Entries tagged with “Waterfront”.
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Sunday 9th March 2014 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Yesterday the respected Sydney Morning Herald published a super article about Cape Town and its food and beverage entrepreneurs in the main (‘Cape Crusaders‘), the visit by its writer Rachel Olding having been sponsored by SA Tourism. Containing two errors, one significant in its incorrect name for Table Mountain, it raises the question as to whether SA Tourism should insist on seeing copy first before it is published, not a popular nor common offer made by writers!
The writer’s focus was on the entrepreneurs in Cape Town, ‘bringing fresh new energy to Cape Town‘. She adds: ‘In Cape Town, like so many international cities, they’re increasingly clad in plaid shirts, plugged into the hottest global trends and leading a hipster revival mixing the best of different eras and cultures with their own Capetonian touch’. She quotes a tour guide that Cape Town has baboons to remind one that Cape Town is in Africa, feeling more European in its nature!
Yours Truly on Kloof Street and on Long Street (owned by Daniel Holland); the Grand Daddy Hotel; Royale Eatery (described as ‘hip new‘ which it is not!); Deluxe Coffeeworks (owned by Carl Wessel and Judd Francis) on Church Street and in Gardens; the Old Biscuit Mill; A Store is Good on Kloof Street (owned by Dario Lette); Supremebeing and Wardrobe on Kloof Street; Frankie Fenner (more…)
Saturday 25th January 2014 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
As writers we get spoilt, with invitations to hosts of functions, and exposure to numerous PR companies and their client brands. The first event invitation of the year, to the Cape Town launch of Absolut Vodka’s #AbsolutBlackBox at the entrance to the V&A Waterfront last night, was an Absolut disaster, with poor food, few attendees, no one to interact with invited guests, poor lighting for photographs, and a general feeling that no one knew what was going on. It felt like Johannesburg-comes-to-Cape Town, so-lets-cut-corners-for-the-B-team!
It started with Capacity Marketing Pty Ltd from Johannesburg sending a media release, and then Simphiwe Majola from the consultancy calling to ask if they could deliver a parcel. We managed to find a suitable time, and a cocky delivery person dropped off a cardboard box. The box outer looked totally uninviting, so I only opened it once I came back from the function last night. Inside the box was a black wooden three box-in-a-box Russian doll type box set with a tiny invitation to attend the Cape Town launch of the ‘True Transformation’, claiming that ‘the Absolut Black Box has been transforming the social scene in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban with mini-events in the trendiest venues. Now, the main event has arrived. It’s invite-only. And you’re invited‘. The invite promised ‘mystery Djs, the country’s leading transformative artists (unnamed) and free-flowing Absolut, all inside a giant Black Box’.
The invitation stated that the location for the event was Gateway Canal in the V&A, which I had not heard of before, and Simphiwe explained telephonically (more…)
Tuesday 31st December 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Today ends one of the less nice years, and the number 13 in it should have been a warning of how bad it could become. While it has many negative associations, it also was a year of highlights, from our perspective.
For me personally the year was overshadowed by the passing of my father, and while I was lucky to have him in my life for such a long time, reaching the ripe old age of 97, it still was a shock when he went in April. He brought our family to South Africa, and specifically to the Cape, for which I will be eternally grateful. He helped shape my interest in the business world, and took a keen interest in my Market Research, Public Relations, and hospitality careers. Added to this was the further loss of our beloved Madiba, who passed away on 5 December, a shock when it happened, despite one knowing that it was just a matter of time. It felt like a double whammy loss year. Heaven has gained two truly great gentlemen.
2013 has had some positive aspects: we celebrated the fifth anniversary of our Blog, well established and with more than 30000 unique readers per month. We thank our loyal readers and commenters, as well as the Public Relations companies which feed us with up to date information and invite us to launches, particularly in the wine industry. We particularly commend Waterford Communications for its professionalism in dealing with us as friends as well as writers, never taking any coverage for granted, always being willing to assist with more information, having a knack for choosing excellent weather days for client functions, and saying ‘thank you‘ for coverage received, a rare treat! The PR company leads an industry plagued by poor writers, who bombard one with media releases (often being irrelevant), repeating information already written about, and demanding proof of coverage granted to the client brand! (more…)
Wednesday 31st August 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
We have previously written about Cape Town Tourism embracing the ’100 Women 100 Wines’ competition, promoting it actively, and listing it in its ‘Strategic Plan’ as a means to ‘stimulate domestic tourism demand’. The competition brought 100 women to the V&A Hotel in the Cape Town Waterfront on Saturday for one day, hardly a major boost to domestic tourism, especially as a number of the participants were from the Cape anyway! The wine industry has slated the event as ‘frivolous’, ’patronising’, and a ’joke’!
Sceptical as I tend to be when it comes to the marketing activities of Cape Town Tourism, I checked what information was available via Google, as we have not received information about this event as members of Cape Town Tourism. Not much was written about the competition – only two blogposts by organiser Clare “Mack” McKeon-McLoughlin (why does she not use her real surname?) of Spill Blog, a media release and two website posts by Cape Town Tourism, and three participant blogposts. Sponsors of the competition were TOPS by Spar, Newmark Hotels (V&A Hotel), Destiny magazine (with a circulation of 26128 ‘black diamonds’), and Cape Town Tourism. The aim of the competition was to generate “South Africa’s Best 100 Wines” list, a ludicrous claim made by Cape Town Tourism in its media release.
The competition premise was that 80% of women buy wines in supermarkets, thus making the brand decision, which is largely made on the basis of word of mouth recommendation by friends. On the basis of this statistic, Ms McKeon-McLoughlin devised a competition whereby 50 women could enter, by motivating by e-mail why they and a friend should be invited to be a ‘judge’ in a wine competition “where you choose and pick the wines that you prefer, wines that suit your palate and mood, and that you would be more than happy to recommend to a friend”. The ‘judging’ took place at the V&A Hotel in the Waterfront, with participants having been flown to Cape Town (if not from the Cape); attending a lunch, a cocktail party, and a gala dinner; participating in the ‘judging’; and spending the night in the V&A Hotel. About 30 % of the group of hundred women were from Cape Town and the Winelands, judging from Twitter. Cape Town Tourism refused to confirm the geographic breakdown.
The patronising media release written by Cape Town Tourism stated that ‘this event will see women from different backgrounds being empowered as opinion leaders in the field of wine, and will set in motion the debunking of the myth that this right is reserved for the connoisseurs and the ‘bourgeois” (who writes stuff like this?!). Their website post also stated that the participants reflected the South African demographic profile, but the ‘black diamonds’ dominated. Cape Town Tourism appears to have forgotten that this country has four ‘demographics’, and not just two, as is visible from their delegate photograph. Categories in which wines were selected are ‘Girls Night Out’, ‘Celebration’, ‘Sunday Lunch’, ’Braai drinking’, ‘The in-laws are coming’, The Big date – romance is in the air’, ‘Long lunch’, ‘Mid-week easy drinking’, Posh Present, ‘Baby it’s cold outside, ‘Bubbly’, and ‘Kiss and Make Up’. Ten wines were allocated per each of the ten categories, hardly a ‘judging’, and more of a classification of the 100 wines, information not provided as to how the original list of 100 was selected! The Cape Town Tourism media release quoted its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold as follows: “The innovation of food and wine is an integral part of what makes Cape Town an inspirational city. We are looking forward to welcoming 100 women from across South Africa to Cape Town, and sharing our best wines and gourmet offerings with them. Winter is the perfect time to explore our wine culture and our partnership with 100 Women 100 Wines demonstrates our commitment to unlocking Cape Town’s superb winter offering to the domestic market. We look forward to celebrating this as an annual event”! We do not believe that the event met the stated goal at all, as only the food of one hotel was experienced by the delegates, and mainly non-Cape Town wines were ‘judged’!
We asked Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold two questions about her organisation’s involvement in the event: what would its benefit be for domestic tourism to Cape Town, and how much did Cape Town Tourism pay for sponsoring the event. This is the rude response we received on Twitter to our e-mails from Mrs Helmbold (she has not replied to our e-mails about the event):” For info on role in event follow @‘s tweets. Event fund = R20 000″.
We question Cape Town Tourism’s sponsorship of the event, which will have gone to the organisers. If Cape Town Tourism pays R20 000 for each of the 70 local and international events (we did not know that there are so many events in Cape Town in a year) it claims to support, it would be paying a precious R1,4 million, which it could use to greater benefit to attract more tourists to Cape Town by means of fewer, more fundamental events. It is unheard of for a tourism bureau to pay a sponsorship fee, it being usual for them to just endorse an event, to give it credibility. One wonders how Cape Town Tourism could have seen so much benefit in the event that they paid for it, and had the time to handle the (poor) publicity for it! It is clear that Cape Town Tourism has little knowledge of the wine industry, and blindly endorsed an event without credibility in the wine industry, and without any tourism benefit. No local media (radio or newspaper) covered the event.
Mrs Helmbold did not attend the event at all, spending the weekend in Pringle Bay, and Cape Town Tourism’s PR Manager Skye Grove appears to have only popped in at the sponsored event. However, Mrs Helmbold was at great pains to Tweet about the event on Saturday, overstating the ‘benefits’ of the event for tourism to Cape Town as follows:
* “#100women is supported by @CapeTownTourism as part of focus on building winter brand, food/wine tourism and domestic tourism”
* “#100women is 1 of many good examples of how partnerships can be used to accomplish much through events without investing a lot of money”.
* “#100women 100 wines event is 1 of more than 70 events supported by @CapeTownTourism and 1 of earmarked domestic tourism events of year”.
Cape Town Tourism Tweeted ‘comments’ from delegates about how good they felt about being in Cape Town, but these were prescheduled via Tweetdeck, and do not appear to have been ‘live’ comments from delegates, making one question their credibility. In its website post at the conclusion of the event, Cape Town Tourism wrote ‘testimonial’ comments about Cape Town, quoting senior executives who apparently had never been to Cape Town before. Some ‘justification’ Tweets were sent by them during the weekend event:
* “#100women 100 wines event proving that South African women love their friends, their wine, their food…. and Cape Town” (no delegate Tweets proved this!)
* “City Press & Sunday Times at #100women event – this is how we do business. Unlocking CapeTown’s stories through national & int (sic) media” (City Press sent only a Trainee Journalist, and the Sunday Times was represented by their wine writer Neil Pendock, who in fact was one of the organisers! There were no international media representatives).
* “We are loving the vibe at #100women 100wines. Women from all over SA falling in love with the Mother City and our food and wine offering” (not supported by delegate Tweets)
* “Proud partners with @NewmarkHotels, @1time_Airline & Tops at Spar of #100women100 wines. All about telling CapeTown’s food & wine stories” (no such ‘stories’ have been seen in the media!).
Pendock is known to be a good friend of Mrs McKeon-McLoughlin, and wrote about the event twice on his The Times ‘Pendock Uncorked’ blog in two days. He was the scorer at a previous round ‘judging’ event, as well as at the weekend event, at which the list of 100 wines was finalised. He ‘shyly’ discloses in his first blogpost that he ‘advised 100 Women 100 Wines on selection of wines for the event’, vastly understating his involvement, and he makes no disclosure of his involvement in the second blogpost. He praises the ‘seminal’ idea of the ‘revolutionary’ competition (these two descriptions seem a gross exaggeration), alliteratingly (as he is fond to do) writing that “Mack” (whose real surname is known to him) gathered ‘ordinary women’ (not ordinary at all, from the descriptions of their careers) from ‘Pretoria, Porterville and Putsonderwater’ (maybe his creativity to alliterate town/city names with Johannesburg and Stellenbosch was limited!). Pendock gives sponsors 1Time Airlines, V&A Hotel, Destiny magazine, and ‘Spar’ (not getting its bottle store brand correct) a punt in his blogpost, but does not mention sponsor Cape Town Tourism nor brand ‘Cape Town’ in his blogpost at all! Pendock is known as a very critical wine writer, and would have slated such a frivolous competition, had he not been involved in its organisation, especially as the wines were ‘judged’ sighted at the weekend event, his biggest criticism of Platter judging.
On Twitter only 55 Tweets were generated by 15 Twitterers over the two days, a poor tally. The ‘black diamond’ Destiny delegates from Johannesburg appear to not have embraced Twitter yet. Newmark Hotels probably received the best benefit of the exposure on Twitter, with some Tweets praising its V&A Hotel. The sponsors airline 1-Time, Cape Town Tourism, and Destiny, and TOPS at Spar came off worst, in receiving no acknowledgement at all from the delegates! Only eight wines out of the 100 tasted and tested, being Graham Beck MCC, Stellenrust Timeless, Warwick The First Lady, Nederburg Riesling, JC le Roux, Miss Molly, Le Bonheur Sauvignon Blanc, and De Morgenzon Sauvignon Blanc, received Twitter mentions during the tasting. Distell sponsored the wines for the dinner, and the Fleur du Cap wines appeared to receive more favourable comments on Twitter than did the wines in the 100 Wines testing collection!
Nigel Cattermole, fearless wine-knowledgeable owner of Wine @ the Mill, laughed about the event, and called it patronising and a joke. He said that most of the 100 wines in the collection were bulk mass-produced wines, being ‘mediocre to poor’. ‘There is no providence in these wines’, he added.
The ’100 Women 100 Wines’ competition is a farce in more ways than one: The results, in generating a ‘Top 100 best wine list for women’, will hardly be an accolade winemakers would strive to achieve, not having any credibility. Cape Town Tourism’s involvement in the competition is questioned, given that its energy should be focused on attracting as many tourists to Cape Town as possible, a group of 100 (of which many were from Cape Town or Stellenbosch anyway) making only a negligible impact on tourism in our city, if any at all, given that the delegates stayed at the V&A Hotel, had all their meals and drinks there, and all activities took place at the hotel, meaning that there was little spend by them in the rest of the V&A or in Cape Town. The association with the competition is a serious dent to the credibility of Cape Town Tourism, in supporting a competition that is patronising to women; is frivolous and lacking credibility in its results; was poorly marketed; benefits the Winelands more than Cape Town; does not meet its intended goal of growing ‘domestic & intl (sic) markets’; does not meet the goal of ‘building winter brand, food/wine tourism and domestic tourism’, and makes no contribution in addressing the tourism crisis in Cape Town!
POSTSCRIPT 31/8: Cape Town Tourism has sent us a comment in reaction to this blogpost, in the name of ‘Thandiwe’, with a false e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org, in defence of Cape Town Tourism’s sponsorship of the ’100 Women 100 Wines’ event, using similar yet contradictory information contained in its Media blogpost and a Tweet about the event. A Google search confirmed that the only reference to ‘Thandiwe Motse’ is from two mentions on the Cape Town Tourism website. We have not allowed the false comment, and we are surprised that Cape Town Tourism’s PR department would stoop so low in trying to justify their involvement.
POSTSCRIPT 1/9: The latest Spill blogpost brags about the success of the ’100 Women 100 Wines’ event, quoting all feedback it has received on Twitter and its blog, even from its co-organiser ‘Dr Neil Pendock’! Interestingly, the blogpost refers to ‘Thandiwe Moitse’, with a different spelling of the surname compared to the way Cape Town Tourism spells it. There are no Google entries for this business executive, on either spellings of her surname! The Cape Town Tourism spelling in its Tweets and media blogpost is the same as the spelling in the Comments posted to this blogpost!
POSTSCRIPT 3/9: A ‘judge’ of the first stage of the event, who was given a voucher for a meal at Societi Bistro by the organisers, and who expressed her dissatisfaction on Twitter with the poor quality of the meal and the service, was called by Mrs McKeon-McLoughlin and asked to remove her Tweet, as she had promised Societi Bistro that they would receive good publicity if the restaurant donated the vouchers!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Saturday 27th August 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
After writing about the disastrous error-filled and outdated Conde Nast Traveller Guide to Cape Town earlier this week, it was refreshing to see a link on Twitter about the Telegraph Travel’s ’Cape Town City Break Guide’, written by local travel writer and ‘destination expert’ Pippa de Bruyn (author of a ‘Frommer’s Guide’ to South Africa and to India, and of ‘A Hedonist’s Guide to Cape Town’), resulting in a far more accurate guide for the tourist visiting Cape Town.
The Guide kicks off with the Beauty positioning for Cape Town (the one that Cape Town Tourism has just thrown away by using ‘Inspirational’, as the new positioning for Cape Town, even though it is not unique for Cape Town and has been used by others, including Pick ‘n Pay!), in stating that “Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world”. It is accompanied by a beautiful shot of Clifton, with the Twelve Apostles as backdrop. The reasons for travelling to Cape Town are motivated as its ‘in-your-face beauty’; the pristine white beaches; the proximity of nature; spotting zebra and wildebeest on the slopes of Table Mountain; watching whales breaching in False Bay; being ‘halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point’; being a contender for World Design Capital 2014 with its art galleries, ‘hip bars’, opera, and design-savvy shops; the unique marriage of Dutch-origin vegetable gardening, winemaking introduced by the French (this fact must be challenged, as it was the Dutch who established the first wine farms), Malay slaves’ spices, and English ‘Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced homes’; its contrasts of pleasure and poverty, of ‘pounding seas and vine-carpeted valleys’, and its award-winning wines and produce offer ‘some of the best (and most affordable) fine dining in the world’.
The ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ includes the following recommendations:
* travel time is suggested as ‘pretty much any time of the year’, and a warning of wet Julys and Augusts now is inaccurate, given the wonderful non-winter weather experienced in Cape Town during both these months this year!
* misleading is the claim that Cape Town offers the best land-based whale watching in the world – this positioning belongs to Hermanus, and is corrected a few pages further into the guide. Also misleading is the claim that the best ‘summer deals’ are available in October and November - most accommodation establishments have the same rate for the whole summer, and do not drop rates at the start of summer.
* it is up-to-date in that use of the MyCiti Bus is recommended to travel between the airport and the Civic Centre, as well as to the Waterfront. Train travel between Cape Town and Simonstown is not recommended, due to dirty windows and lack of safety, one of the few negatives contained in the Guide. The red City Sightseeing bus is recommended, as are bus tours, taxis, Rikkis, and car hire.
* The ‘Local laws and etiquette’ section does not address either of these two points. Instead, it warns against crime when walking or driving, and recommends that tourists should not ‘flash their wealth’. Potential card-skimming in the Waterfront and at the airport is also a potential danger, travellers to Cape Town are told, not accurate, and unfair to these two Cape Town locations.
* Tourist attractions recommended are Cape Point, driving via the Atlantic Seaboard and Chapman’s Peak; wine-tasting in Constantia; the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; exploring the city centre on foot, walking from the city centre to Green Point; taking a water taxi from the Convention Centre to the Waterfront; the Footsteps to Freedom Tour; the Company Gardens; the National Gallery; summer concerts at Kirstenbosch; tanning at Clifton beaches; shopping for wines or going on a wine tour; High Tea at the Mount Nelson hotel; going on tours which allow one to meet the ‘other half’ locals; walking through the Waterfront or taking a sunset cruise; the Two Oceans Aquarium; eating fish and chips in Kalk Bay; going up Table Mountain by foot or cable car; day trips to Cape Point, the West Coast National Park to see the spring flowers, and the Winelands (referring to Franschhoek as the now out-of-date ‘Gourmet Capital of the Cape’, by stating that ‘it is the only place where you have award-winning restaurants within walking distance of each other’, not correct either).
* in the ‘Cape Town Hotels’ section, it states disturbingly (and information out of date) that ‘Cape Town isn’t cheap’, and therefore suggests that clients stay in Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Higgovale, and Bo-Kaap (but none of these suburbs have restaurants, something guests would like to walk to by foot from their accommodation), as well as De Waterkant, the V&A Waterfront (probably one of the most expensive accommodation areas!), and ‘Greenpoint’ (sic). Self-catering and ‘B&b’ (sic) accommodation is recommended. Hotels previously reviewed by The Telegraph are listed: the Mount Nelson, Ellerman House, the Cape Grace, Cascades on the Promenade, Four Rosmead, An African Villa, Rouge on Rose, Fritz Hotel, and The Backpack hostel, an interesting mix of hotels, and not all highly-rated in its reviews. No newer ‘World Cup hotels’ are recommended.
* For nightlife, Camps Bay’s Victoria Road, Long Street and Cape Quarter are recommended. Vaudeville is strongly recommended, but has lost a lot of its appeal. Other specific recommendations are Asoka on Kloof Street, Fiction DJ Bar & Lounge, Crew Bar in De Waterkant, Julep off Long Street, and the Bascule bar at the Cape Grace. The list seems out of date, with more trendy night-time spots being popular amongst locals.
* The Restaurant section is most disappointing, given the great accolade given to the Cape Town fine-dining scene early in the guide. Four restaurants only are recommended, and many would disagree that these are Cape Town’s best, or those that tourists should visit: The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Willoughby & Co in the Waterfront, 95 Keerom Street, and ‘Colcaccio (sic) Camps Bay’! A special note advises ‘gourmet diners’ to check Eat Out and Rossouw’s Restaurants for restaurants close to one’s accommodation. Stellenbosch restaurants Overture, Rust en Vrede and Terroir are recommended, as are Le Quartier and Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek, and La Colombe in Constantia.
* Shopping suggestions include the city centre, Green Point, Woodstock, De Waterkant, and Kloof Street, the latter street not having any particularly special shops. The Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill is recommended as the ‘best food market in the country’ (locals may disagree, with the squash of undecided shoppers, and increasingly more expensive), and may recommend the City Bowl Market instead). Art galleries are also recommended.
While the Telegraph Travel ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ is a massive improvement on the Condé Nast Traveller Cape Town guide, even this guide contains unforgivable errors, which a local writer should not be making. One would hope that Cape Town Tourism will get the errors fixed. We also suggest that they recommend the addition of Cape Town’s many special city centre eateries, and that the accommodation list be updated. The exclusion of Robben Island on the attraction list is a deficiency. The delineation between recommendations for things to do in Cape Town is blurred in some instances with recommendations in towns and villages outside Cape Town, which may confuse tourists to the Mother City. Overall, the Guide appears superficial and touristy, and does not reveal all the special gems that Cape Town has to offer.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Thursday 28th July 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
The visit by two judges from the Montreal-based International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, Dilki de Silva and Martin Darbyshire, to evaluate Cape Town’s bid for World Design Capital 2014, ended off on a better note than its start, at least as far as the weather was concerned! The judges left town yesterday, after a jam-packed visit.
Oddly, the tourism industry was not informed prior to the visit what exactly the judges would be exposed to, and other than Twitter, there was barely any communication from the Cape Town Partnership, nor Cape Town Tourism, or the City of Cape Town during their visit. Cape Town Tourism would not even share the itinerary of the judges’ visit after their departure, but fortunately Cape Town Partnership Managing Director Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana obliged immediately on receiving our request.
The judges were put through an active programme of activities, arriving on Sunday when the city was blowing a storm, perhaps apt as the new Cape Town Tourism video is all about depicting the city with billowing clouds over Table Mountain! The judges had flown in from Dublin, and residents of Cape Town would have known that something was different, with yellow material wrapped around 100 trees on Heerengracht Street, and the lights shining on Table Mountain having been changed to yellow over the three day visit of the judges. The bid company Cape Town Town Partnership had used yellow as the colour for its bid, to represent optimism, and it was chosen as ‘an attention-grabbing, creative and inspirational colour. We chose it to represent our World Design Capital bid and it represents our passion for design as a force for change.’
On arrival at Cape Town International on Sunday morning the judges were shown the World Design Capital 2014 stand which had been designed for the Design Indaba exhibition in February, a rainbow-coloured perspex structure on which Design Indaba attendees were invited to write their words of inspiration about the city. The two judges were driven to the city centre in a MyCiti bus, and from the Civic Centre bus station to the Taj Hotel in a Green Cab. The judges had Sunday afternoon off, a waste of time one would have thought, given that the city centre is dead on Sundays. There was no rest for the judges thereafter, being driven to the Cape Town International Convention Centre for a 7h00 breakfast on Monday, at which the judges were addressed by Mayor Patricia de Lille, Cape Town Partnership CEO Andrew Boraine, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, Cape Town International Convention Centre CEO Rashid Toefy, and Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille. After a walk around the Convention Centre, the judges presented the rationale for the World Design Capital project, and its legalities, to which the City of Cape Town responded. Brad Habana did a presentation on a Private Sector Sponsorship Strategy for Cape Town, a topic which seemed to not fit the design theme of the judges’ visit.
Driven in Africa’s first electric car built in Cape Town, the Joule, the judges were taken to the Montobello Design Centre, hardly the epitome of design excellence in our city! From there they were driven to Khayelitsha, to view the Violence Protection through Urban Upgrade project and a community library, and thereafter to Mitchell’s Plain to be shown a Design Indaba inspired low-cost housing project, both stops questionable in their impression created, in not reflecting the beauty nor design strength of our city, given the two First World competitors Cape Town has! A highlight must have been a helicopter flip over the city. Without lunch and dinner indicated on the programme, and no time allocated to it, the poor judges must have been starving. On Monday evening they were whipped off to The Assembly nightclub in Harrington Street, the most shabby, unsuitable and non-design venue that could have been chosen, and having no relevance to design at all, with its Japanese paper lanterns, as someone wrote on Twitter. The advertised snacks were non-existent, and invited guests had to pay for drinks. There was not enough seating for guests, even though they had to RSVP. Seating was against the screens, which meant that many guests attending could not see the screens. Other than the presentation by Design Indaba CEO Ravi Naidoo, the presentations were mediocre, read from notes, and came across as absolutely amateurish, and one felt embarrassed for Cape Town and its design talent that this poor venue and platform was chosen in an attempt to impress the judges. The speakers did not address the promised topic of ‘What would it mean for Cape Town to be World Design Capital 2014?’, which is what attracted me to attend. They failed not only the judges, but also the audience, which walked out in growing numbers, especially during a break in the proceedings. I was surprised that the Design Indaba could have been the co-organiser (with the Cape Town Design Network) of this mediocre event, meant to be one of networking too.
On the third day, the judges were allowed to meet an hour later for breakfast, but 8h00 on a morning after the night which saw widespread snow falling around the country, and a temperature of 5°C at that time, the breakfast at the Green Point Urban Park on Tuesday seemed an extremely inappropriate venue, despite its great beauty and design. After breakfast the judges were driven to Stellenbosch University’s Sustainability Institute and the Lynedoch Ecovillage. Then they were taken to Spier for a photograph, and even lunch, it would appear. From here they were driven back to the city centre, to The Fringe in Canterbury Street, not the most savoury part of town, where the judges heard short presentations on the Central City, Creative Cape Town, Catalyst Projects, and the Cape Town Heritage Trust, whereafter they were taken to the nearby District Six Museum. At the Fugard Theatre they heard a presentation about Cape Town’s educational facilities. The judges were entertained at GOLD restaurant to a ‘gala dinner’, according to Cape Town Partnership spokesperson Lianne Burton, and shown around the Gold of Africa Museum. Here our city’s ‘ersatz Madiba’, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, told the judges: “God took special care and time when he created Cape Town”. As if the judges had not heard enough talk, they were exposed to further presentations on their last day, on the planned expansion of the Convention Centre, the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, and were shown the Freeworld Design Center, and entertained at Hemelhuijs next door.
While Cape Town had the advantage of having the judges in the city for four days, compared to only two days in Dublin, they must have been drained by the number of presentations that they had to sit through. One also is disappointed that they did not get to see enough of the beauty of Cape Town (e.g. Atlantic Seaboard, the Waterfront, Chapman’s Peak, Robben Island to create the link to our famous Freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, Cape Point, Cape Town Stadium, the winelands, and Table Mountain – cleverly it was closed for its annual cableway maintenance)! While it would have been difficult to replicate, a mini Design Indaba would have been an important way in which the judges could have experienced the tremendous design talent of Cape Town’s creativity. The Cape Town Design Route, developed by the City of Cape Town, would have been a further highlight to share with the judges. Perhaps anticipating my criticism, Ms Ngewana Makalima wrote: “Design is interpreted in many different ways. In this context we are referring to transformative design aimed at improving the quality of life of ordinary cities. It is not about high-end products, supporting a high end lifestyle. This is why the bid theme is ‘Live Design, Transform Life’”, she wrote. In the Cape Argus she is quoted as saying: “We hope to inspire the judges with our innovation, passion and humanity. Cape Town has an important story to tell of a city that is using design to overcome our historical problems of disconnection, inequality and urban sprawl to create a more inclusive and liveble city for all citizens”. I cannot see how any design will take away the townships, and the shacks inside them, and how it can address ‘inequality’!
A Cape Argus editorial highlighted that ‘fresh thinking in matching the considerable 21st century challenges’ is required for Cape Town. Touching on the legacy of apartheid in a complicated wording, it does state that Cape Town can ‘realign(ing) the urban landscape with post-apartheid values and virtues… Clean government, vigorous debate and a diverse creative sector provide the context for far-reaching innovation in the broad discipline of design with a view to re-imaging the city as a fairer, cleaner, more efficient and more livable space’. We have previously questioned this focus on apartheid, first mentioned by Mrs Helmbold in blaming design for apartheid, given how far South Africa has come, and especially Cape Town, the city that was streets ahead in embracing its citizens of all races long before 1994. We liked the conclusion of the editorial: “We are also convinced that giving the award to Cape Town and contributing to fashioning a fairer city will bring credit to the International Council’s faith in design as an instrument of the greater good.”
Ms Makalima-Ngwenyana said that Cape Town’s bid was about design in public transport, public spaces, community facilities, and the upgrading of informal settlements, in other words designing a more ‘inclusive economic vision’. Mayor de Lille said of the bid: “Cape Town’s bid to be the World Design Capital shows how far we have come as a city. More importantly, it shows how far we want to take this city. The creative industries make up an extremely important part of our local economy. The value of an event such as World Design Capital not only exposes our creative design talents to the world, but in turn develops our local industry into an asset for decades to come.” Ms Burton is quoted as saying that Cape Town’s bid comes from a developing world, compared to those of two cities in the developed world, and said that it would be significant if Cape Town won for a developing country for the first time. “Ours is a serious bid. We’re solving serious problems. It’s design for survival, not simply for pretty things. We need smart ideas for big problems. Smart ideas in inexpensive ways and that’s what Africa’s been doing for years.” Once again, one wonders in which city Ms Burton is living in – the Cape Town I know is largely a vibrant First World, developed city.
Judge De Silva said of Cape Town during her visit: “We’ve been impressed. We’re very positive about Cape Town’s bid. We’re seeing examples of what the city promised in their bid book. We haven’t yet had time to download all the information”.
After the ‘intensive two-day assessment visit’ to Dublin by the judges, the Irish Times reported De Silva as praising the city: “It is very exciting to see so many young people doing creative things in Dublin. We want people to get involved with design and to educate cities about the value and importance of design in community building. I have seen a lot of passion here and people who want change. What you have here is a project that belongs to the community. I didn’t expect the new facilities like the Grand Canal Theatre downtown and the new conference centre. Dublin has a vibrant European feel to it and I see more similarities between young people here and Eindhoven rather than London. You are now in the midst of a design community and the rest of the world looking at Dublin. How you leverage that to your benefit is up to you.” In Dublin the judges visited Irish designers and workshops, the Guinness Storehouse, Ballymum Regeneration, Kilbarrack Fire Station, Baldoyle Library, and the Dublin City Civic Offices. A lunch was held in the Hugh Lane Gallery, a creative venue choice. Dublin is known for its graphic, animation and gaming design, and architects. Third candidate city Bilbao celebrated World Design Day with the launch of 4500 balloons at the end of June. No further information in English is available about the judges’ visit to the city, which clearly must be a front-runner for the Capital status, with its impressive and modern Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. The city is described as‘a dynamic and innovative city with intense social and business activity’, reports the Cape Times.
We are sceptical of Cape Town’s success in this bid, for its heavy focus on the apartheid legacy and design’s role in this. After 17 years of a transformed political landscape, and the abolition of apartheid, this is an old hat theme, and not one that will help us to win against Bilbao and Dublin! It was surprising to see ‘Mr Design South Africa’, Ravi Naidoo, one of our country’s best design brains, and organiser of the internationally acclaimed Design Indaba, missing from the bid committee. We do congratulate the Cape Town Partnership for its bid making the Finalist stage, however, an amazing achievement in itself. Claims that winning as World Design Capital in 2014 will bring in hordes of tourists should be taken with a pinch of salt, given that even being the number one TripAdvisor Travel Destination has not brought any tourists to our city! One had not heard of this competition or any of its past winning cities before, until Cape Town announced its bid last year. According to the Cape Times, the bids ‘are primarily assessed in terms of vision rather than pre-existing city features’, but no future vision appears to have been reflected for Cape Town, with its too great a focus on the past!
It is also clear now where Mrs Helmbold obtained all her ‘Brand Cape Town’ material, in that most of its content appears to have come from the bid book, given that Ms Burton was a consultant to both Cape Town Tourism and the Cape Town Partnership, and a member of the bid team, having left Cape Town Tourism as its marketing manager last year. This left a huge marketing hole for Cape Town, at a time in which the city’s tourism industry is bleeding. It also explains why Mrs Helmbold chose ‘Inspiration’ as the city’s positioning, as it would support the design theme of the bid, even though it is not unique for Cape Town, and has been used by Edinburgh and Korea!
The World Design Capital is awarded biennially, and is ‘more than just a project or a programme: it’s a global movement towards an understanding that design does impact and affect (the) quality of human life’, the President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, Mark Breitenberg, said. Cape Town was chosen a finalist out of 56 bids presented. The Cape Town 465 page bid book has been nominated for a Loerie Award for creativity. The winning World Design Capital 2014 will be announced on 26 October.
POSTSCRIPT 28/7: The Cape Town Partnership’s PR agency has just sent the following release about the World Design Capital 2014 judges’ visit:
Cape Town’s Creative Community On Board for World Design Capital Selection Visit
Cape Town has said farewell to the World Design Capital’s selection committee, represented by Dilki de Silva (Canada) and Martin Darbyshire (UK). The two were in the city from Sunday, 24 July till Wednesday, 27 July, for a whirlwind tour of what makes Cape Town a true contender for the role of World Design Capital 2014. Cape Town was the last stop on their itinerary of short-listed cities, after Bilbao and then Dublin. Yellow fever swept the local creative community (yellow is the colour of Cape Town’s World Design Capital bid) as more and more stakeholders saw that winning the title would bring a shot of creative energy and global design-focused attention onto the destination. His Grace Desmond Tutu made a special appearance at a gala dinner held in honour of the World Design Capital selection committee’s visit on Tuesday night. He led a blessing for the assembled guests, which included Premier Helen Zille and Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille.
At a capacity Cape Town Design Network event (attended by De Silva and Darbyshire), which was held at the Fringe in Cape Town’s East City on Monday, 25 July, Design Indaba founder, Ravi Naidoo, announced a challenge to the Cape Town creative community in the form of a competition; Your Street. The initiative invites creative proposals for how an aspect of Cape Town street life can be enhanced through the power of design thinking. The best idea will receive R 50 000 in cash. If the person who brings in the idea also has the business plan and commitment to funding to achieve it, they will receive R 150 000. Impromptu pledges then came in from the audience as architect (and previous Design Indaba 10×10 Housing Project competition winner), Luyanda Mphahlwa, promised a further R50 000 for the most innovative idea, and design leaders, XYZ, leapt up to add R 50 000 worth of design fees towards the creation of the product in reality. Entry into the competition closes on 31 August 2011. Details are at http://www.designindaba.com/yourstreetaware and competitive environment. Naidoo pointed out that being able to live with an understanding of both the first world and the third world allows Capetonians, and South Africans, the advantage of viewing the world through a unique prism, and as such, allowing us to access two thirds of humanity as a market place.
The Cape Town Partnership has been responsible for managing the World Design Capital Bid to date. Managing Director, Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, explained that design in this context goes beyond the creation of product and aesthetics; “In our application for the bid, we focused on design as a tool for transformation and re-integration. Examples include the IRT transport system, which will allow us all to experience less traffic, a project like the Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading in Khayelitsha, which has provided a safe, stimulating space for the community, and the Sustainability Institute in Lynedoch where environmental and social sustainability is being both academically rooted and practically applied.” Says Makalima-Ngewana; “We are exhausted but so happy and so very proud of everyone for presenting Cape Town as an inspiring contender for World Design Capital 2014. We are all holding thumbs for October when the winning city will be announced.”
POSTSCRIPT 29/7: In a Media newsletter today Cape Town Tourism writes about the World Design Capital bid, and once again blames design for apartheid: “The story at the heart of Cape Town’s bid theme is about the city’s use of design to overturn the negative legacy of its colonial and apartheid past; a cruel design which aimed to divide people, disconnect the city, and force both people of colour and the urban poor to its fringes”!
POSTSCRIPT 20/10: A media release received on behalf of the Cape Town Partnership indicates that a delegation of 9 city representatives, under the leadership of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, will be heading to Taipei, for the announcement of the winning city on 26 October. These are extracts from the release: “A high-level delegation, led by Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, is heading to Taipei for the official announcement of the winning city, taking place on the final day of the International Design Alliance (IDA) Congress on 26 October, 2011. The delegation includes Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing; Jo-Ann Johnston, Chief Director of Economic Development and Tourism, PGWC; Alderman Conrad Sidego, Mayor of Stellenbosch Municipality; Andrew Boraine, CEO of the Cape Town Partnership; Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, MD of the Cape Town Partnership; Skye Grove, Communications Manager of Cape Town Tourism; Michael Wolf, Chairperson of the Cape Town Design Network and Luyanda Mpahlwa, leading architect and World Design Capital Bid Committee Member. Executive Mayor De Lille said in her most recent weekly newsletter: “I will be travelling to Taipei for the result, proudly representing the first African city to reach this stage of the process. On the face of it, it is a tremendous opportunity for Cape Town to demonstrate how we are using innovation to address the challenges of our past and the inevitable challenges of our future. Past World Design Capital winners have also seen increased visitor numbers as a result of the title. Torino, Italy, World Design Capital for 2008, reported higher visitor numbers in their title year – which coincided with the global economic downturn – than in 2006, when they hosted the Winter Olympics can result in marked tourism peaks and troughs, World Design Capital has the potential to deliver sustained visitor numbers throughout the title year, through a series of design-led events over the course of 12 months. The title also does not require any infrastructural investment, but is an opportunity to leverage our World Cup infrastructure.”
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Tuesday 26th July 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
When the ‘Clown Prince’ of Labour opens his mouth, one is bound to have a good laugh at his absurd views. Yesterday the Southern African Tourism Update reported on the latest absurdity to come from the Provincial Secretary of COSATU (The Congress of South African Trade Unions), Tony Ehrenreich, City of Cape Town councillor, and the city’s failed mayoral candidate for the ANC.
Mr Ehrenreich blames the ‘crisis in tourism’ on overcharging international tourists: “The exorbitant prices for wines and crayfish are contributing to visitors feeling ripped off. And so the important word of mouth that underlies a tourist destination’s success is not assisting the South African industry.”
Mr Ehrenreich also attacks provincial Minister of Tourism, Alan Winde, in excluding workers from the recently elected board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited: “As Cosatu we will insist that the workers’ interests be directly represented by a labour representative, before the funding to support the industry is released. We will further call for an independent body to examine the crisis, as the industrial players have been colluding with government at a local level. This collusion is demonstrated by the City Council giving the tourism industry R40 million to spend on themselves”! Mr Ehrenreich seems to have lost the plot in what he is stating, in mixing up the roles of Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited:
* Cape Town Tourism received R40 million from the City of Cape Town last month, for marketing Cape Town for the next twelve months. We do share Mr Ehrenreich’s concern about how this money will be spent, given that Cape Town Tourism does not appear to understand that the city’s tourism industry is in crisis. The organisation is also without a Marketing Manager at a time when marketing is needed most. It has been criticised for choosing the positioning of ‘Inspirational’ for Cape Town, when it is not unique to the city, having been previously claimed by Edinburgh and Korea! Mr Ehrenreich is a Councillor of the City of Cape Town, and he could have voiced his dissatisfaction with the Cape Town Tourism budget at the time it was debated in Council.
* Minister Winde recently handpicked the Cape Town Routes Unlimited board, without advertising for nominations. It appears that the Minister chose largely the same directors, with the exception of the FEDHASA Cape representative now being Rey Franco, the hotel association’s Deputy Chairman. Mr Ehrenreich served on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board for two years until two years ago, and embarrassed the tourism industry as well as Cape Town Routes Unlimited when he made inappropriate and widely reported media statements, claiming that the Waterfront was charging rip-off prices, referring to the cost of crayfish at Panama Jack, which is not even located in the V&A Waterfront! He had to be silenced during the remainder of his term as director, due to the damage he caused the tourism industry. Minister Winde has no say over the City of Cape Town’s R40 million allocation to Cape Town Tourism.
* Cape Town Tourism will have presented a budget to the City of Cape Town, and it will have included continuing the PR and trade marketing for Cape Town in the UK, Germany, Holland, and in the USA, despite the national Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, advising regional and local tourism bodies to leave international marketing to SA Tourism. Social media marketing is part of the budget too. Unfortunately Cape Town Tourism has not shared its marketing plan and R40 million budget allocation with its members to date.
* If the Tourism Crisis would be so easy to attribute to wine and crayfish pricing, one could do something about it. Being’ ripped of’ for these delicacies is the least of the worries of potential tourists – rather it is being ‘ripped off’ by the airlines in terms of their fares that is their real concern. It shows that Mr Ehrenreich is completely out of touch with the reasons for the current crisis in the Tourism industry – high domestic and international airfares, the strong Rand, severe economic recession in the UK (Cape Town’s major international source market), future uncertainty about Greece’s ability to repay its debt and other European countries experiencing similar problem, the current financial crisis of the USA, the oversupply of accommodation, and crippling cost increases whilst rates have remained the same or are being slashed!
It will be interesting to see how Mr Ehrenreich will get shot down in flames by the tourism industry, for his ridiculous claims! However, he is a determined man, and will not easily give up on his mission, to stay in the news!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Wednesday 29th June 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Earlier this week I was at the Civic Centre, and on a whim decided to try out the new MyCiTi bus system, with the Civic Centre bus terminal close by. Being a tourist in my own city, I was surprised at how well the new public transport system works, connecting the city centre, the Waterfront, Gardens, Table View, and the airport.
Information about the stops is not easy to find at the Civic Centre terminal, with a board outside showing a map, but not indicating the route or providing any information. I saw staff in a smart uniform, and they explained that I could travel all the way to the Waterfront for a mere R5. There is no hop-on, hop-off facility, so if one makes an in-between stop, one pays a further R5. The prices of the trips are exceptional good value, with the trip to Table View from the Waterfront costing only R10, even if one has to change buses at the Civic Centre terminal. The cost to get to the airport from the Civic Centre is R50, and is set to increase to R53 on 1 July, as reported on Twitter. No information is provided proactively, and when I asked for a brochure or map at the Ticket office, I received a tabloid-size outdated May issue of ‘Let’s go MYCITI’.
The newspaper reports that a R20 Smartcard is planned, which will allow one to load ‘airtime’ to the card, at a 2,5% fee. One can also buy booklets of tickets. One wonders if the City will make its money back, at such low prices, the buses having about 10 passengers on each of the two trips I did. Fellow passengers told me that the Table View route was well supported, and here the service could be making good money. The Civic Centre terminal station is massive, and has beautiful murals produced by local artists, including Arelen Amaler-Raviv, Hannes Bernard, Tony Coetzee, David Hlongwane, Sanjin Muftic, Alan Munro,, Hannah Williams and Mark Hennig.
While waiting for the Waterfront bus to arrive, I asked a staff member more questions – one can buy the return ticket on the bus, as there is no ticket office in the Waterfront, or at the other stops. The buses depart every 20 minutes. It takes 20 minutes to get from the Civic Centre to the Waterfront. What I didn’t ask, but discovered, is that the staff do not announce the stops – one must look at the road signs (Loop Street, V&A Waterfront), or the name on the terminal buildings (Granger Bay, Stadium) to know where to get off, a potential problem for tourists. As a tourist, one would like to photograph Table Mountain, the Stadium, the Waterfront and other landmarks of the city. Our bus to the Waterfront had dirty windows, which would have spoilt the photographs. The windows of our return bus were spotlessly clean.
The overall impression was of cleanliness, efficiency, and friendliness. The buses run smoothly and quietly, quickly left each station where they had to stop, yet no apology was provided for the 20 minute lateness of the 14h46 Waterfront bus to the Civic Centre. Comment was made by some passengers about the driver going through a red traffic light, hardly what a City of Cape Town employee should be doing, given that their colleagues are traffic police. Two MyCiTi buses were involved in collisions on the Table View route earlier this month. It is unclear where one should park if one wanted to go to Cape Town International, but parking near the Stadium terminal would be a good idea, with a bus change at the Civic Centre, at no extra charge.
The buses run from 5h45 from Table View, and from 6h00 in the city on weekdays, and an hour later on Saturdays, and 2 hours later on Sundays. Buses run until 21h00 on the Table View route, and until 22h00 in the city, on all days of the week. Buses run every 20 minutes, but on the Table View route they run every 10 minutes in peak morning and afternoon traffic times. A sign on the bus says that bicycles are allowed on the bus.
The My CiTi bus route is to be expanded next year, to include Hout Bay, Camps Bay, the Atlantic Seaboard, Salt River, Woodstock, Walmer Estate, Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Vredehoek and Bo Kaap. At a later stage the route will extend to Atlantis, Du Noon, Jo Slovo Park, Montague Gardens and Melkbosstrand. Township routes to Khayelitsha and Gugulethu do not appear to be on the map, perhaps the last bastion of the taxis. New bus stations are to be built on Adderley Street, Gardens, and Queens Beach in Sea Point. I noticed construction work on what looks like another building at the Civic Centre terminal.
I decided that in future I will park near the Stadium and take the MyCiTi bus when I need to be in the center of town, saving parking monies as well as the harassment by the parking guards, that is if one can find parking. The new R4 billion MyCiTi public bus transport system is a welcome ‘legacy’ of the 2010 World Cup, and its efficiency of operation was well worth all the inconvenience during the construction phases. It is a clever way of getting taxis out of the city centre, two taxi association companies and Golden Arrow Bus Services operating the new bus system.
