Archive for May, 2009

Jean-Pierre Rossouw, compiler of  ‘Rossouw’s Restaurants’ guide, has just published his 2009 edition, and awarded 3-stars, his top rating, to 13 restaurants in the country.

The Cape-based 3-star restaurants, according to the Weekend Argus, are Aubergine, Bosman’s, Ile de Pain, Jardine, La Colombe, Magica Roma, Mariana’s, The Tasting Room , Rust & Vrede and Zachary’s.   Other 3-star restaurants are Butcher Shop & Grill and Thomas Maxwell Bistro in Sandton, and Ritrovo in Pretoria.

Interesting omissions are Overture, the scenic restaurant of Bertus Basson on the Hidden Valley Estate and close to Rust & Vrede, and Terroir, outside Stellenbosch, both restaurants being on the Top Ten Eat Out list.   In his previous edition, Rossouw was demeaning to Overture about its driveway being very steep, which is absolute nonsense, and should not have clouded his judgement of the restaurant!

Another fatality of the credit crunch is the closure of coffee shop Donatella’s in the V & A Waterfront, which belonged to Ian Halfon, owner of the St. Elmo’s pizza chain, and of the Balthazar and Balducci restaurants in the Waterfront.   It closed overnight last week.

Recently Madame Zingara, The Showroom, Summerville, Cafe Delmar and Wangthai in Camps Bay, 48 on Hout, and Riboville closed down.

Selected outlets of Melissa, The Dros, Cattle Baron, Cape Town Fish Market,  Wangthai, Sundance Cafe’s, and St. Elmo’s have closed down recently, reports the Weekend Argus.                                                                  

Good news is that ex-Showroom owner Bruce Robertson has opened The Quarter in Long Street, in the same building as the New Space Theatre, and two doors away from The Showroom Cafe, which also belongs to Robertson.

The three Vida e Caffe coffee shops that recently closed on Greenmarket Square, in St George’s Mall and in the Bayside Mall, have re-opened, now belonging directly to the franchisor, and no longer to the franchisee.

Auctioneer Rael Levitt of the Alliance Group and City Partnership CEO Andrew Borraine warn of further tough times ahead, and say that this will affect the restaurant trade, in that there are too many new restaurants combined with a cut back by patrons eating out at restaurants.

The third annual Franschhoek Literary Festival this past weekend has been a success, despite extremely heavy rain over the Festival weekend.   Restaurants, shops and accommodation establishments all benefited from the Festival.

Featuring a line-up of speakers including Andre Brink, Max du Preez, Zubeida Jaffer, Shaun Johnson, Vikas Swarup (author of ‘Q & A’, which became the Oscar-winning movie ’Slumdog Millionaire’), Justin Cartwright,  Christopher Hope and the biographers Pippa Green (Trevor Manual) and Jeremy Gordin (Jacob Zuma), many sessions were sold out.   Franschhoek chefs Reuben Riffel and Neil Jewell spoke about their books ‘Reuben Cooks’ and ‘Bread & Wine’, respectively.

Good news for Franschhoek is that Andre Brink announced that his next book is to be set in Franschhoek. 

The Autumn Music Weekend by Christopher Duigan, a regular visitor to Franschhoek, which ran alongside the Festival, was as excellent as ever, especially the “I Got Rhythm” concert.  

The play ‘Bafana Republic III’, which had its premiere at the Festival, was less of a success.  The dinner at Bread & Wine was found by Festival goers to not live up to expectations.

Stellenbosch wine brand Kleine Zalze is the largest South African brand in the British hospitality trade, according to a survey conducted for ‘UK On Trade’, reports Bolander

The ‘Wine On Premise UK 2009′ evaluated 12 500 wine lists of 560 wine distributors in the UK, and selected Kleine Zalze as the most sold South African brand in hotels, restaurants, and pubs.  The brand is also ranked the 14th most distributed wine in the UK.   The report attributes Kleine Zalze’s success to its wine quality, packaging and PR.

Kobus Basson, the Managing Director of Kleine Zalze, says that his company talked to the UK hospitality industry on how they could improve their wines for greater consumer enjoyment, and feels that his company has achieved its success as a result of this.

Cape Town has been named Africa’s leading destination for the second year running by the World Travel Awards, and the award was accepted by the City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism jointly.

 

Cape Town Tourism was named a finalist in the Best Tourism Organisation and Best Marketing Campaign in Africa categories.   The Mount Nelson Hotel was named the Best Hotel in Africa, SAA best airline in Africa, OR Thambo International as best African airport, Europcar the Leading Car hire company in Africa, Cape Town as leading Port in Africa, and S A Tourism was named as Africa’s leading Tourist Board. 

 

The winners of the World Travel Awards are voted for by travel agents.   The awards have been running for 16 years.

 The Sweet Service Award goes to Jason, the Branch Manager of Defy in Cape Town, for preventing his company from receiving a Sour Award.    The Service Department is not known to be very service orientated, usually booking the service call for 4 – 6 working days ahead.   A reference number was received and a date organized for the repair of a tumbledrier in Franschhoek.   As the technician had not arrived by 3 pm on the promised date, the customer called the service centre.  She was told that the technician had called in the morning.  No message was left by the technician nor did he try to contact the customer again later that day.   The customer was told that the technician had already left the area, and that he would therefore only be able to return in two days.  The customer was not happy with the delay, as a firm arrangement had been made.   She was fortunate to be able to get the cell number of Jason, the branch manager, who was out of the office on that day.   He took control immediately, and promised that the technician would come on the following day.  The customer called Jason again, when the technician could not issue a Tax Invoice, only a job card, for the replacement of the fan belt.    Jason immediately offered to allow the service to be free of charge, given that the repair was two months after the guarantee expiry.  

The Sour Service Award goes to Karibu in the V&A Waterfront, for poor service to a group of tourists having drinks there, and disputing the bill.  The nomination comes from Amanda Burman:  “On Saturday 2nd May  Philippe Sella (*Philippe Sella was one of the greatest rugby centres of all time, the French legend being the first player to win 100 caps for his country) stopped off with a few of his clients for pre drinks before lunch at Karibu Restaurant in the Waterfront.    All were French speaking but Philippe is able to speak fairly decent English.   I arrived just before they received their bill.   They ordered Beers, one other drink and Whiskey with Coke. The waiter asked what type of whiskey.  and went on to mention a “million” different brands. They “stopped” him and Philippe repeated  “just a normal whiskey with coke”.   On presentation of the bill, Philippe realized something was wrong when the total came to a whopping  + R2 300.00. While he was questioning the waiter, I spotted someone “cowering” behind the bar counter,  went up to him and asked if he was the Manager. He answered in the affirmative and of course I berated him for not stepping forward to deal with this. He showed absolutely no interest and had no idea how to handle the situation. I told him to make sure the owner gets hold of me to sort this out.    A gentleman by the name of Werner phoned and told me he was a part owner. He was rude and abrasive,  basically insinuated that I was lying as his waiter had told him a different story. I asked him what happened to “the customer is always right” and told him that he was ripping off the foreigners and to boot he was ripping off a very well known and very honourable gentlemen. He didn’t care at all and eventually slammed the phone down on me.  I was at another establishment by this time and the Proprietor was so angry that she too phoned him but she received the same treatment. About 15 minutes later, he phoned me back with words to the effect of “I just want you to know that my waiter speaks fluent French so there could have been no mistake with what they ordered. That’s all I have to say on the matter” and again he slammed the phone down on me. I checked with Philippe if at any time the waiter spoke French to them and of course he said NO.   The total was so high because the waiter had served 5 (double tots – not asked for) of – wait for it –  Johnny Walker BLUE with coke! This portion of the bill came to R1 750!   Philippe has been bringing groups to SA ever since he retired from rugby in 1995. Cape Town is one of his favourite destinations. Clearly Karibu will not be on his list for the future!” 
Werner Olivier, part-owner of Karibu, replied as follows:   The situation as conveyed to you by Amanda Burman is Incorrect. The facts pertaining to the “pre-lunch drinks” are as follows:Philippe Sella arrived with four other guests at the restaurant and were seated on the comfortable couches close to the bar area. They were presented with our wine list which also contains the whiskeys with prices.   The waiter, upon realising that they were French, called to our French speaking sommelier, who was standing behind the bar counter about 3 meters away, which then spoke to Mr Sella in French and pointed out the different whiskeys from the display at the bar counter. Mr Sella ordered the Johnny Walker Blue Label, a double, by name and asked for ice on the side. The coke was ordered separately.He then repeated this order twice later and rounded it off with another two orders of double neat whiskeys – a total of 10 tots!   One of his party of people came to the bar counter and had a discussion, in French, with the sommelier. He enquired whether we stock Ricard, an excellent, expensive, French vermouth. We didn’t so he settled for Martini Bianco’s. A total of 6 Double Martinis were then consumed in the same spate of time.   During this pre-lunch drinks session the guests consumed between them a total of: 12 Martini Bianco,10 Shots of Johnny Walker Blue label,7 Windhoek Draughts,3 Castle Lagers, 3 Cokes and 2 Glasses of Constantia Uitsig Sauvignon Blanc- a total of 37 drinks.   We are quite sure that Mr Sella is quite capable of distinguishing between single and double shots, that he is an experienced whiskey drinker and can distinguish between cheap whiskey and Johnny Walker Blue Label which he ordered. Mr Sella was also quite happy when the bill arrived and did not question the bill as alleged. The person who questioned the bill was his “close friend” Amanda Burman. As a reputable up-market restaurant we do not employ “cowering” managers. When I phoned Amanda Burman she was the rude person who put the phone down. It is inconceivable that the “proprietor of another establishment”  could have overheard a cell phone conversation, neither did the female person that phoned me identify herself but only stated she was phoning on behalf of Amanda, made rude remarks and put the phone down. I investigated further and phoned Amanda Burman back and told her that the whiskey was ordered by name from the French-speaking sommelier. She insisted on a full refund and came over aggressively which necessitated my ending the conversation.   We believe that Amanda Burman was ill-informed and, as a close friend of Mr Phillippe Sella, is perhaps quite informed of his drinking habits and whiskey choice, which, we are sure, as a famous celebrity and obviously avid and experienced consumer of whiskey, would be nothing other than only the best like the Johnny Walker Blue Label he ordered at our Restaurant. As a reputable up-market restaurant who have just won the Amarula Cape Town Cocktail competition, we invite all people to come and experience Karibu’s hospitality, excellent (and honest!) service, and mouth-watering South African dishes…………….. and judge for themselves.  

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 info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be red on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.  

The attack by SATSA Chairman Michael Tatalias on the accommodation industry for not signing with the FIFA accommodation and ticketing agency MATCH, and accusing it of “holding back” so that “they could inflate their prices to rip off tourists” (Cape Argus, 12 May, ‘City hoteliers warned against hiking prices”) is uncalled for.
 
SATSA is an association of tour operators, car rental companies, business tourism suppliers, etc, and has a small number of accommodation members.  Accommodation is not the association’s major focus.   It therefore cannot speak for the accommodation industry.
 
It is MATCH that has been greedy, in originally dictating to accommodation establishments that they should use the 2007 rate and add a 16 % inflation factor to this, to get to the 2010 rate.  MATCH then would take a preposterous 30 % commission on this rate.  However, with inflation in 2008 at around 13 %, this rate dictate was not acceptable to most establishments, and that is why the number of rooms offered to MATCH has been so low.
 
MATCH has been viewed critically, and its unfavourable terms as far as the small accommodation industry (i.e. guest houses, B&B’s, self-catering establishments) goes, but over the past two years MATCH has come to the party by becoming far more flexible in its pricing (accepting any fair price) and cancellation policy is concerned, mainly because they have no other choice.   It is still taking a 30 % commission, now as an add-on, making accommodation appear extremely expensive, unless it is hidden in ticket/accommodation/transport packages!
 
The cancellation of rooms at short notice during the 2006 World Cup in Germany has been communicated to the industry, and MATCH’s dictate to supply 80 % of one’s room stock was therefore not acceptable.   Even in this regard MATCH has become flexible, and they will now accept any number of rooms one will offer.
 
The accommodation industry believes that it is able to sell its rooms directly to soccer fans who do not wish to be ripped off by MATCH’s rates.   They are not short-sighted enough nor that dishonourable to “rip-off” any 2010 World Cup tourists.  Many will use the 2009/2010 summer rate for June/July 2010, instead of discounting rates to winter levels, as is usually the case. 
 
Ultimately pricing is about supply and demand – if they cannot sell their rooms at the summer rate, accommodation establishments will have to lower them.   Tourists are far too astute these days, given the credit crunch, to allow themselves to be “ripped-off”! 

With three restaurant closures in Camps Bay to date due to the credit crunch, the remaining restaurants in Camps Bay are pulling out the stops to attract patrons to keep them alive through the winter low season.

Four Camps Bay restaurants are offering good winter specials:   Tuscany Beach has offered a two-for-the-price-of-one for a few years now, and benefits from a full restaurant as a result.   It offers the special for all dinners throughout the week, and for lunches on weekdays.    It is also offering 20 % off sushi and oysters, and offers a bottle of Seidelberg Chenin Blanc at R69 and a bottle of Merlot at R 80.

Two sister restaurants, Bungalow and The Kove, are also offering “Winter Warmer Specials”.  They have only operated for six months, and need customer support to survive the quiet winter.  Bungalow is offering half price tapas and cocktails between 17h00 – 19h00, and “live, fresh crayfish” for R 99 (weight undefined) and a most unusual “Rainy Day Special” of “half price off everything if it’s raining”!

The Kove is offering 50 % off every dish between 17h00 and 18h45, offers one meal free for four ordered, a two-course meal with a glass of wine at R 100, and a 3-course meal with a glass of wine at R 130.

President Zuma announced his new Cabinet on Sunday, and has appointed Marthinus van Schalkwyk the Minister of Tourism.   He was previously in charge of tourism and environmental affairs.  The creation of the stand-alone ministry for tourism signals the importance of tourism as one of the largest revenue earners for the country.

The Western Cape government too has a new minister of finance, economic development and tourism Alan Winde, in its all-male cabinet, with the exception of its Premier Helen Zille.   While the DA says he has been their spokesperson on financial matters, and that he has owned a tour operator business, the industry does not appear to have heard of him before.   He is Knysna-based.   Winde’s interesting challenge will be to decide what he should do with problem-child Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and its relationship with Cape Town Tourism.

What was meant to be an Easter weekend treat turned out to be a very windy affair at the new L’ermitage restaurant in Franschhoek.   The restaurant has been very low key since its opening in December, and this appeared to have been its first big function.  

Daniele Pascal, the French born but South African based chanson singer, entertained the audience with a mix of Brel and Piaf, with some local Afrikaans liedjies thrown into the pot as well.    

The L’ermitage hotel has a beautiful setting at the edge of a dam on The Fransche Hoek Estate, and the full moon crept over the Franschhoek mountains during the evening, giving the setting a very romantic feel.   The organisers had decided to host the function outside, on their terrace and lawn, not taking into account the south-easter which came up soon after the start of the evening.    

The staff tried valiantly to appease everyone, and could not meet the request for blankets.   The restaurant did not have enough tables inside to allow one to move inside.   Pascal had to battle the wind in the first half – ironically she sang the beautiful Laurika Rauch hit “Kinders van die Wind”.    

Miraculously the wind dropped before she came back on stage for the second half.   Well into her sixties, Pascal openly talked about her recent hip replacement operation.   When singing about love, one does not see her age, as her face and soul light up. 

A set menu was offered at R 350 per head, which included a bottle of French wine – the 2007 Merlot was too light for the South African palate, which expects a more full-bodied wine.   The starter was a choice of soups, but the waiters just assumed that all patrons were having the seafood soup, without taking the order upfront.   No bread was served with the meal, even though side plates were laid on the very small tables for two.   When asked for it, slices of white sandwich loaf were brought to the table.   A remark about it to the manager quickly led to its replacement with some tasty whole-wheat bread.   The main course was a small portion of chicken, and the dessert a small portion of chocolate brownie and mint cream.  I could have sworn there was salt instead of sugar in the brownie.  Coffee had to be paid for as an extra. 

The service received from Emmi, Pearl and Santjie during the evening was outstanding, who must have heard nothing but complaints about the wind and the resultant cold.     

L’ermitage plans to host live entertainment once a month, and will even introduce classical concerts in its conference centre.  The organisers have promised that future events will be held indoors.