Every winter is a tough time for the restaurant industry. With the dip in Tourism due to the water shortage, and the early heavy winter rains, the restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands are feeling the pinch, and many have closed down, even some on the iconic restaurant Bree Street, as well as in the Waterfront! Continue reading →
* New draft legislation calls for zero alcohol consumption before driving, with input sought by 27 February. Alcohol in medicines and fruit could lead to wrongful arrests.
* SAA has announced that its direct flights between Johannesburg and Mumbai in India will come to an end on 1 April. It will fly to Abu Dhabi, from where passengers will fly with Etihad or Jet Airways to Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Madras in India on a codeshare basis. This route cut, combined with the one to Beijing, will help reduce costs for SAA. Ironic is that SA Tourism as well as local tourism players is in India at the moment, on a marketing trip for our country!
The heavily crowded beach days of 26 December and 1 January are to be controlled by the City of Cape Town, to make the traffic flow more bearable. Not all Capetonians are in favour of this proposed quota system.
The City media statement announced: The ‘City’s Traffic Service will actively manage the influx of vehicles along the Atlantic Seaboard in an effort to prevent a repetition of the gridlock conditions that have become a regular occurrence in Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay on 26 December and 1 January in previous years‘. Anyone living on that side of Cape Town will agree that the traffic mayhem is unbearable, it taking one hour from Bakoven to the Camps Bay beachfront on 26 December last year, for example.
Unsurprisingly the City is promoting its MyCiTi Bus service, recommending that beachgoers, those heading for Camps Bay in Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to Sheryl at Charlotte Rhys, who offered to replace seven of their Room Spray bottles at no charge, when I asked to pass on the feedback to the owners of the company that the bottle for this fragrance type falls and breaks easily, being so light in its manufacture as well as its content. Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to the Department of Home Affairs in Barrack Street, which I had to deal with to replace my ID book after my handbag was stolen at the Nap coffee shop in the Cape Quarter in January. I had not been in the building for many years, and was impressed that they supply SARS-style metal seating, which I did not recall, one having to stand in the past. I was fortunate to have decided to go in the afternoon, so that I only had to wait for 90 minutes to have my queue number called. Luckily one has an ID book for a lifetime, and therefore one seldom has to enter the Department’s building a second time! I was impressed with the efficiency of the staff behind the counters, and then noticed how much faster they worked, the closer it got to closing time at 16h00, hearing them mutter that the queue number issuer was still letting in people close to their closing time. I was told that the ID book would take about 8 weeks to arrive, and was more than delighted when I received the sms to collect it after only 3 weeks. I only arrived at 15h00 on a Friday afternoon, and it took only 20 minutes waiting time to collect the ID book! Perhaps this efficiency had to do with the registration for the upcoming General Elections! Continue reading →
A hard-hitting Open Letter to Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and Councillor Brett Herron was published in the Letters page of the Cape Times last week, and echoes many of our observations about the failure of the MyCiTi Bus service on the city centre and Camps Bay routes. The newspaper also published a defensive response from Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee member for Transport and ultimately responsible for the city’s public transport service.
Emiritus Professor of Forensics at UCT Deon Knobel, a respected pathologist and lecturer, has observed, as have we (we have Tweeted this regularly) that the MyCiTi Buses travelling in Camps Bay and along Kloof Street are still close to empty three months after the inception of the routes. Our blogpost after a trial trip from Camps Bay to the Silo section (previously called the Clocktower) of the V&A Waterfront highlighted that the trip took too long (90 minutes one way), and that commuters who wanted to get onto the bus did not have a MyCiTi Bus card with which to pay for their trip. Extensive queues are still seen in Camps Bay, waiting for taxis, despite the MyCiTi Bus charging next to nothing!
Professor Knobel’s letter documented his observations over the last month in Gardens, Kloof Street, Kloofnek Road, and Camps Bay that not one of the MyCiTi Buses had ‘more than five or six passengers in the bus, and not infrequently no more than three or four. One bus even carried the amazing figure of one passenger’. In addition, he had observe eight ‘virtually empty‘ buses on the N2 highway, returning to the city from the airport. Given the poor occupancy of the MyCiTi Buses, Professor Knobel asked De Lille and Herron the following questions: Continue reading →
The MyCiTi Bus finally started operating on Saturday, about eighteen months behind schedule! Given that we want to inform our Whale Cottage Camps Bay guests about the service, my colleague and I went for a test drive of the Camps Bay – Civic Centre – V&A Waterfront Silo route yesterday.
The first step was to obtain our MyCiTi Bus cards, which one needs to load credit on to, for swiping when stepping on the bus. It was announced that one could obtain a free card (a saving of R25) from the Camps Bay Library, where an official from the City of Cape Town sold us R30-loaded cards, the only cards one can purchase at the library this week. These can only be bought for cash, and only one per person can be obtained, ID details being taken. The City representative was uncertain about the other places at which one can load more credit onto the card, saying that Kauai was to be a point to do so, but that its system was off-line yesterday. He thought Pick ‘n Pay Camps Bay would be another point, but he wasn’t sure. There does not appear to be any place to purchase cards once the City’s generous offer of free cards ends on Saturday. One would then have to go the Queen’s Beach station, or to the Civic Centre to buy cards there. Each card comes with a pin, which one can change at a station, and is required to load more credit. There was only one newspaper advertorial on the table, and no leaflets, saying he was waiting for more. When I asked for more information for the guest house, he gave me a pile of the newspaper copies from under the table!
We took the bus from the Whale Rock bus stop opposite Pick ‘n Pay Camps Bay just after 14h00, and we were delighted to see the name choice. The bus travelled alongside Victoria Road, up Argyle Road , into Geneva Drive, onto Camps Bay Drive, down Kloofnek Road (this seems to be a very dangerous stop, as we observed a tourist family getting on the bus, which had been to Table Mountain and must have crossed the very busy road without a pedestrian crossing to get the bus stop), connecting into Kloof Street (very long Continue reading →
MasterChef SA Finalist Samantha Nolan showed her leadership skills in the team competition in episode 5 of MasterChef South Africa last week, with her Red team winning the Harvest Celebration lunch challenge. Her selection of mainly Cape Town Finalists to her team reflected her loyalty to Cape Town and to the team members that she had got to know in the earlier rounds of the reality TV show competition, and who had become friends. She appears to be a strong contender for the title, not having been faulted by the judges in the episodes to date.
Samantha agreed to an interview immediately when I called her, subject to the approval from M-Net’s Senior Publicist Ingrid Engelbrecht, as we had to obtain for our interview with Finalist Guy Clark. I asked Sam to choose a suitable venue, and even offered to drive out to Table View, but she selected Andiamo in the old Cape Quarter.
Samantha brought along her husband Paul, and he comes across as the most wonderful supportive husband one could wish for, the two making a good team. They ‘met’ telephonically fifteen years ago, both working for ESKOM, and he called her in the Medical Aid department with a query. On his next visit to Johannesburg, where she was based, they met, and the rest is history. Both had two children from their previous marriages, and now the family of six lives in Cape Town. Paul left his job at ESKOM, and has become an electronic contractor, with contracts in Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Liberia, the family joining him for the first two contracts. Disaster struck when Samantha had a heart attack last year, while Paul was in Liberia, and a rare genetic defect, being a shortage of chemicals which had never been evident before, was diagnosed. She takes medication for the condition now. She said that the stress of MasterChef has not affected her at all. It did mean however that she could not join Paul in Liberia, because of the poor medical conditions in that country. Paul works six weeks away, and then comes home for two weeks. He finishes the contract next month, and then wants to start a facilities management consultancy, helping companies like ours with all maintenance requirements.
