welcome any questions you may have or comments you wish to make: info@whalecottage.com.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11: Martin Hatchuel, the editor of the Tourism website that has been taken down by Hetzner, has written a newsletter which Carl Momberg has distributed for him today.  In it Hatchuel writes: “I responded by refusing to remove the ‘offending’ material because it is my reader’s right to say what they want (within reason, of course – and only the courts can really decide what that reason should be). As a publisher, I can choose to let comments ride, and as a reader, you can choose to take offence – but if you don’t like what’s there, you do have recourse to the courts.  I felt that if von Ulmenstein can say nasty stuff about others, why shouldn’t others be able to say what they wanted about her?”.   We are shocked that Hatchuel is so unprofessional that he would allow untruthful abuse and disparagement to be posted as comments, when he writes that he has the right to edit and refuse commments, exercising his own censorship, exactly the issue he is complaining about in respect of Hetzner’s actions!  He cannot have read our newsletters or blog posts if he describes my writing as “nasty stuff”.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Reading the few comments to the Momberg blog post it is interesting to see that ex-Fedhasa Board colleagues and Cape Town Tourism Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, and Cape Town Tourism PR Manager Skye Grove (recipient of a Sour Service Award for her unprofessional behaviour) have written disparaging comments – interesting in that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is a member of Cape Town Tourism! 

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Now Momberg is crying wolf in that he has turned to Hetzner to complain about this blog post, and I have had to remove part of a sentence about him!  Wasn’t his blog post about my complaint to Hetzner about the removal of comments on Hatchuel’s website, widely publicised by him?!  Double standards!  His website is hosted in London, disallowing us to have defamatory comments removed from his blogpost – makes you think, as Nedbank used to say!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Skye Grove has also approached Hetzner, and has asked for the removal of our post about her Sour Service Award, awarded to her for retweeting a defamatory Tweet, motivating it as follows: “This has adversely affected my professional integrity”.  One wonders why she retweeted the Tweet, in the knowledge that it is defamatory, given her position as PR Manager of Cape Town Tourism.  She also has requested Hetzner to close down our blog.  She has not held back in her opinion about our blog in her comments on Momberg’s site, as well as on other sites, and retweets whatever negative she can find written about us – clearly a vendetta, and another case of double standards!   Our complaint about Ms Grove’s defamatory Tweet was rejected by her boss Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.  Ms Grove has no problem in disparaging Cape Town Tourism’s funder, the City of Cape Town, in terms of its supply of services to Cape Town residents.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Hetzner appears to have realised that it was too heavy-handed in its dealings with the Tourism website, and has reinstated it.  We welcome this move.  Momberg has not updated his blogpost to announce this, and it basically removes the foundation of his blogpost!   We await his apology for the defamatory comments made. 

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Skye Grove has returned to Hetzner, after we made an amendment.   She has now called for the removal of all references to her name on our blog.  Yet she has disparaged us widely in comments on other blogs and by retweeting defamatory Tweets.   She incorrectly blames me for the “(unlawful) action” of Hetzner in closing down the Tourism site (it is clear that this was Hetzner’s doing, and that the site has been reinstated), refers to our blog in its “lack of journalistic quality and substance thereof”, and to my lack of “journalistic ethics or standards”!  Her boss Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold has written a long comment about Social Media and Freedom of Speech, which we have published in the Comments section to this blogpost.  She calls for “honesty, transparency, respect, privacy, relevance, and responsibility within the social media communications realm”, yet her PR Manager Skye Grove does not play by these rules.   Today I declined a request for donating accommodation to the Cape Town Tourism staff function, given Ms Grove’s behaviour.

POSTSCRIP 23/11:  David Cope has also turned to Hetzner, wanting any reference to his name removed, and the whole blog closed down.  It is ironic that Cope complains to Hetzner about…. “damaged my reputation, but has brought my business name into disrepute”.  Yet Cope has had no shame in sending 285 shockingly disparaging Tweets about me, terrorised me with an sms stalker campaign, and retweeted defamatory Tweets.

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Carl Momberg has also returned to Hetzner’s door, complaining that I have not removed more content about him.  He incorrectly makes the deduction that my partial removal signals that I “acknowledged” publishing incorrect content – no Mr Momberg, I am subject to the same threat by Hetzner to have my website closed down if I do not make amendments, as was your friend Mr Hatchuel!  He contests almost every reference to him in this blogpost, describing them to be “untrue” , “misleading” and “she cannot prove otherwise”!   He demands of Hetzner : “I demand the whole post be taken down.  If there are further snide and defamatory comments about me or CapeInfo, I will issue further taken down requests, pending legal action”!   Momberg has not apologised for his defamatory blogpost, nor made any amendments, yet expects me to remove the whole blogpost in response to his!

The double standards of Cope, Grove and Momberg is interesting, in that they are quite happy to disparage me and my blog, yet do not want me to write about their actions.  We will not remove any further material from this blogpost or blog.

POSTSCRIPT 24/11: Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, is also crushed by our blog, and has requested that it be closed down, that all current content relating to Crush! be removed, and that any future writing about Crush! by me be disallowed!   Olivier writes a number of untruths, despite having to declare his information to be “true and correct”, to motivate the closure of my blog:  my reviews of Crush! are “full of incorrect information”; I did not consult him – we used e-mail, sms’s, phone calls and our blog to invite Olivier to respond and participate in each of our three reviews, all with no response; that I have created false comments about his magazines on my blog, which is devoid of all truth and is libellous; he claims that I have “affected the livelihoods of restaurants, publications (I have not written about any other than Crush!) and businesses”, a libellous claim once again; that I had This Tourism Weekly website taken down – we know that it is Hetzner that took down the site as Mr Hatchuel, its owner, refused to heed the Take-Down notice; that he is “missing out on important functions which I will not attend due to her presence”; and that he has lost clients for Crush! and his radio programme due to my writing.   Double standards once again, as Olivier was the first to Tweet the link to The Tourism Weekly disparaging blogpost by Momberg on Saturday.

POSTSCRIPT 28/11: We have decided to follow the example of Momberg and Hatchuel, in moving our website to an international server.   This ensures our freedom of speech, and that the likes of Momberg and his merry men (and woman) will not have any power to have any content removed from our blog, nor for them to have our blog closed down!  Predictably, Momberg is furious about our move.   Again, we deplore Momberg’s double standards in defaming and disparaging us, yet crying wolf when we write the truth about him. 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We have had to edit our writing about David Cope and Carl Momberg above, under threat of closure of the site by our server Hetzner, and also a blackmail threat by David Cope in his abusive Twitter campaign.   The edits we have done in no way reflect acknowledgement by us of any error or defamation, as suggested by Carl Momberg in his complaint to Hetzner.

 

 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We were forced by Hetzner to remove the content of this blogpost until we moved the website to an international server.   Talk about censorship! 

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