I had the luck to have enjoyed a 16 course Tasting Menu dinner soon after the opening of Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock outside Stellenbosch, in November. I was blown away by the creativity of the dining experience, and its experiential nature, with Molecular Gastronomy, something I had not experienced at this international level in my dining experiences locally and internationally. On Tuesday a week ago I returned to Gåte, to try the new dishes on the Tasting Menu, as well as those that have changed in the past three months, while my friend from Paris ate the Tasting Menu for the first time, at her invitation. Continue reading →
What Spill Blog had predicted three weeks ago, but what Reuben Riffel had denied vehemently to the media and to ourselves, has been announced in the Sunday Times today – Reuben Riffel will take over the helm of one of the restaurants at the One&Only Cape Town, establishing a Reuben’s restaurant in the space vacated by Gordon Ramsay’s maze at the end of July, on 1 October. This will be the third Reuben’s, joining the restaurant family in Franschhoek and Robertson. Reuben has committed to spending three days a week at the Hotel, to look after the restaurant.
Following speculation about him taking over the restaurant, which he denied, Riffel had warned restaurateurs to heed the example of Ramsay spreading himself too thin, and in not having a hands-on control over one’s restaurants, as quoted in sake24.
We congratulate Reuben and his team, and wish them huge success in a very large space of 170 seats to fill, with all eyes from the Cape Town and international market focused on how he will fill Ramsay’s shoes. Reuben’s largest challenge will be the service level offered, it not having been a strength of his restaurants in more recent times.
The full Sunday Times story follows:
“One of South Africa’s top chefs, Reuben Riffel, has been picked to be the apple of hospitality tycoon Sol Kerzner’s eye.
Riffel – who has gone from eating pig’s head as a youngster to feeding well-heeled patrons his signature ginger and caramel pork belly – will replace famed UK chef Gordon Ramsay at Kerzner’s One&Only hotel in Cape Town. Ramsay’s Maze restaurant was expelled from the premises following rumours of crisis talks earlier this month. In an exclusive interview this week, Riffel recalled the day Kerzner, his daughter, Andrea Kerzner, and Alan Leibman, the president of Kerzner International, visited Reuben’s, his restaurant in Franschhoek. The high-profile party feasted on chilli salt squid starters, blue cheese tomato jam tarts, tomato soup with coconut sorbet and lamb shanks with waterblommetjies. Afterwards, Kerzner made Riffel a business offer he could not refuse. “I was flabbergasted. I mean, to be asked this by such a massive industry person. So I told him I’d think about it,” said Riffel. Leibman was full of praise: “Mr Kerzner enjoyed the experience tremendously, he described the food as bursting with local ingredients, extremely tasty and heart-warming. He was also impressed with the extensive wine selection.”
Riffel’s contract, signed on Tuesday, stipulates that he will man the restaurant at the hotel at least three days a week. This follows on Ramsay’s striking absence from Maze. Reuben’s at the One&Only will be decorated in Riffel’s trademark ox-blood red with bold artworks. “I want it to be more relaxed, unlike the traditional idea of hotel restaurants being stiff, that colonial feeling,” he said. The softly-spoken chef, who was raised in Groendal outside Franschhoek, got his big break when he landed a job at the Chamonix Restaurant in Franschhoek, where his mother worked temporarily as a kitchen hand. He has since risen to become one of South Africa’s most celebrated chefs”.
The Food & Beverage Assistant Manager at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town has confirmed Reuben’s appointment, as has Maryke, Reuben Riffel’s wife. Maryke has confirmed that they will take over some of the existing staff at the hotel’s restaurant, and that the Franschhoek and Robertson staff of Reubens will assist in the opening of Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town on a temporary basis. She said that Reuben is itching to get into the One&Only kitchen, to “eat it and smell it”, but will be spending the next few days in Robertson to run a cookery course.
POSTSCRIPT 23/8: The One&Only Cape Town’s media release, released today, is short and sweet, and appears rushed in containing unforgivable typing errors:
“(23 August 2010) It has been announced that Reuben Riffel – one of South Africa’s best loved celebrity chefs – will open his first urban restaurant at One&Only Cape Town later this year. The annoucement (sic) was made in Cape Town late last week by Alan Leibman, President of Kerzner International (EAME).
Talking to the annoucement (sic) Sol Kerzner, Chairman and CEO of Kerzner International explained that he had dined at Reuben’s restaurant in Franschhoek while he was in Cape Town over World Cup. “I saw in Reuben an opportunity to capture the essence of South African spirit and pride the world saw as we hosted this major event and invited him to bring his acclaimed local flair to a new restaurant at One&Only Cape Town. We are very pleased to have him on board and feel it’s quite fitting that One&Only’s first urban resort is also the setting for Reuben’s first urban restaurant.”
