Entries tagged with “Wi-fi”.


On quantifiable measures, the TripAdvisor 2012 Industry Index results of a survey conducted amongst 25517 accommodation establishments around the world from 7 – 14 June, and released to TripAdvisor rated properties yesterday, found that hotels with 50 or more rooms are smarter, and therefore more successful in running their businesses than are smaller establishments.

Questioned about their profitability, more than 80% of accommodation establishments in North America, South America, and Asia reported being profitable, while only 69 % of those in the Middle East and Europe did so. Establishments with 50 or more rooms were more likely to report profitability than smaller ones. The highest optimism about the prospects for the next six months came from establishments in Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, the USA, and India, while those expecting the worst conditions are the Eurozone countries of Greece, Italy, Spain and France, which is not surprising. Not surprising either is that 53% of accommodation establishments indicated that they had reduced their rates for the June – August period (could of course be season related, as would be the case in winter in many Southern Hemisphere countries), and plan to drop rates even further in September and October.

Online booking capability and use of Social Media in marketing were also probed.  The survey found that Bed & Breakfast establishments are very far behind hotels and inns in their online booking facilities (or lack of) offered to guests.  Social Media marketing is applied by 66% of all establishments, but once again hotels with more than 50 rooms are twice as likely to use this form of marketing than are their smaller counterparts.  Mobile devices are most likely to be used to interact with guests in accommodation establishments in China, Turkey, Mexico, Spain, and in the USA, while they are least likely to be used in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and in France.

Marketing activities of accommodation establishments include offering discounts first and foremost, followed by offering free wi-fi, free parking, rewarding business with points, and offering free newspapers.

The question group that was at the core of the TripAdvisor survey, and led to some irritation, was that relating to the practice of accommodation establishments inviting feedback from their guests, to which 83% of the establishments replied positively.  The proportion of establishments which invite their guests to provide feedback via TripAdvisor is 78%, the survey claims.  The survey probed whether one wanted TripAdvisor to contact one’s guests proactively, to evaluate their feedback, which must have led to an overwhelmingly negative response as the result is not included in the survey report.

The survey concluded with the environmental concern and practices of accommodation establishments, and those in New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, France, Indonesia, Italy, USA, the Caribbean, Australia and India are most eco-friendly in their operations.  Interesting is that one third of the properties admitted that they do not communicate their green practices to their guests. The most common ways in which the establishments contribute to conserving the environment are to use energy-efficient light bulbs, encouraging the re-use of towels and linen, energy-efficient planning, eco-cleaning, and water-efficient toilets.

Interestingly, Africa as a continent, and South Africa as a country, were not mentioned in the results at all.

From feedback received, many guests still prefer to stay in smaller accommodation establishments such as Bed & Breakfasts, for the ‘home from home’ friendliness and more affordable rates.  This is not reflected in the TripAdvisor survey results.

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

A Facebook post and a subsequent Tweet alerted me to the opening of Tamboers Winkel in De Lorentz Street in Gardens, in the space of the previous cheesecake home of Chez Chez.  Owner Theo van Niekerk has opened up the kitchen for all to see his homecooking, and has created a warm homely space with excellent food to eat as ‘communal feasting’ or to take away.

The centrepoint of the smallish space is a wooden table seating ten, and the nice part is that one sits down and starts talking to someone else at the table that one may never have met before, as ‘gesellig’ as the long table at my Laundry is.  Whereas the previous interior was modern and red, the new Deli and Café is dominated by wood, with the wooden table and chairs, wooden shelving on both walls, and wooden counter tops in the shop window.  They have one outside table too.  The most modern part is the Deli counter, filled with delectable salads, charcuterie, and cheeses.  Theo told me that Marcii Goosen had done the decor, and the styling is beautiful, especially the section with the croissants and breads, which are supplied by Manna Epicure from around the corner and displayed in an old suitcase, and the free-range eggs from Montagu, which are beautifully presented on straw. Old photographs hang overhead.   On the shelving are balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustards, a carob and nut spread, orange and black pepper salt, relishes, Deluxe coffee, and other home-made treats, all available to buy.

On my first visit Clarissa Lee was behind the counter, and served a lovely phyllo pastry chicken pie, with an apple and pea salad and nutmeg and yoghurt dressing served in a tea cup, both presented on a wooden board, gorgeous to look at before taking a bite. The cutlery looks like it comes from ouma’s kitchen, the knives having old-fashioned yellowing handles.  I returned a few days later with my friend Bettie Coetzee-Lambrecht, and she loved it too. She is a photographer of note, and gave me some styling tips before I took the photograph of the chicken lasagne and butternut, feta, and couscous salad, the salad also served in a tea cup.   On Friday the table was full over our lunchtime visit, just two weeks after opening.

Theo was previously the Manager of Van Hunks, Oblivion, and Carlyles. Tamboers Winkel is his first own venture.  He grew up in Ficksburg, and has fond memories of his grandmother’s homely farm kitchen, which he has tried to replicate the atmosphere of.  Clarissa, Theo’s right hand, is equally adept at making things happen in the kitchen behind the counter, as she was in serving us, with a very friendly nature and clearly passionate about food.

The Deli counter sells a selection of cheeses supplied by Get Stuffed, including Gorgonzola, Karoo Blue, 3 month aged Cheddar, Bocchini, Emmental, Pecorino, as well as Brie and Camembert.  There is a guava preserve with vanilla and star anise, as well as a red wine and pear preserve.   Salad options are a chickpea and Bocchini,  the apple and pea, and butternut and feta, all at R 19, or served with the hot dishes of the day, at R40. Sandwiches range from R28 – R35, and include Black Forest and poached pear, roast chicken and aioli, and winter vegetable.  A cheeseboard with crispy bread and olives costs R55.  One can order free-range chicken fresh and hot off the rotisserie. Roast chicken and salad costs R 79 for a whole, R54 for half, and R44 for a quarter chicken.  The charcuterie comes from Twelve Pigs, and includes coppa, pancetta and Bresaola.  Breakfast is kept simple, with a choice of croissants or frittata. Everything is written onto a blackboard, which means that the menu can be updated regularly.

Its convenient location, homely interior and service, convenient opening hours, as well as its small selection of healthy foods and Deluxe coffees already have made Tamboers Winkel a popular stop in the Gardens area, just off Kloof Street, for a sit down chat or a friendly take-away service.

POSTSCRIPT 27/6: Marcii Goosen, the interior designer, was at Tamboers Winkel today, and was a delight to chat to. She was planning a shoot for the website.  Clarissa baked chocolate brownies today, and cupcakes are coming next, Theo said.

POSTSCRIPT 11/7: Lovely Breakfast Frittata made by Clarissa this morning, as well as a new addition to the menu, being beautiful cupcakes. On Twitter Tamboers Winkel was described as ‘the hottest new place in Cape Town‘.

Tamboers Winkel, 3 De Lorentz Street, Gardens, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-0521. www.tamboerswinkel.com Twitter: @TamboersWinkel Tuesday – Friday 9h00 – 18h00 (from 2 October).  Saturday and Sunday 9h00 – 16h00.  Can cater for private events in the evenings, by arrangement. Free wi-fi.

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

Talk of the town as far as new restaurants go is Giorgio Nava’s newly opened Down South Food Bar in the less savoury southern end of Long Street, near the Long Street Baths.  Compared to his 95 Keerom Street and Carne, you won’t find Nava at Down South, the restaurant being far more casual, more friendly, non-Italian, and offering a small selection of good food and beverages, at excellent value for money. 

We were told that the restaurant name comes from the restaurant concept of food that comes from the American south, such as gumbo, jambalaya, and cajun fish, something Morton’s did in the Waterfront when the shopping center first opened.  Down South does it in a far more casual way, bringing the simple home-style American deep south classics to Cape Town in a tasty and affordable way.  It is good as a relaxed place to have a beer, to watch a game with the boys, and to eat inexpensive and tasty food to soak up the drinks, so don’t expect ‘fine’ food here.       

Carl Penn is the chef at Down South, having worked with Nava as his right hand man at 95 Keerom Street and Carne.    The staff are very friendly and laid back. They wear black pants and T-shirts, strongly Southern Comfort branded. 

The restaurant has a narrow front to the street, but extends deep into the space.  Light wooden tables are functional, with brushed aluminium chairs and uncomfortable wooden benches providing seating.   One wall is wood panelled, another painted cream.   The dominant colour scheme is brown.  A bar counter has bar stools made in the same brushed aluminium design.  Free wi-fi is available.   An eclectic mix of music is played, including Coldplay and Moby.   The TV is set on sport.   Cutlery is cheap and cheerful, with paper serviettes.  

The Menu has some stars and typing errors, is made to look old Down South, and is divided into Starters, Ribs, Sandwiches and Prawns, to which is added Sides and Dessert.  Having only opened a few days ago, the advertised Daily Specials (Gumbo on Mondays, Jambalaya on Tuesdays, BBQ Brisket on Wednesdays, Best Burger on Thursdays, Cajun fish on Fridays and Fried Chicken on Saturdays) are not yet available, neither were the cheesy grits and coleslaw.   Starters cost between R40 – R45, and include prawn cocktail, thick cut bacon, caesar salad, buffalo chicken wings, and 8 of the most wonderful crispy batter fried prawn tails served with a delicious red pepper rémoulade.  Ribs are ‘dry spice rubbed and twice baked, basted in Down South BBQ sauce”, and the two racks were sweet and spicy, an extremely tender and generous portion at R 65, which includes one side dish (‘whipped potatoes’, home fries, chopped salad or corn bread).   “Po’ Boys” sandwiches (poor boy sandwich originating from Louisiana, usually a submarine sandwich made with meat or seafood) cost R50 – R55, served with pork, prawns or BBQ brisket, while the “Muffaletta” sandwich (originates from New Orleans) costs R45, and contains mortadella, salami, white cheddar, tomato and olive pickle.  Butterflied prawns, grilled with olive oil, cost R70, including one side dish too.   Desserts cost R35, and the choice is pie – apple, pecan or Mississippi – or baked cheesecake.

The winelist is uncomplicated and simple, the prices being unbelievably affordable, with three categories: Cheap (Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc, Mooiplaas Chenin Blanc, Villiera Down to Earth Red, Wolftrap, Mount Rozier Red Blend, all at R25 a glass and R100 a bottle); Decent (Villiera Gewürztraminer, Hartenberg Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, and Helderberg Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, all at about R 32 a glass/R120 per bottle); and Good (Fat Bastard Chardonnay, Iona Sophie Terblanche Sauvignon Blanc, Thelema Red and Villiera Merlot, at about R34 per glass/R135 per bottle); and a separate mention for Rosé (Kleine Zalze at R20/R80), as well as for “Bubbles” (Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel at R30/R125).   Beers cost R18 (Heineken), R17 (Amstel, Windhoek) and R21 for 500 ml of Jack Black Draught.  A cocktail list features eight options, all with American South names, most costing a very affordable R35.  The cocktail menu carries the branding of Southern Comfort, Jack Daniel’s and Frangelico.

One hopes that Nava does not overextend himself in his opening of new restaurants – he has also just opened the Mozarella Bar in lower Kloof Street (opposite the Vida e Caffê), and also plans to open a Down South Sandwich Bar.  

Down South Food Bar, 267 Long Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-1155.      www.downsouthfoodbar.com (website under construction).   Monday – Saturday, “10am – late”.

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

I am an occasional attendee of the ‘Brutal Review of Restaurants’ Facebook group, which is the initiative of Dirk Odendaal, owner of 17 on Loader Street in De Waterkant.   An invitation to attend an evening at the new 6 Spin Street Restaurant (it opened two months ago) was accepted immediately, even if it meant that I only arrived after the City Hall classical concert had finished at 22h15.   It is a restaurant in a setting with a difference, with excellent food.

Spin Street is hard to find the first time, yet it is a street most of us have driven past a million times, except that we did not know that this short section of the road near the Groote Kerk and opposite Church Square is called Spin Street.  The street is one of the oldest in Cape Town, and was once the home of a short-lived silk spinning industry.  The building in which the restaurant is housed was once the home of the South African Association bank, with vaults in the basement, the safety deposit boxes still in place.   When one steps inside the massive entrance hall, one enters IDASA’s Cape Town Democracy Centre, and sees the bookshelves of its book shop Lobby Books, and the tables of the restaurant.   The ‘marriage’ between the restaurant and the bookshop has led to a shared ethos: “eat.drink.talk.read.think”.

The Brutal Reviewers were in a cosy room, a perfect size for the group of 10.  The 1902 Sir Herbert Baker building has high ceilings, and the room used by the Reviewers had copper light fittings, reminding one of Five Flies.

I arrived as the Reviewers were taken on a guided tour, and were in what is the seminar room, with a fascinating piece of art – a “windswept” chandelier with a flying archbishop hanging on to it for dear life (the artist has intended it to depict that the Archbishop is “having the time of his life”) – called simply “Arch”.   It is a real conversation stopper, especially as one does not know how the artist Ed Young managed to create the windswept look and attached the figure to the chandelier without using strings or wire.  Apparently the artist called in engineering help to cantilever this piece of art.  Another unusual work of art is a large metal mobile at the entrance to the restaurant.

As I was running behind on the menu, I expected to join my fellow reviewers for a coffee and dessert.  Robert Mulders, the owner of the restaurant and previous owner of Rozenhof at the bottom end of Kloof Street, and who has an uncanny resemblence to violinist Andre Rieu, immediately offered me a starter and a main course.  I was strongly recommended the cheese souffle as a starter, something I would never have chosen myself, but it was outstanding, served with a herb and mustard cream.  It costs R 70.  Other starter choices are a Chicken and roast pepper salad (R 56) and a Mixed six leaf salad (R 32).  The Suppli with pancetta and zucchini (R 55) sounded wonderful too.

Six main courses were offered, ranging from R 105 for linefish and a vegetable trio, to R160 for beef fillet served with a mustard crust, Bearnaise sauce and mushroom ragout, sounding delicious.  A second linefish dish costs R110, kingklip R125, and Moroccan lamb with couscous is R165.   I heard duck mentioned, a special at R 175.  I had read a brutal review earlier in the week about the duck (and the restaurant), and thought that I must give it a try.   Two generous pieces of duck were served in an orange sauce, with roast potato slices, as well as a large portion of diced carrots and courgette.  I loved the duck with its crispy skin, but I did not like the roast potato slices, which were too tough for my taste.   I did not have dessert, but saw them served: citron tart, chocolate nougat terrine, panna cotta with smyrna figs, an unusual sounding olive oil and muscadel cake, and date almond and white chocolate torte, ranging between R36 – R45.  They were well received by my fellow reviewers. (I heard later that Rozenhof was known for its cheese souffle and duck).

As the wines had been chosen by Dirk, I did not see the winelist.  Dirk raved about the 2002 Yonder Hill  cabernet at R65, excellent value for money.  I did not like my red wine poured into a small wine glass, but I did see larger ones on the table.  We left long after midnight, Robert generously having brought us a dessert wine, and he gave no sign at all that he wished us to please go home.

Whilst writing this blogpost I vowed to go back to try the Suppli starter and Beef fillet main course.   An opportunity presented itself two days later, after an early finish of the acclaimed play ‘London Road’ at the nearby Fugard Theatre.   The Suppli (a very filling and most unusual starter of deep fried rice and herb croquettes stuffed with mozarella, topped with crispy pancetta) and Beef Fillet were excellent.  The fillet was served a little too rare (ordered medium rare) for my liking, but the roast potato slices were much better second time around.  I was unable to finish the beef, it was such a generous portion.

As the restaurant is based within a space shared with IDASA’s book shop, it opens for breakfast at 8h30 on weekdays, served at a counter facing Church Square, at a communal “Melissa-style” table, or at an individual restaurant table.  Muffins, croissants and cooked breakfasts are served.   Parliamentarians and nearby office workers pop in for snacks throughout the day.  The “Quick Spin” 2-course lunch, served in a guaranteed 50 minutes, costing R 150, is very popular.  It is also called for as a “take-away” by well-known ministers and members of parliament. A free Wi-fi service will be offered shortly.

An interesting spin on 6 Spin Street is its themed Cookery Book menu.  Every two weeks a cookery book is an inspiration for a special menu.  Currently it is Phillippa Cheifitz’s “South Africa Eats”, and a sweet potato and squash soup, or a warm salad of grilled yellowtail, parsley, haricot beans and fresh rocket is offered at R50.  Pieter Dirk-Uys’ “Kossie Sikelele” cookery book will be the next to be featured, Tannie Evita having approved the restaurant.  Mulders is planning a ‘Show and Dinner” promotion when Dirk-Uys has a show at The Fugard theatre in September.

POSTSCRIPT : I returned to 6 Spin Street on 13 May, after a concert at the City Hall, with two friends, both artists.  They were overwhelmed by the artworks on the walls and the interior of the building in which the restaurant is located.  We shared a Citron Tart with fresh cream and fresh figs (my first taste of figs ever), and we loved its lightness, tanginess and smoothness.  It emerged that Robert Mulders is also the Chairman of the Friends of the National Gallery, and he chose the paintings on the restaurant walls.

6 Spin Street Restaurant, 6 Spin Street, Cape Town.  Tel 021 461 0666. www.6spinstreet.co.za(The website is disappointing, with only the opening times, address and map, and contact details.  No menu or winelist). Open Mondays – Fridays from 8h30 including dinner, Saturdays dinner only.

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