Entries tagged with “Table Bay Hotel”.
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Thursday 17th October 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines
* The Top 5 restaurants based on service in the UK are: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, The Fat Duck in Bray,
Carters in Birmingham. HKK in London, and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London. Perhaps Eat Out could add such an evaluation to its Restaurant Awards?!
* McGrath Collection Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff is opening Mondiall as a Brasserie in the former Green Dolphin Restaurant in the V&A Waterfront on 29 November with Patrick Symington, and Chef Oliver Cattermole as Head Chef. (received via media release from FIVESTAR PR)
* Uma Thurman is the star chosen for the cover picture (more…)
Saturday 3rd August 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
More restaurants in the Western Cape than in any other province entered and received a Diners Club International Winelist Award 2013. At the 30th Awards function held for the Western Cape at the Vineyard Hotel on Wednesday, MasterChef SA Judge and Tsogo Sun Chef Benny Masekwameng announced the 38 winners in the Diamond, 30 in the Platinum, 26 in the Gold, and 2 in the Silver Award categories, 96 awards in total.
Veteran wine critic Dave Hughes chaired the judging panel, which included fledgling judge Chef Benny, restaurant guide editor JP Rossouw, wine judges Christine Rudman and Fiona McDonald, Winestyle.biz owner Nikki Dumas, and the Cape Wine Academy head Marilyn Cooper. He said that it was fitting that the Awards ceremony was held at The Vineyard hotel, the Newlands area having been the first in Cape Town in which grapes were grown, but soon (more…)
Monday 15th July 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
The Bastille Festival was a festive weekend of tasting Franschhoek wines, connecting with friends, and trying some of the village food treats. By all accounts it was a great success, and DnA Events must be congratulated in attracting such large numbers of visitors to Franschhoek, irrespective of the winter weather! Almost every accommodation establishment was fully booked on Saturday evening, and the restaurants and shops did a roaring trade. Franschhoek looked festive, almost every business being decorated in the French tricolore, and many of the locals and visitors wearing a beret and French colours. For our French-speaking intern from Reunion, it was a surprise to experience all the Frenchness of Franschhoek this weekend.
It seemed more crowded on Saturday compared with previous years, yet there seemed to be less on offer outside of the Festival marquee than in the past. We saw the queue outside the marquee just after the midday opening time, and it stretched a few blocks down Dirkie Uys Street. We heard from our Whale Cottage Franschhoek guests that many tried to get tickets to get into the marquee on Saturday but were unable to do so, not even in the closing hour. Those that did have tickets could barely move inside the marquee as it was so full, despite a limit on the numbers, mainly caused by the afternoon rain, which meant that the ticket holders sitting outside moved into the marquee. For many it was too crowded, and they left the marquee after visiting one stand, taking a bottle of wine outside to enjoy it in less crowded conditions. Col’Cacchio had a band performing, and appeared to be one of the most popular meeting places after the marquee closed at 17h00, there being no cover charge. Last minute rooms were sold to visitors who had heard about breathalyser tests on Helshoogte Pass. The traffic on the main road was unbelievable, at times backed up to the Huguenot Monument.
Monday 1st July 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Cape Town was a hive of activity yesterday, as President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, as well as their daughters, visited Cape Town for the day on their three African nation tour. It also was the opening of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Exhibition, an emotionally moving event. The day was focused on the contribution which former President Mandela has made to Cape Town in particular, but also to South Africa and the rest of the world. (more…)
Sunday 2nd June 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
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:
* The Crypt Jazz Restaurant has opened below St George’s Cathedral.
* Frères Bistro has opened next door to Col’Cacchio on Hans Strydom (more…)
Sunday 27th January 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Every year around this time, the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards are announced, resulting in a flurry of media releases to praise achievements in various categories. TripAdvisor sceptics know how easy it is to generate both positive and negative false reviews on the world’s largest travel customer feedback site, and therefore take the results with a pinch of salt.
This year the Cape Grace hotel made it to the number two rank on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards 2013 Top 25 Hotels in the World category, and is ranked top hotel in Africa. The Africa list included the Twelve Apostles Hotel at 14th position, the Mount Nelson Hotel at 18th place, The Oyster Box at 19th place, the One&Only Cape Town at 21st place, Kapama River Lodge at number 22, and the Table Bay Hotel at 23rd position.
Ironic for the Cape Grace hotel is that in the same week as the TripAdvisor award ranking was announced, yet another scandal hit the hotel, this time a hotel guest from the UK allegedly having been drugged by having her drink spiked, filmed in a comprising position in her hotel bedroom with her tour guide, and subsequently robbed of all her money, computer equipment, and jewellery over the festive season, reported the Sunday Times. The hotel shot to ‘fame’ for all the wrong reasons when it was the honeymoon home of Shrien Dewani, who allegedly organised the murder of his bride Anni from the hotel two years ago. The hotel’s most famous guests to date have been ex-USA President Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary, and James Bond, in the latest ‘Carte Blanche’ 007 novel by Jeffery Deaver.
Out of her depth in the wording she used in a media statement, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is quoted as saying: ‘The Cape Grace has always been an exemplary hotel and a benchmark for the best in Cape Town hospitality. We are so pleased that it has been recognised in such an authoritative way‘ (our underlining), immediately offending many other top Cape Town hotels!
The TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards do not reflect the results of the highly regarded Conde Nast Travelers’ Awards, in which the Steenberg Hotel was voted as the best hotel in Africa in 2011, and was ranked 9th on the continent last year.
It is fortunate that TripAdvisor does not do a similar Restaurants Awards list, as a week doesn’t go by that a restaurateur in Cape Town and Franschhoek does not refer to colleagues posting false positive TripAdvisor reviews about their own establishments, or posting false reviews about restaurants near the top of the list in their city or village, to topple them from the top position. ’Reviews’ by aggrieved ex-employees are another source of negative reviews, as are customers who are angry when they do not receive refunds when they contravene agreed cancellation policies.
Anyone that reads and believes TripAdvisor reviews deserves to get what they receive when they make their accommodation and restaurant choices based on this website! TripAdvisor is a particularly important reference guide for tourists from the UK, and it is shame that they allow themselves to be deceived by so much false information. TripAdvisor would enhance its credibility vastly if it had a review verification system, and demanded a response from the owner or manager of the establishment, before posting any review, to allow both sides of the story to be presented jointly and fairly.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Wednesday 26th December 2012 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Cape Town positions itself as a Festive Season playground, yet is not very tourist-friendly when it comes to being open for business on Christmas Day. For a city that is the Gourmet Capital of our country, the best that many tourists could eat yesterday was a McDonalds burger!
A Tweet by Table Bay Hotel concierge Ryan Van Zyl yesterday morning highlighted how difficult it would be for him to find restaurants for his guests on the special day. In Camps Bay, for example, out of about 25 restaurants in the suburb, about half were closed for the day. Even more closed late afternoon, meaning that Paranga, Zenzero, and Café Caprice were making a killing on the Promenade. However, this came at a price, with queues to be allocated a table, and slow service in some instances, we have been told by our guests. Today a similar number of Camps Bay restaurants are closed, expecting the annual arrival of rowdy Capetonians taking over the beach suburb, causing mayhem, with potential theft of tourist and restaurant possessions, making Camps Bay a no-go zone just from the traffic build-up alone. Kloof Street has close to 40 restaurants, and is known as the street that never sleeps, always having restaurants open. At 19h00 yesterday we found only four of these operating: Nando’s, Mc Donalds, Myög, and Mixa’s Schwarma! Caffé Milano was open during the day yesterday, but had to close when it ran out of supplies.
A restaurant owner’s wife responded on Twitter to Van Zyl’s retort, saying that it was their restaurant’s annual gift to their staff for their hard work, to be closed for two days, which doesn’t make sense, as one can give staff ample time off during winter, when restaurants cry about how quiet they are. In addition, the Tweeter shared that the lost business does not weigh up against the problems they experience with reliable supply of produce. This sounds like a more serious issue, but surely one can order ahead for the two days? Good restaurants will have well-established supplier relationships, which surely cannot be influenced by public holidays, as the Christmas days are not the only ones on which suppliers could be closed. One wonders how the restaurants that were open yesterday coped, from a supply point of view. Staff reliability is of course the unmentionable, and this may well be the real reason why so many restaurants were closed yesterday. No Guest House or Hotel, also operating in the hospitality industry, would dream of closing for two days over Christmas, or would have the audacity to ask its guests to make up their own beds on these two days! Surprising is that most restaurants are open on New Years’ Eve, and making plenty of money out of the rates they are charging, supplier support appearing to not be an issue next week!
We have never understood the country closing down for about three weeks around 16 December, when the hospitality requires supplies of guest refreshment portions and amenities, being more fully occupied in the same period as in any other time of the year. Retailers feel the brunt of supplier closures too, disappointing their clients with out of stocks. Our experience with the V&A Waterfront and Woolworths showed that the management was not only away from their businesses over weekends, but appear to be so over this whole Christmas week, the Waterfront’s running appearing to be in the hands of its Information Centre’s Assistant Manager Zulfa Nordien. Commendable is that the phone of Cape Town Tourism was answered yesterday, albeit at their airport branch, the City head office on Burg Street appearing to be closed, with its management on holiday too this week! This is one of the busiest tourism weeks lying ahead! Very few Tweets of Cape Town Tourism and the V&A Waterfront are proactive in providing tourist information to our City’s visitors over the festive season, largely restricted to reTweets, or if one is lucky, to having ones queries answered. Today the V&A Waterfront Tweeter got her information wrong in answering a question about whether the new V&A Market on the Wharf is open today!
Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde has encouraged the hospitality industry to take its breaks over winter. Perhaps it is time for him to be prescriptive in encouraging our Cape Town and Western Cape restaurants to be tourist friendly, and to be open over Christmas. We salute the restaurants and their staff who put service above self yesterday, and welcomed customers and spoilt them with Christmas cheer and good food.
POSTSCRIPT 26/12: We are grateful that Minister Winde supported our plea, in a Tweet in response to this blogpost: “ @ YES we should be open for business over the festive season. It’s harvest time for the tourism industry. @“
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Tuesday 13th November 2012 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Cape Town Tourism has the mandate to market Cape Town as a tourist destination. One wonders why its Communications and PR Manager Skye Grove did the PR for the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ event held at the Table Bay Hotel on Saturday, when the event was not organised by Cape Town Tourism, and was a commercial venture which received sponsorship from Ultra Liquors!
Last year the event with the same name was criticised by the wine industry for its lack of credibility, for its sighted evaluation of the wines, even though sighted wine judging critic Neil Pendock was the co-organiser then too, for being ‘frivolous, patronising, and a joke’, and for its zero tourism impact. We asked then already why Cape Town Tourism had paid R20000 to the organisers of the event, which had no tourism benefit, having been heavily focused on attracting ‘Black Diamonds’ from Johannesburg. Last year the event was held over two days at the V&A Hotel, Tops at Spar being the main sponsor, and the 100 ladies were spoilt with dinner, lunches, and overnight accommodation.
One wonders then why Cape Town Tourism is the only ‘sponsor’ to have supported the event again, Tops at Spar, the airline, Destiny magazine, and the V&A Hotel having withdrawn their support. Ultra Liquors paid R120000 to sponsor the event this year, and Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold wrote that her organisation did not pay a sponsorship fee this year. What she did not reveal was that Grove was ‘managing the communications and publicity aspects of the event’, according to Clare McKeon- McLoughlin’s blogpost on Spill blog, at no compensation to Cape Town Tourism, in what would have been Cape Town Tourism time, one would assume! The event was not held in low season, which is what the industry was crying out for in winter. Mark Norrish, MD of Ultra Liquors, when warned about the organisers’ reputation, said that he had the McLoughlins and Pendock firmly under control, and that they had to follow his instructions. His financial contribution must have been far reduced to that received last year, as the event was only run over half a day, with no meals, there being only one mention on Twitter of canapés served at the event.
As there was no airline sponsor for the event this year, most attendees were from Cape Town, with a handful from other areas such as Stellenbosch, Somerset West, and Elgin. Once again one wonders why Cape Town Tourism was involved in an event which was largely attended by Capetonians, not making Marketing sense at all! Mrs Helmbold showed that she had no idea what her organisation was sponsoring, welcoming Capetonians to Cape Town on Twitter: “100 Women 100 Wines is the world’s first wine competition judged by women for women. Welcome to ladies! “! Mrs Helmbold’s knowledge of wine terminology in the Cape Town Tourism media release is also embarrassingly poor: “100 Women 100 Wines is a welcome addition to Cape Town’s event landscape. It’s becoming a regular on the Cape Town calendar and is now an annual event that brings together women from different cultural backgrounds and demographic groups in order to celebrate the Cape’s great vine (sic) offerings at an unusual, fun-filled affair”.
While Ultra Liquors has grown its Social Media presence, it must be bitterly disappointed by the low Twitter coverage of the event, and the low Twitter following most attendees had, many having fewer than 10 Followers, with just four having more than 1000 Followers, @NatalieRoos with her close to 5000 Followers only Tweeting twice during the event. #CapeTownTourism was only Tweeted once! No media representatives attended the event this year, and there has been no post-event media coverage.
The publicity for the event did not indicate how the 100 wines were chosen for the event (in Tweets during the event there was regular reference to 350 wines, but this is not explained). The 100 wines were divided into categories, including ‘The Boss is Coming’, Sunny Day Wine’, After a Long Day at Work’, ‘Long Lunch’, and ‘Best Braai Wine’!
The wine industry paid scant attention to the event on Twitter. Calling the attendees ‘judges’ of the ‘Ultra Liquors 100 Women 100 Wines competition’, not selected on the basis of wine knowledge, is an insult to serious and professional wine competitions.
Surely Cape Town Tourism does not have a budget in time and money to support events of friends? Surely its job is to attract tourists to Cape Town? This sets a precedent and means that, in fairness to all event organisers in Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism should do the marketing for every event that is hosted in Cape Town for free! Cape Town Tourism received scant acknowledgement by the attendees for its role in the event, a marketing failure in itself for the tourism body.
POSTSCRIPT 16/11: Writing a comment on the Spill blog, Michael Olivier shows how out of touch he is, by commenting as follows: “So – when we having 100 wines, 100 boys? This is a good thing you are doing for the wine industry”. The wine industry has scarcely reacted to the wine event, it having no credibility!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Thursday 3rd May 2012 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
A year ago we first conducted a survey of top-end hotel rates in Cape Town. We repeated the survey in August 2011, and in November 2011, to track hotel pricing trends. Ellerman House has re-established itself as the most expensive Cape Town hotel, starting at R 4590 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel remains the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1200 per room, the same rate as November 2011 and lower than a year ago. The hotels in Cape Town appear more confident about the coming winter season, judging by their pricing policy, only half of them having decreased their rates relative to the past summer.
The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star Cape Town hotels surveyed is R 2780 per room, just under R1400 per person, an average decrease by 23% relative to the November 2011 rates. Across all 29 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R 2297, or just over R 1100 per person, 21% lower on average than in November. The most expensive Presidential Suite is at the One & Only Cape Town, at R58541 per day, a rate which has not changed since November. Interesting is that larger top-end suites seem to have seen rate increases, while the standard rooms are more likely to be discounted.
Once again it was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator or a corporate caller, the questioning being very specific in this regard. Holders of a Protea Hotel Prokard would have had different rates quoted. Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the ‘best available rate’ information, costing time, one hotel putting the call on hold to piped music while they did their rate calculations. The poor quality of the call handling and quoting by the hotel Reservations departments must be a concern for their bosses, quoting odd rates (i.e. not rounded off) very quickly, making it difficult to understand and record them accurately; interrupting while one was still speaking; inability to understand and hear the request, having to repeat the dates, and the number of persons; the question ‘group or individual’ is asked bluntly, without explanation; not all hotels quote rates with breakfast included, despite being asked for this rate (Protea Hotels quote room only, and seem surprised when asked to add the breakfast rate); The Protea Hotel group quotes day by day rates, and the reservations staff struggle to quote an average rate, making it tedious to obtain quotes from them, as they have to quote the average rate and then add the breakfast rate. The Portswood/Commodore Hotels, Bay Hotel/Village & Life, and Newmark Hotels group have the same switchboard for different hotels, and even if one dials the specific hotel selected, one is asked which hotel one wants to book at! For hoteliers it must be frightening to hear that not one of the 29 hotels called had a call to action, in encouraging one to make a booking, given that Cape Town has the best hotels in Africa.
Half the hotels have decreased their rates since November 2011, now quoting winter rates. However, Steenberg Hotel increased its rate from November 2011, by 4%. Interesting is the 36 % rate increase in the past five months for the African Pride Hotels 15 on Orange and Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa. The Ambassador Hotel has increased its rate by 27 % since November 2011. The Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge has been known for its competitive rates, but has increased them by 24 % for winter, and is no longer the cheapest hotel of those surveyed. The largest rate decreases since November 2011 were by the V&A Hotel (45%), Dock House (37%), and the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel (35%). The rate of the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice increased by a dramatic 107% relative to last winter! The Commodore Hotel (61%) and Portswood Hotel (45%) also increased their winter rates strongly. Interesting is that the Steenberg Hotel, voted the best hotel in Africa by Conde Nast Traveler readers, ranks 4th on price now, having ranked at 10th position a mere five months ago. The Protea Hotel-operated properties generally are at the lower end of the price ranking, being more attractively priced to fill their beds.
The rates were checked telephonically yesterday for today, for the next three days, i.e. 3 – 6 May per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly . We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately. We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive, and reflect the rate change on the lowest priced room relative to our survey for May 2011 in brackets:
Ellerman House, 5 star, R4590 – R14680. (The 3-room villa was offered at R45441 and the 5-room villa at R68000). Tel (021) 430-3200 (8% rate decrease)
Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R4555.10 – R15388 for the penthouse, Tel (021) 410-7100 (1% increase)
Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R3730 – R11290. Tel (021) 483-1000 (24% rate increase)
Steenberg Hotel, 5 star, R3580– R14580. Tel (021) 713-2222 (Not included in May 2011)
One & Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3490 – R58541 for the Presidential Suite. The non-South African resident rate starts at R4856 Tel (021) 431-5888 (10% rate decrease)
15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R2750 – R5370 for the one-bedroom penthouse, Tel (021) 469-8000 (1 % rate decrease)
Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R2650 – R3750. Tel (021) 525-3888 (25% rate increase)
Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R2580 – R8040. Tel (021) 415-1000 (61% rate increase)
The Westin Cape Town, 5 star, R2410 – R40000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 412-9999 (19 % rate decrease)
Dock House, 5 star, R 2396 – R3115. Tel (021) 421-9334 (37% rate decrease)
Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R2360 – R4760 for South African residents, R2840 – R6050 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 406-5000 (25% rate decrease)
Twelve Apostles Hotel, 5 star, R2325 – R4565 for Bed & Breakfast, 3-course dinner, movie and popcorn, only for South African residents. Non-South Africans pay R4165 – R8845 per room and breakfast. Tel (021) 437-9000 (19% rate decrease)
Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 2320 – R 3960. Tel (021) 415-1000 (45% rate increase)
Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R2300 – R10000 for the Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 430-0500 (35% rate decrease)
The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R2300 – R40000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 819-2000 (5% rate increase)
Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R2028 – R15000, Tel (021) 418-1466 (8% rate increase)
Bay Hotel, 5 star, R2000- R2800. Tel (021) 438-4444 (25% rate increase)
Protea Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R1860 – R2110, Tel (021) 488-2555 (107% rate increase!)
Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R1850 – R5159. Tel (021) 415-4000 (14% rate decrease)
Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1850 – R 2150 Tel (021) 418-1234 (10% rate increase)
V & A Hotel, 4 star, R1720 – R2170 . Tel (021) 415-1000 (45% rate decrease)
Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R1590 – R2020. Tel (021) 439-6176 (17% rate decrease)
Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star, R1550 – R3550. Tel (021) 434-2351 (5 % rate increase)
Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1550 – R3220. Tel (021) 409-4000 (11 % rate decrease).
Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R1445 standard room, R1690 business suite. Tel (021) 406-1911 (12% rate increase).
President Hotel, 4 star, R1306 – R1723. Tel (021) 434-8111 (11% rate decrease)
Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R1200 – R3490. Tel (021) 430-7777 (24% rate decrease)
Vineyard Hotel, 4 star, R1165 – R4270. Tel (021) 657-4500. (Not included in May 2011)
Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1160 – R5920 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 488-5100 (23% rate decrease).
POSTSCRIPT 4/5: Two Cape Town hotels, the Alphen Boutique Hotel (not yet included in this survey) and the Queen Victoria Hotel, are the only two South African hotels on the Conde Nast Traveler Hot List of Best New Hotels 2012. Frommers.com has selected Steenberg Hotel in its Top 12 ‘Best Vineyards Inns & Hotels around the World’, the only South African hotel on the list.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Thursday 8th March 2012 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
It was a shock to the hospitality industry to hear last year that the Alphen Hotel had closed down in Constantia, one of Cape Town’s oldest hotels, and even more so that restaurateur Paul Kovensky had taken over the property and had created a magical transformation of a historical building, re-opening the hotel in December with two new restaurants. La Belle Café and Bakery serves a beautiful selection of pastries, and has become a popular meeting place for breakfast, lunch, and drinks in the Southern Suburbs.
One can see the popularity of the rejuvenated Alphen Hotel from the mass of cars on the grounds, something one never saw before. The original entrance has been closed, to create more parking. I asked a staff member where La Belle was, as there is no branding visible for the restaurants, and he pointed me to ‘La Bella’, not knowing its correct name. The staff are all new, and have no knowledge of the history of the building, and what the La Belle room was used for before. It is a large room seating 60 inside, with an open thatched roof giving it the look and feel of a barn, dominated by a display counter almost the length of the room, containing the most beautiful selection of pastries, the breads being less easy to see in the shelving behind the counter. There are individual tables inside, and one long shared table, which appeared to become the waiting table, with everyone wanting to sit outside on the beautiful day yesterday. There are few decor touches inside, with two large mirrors on one wall, and a beautifully written blackboard, with the bread range (R15 – R25), milkshakes (R30), and hot chocolates (R20 – R30). There are delectable looking cheese cakes, chocolate tortes, coconut layer cakes, orange vanilla sponge cakes, carrot cakes, and smaller summer fruit tarts, passion fruit meringue tarts, blueberry pies, macaroons, chocolate cupcakes, berry frangipane, red velvet cupcakes, and nut tarts, displayed with potted herbs. The small tarts are larger than one normally sees, and cost about R30. One cannot buy a cake without pre-ordering. Pastry Chef Inge le Roux studied at the SA Chef’s Academy, and has worked at the Table Bay Hotel, Singita, 15 on Orange, and The Round House. Charl Coetzee is the La Belle chef. Cappuccino is by LavAzza.
Despite the many staff, wearing a white T-shirt and La Belle branded apron, service was slow in bringing the menu when I arrived, and bringing out the main course I had ordered. Different persons came to check about ordering, so there is no ownership of a table or customer. I moved to an outside table, and the tables and chairs look more old-fashioned outside, with a blue-white striped fabric for the chair cushions, possibly more suited in colour to one of Kovensky’s seaside restaurants in Camps Bay, given the dominant green and white of the hotel. Seating is provided for 80 outside. The tables have Himalayan Rock Salt and Mixed Pepepr grinders on the table, and a glass vase with a pin cushion protea in it. There are no table cloths, but a material serviette and cutlery by Eetrite.
The menu looks like that of The Grand, an A5 tabloid size printed on newsprint, in green, with its positioning of ‘Light, Fresh & Tasty’ on the opening page. The menu is clearly divided into sections, with a small selection of items for each. Breakfast is served until 11h45, but the menu does not state this. The Breakfast section offers the largest variety, ranging from a simple croissant with cheese and preserves (R35) to the ‘Five Star Breakfast with a Glass of Champagne’, consisting of poached eggs, Scottish salmon, buckwheat blinis, a tomato coriander salsa, and a glass of Veuve Clicquot, at a whopping R250, easily Cape Town’s most expensive Breakfast! I was told by the PR and Marketing Manager Heidi Prinsloo that the Eggs Benedict are really good, served with ham or salmon, and a toasted English muffin (R70). One can also order Churros, flapjacks, ‘Ricotta hotcakes’, French Toast, a fruit platter, and ‘The Alphen Breakfast’ (R130), consisting of pastries, blueberry pancakes, fruit, yoghurt, and a cooked breakfast.
Salads range from R70 – R90, and the more unusual ones are Spring Pea & Plum, and Chermoula Tuna. On a choice of ‘artisan breads’ (baguette, ciabatta, sourdough, rye), sandwiches are served, including pastrami and mustard, chicken & Brie, ‘Smokey Sirloin’, and roast chicken with mustard and mayonnaise, costing R 60 – R90. The Light Meals section offers a charcuterie platter for two at R130, a cheese board with preserves for R80; six oysters served with an apple, beetroot and ‘Champagne Salsa’ for R80; braised lamb pie; fish cakes; and grilled asparagus with poached egg (R85). Main courses include the La Belle Beef Burger, with avocado, and a Porcini Sauce, at R80; a chickpea burger; a very tasty mustard and herb roast chicken (R85) served with olive oil mash and a green bean salad – the salad was misleadingly named, being mainly rocket decorating the edge of the plate and about 4 green beans, but the chicken was a generous portion, the mustard adding an interesting taste to it; tuna steak (R110); beer battered kingklip (R120), fillet steak (R140); Sirloin Forester (R115), and Meatballs & Tagliatelle (R85). Extra sides can be ordered at R20. No desserts are listed on the menu, but one is probably encouraged to order a pastry. The names of the large range of pastry items are not listed. Interesting sounding Raw Juices (about R30) and Smoothies (R40) are offered. Nine teas cost R20. A selection of cocktails is served. Veuve Clicquot costs R170 per glass and R850 per bottle, while Graham Beck Brut is offered at R220 and their Rosé at R490, not being available by the glass. Pongrácz Brut costs R40/R200 and its Rosé R50/R240. A small selection of Constantia wines is offered, as is a Red and a White wine section, without vintages mentioned. Kevin Arnold Shiraz costs R85/R320, and Haute Cabrière Chardonnay/Pinot Noir R45/R170.
Heidi showed me the new sister evening dining restaurant, rather oddly named but literally 5 Rooms Restaurant, connected with a bar room, seating 100 guests inside, and a further 80 outside. It is beautifully decorated with red and blue velvet chairs, and all the original paintings of the hotel. I was assured by Heidi that despite its beautiful decor, that it is not a fine dining restaurant. Fernando Roman is the chef.
The Alphen Hotel has been beautifully transformed by Antoni Associates design interiors, and each space has a unique design, giving it modernity within an historic framework. La Belle has clearly made its mark in Constantia already, judging by how full it was yesterday. Prices are reasonable, with a good variety of items and prices to choose from. La Belle is Simone Kovensky’s project, and she has done a great job in getting the restaurant running smoothly since its opening two months ago. A kitchen staff shortage appears to be a problem, however, given the slow arrival of the food. The waiters were very friendly, as was Amber, the hostess.
La Belle Café and Bakery, Alphen Hotel, Alphen Drive, Constantia. Tel (021) 795-6336. www.alphen.co.za Monday – Sunday 7h00 – 18h30. Opening until 22h00 from 12 March onwards, with a dinner menu.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage