Entries tagged with “The Quarter”.

Restaurant closures seem to have ground to a halt, the last being the final liquidation of celebrity chef Conrad Gallagher’s Geisha Wok in the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, and his Sundance coffee shops.   His departure from Cape Town and his shady business dealings have also influenced the operation of Crepe Suzette and Bouillabaisse in the Rockwell Centre in De Waterkant, which opened on the basis of Gallagher setting up an Epicurean Food Market on the ground floor, around the two new restaurants.   This deal fell flat earlier this year already, just as the restaurants were moving into the building.

Last month Reuben Riffel opened his second Reuben’s restaurant, in the new Small Hotel in Robertson.   Nook is the cutest ‘cosy eatery that specialises in homemade pastries, cakes, sandwiches and a wide variety of daily specials’,  that also opened last month in Stellenbosch’s Van Reyneveld Street, where the Greek Kitchen used to be.  The owners Luke and Jessica are young, and this is their first restaurant venture.  They are refreshing in the way they connect with their clients, and understand customer relationships. 

Last week Portofino opened where the Showroom used to be in De Waterkant, by fun and hands-on owner Cormac Keane with chef Stephen Kruger, previously working with Richard Carstens, in the kitchen.   See the review on this blog.

Yesterday the 12th branch of Doppio Zero opened on Somerset Road, Green Point, in a lovely renovated Victorian building with modern lighting, and is fantastically positioned opposite the Green Point stadium. Doppio Zero is a franchise operation, which has an impressive website that is upfront about what the company stands for.  Its promise is “to consistently deliver beyond your expectations”.   The company’s vision is to be a “leader in our industry and in the market in which we trade, and to imprint the Doppio experience in the culture of our guests.”   Its mission is to ensure that guest satisfaction is “number 1”, to offer staff growth opportunities, to offer uncompromising best quality food, service and people, to develop lasting relationships with guests, to continuously improve, and to make a “fair profit.”   Its values are passion and enthusiasm, integrity and honesty, an unconditional commitment to the brand, and individual responsibility and accountability.  These are strong words, and one hopes that the company can keep its promises, especially as they are stated so publicly.

Bruce Robertson’s Showroom Cafe and The Quarter on Long Street are doing well, and he was bubbling last week about four restaurant openings he is consulting on, all scheduled for October.   October also sees the opening of Vanilla, owned by the Newhouse father and son duo from Tuscany Beach in Camps Bay, in the new Cape Quarter building on Somerset Road.   Cru Cafe will also open in the center.

Kathy and Gary Jordan from Jordan Wines in Stellenbosch will also open a restaurant for light lunches in October, on their wine estate, reports The Sunday Independent.   Critically, they comment:”Too many people chase Michelin stars, but I am not a fan of that system.  To win those stars, you have to throw away your food from one sitting, and start again in the evening.  To me, it is just a waste.  It adds a huge cost to the restaurant bill.  Almost all the food rejected is still perfectly good.  I can’t stand seeing food wasted.”  Their restaurant will “offer simple, well-cooked, wholesome food”.  The Jordans are co-owners of the High Timber restaurant in London, with Neleen Strauss, and “a significant percentage” of the 40 000 wines in the restaurant are Jordan wines. 

The Waterkloof wine estate in Somerset West, which belongs to one of the largest wine importers in the UK, Paul Boutinot, and who calls himself the “Custodian” of the wine estate, according to its website, will open its restaurant in November, with chef Gregory Czarnecki in the kitchen and Julian Smith from Grande Provence managing the restaurant.  Czarnecki was previously at The BIg Easy in Stellenbosch, the restaurant belonging to Johan Rupert and Ernie Els, amongst others, and left when he was expected to cook hamburgers, it is said.    He worked with 3*** Michelin chef Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton.   Waterkloof’s website states that it makes ‘slow wines’, with fermentation taking place between one to eleven months instead of the usual 20 days, and it would be excellent if its new restaurant embodies “slow food”.

Little has been said or written about maze and Nobu locally lately, and one wonders what the effect of the poor reviews Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in the UK got in the 2010 edition of The Harden’s restaurant guide will be on the local restaurant in the OneandOnly Cape Town hotel.  According to a report in the Daily Mail, the guide has placed four of Ramsays’ restaurants on the “10 most disappointing restaurants” list.    Three of the restaurants also featured on the ‘most overpriced’ list.  The author of the guide, Richard Harden, said of maze and of Ramsay that it is suffering from “imperial over-reach” and feels that ‘it has deep-seated problems’.   Harden continues about Ramsay: “He wants to be an international film star and be accorded Beckham levels of international fame yet he wants to run this internationally recognised group of restaurants.”   Ramsay’s profits fell by 90 %, according to the report, in the last year, and received negative feedback when it was discovered that some of his restaurants serve mass-produced food, prepared off-site and delivered to the restaurants.

Word about Stellenbosch town is that Etienne Bonthuys will not be at Tokara restaurant in the Helshoogte Pass for much longer.   He is opening up a new restaurant in Stellenbosch later this year, it is rumoured. No doubt Tokara owner GT Ferriera will look for a heavyweight chef to counteract the competition from Delaire Graff across the road.

A late-comer to social media marketing is Le Quartier Francais, which announced with fanfare that it was starting a blog at the beginning of this month.  It has only posted two posts, of which one has already been removed again.   Perhaps the owner does not know that a blog needs a dedicated commitment to regular posting to be credible and to help with search engine optimisation.

Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Good news for Cape Town food lovers is that the restaurant closures trend seems to have stopped, and is being reversed by new restaurants opening up.

The most interesting of the new restaurant openings is The Quarter, a gourmet bunny-chow restaurant owned by Bruce Robertson, previously of The Showroom.. Located at 44 Long Street, underneath The New Space Theatre, The Quarter is more of a take-out than sit-down restaurant, due to its small size, but is not for the faint-hearted. Robertson has glass jars quirkily “decorating” his restaurant, containing various food types preserved in glass jars, including octopus, crayfish, and the most off-putting of all, a de-skinned rabbit.

The New Space Theatre building also has the popular Italian style Anytime, Boo Radleys and Union at St Stephens Church connected to it.

The Eastern Food Bazaar has opened in the old Wellington Fruitgrower’s building, on the corner of Darling and Adderley Streets, and serves value-for-money Indian foods.    It is taking Cape Town by storm.

Sadly, the latest restaurant to close is Nova, off New Church Street in Cape Town.  Chef Richard Carstens has been a Top 10 restaurant chef.   Nova tried to appeal to guest houses to visit the restaurant, offering them a special discount, instead of inviting these owners to experience the restaurant with their compliments.    In Hermanus too, the excellent Joubert closed on 3 July.   The chef and owner says he is just not able to keep the restaurant alive financially, and is looking for a job.

Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com.

FEDHASA Cape, the hospitality association, appears to focus on the restaurants closing down on Cape Town, as opposed to saluting the new restaurants opening in these most difficult times.   One of the new restaurants to open is The Quarter, the gourmet bunny-chow restaurant of Bruce Robertson, the previous owner of The Showroom, which closed in April.
FEDHASA has publicly listed restaurants that have not closed down when they went into liquidation, over-dramatising the severity of the effect of the recession on restaurants – Summerville in Camps Bay is one such example, which is alive and well and living!  
Despite the recession, the hospitality industry has a lot to be grateful for – bookings are still rolling in for the summer months ahead, for World Cup 2010, and for the two British and Irish Lions’ rugby matches to be played in Cape Town on 13 and 23 June, ensuring that Cape Town will be full around these dates.
The restaurant industry has had it good for many years, and the number of new restaurants opening up is testimony to the fact that they have received good support from Capetonians.   Those restaurants that are arrogant, that do not deliver good service, and that do not understand that value for money is key for customers, will feel the economic pinch.   Cape Town has a seasonality problem, and guest houses led the way many years ago in reducing their rates by up to 50 % in the winter months.   For the first time ever, restaurants are offering excellent winter specials.   An e-mail doing the rounds lists 30 restaurants with winter specials.   These include specials at Aubergine, Beluga, Bungalow, Cafe Caprice, Catharina’s, Five Flies, Myoga, Sinns, Pepenero, Tank, The Food Barn, The Kove, Tuscany Beach, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig, Cuvee, La Colombe, Terroir, Cape Colony and Salt.
Statements made by Rey Franco of FEDHASA are publicity opportunities for the four restaurants that he is the commercial manager of, rather than in providing a balanced view of the whole hospitality industry.  They also do not offer advice as to how businesses in the hospitality industry can stay alive in this recession.

Bruce Robertson, owner of The Showroom which closed down in Cape Town just over a month ago, has hopped back onto the restaurant scene with the opening of The Quarter, a tiny take-out bunny-chow restaurant located underneath the New Space Theatre at 44 Long Street, just two doors away from his The Showroom Cafe. 

Robertson has his roots in Durban, and made a trip to his homeground to learn more about bunny chow from the locals, it having originated from there.   Bunny chow is usually a street food which is cheap and easy to eat, being half a loaf of bread, hollowed out and filled with a curry food.  Robertson calls it the “quintessential South African dish”.

Robertson’s restaurant’s name refers to the quarter size of bread he serves his bunny chow in.  The restaurant has the ordering lingo and eating style written onto the wall, so that one can order and eat bunny chow correctly!

After suffering the closure of his award-winning restaurant The Showroom due to the bleak winter lying ahead, Robertson decided to open a “gourmet bunny chow shop”, with a  “more hands-on restaurant feeding a bigger client base”.  His bunny chow fillings include Crayfish potjie, waterblommetjie bredie, mussel and garlic pot, ‘welsh rabbit’, oxtail, gemsbok, and the standard mutton, chicken, beef mince, venison and goat.   None of these cost more than R 65, and some dishes cost as little as R 20.   Extra toppings, sauces and side dishes can also be ordered.