I asked Samantha where the MasterChef interest had come from, and she said that she saw the first Australian programme three years ago, and just knew that she wanted to be part of it when it came to South Africa. She has been Googling it over this period. She dreamt about being a contestant, and having become a Finalist is her dream come true. She is proud to have made Top 15 to date, out of an initial field of 9500 applicants. For her cold audition at the Cullinan Hotel in Cape Town, when they were reduced down from 4000 to 120 contestants, she prepared hot cross bun ice cream with clotted cream (a challenge to find the unpasteurised milk), making it all herself, which she served with three berry sorbets and a white chocolate ganache. She loves experimenting with and making ice creams, something she developed when they lived in Kenya, as ice cream is very expensive there. For the Hot audition in Johannesburg she prepared ceviche, seeing in the last minute that it had to be a literally hot and cooked dish, having interpreted it figuratively initially. She quickly had to rewrite her recipe, creating a dish called ‘Fish cake journey‘, which represented three types of cultures in South Africa, and it put her into the final 120 finalists, and earned her the MasterChef SA apron:
* the European influence was represented by salmon with dill sour cream
* the South African influence, being smoked snoek with curry and a sweet chilli sauce
* the Asian influence, being a prawn fish cake with a ponzu dressing
Taking part in MasterChef SA was something she absolutely wanted to do, and despite Paul being in Liberia, and the Finalists having to be at Nederburg for up to two months without contact with her family, the family made a plan to make Samantha’s dream come true. Her 14 year old son Ryan seems to be following in his mom’s shoes, and had the cooking duty for his siblings, her daughter Caitlin did the shopping, each child having specific chores. A friend down the road kept an eye on the children, and took them to school. The children Skyped Paul daily, and so any problems were sorted out with Paul, even if he was far away from home, so that Samantha could be focused on what she was doing at MasterChef. The children enjoyed the experience too, learning to be responsible, and independent. Her family organisational skills, with Paul away so often, seem to have benefited Samantha, from what we have seen in MasterChef so far, not easily getting rattled. It appears that the judges did not manage to bring her to tears in the series.
Samantha looked soft and gentle in the interview, with her long blond hair loose, something I hadn’t seen in the show as it always tied back, but it is clear that Samantha is organised, determined, and focused. She is honest and direct, reflecting her European background, with her father being Dutch, and her mother half Dutch and half Austrian. Her dad didn’t cook, being better at woodwork, but her mom cooked European dishes, such as pea soup and ham, ‘kroketten’, ‘potjiepot’ (similar to our potjiekos), poffertjies, and she baked cakes, rusks, and spekulaas with her mom. She described herself as ‘a dutiful daughter’, in helping her mother, who lives in Johannesburg, and owns a B&B there. There is a lovely relationship between Paul and Samantha, and sometimes she looked to him for answers, or he would prompt her about something she had cooked. He proudly said: “I get anything I want culinary-wise”. But Paul did admit that he is a fussy eater, and he has exact requirements for his fried eggs! I got the feeling that Samantha can be independent, but that Team Nolan always comes first.
Samantha has a curious interest in food, and told me how she tried to make mozzarella herself. She found it very difficult to find unpasteurised milk, and said that she won’t be trying this again. She taught herself to make artisanal bread when they bought some from Olympia Café in Kalk Bay at a market out their way. She developed her own recipes, and she bakes a selection of breads, including olive ciabatta, epi breads, baguettes, seed loafs, and paninis, for friends, using Eureka flour. She says she has a standard domestic oven. She describes herself as a ‘home cook’, and says she really got cooking when they used to eat out, and they were rarely happy with what they were served. She would head home and recreate the dish, making it better than they had experienced. She told me how she spoilt the children and their friends in Kenya one day, when she made them self-made ‘McDonalds’ breakfast burgers, with a patty, cheese, and egg on a muffin, which she wrapped in wax paper, and then ‘branded’ with the McDonalds logo. The children loved them, and she still receives ‘orders’ for them! So too she has made them the KFC ‘Famous Bowl’.
I asked her what favourite dish she likes to prepare most, and Paul said it is her spit braai lamb. What makes it so special is her marinade, for which she uses garlic, olive oil, lots of lemon juice and rosemary, pepper, whisking this in her Bamix. Both like to braai, but their techniques differ, Samantha keeping her grid closer to the coals, and therefore cooking her meat more quickly. She is good at making sauces, and makes her own Hollandaise, mayonnaise, and other sauces.
She told me how moving it was to do the braai challenge at the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg, a beautiful, humbling and amazing experience, made all the more special that no one else had ever prepared food in this sacred space before, or probably would not do so in future. In Paarl the group of 18 finalists was divided into three groups, and they took turns to cook for each other at night at the guest house at which they stayed. She says that when they first started, they made fancy dishes for each other, but over the two month period they got to know each other better, and relaxed the level of cuisine over time. Samantha shared a room with Sue-Ann Allen, also from Cape Town. She said that the MasterChef kitchen at Nederburg was ‘amazing’. MasterChef SA was tough, she said, a true test of character. She did reveal that the sending back of her Red team’s pork shoulder in episode 5 by Chef Andrew Atkinson was ‘just TV’, as it had been cooked perfectly! I asked her what the worst part of the show was, and she said there was nothing. The best part was ‘everything’, she said, loving it, ‘a surreal experience’, and a ‘dream come true’. Her end goal in participating is to win the title, but just having been part of it is a huge honour. I asked her about the restaurant prize which goes to the winner, given her four children and husband, and she answered immediately that it is no problem at all, and that she would relocate to Johannesburg to take up the prize as Chef at MondoVino, if she were to win. Her mother is in Johannesburg, and it is a place that she knows, having grown up there. She praised the judges, saying how nice they were, ‘all great guys’. The tears on the show were real, and are important for such a reality show, wanting emotion. She said that it was easy to break the Finalists’ resistance, giving the long days they had on set, so the tears came easily.
I asked Samantha how she decides what to cook for the family, and she told me that she loves reading cookbooks and magazines. She rarely repeats what she has made before. She will wake up, and decide that it is a ‘duck day’, or a ‘lamb day’, for example, and then look for a recipe that will be interesting to make. She loves making an orange chocolate mousse, Paul said. She couldn’t tell me what her personal favourite dish is, but finally said that it is pizza, the family having three favourites at different times of the day : For breakfast it’s the BBB, topped with bacon, banana and chilli; for lunch it’s topped with salmon and avocado after; and for dinner it’s the PPP (peri peri and prawns).
I asked Samantha if she is treated like a ‘celebratory’, and she laughed and said ‘unfortunately not yet’. Her children are very proud of her, and want to boast about their mom, and are a little surprised that she is not recognised everywhere she goes, wanting her to tell others that she is MasterChef Sam. She has just been profiled in the Tygerburger, and more people in their area are recognising her. Samantha couldn’t answer what her favourite restaurant is, first saying Thai Café, which is near Andiamo, where they enjoyed the crispy duck, but she admitted that her home is her favourite! M-Net encouraged the Finalists to sign up on Twitter, and Samantha (@SamanthaLNolan) says she is getting used to it. She is more active on Facebook, where she has a fan page onto which she posts recipes.
Samantha and Paul Nolan are a lovely couple, make a great team, and Paul clearly is proud of his talented wife. He watches the MasterChef SA episodes from Liberia via live streaming. Their dream is to start a pizza restaurant together, but they were not very specific about where they would set it up or when. Hearing how determined Samantha was to get into MasterChef SA, and having made her dream come true, it can just be a matter of time before the Nolan Pizzeria opens.
POSTSCRIPT 24/4: Samantha sent a photograph of her MasterChef logo steak and Guinness pie she baked with her son Ryan just before the start of the MasterChef SA episode tonight.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Earlier this week I was at the Civic Centre, and on a whim decided to try out the new MyCiTi bus system, with the Civic Centre bus terminal close by. Being a tourist in my own city, I was surprised at how well the new public transport system works, connecting the city centre, the Waterfront, Gardens, Table View, and the airport.
