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

Restaurant Review: Raphael’s Restaurant at Asara almost starting again!

The 5-star and recently accredited Relais & Chateaux Asara Hotel outside Stellenbosch has a beautiful location, with a dam at the edge of the restaurant, and the Stellenbosch mountains¬†as a backdrop.¬† I had visited Asara Hotel in its early days, but had not been back in over a year.¬†¬† When I was sent information about a recent refurbishment of Raphael’s Restaurant¬†by the Hotel’s PR agency, it was a good¬†opportunity to invite my friend Geraldine for lunch, as she lives close by.¬†¬† The restaurant’s recent make-over is not only decor-wise, but also in terms of management.¬†¬† The pay-off line “Ordinary is everywhere but here”, printed on the menu and which is visible on every page of the website, currently is an overpromise, in terms of what we experienced yesterday.

The Asara Hotel has belonged to¬†Markus Rahmann, an Austrian whose Germanic hand seemed stronger in the past, for close to ten years.¬†¬†The Hotel has seen a number of senior staff changes this month, with GM Horst Frehse, who was at the hotel for about a year and implemented the Relais & Chateaux accreditation, leaving ahead of his departure date of January, and he will start at the Twelve Apostles Hotel as GM in February.¬† No one wanted to elaborate on the early departure. ¬†Frehse was particularly well-known as the cigar-smoking GM of the Grande Roche in Paarl, and then went to Singita, before joining Asara Hotel.¬†¬† We were told that the Restaurant Manager as well as the F&B Manager¬†had joined the hotel in the last two weeks, as has the new GM, Pete Gottgens, who has spent the last 19 years in the UK.¬† Gottgens comes from a hotelier family, he says, and he proudly told us that his dad was the first FEDHASA member while he was at the Edward Hotel in Durban.¬†¬† Gottgens cut his teeth in South Africa, amongst others at Mike’s Kitchen in Tyger Valley and at the Heerengracht Hotel, and then left the country to open Fish Hook and Springbok Caf√© in London.¬† He also was responsible for all catering for then-President Nelson Mandela when he was on state visits in the UK and Europe.¬†¬† He also¬†established a hotel in Scotland seven years ago.¬†¬† A yearning to return to South Africa led him to accept Asara’s offer.¬† Gottgens was honest about all not being perfect at Asara, and has made some immediate marketing changes – all focus will be on the domestic market, and the R3 million international marketing budget will be redirected to¬†domestic marketing.¬† He has also decided that the¬†premium top of the range market is not what they are aiming for anymore, and he even hinted that they may drop the Relais & Chateaux accreditation when I asked him, due to the cost perception that it¬†is associated with.¬†¬† I admired Gottgens for his honesty, as he did not know who we were.¬† He wants to move the association with Asara from “not great value for money” to “exceptional value”.¬†¬†¬† His mantra will be to under-offer and over-deliver, the smartest approach to customer relationship development.¬† He understands the value of Word of Mouth, and that the¬†local visitors will recommend Asara to international visitors¬†if they have had a good experience.¬†¬† He wants to offer Asara wines below R100 a bottle in his restaurants on the estate.¬†¬† He understands the value of Social Media, and Asara is on Twitter, and Gottgens will start a blog in the new year.¬†¬† Gottgens also says that too many staff were appointed (mainly from Spier and Lanzerac, when the hotel first opened), and that he will be changing this to fewer but higher quality staff.¬† A lovely concept he plans is the appointment of the farmworkers’ wives to start a fruit and vegetable co-operative on the estate, so that the hotel can buy all their fresh ingredients from their own workers, thereby enhancing their incomes.¬†¬† Gottgens gave me a feeling of complete professionalism, and of comfort that a number of the rough edges that we observed and experienced will be taken care of and fixed.¬† Gottgen’s goal is to ‘improve the game by 40%’, he said.¬†¬†

Raphael’s is a large space, and one can sit outsideto be close to the dam.¬† We had not booked, so accepted an inside table, but it was probably for the best, as the South Easter was pumping.¬† Crystal chandeliers dominate, and some chairs are in a¬†deep violet upholstery.¬† Glass screens give some privacy to the entrance.¬† I saw a piano, and wondered about its use, having recently applauded the Mount Nelson Hotel¬†for having got rid of its piano in the new Planet Restaurant.¬†¬† The tables have excellent quality napery on them, and cutlery is by WMF, which is also sold in the Asara shop on the estate.¬†¬† Our champagne glasses did not ‘ping’ when we toasted our getting together, and sounded like plastic, even though¬†they were¬†not.¬†¬† The jug for my water was¬†a very ordinary one, not in keeping with the rest of the glassware in the restaurant or in the shop.¬†¬† The salt and pepper holders were tiny and ordinary.¬†¬† The architect for the Asara Hotel building and its restaurants was Ray Killian, and Arctic Circle was the interior design company for Raphael’s, a name I know as the design company for Tourism Grading Council plaques.

One of our biggest problems was with waitress Martha, and even though she tried very hard, and grew on us in the three hours that we spent at Raphael’s, she reflected the lack of management in the restaurant.¬† She had a shirt on that was too tight, and one of the buttons had popped open.¬† She had a spot of dirt on the white shirt and her black apron¬†had a¬†big dirty mark on it.¬†¬† She had been outside in the wind, we think,¬†judging by her¬†hair.¬† She told us that she had worked at Grande Roche previously, and at the end of our meal she had the confidence to tell us what every employer would fear – that Raphael’s is not five-star standard as far as the staffing goes, that there are too many inexperienced staff members working in the restaurant, who are unable to do justice to the good quality food served.¬† The irony was that Martha herself was an example of what she was referring to.¬†¬† She also stated that ‘her’ 5-star restaurant should not be serving guests coming in with shorts, casual shirts and slip-slops, examples of which we saw, and with crying babies, which we heard too.¬†¬†

As Martha handed us the leather menu holder, she matter-of-factly told us that they were out of oysters, Chateaubriand, and haloumi cheese for the Baby Leaf salad starter.¬† This gave us a bad feeling about¬†the restaurant and the hotel, and its professionalism.¬† We were later told that the kitchen had done 120 covers for lunch (we only arrived at 13h30), had a wedding later that day, a private dinner for 60 persons, and the normal dinner service.¬†¬† Geraldine and I skipped the starters, as we wanted to try the Asara ice cream sold in the shop on our departure.¬† Geraldine ordered the Beef Fillet (R180)¬†and I had the Kingklip (R135).¬†The Beef Fillet was ordered Medium and was very tender, and was topped with herb-crusted¬†oxtail ragout, rich in taste, she said,¬†and was served with¬†cauliflower mash, dauphinoise potatoes and port wine jus.¬†¬† My oven roasted kingklip was meant to be served with¬†a horseradish and vanilla sauce, but¬†was replaced with a white wine foam, with Martha’s help, and tasted slightly salty. ¬†I¬†enjoyed the kingklip served with baby asparagus and¬†parsley mash.¬†¬† Other main courses are Duck breast, Duo of pork, Impala,¬†and Quail, all at R165, as well as Rack of lamb (R175).¬† The Chateaubriand costs R340, a 400 gram serving for two.¬†¬† Wild mushroom risotto and home-made ravioli filled with ratatouille both cost R70.¬† A delicious sounding butternut and coconut soup costs R55.¬†¬† Starters start at R45 for Chicken bobotie in rooti, up to R95 for grilled tiger prawns and scallops.¬† A trio of oysters costs R85, and an interesting sounding “foie gras cr√®me br√Ľl√©e and ice cream”, as well as a smoked salmon trout terrine cost R85 and R65, respectively.¬†¬† Due to having the ice cream in the shop, we skipped the desserts, which cost between R45 for three scoops of ice cream to R65 for a Kaiserschmarrn Austrian souffl√©.

Head Chef Carsten H√§rtel came to say hello, and invited us to¬†visit his kitchen, only the¬†third such invite I have received (Tokara and Societi Bistro), and is a special honour. The Asara kitchen is massive, and incredibly hot, so much so that we felt sorry for the 40 or so kitchen staff, of whom 23 are chefs.¬†¬†Chef Carsten¬†came to Asara directly from Germany, and has been at the hotel for two years, enjoying the good weather, even though he stays in touch with Germany via¬†his DEUKOM German TV channel subscription.¬†¬†We were impressed by the different sections in the kitchen, including the bread and roll baking, as well as the ice-cream and chocolate-making sections.¬† A hotel kitchen is not a romantic place at all, looks very industrial, and we saw the photographs of the chef’s plating directives per dish.¬†¬†¬†¬†

I do not know the Asara wines, and do not recall ever drinking any.¬† My Platter’s 2011 does not rate them too highly, mainly around the 3-star mark, with only the Spirit of Chenin achieving a 4-star Platter rating.¬† The winelist is extensive, and every page has the Relais & Chateaux logo prominently displayed.¬† It is much more discreet on the menu.¬†¬†The winelist has a leather cover too, and is an extensive document, tracing the history of Cape Vintages from 1990 until 2010;¬†¬†a brief history of South African wines is sketched; a map of winegrowing areas is provided; and food and wine pairing suggestions are presented by type of food.¬†¬† The Asara wine range features extensively on the winelist, especially for the wines-by-the-glass.¬† Five Asara white wines range in price from R28 per 175ml glass for the Ivory, up to R63 for their Chardonnay Reserve.¬† Seven Asara red wines are offered, starting at R33 per glass for the Cape Fusion, peaking at R110 per glass for their Bell Tower. Their Ros√© costs R28, and the Noble Late Harvest R30.¬†¬† We had a glass of Villiera Tradition Brut each, at R45, and Peter¬†van Staden,¬†the Restaurant Manager, refilled one of our glasses when it was knocked over in error, without charging extra for the refill.¬†¬† Poor Peter seemed uncomfortable and very hot in his black jacket and tie.¬†¬† I have never seen champagnes referred to as “Champenoise” on a winelist before, and 375 ml Laurent-Perrier costs R440 and Moet & Chandon R575.¬† Pommery Pop Blue costs R385 for 200ml.¬†¬† A section focuses on the “Sommelier’s Rare Selection”, which starts at R135 for the Vondeling Babiana Nortiflora, up to R 655 for the Deetlefs Family Semillon; and at R185 for the Lammershoek Red Blend (R185) – R1100 for the Ernie Els Red Blend.¬†¬† The Asara Sauvignon Blanc costs R140 per bottle, and Iona costs R240.¬† The Asara Shiraz costs R190, while that by Saronsberg costs R300.¬†¬†A vertical collection of Vin de Constance is also offered, something I had seen recently on the Planet Restaurant winelist at the Mount Nelson Hotel.¬† ¬†A change from my last visit is that the room underneath Raphael’s is now called the “Vinoteque”, and is the area in which one can taste wines, and buy branded Asara promotional clothing, as well as order tapas dishes.

Geraldine and I ended off our long and relaxed lunch with a strong cappuccino served in an attractive cup and saucer, and was made with Genovese, a brand of coffee I have not heard of before.   We had kept the best for last, by walking through the shop, which sells WMF cutlery sets and kitchenware, Le Creuset pots in many shapes, sizes and colours, lovely hand-made chocolates, at R45 per 100 gram, and ice-cream scoops at R10 each.  One can choose between Vanilla, Stracciatella, Chocolate and Hazelnut flavours.   We sat in the courtyard, enjoying our ice cream, and watched a bridal couple being photographed.