Robertson will also rent the premises to private functions of up to 16 persons, at R 860 per head, including wine, for which he will cook.   The bunny-chow menu is set aside for such functions, and Robertson will cook a gourmet meal, washed down with wines from his collection .

At the ‘Tribute to Topsi’ held on 18 May at the Barnyard Theatre in the Willowbridge Centre 500 foodie and Topsi lovers gathered together to “honour a doyenne and living legend of South African food and a wonderful human being”, and to collect funds for a knee replacement operation for her.  


A jointly organised event by John Jackson of African Banquet Collections and the Chaine des Rotisseurs, in conjunction with the Franschhoek Lion’s Club, the evening had a strong Franschhoek presence, with many local residents attending the fabulous evening.  The food was prepared and donated by leading restaurants including Le Quartier Francais, Bruce Robertson’s new The Quarter, Cellars Hohenhort, La Colombe and many more. Delectable wines were donated.  Neil Els of Boschendal was the master of ceremonies and auctioneer.


A line-up of excellent performers, including Rocco de Villiers, Coenie de Villiers, Daniele Pascale, Elzabe Zietsman, boy group BRAVO and Nataniel entertained the appreciative crowd utilizing a very “gay-pink Liberace piano”, and dedicated their talent to Topsi.  Nataniel brought the house down with his stories about his 30-year friendship with Topsi, and when he presented her with a rosary (“instead of rosemary”)!


Topsi was praised by speakers for her generosity, having given her dog away to an American tourist who asked her for the dog, and she gave away a diamond brooch because a friend complimented her on it. Topsi answered that she was as close to heaven on earth as she could be, with all the tributes spoken and sung to her whiles she is still alive, and wished her Franschhoek friend Di Gage, who died recently, could have enjoyed such a feast of appreciation too.   Topsi was described as the “Madiba of cooking in South Africa”.


The who’s who of chefs attended the wonderful evening, and included Bruce Robertson, Pete Goffe-Wood, Bertus Basson, Camil Haas, Peter Veldsman, Marlene van der Westhuizen, Jenny Morris, Reuben Riffel, and Garth Stroebel.


This article was written by Chris von Ulmenstein, and was first published in the June 2009 issue of  The Franschhoek Month.

The Cape Times article “Restaurants, hotels ‘need innovation to survive slump'” (28 May) appears to exaggerate the effect of the credit crunch on the hospitality industry.
The hospitality players interviewed are not reflecting the seasonality problem, which affects the hospitality business badly in winter in Cape Town, compared to many other cities in South Africa.
Misleading reports heralding closures of restaurants in Cape Town, neglect to correct these when a restaurant like Summerville in Camps Bay never stopped trading – the liquidators handed over the running of the restaurant to new owners on 1 May, just a week after the news that the restaurant had “closed down”.    Bruce Robertson, of The Showroom, which closed down at the same time, has already opened a new but smaller “gourmet bunny-chow restaurant” called The Quarter.   Ian Halfon has also denied that his coffee shop Donatella’s in the V & A Waterfront closed due to the credit crunch.  He says that his lease expired. 
The hospitality industry has a lot to be grateful for, and does not need to ride on World Cup 2010 to say that all will be well.   The British and Irish Lions rugby matches in Cape Town on 13 and 23 June will lead to many hotels and guest houses being fully booked around those dates, and these rugby fans are staying for four days or more, which is unusual for winter bookings.  Sadly, the IPL did not benefit the mainstream guesthouse and hotel industry in our city at all.
The five successive interest rate cuts are fantastic news for all with bonds on their guest houses and B & B’s  –  the Whale Cottage bond costs for four guest houses are now down by R 50 000 per month compared to December 2008, when the first rate cut was announced.   This means that Whale Cottage can afford to drop its winter rates by 50 % relative to the summer rate, and it helps to cushion the reduced occupancy. 

Another fatality of the credit crunch is the closure of coffee shop Donatella’s in the V & A Waterfront, which belonged to Ian Halfon, owner of the St. Elmo’s pizza chain, and of the Balthazar and Balducci restaurants in the Waterfront.   It closed overnight last week.

Recently Madame Zingara, The Showroom, Summerville, Cafe Delmar and Wangthai in Camps Bay, 48 on Hout, and Riboville closed down.

Selected outlets of Melissa, The Dros, Cattle Baron, Cape Town Fish Market,  Wangthai, Sundance Cafe’s, and St. Elmo’s have closed down recently, reports the Weekend Argus.                                                                  

Good news is that ex-Showroom owner Bruce Robertson has opened The Quarter in Long Street, in the same building as the New Space Theatre, and two doors away from The Showroom Cafe, which also belongs to Robertson.

The three Vida e Caffe coffee shops that recently closed on Greenmarket Square, in St George’s Mall and in the Bayside Mall, have re-opened, now belonging directly to the franchisor, and no longer to the franchisee.

Auctioneer Rael Levitt of the Alliance Group and City Partnership CEO Andrew Borraine warn of further tough times ahead, and say that this will affect the restaurant trade, in that there are too many new restaurants combined with a cut back by patrons eating out at restaurants.