Tag Archives: Richard Griffin

Haarlem & Hope: The new Company’s Garden Restaurant in Cape Town!

Haarlem & Hope opening 24 NovemberOn Friday afternoon Haarlem & Hope was officially opened in the Company’s Garden, now operated by the Madame Zingara Group, having won the tender from the City of Cape Town.  The restaurant opens to the public tomorrow.

Owner Richard Griffin is an excellent showmaster, which we have seen in his quirky restaurants such as the Bombay Bicycle Club, and his Madame Zingara shows are a must-see in acrobatics, entertainment, Haarlem & Hope Richard Griffen Whale Cottageand food served with precision for hundreds (perhaps Eat Out can contract him to handle the catering for the Eat Out Restaurant Awards in 2015)!

The name comes from  the Dutch ship Nieuwe Haarlem, which was shipwrecked at the Cape in 1647.  Crew members stayed at the Cape for a year before being picked up by another passing Dutch ship, and in that time the crew planted vegetables, which they bartered for fresh meat from the Khoi living here already. Jan van Riebeek arrived five years later, expanding the vegetable gardening to create the Company’s Garden.

The first thing one notices on arrival is the weaver bird nest-like hanging baskets at the right of the entrance, made Continue reading →

Zingara Group to open Company’s Garden restaurant Haarlem & Hope!

Haarlem & Hope Company's Garden RestaurantThe City of Cape Town has awarded the tender to operate the long-operating The Company’s Garden restaurant to the Zingara Group, its sixth Cape Town restaurant opened in the past thirteen years, and will be called Haarlem & Hope.

The City called for tenders for the operation of the restaurant a year ago, as part of its revitalisation of the Company’s Garden.   The Zingara Group met the criteria specified in the tender, and a year later received the go-ahead.  The name comes from  a Dutch ship Nieuwe Haarlem, which was shipwrecked at the Cape in 1647.  Crew members stayed at the Cape for a year before being picked up by another passing Dutch ship, and in that time the crew planted vegetables, which they bartered for fresh meat from the Khoi living here already. Jan van Riebeek arrived five years later, picking up the vegetable gardening to create the Company’s Garden. Continue reading →

Madame Zingara pitches her ‘Victoria’ Spiegel tent in the V&A Waterfront for ‘The Miracle Tour’!

The V&A Waterfront is a magnificent location for the new Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams ‘The Miracle Tour’ show, which kicked off in the Belgium-made Spiegel tent last week, and will remain in the Mother City for another four months or more.   It must be one of the slickest ‘restautainment’ operations, feeding about 400 patrons each night, with unbelievable service and amazing entertainment.  Owner Richard Griffin is the ultimate showmaster, and just gets better at it year after year.

Located across the Aston Martin showroom, in which building there is ample and reasonably priced parking, the Theatre of Dreams is in the small parking area alongside the cinema parking exit, making it easy to get to.  GM and Ringmaster Marvin Haddon told us that they had negotiated with the V&A Waterfront management for a long time to obtain a space, and that the retail management company is being very supportive in making their Cape Town run a success.  The marquee tent is better protected against the infamous south-easter than in most other locations in Cape Town, if one remembers where Griffin has had to pitch his tent in the past, including the bottom end of Adderley Street under the highway bridge, and in the bush at Century City!  The marquee is not very visible, as branding has been reduced to ‘MZ’ with pink hearts, at the front and back of the area, with faux swans, more hearts, warthogs, and more. One enters into a smallish reception area with a bar, and a number of the show characters stand outside for photo opportunities, some as ‘frozen statues’.  A choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is offered, and even Richard was waiting outside, saying hello to his patrons.  The ‘check-in’ was painless, nothing as complicated as it was at now ex-Vaudeville, which was a Madame Zingara ‘substitute’ in Cape Town for a  while, having featured ex-Madame Zingara star Irit Noble.  Marvin made it an even more special evening, coming to check on us regularly, and made us feel like very special guests, an amazing ability the Madame Zingara staff has.  They really seem to love their jobs, are looked after well, seem to enjoy dressing up, and know where the boundary lies in dealing with customers. Griffin (right, with The Specifics) wrote in his invitation letter that he is proud of the employment his show can offer, with a ‘R2,2 million on group payroll’.  Once inside, one sees more frozen statues, the one in honour of Alexander McQueen attracting attention especially.  The Madame Zingara Photography Emporium has two seats, and allows one to take photographs within a beautiful frame of flowers.  One can have face-painting done and can buy hats and other party decorations.

‘Victoria’, with her stained glass windows, can seat 437 patrons, we were told, and one does not feel cramped.  The stage runs down the middle of the tent, half way, almost like a fashion ramp, the end part being raised up or down, and also revolving, used for amazing effects.  Depending on the size of one’s party, one is seated at tables on a raised section further back for larger groups.  Tables near the stage run the risk of being picked on, as one gentlemen came to regret wearing his striped ‘pyjama shirt’.   Our host and waiter Jason chose to play the little red devil, and he was charming, nothing being too much trouble.  He did struggle to get us to drink more than some wine and sparkling wine, and lots of water.  The marquee is very cool when one arrives, being airconditioned, but it got hotter and hotter inside, being sold out on Thursday evening.  The table has a display of red flowers with the table number, but is removed after one is seated to make more space.  A winelist offers wines and ‘bubbles’ at reasonable prices, but does not specify the vintages. Sparkling wines include Pierre Jourdan Brut (R50/R190), Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel (R195), and Moët & Chandon (R650); Madame’s house white wine (R35/R120), La Motte Sauvignon Blanc (R155), Warwick Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc (R185), Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc (R135) and more; Madame’s red wine costs R40/R135, Rupert & Rothschild Classique (R220), Beyerskloof Pinotage (R140), and more.

The action never stops once one sits down, and Cathy Specific (who had ‘her’ own show ‘Cathy Pacific’, and right in the main photograph) welcomes the audience, table by table, as long lost friends, in ‘her’ blue air hostess uniform.  Once we were taken through the four course menu, and dietary adjustments were requested, the starter portion of dipping sticks, cheeses, a cream of sweet potato soup, a peppadew dip, tsatziki, hummus, kalamata and green olives, and nuts was brought to the table.  A highlight of the evening was being taken to see the kitchen, in which Chef Lee Cox is in charge.  Every night he and his team prepare 430 portions of each course, and it is run as a military operation, timing being of the essence, songs being his cue as to when the food must come out of the kitchen. The waiting staff literary run from the kitchen into the marquee, ensuring that the food remains hot, and the dessert cold. Chef Lee worked at Five Flies previously, and said that he orders 1 ton of AAA grade Karan beef fillet (their signature main course) a month. Stock take is done weekly, and on Tuesdays he receives the food delivery to the value of about R110000 for the week ahead. They are recycling conscious, and have a good daily rubbish collection service in the V&A. He has a ‘culinary kitchen crew’ of 28, and ‘everyone knows what to do’, he said.  He is proud of his good storage facilities.  Impressive was that Chef Lee came to our table after the main course had been served, to personally receive our feedback.

The first act of the show is introduced by MC Mr C (left in main photograph), a local who has worked in similar shows in Germany, and he reminded one of the MC in ‘Cabaret‘, with a wicked sense of humour and a German accent.  Cathy Specific too is funny, and has an amazing figure, whatever the outfit.  Two acrobats (Sam and Justine call themselves Adage) inside a chandelier-shaped ring, were followed by a handsome Lisa and Daniel dancing to Tango-type music which picks up pace, as does that of the dancing, with elegance and grace. The Specifics have evolved from the Three Tons of Fun, and have grown to four members, singing popular hits.

The second course was a tasty butternut and potato ravioli served on a bed of wild mushrooms.  The second act started off with Mr C transforming himself into Marlene Dietrich, and singing a popular ‘Falling in love again‘.  Three Russians (The Strongmen Sergei, Sergei and Alexander) look like wrestlers, two being massive and the third small in comparison, perform amazing acrobatic feats, never putting a foot wrong.  Two further performers Miles and George, The Acurians, do somersault flips, one on the soles of the other, sometimes doing double, and even triple flips, not all successful.  The performers were so professional that when they lost their footing, they did the section again, and added an extra flip, as if it had been choreographed like that for the show!

My main course choice of Venison Wellington was a hefty portion of Kudu loin served with spinach and wrapped with mushrooms and pastry, and mash.  I was envious of Katie’s sesame seed encrusted Norwegian salmon, served with lemongrass and litchi, teriyaki sauce, and a fruit salsa, a work of art.  The third option is a vegetarian one, which includes marinated tofu.  The most popular main course is the beef fillet, served with a chocolate chili sauce.

The third act started with a splash, Sam showing a leg and then an arm in the bath, and got out of the bath, splashing her wet hair on the patrons seated around her and doing some acrobatic acts too.  While she and the bath disappeared into the stage, the bath reappeared almost instantly, this time with Mr C, also having fun in the bath!  Oompah type music inspired what must have been German patrons to get onto the stage, and enjoy themselves dancing whilst everyone else was eating.  They had to be asked to return to their seats.

The final course is the piece de resistance, being Death by Chocolate, a platter with a delicious Tiramisu, a chocolate brownie, a hot phyllo cigar, and a ball of Gorgonzola infused chocolate ice cream.  Just when one thinks that the show is over, the fourth act starts, with a Rocky Horror Show ‘Time Warp’ dance in which everyone participates, guided by Cathy Specific.  One of the most unbelievable acts is that of Mongolian contortionist Vicky, who bends her body into the most unusual shapes. Sam does some more smart acrobatic moves above the audience, and is followed by two drumming and rope whipping Argentinians.  A giant sized disco ball is erected, and the audience that doesn’t have to get up early the next morning is encouraged to dance.

Madame Zingara delivers on its promise, printed on the winelist: “It has always been our dream to build a space where our working family is inspired and empowered and our guests are welcome to be part of the Madame Zingara magic, even if just for one night. We invite you to step into our world where disbelief is suspended and all things are possible. The Miracle Tour is our tribute to the miracle of life and a celebration of this magical journey”. Whatever problems one may have experienced during the day, will have been forgotten by the time one leaves the world of Madame Zingara!

Note: One is not allowed to photograph the acts during the show, so we have used those from the Madame Zingara website and Facebook page.

Madame Zingara: The Miracle Tour, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.  Tel  0861 623263. www.madamezingara.com Twitter: @Madame_Zingara  Tuesday – Saturday, until mid-year.

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

Restaurant Review: Café Paradiso re-awakened in its perfect setting!

Café Paradiso re-opened three weeks ago under the new hand of Richard Griffin, the fourth restaurant in his Cape Town collection, which now also incorporates the Bombay Bicycle Club, The Sidewalk Café, and Café Mozart.   We wrote recently about Griffin’s talent in turning around existing restaurants, and giving them his restaurant magic.

Café Paradiso has no apparent Griffin decor quirks to make it appear different or improved – it has the most beautiful landscape of all in its dramatic view onto Table Mountain from the outside terrace area, fully occupied last night with more patrons queuing for tables.   We were extremely grateful to Peta, the manager of Café Mozart, who happened to arrive at the same time as we did, and who helped to wave her magic wand to organise a table for us with Myra, the Spanish hostess.   And what a table it was outside.   The infamous Cape Town Southeaster was an angel, and stayed away, making it a magical evening.  Griffin has turned the previous smoking-area of the restaurant into the new kitchen, while the old kitchen at the back is a Madame Zingara test kitchen, bakery, an home-made pasta section, of which Angus is in charge, as well as a section in which butter is made.  Whilst I was wandering through inside the restaurant, the Executive Chef Heinrich came up to me to say hello (this is how friendly the staff are), and told me that he was the chef at the original Café Paradiso ten years ago.  He looked very happy to be back “home”.   So what has changed?  Not much, other than the kitchen changes – there seem to be more tables outside than I can recall.   The pin oaks in the courtyard have grown, offering excellent shade.  The lighting inside was far darker than I recall it.   Surprisingly, there was no music, a missing finishing touch, in my opinion.   I was bowled over when the hostess Myra welcomed me by name, remembering me from the Madame Zingara restaurant in Loop Street more than five years ago!

Our waiter John brought the jug of water, which looked extra refreshing with orange and lemon slices and ice, as well as the creamish A4 paper menu and winelist printed on reverse sides of the sheet.  The table cloth is a material one, and therefore the paper serviettes were a disappointment.  Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are from Olyfberg.  The restricted menu and winelist choice makes it easier to choose what to order.   The menu starts with “Beautiful Day” and ends with “Beautiful Night”, and states that “This store lovingly created by The Royal Countess Madame Zingara”, clearly a ‘promotion’ for the Madame!   John brought two beautiful slices of home-baked wholewheat seed-topped bread, and I was lucky enough to get the end crust.   The menu starts with the breakfast collection (served until a respectable midday), and as at Café Mozart, there are some quirky sounding items on the breakfast list, including scrambled egg with rosti, feta, avocado and tomato;  and French toast with grilled haloumi, basil pesto and tomato, both R45.   I’ll be back for the poached eggs with spinach, hollandaise sauce and smokehouse salmon (R55).  There is a choice of four sandwiches, and the young ones are not neglected, with chicken nuggets and lasagne, and “fish fingers royale”.  

Antipasti can be ordered, at R60 for one, or shared at R90 for two, either a meat/cheese one (proscuitto, coppa, salami felino, pecorino, bocconcini, with olives, caperberries and rocket) or a vegetarian one.  Starters include mussels, squid, haloumi, and black risotto with chorizo, none costing more than R50.  Salads (R45 – R60) sound unusual and interesting, the Greek salad being the only standard.   Eight pasta dishes are offered, in a range of R 50 – R65, even with a ‘Ravioli del giorno’, which was filled with wild mushrooms last night, sprinkled with olives, pinenuts, rocket, and parmesan shavings, and served with a tasty white wine sauce. There are only five main course choices: rack of veal stuffed with four cheeses at R145; an ‘organic sirloin’ at R135; “feathered steak” (as I understood it, parma ham is beaten onto the surface of the steak to make it as flat as a feather and then flash fried) at R90; linefish at R89; and a most generous charred lemon and rosemary chicken-half, served with a colourful collection of root vegetables, including sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and turnips (R85).   A range of familiar sweet treats, cakes, scones, muffins, ice creams, and desserts are offered, costing R25 – 45.  I couldn’t get John to get a frothy cappuccino from the kitchen, but it did come with a biscuit on the side, and the word ‘smile’ on the foam. The cappuccino seemed somewhat more expensive than the going rate, but this is a small price to pay for the excellent value for money of the rest of the meal.  

We were bad news for the sommelier Eron, in not ordering any wines, both being on medication.  He was not switched off, and treated us as long-term customers, and gave us some of his background.   I asked him to consider stating vintages of the wines on offer and the region from which they originate, as well as offering more wines-by-the-glass (there are only two white and two red, and one bubbly by the glass).  The housewine is called Paradise on the menu, costing R22/R85 for the red and the white, but when Eron brought a bottle to the table, it was a label-less bottle, with a neck label stating the name “Unbelievable”, the wines made especially for Café Paradiso by Mount Vernon in Klapmuts.   Fifteen red and white wines each are on offer, a mix of varieties, peaking in price at R175 for Jordan Chardonnay and R210 for Hartenberg “Cabernet”.   Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel costs R30/R155, Graham Beck Brut R185, and Moét & Chandon R650. 

Café Paradiso is a new affordable friendly ‘home from home’ at any time of the day and evening when one is in town, especially on a gorgeous wind-free Cape Town day.   I’ll be back.

Café Paradiso, 110 Kloof Street, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 423-8653.  www.cafeparadiso.co.za  (website goes to www.madamezingara.comsite, listing all the Griffin ventures, each with their own page – not containing much information, and with few photographs, but the menu and winelist are featured).   Monday – Saturday 8h00 – 22h00, Sunday 8h00 – 14h30.

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