Entries tagged with “Dear Me”.


Eat Out produce2014nr2-2269 (1)The winners of the 8th annual Eat Out Zonnebloem Produce Awards were announced at the Stellenbosch Slowmarket yesterday.  The Eat Out media release states that the quality of produce was excellent this year, and that it was not easy to choose the overall winners.

Judges were Deena Naidoo, MasterChef SA Season 1 winner, Eat Out Top 10 Chef Jackie Cameron of Hartford House,  Chef Vanessa Marx of Dear Me, Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, and Eat Out Editor-in-Chief Anelde Greeff.Eat Out Produce AWards 2014 judges produce2014-2534

We are delighted that the Oranjezicht City Farm has received recognition for its excellent work, in winning the South African Heritage Award.  Anel Potgieter’s ‘Life is a Zoo Biscuit’ won Best Local Food Blog for the second time.  Farmer Angus has been a pioneer for organic meat and egg production at Spier, and has been a previous winner too.  It is no surprise that Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants has received the ‘Outstanding Outlet’ award for the Cape area, having been the former 2013 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge, yet it is surprising in that the outlet is in a dive location, and the service arrogant and poor – we are still waiting for the calf’s liver we ordered more than a month ago!

The 2014 Eat Out Zonnebloem Produce Awards winners are: (more…)

Tracy van Maaren Tracy Whale Cottage PortfolioLast night I attended the first Tracy van Maaren Wines Trade Tasting, representing a handful of select fine boutique wine estates, held at Auslese. Each of the wine estate’s wines offered for tasting was personally paired with a canapé designed by Chef Harald Bresselschmidt of Aubergine.

Tracy started her wine career by working as PA to Dana Buys at Vrede en Lust.  She then moved into the clothing industry, but regretted this move.  She returned to the wine industry, working at Jordan.  Almost nine years ago she started her company, her first wine clients being Vriesenhof, Raats, and Catherine Marshall.   She represents her clients’ wines in the ‘mid to top restaurants’ and independent retailers (e.g. Caroline’s, Wine Concepts, and Vino Pronto) in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, with Paarl and Franschhoek.

Auslese is a renovated house, available to rent for functions, about two blocks from Aubergine.  It has a smallish kitchen, and the space was cleverly used to set up tasting tables for nine brands, with Pol Roger (Churchill’s favourite champagne) represented in the entrance hall by Great Domaines’ Derek Kilpin andTracy van Maaren Pol Roger Whale Cottage Portfolio their brand new French import Morgan Delacloche.

Arriving at about 18h30, there was no crush, and one could get to easily taste the wines and food pairings, chat to the wine representatives, and to the invited guests, which included John Maytham of Cape Talk, Mark Bland of Expresso, Mandi Jarman of Aquila, Chef Vanessa Marx and her colleague  Rumby of Dear Me, Catharina’s Manager Ronel Smidt, sommelier and consultant Jörg Pfützner, John and Lynne Ford, and Mike Duggan of Wine Concepts. (more…)

Thelema Banner and candle Whale Cottage PortfolioThelema hosted a tasting of its Thelema and Sutherland brand wines for hotel and restaurant staff as well as writers at Dear Me in the city centre yesterday.  At the tasting it was announced that a Thelema MCC will be launched later this year.

We were welcomed with a glass of 1994 MCC, a once-off production, which had been made for a family wedding.  It was disgorged three years ago. Thelema was bought by Gyles Webb in 1983, then a 157 ha fruit farm. It is one of the highest and coolest wine estates in the area.  The first wines were produced in 1988. The Thelema Family Trust bought the 100 ha Sutherland farmThelema MCC Whale Cottage Portfolio in Elgin in 2002, and half of the apple orchards were replaced with vines.  The Sutherland wines are slower to ripen, being grown in the cooler climate Elgin, have more minerality, are more approachable, and can be drunk sooner. They are made at Thelema’s cellar in Stellenbosch.  Rudi Schultz has been the winemaker since 2000, with Webb the Cellarmaster. Thelema is particularly well-known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. (more…)

Going Whole Hog GWH3_LowResA communication campaign ‘Going Whole Hog‘, about the benefits of eating free-range and ethical pork, has been launched by campaign advisor Mark Fox.

The ‘Going Whole Hog‘ campaign not only communicates the health benefits of eating pasture-reared or free-range pork, where pigs graze in a paddock, and are treated better than mass-reared pigs, but also communicates the benefit of farm-to-table.

Nutritional therapist Sara Bilbe said: ‘Factory farmed pigs live in concrete cells with no outside exposure and no entertainment. Pigs are fairly intelligent animals and this lack of stimulation in these cells leads to high stress levels and therefore high illness. A naturally foraging pig would not just be feeding on grain and legumes but insects, grubs, leafy greens and grasses which are all high in omega-3 oils and would change the composition of the pork fat that we eat’.  Such naturally foraging pigs are healthier and are not force-fed to gain weight abnormally, making the pork less fatty, and healthier in that it does not contain hormones nor antibiotics.

Mass-produced pigs are fed cheap soya, corn, and grain, disadvantageous to the digestive system of a pig, which cannot stomach such large quantities of food, hence requiring antibiotics.  Pig’s feed can contain hair, skin, blood, intestines, and hooves of other dead animals. Stressed pigs release hormones, which will be contained in mass-produced bacon.   The health benefits of pasture-reared animals include its high levels of  vitamin A, D, E, and K, and omega-3’s.  Pork chops are leaner, contain less sodium, and have more vitamin B.

Pick ‘n Pay is stocking free-range pork at some of its outlets, and is raising (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  The confidence of consumers in their financial situation has reached the lowest level in 20 years, reveals the latest FNB/Bureau of Economic Consumer Confidence Index (of minus 15), reports the Cape Argus.   

*   South Africa’s Top 24 cocktail bars have been announced, and have been selected by Diageo WORLD CLASS to participate in a competition to select South Africa’s best bartender to represent our country at the Diageo Reserve WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year 2014: Asoka, Bascule, Buena Vista, Café Caprice, Casa Del Sol, Dear Me (Tjing Tjing), HQ, Vista Bar at the One&Only Cape Town, Orphanage, Piano Bar, The Maslow Hotel, The Michelangelo, Signature Restaurant, OCD, Café Della Salute, Mark Anthony at Emperor’s Palace, Elevate,  the Elangeni & Maharani, Fairmont Hotel, Harvey’s Restaurant, Private, Havana Grill, Unity Bar, and the Oyster Box Hotel. (received by media release from Communication Services Africa)

*   The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art will open in the V&A Waterfront in 2016, in the new Silo building on the Clocktower side of the Waterfront.  It will be the largest gallery in the country, with 9500 m² of space.

*   Young American travelers are becoming less brand loyal, looking for (more…)

Four & 20 Cafe via The Pretty BlogNo significant events have been planned to attract visitors to Cape Town and the Winelands this winter, and it appears to be the worst winter ever experienced by the hospitality industry in the Cape.  A surprise is the number of restaurant changes, as well as the the movement of staff  between restaurants.   Given the poor winter business, many restaurants have taken/are taking generous winter breaks. This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Four & Twenty Café and Pantry has opened in Wynberg

*   The Crypt Jazz Restaurant has opened below St George’s Cathedral.

*   Orphanage Cocktail Emporium is opening Orphanage Club upstairs, with 1920’s style music by live performers, later this year.

*   Cavalli restaurant on the stud farm on the R44 must be opening shortly, as Carl Habel has left the Mount Nelson Hotel as Restaurant Manager and Sommelier to join the restaurant.

*   Shake your Honey is to open in the original Madame Zingara building on Loop Street next year, after renovations commence later this year, according to an iolTravel report.  The ‘vibrant spirit of India’ is to be reflected in the 5-storey building, with a theatre, markets, restaurants, and shops.

*   Burger King has opened its (second) Tygervalley branch. Branches at Cavendish and at Grandwest are to open soon. (more…)

The first taste of the Cape winter this weekend is likely to be felt by the restaurant industry, which will see hard times in the next two months, if close to zero accommodation bookings in the Cape are anything to go by.  Other than Hermanus FynArts and the Wacky Wine Weekend kicking off next week, ‘Cook Franschhoek‘ running over the Youth Day long weekend, and the Bastille Festival weekend on 13 – 14 July, no significant events are planned to attract visitors to Cape Town and the Winelands.  A number of restaurants are closing for an annual break in the next two months.

This list of restaurant openings and closings isupdated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*   The Crypt Jazz Restaurant has opened below St George’s Cathedral.

*   Frères Bistro has opened next door to Col’Cacchio on Hans Strydom (more…)

A visit to The Woodstock Exchange last week reflected how Woodstock is growing in stature as Cape Town’s design hub, not only in terms of digital design, communications design, but also in terms of food. The Woodstock Exchange opened in December, and has an interesting mix of design-related tenants, restaurants, and food suppliers.

Superette is the most visible tenant from the striking grey and yellow building exterior, taking one of the largest spaces of the building, and its branding is visible from the street on the windows and its canopies.  A number of trendy Vespas are parked outside, and they add to the design attractiveness of the building.  A central passageway has a listing of all the tenants in the building, the upstairs floors occupied by the design agencies with trendy and interesting designer names, such as We are Awesome. Social Plus One, Nice One Steve, Wetink, Wolf & Maiden, Sons & Daughters, and Smellsgood.

My first stop was at Honest Chocolate, where I found Michael de Klerk, in an almost replica of their Wale Street shop, but with a massive back end space, in which they now have a team making the chocolate. They have expanded their repertoire to include three very unusual ice cream flavours, each having a super food added to them, for example Lucuma (a Peruvian fruit) Coconut, Chia (a seed) Chocolate, and Spirulina (seawood) Mint Chip, and costing R34. Michael explained that raw cocoa in itself is a superfood, and the added flavours complement their chocolates. We spoke about their first Design Indaba attendance, where they ran a competition for chocolate bar wrappers, which they extended on to their Facebook page.  He said that The Woodstock Exchange tenants support each other and that they network.  They had considered the V&A Market on the Wharf, but had been worried about the winter trade, Michael said.  Tel 082 736 3889.

Michael referred me to his next door neighbour Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour, a quirky interior giving a parlour feel, with a chest of drawers, and very clever use of old suitcases serving as shelving to display antique tea cups and picture frames. Jessica Bonin started her business in 2010 in an old Jurgens caravan, which she moves to events, or is at Oudekraal with other food trucks.  She wanted to start a ‘tea-volution’, and sells special looseleaf teas, which are classified as being black, white, green, yellow, Oolong, and Puerh.  She describes her business as a ‘Purveyor of magical infusions and tasty curiosities’. Tel 0836282504

Dark Horse and Kingdom are a mix of two design elements forming a whole inside the shop. Dark Horse is a local design studio offering apparel, homeware, and furniture.  Kingdom is a ‘curated exhibit’, I was told, of art, vintage pieces from antique shops sourced from India, Berlin and Denmark.  I was attracted by the hats, some having a vintage feel about them but are brand new. They also sell designer sunglasses, crockery, and jewellery.

Simply Wholesome was a huge disappointment, the shop assistant Gloria being extremely suspicious, withholding information, and not customer-friendly. She emphasised their free-range pasture-reared and grass-fed products of chicken, eggs, bacon and beef.  A big sign in the shop spells out their dedication to sourcing quality products ‘fresh from the farm’, which they monitor at source regularly, they claim. They sell some ready-made pies (R28), quiches (R28), sandwiches (the egg mayonnaise sandwich was on a nice seeded roll but had barely any filling), biscuits, muffins, milk, cheeses, butter, seasonal vegetables and fruit, home made marinades, gluten-free biscuits, raw honey, olives, peach slices, apple cider vinegar, satin tea bags, chutney, pickled onions, Madecasse chocolate, and yoghurt. They also sell teas under the Organic label from The Tea Merchants, the business of the co-owner.  I did like the glass tea pots, with matching glass cups.  They only sell take-out products, and do not have any seating outside their shop to even allow one to eat their sandwiches!  This was the only unfriendly experience in the whole centre.  Tel 021 447-6426.

I just missed the kitchen being open at Ocean Jewels, and bought a packet of calamari (R45) to make at home.  They still have their stand at the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, and are widely regarded as selling the best quality fish to consumers.  Her sit-down prices are very reasonable, with tuna and salmon burgers and salads costing around R50. Fishcakes, potato wedges and salad costs R30, and hake and chips costs a little more.  They sell prawns, clams, mussels, crabsticks, scallops and smoked salmon too. Tel 083 582 0829.

The friendliest of all the outlets was Pedersen & Lennard and {Field Office}, a furniture design and coffee shop all in one, a sister branch to the one in Barrack Street.  The space in the Woodstock Exchange is larger and has more light, opening on to a sunny deck.  The manageress Roberta Grantham is ex-Botswana, and the friendliest I have experienced in a long time.  She made the visit there an absolute pleasure.  Other than making Deluxe coffees, they do not prepare any food, selling Willy’s Foods’ sandwiches (R35), pies with interesting ingredients such as beef red wine, lemon and chicken, curried vegetable, and beef chocolate chilli (R30), and salads; and lovely lemon polenta cakes (R15), chocolate brownies, milk tart slices (R20), and cup cakes (R15) made by The Little Bakery.   Tel (021) 447-2020. Monday – Friday 8h00 – 17h00.

I arrived at Superette just after the kitchen had closed at 16h00 (an hour before the restaurant closed!), and I was unable to order anything other than liquids from the waiter. When the manager Vuyo returned, he was charming, and I asked him for a simple rye toast with cheese and avocado, which tasted like heaven after an afternoon in the centre and not being able to eat (other than the milk tart) elsewhere in the centre because of the kitchens having closed!   The interior is large, with lots of yellow, a stand selling deli items (including olives, olive oil, Secateurs wines by AA Badenhorst,  honey, nougat, Rosetta coffee – also in the centre but which I did not see, Fruit crisps, Dunk biscuits, rusks, Prince Albert olive oil, tomato chili), and plants hanging from the ceiling, much like Dear Me has.  They serve an all-day breakfast, in a price range of R35 for kippers to R70 for a smoked salmon egg basket.  They also offer toasted banana bread, mushrooms  and beans on toast, and an interesting sounding Nutella-stuffed French Toast! Sandwiches cost R55 – R65, including one with Bratwurst! Bangers and mash costs R65.  A nice touch is that a glass of water is brought to the table automatically.  Tel (021) 802-5525.

The Woodstock Exchange, 66 Albert Road, Woodstock.  Tel (021) 486-5999.  www.woodstockexchange.co.za Twitter @WdstockExchange

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

Last year Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly introduced a new series of complementary awards to the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, having been the sole judge of both sets of awards.  This year Mrs Donnelly made the fatal error of choosing UK Blogger Bruce Palling to give her credibility for her choice of Top 20 restaurants, out of which the Top 10 Restaurant list will be announced tomorrow evening.  She also has named the ‘Best Of’ awards her ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards, making it clear that she is the sole judge of the awards, and that Palling had no input in these awards.  We have already seen irregularities on the Top 19 Restaurant shortlist, so it will be interesting to see which of Mrs Donnelly’s favourites and friends will be rewarded in the ‘Best Of’ categories.

What is interesting this year is that the finalist restaurants in the six ‘Best of’ categories have been pre-announced, unlike last year, when only the Boschendal Style Award finalists were announced.   There is one exception, being the Best Italian category, for which the finalists have not been announced. Could it mean that this category is once again reserved for Mrs Donnelly darling Chef Giorgio Nava of 95 Keerom Street, last year’s winner in this category?

Something else that is noticeable is the vast number of listings in each of the ‘Best Of’ categories, which makes one think that New Media Publishing is dreadfully short of money this year:

*   they did not have enough money to put their Eat Out 2012 judge Bruce Palling into a first class seat to attend the Awards event tomorrow evening, as per Palling’s Tweet and confirmed by New Media Publishing

*   advertisers were hounded to place advertisements in the new Eat Out magazine, and the rates tumbled the closer it got to the deadline date!

