Restaurant hell in Cape Town and Winelands over Festive Season!


imageClever Capetonians stay far away from restaurants over the Festive Season, given poor past experiences with service and food quality. It seems that many locals are brave enough or naive enough to go out during the Festive Season, especially on special festive days such as Christmas.

As a member of the Facebook Group ‘Cape Town Restaurants: the good, the bad and nastyyyy…’ I have been astounded in the past few days to read more complaints than compliments about our local restaurants, especially  those located in Cape Town.

Let’s start with Christmas Day lunches.  Backsberg outside Franschhoek cracked a nod for a good quality value for money meal at R495 per head, as did Diemersdal Farm Eatery, at R450 per person, and the 8-wine 8-tapas  tasting menu for R240 at Creation. The Table Bay Hotel received praise for its Christmas buffet, at R685 per person, as did Bon Ami at Bloemdal in Durbanville, and Driftwoods in Parklands.  Christmas lunch complaints were posted about the Winchester Mansions hotel in Sea Point, for its poor quality food, lack of mint sauce for the lamb and no cranberry sauce for the turkey, no cream or ice cream for the desserts, broken roll-top lids of food dishes, an exorbitant cost of R595 per person (incorrectly reported as R660 on the Facebook Group page), and only six crackers supplied for a table of eight.

Restaurants which have received a thumbs up in the past few days include La Petite Tarte in De Waterkant, Yumcious Café in the Cape Quarter, Warwick Wine Estate for its picnic; La Belle Bistro & Bakery at The Alphen hotel; Cheyne’s in Hout Bay, Delish in Heidelberg; Springfontein Eats in Stanford; Greens in Constantia; Blue Fin Sushi Bar in Harfield Village; Balducci in the V imageand A Waterfront; Al’s Restaurant in Rondebosch; Café Paradiso in Kloof Street; Bistro Bouchon on Hout Street (photograph); Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch; Old Bridge Restaurant in Somerset West; The Big Easy in Stellenbosch; Overture in Stellenbosch; the Cape Grace hotel for its tea and scones; Nonna Lina on Orange Street; and Café Caprice in Camps Bay;

Worrying is the large number of disastrous restaurant experiences, and locals appear to be reporting them. One wonders what terrible word of mouth our South African and international visitors must be sharing with others, although I suspect that the latter group will be ecstatic about the amazing value they receive at our restaurants at the current exchange rates!  Restaurants which have been berated for poor food and service include the Chapman’s Peak Hotel, for losing its pans in which food used to be served, changed menu, and disappointing service; Baked Bistro in Bakoven, which received a complaint about its rather odd Eggs Benedict served with Beetroot Hollandaise and undercooked eggs, and did not look good; The Famous Franschhoek Pancake Place, due to poor service; Sacred Ground in Franschhoek, due to poor service, a disinterested owner/manager, and cleanliness issues; Selkirk Restaurant at Harbour House Hotel in Hermanus, for its incorrect order-taking, use of frozen prawns, no sweet potato chips despite being on the menu, and lack of response from the manager to complaints aired; Dunes in Hout Bay, for its overcooked steak, slow service, owner/manager not to be seen, and poor state of ladies’ loo; Man Ho Restaurant in Tableview, for its slow service; The Milkwood Restaurant in Onrus, for its slow service; Company Gardens Restaurant, for its rude hostess; the Cape Town Fish Market in the V and A Waterfront, for its chipped crockery, poor vegetable side dish, and wifi not working; Café Roux served hake which was off and bought-in coriander and chili sauce; San Marco in the V and A Waterfront, for adding a service fee to the bill automatically, croissants not available, and eggs not properly cooked; The Grand on the Beach, for its poor service, and rice grains in a vegetable side dish; and Knead in Muizenberg for its poor service and poor food.

Even more worrying is the responses of restaurateurs, in the instances in which they have bothered to reply. Baked Bistro owner Zahir Mohammed was defensive in his response, blaming the non-arrival of four of his staff. It appears that he himself was not at the restaurant. Interesting how ‘things can go wrong‘ due to the business of the restaurant, given that it is the Festive Season, is blamed for restaurant disasters! Commendable was the service recovery by Chef Peter Tempelhoff of Greenhouse restaurant for a poor experience before Christmas, and by Jenny Morris of the new Yumcious Café. Poor is the non-response from restaurant owners or managers to all the negative restaurant experiences listed above! With close to 9000 members of the Facebook Restaurant Group, one would think that every local restaurant would know about it, check it regularly, and respond if feedback is posted about it!

It is clear that many local restaurants have poor staff in not coming to work in a period during which restaurants are at their peak in terms of bookings, with worse to come from tomorrow onwards, when many tourists fly in to Cape Town, having celebrated Christmas in their home towns. Perhaps restaurants are too greedy in taking bookings and walk-ins when they know that their kitchen and waiting staff will be over-stretched, and that there is a likelihood that staff will not arrive at work. One writer stated that it is a shame that staff do not respect their jobs, and cannot be fired for no-shows. The South African staff morale makes it hell for restaurant owners and management to offer the best quality food and service!

One visits restaurants at one’s peril for the next week, especially in a suburb such as Camps Bay! Disappointing for visitors to our region must be that so many top restaurants have been closed this week!

POSTSCRIPT 29/12: I have received two responses from restaurateurs since posting this Blogpost, being a summary of compliments and complaints of the Cape Town Restaurant Facebook Group page. The first was a message left on my answering service by Baked Bistro owner Zahir Mohammed, full of anger and swear words about what I wrote above. I called him, telling him that his response on the Facebook Group page was inappropriate, in being angry and rude to the complainant. He hurled further abuse at me, and he clearly is an angry young man. I had to end the conversation!

Murray Nell, the GM of the Winchester Mansions hotel, called this morning, and promised to send me his hotel’s side of the Christmas Day complaint received. He promised to summarize what he told me, and send it to my Blog, but we have not heard from him since. He told me that it was the second complaint the hotel has received on the Restaurant Facebook page, the first having been a traumatic experience due to what he described as attacks from members of the Group. He was loath to respond on the Facebook Group page. He told me that the complainants did not pass on any feedback to his staff about their meal throughout the Christmas Day lunch, having five managers on the floor for the meal. The lamb was stuffed with feta cheese, and therefore mint sauce was not a suitable sauce, they thought. They had two other sauces and therefore did not offer cranberry sauce with the turkey. Both sauces could have been made available had they been requested. No place settings were short of Christmas crackers. Custard was available for the desserts. The complainant is a regular breakfast customer of the hotel, he shared.

POSTSCRIPT 30/12: Despite a promise by Holden Manz GM Wayne Buckley to respond to a complaint sent to this Blog by Marilyn Levin (see Comment section), and promising to ‘look into it’ when I followed up, he did not, and disparaged the complainant as being unreasonable and that he did not want to get into a ‘pointless conversation online’. She had also posted her complaint on TripAdvisor. It appears it was more important for him to take the day off and eat out in Cape Town!

POSTSCRIPT 18/1: Holden Manz has finally refunded Marilyn Levin for her disappointing picnic!

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog:  Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here


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14 replies on “Restaurant hell in Cape Town and Winelands over Festive Season!”

  1. “Holden Manz Picnic”

    Sunday 27 December 2015, we were a party of six
    adults and two children hoping to enjoy a picnic in beautiful surroundings. Looking at the website – the picnic-baskets we received, were very different to what was offered. No table-cloth, plates or napkins and it certainly was not “mouth-watering”. We decided to try Holden Manz for a picnic-lunch after going to Boschendal for the past two years. What a mistake!! The chef from Holden Manz should pay Boschendal a visit to see what a picnic is all about. The food offered by Holden Manz was shocking. A Greek salad for two consisting of two olives, two Rosa tomatoes cut in half, two blocks of Feta cheese and leaves and more leaves and more leaves! A container of olives and a few slices of pickled onions and cucumber, a salad with cheese shavings and smoked salmon, a small container of barley salad, bread rolls/butter and a container of cheese slices. Three tiny containers of salad-dressing/chutney and what tasted like humus were also provided plus one bottle of wine for six people.

    For dessert a small container of fruit salad and two slices of dry Christmas cake per couple. The children`s food box was equally shocking – a yogurt, a peach, fruit juice and a bread roll with cheese.

    After querying the inadequate meal, we were given more sliced bread and slices
    of tongue which half the party did not eat.

    Holden Manz should stick to making wine and not picnic`s. Over-rated,over-priced, under-catered and certainly not value for your money. There are many farms offering picnic`s and Holden Manz will not be seeing any of us again.

          • HI Chris
            Just to respond to Holden Manz GM Wayne Buckley – I am far from unreasonable. All we want is value for our money, which you you obviously will NOT get at Holden Manz. We enjoy eating out at different restaurants and Wayne Buckley`s arrogant attitude will see him go one way!!!
            Anyway, thank you for trying Chris.

          • I am so disappointed with Wayne, especially in not keeping his promise to reply to you.

            I know you are not unreasonable.

          • Hi Marilyn,

            Thank you for your comments and as i did mention to Chris i would look into the issue, which we have now and taken steps in order to get this right. As we all know this is quite a busy period, we try to get it right, but doesn’t always happen that way. We would like to make amends, and if you could mail me on I would greatly appreciate it. I have also made Chris aware that I was not able to comment on here as the Disqus was not allowing me to.

            Many thanks,

            Wayne Buckley
            Marketing Manager – Holden Manz Wines

          • Thank you Wayne for getting back to Marilyn.

            Good that you got the Disqus message system to work.

  2. Hi Chris,its me from Greyton, youve hit the nail again! Service,service and service again seems to be the major culprit over season,being in a touristy village myself the walkin factor is major , people rocking up pleading for a table, I have a number oftrained waitress’s who can handle my numbers and no we are not greedy,I have learnt to be thick skinned skinned (at abuse when I show people away) visitors that say increase (untrained?) staff ,respectfully dont know the industry.Unfortunately silly season is balances and cheques

  3. Wow! Zahir Mohammed clearly has a lot to learn. Thanks for the timely tip, Chris. Rather reminds me of the time I made the mistake of eating at Calistos in Johannesburg where the food took two hours to arrive, the waiter tipped a plate of butter sauce into my lap, and when I complained about the dreadful food and service, the owner/ manager’s response was: “You f …ing b ….! F… off out of my restaurant you white trash piece of c … !”

    • Absolutely Caroline, very unprofessional reaction!

      Restaurateurs generally are very sensitive to any feedback other than praise!

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