Entries tagged with “paradise”.


WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   American wine economist Mike Veseth writes that South Africa has a large production of wine, and should therefore be better known in the USA, given that our country’s wine production is 10% less than that of Chile, and 4 times larger than that of New Zealand.  Part of the reason is that Americans do not know about our country and where it is, and therefore he describes our wines as ‘the invisible wine’!  Lack of awareness of our country plus the re-emergence of our country’s wines at the same that the New World countries launched their wines internationally made it more difficult for South African wines to be noticed in the USA.  Initially, our wine exporters suffered logistical problems, in a market ‘which is structurally difficult to penetrate‘ and faces strong competition, which added to the lower visibility in the USA.

*   The MyCiTi Bus service has increased passenger numbers by 89% in the past four months, the City of Cape Town claims.  More than 400000 ‘passenger journeys‘ in November 2013 increased to over 700000 by February this year, when the Hout Bay, Oranjezicht, Sea Point, Camps Bay, Dunoon, Melkbosstrand, and Century City routes were added.   However, the growth in passenger numbers has not been without its problems, with applications to have the service stopped by the Golden Arrow bus company having been dismissed in court;  and complaints have been received about overcrowding, timetable inaccuracy in the afternoons especially, and the MyConnect card.  The timetable problems may have led to the City firing Lumen Technologies, the company which was contracted to control scheduling.  The Atlantis, Khayelitsha, and Mitchell’s Plain routes will open this year in the next four months.  The City has spent close to R5 billion on the service to date.

*   South Africa has become a backdrop for music videos shot for some very well-known music stars.  The most famous (more…)

Last night the largest German TV station ZDF re-flighted ‘Ein Sommer in Kapstadt’ (A Summer in Cape Town), a beautiful movie reflecting the beauty of Cape Town, which was shot in 2009, and was first released in 2010.  It couldn’t have come at a better time, when Germans are planning their holidays for the coming European winter.

‘Ein Sommer in Kapstadt’ tells the story of a scorned wife, whose husband comes to Cape Town on a business trip.  She follows her husband to Cape Town when she finds him having an affair with a young Capetonian.  While the drama evolves, the characters drive across the city, and its magnificent beauty is captured through the filming: an opening shot from Bakoven in Camps Bay, onto the Twelve Apostles mountain range; Lion’s Head; some cute penguins running from the beach into the ocean; two lunches from a Blouberg restaurant right alongside the sea with the waves crashing while they eat; lots of driving in an exotic blue sports car along what could be Scarborough and Kommetjie; in Bo-Kaap on Rose Street opposite Haas; the promenade in Bantry Bay; lovely shots over the city from Signal Hill; lunch at the V&A Waterfront with Den Anker and the Clocktower in the background; Greenmarket Square; a Cape Dutch wine estate; Long Street; the winelands; and going up Table Mountain with the cableway.   An AIDS angle is introduced too, penguins being used to teach children the symbol of loyal love by one of the characters in the movie.

The movie is dated only by the main character staying in the Hotel Le Vendome in Sea Point when she first arrives in Cape Town (the hotel closed down last year), and the storyline including the magazine Cape Style, which no longer exists.

One hopes that the movie will encourage German TV viewers to book their next holiday in Cape Town, given the beautiful impression which the city must have made on them.  One of the characters in the movie refers to ‘Kapstadt: Das Paradis der Erde’ (Cape Town, the paradise of the world), a wonderful accolade for the city. Given some more damaging German movies shot in Cape Town and shown on ZDF earlier this year, ‘Ein Sommer in Kapstadt’ is a welcome positive showcase of Cape Town.

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

On the day after Madonna’s Superbowl performance last week, American talkshow host David Letterman denigrated her and instead praised the Cape Town zef rap band Die Antwoord, which he had invited to perform in his Late Show with David Letterman, Twitter was abuzz with disbelief.  Soon the YouTube video of their performance was doing the rounds.  It is an unbelievable accolade to a band that already has a strong local and international following, and may have the power of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ in marketing Cape Town and South Africa.

On the eve of the release of their album ‘Ten$ion’ a week ago, husband and wife team Yo-Landi Vi$$er and Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones), with DJ Hi-Tek, performed ‘I Fink U Freeky’, with a mix of English and Afrikaans lyrics, being a rap song that contains mainly the lyrics “I fink you are freeky and I like you a lot”! For the studio performance Vi$$er was dressed in an outfit which may have been by designer Alexander Wang, with dark black lines painted under her eyes, and wearing black contact lenses.  Compared to their own official video of this song, featuring rats crawling over Vi$$er, the studio performance was mild. Interesting is that Letterman, who introduced the group as coming from Cape Town, did not interview them after their performance.

Die Antwoord is not unknown to international audiences, having performed throughout the USA in 2010, as well as in many European countries, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. Just over a year ago they won the Myspace ‘Best Music Video of 2010′ award for ‘Enter the Ninja’, their first music video they self-produced.   The traffic to Die Antwoord’s website, with millions of hits due to the music video, caused a near crash of local server Hetzner, and Die Antwoord had to move its hosting to an American website as a result, records Wikipedia.  The group has formed its own record company Zef Recordz, after a dispute with its American record company Interscope Records, producing for pop stars such as Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg.  The band had a ‘million-dollar deal’ with Interscope Records, reports the New York Times, and the ‘nastier lyrics’ on the new album were not acceptable to the record company.  Singer Katy Perry raved when she first heard them.  The group tour Australia in March.

Whilst in the USA for the show, Die Antwoord were featured on billboards in New York for designer Alexander Wang’s ‘guerilla-style Spring 2012 collection’, report Times LIVE and Channel24, as well as in a video for the designer, based on their song ‘Fatty Boom Boom’.

The performance on the Late Show with David Letterman was described by the Huffington Post as milder than usual for the group: ‘Die Antwoord took their consciously unnerving act to a mainstream audience Monday night — the late-night television crowd. For those who’d never been exposed to the South African rappers before, their appearance on David Letterman may have been slightly terrifying, a sentiment shared by some South Africans who are uneasy with the trio representing their nation abroad. For the rest of us, this was a tamer version of the shock rappers we’ve come to know: Yo-Landi looked as bug-eyed as always in a pair of black contacts and long white t-shirt (Alexander Wang?), DJ Hi-Tek wore a deformed face mask, and Ninja danced frantically in a orange jumpsuit to their clubby single, “I Fink U Freeky,” off their just-released album Ten$ion’.

The performance by Die Antwoord on the Late Show with David Letterman will be re-broadcast on DStv’s Sony Entertainment Television channel at 23h15 tonight.

POSTSCRIPT 14/2: A teaser video for the new Die Antwoord ‘Ten$ion’ album has been withdrawn for copyright reasons, as it refers to a sculpture called ‘The Butcher Boys’, reports the Cape Times today.

POSTSCRIPT 8/7: The radical music video for the latest Die Antwoord song ‘Baby’s on Fire’ has become an absolute hit due to a single Tweet by Katy Perry, sent to her 22,7 million followers last month:The new Die Antwoord video for Baby’s On Fire is so incredible I can’t even tweet about it’.

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

One must salute SA Tourism in capitalising on Coldplay’s filming of its ‘Paradise’ music video in Cape Town, the Boland and the Karoo in marketing our country to tourists, something Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited had not thought of doing!

Coldplay performed in Cape Town and Johannesburg in October, and at short notice decided to film the music video for ‘Paradise’ in Cape Town, outside Paarl, on a game farm in the Karoo, and at its concert in Johannesburg.  The title of the song could not have been better chosen to reflect our beautiful country and city, and its popularity as a song, and as a fun and funky beautifully shot music video, has a tremendous tourism benefit for South Africa generally, and the Cape specifically, not costing the tourism authorities a cent.  The music video has had more than 44 million views to date, and the song has just started 2012 as the number one single on the UK hit charts, to the band’s own surprise in their Tweets.

SA Tourism is running a competition on a special Facebook promotion page, inviting those seeing the ‘Paradise’ music video on YouTube, to share with SA Tourism which part of the country ‘gives them inspiration in the same way it did for Coldplay’, reports the Australian eTravel Blackboard site.  The ten most imaginative, heartfelt, fun and spontaneous submissions from all over the world will be shortlisted, and put out to vote, to select the best. The winner will receive a 5-day holiday in South Africa, with the compliments of SA Tourism. The SA Tourism promotion proves that international tourism marketing does not need to cost the earth!

We would like to see lots more creative promotions and marketing of our country and the Cape from the tourism authorities this year, especially to the UK market, which has seen a massive drop-off, and has been our region’s tourism bread-and-butter.

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

A new music video for song ‘Paradise’ was shot in Cape Town and the Karoo, in-between the Cape Town and Johannesburg concerts of the alternative rock band Coldplay last week, reports The Times.  The music video is said to showcase the “natural beauty and vibrant culture of Cape Town and the Western Cape”, and could have an important tourism benefit.

The Cape Town Film Commission CEO Denis Lillie received a call from the band’s production company Cinergy the day after the Cape Town concert, requesting assistance with permission for filming on the following two days. The filming took place in the first week of summer in Cape Town, in perfect weather conditions.

The music video, for new Coldplay album Mylo Xyloto, is expected to be broadcast on MTV and other music video platforms, and will be an unusual way of marketing Cape Town, at no cost to the city’s tourism authorities.  Provincial Minister of Tourism, Alan Winde, said that it was ‘great news’ that the band had enjoyed being in South Africa. “It will also give a much needed boost of confidence for Cape Town tourism,” he added.

In a Kfm radio interview with drummer Will Champion, he used the word ‘beautiful’ a number of times to describe what an impact Cape Town had made on the band, the highlight being their trip up Table Mountain. He said that the city ‘was the ideal introduction to Africa’ for the band, it being their first visit to the continent.  He praised the ‘beautiful stadium’ in which they performed to a crowd of 50000 fans.

Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin expressed his satisfaction with the shoot, and the ability of Cinergy, the Cape Town Film Commission, and the city’s film permit office to organise the shoot in such a short time. “It’s so much sunnier and warmer than where we come from”, Martin told the Johannesburg concert-goers, after Champion recommended shooting the music video in this country.  For the final part of the shoot, the band wore elephant masks at the Johannesburg concert.

The Cape Town location for the ‘Paradise’ Coldplay music video could not have been better chosen!

POSTSCRIPT 11/10: Cinergy Producer Amanda says that the Cape Town film locations are under wraps until the music video is released in the next 3 – 4 weeks.

POSTSCRIPT 19/10: The fabulous new ‘Paradise’ music video has been released today.  It tells the story of an ‘elephant’ leaving London, and flying to Cape Town, enjoying the city, and then unicycling in Paarl and in the Karoo (locations unspecified), but clearly on a game reserve, with buck and a giraffe for company.  It ends with scenes shot at the concert in Johannesburg, at which all band members wear elephant masks. The music video could not have been shot in a better location to match the ‘Paradise’ song title!  We say: You don’t need an advertising campaign for Cape Town, you need Coldplay!

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

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

Hidden in the suburb of Paradyskloof (meaning “valley of paradise”) outside Stellenbosch, opposite the Stellenbosch Golf Course and on the road to the Vriesenhof wine estate, is Majeka House, a 5-star Boutique Hotel, with a top class French-style restaurant, a cuisine paradise, blessed with a creative young chef Anri Diener.

Co-owner Karine Dequeker is French, having studied at the Lausanne Hotel School, and worked at the Grand Roche Hotel, Lanzerac Hotel and Table Bay Hotel as Banqueting Manager, and it is her heritage that comes to the fore in the French-style menu of the Restaurant at Majeka House.  Her husband Lloyd van der Merwe comes from the corporate hotel route, having worked at Protea Hotels and Holiday Inn, and at SETA, the hotel industry training body, before he became a training consultant.  Majeka House previously was the private home of Karine’s father, and she and her husband set about a redesign of the property, spread over three erfs, to make it an 18-bedroom Hotel, opening 18 months ago.   The property is spacious, and the bedrooms, swimming pool, parking area and restaurant all are generously sized. One would not know about the restaurant if one drove past the Hotel, as it is not separately branded nor visible.   The Majeka name comes from the first two letters of the names of three of the owners of the property.

The invitation to review the Restaurant at Majeka House came from the Van der Merwes, who read this blog regularly, and from my son, who is one of the managers of the Hotel.  I accepted the invitation, with their understanding that the review would be written objectively and critically, as always.

An interesting introduction to the Majeka House restaurant is the arrival of an amuse bouche in one’s bedroom at 18h00, whether one eats at the restaurant that night or not.  I received a salmon roll and a butter pan-fried prawn on greens, a lovely way to make one look forward to dinner.

The Majeka House restaurant can seat about 30 diners, and leads to the bar and library.  It has a large fireplace, with two interesting paintings by Vicky Sander on each side of it.   The dominant wall has trendy wallpaper in gold and black, the curtains are silk-style in a golden/cream colour, the chairs are suede-style, with Persian carpets scattered on the wooden floor.  Chandeliers add the French touch.  The staff uniforms are Africa-inspired, in blue and cream, perhaps a contradiction to the French feel.  The dark wood tables have a cloth over the centre, set with fine glasses and cutlery.  What was unusual was the homely touch of a massive serviette in a serviette ring, lying at an angle across the diner’s eating area, as opposed to the left, or on the side plate, as is the norm.  The fresh rose from the garden and a flower-inspired candle holder rounded off the table decor.  Most of the crockery used is from Wonkiware, which adds a design touch to the dishes presented, the chef being minimalist as far as garnishing goes. 

Music-wise a piano can be seen, but luckily there is no pianist tickling the keys (the Mount Nelson Cape Colony’s pianist does not stop playing, and it became irritating eventually).  I found the French-style rock music too loud and too heavy, and was delighted when Hotel Costes was eventually played.

The Tasting Menu’s four courses are listed from 1 – 4 in French, reinforcing the French style of the restaurant.  One has a choice of two dishes per course, and it costs R250, or R400 with a wine paired with each course.   The lovely waitress Phelisa brought an unusual glass plate with what looked like a tablet – a small round white ‘something’ with the word WOW on it.  She poured warm water over it, and it rose and expanded immediately, to become a cloth with which one can wipe one’s hands before starting to eat.  I had never seen this before, and it was a nice unusual touch.  Warm bread was served with butter.

The menu is not branded, and the items are printed on a patterned sheet of cream paper presented on a brown leather menu holder (as are the winelist and the a la carte menu), in quite small type, making it difficult to read, especially the wine that is paired with each dish, as it is in an even smaller type size.

I started with Chicken liver parfait, very creamy and soft, served with melba toast on a port jelly, its sweetness an interesting contrast to the parfait.   The alternative was a Potato veloute, with fennel and smoked salmon fritters.   I chose to drink a glass of Tamboerskloof Syrah 2006 with the first three courses, although I could have had a different wine with each course.  The second course was a beautifully presented Mushroom risotto served on butternut puree, with a crisp parmesan wheel.   The mushrooms were minute and delicate, the risotto perfect, and the food colours on the plate necessitated minimal garnishing.   The alternative option was Pan-fried quail with a crayfish and saffron sauce with fresh gooseberries, a most interesting sounding combination.

The Beef fillet was a touch too close to the rare side, rather than the medium rare that I had ordered for the third course, served on celeriac puree, with oven roasted shallots and port jus.  This made it difficult to cut the steak slices with the non-serrated knife provided.  The alternative choice was a Buttered Kabeljou, served with a mussel and oyster mushroom ragout and Parisienne gnocchi.  The highlight of the menu was the Millefeuille of chocolate mousse, served with a rectangular-shaped flat coffee meringue and citrus fruit, absolutely yummy and a chocoholic’s dream.   The alternative Pear crumble with vanilla creme never stood a chance as a dessert choice.   As if the four courses and the amuse bouche were not enough of a delight already, a plate with a homemade marshmallow, coffee meringue and truffle was presented with the perfectly made cappuccino.

The a la carte menu offers five options per course.  Starters start at R50 (Tomato tarte tatin), and include Pan-fried scallops (R65), Tempura prawn salad (R65) and De-boned quail (R90).  Main course prices peak at R180 for Seared Springbok loin, but Beef fillet (R140), Lamb cutlets (R150), Spinach ravioli (R95), and Poached linefish served with a lobster broth (R100) are also offered.  For dessert Creme Brulee, Hibiscus granite and a trio of sorbets cost around R50, and a soft-centered mini chocolate cake and a cheese selection cost R80.

Chef Anri is a protege of Etienne Bonthuys of ex-Tokara, having worked for him for more than five years.  She helped open the Delaire restaurant in chef Christian Campbell’s kitchen, and felt that Majeka House offered her an exciting challenge, in making the switch.  She has the most exciting prospect of working at the Michelin 3-star restaurant L’Esperance in Saint-Pere-sous-Vezelay in Burgundy for two months.  The Van der Merwes have developed an exchange programme with the restaurant, having welcomed its Senior Sous Chef at Majeka House earlier this year.

The winelist presents a good selection of wines predominantly from the Stellenbosch region, and one imported champagne (Pol Roger Brut at R760).   Each wine is described briefly and commendably vintages are provided.  Wines-by-the-glass are between 2 – 5 years old, and very reasonably priced (R26 for Dalla Cia Chardonnay, R20 for Villiera Chenin Blanc, R24 for Dalla Cia Sauvignon Blanc, R18 for Land’s End Rose, R30 for Villiera Tradition sparkling wine, R28 for Marklew Merlot, R39 for Dalla Cia Cabernet Sauvignon, R43 for Rainbow’s End Cabernet Franc, R31 for Bilton Pinotage, R34 for Tamboerskloof Shiraz, and R38 for Warwick 3 Cape Ladies blend).

The Restaurant at Majeka House is a treat, especially if one decides to spend a night of paradise in Paradyskloof at Majeka House too, and not drive back to Cape Town.   The chocolate mousse is an absolute must!  Not being very well-known yet, Majeka House could do well to embrace Social Media Marketing, in starting a Blog, tweeting more regularly, building the profile of Chef Anri, and perhaps consider an independent name for its restaurant.

The Restaurant at Majeka House, 26 – 32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 880- 1512.  www.majekahouse.co.za  (Both the a la carte and the Tasting menu are listed. The Image Gallery does not have a page dedicated to the restaurant, and has few food photographs) Twitter @Majeka_House.  Monday – Sunday.   On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Following the advice in our review, Majeka House has announced that its restaurant will be called Makaron Restaurant from now onward.

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