Our food was excellent, but GM Gottgens has a huge task to almost start from scratch to train up his staff and managers to the level that is befitting the standard of the hotel, and to meet his admirable goals.¬†¬† It will be interesting to see how things have improved at Asara and Raphael’s in a¬†few months from now.

Raphael’s Restaurant, Asara Wine Estate and Hotel, Stellenbosch.¬† Tel (021) 888-8000.¬†¬†¬†¬† www.asara.co.za¬†¬† (The website covers all aspects of the Asara wine estate and hotel.¬†¬† For Raphael’s the menu is available, but there are not many food photographs on the page.¬† There is no restaurant winelist on the website).¬† Open Monday – Sunday for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

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

Social Media and Freedom of Speech: Censorship of Comments

Over the weekend this blog was in the news, when it was taken to pieces by the (now ex) ‘friend’ who introduced me to blogging more than two years ago.¬†¬† It raised a number of interesting issues about blogging in general, blogging ethics, and the censorship or not of comments on blogs and website.

Background

Carl Momberg wrote a tourism newsletter CapeInfo for many years, and it was a cutting edge, incisive and often biting overview of the tourism industry.  He has no direct tourism experience, to our knowledge.  He was like a wolf at the doors of premiers and ministers of the province and of the mayor of the city, criticising their every tourism move.   He was very well connected, and had the good journalistic practice in those days of requesting comment from the persons he wrote about. 

I started my WhaleTales tourism newsletter 9 years ago, and could never match Momberg for his sting.  We often debated issues, but presented different perspectives, and we were both passionate about the retention of the then-Cape Town Tourism, of which I was the Deputy Chairman.  As Momberg wrote, I even offered the then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky money to pay the salaries of staff and other running costs to keep Cape Town Tourism alive, but the City of Cape Town was bent on bleeding the tourism body dry financially, until it capitulated and became part of the new regime, which resulted in a new Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, costing Cape Town the loss of its best marketer ever, being Sheryl Ozinsky!  

Carl travelled with his pet wolf Akela, about which he blogged.¬†¬† We¬†continued writing the¬†WhaleTales newsletter, ¬†and have been told that¬†it has become¬†the definitive tourism newsletter, with 25000 readers.¬†¬†¬†Momberg’s newsletter is irregular in its publication, and has lost its bite.¬†¬†

More than two years ago Momberg invited me to blog on his website, and not knowing better, I accepted.   He clearly was looking for increased traffic to his site via my blog contribution.  When he started interfering with my writing style and content, setting conditions about what I was allowed to write about or not (to protect his own financial interests and relationships with the tourism industry), I started my own Whale Cottage blog and paid Momberg for the hosting of the blog and for his assistance for the short time that he had done so.  It is the best thing I could have done to not work with Momberg any more, and many asked me why I had associated with Momberg in the first place.  I love blogging and my blog, and have never looked back in the 26 months of writing it.  Momberg invited other bloggers to blog on his site too, but they have all left him and gone on their own, probably for the same reasons.

To create a stir, climb on a dubious bandwagon, and possibly to gain some new readers for his blog, Momberg¬†has written¬†a slanderous post about my alleged hand in closing down a tourism website.¬† He did not stop there – he has turned every word and action in our ‘friendship’¬†into a negative, and brought in other unrelated issues, to paint as dark a picture as possible.¬†¬† He has forgotten the good journalistic practice of asking for my input and comment to his blog post before publishing it, and spewed forth malicious misinformation.¬† For the record, we have last spoken to each other more than¬†two years ago!¬† My response to aspects of his blog post follows.¬†

Closure of Tourism website

I nor anyone else has any power to tell a server what to do or not to do.  As a website owner one usually deals with a webmaster, who has a relationship with the server, so that one cannot contact them directly.

Recently I spotted three defamatory comments made about me and Whale Cottage, by three persons whom I have never met and who have never stayed in my guest houses, in response to a comment I had written about my terrible stay at Sante Hotel and Spa.¬†¬† The commenters wrote that Sante should ignore my comment, as I do not know anything about hospitality, it was claimed,¬†and then made¬†further defamatory comments.¬† As they were untrue and damaging, I followed the procedure of contacting the owner of the website, and requested the removal of the three comments.¬† He refused.¬† I then contacted the association of¬†server companies in South Africa, and followed their procedure to request the removal of the three comments.¬† They contacted Hetzner, the server of the tourism website, and Hetzner in turn contacted¬†the owner of the website, and gave him a specified period in which to remove the three comments, or face the closure of the website if he did not comply.¬†¬† He¬†refused to¬†comply with the request from the Hetzner Abuse Department’s Gunther Breuninger, and the tourism website was closed down by Hetzner.¬†¬† The owner has told Breuninger that he is moving to another server and reopening.¬†¬† This website closure was laid at my door as an opening shot by Momberg, as if it was my doing.¬† He even¬†implies that Breuninger is¬†lying in his communication with him about this matter.

Fedhasa Board membership

I have written on this blog about the devious attempts made by then-FEDHASA Cape chairman Nils Heckscher to keep me off the Board of directors, when I had been nominated in the Small Accommodation category.  When I was elected to the Board, he made our Board meetings hell, constantly criticising my WhaleTales newsletters (prior to the days of blogging), and made me feel that we were having Whale Cottage instead of FEDHASA Cape Board meetings!   Heckscher was a very biased partial Chairman, and hand-picked his successor when his controversial reign was over to ensure that I did not get elected as Chairman!   From day one of being a  Board member I told my FEDHASA Cape Board colleagues that the MATCH terms and conditions were bad for small accommodation establishments.  I was ridiculed for this view, and was ultimately forced off the Board when the rest of the Board members cancelled my membership because of my anti-MATCH sentiments expressed in my newsletters.   

As they say in the classics, the rest is history – “MATCH” is the most hated word in the hospitality industry, and Hecksher got his karma returned, in that the hotel (Winchester Mansions) he is the GM of suffered one of the biggest cancellations of accommodation bookings by MATCH.

Momberg has been at odds with Fedhasa in the past, and therefore I am surprised that he included them in the post.¬† He was highly critical of the accommodation booking website for the World Cup, started by FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, and slanderously¬†described our national “Minister of Tourism and his Department (DOT) as a bunch of blundering idiots”for dealing with Dungan!

Restaurant bannings

Grasping at straws, Momberg writes on the basis of hearsay about the fact that I am not allowed into some restaurants in Cape Town, mentioning Beluga specifically.

Restaurateurs in Cape Town are a sensitive lot, and luckily it is only a few that cannot stomach feedback and the reality of a review.   Let me list them:

1.¬†¬† Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek – long before my blogging and restaurant review days, whilst I was living in Franschhoek, I regularly went to then-bistro iCi.¬† A comment I made to a manager about declining value for money¬†went to owner Susan Huxter, resulting in the barring from¬†Le Quartier Francais¬†and to Bread & Wine (the winefarm Moreson belongs to Huxter’s brother Richard Friedman).¬† Huxter tried to get other Franschhoek restaurants to follow suit, but while she has a strong influence over Franschhoek, none of her restaurant colleagues complied with her request.¬†¬† I have tried to meet with her to discuss her heavy-handedness and discrimination against me, and she has refused all contact.¬† Twice in the past three months I have been invited to attend the opening of art exhibitions at Le Quartier Francais, only to be uninvited again on the instruction of Huxter, demonstrating the unprofessionalism and pettiness of this business owner!¬†¬†¬†

2.¬†¬† Beluga/Sevruga/Blonde– I attended a Cape Times book launch at Sevruga last year, and gave the restaurant a Sour Service Award¬†for its poor ability to handle a group of 150 women who were offered a very restricted “chicken or beef” type menu choice.¬† I received no response from owner Oskar Kotze or Marketing Manager Samantha Obery to it.¬† Six months later the Camps Bay accommodation association, which I head up, was invited to Beluga, to¬†try out their Christmas and New Year menus, as a¬†PR exercise, so that the guest houses¬†should recommend the restaurant.¬† We were seated, and then Obery came to me, asking me to leave the restaurant, as owner Oskar Kotze did not want me there, due to the Sevruga Sour Service Award.¬† I said that I was happy to speak to him, as this was surely a mistake, but he was not there.¬† I gave her my¬†cell number so that he could call me, but he refused.¬† I then called him on his cellphone, and he refused to take the call.¬†¬† In the end Obery was instructed by Kotze to call the police, to escort me out of the restaurant.¬†¬†¬†Beluga received a Sour Service Award for this “PR exercise”, in full view of the guest houses that they were meant to be impressing.

3.¬†¬† Sotano by Caveau¬†–¬†¬†a week ago I posted a review of the newly opened Sotano by Caveau in Mouille Point.¬† It was a fair review, and highlighted teething problems, with the full knowledge that they would be fixed.¬† I wrote about going back to finish writing about the winelist, as this was not yet available on the day that I was at the restaurant.¬† When I returned the following day, the Operations Manager Ross Stillford told me that the owners had asked me to not return to Caveau and to¬†Sotano by Caveau, due to my Sotano by Caveau review.¬† To add insult to injury, one of the owners, Brendon Crew, tweeted about the barring and referred to me as a “bitch”.¬†¬† This caused a furore, and more than 50 comments have been posted to this review, mainly scathing about Caveau and its owner’s behaviour,¬†with 1253 readers (best read review ever)having¬†read the review in the past week.

4.  Carne Рour exposure about the dishonest claim by owner Giorgio Nava of only serving organic lamb, beef and game from his farm in the Karoo led him to remove this fraudulent claim.

We have written more than a hundred restaurant reviews, and all of them have fairly documented our experiences in those restaurants. It is a poor reflection on the handful of restaurant owners listed above, that they are so small-minded to not be able to take valid feedback. 

We have helped restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands who ran winter specials  and are currently running summer specials  in publicising these, and we know that our list is extensively consulted by those seeking good value.  Even though we have been barred from Beluga and Sevruga, their specials are on our list, demonstrating that we bear no grudges against these restaurants.  We tweet a link to the Specials page on this blog every day, as a community service.  We also tweet and blog Restaurant news and information about new specials being added.

Reviews of Crush!

We have written about Crush!1, 2 and 3, and Momberg questions my right to do so.¬† We note that it is Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, who¬†first posted¬†the link to Momberg’s blogpost on Twitter.¬†¬† The Crush! team of Olivier,¬† and his contributors Andy Fenner (JamieWho? blog, now ex-contributor) and¬†David Cope of The Foodie blog, as well his designers who tweet as @Crush_Online,¬†initiated the terrorising Twitter campaign¬†against me at a Crush! dinner party at Sophia Lindop’s house on 16 October, which has run non-stop for five weeks, with added input by Clare McKeon and Eamon McLoughlin¬†of Spill blog, and to which Cope has added an SMS stalking campaign.¬† ¬†

Censorship of Comments

Most blogs allow comments to blog posts.¬†¬† Early in my social media experience I experienced the vitriol and abuse of commenters to comments made on leading blogs such as Relax-with-Dax, Food24¬†and Rossouw’s Restaurants.¬† As I was honest enough to reveal my name, the comments became personal attacks against me as the commenter and lost track of the actual restaurant that was being commented upon.¬† JP Rossouw agreed to remove these, on the basis of a promise I made to him to never comment on his site again.¬†¬† This may be why he has changed his review website, and one cannot see the latest comments listed anymore.¬†¬† Dax Villanueva too has removed derogatory comments over time, and allows criticism up to a point.¬† He is receiving a fair amount of abuse himself¬†at the moment.¬† Clare McKeon of Spill blog told me that she too has received critical comments, and deletes them when they disparage her or cause her blog embarassment, given that she is wanting to gain¬†as many¬†advertisers as possible¬†on her site, even if it is at the cost of losing¬†her¬†readers.

The vitriolic attacks by other commenters has led almost all commenters to comment anonymously, only the inexperienecd commenters using their own name.   This means that comments can be even more scathing than if the real name is used.  When we are uncertain about the credentials of the commenter, we send an e-mail to the address provided, and have often found the e-mail address to be a bogus one.

As a topic, comments and censorship thereof, has been receiving a fair amount of¬†airtime in our Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings.¬† General agreement has been that some comments are vitriolic and abusive towards the writer of the blog or to the commenters, not what one would want to have associated with¬†one’s blog.¬† We have decided that it is perfectly in order to not accept abusive and disparaging comments on our blogs, and that we have the right to excise these from our blog.¬† No commenter has the right to expect to have such abusive comments published.¬†¬† But having said that, we encourage debate – comments are good for web traffic, bring in new readers, and present different perspectives.¬† Such an example is Sotano by Caveau, where the action of the owner has led to a stream of mainly negative comments about the parent restaurant Caveau.¬†

We will be interested to see how Momberg copes with comments to his blogpost, and whether he will resort to censorship.¬† He has already censored a word used by a commenter and has refused to allow commenter “Dieter” to comment.¬†¬† He has already received criticism from outspoken blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs about not posting her comment, and therefore she has written her intended comment on her own blog.¬† Momberg has just closed down comments and one must register to comment, a new form of censorship –¬† “Due to increasing violations of CapeInfo‚Äôs Terms of Use with fraudulent emails being provided, we have introduced the requirement that only logged in users may post comments. You need to register on CapeInfo before you can log in. That you do near the top of the page. For help, please click on Frequently Asked Questions under the ‚ÄúHelp‚ÄĚ navigation tab.¬† Where people hide behind fraudulent email addresses, one can assume that they have something to hide and cannot participate in open discussion and debate. We do not censor content although we reserve the right to edit.”¬† Could it be that Momberg does not like comments which may be written in support of this blog?¬†¬† He has allowed two Caveau staff (Sabrina – SD and Kirstie) to post comments unrelated to his content¬†to his blog post which I refused to my Sotano by Caveau review!¬†

While he sets himself up as the “judge” of the tourism industry,¬†Momberg has no ethics when he presents a one-sided perspective containing dishonest information on his subject matter!

We deplore the backstabbing and bitching taking place in social media, and while we recognise its importance in the marketing mix, we cannot agree with the low levels of personal attack that are allowed by companies such as Twitter and in blogs in the interest of Freedom of Speech.  Given the amount of disinformation being put out into the cyberspace, I welcome any questions you may have or comments you wish to make: info@whalecottage.com.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11: Martin Hatchuel, the editor of the Tourism website that has been taken down by Hetzner, has written a newsletter which Carl Momberg has distributed for him today.¬† In it Hatchuel writes:¬†“I responded by refusing to remove the ‚Äėoffending‚Äô material because it is my reader‚Äôs right to say what they want (within reason, of course – and only the courts can really decide what that reason should be). As a publisher, I can choose to let comments ride, and as a reader, you can choose to take offence – but if you don‚Äôt like what‚Äôs there, you do have recourse to the courts.¬† I felt that if von Ulmenstein can say nasty stuff about others, why shouldn‚Äôt others be able to say what they wanted about her?”.¬†¬† We are shocked that Hatchuel is so unprofessional that he would allow untruthful abuse and disparagement to be posted as comments, when he writes that he has the right to edit and refuse commments, exercising his own censorship, exactly the issue he is complaining about in respect of Hetzner’s actions!¬† He cannot have read¬†our newsletters or blog posts if he describes my writing as “nasty stuff”.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Reading the few comments to the Momberg blog post it is interesting to see that ex-Fedhasa Board colleagues and Cape Town Tourism Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, and Cape Town Tourism PR Manager Skye Grove (recipient of a Sour Service Award for her unprofessional behaviour) have written disparaging comments Рinteresting in that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is a member of Cape Town Tourism! 

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:¬† Now Momberg is crying wolf in that he¬†has¬†turned to Hetzner to complain about this blog post, and I have had to remove part of a sentence about him!¬† Wasn’t his blog post about my complaint to Hetzner about¬†the removal of comments on Hatchuel’s website, widely publicised by him?!¬† Double standards!¬† His website is hosted in London, disallowing us to have defamatory comments removed from his blogpost – makes you think, as Nedbank used to say!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:¬† Skye Grove has also approached Hetzner, and has asked for the removal of our post about her Sour Service Award, awarded to her for retweeting a defamatory Tweet, motivating it as follows: “This has adversely affected my professional integrity”.¬† One wonders why she retweeted the Tweet, in the knowledge that it is defamatory, given her position as PR Manager of Cape Town Tourism.¬† She also has¬†requested Hetzner to close down our blog.¬† She has not held back in her opinion about our blog in her comments on Momberg’s site, as well as on other sites, and retweets whatever negative she can find written about us – clearly a vendetta, and another case of double standards!¬†¬† Our complaint about Ms Grove’s defamatory Tweet was rejected by her boss Mariette¬†du Toit-Helmbold.¬† Ms Grove has no problem in disparaging Cape Town Tourism’s funder, the City of Cape Town, in terms of its supply of services to Cape Town residents.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Hetzner appears to have realised that it was too heavy-handed in its dealings with the Tourism website, and has reinstated it.  We welcome this move.  Momberg has not updated his blogpost to announce this, and it basically removes the foundation of his blogpost!   We await his apology for the defamatory comments made. 

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:¬† Skye Grove has returned to Hetzner, after we made an amendment.¬† ¬†She has now called for the removal of all references to her name on our blog.¬† Yet she has disparaged us widely in comments on other blogs and by retweeting defamatory Tweets.¬†¬† She incorrectly blames me for the “(unlawful) action” of Hetzner in closing down the Tourism site (it is clear that this was Hetzner’s doing, and that the site has been reinstated),¬†refers to¬†our blog¬†in its “lack of journalistic quality and substance thereof”, and to my lack of “journalistic ethics or standards”!¬† Her boss Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold has written a long comment about Social Media and Freedom of Speech, which we have published in the Comments section to this blogpost.¬† She calls for “honesty, transparency, respect, privacy, relevance, and responsibility within the social media communications realm”, yet her PR Manager Skye Grove does not play by these rules.¬†¬† Today I declined a request for donating accommodation to the Cape Town Tourism staff function, given Ms Grove’s behaviour.

POSTSCRIP 23/11:¬† David Cope has also turned to Hetzner, wanting any reference to his name removed, and the whole blog closed down.¬†¬†It is ironic that Cope complains to Hetzner¬†about…. “damaged my reputation, but has brought my business name into disrepute”.¬† Yet Cope has had no shame in sending 285 shockingly disparaging Tweets¬†about me, terrorised me with an sms stalker campaign, and retweeted defamatory Tweets.

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:¬† Carl Momberg has also returned to Hetzner’s door, complaining that I have not removed more content about him.¬† He incorrectly makes the deduction that my partial removal signals that I “acknowledged” publishing incorrect content – no Mr Momberg, I am subject to the same threat by Hetzner to have my website closed down¬†if I do not make amendments, as was your friend Mr¬†Hatchuel!¬† He contests almost every reference to him in this blogpost, describing them to be “untrue” , “misleading” and “she cannot prove otherwise”!¬†¬† He demands of Hetzner : “I demand the whole post be taken down.¬† If there are further snide and defamatory comments about me or CapeInfo, I will issue further taken down requests, pending legal action”!¬†¬† Momberg has not apologised for his defamatory blogpost, nor made any amendments, yet expects me to remove the whole blogpost in response to his!

The double standards of Cope, Grove and Momberg is interesting, in that they are quite happy to disparage me and my blog, yet do not want me to write about their actions.  We will not remove any further material from this blogpost or blog.

POSTSCRIPT 24/11: Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, is also crushed by our blog, and has requested that it be closed down, that all current content relating to Crush! be removed, and that any future writing about Crush! by me be disallowed!¬†¬† Olivier writes a number of untruths, despite having to declare his information to be ‚Äútrue and correct‚ÄĚ, to motivate the closure of my blog:¬† my reviews of Crush! are ‚Äúfull of incorrect information‚ÄĚ; I did not consult him – we used e-mail, sms‚Äôs, phone calls¬†and our blog to invite Olivier to respond and participate in each of our three reviews, all with no response; that I have created false comments about his magazines on my blog, which is devoid of all truth and is libellous; he claims that I have ‚Äúaffected the livelihoods of restaurants, publications (I have not written about any other than Crush!) and businesses‚ÄĚ, a libellous claim once again; that I had This Tourism Weekly website taken down – we know that it is Hetzner that took down the site as Mr Hatchuel, its owner, refused to heed the Take-Down notice; that he is ‚Äúmissing out on important functions which I will not attend due to her presence‚ÄĚ; and that he has lost clients for Crush! and his radio programme due to my writing.¬†¬† Double standards once again, as Olivier was the first to Tweet the link to The Tourism Weekly disparaging blogpost by Momberg on Saturday.

POSTSCRIPT 28/11: We have decided to follow the example of Momberg and Hatchuel,¬†in¬†moving our website to an international server.¬†¬† This ensures our freedom of speech, and that the likes of Momberg and his merry men (and woman)¬†will not have any power to have any content removed from our blog, nor for them to have our blog closed down!¬† Predictably, Momberg is furious about our move.¬†¬† Again, we deplore Momberg’s double standards in defaming and disparaging us, yet crying wolf when we write the truth about him.¬†

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We have had to edit our writing about David Cope and Carl Momberg above, under threat of closure of the site by our server Hetzner, and also a blackmail threat by David Cope in his abusive Twitter campaign.   The edits we have done in no way reflect acknowledgement by us of any error or defamation, as suggested by Carl Momberg in his complaint to Hetzner.

 

 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We were forced by Hetzner to remove the content of this blogpost until we moved the website to an international server.   Talk about censorship! 

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

Restaurant Review: Bella Lucia restaurant is belissimo!

I had heard about Bella Lucia Ristorante Italiano, which had opened in chic Chelsea in Wynberg in April, from my friend Mark, who raved about the new Mediterranean restaurant.    It serves excellent food and wines at very reasonable prices, and is an asset for the Southern Suburbs, which is not blessed with many good restaurants.

The restaurant belongs to Nicola Gross, who bought the restaurant when it was called Lippo’s.¬† She named the restaurant after her beautiful daughter Lucia.¬† She added the space of a neighbouring hairdresser, doubling the size of the restaurant, and added a deck section upstairs which will become home to a cocktail bar in the next¬†two weeks.¬† The restaurant looked as if it had only two tables when I first peeked through the door, in-between its lunch and dinner opening times.¬† The second section is much larger, and a total of 60 patrons can be seated.¬† Decor is minimalist, and I loved the large decorative silver knife, fork and spoon on the wall, embodying in a focused manner what the restaurant is all about.¬† The words COOK and EAT on the wall are part of the decor, and there is nothing else on the walls.

The restaurant has a clean, smart yet friendly look to it, all in white furniture with red seating, and white tablecloth-covered tables.   Elegant olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottles are on the tables.  The cutlery and glassware is of good quality, but the paper serviette was a disappointment.  The waiter Keith was most friendly, and very proactive Рhe noticed a slight wobble of the table, due to the grooves between the floor tiles, and brought a remedy to stabilise it.

The menu is a mix of Mediterranean dishes, and others.   The starters are mostly Italian, including parma ham wrapped quail (R70), mozzarella and artichoke salad (R65), potato gnocchi with pear, blue cheese and leeks (R60), and duck risotto (R65).   Mains range in cost from R70 РR105, commendable in keeping so close to the R100 mark, and include confit duck leg, sirloin streak, braised lamb shank, fish and chips, a Bella Lucia Pie, and more.  I ordered the wonderful Wild Mushroom sauce and homemade  Pappardelle pasta, drizzled with truffle oil, and presented with rocket and large shavings of Parmesan cheese (R65).  I was in-between appointments, and had been badly held up by road works on the M3, and therefore time did not allow me to have anything additional than a perfect frothy cappuccino, at a total cost of R 81.  Desserts include Amarula pannacotta, tiramisu, chocolate pot with mascarpone, caramelised lemon tart and more, none costing more than R50.  A new lighter summer menu will be launched next week.

David Winton is the chef, and was previously at Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel.  David told me that the neighbourhood is very supportive of the restaurant, and that an increasing number of regulars come back to host special celebrations at the restaurant.   David and his team are offering good food and a relaxed atmosphere.

The winelist is on the reverse of the laminated menu, and simply classifies the wines as “Bubbles”, Whites, Reds, and Dessert wines.¬† Vintages are specified but the region of origin is not.¬† Bubblies range from Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage (R205) to Guy Charbaut Premier Cru (R650).¬† Seven wines-by-the-glass range from a reasonable R35 (R90-95 per bottle) for Petit Chenin Ken Forrester, Waterford Pecan Stream, Groote Post Old Mans Blend and Slow Wine Ros√ɬ©, to R60/R150 for the Constantia Uitsig Unwooded Chardonnay.¬† A good and very reasonably priced red wine selection is available, with six wines-by-the-glass (Waterford Pebble Hill, KC Cabernet Merlot, Landskroon Paul de Villiers Shiraz, Beyerskloof Pinotage, Sterhuis Merlot and Terre del Capo San Giovese) ranging¬†in price from R40/R95¬†– R50/R140.¬† It clearly is better value to order a bottle than a glass of wine at Bella Lucia.¬†

I cannot wait to go back in two weeks’ time, when I¬†return to the Southern Suburbs, to try the new summer menu.¬†¬†

Bella Lucia Ristorante Italiano, 19 Wolfe Street, Chelsea, Wynberg, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 762-3855.   www.bellalucia.co.za (The website is as minimalist as the restaurant decor, but has lots of lovely photographs in its Gallery, and contains the menu as well as winelist.  It is the perfect benchmark for a restaurant website).  Tuesdays РSaturdays.  11h30 Р14h30 and 16h30 Р21h30.

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

Restaurant Review: French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar also serves …. French Toast!

French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar opened about ten days ago, and is a homely cosy wine lounge that has been created in what was previously a warehouse in Bree Street.   It is the type of place that one would pop in to for a drink before or after a function, and have a bite to eat.  It has one of the largest collections of wines-by-the-glass in Cape Town, with over 108 choices of local and international wines.   It is not cheap to eat and drink there, and portions are small, but it does offer a good selection of price options.

French Toast has a heavyweight management.   Owner John Harrison was a stockbroker on the Paris Bourse, and told me that the French bug bit him there, hence the French feel through the name and the café style music that is played.  John was the CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company for many years, and built up its business and introduced the new cable cars during his management of the company.  He was a client of my then-PR company many moons ago.   He spoke passionately about his new project, and how they renovated the double story building in an unbelievable three months, being hands-on in the renovation.   Raw brick walls give it a warm feeling, blackboards communicate the wine and food specials, and windows have been built to add light upstairs. There is a bar counter upstairs and downstairs, and the downstairs one will probably be the more popular one in winter, with its massive fireplace.  The upstairs section is huge, with seating for at least 80-100 persons.  A small boardroom downstairs can host meetings and functions of up to 10 persons, Shane told us.   The decor is upmarket, but the food is not fine dining, with an emphasis on wines, explained Shane.   The cutlery is shiny and new, the glassware is good, but only paper serviettes are supplied.

Karen Visser is a partner in French Toast with John, was a bio-kineticist, and is a¬†passionate golfer and winelover, studying at the Cape Wine Academy.¬†¬† She compiled the winelist in the main,¬†and has¬†no previous restaurant experience.¬† GM of the new wine lounge is Gidi Caetano, who was the GM of Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, and also oversaw the opening of Salt Deli and Salt Vodka Bar until recently.¬†¬† She also worked at The Showroom and was a hospitality trainer.¬†¬† The Manager Shane has an interesting undefinable accent, having grown up in Hawaii, and lived in the UK before moving to South Africa.¬† He previously worked at the Protea Hotel¬†Victoria Junction, the Devon Valley Hotel, and the 0932 Belgian restaurant in¬†Green Point, which has since closed down.¬† Chef Jannie Mellis owned East London’s best restaurant, he says, the Two Dogs Bistro, and was at Bushmanskloof Lodge prior to that.¬† He said he came back to Cape Town “to get into the hub of food again”, a nice compliment for Cape Town.¬†The staff are smartly dressed in black shirts and pants, a French Toast branded apron, and a turquoise tie.

We found it terribly chilly upstairs, but Shane assured me that the airconditioning was not on.  When we moved from table to table, to find the warmest spot, we discovered that a sliding door had been left wide open.  When it had been closed, all was fine.   The music was rather loud when we arrived, but seemed to have been turned down a little while we were there.  

The wines are closed with a wine preservation system Le Verre du Vin, being special rubber wine and sparkling wine bottle stoppers, allowing opened wines to be kept for up to three months.¬† I chose the same glass of wine I had a week ago, the Mullineux Shiraz 2008, at R83 for a 150ml glass.¬† The wine has the characteristic of an old-fashioned smoky shiraz, my favourite, but the very chilled serving, at 13¬įC, was too cold to my liking.¬† Four Cap Classiques are available, ranging from R44/R195 for Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel to R 81/R380 for Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc.¬†¬† Seven champagnes can be ordered, Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc costing R135/R650, and the most pricey is Dom Perignon, sold by bottle only, at R3000.¬†¬† They also stock Veuve Cliquot, Billecart Salmon Rose and Guy Charbaut.¬†¬†Seven Sauvignon Blancs are stocked, that of La Motte costing R31/R130, and the Cape Point Vineyard Reserve is the most expensive, at R57/R260.¬†¬† Seven Shiraz/Syrah wines are served, starting with Rickety Bridge at R35/R165, and Haskell Vineyards is the most expensive at R111/R530.¬†¬† Imported wines from France, Italy and Germany are also available, and range from R33/R142 – R153/R740.¬†¬† The branded winelist provides information about the vintage and origin of each wine, but has¬†no descriptions of the wines or the varieties.

The menu, on a laminated sheet without any branding, is broken down into Snacks, Tapas, Charcuterie, Cheese Platters and Desserts, and has a Mediterranean feel to it.   Snacks include olives, almonds, chillies (R30 each) and oysters (R10 each).    The Tapas selection of 16 dishes range in price from R30 РR50, with empanadas, prawns, smoked salmon trout, caprese skewers and more.   The charcuterie platter allows one to select three of a choice of imported meats, including chorizo, parma ham, salami and jamon serano, for R50.  Similarly, one can choose three cheeses for R55, from a selection of six.  Breads come from Jardine Bakery, a few meters away, and sometimes from Knead.   Chef Jannie makes his own preserves and pasta.

There is not much attention paid to the presentation of the dishes, I felt, being functionally presented on white plates.   I had the calamari and lemon (R38), and asked Chef Jannie not to add the chilli.   My (student) son had the delicious herb and pecorini croquettes (R35), as well as the parma ham and mozzarella aroncini fried stuffed rice balls (R45), but was still starving after the two tapas dishes, and therefore ordered patatas bravas with a homemade spicy tomato sauce (R45), which he proclaimed to be excellent.  I had to have the French Toast, after which the restaurant is named, one of the three desserts on the menu (R40), two tiny baguette slices served with not-so-nice almond ice cream. The cappuccino (R16) made from Origin coffee was excellent.   The specials board advertised white anchovies, Pisto bruschetta, and cheddar and rice balls.   Chef Jannie said that from the feedback received to his dishes since opening, he will be amending his menu next week. 

In general the tapas portions are small, and therefore French Toast is not the place to have a meal, but rather a glass of wine with a tapas snack.  We paid R385 for five tapas dishes and two glasses of red wine. 

POSTSCRIPT 15/1:¬† I have returned to French Toast a few times since I wrote the review two months ago.¬† Every time I have been warmly received by the management team.¬†¬† Today I returned for a late Saturday afternoon cappuccino, and was impressed with the new summer menu.¬†¬† My eye caught the asparagus tapas, at R35, crispy and crunchy, simply served with lemon,¬†the best asparagus I have tasted.¬†¬† Then I saw a Seafood salad advertised on a Specials board, for R55, and had to have it, when the Manager Gidi¬†explained that it¬†contained steamed prawns and crayfish, with bisque a√Įoli, beautifully presented, which had been a criticism I had expressed previously.¬† I felt that Chef Jannie has progressed by leaps and bounds, not only in terms of his menu selection, food preparation, but also in terms of the food presentation.¬† On the wine side an innovate wine trio 50 ml¬†flight is offered for Sauvignon Blanc (Delaire, Hillcrest and Reyneke Organic), at R40 for the three wines;¬† the Sparkling wine flight is Steenberg 1682, Teddy Hall,¬† and¬†Sterhuis,¬†at R65, or R100 if served with a trio of oysters; and the Shiraz flight is from Eagle’s Nest, Haskell Aeon, and La Motte Shiraz Viognier, costing R80.

French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, 199 Bree Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-3839. www.frenchtoastwine.com (website still under construction).  Twitter @FrenchToastWine. Monday РSaturday 12h00 Р23h00.  No BYO allowed, the winelist says.

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