Information about the stops is not easy to find at the Civic Centre terminal, with a board outside showing a map, but not indicating the route or providing any information. I saw staff in a smart uniform, and they explained that I could travel all the way to the Waterfront for a mere R5. There is no hop-on, hop-off facility, so if one makes an in-between stop, one pays a further R5. The prices of the trips are exceptional good value, with the trip to Table View from the Waterfront costing only R10, even if one has to change buses at the Civic Centre terminal. The cost to get to the airport from the Civic Centre is R50, and is set to increase to R53 on 1 July, as reported on Twitter. No information is provided proactively, and when I asked for a brochure or map at the Ticket office, I received a tabloid-size outdated May issue of ‘Let’s go MYCITI’.
The newspaper reports that a R20 Smartcard is planned, which will allow one to load ‘airtime’ to the card, at a 2,5% fee. One can also buy booklets of tickets. One wonders if the City will make its money back, at such low prices, the buses having about 10 passengers on each of the two trips I did. Fellow passengers told me that the Table View route was well supported, and here the service could be making good money. The Civic Centre terminal station is massive, and has beautiful murals produced by local artists, including Arelen Amaler-Raviv, Hannes Bernard, Tony Coetzee, David Hlongwane, Sanjin Muftic, Alan Munro,, Hannah Williams and Mark Hennig.
While waiting for the Waterfront bus to arrive, I asked a staff member more questions – one can buy the return ticket on the bus, as there is no ticket office in the Waterfront, or at the other stops. The buses depart every 20 minutes. It takes 20 minutes to get from the Civic Centre to the Waterfront. What I didn’t ask, but discovered, is that the staff do not announce the stops – one must look at the road signs (Loop Street, V&A Waterfront), or the name on the terminal buildings (Granger Bay, Stadium) to know where to get off, a potential problem for tourists. As a tourist, one would like to photograph Table Mountain, the Stadium, the Waterfront and other landmarks of the city. Our bus to the Waterfront had dirty windows, which would have spoilt the photographs. The windows of our return bus were spotlessly clean.
The overall impression was of cleanliness, efficiency, and friendliness. The buses run smoothly and quietly, quickly left each station where they had to stop, yet no apology was provided for the 20 minute lateness of the 14h46 Waterfront bus to the Civic Centre. Comment was made by some passengers about the driver going through a red traffic light, hardly what a City of Cape Town employee should be doing, given that their colleagues are traffic police. Two MyCiTi buses were involved in collisions on the Table View route earlier this month. It is unclear where one should park if one wanted to go to Cape Town International, but parking near the Stadium terminal would be a good idea, with a bus change at the Civic Centre, at no extra charge.
The buses run from 5h45 from Table View, and from 6h00 in the city on weekdays, and an hour later on Saturdays, and 2 hours later on Sundays. Buses run until 21h00 on the Table View route, and until 22h00 in the city, on all days of the week. Buses run every 20 minutes, but on the Table View route they run every 10 minutes in peak morning and afternoon traffic times. A sign on the bus says that bicycles are allowed on the bus.
The My CiTi bus route is to be expanded next year, to include Hout Bay, Camps Bay, the Atlantic Seaboard, Salt River, Woodstock, Walmer Estate, Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Vredehoek and Bo Kaap. At a later stage the route will extend to Atlantis, Du Noon, Jo Slovo Park, Montague Gardens and Melkbosstrand. Township routes to Khayelitsha and Gugulethu do not appear to be on the map, perhaps the last bastion of the taxis. New bus stations are to be built on Adderley Street, Gardens, and Queens Beach in Sea Point. I noticed construction work on what looks like another building at the Civic Centre terminal.
I decided that in future I will park near the Stadium and take the MyCiTi bus when I need to be in the center of town, saving parking monies as well as the harassment by the parking guards, that is if one can find parking. The new R4 billion MyCiTi public bus transport system is a welcome ‘legacy’ of the 2010 World Cup, and its efficiency of operation was well worth all the inconvenience during the construction phases. It is a clever way of getting taxis out of the city centre, two taxi association companies and Golden Arrow Bus Services operating the new bus system.
I felt as if I was in another country, travelling in brand new world-class buses. The new MyCiTi bus system is an impressive service for our tourists and locals alike.
MyCiTi, Tel toll-free 0800 65 64 63. www.capetown.gov.za/myciti
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage