Entries tagged with “Sol Kerzner”.


WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The Elite 100 fine-dining restaurants in the world have been announced for 2014, with three Cape restaurants on the list: The Test Kitchen at 45th place, The Tasting Room at 82nd, and Rust en Vrede (which the Cape Argus placed in Durbanville rather than in Stellenbosch!) at 85th place.  The world’s top 10 restaurants, according to Elite, are Alinea in Chicago, Daniel Restaurant in New York, The Fat Duck in Bray in the UK, Eleven Madison Park in New York, Le Bernardin in New York, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona in Spain, Azurmendi in Vizcaya, La Pergola in Rome, The Ledbury in London, and Osteria Francescana in Modena in Italy.  The Cape Argus incorrectly created one restaurant name out of  the 7th and 8th ranked restaurants!  A surprise is the omission of five hundred at The Saxon, which kitchen is headed by South Africa’s Top Chef David Higgs.

*   After 45 years in the local and international hospitality industry, which includes the One&Only hotel group, Sol Kerzner is retiring, after selling a substantial stake of his Kerzner International Holdings to a Dubai-based company.

*   New York Travel focuses on Spring Travel in South Africa, specifically in Cape Town and surrounding areas.  In Cape Town the article mentions I Love my Laundry, the The Crypt Jazz Restaurant and The Marly in Camps Bay. It also refers to Cape Town’s role as host of World Design Capital 2014.   (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  SAA and Boeing are collaborating on a biofuels project, to create a ‘sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain‘, making SAA the first airline in Africa to become environmentally sustainable.

*   The new Cape Town cruise liner terminal should be completed in two years, and will be beneficial for tourism.

*   Despite the European air controller strike having been called off for yesterday, the French air controllers did commence their strike yesterday, affecting flights to/from France.

*   Hotel king Sol Kerzner has announced the development of a (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   International tourism in the first half of 2013 has grown by 5% relative to the same period the year before, reports the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

*   The film ‘The Giver‘, starring Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, is to be shot in its entirety in Cape Town from the end of September, reports the Cape Times.  Moonlighting Films has been appointed as the production company, which was also involved in the filming of ‘Invictus’ and ‘Safe House’. The Cape Town Film Commission said that the Mother City’s film industry has been growing at 30% per year in the past three years, has contributed R5 billion to our economy in the past year, and is creating positive talk about Cape Town in Hollywood.  ’The Giver’ is expected (more…)

Listening to Carl Wessel, co-owner of Deluxe Coffeeworks, it sounds as if their successful coffee roasting business has just evolved over time, with little business planning and marketing, its satisfied loyal customers doing the word of mouth marketing and being repeat buyers.  Deluxe Coffeeworks, known for its tiny outlets in Church Street in Cape Town and next to Reubens in Franschhoek, has opened its new roastery in The Yard in Gardens, in a building which will also house its head office.

It was difficult finding the new Deluxe Coffeeworks outlet, being on Roodehek Street (and not Roodehoek Terrace, where the German Club is), which connects Buitenkant and Hope Streets.  As no signage nor street number (6) is visible, one assumes that an opening down an alley must be it. Parking is almost non-existent in the street, and one should park on Buitenkant Street.  One walks through the alley, without signage guiding one, to enter the spacious Deluxe Coffeeworks with its massive coffee bar counter, made from a solid piece of bluegum, and matching wooden bar chairs, putting an alien tree to good use, Carl said.  Olaf Nel was the architect and interior designer.

Against the wall is the trademark piece of ‘art’, which is a ‘deconstructed’ motorcycle.  There are motorcycles standing around inside the warehouse-style building, appearing to be a passion shared by most of the staff. In Franschoek the space is tiny, and they have a ‘deconstructed’ bicycle on the wall, while in the Church Street branch it is a ‘deconstructed’ Vespa.  Carl and his colleagues serve clients, and he was more than willing to serve a frothy cappuccino, even though I was under the impression that this was not encouraged (it is Truth and Origin that are strict about serving a cappuccino as a flat white).  Carl told me that he had got tired of his job in the film business, and his partner Judd Francis, a New Zealander who had been involved in the coffee business while he lived there and who joined Origin when he came to Cape Town, got together, and started Deluxe Coffeeworks in Church Street.   After being quiet for 18 months (there was no marketing that one was aware of, and they are not visible on Social Media either), their business suddenly took off, with more and more restaurants serving their coffee, and more customers coming into their coffee shop, to taste their unbelievably low priced coffee – they charged R10 a cup for the first year, and now charge R12, by far the cheapest cup of quality coffee in Cape Town.

I asked about serving food, and Carl laughed, saying that his gentleman’s agreement with Judd in running their business partnership had one rule only – no food! However, on a Friday they pick up 20 croissants from Jason’s on Bree Street, and the first twenty customers get them for free.  The alley has tables and chairs, and a central food preparation area, which started off as the Dog’s Bollocks, serving only 50 hamburger portions per evening, said to be the best hamburgers in Cape Town. Nigel Wood, the owner of the whole building, of which Deluxe is using more than half of the space, has attracted two new day-time food businesses, serving ‘deconstructed’ breakfasts, in that one pays for each individual ingredient (R7 per egg, R12 for bacon, R8 for sausage and for baked beans), which is served on a ‘hubcap’ (flatbread, costing R10). From 12h00 one can order sandwiches, being a selection of world-famous mainly American-style sandwiches, it was explained (I had not heard of any of them before, but then I have not been to the USA in years). Costing R45 each, one can order Geno’s Philly Cheese Steak (from Philadelphia), or Lo Priore Bro’s Meatball Hero (from New York) sandwiches, for example. Soup costs R25 with vegetables and R30 with meat. Gilbert Plumbers is in the front of the building, and may vacate sometime, which will make more space available for related businesses.

A brightly painted coffee roaster, twice as big as the one in the Church Street branch, stands in a corner, and bags of green coffee beans lie on the floor.  The beans have been sourced from Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Burundi, and Nicaragua via a local importer up to now, but it appears that they will source and import directly soon. They will soon offer a grinding service too.  It is the ‘optimum roasting’ of the beans, small quantities at a time to keep the coffee as fresh as possible, the creation of special blends, and the method of preparation that makes one coffee better than another, Carl said.  They prepare all coffees off a double espresso base, including cappuccino, flat white, Americano, Macchiato, Decaffeinated, Latte and Piccolo Latte (the last three cost R15). Restaurants serving Deluxe coffees include Jason’s, Power & Glory, Clarke’s, Red Sofa, Pulp Kitchen, La Mouette, La Boheme, Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, Fork, Superette, El Burro, Van Hunk’s, Café Mozart, Skinny Legs & All, Tokara, Café Paradiso, Maria’s, KOS, Don Pedro, Yours Truly, Pezula Resort in Knysna, Hola Café in Plettenberg Bay, and more.

I was the only female customer at Deluxe Coffeeworks, and it has a male persona with all the motorcycle ‘props’, yet I felt at home, and enjoyed chatting to Carl, getting information from him first-hand.  He says they are not good at technology, explaining their low key Social Media presence, and Carl almost seems surprised that they are doing so well.  They have a 20% share in the Franschhoek branch, which is co-owned by Steve Grey and Jo Sinfield.  They were invited to participate in setting up a coffee roastery in the foyer of two Lux* group hotels, one each in Mauritius and Maldives, which hotel group is managed by Paul Jones, who once worked for Sol Kerzner.  This has led to the likelihood of a next project with Harvey Nichols, which company wants to set up coffee shops in Kuwait, and then expand throughout the Middle East.  They also have a partnership with a similar business called Brew Coffeeworks in Istanbul, and the Deluxe staff is regularly flying to that city to work there for short stints.

The success of Deluxe Coffeeworks clearly is focus, doing what they do well and doing it with passion. Signage is due to come next month.  They plan to print a fun little paper, which will offer Soduko puzzles. Not only is the price excellent value, explaining its popularity, but its coffee tastes good too.

Deluxe Coffeeworks, The Yard, 6 Roodehek Street, off Buitenkant Street, Gardens.  Cell 0826815740. www.deluxecoffeeworks. co.za Twitter:@CarlWessel. Also in Franschhoek, and Church Street, Cape Town. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 14h00.  Twitter:@Yard_CT

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

Reuben’s Franschhoek and our Whale Cottage Franschhoek both opened seven years ago, and I fell in love with Reuben’s when I first stumbled upon it in 2004.   It was fresh and different, with a unique menu, the service was outstanding with Maryke Riffel heading front of house, a young French sommelier was charming, and Chef Reuben Riffel cooking and often coming out of the kitchen to chat to his guests.  Despite the last visits having been disappointing, we kept supporting his restaurant, well positioned for our guests to walk to in Franschhoek.  We have reached the end of our tolerance of poor service and mediocre food at Reuben’s Franschhoek.

Reuben Riffel had opened a restaurant in Cambridge for friends when Boekenhoutskloof directors Tim Rands and Marc Kent invited him to come back to his home town to open a signature restaurant on the main road.  Reuben had started working as a barman at Chamonix in Franschhoek, and started cheffing when a chef did not come to work.  He loved it so much that he developed himself without any formal chef training. Reuben’s fame in Franschhoek was instant, with an Eat Out Top 10 award in 2004 for Best Restaurant and Best Chef, a mere 6 months after opening, something that had never occurred before.  Reuben’s opened a branch at the Robertson Small Hotel, owned by Rands, about three years ago, and last year it was a huge honour for him to have been invited by Sol Kerzner to open a branch at the One&Only Cape Town.  It was obvious that the food and service quality would suffer as Reuben tried to stretch himself across his three restaurants, and it is in Franschhoek that we have heard other locals complain, and other guest houses too no longer send business there.  Chef Reuben tried to get help, having chefs Richard Carstens and Camil Haas working with him in Franschhoek, but both left him at short notice.

The main restaurant interior is large, with a separate room for functions or more guests, and an unpopular passage close to the noisy kitchen.  The bar has an interesting counter made from a plane wing.  Reuben’s has a large fireplace, making it warm and cosy, but it was smoky at times, due to the heavy wind on my last visit.  Tables are wooden, with the Reuben’s name engraved into the top, with white leather chairs, and a bench against the wall.  The managers sit behind a counter, in front of a Reuben’s branded wall, and it looked rather untidy from my angle, with a silver handbag on the floor, and boxes visible.   A bowl of fruit was on the counter, looking more like a hotel dining room reception than that of a restaurant,  with no flowers at all, as they used to have.  Each table has a little ceramic jar of coarse salt.  No pepper grinder is on the table, nor is it offered for any dish. Cutlery is by Maxwell Williams. Staff wear white shirts, and black pants and aprons.  There are no tablecloths on the tables.

When I popped in at Reuben’s, just wanting something warm but light, after a long two and a half hour concert in the church, a table was available, after a five minute set-up, in a still busy restaurant.   I was handed the standard menu, and saw with a shock that it has changed: individual prices have been removed, and the prices are listed as R220 for 2 courses, R268 for 3 courses, and R315 for 4 courses, which was not what I was looking for.  I asked about the winter special, but the Manager Carmen, Chef Reuben’s sister, looked at me as if I had lost it.  The Winter Special (3-courses for R150) is no longer available, she said. She then fetched the Street Smart special menu, which ran until the end of last week in honour of all the Street Smart restaurants collecting monies to help street children rebuild their lives, with a voluntary R5 donation at 57 participating restaurants, which offered four courses for R195.  This is also not what I had in mind.  I was then told by Carmen that locals are allowed to order individual items off the menu, at R65 per starter, R 120 for a main course, and R65 for a dessert.  Somehow the maths did not add up, in that a starter/dessert and main would only cost R185, instead of the quoted R220.  I also want my guest house guests to enjoy a meal without the pressure of having to order for a minimum of R220 per person, given the tight financial times.  As guest house owners we were not informed by Reuben’s that this had changed.

In the confusion of the two menus presented and the price issue, I chose the Street Smart option, and Carmen kindly allowed me to replace the oxtail main course with a steak.  It was the worst ever dining experience at Reuben’s Franschhoek (our previous dinner on 24 April coming a close second, with the fireplace not lit on a chilly night, two wines on the list being out of stock, no vintages specified for the wines by the glass, the lunch menu still on the blackboard at dinner, very expensive wine by the glass, messy pouring of the wine, kingklip served for the ‘tuna pickle’ and blamed on a typing error, no cheese on the French Onion soup, and very slow service in a long wait for the main course).

Reuben’s brother Jevon was the waiter, and brought two slices of dry-looking wholewheat bread, the nice bread tray with a choice of breads baked by Chef Reuben’s mother clearly no longer being offered.  Jevon ‘wipped’ when I asked him to remove the bottled water he brought to the table without checking with me.  I only drink fresh Franschhoek water!  After bringing a jug of water, and pouring a glassful, he did not top it up again.  Chef Reuben was not on duty, and it was Chef William Carolissen doing the honours in the kitchen.

The only Shiraz by the glass available was a Reuben’s house wine made by Goose wines, at R45, which I declined.  It surprised me that Reuben is not Proudly-Franschhoek in his choice of branded wine. The ‘pre-starter’ was a French Onion soup, with epoise toast and gruyere, nothing special at all.   Of the four courses, I enjoyed the Warm duck salad the most, a rather busy collection of shredded duck, toasted cashews, avocado slivers, papaya, orange, sprouts, radishes, cucumber, served with a cinnamon soya dressing and miso honey.  Listing the ingredients, only two or three items of each, seemed an overpromise, and perhaps more of fewer ingredients would have been better.  The biggest disappointment was the grilled Chalmar beef sirloin, served with what was called ‘glazed vegetables’, but were steamed mange tout and green beans, ‘swimming’ in a port and mushroom ‘jus’!  In a separate bowl came the worst ever chips, thick cut, over-dosed with salt and pepper, and raw inside.  I asked Carmen if it is customary to bring chips, as the menu did not state it, and she said it was.  I suggested that she check with clients about the choice of starch, as I am not a chip eater and would have preferred something healthier and saltless.  She ‘wipped’ and did not respond to my feedback, nor to my returned bowl of chips!  The steak was more medium than the ordered medium-rare, and the very heavily salted and liquid ‘jus’ spoilt it completely.   Things looked up with the attractive dessert, being Apple tarte tatin (delicious), apple panna cotta (nice green colour but bland and tasteless), and a most odd-tasting green vanilla Calvados sorbet, the description sounding better than the actual dessert.

Wishing to understand why Reuben’s had changed the menu to a non-price one (not seen in seven years), and how I could still bring my guests to the restaurant with responsible pricing, I spoke to Carmen once more.  She showed her irritation, stating that no one else had complained about it (neither had I - I was just trying to understand it), and that if guest house guests arrived, they would offer them the local price choice as well.  What she did not know was that the Pohl family of four staying with us over the same weekend had reserved a table directly on the same evening, on our recommendation.  They were not offered any special pricing on the a la carte menu, nor the Street Smart menu.  Carmen became more and more defensive about the menu, and said that I should question Reuben about it, as he had designed it.  She could not explain the rationale for such an expensive winter menu, but she did tell me that individual prices will be added to the menu in summer again, which confused me even further! I was struggling to pick up 3G for Twitter inside the restaurant, and when checking this with Martell Smith, the Deli Manager who doubles up as a hostess in the restaurant at night, she assured me that the internet was switched on.  When I stepped outside, the internet worked perfectly, as it did when I returned inside the restaurant.  Martell seemed to ‘wip’ about this.  Martell had come to the table to check on my satisfaction with the steak (no other course was checked), and it was so bad that I just shook my head, not wanting to have anyone else ‘wipping’ around me if I were to express what I was feeling!

Reuben’s brother Jevon had worked for us a good six years ago, and had run off in a huff and a puff without giving notice when he was reprimanded for making a costly error.  He has never served me at Reuben’s previously.   He did not speak a word to me, just being a ‘fetcher and carrier’, except at the end, when he demanded that I sign the credit card slip.  When I questioned his lack of communication, he walked off while I was speaking to him, throwing a ‘wip’ with his colleague.  When he walked past my table, I asked him why he had walked away, and I received a rude torrent of abuse from him, which was completely uncalled for. I told Carmen about Jevon’s rudeness, and she then lashed out at me, saying that I should speak to Reuben, as Martell had called Reuben, complaining to him about our interaction about the internet, and then she walked off while I was speaking to her!

The menu has shrunk in size to A4, with many more menu items that on the previous A3 menu we had.  I was surprised to see advertising on the menu for Reuben’s recycled ‘stemware’, as well as for Moniki chocolates from Tulbagh, when Franschhoek has the excellent Cafe Le Chocolatier and Huguenot Fine Chocolates!  The menu no longer lists the who’s who of the kitchen.   The menu is changed daily, Carmen told me.  On the evening that I was there, the soup choices were French Onion, mushroom, and rich cauliflower.  Eleven starters included the signature squid, blue cheese and onion tart, salmon sashimi, chicken liver parfait, mussels, oysters, and a butternut salad.  There were 10 main courses, including chicken and prawn curry, pork belly, sole, gnocchi, oxtail, springbok steak, calf’s liver (always been my favourite), and beef tartar.  Ten dessert options included lime creme brûlee, Valrhona chocolate pave, carrot cake pudding, poached pears, and a cheese platter.   Sides of vegetables can be ordered at R35.

For the seven years of daily business sent to Reuben’s in the summer months, with regular problems tolerated over the years in making bookings with Reuben’s staff telephonically, the last dinner was a sad one, as it appears that Reuben’s staff feel that they can lash out at customers.  The service standard is inconsistent, as I have had nothing but excellent service from another Manager Raymond, and from Jessica, a long-standing waitress.  It is sad that Chef Reuben’s family members should have been the rudest of all the staff on Saturday, and disappointing was his nepotistic “my staff are perfect” response to an e-mail I sent after the dinner, informing him that I no longer felt comfortable in sending guests to the restaurant after the rudeness I had experienced.  There was no apology nor thanks for all the business that we had sent there over the years, nor acknowledgement of our almost evangelical promotion of what was a favourite restaurant for a long time.

It would appear that Reuben realises that he has grown too big, and he has bought a building up the road from Place Vendome, to which he will move his restaurant in November, being a smaller sized 50-seater, with space for an extra venue at which he can do cooking demonstrations, to keep business going in winter, and ensuring a big saving in rent, he told me at the Mandela birthday meal media conference at the Drakenstein Prison a few weeks ago.  His Manager Raymond told me that both Franschhoek restaurants will run concurrently until the lease of the current restaurant expires, meaning that Reuben will have four restaurants for at least another year, which can only mean further service problems. Talk about Reuben trying to get out of his contract at the One&Only Cape Town continues to circulate in Franschhoek, despite his denial, but then he blatantly denied that he was opening at the One&Only Cape Town a year ago!

Reuben’s Franschhoek is not worthy of an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant nomination any more.  If one dares to pass on any feedback to the staff, one might be reported to ‘headmaster’ Chef Reuben, and be abused by the staff!  Reuben has lost the passion for his business, and the Franschhoek restaurant needs a professional full-time Manager who can go beyond the Groendal-syndrome.  Reuben has to be at the One&Only Cape Town restaurant three times a week, appears in Robertson’s spice advertising, does cooking demo’s, and increasingly appears to be ‘commercialising’ himself, losing touch with what is going on in his restaurants as a result!  The current pricing policy is cheeky, and communicates that Reuben’s does not seek the support of locals.  We wish Reuben well in balancing all his balls!

POSTSCRIPT 8/8:  We are delighted to hear from our guests who went to Reuben’s on Saturday evening that the 2-, 3-, and 4-course price option has been dropped, and that each item on the menu is back to being individually priced!  They found the food excellent, especially the bean soup, but were disppointed that the waitress had no knowledge about the wines on the board at all.

POSTSCRIPT 7/9: We have heard that the sale of the building that Reuben’s was buying in Franschhoek fell through.  They may be considering another option close by.

Reuben’s Franschhoek, 19 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. Tel (0-21) 876-3772.  www.reubens.co.za (The website contains an Image Gallery, but one must click onto thumbnails to view them.  The menu is an out of date one for 11 August of last year.  A Winter 2011 Special menu, looking very similar to the Street Smart one, is listed!).  Monday – Sunday Lunch and Dinner.

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

I have been writing about Afternoon/High Teas, and have previously visited  the One&Only Cape Town for its Afternoon Tea.  It was a week-day visit, and at that time they served the High Tea on a cake stand on week days, and a buffet on weekends.   On reading our review, the hotel immediately altered the Afternoon Tea offering to a buffet one on all days of the week, and comparing it to the Mount Nelson Afternoon Tea, that which is served at the One&Only Cape Town now is by far the best of those that I have tried (Grande Provence, Bosman’s at Grande Roche, Mount Nelson Hotel, the Le Franschhoek Hotel, and the Cape Grace Hotel).

The opportunity to re-try the Afternoon Tea came from an invitation from the One&Only Cape Town via Ian Manley, the PR consultant to the hotel.  Our visit yesterday was the second to the hotel, having stayed over two years ago just after the hotel opened.  I have the highest regard for One&Only owner Sol Kerzner, and even travelled to Mauritius, to try out Le Touesrok (which had just been sold by Kerzner) and St Geran.  We were accommodated on The Island, and felt as if we were right back in Mauritius, surrounded by water and palm trees.  The 73 sq m room was massive, and my son and I each had a queen-size bed.  The bathroom was open-plan to the bedroom, and the shower room has two shower options.   There is no shortage of space.  Lauren was very efficient in welcoming us back, her clever computer ‘remembering’ our previous stay, and even Gerhard Erasmus, the Executive Assistant Manager, and the Food & Beverage Manager, welcomed us back, a very nice touch.   Lauren gave us a heated welcome cloth on arrival, and showed us all the facilities in the room, and told us that the internet service is free of charge, a commendable facility not offered by most hotels (Taj Cape Town charges R230 per 24 hour usage, for example!).  The room offers a pillow and scent menu, which one’s room butler will organise.  A massage by Rochelle at the Spa was a special treat.

The Afternoon Tea buffet is laid out in the Vista Bar and lounge, and looked beautiful in its layout, around a very large bouquet of proteas.   The savoury items are on one table, and include white and brown bread egg mayonnaise, cucumber and salmon sandwiches, as well as heated small green pea, vegetable, mushroom, and salmon quiches.   The sweet treat range consists of 22 items, some duplicated on the table, and all beautifully presented.  Hayley, Demi Chef de Partie, and her Sous Chef colleague Garth, brought new items to the table continuously, so that one never got the feeling that it had all been eaten, or that something would run out, as one does at the Mount Nelson Hotel.  

The sweet treat presentation was designed by pastry Chef Rene Simatos, and I loved her cleverness in displaying some items in glass jars, on top of related items.  So, for example, pistachio nougat was presented on pistachio nuts, chocolate biscuits were presented on coffee beans, canelles were on dried apricots, fruit scones were on a mix of dried apricots and cranberries, the Lindt chocolate chip cookies on almonds, koeksisters looked interesting on cinnamon sticks, almond biscotti on blue and silver nicolleta, and amaretti were displayed on cranberries.   Other sweet items are baked vanilla cheesecake, fruit bretonne, caramel and gold leaf éclairs, dark chocolate cupcakes, marble cake, banana loaf, macaroons in two flavours, tiramisu and buttermilk pannacotta in glass containers, for which a spoon was brought immediately, dark chocolate savarin, opera slices, peanut cookies, French style marshmallow knots, cherry-flavoured Pavlova meringues, and One&Only cookies, an absolute feast.  A group of 24 celebrated a kitchen tea with the Afternoon Tea.  Bagged tea and coffee is included for free in the Afternoon Tea, which costs R145.   The Food & Beverage Manager Nick Patmore said that at the end of the month the hotel will add a Lindt chocolate fondue, at a surcharge to the Afternoon Tea price.

If one wants to order special teas, there is a selection of 36 loose-leaf teas from Nigiro, the Origin coffee company, and these were brought to the table by Terence in a box detailing each of the teas, which come from China, Taiwan, Brazil, India, Kenya, Japan, Middle East, and Sri Lanka.  South African teas offered are Rooibos, African Sun, Blood Orange, Orange and Spices, and Strawberry and Vanilla, ranging in cost from R16 – R50.  The tea is brought to the table in a Bodum tea pot, and an hour glass is brought to the table, to measure a 3-minute infusion, allowing for the perfect brewing of the tea.

The service by Thabisa was excellent, checking on us continuously, removing used plates, bringing spoons and water when required, and having a lovely smile throughout. Hayley too was most helpful in explaining all the Afternoon Tea buffet items, as these are not labelled on the table nor listed in the Vista Bar menu. 

The Afternoon Tea at the One&Only Cape Town is excellent, professionally managed, outstanding quality, with good service, and one feels that it is presented with pride and care.  It is vastly improved on what I experienced two months ago, and certainly is the best on Cape Town, and is cheaper than that at the Mount Nelson Hotel.

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  The Lindt Chocolate Fondue commences on 4 June, and will only be served on weekends. It costs R145 for two. 

Vista Bar, One&Only Cape Town, V&A Waterfront.  Tel (021) 431-5888. www.oneandonlycapetown.com  Monday – Sunday, 14h30 – 17h30.

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

Chef Reuben Riffel’s connection with the One&Only Cape Town is putting him, and Cape Town with it, on the world map, and he recently returned from a whirlwind tour of New York, with the compliments of SAA and the One&Only Hotel group. 

He stepped off the aircraft with his Reuben’s Franschhoek chef William Carolissen, and was whisked off to the studios of the Martha Stewart Show  immediately.  Despite her poor performance at the Design Indaba a year ago, Stewart remains an icon of American domesticity, and her show is watched by an audience of about 80000.  Chef Reuben had to prepare South African dishes in front of the camera and studio audience, and had pre-organised which ingredients he would require for it.  He had a time limit of 4 minutes to create Cape Malay pickled fish, and a grilled peri peri beef salad.  The Reuben’s slot ran for 15 minutes and had shots of the One&Only Cape Town too, with Stewart endorsing the hotel by stating that it is her favourite resort in South Africa.  The show will be broadcast on 9 March. 

He was also invited to appear on NBC’s Today Show, with a viewership of 3,3 million on the day of broadcast. Chef Reuben cooked with Today Show personalities Al Roker and Natalie Moralis, and here too he had to prepare two dishes (crisp prawn dumplings with rooibos tea salt, and pan roasted red snapper prepared in a West Coast basting sauce of apricot jam, garlic and soya, served with a salsa of tomato, cucumber, chilli and cilantro) in front of the audience.  

Reuben is no stranger to cooking in front of a camera, making more and more TV appearances, on Pasella in particular, so this stood him in good stead to do our city and country proud.  Chef Reuben said the American TV staff are well organised.   Chef Reuben also prepared food for an One&Only Hotel event for travel agents and tour operators, as well as one for the media (journalists represented the New York Times Style Magazine, Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Post and Travel Africa.)    

Meeting Chef Reuben and his wife Maryke at Reuben’s at the One & Only Cape Town last week was an opportunity to catch up, and to check whether he is still connected to his restaurant in Cape Town, given my observations after my last visit.  He laughed when we chatted about how incorrect deductions can be made from bits of staff information one receives, and it showed him how important it is for him to communicate with all levels of staff.  Talking of staff, a number of changes have taken place since Reuben’s opened in Cape Town in October:   The Manager Samantha Housden has left, after only a short stint, and has been replaced by Kagiso Mmebe.  In the kitchen Maritz Jacobs has been joined by Aviv Liebenberg, previously at Reuben’s Robertson, and Chef Reuben is encouraging them to visit the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, so that they can stay in touch with interesting food suppliers, and they come back with fresh products for a new special ”Market Day” menu on Saturdays. Reuben’s staff will ‘cross-pollinate’ between Cape Town and Franschhoek, so that they get to experience the other branch.   Camil Haas, who was meant to shadow Chef Reuben in Franschhoek and Cape Town, will be more behind the scenes now, and will manage Chef Reuben’s appearances, and the requirements linked to these, as well as the preparation for outside events. 

Chef Reuben explained why the current menu does not have the chefs’ names on it, and why the Reuben’s branding is so low key, in that the hotel had printed it at a time when the regular Reuben’s printer was closed over the festive season.  The new menu to be launched on 16 February will go back to its “Reuben’s” look, and its content will have a stronger Cape Town focus, with a new dessert for example called ‘Taste of Cape Town’, with small tastes of Hertzoggies, date slices, melktert, rooibos tea ice cream and a coconut koeksister.   In Franschhoek a menu change can be expected at the end of the month, but will have a different focus to the Cape Town one.   A Sunday buffet lunch will be introduced in Cape Town on 27 February, costing R 195.  The Reuben’s Cape Town menu indicates which dishes contain alcohol (for Sol Kerzner, who does not drink alcohol, and for Muslim guests), shellfish, nuts, and pork.

We spoke about the winelist, which I see as overpowering, and not really suiting a Bistro-style restaurant.  Chef Reuben said that Singita is buying up a portion of the wine collection, and he said that they may develop a reduced winelist for Reuben’s.  The One&Only Hotel has influenced the operation of Reuben’s in Cape Town, and has meant more paperwork and adherence to systems, but there are benefits too, such as the international marketing that the hotel group does.  Chef Reuben emphasised that Kerzner does not interfere with his operation of the restaurant. In fact, there is a good relationship between the hotel and the restaurant management, and they meet regularly to address common issues.  Reuben is featured in the international One&Only Hotel newsletter, which was sent out earlier this week.

The decor is evolving, and new multi-coloured glass menu boards have been erected on the columns of the restaurant, to advertise specials.  When I visited last week, a West Coast seafood special was advertised, consisting of a number of dishes.  The boards help the Cape Town branch make spontaneous additions to the menu, without having to reprint it, a greater logistical challenge here than in Franschhoek, Chef Reuben explained. 

A new cookbook is in the pipeline, and will focus on seasons.   It will allow Chef Reuben to continue with the format of his first recipe book, and to reminisce about his childhood in Franschhoek, and his mother’s influence on his cooking.   Richard Carstens is highly praised by Chef Reuben, and he says that Richard “is one of the best” and that “no one can touch him”.

Chef Reuben says there are definitely no further restaurant openings on his agenda, and he is learning to delegate more, to enjoy a more balanced personal and business life.  I left him and Maryke with the feeling that they will make the best of their new relationship with the One&Only Hotel, and that there will be no repeat of Gordon Ramsay’s distant relationship with the ex-maze, the previous restaurant at the One&Only Cape Town, and the resultant demise.

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

What Spill Blog had predicted three weeks ago, but what Reuben Riffel had denied vehemently to the media and to ourselves, has been announced in the Sunday Times today – Reuben Riffel will take over the helm of one of the restaurants at the One&Only Cape Town, establishing a Reuben’s restaurant in the space vacated by Gordon Ramsay’s maze at the end of July, on 1 October.  This will be the third Reuben’s, joining the restaurant family in Franschhoek and Robertson.   Reuben has committed to spending three days a week at the Hotel, to look after the restaurant.

Following speculation about him taking over the restaurant, which he denied, Riffel had warned restaurateurs to heed the example of Ramsay spreading himself too thin, and in not having a hands-on control over one’s restaurants, as quoted in sake24.  

We congratulate Reuben and his team, and wish them huge success in a very large space of 170 seats to fill, with all eyes from the Cape Town and international market focused on how he will fill Ramsay’s shoes.  Reuben’s largest challenge will be the service level offered, it not having been a strength of his restaurants in more recent times. 

The full Sunday Times story follows:  

“One of South Africa’s top chefs, Reuben Riffel, has been picked to be the apple of hospitality tycoon Sol Kerzner’s eye.

Riffel – who has gone from eating pig’s head as a youngster to feeding well-heeled patrons his signature ginger and caramel pork belly – will replace famed UK chef Gordon Ramsay at Kerzner’s One&Only hotel in Cape Town. Ramsay’s Maze restaurant was expelled from the premises following rumours of crisis talks earlier this month. In an exclusive interview this week, Riffel recalled the day Kerzner, his daughter, Andrea Kerzner, and Alan Leibman, the president of Kerzner International, visited Reuben’s, his restaurant in Franschhoek. The high-profile party feasted on chilli salt squid starters, blue cheese tomato jam tarts, tomato soup with coconut sorbet and lamb shanks with waterblommetjies. Afterwards, Kerzner made Riffel a business offer he could not refuse. “I was flabbergasted. I mean, to be asked this by such a massive industry person. So I told him I’d think about it,” said Riffel. Leibman was full of praise: “Mr Kerzner enjoyed the experience tremendously, he described the food as bursting with local ingredients, extremely tasty and heart-warming. He was also impressed with the extensive wine selection.”

Riffel’s contract, signed on Tuesday, stipulates that he will man the restaurant at the hotel at least three days a week. This follows on Ramsay’s striking absence from Maze. Reuben’s at the One&Only will be decorated in Riffel’s trademark ox-blood red with bold artworks. “I want it to be more relaxed, unlike the traditional idea of hotel restaurants being stiff, that colonial feeling,” he said. The softly-spoken chef, who was raised in Groendal outside Franschhoek, got his big break when he landed a job at the Chamonix Restaurant in Franschhoek, where his mother worked temporarily as a kitchen hand. He has since risen to become one of South Africa’s most celebrated chefs”.  

The Food & Beverage Assistant Manager at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town has confirmed Reuben’s appointment, as has Maryke, Reuben Riffel’s wife.  Maryke has confirmed that they will take over some of the existing staff at the hotel’s restaurant, and that the Franschhoek and Robertson staff of Reubens will assist in the opening of Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town on a temporary basis.  She said that Reuben is itching to get into the One&Only kitchen, to “eat it and smell it”, but will be spending the next few days in Robertson to run a cookery course.

POSTSCRIPT 23/8:  The One&Only Cape Town’s media release, released today, is short and sweet, and appears rushed in containing unforgivable typing errors:

“(23 August 2010) It has been announced that Reuben Riffel – one of South Africa’s best loved celebrity chefs – will open his first urban restaurant at One&Only Cape Town later this year. The annoucement (sic) was made in Cape Town late last week by Alan Leibman, President of Kerzner International (EAME). 

Talking to the annoucement (sic) Sol Kerzner, Chairman and CEO of Kerzner International explained that he had dined at Reuben’s restaurant in Franschhoek while he was in Cape Town over World Cup. “I saw in Reuben an opportunity to capture the essence of South African spirit and pride the world saw as we hosted this major event and invited him to bring his acclaimed local flair to a new restaurant at One&Only Cape Town. We are very pleased to have him on board and feel it’s quite fitting that One&Only’s first urban resort is also the setting for Reuben’s first urban restaurant.”

“I’m really excited and proud about the pending launch of my new restaurant,” said Reuben Riffel. “Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will serve wholesome bistro fare, made from locally-sourced produce. With the resort’s central location, I hope to not only introduce my food to more Capetonians, but also visitors to the Mother City. The restaurant will have a sophisticated – but decidedly unfussy – brasserie feel to it, while the food will provide an exciting combination of local flavours appealing to any palette.” 

Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will open on Friday 1 October and reservations can be made by calling 021 431 5222 or emailing restaurantreservations@oneandonlycapetown.com 

 

POSTSCRIPT 23/8: Fin24.com writes about the appointment of Reuben Riffel at the One&Only Cape Town today, and questions his denial to them two weeks ago about expanding his Reuben’s restaurant chain: http://www.fin24.com/Business/Gordon-Ramsays-replacement-named-20100822 

 

POSTSCRIPT 31/8: The One&Only Cape Town website describes the opening of Reubens at the One&Only Cape Town as follows:

“One&Only Cape Town is proud to launch Reuben’s first urban restaurant on 1 October 2010. Reuben’s serves deceptively simple, wholesome bistro fare, with fresh flavours, generous portions and beautifully plated dishes. The restaurant has a sophisticated, but unfussy, brasserie feel and the food provides the exciting combination of local flavours that one would expect from one of South Africa’s most loved chefs, Reuben Riffel.

Riffel rose to fame when his first restaurant, Reuben’s, opened to much acclaim in the historical town of Franschhoek in 2004. Reuben’s has since won the coveted Eat Out ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and ‘Chef of the Year’ awards.  Reubens’s appeals to the culinary side of the soul and will be enjoyed by young and old. Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will open on Friday, 1 October and reservations may be made by calling +27 21 431 5222 or e-mailing restaurantreservations@oneandonlycapetown.com

POSTSCRIPT 20/9 : Reubens at One&Only Cape Town has opened ahead of its 1 October opening date.  Dinner two days ago was a-maze-ing.  Read our review 

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

Cape Town has a surplus of hotel beds, mainly at the 5-star level, and it is expected that there will be a major shake-out in this sector after the completion of the World Cup, and “only the fittest will survive”, reports Travel News Now.

Ten new hotels have opened their doors in Cape Town since last year, and include the newest, the Strand Towers, The Pepper Club, Taj Hotel Cape Town (the international monies have been well-spent on this building) , 15 on Orange (which has had money thrown at it by Protea Hotel’s African Pride Hotels), Crystal Towers Hotel, Coral International Cape Town (the first ‘dry’ hotel in the city), One&Only Cape Town (Sol Kerzner is the owner), Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, Harbour Bridge Hotel and Suites, and the Upper East Side Hotel.  Four further hotels are in the pipeline for the city.

If the new hotels were the only ones in town, other accommodation establishments would not feel the current accommodation demand decline and room oversupply so badly.  But a recent statistic shows that Cape Town currently has 84 hotels with 11 584 rooms in total, compared to the national totals of 596 hotels and 65 872 rooms. 

The oversupply of accommodation has led to price-cutting, as the hotels compete to attract declining numbers of visitors to the city.   On average, it is said that most accommodation establishments in Cape Town are 50 % full for the World Cup.

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

On the day before Sir Elton John’s 63rd birthday in Cape Town on 25 March, he expressed a wish to eat pizza after his first concert at Kirstenbosch.  He received an order from little-known pizzeria Ciao Amici in Bergvliet, which has renamed its most popular pizza “Rocket Man” in honour of their most famous customer ever, reports the Sunday Times.

The 16 pizzas he ordered to the value of R 1 490 were described by Sir John as the best pizza he has ever eaten, and therefore the house specialty pizza with rocket, mushrooms, peppers, salami, sun-dried tomatoes and mozarella will be renamed “Rocket Man”, according to the owner Alan Pluke.

Sir John and his partner David Furnish stayed in the presidential suite of the One&Only Cape Town, where he was spotted eating sushi and a club sandwich.   On Tuesday 23 March a R 10 000 a head function was held at the hotel for the Elton John Aids Foundation, which was also attended by One&Only owner Sol Kerzner, Francois Pienaar, and Annie Lennox, who was a surprise performer at Sir John’s concert on the following day, singing ‘Daniel’ to great acclaim from the rain-drenched audience.

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