*   even worse, the 24 reviewers were not invited to the Gala Awards dinner until a week ago, having been invited to the dinner in all the past years.  They were fuming in having been left out, and many made other plans for tomorrow evening, and will therefore not be able to attend.  The Eat Out Review Team is interesting in itself, with long-standing Eat Out reviewers Graham Howe, Diane de Beer, Greg Landman, and Errieda du Toit, to which have been added bloggers (but not known as restaurant reviewers on their blogs) Dax Villaneuva, Tandy Sinclair, and Ishay Govender. The remaining 17 reviewers – Carla Rossouw, Charlotte Pregnolato, Colette du Plessis, Frank Chemaly, Hennie Fisher, Janine Walker, Kate Ziervogel, Lee Middleton, Lisa van Aswegen, Louise Liebenberg, Marie-Lais Emond, Nothando Moleketi, Paula Mackenzie, Pero Lotz, Priscilla Urquhart, Richard Holmes, and Sdu Gerasch – are unknown.

*   linked to the above is the vast number of ‘Best of‘ restaurants listed per category, e.g. 43 in the ‘Best Asian Restaurants’ category, 24 in the ‘Best Steakhouses’ category, 33 ‘The Best Country-Style Restaurants’, 15 ‘Boschendal Style Award’ nominations, and an astounding 52 nominations for ‘Best Bistro’, a total of 167 restaurant nominations minus some duplications!  If the restaurants were to send a representative or two in the hope of winning the category award, a large number of seats for the Gala Awards dinner will have been sold!

The Bistro category sounds more like a ‘Proudly South African’ cuisine listing, and contains some odd nominations such as Hemelhuijs, Babel, Bread & Wine, Fyndraai, Gaaitjie, Ile de Pain, and many more on the list of 52!  A Bistro is defined by Eat Out as offering fresh and seasonal produce, having a small kitchen, limited staff, being homely, with congenial hosts, ‘endless amounts of wine‘, ‘spectacular food’, and regular menu changes.  An obvious exclusion is Bistrot Bizerca from this category, but being a Top 19 finalist may have excluded them from this category.  Worthy winners would be Bistro Sixteen82, Dear Me, and The Foodbarn. The nominees are in Johannesburg (Bellagio, Coner Café and Bistro, Eatery JHB, The Leopard, Possums Deli and Bistro, Salvation Café, Tashas in Sandton, Hyde Park, Melrose, Arch, Morningside, Rosebank, Village View, Thomas Maxwell Bistro; in Pretoria (Carlton Café, Karoo Café, Silver Orange Bistro, Zest Bistro); in Durban (9th Avenue Bistro, Bellavue, Craft Trattoria, Marco Paulo, Café 1999, Unity Brasserie and Bar); in Cape Town (Bistro Sixteen82, Constantia Uitsig, Dear Me, The Foodbarn, Hemelhuijs, La Mouette, Societi Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Woodlands Eatery);  in (undefined) ‘South’ (96 Winery Road, Babel, Bar Bar Black Sheep,  Bread & Wine, The Burgundy Restaurant, Café Felix, The Common Room, Fyndraai, Gaaitjie, Hilda’s Kitchen at Grootte Post, Ile de Pain, The Kitchen at Maison, Pembrey’s, Reuben’s Franschhoek – not meeting any of the defined Bistro criteria – Scotty’s, Sofia’s at Morgenster, Stables at Vergelegen); in (undefined) ‘East’ (The Bistro, Gordon’s Restaurant, Haricot’s Deli & Bistro, Skye Bistro at Fordoun, Two Dogs Bistro); and in (undefined) ‘North and Central’ (Mrs Simpsons, O’s restaurant).

The Best Country-style Award nomination list includes the controversial winner of 2011, being The Table at De Meye, a regular past photographer colleague of Mrs Donnelly.  Surprise omissions are The Kitchen at Maison, The Long Table, Fyndraai, The Millhouse Kitchen at Lourensford, Tamboers Winkel, Creation, Sofia’s at Morgenster, Oep ve Eet in Paternoster, and Johan’s at Longridge.  A likely winner would be Mariana’s, a regular past winner of a similar award, and a regular contributor to Taste magazine, as well as Babel, the restaurant with the most nominations (on Top 19 list, as well as Style Award, and Best Bistro nominee). Defined as ‘homely, heart-warming and belly-filling kos’, food in the style of one’s grandmother. The nominees are located in Gauteng (Bellgables Country Restaurant, Die Ou Pastorie, Meadow Green, Roots at Forum Homini, The Other Side Restaurant, Monaghan Farm, The Rambling Vine); in the Western Cape (Babel, Bramon, The Country Kitchen at Mont Rochelle, Dassiesfontein on the N2 highway near Caledon, De Kaap in McGregor, Eight at Spier, Fynboshoek Cheese, Fresh, The Goatshed at Fairview, Havercroft’s, Hilda’s Kitchen, Houw Hoek Farm Stall, Karoux, Mariana’s, Mogg’s Country Cookhouse, The Stone Kitchen in Wellington, The Table at De Meye, Thyme at Rosemary’s Restaurant, Towerbosch, The Wild Apricot); and in KwaZulu-Natal (Café Bloom, Caversham Hill, Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, La Lampara, Nicolson’s Café, and Tumble Downs).

The omission of Belthazar from the Best Steakhouses category nomination list may relate to Eat Out ex-judge Bruce Palling‘s last South African dinner!  This category is typically won by a Johannesburg restaurant, the city being known for its collection of good steak restaurants. Nominees are in Johannesburg (Butcher Shop & Grill, Gray, The Grillhouse, HQ, Karoo Cattle and Land, The Local Grill, Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse, Thundergun, Turn & tender, Wombles); in Mpumalanga (Pioneers Butchery & Grill); in The Free State (The Phatt Chef); in the Eastern Cape (Flava); in Cape Town (Barristers, Carne SA, Cattle Baron – The Grill House, HQ, The Hussar Grill in Camps Bay, Karoo Cattle & Land); in Durban (The Grill Room at The Oyster Box, Havana Grill, Joop’s Place, Steak & Ale); and in Pretoria (Karoo Cattle & Land).

The Best Asian Restaurants list was an easy one to fill up, and contains last year’s winner Kitima, as well as popular Willoughby’s at the V&A Waterfront, potential Top 20 candidate Indochine, and Nobu (not eligible to make Top 20 list this year, due to a chef change).  The nominees are in Johannesburg (Al Makka, Dawaat Pakistan Restaurant, Ghazal North Indian REstaurant, The Good Luck Club, Koi, Kong Roast, Midori, The Red Chamber, Shanyana Vegetarian Restaurant,  Sitar, Yamato); in Pretoria (Guia, Shilla Korean Cuisine, Wing Hin); in Durban (China Plate, Gounden’s, House of Curries, Mo’s Noodles, Spice); in the Eastern Cape (Just So Chinese Restaurant, Shanghai); in Bloemfontein (Nagoya); on the Garden Route (Firefly Eating House); in the Winelands (Genki, Indochine at Delaire Graff, Okamai); and in Cape Town (1890 Sushi House, Biesmiellah, Bombay Brasserie, Bukhara, Chandani, Chef Pon’s Asian Kitchen, Erawan, Haiku, Kitima, Kyoto Sushi Garden, Maharajah, Maharaj Pure Vegetarian, Nobu, Saigon, South China Dim Sum Bar, Takumi, Willoughby & Co).

Pierneef à La Motte, Makaron Restaurant, Babel, The Greenhouse, Overture, Planet Restaurant, and The Tasting Room are nominated for a Top 10 and a Boschendal Style Award. Makaron Restaurant won last year, without Mrs Donnelly disclosing her consultancy relationship with the restaurant, and her accolade about the restaurant described the M Bar of Majeka House rather than Makaron!  Almost all the restaurants are more than a year old, with the exception of Burrata, a restaurant which Mrs Donnelly only got to eat at six months after it opened!  The nominees are Burrata, Keenwa (odd choice), The Restaurant at Waterkloof (consolation prize for losing out on Top 20 nomination?), Craft Trattoria in Durban, Babel at Babylonstoren, Café del Sol, The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, The Greenhouse (lots of bunnies), The Walnut Grove in Sandton, The Red Chamber, Tasha’s Le Parc, The ‘Greenhouse’ (sic – actually called the Babel Tea House!) at Babylonstoren, Hemelhuijs (an Abi favourite), The Kitchen at Maison, Pierneef à La Motte, Overture (a consolation prize?), Planet Restaurant (a consolation prize?), LIFE Grand Café, and last year’s finalist Kream.  Obvious omissions in this category are Casparus, Delaire Graff, and Indochine.  There is no obvious winner, especially as so few of the restaurants are new, but Hemelhuijs would be a strong contender, changing its decor regularly.

We await the announcement of the ‘Best of‘ category winners on tomorrow evening with interest!  It is clear that Mrs Donnelly could not have visited or eaten at each of the 167 ‘Best of’ nominated and Top 20 Finalist restaurants in the course of one year!

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

2011: what a year it’s been for the world, South Africa, and Whale Cottage – unpredictable, up and down, and a year in which one had to rethink every way in which one has run one’s business and life.  Most would say that it’s been one of the worst years ever!  But despite the tough times, there has been a lot to be grateful for as well.  I have summarised some of the high and low lights of the year:

1.  The knock which tourism took, especially from May – August, in being one of the worst winters ever experienced, had an effect on all sectors of the economy.  Restaurants frantically offered specials to gain cashflow, guest houses went back to dropping rates as they do in winter, and few took rate increases in summer, unlike their hotel colleagues, who suffered poor occupancy too.  More hotels and restaurants closed down than ever seen before. The recession in the UK hit South African tourism and wine sales badly, previously our major source market. From 50 % of our business in the summer months in Camps Bay, the UK business will be no more than 5 % this summer.  High airfares and the crippling UK airport taxes have not helped. The tourism situation was so bad that we wrote an Open Letter to national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, as Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited were not aware of how bad things were in the Cape, and therefore did nothing to market the region and to help the tourism industry. Cape Town Tourism spent all its energy on Twitter, not yet the medium of communication of our average tourist, and on wasteful promotions, and therefore we did not renew our 20 year membership. The welcome increase in German tourists has not made up this shortfall, but we have been delighted to welcome many more South African guests.   The World Cup has become a swearword, the reality of its lack of a tourism benefit becoming clear. A blessing from Santa has been a much improved festive season, with no snow-bound tourists or strong south-easter wind, as happened last year.

2.  Events are hugely beneficial for business, and the Argus Cycle Tour, J&B Met, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracted out of town guests. The U2 and Coldplay concerts helped fill beds and delighted Cape Town audiences.  A fantastic outcome of Coldplay’s performance is that the music video for ‘Paradise’ was filmed in our city, the Boland and the Karoo – no better part of the world could have been chosen for this song!

3.  Cape Town has had an exceptional year, the darling of the world, winning the World Design Capital 2014 bid, Table Mountain being named one of New7Wonders of Nature (amid some controversy and as yet subject to verification), named top destination in TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination (for what it was worth!), and featuring strongly in the new James Bond book ‘Carte Blanche’.  Our city hotels, especially the Cape Grace and Steenberg Hotel, featured on international top hotel lists. Good news was the sale of the V&A Waterfront to a local company, which is investing in the upgrade of and addition to the country’s most popular tourist destination.

4.   Despite the doom and gloom, there were more restaurant openings, and chef and restaurant staff changes this year than in many years: The Pot Luck Club, Hemelhuijs, Dash, Casparus, Dear Me Foodworld, The Franschhoek Kitchen, Il Cappero, Café Benedict, The Kitchen at Maison, Sotano by Caveau, Knife, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Ryan’s Kitchen, Caffe Milano, Mozzarella Bar, Cassis Salon de Thé, Power & the Glory, Haas Coffee, Johan’s @ Longridge, Skinny Legs & All, KOS Coffee & Cuisine, Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, Le Coq, Act and Play Bar at the Baxter, Sunbird Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Jason’s, Bird Café with new owners, Maria’s after a long renovation closure, Toro Wine & Aperitif Bar, Valora, Café Le Chocolatier, Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant after a renovation and chef change, Art’s Café, Spice Route, Mitico, Knead on Kloof, Chez Chez, La Bella, 5 Rooms, Terbodore Coffee Bar, Wale Rose Lifestyle, The Black Pearl, Bistro on Rose, Slainte, Babel Tea House, Rhapsody’s, Café Extrablatt, Harvest, McDonalds in the V&A,  The Mussel Bar, The Franschhoek Food Emporium, Makaron, F.east, Bean There Fair Trade, Sabrina’s, Harbour House in the V&A, MCC Franschhoek, Clarke Bar & Dining Room, Roberto’s, French Toast, Saboroso, Mezepoli, Rocca in the Cape Quarter, and Roca in Franschhoek opening their doors, and new suppliers Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and The Creamery opening too.

5.  Sadly, the recession was noticeable as it hit restaurants, and it was some of the newer restaurants that were badly hit, including What’s On Eatery, The Olive Shack, Bella Lucia, Blonde, Jardine, Caveau at the Mill, Nando’s in Camps Bay, The Sandbar, The Bistro, Restaurant Christophe, Doppio Zero in Green Point and Clarement, shu, Oiishi Delicious Caffe, Hermanos, The Kitchen Bar, Wildwoods, The Green Dolphin, De Huguenot restaurant, Wildflour, Depasco, Kuzina, and 221 Waterfront.

6.  The eating highlight of the year was the tribute dinner to the closing of El Bulli, one of the world’s best restaurants, by Tokara, Chef Richard Carstens excelling in serving a 13-course meal to a packed restaurant on 30 July, earning him and his team a standing ovation.  This meal alone should have made Chef Richard South Africa’s top chef in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, but sole judge Abigail Donnelly proved that she was incapable of handling this new role and responsibility, not only in excluding Chef Richard from her Top 10 list, but also in awarding the new Boschendal Style Award to her client Makaron.

7.   Franschhoek evolved as THE wine region, Boekenhoutskloof being recognised as South Africa’s top winery by the Platter Guide, and La Motte the top wine estate in South Africa by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.  In the latter competition, Tokara was selected as top wine estate restaurant in the country. The sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm was announced, and the operation closes mid-year in 2012. The winemaking will take place at Steenberg and at Graham Beck in Robertson, while a Graham Beck tasting bar Gorgeous will open at Steenberg in February.

8.   Hermanus was in the tourism marketing spotlight, when miraculously both the committee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau resigned, and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation was disbanded by the Overstrand Mayor.  We had written about the self-interest which had been served by the previous leaders of these two bodies in ‘Lermanus’!  A welcome product for Hermanus is the recently created Hermanus Wine Route, marketing of which will be in the capable hands of Carolyn Martin of Creation.

9.   The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in April, and has shown benefits in product deficiencies and returns.  Little effect has been seen for the tourism industry.  The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa tried to change its accommodation assessment standards, which caused a huge outcry.  Despite changing back to what they had before, many accommodation establishments lost faith in the organisation, and have not renewed their accreditation.

10.  The wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène in July put South Africa in the world spotlight, not only due to the televised broadcast of the wedding, but also as they celebrated their wedding with a second reception, at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, now the country’s best known hotel.

11.  This year proved that the ‘social’ in Social Media is a misnomer in many respects, but it is the marketing platform which cannot be excluded.  We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our WhaleTales newsletter, the 3rd year of blogging, and our 1000 th blogpost this year.  We are grateful to our Facebook friends and likers, Twitter followers, and blog and newsletter readers for their support.

It is hard to predict 2012, and we will go with the flow.  2011 has made us tougher and even more thick-skinned, we have learnt to change with changed tourism times.  We look forward to a stable world economy, politics, as well as weather in 2012!

POSTSCRIPT 2/1: The most read posts on our blog in 2011 were the restaurant winter specials, the Festive Season packages, the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charléne, the review of Casparus, the restaurant summer specials, the review of Gaaitjie in Paternoster, the death in Cape Town of the President of Ferrero Rocher,  the listing of restaurant openings and closures, the Consumer Protection Act, and Table Mountain making the New7Wonders of Nature.

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