I felt as if I was in another country, travelling in brand new world-class buses. The new MyCiTi bus system is an impressive service for our tourists and locals alike.
MyCiTi, Tel toll-free 0800 65 64 63. www.capetown.gov.za/myciti
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Friday 27th May 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
The Sweet Service Award goes to Manager Herman at Belthazar. On Mother’s Day I was waiting for my son to finish seeing a movie in the Waterfront, and had a cappuccino and a sundae at the restaurant. When I asked for the bill, the waiter said that it was on the house for Mother’s Day – a sweet surprise!
The Sour Service Award goes to SA Tourism, for sending out a newsletter to every tourism operator the day after Indaba ended, on 9 May, referring to its “April newsletter” and writing “As we head into May, it’s an exciting time for tourism product in South Africa. INDABA is just a few days away and the Welcome Awards finalists have just been announced” . What a poor communication example from our country’s tourism marketing body!
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at email@example.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.
Wednesday 13th April 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
I was invited to try out the 34-seater Dash restaurant in the Queen Victoria Hotel, which only opened in the Waterfront on Saturday, last night. Chef Steven Tempelton is the leader of a creative team at Dash, whose food not only was visually appealing, but excellent too, and was responsible for a most dashing dinner. Dash is one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Cape Town, and an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant coontender for 2012.
The 35-bedroom Queen Victoria Hotel, previously the V&A Waterfront company head office, cost R53 million to transform into 5-star luxury, and the interior decor was done by master ‘craftsman’ Francois du Plessis, who has also just done Dear Me restaurant. Cleverly, Newmark Hotels MD Neil Markovitz has arranged for the nearby Everard Read gallery to hang some if its artists’ works in the hotel, benefiting both parties. Dash has been honoured by a dominant work by Beezy Bailey. The work is called “The Storm has passed”, and reflects the style of food created at Dash. The back of the painting has a poem by Bailey: “As the storm cleared/The dove escaped the cat’s claws/While the blueberry elephants passed by./As God’s tears hit the sky,/they turned into flowers”.
I was welcomed on arrival in the lobby, in which the 30-year old bonsai imported from China holds centre court, by Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon, whom I had already seen in action last week, when I popped in for a tour around the hotel, led by Markovitz and the hotel’s PR consultant Ian Manley. Alton has always been a most charming host when he worked at Balducci in the past four years, and has impressed with his knowledge of and passion for wine. He started his career in retail. He moved into hospitality, and worked at Belthazar and Poplars before managing Balducci.
Chef Stephen Templeton grew up in Somerset West, and has been the Executive Chef at Sun City and the Mount Nelson Hotel. He also was head of a team of 47 chefs at Harrods, the largest Food & Beverage operation in Europe, he said. After a four year period in running Four Oaks guest house and restaurant in Montagu, he had an opportunity to sell it, and move back to Cape Town. It was in this time that he was approached by Newmark Hotels to become Group Chef, mainly responsible for their restaurants at the V&A Hotel, Dock House and Queen Victoria Hotel, all in the V&A. Chef Stephen says that he was hands-on in the development of Dash, in sourcing its crockery, cutlery and glassware, in developing a fine winelist, and creating the unique menu. The name for the restaurant was the result of a five hour brainstorm with the hotel’s executive team, and it was Ronan Jackson from the design agency that suggested the name, after Queen Victoria’s spaniel. Chef Stephen and Francois du Plessis worked together to create a ‘New York sexy’ interior and menu that complement each other, and Du Plessis has said that it is the first time that his decor has been so well matched by a menu. Chef Stephen is aiming at presenting ‘sophisticated, stylish, contemporary yet simple food’ at Dash, which he more than achieves. He wants the food’s personality to shine through, not that of the chef. Chef Stephen has an interesting team of nine chefs in the kitchen, with an average age of 24 years. We laughed when we discovered that there is a Chef Jamie and a Chef Oliver in the kitchen. I met Chef Oliver Cattermole, who created the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’ of vegetables that is served with the beef fillet. He worked at one-Michelin-star Novelli, and at The Ivy in London. All staff have been taught to make coffee, and have tested the menu, to allow everyone to assist guests, as if one were in a guest house and not in a hotel, Chef Stephen said. The waitress looking after me was Coral, and was honest in saying that she has just finished studying, and that Dash is her first job. She was sweet, willing to execute every request, but still lacked some knowledge on how the magic is created in the kitchen. She went to ask the kitchen all my questions. The staff wear a white shirt with the Queen Victoria Hotel logo on it, black pants and a white Dash-branded apron.
The welcome was warm, with Alton taking me through to the lounge, where I was invited to have a drink. I chose a coffee. Chef Stephen was happy to hear that I had starved during the day, in anticipation of the dinner. Vegetable crisps were brought to the table as a snack. I asked Chef Stephen what would happen if the 34-seater would run out of space in the 35-room hotel, and he assured me that they would pass the business on to the other Newmark Hotel restaurants in the Waterfront. Chef Stephen sees Dash operating in the league of The Roundhouse, The Test Kitchen and Aubergine.
The restaurant has a black tile floor, an impressive black marble surround fireplace dividing the lounge/bar area from the restaurant, beautiful silver curtains, and a wonderful view onto Table Mountain. The Beezy Bailey is the only colour splash in the room. The tables are black metal, made by ‘in’ designer Gregor Jenkin I was told by Francois du Plessis, with white leather chairs. There are no table cloths, but a good quality serviette, with very heavy and solid Sambonet cutlery imported from Germany, the first time I have seen this locally. The glassware is excellent. There is a little candle, and rather ordinary tiny white salt and pepper cellars, probably superfluous anyway, given the excellent food, not requiring seasoning. The only criticism I shared with Alton was the music selection, being heavy jazz initially, and sounding hotel-like generally. I reminded him of the great music one hears at Belthazar and Balducci. The bar is lit with purple lighting at night, and bounces off the bar chairs, creating an interesting visual affect as one enters the bar area. The colour of the lighting changes throughout the day.
I chose a starter of confit of crayfish on a cucumber sockle with a coriander and paw paw salad (R145). The impressive part of its presentation was the paw paw crisp, creating a centerpiece to the starter, and tasting sweet and crispy. Chef Stephen explained that paw paw is liquidised, then glycerine is added, it is baked for nine hours, and then thin slices are cut to create the crisp. The cucumber was as fresh as could be, as was the salad, the paw paw in it echoing the crisp. Sorrel foam completed the presentation. No sauces got in the way of the natural fresh taste of the elements of the dish. No fish knife was served with this starter. Other starter choices, ranging in price from R55 – R145, include beetroot cured salmon, oysters served on seaweed, wild mushroom ragoût, Ceasar salad, seared foie gras, and caviar (SQ). The surprise was the most amazing sorbets that were served, and I was allowed three: I chose the Tomato Granite, to which Coral added vodka; a most refreshing Lime & Lemon; and the most amazing Rose, complete with its own rose petals dipped in egg white and crystallised. The sorbets cost R25 for a choice of three.
The main course choice of Grilled fillet of beef with herb mash and spinach purée with vegetables and port jus (R140) has created a stir. This menu description does not do justice to the amazing creation that arrived – three slices of fillet on mash, but it was the presentation of the vegetables that created the ‘wow’ response, dubbed by the staff as the ‘Alice in Wonderland garden’, an amazing symphony of carrot, tomato, mushrooms, orange-coloured mini corn-cob, baby radish, baby aubergine, baby turnip, sheets of cauliflower stalk, and tomadillo (tasting of tomato with the texture of aubergine, looking like a green gooseberry), so beautifully presented. Chef Oliver called it ‘psychedelic vegetables’, and told me that he sources them from the Magic Man in the Karoo. Main courses are reasonably priced, some being cheaper than the starters, and range from R95 to R145 for roasted sea bass, lobster tortellini, venison, tomato and beetroot tart, scallops, lamb noisette, and duck confit risotto. The dessert list consists of four options, ranging from R50 – R70, in addition to a Cape cheeseboard (R115), and I chose the Pimms jelly, mint bavois and strawberry sauce, beautifully presented with a long elegant spoon, and well paired with a glass of Silverthorn The Green Man sparkling wine (made by Steenberg GM John Loubser in his private capacity). Other dessert options are chocolate fondant, coconut panacotta, and liquorice macaroons. Coral brought a cappuccino made with Origin coffee to have with the dessert, and a sweet touch was a jug of extra froth, showing that Alton must have read a Tweet of mine a few days ago about the extra froth a waiter had brought me at Salt Deli, also a Newmark Hotel property.
Alton indulged my love for Shiraz, and poured a glass of Quoin Rock 2006 (R208 per bottle), with violet notes. Coral brought tap water with an ice bucket and slices of lemon. The winelist is impressive, bound in grey leather, with the hotel logo on it. Champagnes and MCC sparkling wines are at the back of the winelist, normally found at the front. Each wine variety is described, and the origin and vintage of each wine is presented, as are the tasting notes for each wine, generated from a tasting panel’s evaluation of each of the about 100 wines listed. This is a future Diner’s Club Diamond Award winelist candidate. The champagnes start at R 940 for Guy Charbaut Select Brut NV, going up to R3500 for Dom Perignon Vintage. Veuve Cliquot Rosé, Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve, and Pol Roger Brut Reserve are also available. MCC’s start at R200 for Moreson Solitaire, with High Constantia Clos Andre costing R445. Shiraz choices start at R 205 for Raka Biography, up to R 1390 for Saxenburg SSS Shiraz 2005. The wine-by-the glass policy is interesting – there are no prices for these, but one can order any wine on the list by the glass, within reason, and then Alton and his staff will try to sell the rest of the bottle to other guests.
If there is one taste at Dash that I will never forget it is that of the Rose sorbet – a taste I have never experienced before. Dash is excellent, and perfect, and I know that the music selection will be addressed, as will the waiters’ food knowledge evolve. They are so many items on the menu to return to, to try out. From photographs of the other menu items it is evident that each dish is a work of art in presentation alone. The kitchen closes at about 22h30, but one can pop in at the 24-hour Dash bar for a drink, a coffee or even a dessert, ordered from the room service menu, after the kitchen has closed. After being a loyal V&A Waterfront shopper for twenty years, it is refreshing to have such an excellent quality restaurant so close by, yet away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial Waterfront area. I salute Newmark Hotels’ MD Neil Markovitz and his team in creating such an exceptional restaurant.
POSTSCRIPT 14/4: I went back to Dash for a quick coffee and more sorbet, and to show my colleague the Queen Victoria Hotel and Dash restaurant. Restaurant Manager Darren looked after us, and organised the extra cappuccino foam on the side, from reading this review. The hotel is almost booked out with delegates from Brazil attending a Tupperware conference.
POSTSCRIPT 8/5: Staying over at the invitation of the Queen Victoria Hotel presented an opportunity for me to introduce my son to Dash, which he was very impressed by. Food & Beverage Manager Alton van Biljon was most generous in offering us a bottle of Hartenberg The Stork Shiraz 2005, knowing my love for an old-style shiraz. The chef sent out two complimentary dishes to those we had ordered: the appetizer was a tomato, basil, and mushroom dust, served on a heavy slate plate, reminding me of the work of Eric Bulpitt, previously of Jardineand now at The Round House. We both ordered a filling starter of wonderful wild mushroom ragout in puff pastry, served with green beans and bearnaise (R65). Alex had the beef fillet with the ‘Alice in Wonderland vegetable garden’, while I ordered Springbok loin, carrot purée and turnip gratin (R135). We shared a trio of Rose, Lemon and lime, and Orange and citrus sorbets (R25). The chef sent out a complimentary pannacotta and lemon sorbet for usto share. A wonderful evening, once again with an excellent meal, and charming and highly-impressive service by Alton.
POSTSCRIPT 15/5: I returned to Dash with Carole, my colleague in Hermanus, and we were well looked after by Restaurant Manager Darren and Chef Oliver Cattermole. I tried the Duck Confit Risotto with citrus and herb potpourri, the potpourri containing tea, dried duck (tasting like biltong) and herbs, and served in a separate bowl, which I sprinkled over the risotto. Carole had the Beef fillet and the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vegetable garden. For dessert we had the Chocolate Fondant, which oozed Valrhona chocolate sauce when we opened it, with orange ice cream, a beautiful presentation. I had my cappuccino with a jug of extra foam, always a nice touch! It was great to meet One&Only Cape Town Hotel Executive Chef Jason Millar, who was celebrating his anniversary at Dash, and to hear a chef’s reaction to the food of another chef – he was most complimentary. Chef Oliver Cattermole is the driving force in the Dash kitchen, in my opinion, and has created a vegetable and herb garden on the roof of Newmark Hotels’ V&A Hotel, from which he will harvest for his kitchen in future.
POSTSCRIPT 25/5: Another lovely lunch with excellent service at Dash today, spoiling my friend Jenny to a birthday lunch. She was surprised to receive a birthday card from the hotel, and a surprise chocolate fondant dessert with her cappuccino. Jenny’s Beetroot cured salmon with horseradish apple slaw was beautifully presented.
POSTSCRIPT 1/7: Today I took Trevor Jordaan for a birthday lunch at Dash. I ordered a Cape Malay butternut velouté, while Trevor had a chicory and pickled pear salad, both beautifully presented. Happy to hear how well the restaurant is doing, and has appointed an Assistant Manager Andrea.
POSTSCRIPT 3/8: Sadly, Restaurant Manager Darren Morgan left the hotel on Monday. F&B Manager Alton van Biljon has taken a leave of absence, and his return date is uncertain, if he returns at all. Andrea confirmed this evening that lunch will not be served at Dash for the time being.
POSTSCRIPT 12/8: I had the Mushroom Ragout again this evening, and the pastry casing was tough, and the size of the dish has definitely shrunk. No Andreas Shiraz was available, which I had tried at Dash for the first time a month ago, when Michael McKenzie and I popped in. The waiter asked how I enjoyed the dish. I said I didn’t, due to the shrunk size and tough pastry, to which he confidently retorted that the perfect pastry casing is tough! Chef Jamie was in the kitchen this evening. I shared the problem with Hostess Connie, and she apologised. The waiter told me that the kitchen was sending out a second Ragout, but Connie arrived with the bill, having taken the Ragout off it, saying that the waiter had told her I didn’t want the replacement Ragout. I got up and left in disbelief at this comedy of errors, the first evening of serious dissatisfaction at Dash.
POSTSCRIPT 25/9: We had a ‘last supper’ at Dash this evening, one of the last nights that Chef Oliver Cattermole will be in the Queen Victoria Hotel kitchen, before he starts at What’s On Eatery on Saturday. I chose the Foie gras with apple, excellent, but pricey as a starter at R140. My son enjoyed his Duck risotto (R125). The Rose sorbet no longer is dark pink, as photographed above, and doesn’t taste as amazing as I remember it. Service efficient but functional, and the personal touch has gone. Excellent Andreas Shiraz 2008 now my favourite Shiraz. Sad to see us being only one of two tables. Despite being told in early days that all wines on the winelist are available by the glass, the limit is that only bottles under R300 may be opened for wines by the glass.
Dash Restaurant, Queen Victoria Hotel, Portswood Close, Portswood Ridge, V&A Waterfront. Tel (021) 418-1466. www.queenvictoriahotel.co.za (The Dash menu and winelist are now listed on the website, but the Image Gallery does not contain enough photographs to reflect the amazing creativity of the Dash chefs).
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage