Tag Archives: wine estate

Cape Town and SA star of German ‘Der Geilste Tag’ movie!

Geilste Tag top of mountainSA Tourism cannot wish for better marketing than having a movie made which predominantly features beautiful spots in our country, and not have to pay for its production! German movie ‘Der Geilste Tag‘ features award-winning actors, and launches in German cinemas Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 12 August

imageTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   SATSA CEO David Frost is concerned about the Department of Home Affairs misleading the tourism industry with incorrect arrival statistics from Statistics South Africa. The Department is using apple-and-pear data (2013 figures inclusive of transit passengers and 2014 figures excluding them), to try to prove that factors other than the new Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 28 January

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Sir David Graaff, owner of De Grendel wine estate and farm, passed away this past weekend.

*   SAA claims to be the first airline to offer a credit card payment system in the sky, with its new locally-developed Satellite Authorisation System. The system also will offer an airline tracking service.  It will be implemented on all its international flights over time.

*   Statistics South Africa has promised to have 2014 tourism arrival statistics available by the end of March.  It Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Fyndraai at Solms-Delta serves fine ‘food of origin’!

I had not been to Fyndraai at Solms-Delta for a while, and an invitation to join a Franschhoek friend in celebrating her birthday was an excellent way to try out the new winter menu of Chef Shaun Schoeman. Exciting news is that the restaurant is raising its bar, with a location move on the wine estate and opening for evening fine dining from November.

The Fyndraai winelist and menu are impressive in their design – they are large (A3) with black and white covers with beautiful photography, and a mix of colour and black and white photographs inside.  Immediately the menu gives the restaurant a classy image.  The positioning of Fyndraai serving ‘food of origin’ is proudly placed on the menu and winelist covers, and refers to its focus on local South African food, the only restaurant with such a specific focus in Franschhoek.

Chef Shaun Schoeman came to say hello, despite a photo shoot taking place, and we laughed at his response when my friend asked him if he would become the next Chef Reuben (Riffel) of Franschhoek, when he told us about the restaurant move and opening in the evenings, and wanting to compete with the best restaurants in Franschhoek.  His spontaneous reply was: ‘No, I will never use Robertsons’, without him knowing what we have written about Chef Reuben’s endorsement of Robertsons!  The restaurant is to move to the building in the Oesfees section of the wine estate, and is set to open on 18 November.  The most interesting news for the restaurant is that Chef Shaun will be spending two weeks at the end of this month at Noma in Copenhagen, the number one World’s 50 Best Restaurants for the third year running, a tremendous honour. It is a restaurant at which Solms-Delta co-owner Professor Mark Solms, who recently won an international award in New York for his contribution to psychoanalysis, has eaten a number of times.

We were offered ‘roosterbrood’ with wild garlic and farm butter whilst studying the menu. My friend enjoyed her Kingklip topped with ‘suurlemoen pelargonium‘ crust, served with a crushed potato and crab meat salad, drizzled with a slow roasted tomato and olive dressing (R98).  The Karoo Lamb Wellington was delicious, served with a mushroom and asparagus sauté, steamed spinach, and a wild herb sauce to which the Solms-Delta Africana flagship wine had been added, excellent value at R98.  The dish was one of two options on a specials board. Every dish on the menu has an Afrikaans word or more, emphasising the South Africanness of the menu. Solms-Delta has been clever in giving its wines predominantly Afrikaans names. Starters cost about R45, and include pan-fried pickled ox tongue, bobotie springrolls, West Coast mussels cooked in a Cape Malay ‘tamatie bredie’, and baked Camembert salad with a ‘pers vye salsa‘.  Scallops cost R78.  The Fyndraai tapas platter sounds delicious, a selection including ‘bloukaas tert’, ‘boerewors’ roll, olives, ‘bokkom‘ salad, a vegetable pancake, ‘droëwors’, and biltong, served with ‘blatjang‘ (R98).  Main courses start at R92 for a wild mushroom and ‘knoffel’ risotto, and the ‘bokmelkkaas’ wrap is under R100 too. Other options are grilled calamari (R119), free range chicken and tiger prawn masala (R122), ‘Wilde roosmaryn’ crusted Karoo lamb rack (R132), ‘Wildsbok-skenkel’ (R127), and grilled beef rib-eye steak (R142). Desserts range in price from R39 – R48, and each sounded delicious: ‘yskas tert’ with a ‘koeksister’ and melon ice cream; ‘heuningbos’ cheesecake; ‘Rooibos’ panna cotta; cocoa coupe with mango, Amarula and strawberry ice cream; and the most delicious and refreshing orange blossom flavoured crème brûlée, served with chilled fruit stew, and a lemon and rose petal sorbet.  Cappuccino was served in a Terbodore branded cup, an excellent coffee brand roasted outside Franschhoek.  Picnics cost R145 per head, and are a collection of local treats, including a shared bottle of Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn. Half a page of the menu is a glossary of culinary terms, each of the Afrikaans terms translated for non-local visitors.

Only Solms-Delta wines can be ordered, at very reasonable prices. White wines range from R25 per glass/R75 per bottle for the Solms-Astor Vastrap 2011 to R43 per glass/R130 for a 500 ml bottle of Solms-Delta Koloni 2010.  Red wines range from R25/R75 for Solms-Astor Langarm 2011 to R74/R220 for Solms-Delta Africana 2010.  The Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn 2010 Rosé costs R28/R82. Under the heading ‘Innovative’, three wines are listed: Solms-Astor Cape Jazz Shiraz NV (R26/R78); Solms-Delta Gemoedsrus 2010, a port-style wine (R40/R240); and Dik Delta! Karri 2010, a Khoe fermented honey beverage (R26/R78).

The excellent quality of the food served at Fyndraai and its presentation in the menu unfortunately is not matched by the table settings – a blue plastic placemat, a paper serviette, no table cloth, and ordinary cutlery – but once the restaurant moves into the fine dining arena this may improve.  The service was very friendly, with a collection of staff coming to check on our well-being.  The working visit to Noma by Chef Shaun, and the growth of the restaurant into a fine-dining one, will make this a restaurant to watch for the 2013 Eat Out Top 10 restaurant awards.

Fyndraai Restaurant, Solms-Delta, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-3937. www.solms-delta.co.za Twitter: @Solms_Delta  Monday – Sunday Lunch.  Dogs allowed.

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

MasterChef SA episode 5: harvests Finalists’ cooking skills, keeps it simple!

Episode 5 of MasterChef SA seemed all over the show last night, incorporating a Harvest Celebration lunch for 40 Nederburg staff, a Franco-African gourmet lamb dish, interspersed with a quick visit by Chef Michael Broughton, challenging a broad spectrum of cooking skills of the Finalists, and resulting in the elimination of Berdina Schurink. The episode lacked the tension of the previous four, and it was described as ‘boring’ and an ‘embarrassment‘ by some viewers after the show.  This episode allowed one to see and hear more of the Finalists.

The Harvest Celebration lunch was a nice idea, given Nederburg’s sponsorship of MasterChef SA, and it allowed filming on the wine estate, and for the lunch to be served outside the striking historical Cape Dutch manor house.  The 16 Finalists were divided into the Red and Blue Team, last week’s winners Manisha Naidu and Samantha Nolan having been elected as team leaders, and each choosing seven Finalists for their teams. The brief was to prepare two courses, the Blue Team led by Manisha, serving a Tapas starter, quail (stuffed by Lwazi Mngoma, something he’d never prepared before, he said), ostrich, and chicken (rolled by Mmutsi Maseko, who held up the pace) served with a mushroom and white wine sauce.  The Red Team led by Samantha prepared a pork shoulder (which Chef Pete Goffe-Wood did not allow to be served initially as it was not cooked on the open fire for long enough), an Asian sauce, asparagus custard, as well as a pear and peach tart in phyllo pastry, made by Thys Hattingh. Both teams had two hours to prepare their dishes, and the Red team ran a little late in their preparation.  Khaya Silingile poured the wine and served the food for the Blue team, and her Marketing profession showed in the ‘marketing’ of her teams’ dishes for votes, while Sarel Loots introduced the Red team’s work in Afrikaans, a clever move, given that most of the Nederburg staff were probably Afrikaans-speaking. The guests had to vote by placing a basket of grapes on a trailer representing their vote, and the first team to reach 21 votes was declared the winner, being the Red team. Thys’ dessert probably clinched the winning vote for the team.

Michael Broughton is an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant chef at Terroir at Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch, and his involvement in the program was not pre-announced.  He was the ‘reward’ for the Red team for winning, and he conducted an exclusive Masterclass for the team, styling a beautiful dessert, and showing them how to prepare fish, presented very quickly.  The take-out for the Finalists was that ‘keeping it simple and making it look beautiful is enough’, said Sue-Ann Allen.

Pre-announced was the participation of Chef Coco Reinarhz of Sel et Poivre and Le Petit Sel Bistro in Johannesburg, cooking Franco-African fusion cuisine, and proudly promoting the ‘unique beauty, fine flavours and unsurpassed richness of African cuisine‘, the restaurant’s website states.  He has co-authored a cookbook about African Cuisine with Anna Trapido.  Chef Coco originates from Burundi. He spoke with a beautiful French accent, and was firm in his evaluation of the food prepared for him.  Nice was the collegiality from the other Finalists, giving tips from above, for example how to get to the heart of the artichokes. The judges discussed that cooking to time is a reality for restaurants, always under time pressure.  Chef Pete looked smart in a white hat while the Harvest Celebration was filmed, and even wore a suit for Michael Broughton’s visit, not suiting his more relaxed lifestyle. For the first time Chef Andrew Atkinson looked more relaxed, and did not wear a jacket nor a waistcoat.

Out of the losing Blue team of eight, team leader Manisha was asked to chose the three ‘weakest’ members of her team for the Harvest Celebration lunch to go into the ‘Pressure Test‘, and she chose Berdina (for having done the least in preparing the lunch, she said), Mmutsi (for having been slow in preparing the chicken rolls), and most commendably, demonstrating her leadership skills, she volunteered herself, for being the team leader and therefore responsible for the outcome.  Chef Coco showed the three ‘Pressure Test’ Finalists his perfectly plated and cooked rack of lamb, with artichokes, breadcrumbs and baba ganoush, and they were given 90 minutes to replicate his dish. Berdina had cooked a perfect lamb dish for her Hot dish audition, but she seemed distraught at having to go into the ‘Pressure Test’ for the second time.  She approached her meat ‘like a skillful surgeon’, commented Deena Naidoo, the other 13 Finalists watching from above. Berdina said confidently that she had prepared many a rack of lamb before, but she spent too much time on its preparation, and too little on its cooking, it being underdone and ‘disappointing‘, said Chef Pete Goffe-Wood, especially relative to her perfect Hot Dish audition. They loved her plating (photograph below), it looking very similar to that by Chef Coco, reminding the Finalists that one eats ‘with one’s eyes too’. Manisha admitted that lamb is not her strength, and that she was not confident in its preparation, having ‘a history of overcooking’ her meat.  She was mocked by Chef Coco when she said that she had not tasted her lamb before serving it, it being the main element of her dish. The look of her dish was described as a ‘bit rustic’, the breadcrumbs were judged to be too chunky, as was the baba ganoush, but the sauce was nicely reduced.  Mmutsi likes to cook meat ’till I kill it’, and preparing it medium was a new way to cook meat for her.  The judges were complimentary about her dish, praising her well seasoned lamb and great jus.

Berdina was eliminated by the judges, and she wept when she said that she had sacrificed so much to be at MasterChef South Africa, and is determined to be a chef. She was encouraged to keep cooking, to ‘express her amazing passion’, and was told that her cooking journey is only beginning now.  On Twitter many viewers expressed that it was unfair that Berdina was eliminated.

Being largely a group exercise in episode 5, there was no Finalist that stood out in this episode in terms of cooking skills, making the question as to who will be MasterChef South Africa still unpredictable at this stage.

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

Is restaurant service in the Cape on the decline?

It was guests that fed back to me that they had been warned that the recession had made itself felt in South Africa, in that service levels in general, and in restaurants particularly, had declined. Making recent calls for restaurant reservations made me think about what they had said, and restaurant reservation experiences appear to support their observation as far as bookings go.

The telephone is the first connection that the guest has with the restaurant, and this is where the image damage is most severe, to the detriment of the restaurant, no matter how good the chef is. One top restaurant has an automated answering telephone system, that requests the caller to press a code for different departments. However,  when the restaurant is busy, its staff do not answer the phone.  We have experienced one of two results – it just rings and rings and rings, or it picks up an automated message, requesting one to leave a message, so that one can have the call returned ‘as soon as possible’, but it is most likely to be the following day only. No e-mail address is offered and no pre-recorded message about the restaurant availability for that day or the next day is provided on the answering machine message.  The slow response time is a bad reflection on the guest house manager, whose guests are eager to hear that the booking has been made, so that they can plan the rest of their restaurant programme for their stay in the Winelands.  Often this restaurant is fully booked anyway, and then all the frustration has been for nothing.   Another large wine estate also has an automated telephone system, that is not answered on weekend days, and calls are returned after the time that one wanted to eat there!

Another top restaurant has a waitress answering the phone, and she showed more irritation than appreciation for the reservation call, and called across the restaurant to a colleague to find out which time slot was still available for the dinner booking, without asking the caller at what time the guests would like to come for dinner. The owner of the best country-style restaurant is a photographer on weekdays, and he takes bookings via his cellphone.  However, when he is on a shoot, he does not have his restaurant bookings book with him, and cannot commit to a booking when one calls, having to call back at the end of the day.  Another once-top restaurant provides a booking reference number, which is an irritation and creates extra admin, when they could just take the guest surname.

The top restaurant in Cape Town takes bookings via its hotel switchboard, and asks one to call back when they cannot get through to the restaurant!  A property with two restaurants does not recommend the second restaurant when the better known one is fully booked.  One restaurant has three staff members with very similar sounding names, but the switchboard operator does not ask for a surname when one asks for one of these staff members, meaning that one is guaranteed to be put through to the wrong person.

Interesting is the management reaction to feedback provided about the frustration of making restaurant reservations, ranging from gratitude expressed for the feedback with information about how the problem will be fixed in future, to no response at all, or an acknowledgement of the feedback received but no changes are made.  If the feedback makes the booking service better, and we can see changes made, we will book the restaurant again.  If attempts to book continue without any improvement, we will recommend alternative restaurants.

In our opinion a restaurant cannot afford to neglect its telephone answering service.  It would be ideal to have a full-time staff member answering the phone, and for the phone line to be diverted to a cellphone after hours, so that bookings can continue to be taken, and that one can see missed calls for bookings, and call back.  Guest houses are an important source of restaurant bookings, and staying in touch with them would enhance bookings if restaurants informed guest houses of the days that they are fully booked, so that one does not even recommend the restaurant to guests on those days, and does not have to go through the frustrating reservation process.  One Franschhoek restaurant used to reserve a table for each of the larger guest houses every day, guaranteeing them a lot of business.

Restaurants on wine estates suffer a further problem with the often poor and slow service of outsourced security staff.   Haute Cabriere, Maison, Buitenverwachting, Overture, Sofia’s at Morgenster, Jordan Restaurant, Cuvée at Simonsig, and Tokara have no boom, and appear more welcoming; Grande Provence and Allèe Bleue allow one to just drive in through the boom; La Motte, Laborie, Rust en Vrede, Delaire Graff, and Holden Manz have improved their boom service; while the service at the Grande Roche Hotel boom must be the worst in the Cape, with that of the Cellars-Hohenhort and Steenberg hotels not being much better.

It will be no surprise if aspirant restaurants do not make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list, when their telephone service is so poor.  A professional telephone service reflects the professionalism of the restaurant.

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