An Amsterdam restaurant concept has been introduced to South Africa, kicking off in Cape Town and the Winelands, offering a real-time reservation system, and introducing the first Dining City Restaurant Week of specials from 22 – 29 September, whereby locals will be able to enjoy two and three course lunches and dinners at reasonable prices, and experience the real-time booking system of new restaurant website www.diningcity.com. In the Netherlands the most recent Restaurant Week generated 200000 bookings from more than 1000 restaurants.
DiningCity Restaurant Week is the concept of the world’s leading online restaurant guide www.DiningCity.com. The company was founded in 1998 in Amsterdam, and is currently active in Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Italy and Spain, and outside Europe in cities like New York, Singapore, Dubai, Shanghai, and Beijing. On the South African website one can select restaurants on price, cuisine, location and atmosphere. Information about the restaurants is presented by means of photos, menus and videos.
The principle of the system is that for Restaurant Week restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands offer a certain number of their seats to Restaurant Week, with a 3 course lunch costing R125 and a 3-course dinner costing R200. Some restaurants will charge a supplement of R50, indicated with a star on the Dining City website (and in the list below). The condition is that all restaurant reservations must be made via the website, which automated system will confirm the booking, send reminders on the date of the booking, and will request feedback about the meal experience the following day. This will eliminate the taking of bookings telephonically or by e-mail, and should reduce no-shows, a problem which Cape Town restaurants experience regularly. Initially the restaurants will not be charged to join Restaurant Week (in Amsterdam restaurants pay € 200 per year to be part of the system, said Dining City CEO Tertius van Oosthuyzen), but they will pay R10 per seat booked. I caught Tertius just before his flight back to Amsterdam, and he was delighted that he had managed to get 20000 seats on board in the first few days of launching Restaurant Week almost a month ago. He is hoping to get 40 restaurants on board by the time that Restaurant Week starts.
The 38 restaurants which have signed up for Restaurant Week already are: Planet Restaurant*, The Roundhouse*, The Duchess of Wisbeach*, Pigalle*, 5 Rooms*, Ashton’s at Greenways, Baia, Balducci’s, Belthazar, Blakes*, Blues Beach House, Buitenverwachting*, Bukhara*, Café Chic, Café Dijon, Catharina’s*, Chandani, Five Flies*, Gold Restaurant*, Haiku*, Il Cappero, Jackal & Hide, L’Apero*, La Mouette*, Marimba, Myoga*, Paranga*, Pepenero*, Pure, Reserve, Roberto’s, Savoy Cabbage, Signal Restaurant, The Bungalow,* The George @ Romney Park Hotel, The Grand Café and Beach, Top of the Ritz, and Westin Executive Club*.
Few Winelands restaurants have been signed up to date: Roca* at Dieu Donné, Haute Cabriere*, Dish at Le Franschhoek (photograph), Mange Tout*, Monneaux*, and Waterkloof*.
Tertius was at pains to explain that they are not taking on beleaguered Eat Out, the largest restaurant database in South Africa, and he was happy to see that they have posted a write-up about Restaurant Week on their site.
Restaurant Week will form part of Cape Town’s promotion of tourism in September. “We are keen to encourage locals to come out of hibernation, with an offer that will not be equalled in terms of quality and value, until the next DiningCity Restaurant Week,” said Tertius. Next year Dining City SA will focus on Johannesburg, for the second Restaurant Week they will organise, in April. It is planned to host two such restaurant special promotions every year.
POSTSCRIPT 22/9: The Restaurant Week started today, and I tried to make a booking at Dish Restaurant at Le Franschhoek via the Dining City website, but it has no link to the Restaurant Week website, on which one has to make the restaurant bookings for the Restaurant Week. When I got to the right website, I could not make the booking, as it had already eliminated today’s date, and only offered dates from tomorrow onwards. Earlier in the day I was asked to provide feedback about the booking process by Dining City via Twitter, which I did, and I received a number of defensive and aggressive Tweets as well as DM’s (Direct Messages), basically questioning my intelligence about not understanding their websites and booking system. The Tweeter was Tertius van Oosthuyzen, the Dining City CEO! Not a good introduction of this Dutch businessman to our local restaurant industry!
Despite the bad Tweet start with Dining City, I had a lovely evening at Dish Restaurant, and Chef Oliver Cattermole and his team were firing on all cylinders. Three courses at R200 is exceptional value. His amuse bouche was the highlight this evening, a cranberry-coated chicken liver ‘popsicle’. The starter was a mushroom soup which I have tasted previously. The main course was beef fillet with Chef Oliver’s famous ‘vegetable garden’ plating, using vegetables grown for him especially at La Motte by Daniel Kruger. The dessert was a chocolate fondant made from 100% smoked chocolate, served with a cognac ice cream, and a hazelnut chocolate paste smear. Chef Oliver sent a taste of Le Franschhoek’s new Lemoncello, which he made from the hotel’s own produce, to the table.
Dining City Restaurant Week, 22 – 29 September. www.DiningCity.co.za Twitter: @DiningCitySA
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage