Tag Archives: winelist

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journal, Day 5 of Adjusted Level 2, 4 June 2021.

Friday 4 June 2021, Day 5 of Adjusted Level 2 ūüė∑

Corona Gratitude ūüôŹ

#Grateful for a good night sleep; for a full day in my home office, opening my doors to the cats to spend most of the day outside, the longest that 7 month old Earl Grey has been outside, loving lying in the sunūüėĽūüėĽ; for a very busy workday, organizing a Father‚Äôs Day competition, proofreading a Winelist, and doing Social Media posting; for being able to sleep like a baby when I go to bed, being so busy on weekday client meeting daysūüíô; for a Bakoven walk with Vivian, bumping into Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Palma on Bree Street authentic Italian family-run, but no passion!

Palma Interior candles Whale CottageAbout ten days ago Orphanage Cocktail Emporium co-owner Katie Friedman introduced me to new eateries Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar and Palma in the next street block on Bree Street, being landlord to both. ¬†My experience of Palma on that evening differed vastly from that of our dinner last night.

I had invited my friend Whitney to join me, and we chose an outside table, given how hot it still was when we arrived. ¬†It was lighter than on my previous visit, and the ‘less is more’ interior design impressed. ¬†General Manager Roberto Carluzzo did not seem to recognise me, or to react to the Facebook posts and the blogpost I had written about the 26 eateries on Bree Street subsequent to my first visit. ¬†The doorman did however welcome me back, a nice touch. ¬†Mama Palma Carluzzo was in the bar, putting on finishing touches to leaving, and I was disappointed, as we had been told that she is the chef, in charge of Continue reading →

Balducci’s unique menu good enough to eat!

On Wednesday the Slick Group, owners of Balducci’s, Gibson’s Gourmet Burgers & Ribs, and Belthazar, invited the Camps Bay guest house owners and managers for lunch at Balducci’s, to thank them for their support in the past year, to present the newly designed Slick Restaurant Group Loyalty Card, which is aimed at locals in the main, and to share information about the winter specials at Balducci’s and at Gibson’s. This Italian style restaurant has something for everyone, and has a menu with the greatest appetite appeal we have ever seen.

The A5 menu for Season 2013/14 looks like a magazine, with exquisite photography of their dishes, one per section of the menu, making the choice of what to order even harder, as everything on the menu sounds good enough to eat, and the photographs add to the appetite appeal. The second half of the Menu contains the winelist. Like a magazine, the menu is interspersed with advertising, which is not irritating, except that it is a large number of pages (68 in total) to go through when choosing what to eat and to drink.

The menu introduction explains the restaurant’s policy to be more ‘environmentally responsible’, explaining that it uses alien wood in its pizza ovens, it uses vegetables and fruit that are in season, and local ‘superb quality procured meat, poultry, fish and game’. Only fresh chicken is used, and grain-fed 28 day matured beef. Extra virgin award-winning olive oil is used, the menu states. No BYO wine is allowed, and neither is photography (I was not stopped in photographing the dishes for this blogpost), the first time that I have seen photography prohibited in a restaurant. In terms of the new Liquor Act (2013) it is a criminal offence for restaurant patrons to take unfinished bottles of wine, malt or spirits with them when they leave, the menu states. ¬†The menu is printed on Sappi Triple Green recyclable paper. ¬†Select menu items are marked in green as being the owner’s ‘personal healthy option choice’.

The Italian heritage of the restaurant shows in the division of the menu into

*   Antipasti Рwe shared Antipasti platters (R140) as a starter, which included a Caprese salad, Springbok carpaccio, avocado, tomatoes, butternut, grilled aubergine, grilled chili and garlic calamari, and fresh baked toasted bread.  Other options include Minestrone and Onion soups (R57 each),  prosciutto and melon (R90), tuna tataki (R88), salmon (R55), oysters (SQ), prawns (R40 РR180), as well as eleven salad choices (R75 РR104).

*   Primi Piatti Рthis section offers burgers (classic, gorgonzola, Swiss cheese, bacon guacamole, luxury lamb, ostrich, vegetarian, and chicken) ranging from R65 РR85; a very extensive sushi selection (the 24 piece Platinum Sushi Plate is a winter special at R109*); 35 pizza options, ranging from R60 РR110; and eleven pasta choices, ranging from R65 РR150.  In winter the prices of pizzas and pastas, with one exception each, have been reduced to R54*.

*   Secondi Piatti Рmost of us had a different main course, and each plate looked generous, and beautifully presented.  Our intern Lorraine chose the kingklip, which was served on a bed of grilled butternut, aubergine, and green beans, and was topped with parmesan slices, olives and tomatoes (R140). Other fish options are calamari (R95), Norwegian salmon (R159), mussels (R110), crayfish (R90 per 100g), and seafood platters (R345/R695). Corrie praised the Butter Chicken Curry (R150), as the best he has ever tasted.  My Veal Marsala was served with linguine and an excellent light parmesan cream, sautéed mushrooms, and a Marsala sauce (R115). Other meat dishes include veal (most cost R115), game (R180), a variety of steak options (most R160), and lamb shank (R160).  A 250g 28 day matured rump steak is on special during winter at R79*.

* ¬† Dolce – Most desserts cost R59, and their Tiramisu has been a firm favourite for years, the finger biscuits soaked in Espresso and Kahlua, with an Amarula sauce. Other options are chocolate fondant, cr√®me br√Ľl√©e, malva pudding, ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt, and a white Lindt chocolate cheesecake.

*   Formaggi Рa selection of cheeses costs R90.

The winelist section has a large number of advertisements of supplier wine estates.  Each wine region and wine variety is defined and described:

* ¬† ‘Bubbly’ – MCCs offered include Pongr√°cz NV (R60 per glass/R240 per bottle), Pierre Jourdan Brut NV (R70/R250), L’Omarins Brut Classique NV (R88/R325), Steenberg ‘1682’ Chardonnay 2011 (R350), and De Wetshof NV (R121/R480). ¬†Mo√ęt et Chandon costs R650.

*   Bianchi/white wines Рan extensive number of wines is offered per variety, eighteen alone for Sauvignon Blanc (from R34 РR68 per glass, and R130 РR280 per bottle).

* ¬† Rossi/Red wines – eight Shiraz options are offered, from R37/R145 for Franschhoek Cellars ‘Baker Station’ 2011 to La Motte’s 2009 Shiraz (R360).

* ¬† ‘Aficionado Lounge‘ – brandy, Calvados, Armagnac, Grappa, port, sherry, beers, ¬†and Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky are offered.

The Slick Loyalty Card was explained to us by Slick Marketing and Reservations Co-ordinator Michelle Page. Patrons receive 10% off their bill on presentation of the Loyalty Card, and a R200 birthday voucher. The Winter Special prices quoted above apply to dishes (marked with * above) ordered between 12h00 – 18h00.

Our Camps Bay guest house group had a most enjoyable lunch at Balducci’s, owner Ian Halfon popping in to greet the group. ¬†The new Winter Specials are great value, for a restaurant that is perceived to be on the expensive side. ¬†In going through the menu for this blogpost, it was a surprise to see how many reasonably-priced dishes it contains. ¬†Service is smart, the serving staff is neatly and professionally dressed, and the location in a quieter section of the V & A Waterfront is an advantage.

POSTSCRIPT 10/6: Michelle has explained the photography policy in greater detail, and food and people photography is allowed: ‘Re photography of the d√©cor, we felt we put a lot of effort into the look and feel of the restaurant. Creating something special.Guests can take pics of food and celebrations and of themselves with pleasure and post and review etc, we have no problem with that‘.

Disclosure: ¬†We received a bottle of Balducci’s Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon House Wine and a small box of Emporio Leone chocolates with the menus of the three Slick Restaurant Group restaurants.

Balducci’s Ristorante Pizza Seafood Bar, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. ¬†Tel (021) 421 6002. www.balduccis.co.za Twitter: @Balduccis_CT ¬†Monday – Sunday.

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

Top 100 SA Wines to withdraw libel suit against wine blogger Dionysus

Robin von Holdt, the organiser of Top 100 SA Wines competition, who was planning to sue Dion Martin, the writer of the Dionysus wine blog for R100000 in defamation damages, has offered to withdraw his case if both parties agree to make a R2000 donation to a charity.

Von Holdt organised a Top 100 SA Wines competition last year, and attracted criticism for his guest house Rodwell House receiving an accolade for its winelist in his own competition.  Martin wrote about this on his blog, called Von Holdt some names, and received a summons from Von Holdt with a defamation claim.

This statement was posted on the Top 100 SA Wines blog by Von Holdt on Friday:

“The matter at hand has become distorted and emotive. ¬†Libel is libel wherever it is published and those writing on the internet should adhere to the same standards as print publications. ¬†I have a commitment and passion for the wine industry that is bigger than this matter ius. ¬†I have listened to what has been said and consulted with wine colleagues. ¬†The matter is not contributing positively to the wine industry that I respect, enjoy and promote. ¬†I feel that an on-going adversarial relationship with bloggers is highly undesirable. ¬†It also has the potential to damage our image abroad. ¬†I therefor (sic) make Dion Martin the following ‘without prejudice’ offer to put this behind us and end this fully:

1.  We both agree to each pay Pebbles Project a sum of R2000.00, a needier cause than those of our respective attorneys

2.   I will then drop my libel case against you.

An apology for publicly insulting me would demonstrate character and I leave that to you to consider. ¬†I do hope that you will see fit to rise to this opportunity. ¬†I hope too that some of the more negative journalists won’t see this as another chance to launch yet more salvos of criticism and inflame matters further”.

The last sentence may refer to the Cape Argus calling Von Holdt for input to a story about the planned court case against Martin. ¬†Martin told me that he will accept Von Holdt’s offer, on one condition: Von Holdt’s Rodwell House must not enter any future Top 100 SA Wines competitions, which was one of the aspects that Martin criticised about the competition, given the conflict of interest in Von Holdt being a ‘non-active ‘ shareholder (Von Holdt’s description of his role) in Rodwell House.

Von Holdt must have realised that he had no hope in winning this court case, and must have been surprised that wine writers (and bloggers in particular) attacked him for this attempt to muzzle a wine blogger.  The final straw for him must have been the call from the Cape Argus journalist, to whom we had sent the story.

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

Franschhoek has a wealth of wine and wine shops!

In the last month two new wine shops (WINES and the House of Wines) have opened on the main road in Franschhoek, a village that already has 45 wine estates open to the public, from which one can buy wines, in addition to a well-stocked Pick ‘n Pay Liquor department, and the long-established La Cotte Inn Wine Sales.

To get a feel for wine sales in Franschhoek via the four wine outlets, I went to visit each of them, and did a comparative price survey based on a randomly selected list of mainly Franschhoek wines, and asked each of the shops what makes them unique regarding the wines that they stock.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales

Ludwig Maske has owned this wine shop at the entrance to Franschhoek for about fifteen years, the building previously housing a grocery store/general dealer, as well as¬†the restaurant Lanternhof, which belonged to¬†his father.¬† Ludwig started his career by running the liquor sales section of the old La Cotte Inn, where the Protea Hotel is¬†located now, in his father’s hotel.¬† Maske’s grandfather owned the Swiss Farm Excelsior (now the Le Franschhoek Hotel), which was a well-known¬†for a Sunday afternoon treat of tea/coffee and scones.¬† The Maskes have earned their stripes in Franschhoek, and La Cotte Inn Wine Sales is synonymous with Franschhoek wines.¬†

Ludwig told me that the main part of his business is to supply restaurants with their wine requirements, receiving stock from the wine estates, which is stored, and delivered to the restaurants on demand.  This service is of benefit to the restaurants and the wine estates, as each party works with only one monthly invoice.  Wine sales from the rather dark and characterful shop on the main road are incidental, and would not have carried the business alone, Ludwig said, almost feeling sorry for the new wine shops.

Ludwig said that he represents 48 of the 50 Franschhoek wine estates.   Scarce supplies of Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon may be easier to buy at La Cotte Inn Wine Sales than from the wine farm itself.   The shop sells mainly Franschhoek wines too, but also imported wines such as Mosel Riesling, and wines from France and Spain.  The largest number of imported wines in Franschhoek are sold by La Cotte Inn Wine Sales.  In addition to wines, they sell a wonderful selection of up to 100 imported French cheeses, Cuban cigars, Riedel stemware, and the popular Le Nez du Vin wine aroma testing kit.

Ludwig said that he sells about 30 non-Franschhoek wines, in addition to the 48 Franschhoek wine estates that he represents.  He helps wine farms with winelist compilation, and also with pricing, if required.  He urges restaurants to keep wine prices reasonable, and told me that he recently persuaded Le Quartier Français to reduce its wine prices.  In the shop, Porcupine Ridge is the best seller, priced at R33 for Sauvignon Blanc and at R47 for their reds.  Graham Beck and La Motte wines are in second and third place on sales, being strong and well-known Franschhoek brand names.

Being a wholesaler, La Cotte Inn Wine Sales offers the best prices of all four Franschhoek wine shops, especially for Franschhoek wines.¬† Ludwig was critical of Pick ‘n Pay nationally, saying that they offer customers one-shop convenience, but that they are ‘killing the small guys’, having recently bought five Aroma stores and turning them into Pick ‘n Pay Liquor outlets.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales, 31 Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-3775  www.lacotte.co.za

House of Wines

It was interesting to talk to Sigi Juling, who described himself as a Namibian and not a German, but he and his fianceé Bettina are both German-speaking.   I was not aware that Sigi had owned Bijoux Square, also on the main road, and here Sigi had owned a House of Wines shop from 2002 to 2007.  He sold the building, and worked in Namibia and went to Europe, returning to open his wine shop in a new location on the main road, opposite the Post Office.

Sigi is knowledgeable about wines, and their pairing with foods, having completed a Diploma from the Cape Wine Academy, having worked as a Sommelier at Grande Roche, having completed a hotel qualification in Germany, having worked at the Radisson Hotel in Granger Bay, and having been the Food and Beverage Manager of La Couronne Hotel before it was renamed Mont Rochelle. 

Sigi stocks wines from 170 wine estates, which are ‘perfectly matured’ according to his business card, and he is looking to increase this number.¬† He told me immediately that he stocks mainly non-Franschhoek wines, as his Franschhoek customers, many loyal from his previous wine shop, are bored with the Franschhoek wines, and want to try something new.¬† He also stocks a number of wine-related items in the shop, including an interesting game called Wine-opoly, bottle stoppers, wine books, DVD’s, and more.¬† Sigi described his shop as proudly-South African, not selling imported wines.¬† The wines he stocks are those that his clients like to buy, and those that he himself likes.¬† He does specialised wine tastings for his customers.¬† His top three sellers are Springfield Sauvignon Blanc, in top position by far (R84,85), followed by Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R72,95), and Delaire Shiraz (R84,85).

Sigi is looking to add an olive oil and vinegar section, and both products will be available on tap, which can be bottled in one’s own containers, or in a selection of containers that¬†they will sell.¬† ¬†

House of Wines, 28 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4120.  www.how.co.za  Tuesday РSunday 10h00 Р18h00.

WINES

The newest and most modern Franschhoek wine shop is in the new Franschhoek Centre, which also houses the new Pick ‘n Pay and Clicks, and is next door to Caf√©¬†Benedict.¬† It is co-owned by Elsa Post, an enterprising Franschhoeker, who also owns the Franschhoek Postnet franchise, and Robert Maingard, the owner of the centre, and of¬† a number of Franschhoek businesses, including Dieu Donn√©, Caf√© Benedict, the Le Franschhoek¬†Hotel, and the newly opened Le Coq.

What makes this wine shop different to the others is that the stock of wine is kept on consignment, meaning that the wine estates are paid when their wine sells.¬† Elsa told me that she bought the Platter’s database, and wrote to the wine farms in it, inviting them to have their wines sold on consignment.¬† She received a good response,¬†and 83 wine¬†estates’ brands are sold in the shop.¬† Interestingly, only six Franschhoek wine estates (Dieu Donn√©, Grande Provence, La Verdure, Chanteclair, La Manoir de Brendel, and Topiary) supply the shop, the Franschhoek Vignerons¬†officially¬†not supporting wine sales on consignment, which smacks of Franschhoek politics.¬†¬† Each wine estate that has signed up with WINES at no charge has good shelf positioning, and is featured on touchscreen TV monitors on the shelves, with tasting notes provided about each wine.¬† The wine estates are also invited to conduct tastings outside the shop, which attracts attention to the shop, and yesterday I saw a number of persons coming to taste the wines of Arumdale from Elgin, the first time I had heard¬†of the brand.

The top selling wine by far is the mouthful of a brand Hermanuspietersfontein, with Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Bartho Eksteen, and it is his Kleinboet (R104) and No 7 (R91) that sell particularly well, followed by wines from Under Oaks in Paarl (R54 for Sauvignon Blanc and R82 for Shiraz), and Muratie Shiraz (R123). 

In addition to the wines sold, they sell wine cooling bags, the book ‘South African Wines’, crystal glassware, and decanters.¬†Delivery locally is free, and international shipping of wines can be done via Elsa’s Postnet service.¬† Special protective packaging for the shipping of wine bottles is sold by WINES.¬†¬† One may buy a bottle from WINES, and then drink it at Caf√© Benedict, without paying for corkage.

WINES,Centre de Franschhoek,23 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-3185.  No website.   Monday РSaturday (they have applied for a liquor licence, allowing sales on Sundays) 9h00 Р18h00 (the licence allows them to remain open until 20h00, and they will do so if they have clients wishing to buy wine). 

Pick ‘n Pay Liquor

The local supermarket has a large section allocated to its Liquor store, with about 20 Franschhoek and about 40 non-Franschhoek wines stocked, in addition to beer and spirits, cheap glasses, ice and cigarettes.  The wines are displayed by variety, and here and there a special can be found on the shelves.

The top three selling wines this month are Porcupine Ridge (R32,99), Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R99,95), and Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R79,99).  The Haute Cabriere appears on two of the four best seller lists in the Franschhoek wine shops.

Pick ‘n Pay appears to be the most expensive outlet at which to buy wines in Franschhoek, and it does not have dedicated staff who can inform and advise their customers about the wines that they stock.

Pick ‘n Pay Liquor,¬†Main Road, Franschhoek.¬† Tel (021) 876-2075.¬† Monday – Friday,¬†8h00 – 20h00, Saturday 8h00 – 17h00

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†La Cotte¬† House of Wine¬† WINES¬†¬† Pick ‘n Pay

Graham Beck Brut¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†R87,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R93,85¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R99,99

Topiary Brut¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R90,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†R98,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R89,99

Pongracz¬†Brut¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R79,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R93,95¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R69,99*

Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†R210,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –

Springfield Sauvignon Blanc¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†R84,85¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –

Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz ’08¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R290,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†out of stock¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬† –

Chocolate Block ’08¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†R150,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† R173,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†R169,99

Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†R140,00¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –

 * Note: special sale price, normal price R88,99.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales definitely is the shop to buy a Franschhoek wine at, both in terms of having a good likelihood of the wine being in stock, and of it being cheaper to buy there than elsewhere in Franschhoek.¬† For non-Franschhoek wines, WINES and House of Wines would be the best¬†¬†sources, depending on the brand required, the latter offering a larger selection of wine brands, and both being likely to be cheaper than Pick ‘n Pay.¬†

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

Restaurant News: Chef Reuben Riffel cooks up a Cape Town storm in the USA!

Chef Reuben Riffel’s connection with the One&Only Cape Town is putting him, and¬†Cape Town¬†with it, on the world map, and he recently returned from a whirlwind tour of New York, with the compliments of SAA and the One&Only Hotel group.¬†

He stepped off the aircraft with his Reuben’s Franschhoek chef William Carolissen, and was whisked off to the studios of the Martha Stewart Show¬† immediately.¬† Despite her poor performance at the Design Indaba a year ago, Stewart remains an icon of American domesticity, and her show is watched by an audience of about 80000.¬† Chef Reuben had to prepare South African dishes in front of the camera and studio audience, and had pre-organised which ingredients he would require for it.¬† He had a time limit of¬†4 minutes to create¬†Cape Malay¬†pickled fish, and a¬†grilled peri peri beef salad.¬†¬†The Reuben’s slot ran for 15 minutes and had shots of the One&Only Cape Town too, with Stewart endorsing the hotel by stating that it is her favourite resort in South Africa. ¬†The show will be broadcast on¬†9 March.¬†

He was also invited to¬†appear on NBC’s Today Show, with a viewership of 3,3 million on the day of broadcast. Chef Reuben cooked with Today Show personalities Al Roker and Natalie Moralis, and here too he had to prepare two dishes (crisp prawn dumplings with rooibos tea salt, and pan roasted red snapper prepared in a West Coast basting sauce of apricot jam, garlic and soya, served with a salsa of tomato, cucumber, chilli and cilantro) in front of the audience.¬†¬†

Reuben is no stranger to cooking in front of a camera, making more and more TV appearances, on Pasella in particular, so this stood him in good stead to do our city and country proud.  Chef Reuben said the American TV staff are well organised.   Chef Reuben also prepared food for an One&Only Hotel event for travel agents and tour operators, as well as one for the media (journalists represented the New York Times Style Magazine, Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Post and Travel Africa.)    

Meeting Chef Reuben and his wife Maryke at Reuben’s at the One & Only Cape Town¬†last week was an opportunity to catch up, and to check whether he is still connected to his restaurant in Cape Town, given my observations after my last visit.¬† He laughed when we chatted about¬†how incorrect deductions can be made from bits of staff information¬†one receives, and it showed him how important it is for him to communicate with all levels of staff.¬† Talking of staff, a number of changes have taken place since Reuben’s opened in Cape Town in October:¬†¬† The Manager Samantha Housden has left, after only a short stint, and has been replaced by Kagiso¬†Mmebe. ¬†In the kitchen Maritz Jacobs has been joined by Aviv Liebenberg, previously at Reuben’s Robertson, and Chef Reuben is encouraging them to visit the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, so that they can stay in touch with interesting food suppliers, and they come back with fresh products for a new special¬†“Market Day” menu on Saturdays.¬†Reuben’s staff will ‘cross-pollinate’ between Cape Town and Franschhoek, so that they get to experience the other branch.¬† ¬†Camil Haas, who was meant to shadow Chef Reuben in Franschhoek and Cape Town, will be more behind the scenes now, and will¬†manage Chef Reuben’s appearances, and the requirements linked to these, as well as the preparation for outside events.¬†

Chef Reuben explained why the current menu does not have the chefs’ names on it, and why the Reuben’s branding is so low key, in that the hotel had printed it at a time when the regular Reuben’s printer was closed over the festive season.¬†¬†The new menu¬†to be launched on 16 February will go back to its “Reuben’s” look, and its content will have a stronger Cape Town focus, with a new dessert for example called ‘Taste of Cape Town’, with small tastes of Hertzoggies, date slices, melktert, rooibos tea ice cream and a coconut koeksister.¬†¬† In Franschhoek a menu change can be expected at the end of the month, but will have a different focus to the Cape Town one.¬†¬† A Sunday buffet lunch will be introduced in Cape Town on 27 February, costing R 195.¬† The Reuben’s Cape Town menu indicates which dishes contain alcohol (for Sol Kerzner, who does not drink alcohol, and for Muslim guests), shellfish, nuts, and pork.

We spoke about the winelist, which I see as overpowering, and not really suiting a Bistro-style restaurant.¬† Chef Reuben said that Singita is buying up a portion of the wine collection, and he said that they may develop a reduced winelist for Reuben’s.¬† The One&Only Hotel has influenced the operation of Reuben’s in Cape Town, and has meant more paperwork and adherence to systems, but there are benefits too, such as the international marketing that the hotel group does.¬† Chef Reuben emphasised that Kerzner does not interfere with his operation of the restaurant. In fact, there is a good relationship between the hotel and the restaurant management, and they meet regularly to address common issues.¬† Reuben is featured in the international One&Only Hotel newsletter, which was sent out earlier this week.

The decor is evolving, and new multi-coloured glass menu boards have been erected on the columns of the restaurant, to advertise specials.  When I visited last week, a West Coast seafood special was advertised, consisting of a number of dishes.  The boards help the Cape Town branch make spontaneous additions to the menu, without having to reprint it, a greater logistical challenge here than in Franschhoek, Chef Reuben explained. 

A new cookbook is in the pipeline, and will focus on seasons.¬†¬† It will allow Chef Reuben to continue with the format of his first recipe book, and to reminisce about his childhood in Franschhoek, and his mother’s influence on his cooking.¬†¬† Richard Carstens is highly praised by Chef Reuben, and he says that Richard “is one of the best” and that “no one can touch him”.

Chef Reuben says there are definitely no further restaurant openings on his agenda, and he is learning to delegate more, to enjoy a more balanced personal and business life.¬† I left him and Maryke with the feeling that they will make the best of their new relationship with the One&Only Hotel, and that there will be no repeat of Gordon Ramsay’s distant relationship with the ex-maze, the previous restaurant at the One&Only Cape Town, and the resultant demise.

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