Restaurant Review: Opal Lounge most pretentious restaurant in Cape Town


The menu and business card of the Opal Lounge claims that it is the most beautiful restaurant in Cape Town.   It could more aptly be called the most arrogant and pretentious restaurant in Cape Town.   This is the restaurant that, at its time of opening about a year ago, charged for tap water.  A review by ‘Rossouw’s Restaurants’ quickly made the restaurant drop this policy.

The reason for trying out the restaurant was a Valentine’s promotion e-mail which had been received from the restaurant, and the menu that came with it, which looked excellent.  

On arrival we were met by Conrad, who opened the glass door for us, as a gale force south-easter was blowing.  Immediately we were struck by his pretentious greeting, full of airs and graces, which made us feel unwelcome.    He has previously worked as a waiter at Emily’s and Ginja, as well as at overseas restaurants. 

About half an hour later the manager Francois Hough introduced himself, and asked rather aggressively why I was taking notes about his menu and his winelist, who I was and where I was from.  I told him that I write a blog.    I told him that I had to take notes as their website is under construction.  I asked him for his surname, but he refused to give it to me.  He became more friendly as the evening wore on, but did not seem to know how to deal with feedback presented when he asked for it.  He was previously at Paranga, Pepenero and Manolo. 

The restaurant is based in a lovely house, built in 1897, on Kloof Street, and was previously the home of Manolo (not having been shy in the arrogance department either), and a restaurant with French chefs before that.  The building seems to have had little staying power or luck for the previous owners.  It has two lounges, one being an open plan one off the passage, where the Manolo bar and one of the dining rooms used to be.   Two other rooms are used as dining rooms.  The room on the right to the entrance was unbearably hot.  The room we chose became hotter as the evening wore on, and the airconditioner seemed to make little headway in cooling the room to a more acceptable temperature.

The promotional letter describes The Opal Lounge as “Sophisticated yet very homely”, a contradiction in terms.  “Not an ordinary restaurant, but one which has been styled with passion and attention to detail to give your guests an extraordinary dining experience“, boasts the promotional letter (its writing in bold). 

The menu says “Our sincere hope is that you have a glorious experience in any one of our Lounges; that you leave happy, and in the truth that everything we endeavour to do for you on this occasion will bring you back to make this your second home” (underlining as per the menu)!   Our experience was exactly the opposite.

The winelist is beautifully presented in a heavy black leather folder, and has commendable descriptions eloquently written for its extensive collection of wines, not only describing each vintage in great detail, but also each wine.  This is how the Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Bella Rose is described, for example: “Bella Rose has the faintest tinge of salmon pink, a lively presentation of Pinot Noir flavours, a pleasing fine mousse and it reveals an elegant dry finish.  The discreet blush of Belle Rose is emphasized in the name the “beautiful rose””.  This is copywriting at its best!

Interesting was seeing that the red wines are listed before the white wines.   Champagnes stocked are Veuve Cliquot, ranging between R 800 – R 1 200, Bollinger Brut at R 860, Krug at R 2 400, Pol Roger at R 800 and Moet Chandon at R 650.   Cap Classiques range from R 140 for the Eikendal to R 275 for Pierre Jourdan Blanc de Blanc and Cuvee Bella Rose.  Pinot Noir wines ranged in price from R 230 for the Catherine Marshall to R 645 for Hamilton Russell.  The Shirazes cost between R 165 for the Neil Joubert and R 410 for Kevin Arnold.  Grootte Post’s Merlot costs R 175, while that of Veenwouden and Meerlust costs R 410.   Chardonnay ranges from R 165 for Eikendal and Haute Cabriere, to R 585 for one from Hamilton Russell.  The Sauvignon Blanc is priced in a range from R 130 (Eikendal) to R 195 (Steenberg).  

Our first problem arose when we ordered the wine, wanting the 2005 vintage of Warwick Three Ladies, as per the winelist.   The vintage had run out, we were told.  Another two wine choices followed, with the advertised vintages not being in stock.  Our fourth choice was a Steenberg Merlot, and the 2007 vintage as per the winelist was available.   Conrad offered to chill down the wine for us, something we have never been offered for a red wine before.  We declined the offer, being happy with it at room temperature.   The Manager came to explain that the restaurant is re-doing its winelist, and that he had worked with owner Rochelle Bushell on it that day, to update it.  He promised that Rochelle would call the following day.  She did not.  Strangely, after being open for a year, the restaurant’s website is under construction.  

The black leather menu is very descriptive, and each dish gets the copy-writing treatment but over-promises what is presented.   Eight starters include a summer soup, strawberry gazpacho, prawns, Caesar salad, venison dim sum, salmon carpaccio and mushroom tortellini, ranging in price from R 45 – R 77.   The mushroom tortellini is described as follows: “A medley of mushrooms combined with mild goats cheese and stuffed into pasta parcels.  Served with sliced prosciutto, a fresh asparagus salad and truffle dressing.  Finished with a light preserved lemon hollandaise”.   The amuse bouche was a tasty wonton with beef, cottage cheese, and olive, served in a lemon hollandaise sauce.  The Mushroom Tortellini did not deliver on its promise, no prosciutto being found in the dish, and the “asparagus salad” was 6 tiny slivers of asparagus used to decorate the plate.  

Nine main courses are offered, including oxtail, tuna, venison, lamb, duck, beef fillet, line fish and mushroom, ranging from R 105 – R 151.  The Exotic Duck is described as “An exotic dish of duck served 4 different ways. Pan seared duck breast on mange tout, confit leg on pomme de terre croquette, duck liver and thyme wonton, and finally finished off with crispy duck skin. Served with mango salsa, orange gastrique and carrot puree”.  The duck skin was two tiniest 20 cent size pieces, which were shown to the waiter to illustrate the overpromise of the menu, and was not “crispy”.  He did not react to this feedback.  The Manager’s reaction was a lame “I’m sorry”.    The fillet steak was served as tiny thin slices, with an olive oil mash, good in taste but not enough to satisfy a young student.   After the main course a mango and passion fruit “palate cleanser” was served.

The dessert list offers six choices, ranging from R 45 – R 60, as well as a luxury dessert platter for two to share, with a selection of desserts, at R 95.  A cheese platter is also available.  The chocolate mousse dessert promised a peppermint centre, but there was none.  The small slice of chocolate mousse cake was lost on the large plate that it was served on, and tiny specs of peppermint were found at the end tips of it.  It was accompanied by a semi-fredo.   I am a cappuccino addict, but could only manage to finish half of it, it being too milky.  We were charged in full for it, even though I told the waiter that I was not happy with it.

The Head Chef at The Opal Lounge is Robert Miguiez, and the Executive Sous Chef is Steven Kruger, previously with Ginja and Portofino.

NOTE: The day after our dinner on 22 March, for which we had paid R 770, I received a call from Malcolm Bushell, who introduced himself as the husband of Rochelle Bushell and a director of the company.   In the most rude, abusive and threatening manner, he told me in no uncertain terms that if my review (only written on 26 March and posted today for the first time) were to contain any “lies”, or was disparaging, he would have no hesitation to seek legal advice, and also told us to not return to the restaurant.  He was not interested in hearing what the customer feedback was about the experience at the restaurant, doing the “my staff are perfect” routine, and did not allow the customer to speak.   There was no “thank you” for the custom.   When I told him that I would share this call experience with friends Gudrun and Barry Clark, who were also at the restaurant that evening, he said he did not care, and that they too would no longer be welcome!   It is clear to see from whence the arrogance of the staff of this restaurant comes!

The Opal Lounge, 30 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town. Tel 021 422 4747.   Open Mondays – Sundays for dinner only.  Open for lunch for corporate bookings only.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:

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32 replies on “Restaurant Review: Opal Lounge most pretentious restaurant in Cape Town”

  1. I am of course sorry that this lady did not enjoy her dining experience at The Opal Lounge. She is a very rare customer indeed.

    We do try very hard to make sure that every customer enjoys good food in a lovely environment with excellent service, and the great majority of our guests do leave with a very different, and very positive impression. We have two visitor books with literally hundreds of glowing comments as a testiment.

    The Opal Lounge is repeatedly described as one of the top restaurants in Cape Town, and I would just encourage anyone who would like to form their own,unbiased view to try us for themselves.

    I do not know who Gudrun or Barry Clark are, but they are welcome at our restaurant at any time.

  2. Well done Chris, someone needs to highlight these pretentious restaurants with owners who dont accept criticism, lets see how long this place stays open for shall we….

    P.S i will contribute to your legal fighting fund if needed.

  3. Dear Malcolm

    When I told you about my friends the Clarks over the phone, you told me to tell them to not come to the Opal Lounge again. I am happy for them that you have changed your mind.

  4. You obviously had a bad experience at the Opal Lounge. In contrast, we dined there 27 Dec during our during our vacation from the UK & had both a wonderful meal served by very friendly staff.

    Meybe the hot weather got to them while you were there. Keep up the blog, we love reading it back here in the UK.

  5. Chris and I might be in the minority but the Opal Lounge should listen to the few dissenters. I think back to Jamie Oliver being reviewed by guests on island off Italy. The owner/chef took all the good scores and left him with the lower ones as a reminder. Brilliant.

    I was underwhelmed by the Opal Lounge , misrepresenatation of their duck done 4 ways (Chris, you were lucky to get any crispy skin) and two desserts being served 20 minutes after mine. And it seems that complimentary desserts for special events are only for certian guests. Rochelle knew full well it was my 50th.

    Worse of all is that my feedback wasn’t responded to and after sending a reminder a week later was told she had been away. So who took all the bookings during that time as all emails are addressed to her email address. And tehe all I got was that she has taken them on baord.

  6. Oh and I agree about the temperature. We had to ask for more and more windows to be opened. Surely the staff shoudl be able to judge that beforehand.

  7. Chris I fully agree with you, that restaurant has bad karma !!!! Rochelle is a rude arrogant ……
    She has no way of dealing with people and thinks she is high and mighty.
    We will see how long that restaurant stays open !!!!

  8. OL was one of the coolest places in Edin until a while back, now its such an overpriced sham! Staff are very unfriednly, not in the least polite, especially the girl with notepad at the entrace who checks the lists.
    and by the looks of it, they dont have waitresses there any more! WAY TOO over priced entry at the door for a half full dull club on a saturday night! there more creepy single men than normal folks on a Saturday evening!
    Never going back there again!
    Guess qualit went out of the window with manaers like Nick, Ash, Fraser and James!

  9. My own experience of Malcolm and Rochelle Bushell left me with the impression that they are two of the most despicable people I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I found them to be avaricious distorters of the truth and I would never enter any establishment that had their names above the door.

  10. Many thanks for your feedback Nik – I think you are not alone in your feelings about them.


  11. Je me souviens de Malcolm et Rochelle Bushell pendant les jours ou ils étaient résident en Ecosse. Nous avons travaillé ensemble pour la meme compagnie. Il était le PDG et il était obligé de quitter apres une enquête sur certain irrégularités de finance. Elle était aussi arrogant pendant ces jours-la que maintenant. On doit les éviter.

  12. Merci Della

    For those not understanding French, a translation: “I remember Malcolm and Rochelle Bushell on days where they were resident in Scotland. We worked together for the same company. He was the CEO and he was forced to leave after an investigation into certain irregularities of finance. She was so arrogant these days it is now. They should be avoided”.

  13. I see Rochelle is still a twat (arrogance describing this common waitress is an understatement), along with her brain dead husband. After skimming from their company in Scotland (with Rochelle in a position she was never qualified for – partner favours…) the UK is glad to be rid of them.

    Boycott everything they do.

  14. Having read this review and comments I am rather glad that I have not received a response to both my requests for a booking whilst we visit in February 2012. When in Cape Town last December we were unable to get an answer to our phonecalls and it seems that they are the same with reservation requests via the internet, why bother having a website or advertising on dining sites if you do not respond. I have to say in all our trips we’ve had nothing but wonderful times in all the restaurants we have visited, and ALL responded to email reservation requests. I hope they enjoy the grandeur of the establishment, I for one will pass on visiting.

    Again thank you for putting me straight!

  15. Thank you for sharing your Opal Lounge booking experiences.

    There are many other lovely restaurants that you can go to in Cape Town – read this blog, and look out for the Summer Specials which some restaurants will no doubt be offering then.


  16. my experience was also a huge disappointment, i will not go back and will not recommend opal lounge. the food, service and interior cleanliness were all poor. such a waste, since the restaurant before them was so good,

  17. Wow – I was just about to book. Thanks for the heads up – ill try something else.

  18. I was recently invited to the Opal lounge for a fishplatter for 2 we try to make a booking for 2 days but no success. Then we took a chance and got a table.
    We got our drinks and the menue. we ordered the Fishplatter for 2.
    When the waiter came to top up our wine he saw the Groupon Voucher on the table.
    He explain to us that the Fishplatter has to be ordered in advanced as the chef has to prepare it witch doesn’t make any sense to us.
    But we can order from the menue, or come back and order the fishplatter when we make the reservation next time.
    The arroganz and rudeness of the waiter with his comanding tone was totally unaceptable. We paid our drinks and left.

  19. Dear Julia

    The arrogance you experienced from the waiter sounds exactly like our experience. Thank you for sharing your experience.


  20. I almost booked a dinner for two at the Opal!! Thank goodness I found your blog….

    I will be on honeymoon in Cape Town in December 2011…..PLEASE refer me to restaurants?! romantic (obviously), can cost more than the usual but then it must be worth-it…but not costing an arm and a leg…

    I would really appreciate feedback!

  21. Dear Anna

    On my blog I have written a number of blogposts about Cape Town restaurants, and also list those offering Summer Specials.

    Congratulations on your forthcoming marriage.


  22. I have been to the Opal lounge on two occasions, firstly the above review is 100 percent correct, i have never felt such pretenciousness in my entire life,I have also definetly been to many other place , even close by that have much better quality and portions of food.
    I definetly will not recommend this restuarant to anyone, when going out to eat , one wants to feel comfortably, not feel as if you are in the house of Lords….
    Maybe if they get off there high horses and get back down to earth, they may attract more customers.


  23. Terrible restaurant run by arrogant amateurs. Seems like this mother, son, ex husband freak show just don’t learn. They should pack up and move , Kloofstreet does’nt need such an overhyped, rubbish eatery. Worst even is Blakes , somewhere up the road – just as tasteless as the Hopeless Lounge.

  24. My investigations of this family of dysfunctionals took me to Scotland. I believe the company was called Ingenico. It was the British arm of a group based in Paris, France. Bon appetit.

  25. Thank you for your feedback Margaret.

    Interesting is to hear that few suppliers will supply them at Blakes, and that they have to buy their groceries at Woolworths, a poor sign!


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