“I’m really excited and proud about the pending launch of my new restaurant,” said Reuben Riffel. “Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will serve wholesome bistro fare, made from locally-sourced produce. With the resort’s central location, I hope to not only introduce my food to more Capetonians, but also visitors to the Mother City. The restaurant will have a sophisticated – but decidedly unfussy – brasserie feel to it, while the food will provide an exciting combination of local flavours appealing to any palette.”
Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will open on Friday 1 October and reservations can be made by calling 021 431 5222 or emailing email@example.com“
POSTSCRIPT 23/8: Fin24.com writes about the appointment of Reuben Riffel at the One&Only Cape Town today, and questions his denial to them two weeks ago about expanding his Reuben’s restaurant chain: http://www.fin24.com/Business/Gordon-Ramsays-replacement-named-20100822
POSTSCRIPT 31/8: The One&Only Cape Town website describes the opening of Reubens at the One&Only Cape Town as follows:
“One&Only Cape Town is proud to launch Reuben’s first urban restaurant on 1 October 2010. Reuben’s serves deceptively simple, wholesome bistro fare, with fresh flavours, generous portions and beautifully plated dishes. The restaurant has a sophisticated, but unfussy, brasserie feel and the food provides the exciting combination of local flavours that one would expect from one of South Africa’s most loved chefs, Reuben Riffel.
POSTSCRIPT 20/9 : Reubens at One&Only Cape Town has opened ahead of its 1 October opening date. Dinner two days ago was a-maze-ing. Read our review
The Sweet Service Award goes to the new 15 on Orange Hotel, and its Food & Beverage Manager Werner Geere, who invited a guest back to the hotel, to enjoy a drink and canapes, for a group of four, in the spectacular Murano Bar of the hotel, which is only allowed to be used by hotel guests normally. The hotel’s bottle of Cape Velvet could not be found on the guest’s first visit, and the hotel does not stock Baileys, which could have been an alternative choice. On the night of the return visit the barman prepared a lovely Cape Velvet Don Pedro. The canapes were yummy sushi platters.
The Sour Service Award goes to Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street, Cape Town, and was nominated by Rosanne Turner. She stayed at the hotel on 17 April, and had her Mini Cooper convertible valet parked by the hotel. The car keys were kept by the hotel. Later that evening Rosanne received a call from the hotel management, informing her that her car had been taken by a member of their staff, taken for a drive 50 km away and involved in an accident. She was assured by the hotel’s manager that they would take full responsibility, that she would not be out of pocket, nor inconvenienced by the incident. The hotel made a rental car available for a while. The hotel’s insurance company did not view the car after the accident, and refused to pay out. Rosanne’s insurance paid out the full value of the car, as it was a write-off, but she had to pay an excess of R 9 500. She has had to appoint a lawyer to deal with the matter. Earlier this week Rosanne wrote that the hotel has reversed its decision, and that she has received a refund for the insurance excess and the legal fees from the hotel, probably with the help of the exposure about this matter on www.2oceansvibe.com, to whom Rosanne had also written.
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website
The Sweet Service Award goes to Donovan Dreyer, the new Food & Beverage Manager of Grand Provence in Franschhoek, who came over to introduce himself when a colleague and I popped in to see the latest exhibition at the art gallery and had a cappuccino and a dessert each. We were served the most beautiful desserts I have ever seen, and they matched their visual attractiveness with exquisite taste as well. My colleague had an apple and mango tart with a tiny toffee apple on top, as well as the greenest scoop of apple ice cream on a chocolate biscuit base. My dessert was a mini chocolate-filled croissant-like pastry, served with a thick vodka cream. Executive Chef Darren Roberts is a talent to be watched. Donovan refused to let us pay, and we left Grand Provence impressed with their friendliness and professionalism.
The Sour Service Award goes to Lime Media Marketing/Media Mountain, a company that has changed its name a number of times since calling in the past six months or so. In heavy recognisable (almost trademark) Manchester accents the staff introduce themselves as a “Google certified company” and promise immediately to put one at number one position “on the first page of Google”. I was offered a special for the Plettenberg Bay accommodation page, at a discounted rate of R 1 300 per month, down from R 4 600. When I asked where it would be located on the Google page – as an ad on the right hand side, as an ad at the top, or as a normal Google listing, tele-sales caller Matthew could not reply, passing me on to Ben. Normally Google ads are charged on a pay-per-click basis. It is obvious that the company is a call centre, as one hears the buzz of numerous other callers (I heard the same salescall go out to an accommodation establishment in Hout Bay whilst speaking to Matthew). No written communication is sent, the transaction being done electronically, so that one cannot see the paperwork at all, which makes one suspicious already. A guest house colleague in Camps Bay, Sally from Atlantic Suites, has also experienced the pushy nature of the company, having been intimidated by them when she did not pay immediately on what the company had felt had been a done deal.
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at email@example.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.