My favourite lifestyle magazine is House and Leisure, and I have subscribed to it for years.  In fact, it is the only magazine (I don’t classify Noseweek as a ‘magazine’ as such) that I subscribe to.  Its new brand extension launched earlier this week is a great disappointment.

I had read the pre-publicity about the new House and Leisure Food, described by editor Naomi Larkin as an “inaugural collectors’ issue”, and was excited about the idea of the publication.   I chased after the issue at Exclusive Book’s when it hit the street on Wednesday, having to have it, and being sure that subscribers would not be sent a copy.   In fact, nowhere in the latest House and Leisure issue was there any reference to the new publication, which is silly in marketing terms, as current subscribers to House and Leisure should be the most obvious priority target market.

In her Editor’s Letter Larkin drools: “Whether you’re seduced by the mouthwatering food pictures or enchanted by the beautiful lifestyle images – designed to get you in the mood – there really is something for everyone”.

Oh my gosh, what a let down, when I paged through the magazine.  Here’s why:

1.  A big song and dance is made about the chefs that have ‘contributed’, and the names that are dropped are Chefs Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen, Bertus Basson of Overture, Richard Carstens of Tokara, Mike Bassett of Terroir, Clare and Fiona Ras of Sprigs in Durban, and Jackie Cameron of Hartford House, as well as cookery school owners Marlene van der Westhuizen, Andrea Bergener, Toni Scorgie and Susan Greig.  The main contributors to the magazine are billed as Jules Mercer and Sarah Matsuhara, both names I have never heard of before.  Yet, none of the names of the chefs or their photographs are to be seen on any page, except in the Editor’s Letter.   The content of the magazine is purely a recipe book of 75 recipes, not one recipe attributed to any of these named chefs!   I have tried to re-read and re-read the Editor’s Letter, and I can only assume that House and Leisure Food is a rehash of previously printed recipes from past issues of House and Leisure. 

2.   An even bigger flop is the ‘Connoisseurs’ picks of top South African wines to match”, as shouted on the front cover, and the editorial page proudly highlights the names of Wade Bales, Michael Brampfield-Duggan, Michael Olivier, Thato Goimane, David Cope and House and Leisure wine writer Leigh Robertson as “Wine Connoisseurs”!  A “connoisseur” is defined “a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgement” or “a discerning judge of the best in any field”.   Most of the ‘connoisseurs’ are not widely known, and some may argue that they may not all be ‘connoisseurs’ either!  There is not one wine pack shot in the magazine, except in the few paid-for advertisements for Reyneke, Robertson Winery, Barista, and Krone.  The wine recommendations are featured in the smallest possible type size underneath the title of each recipe!  There is no description of each wine’s taste and flavour, no motivation for the match, nor is a vintage recommended.  Only the initials of the “wine connoisseur” is indicated, and is most often those of Leigh Robertson!

3.  But the biggest disappointment of all is the endless 130 pages of 75 recipes, interspersed with a handful of advertisements, the Paul Kovensky Restaurant Collection being the largest advertising supporter, advertising its Kove, Zenzero, Paranga and Pepenero restaurants.   Not all food lovers cook, and many may have liked to see interviews with chefs, cooking hints and tips, chef profiles, and even restaurant reviews and profiles.  The Indochine Restaurant page is a paid-for promotion, but would have made good editorial, in the way the chef Jonathan Heath is profiled and one of his dishes is featured, with an interior shot of the restaurant at Delaire Graff.  In this regard the magazine fails badly.

4.  The magazine is divided into four sections, and the recipes are spread over these.  The categories are “Easy Living”, “Summer”, “Winter Warmth” and “Luxury”, not sounding a logical delineation, and the first and the last of these categories not clearly defining which types of recipes one might expect.   The magazine index does list which recipe is in which section.

5.  Even worse, is the most irritating “talking ad” for Cell C, as one turns the pages.  The spokesperson Trevor Noah never gets to say more than “Welcome to the world of Cell C.  The power is in your hands”. 

Credit must be given for some excellent food styling and photography, and the photographers’ and stylists’ names that are mentioned are Russell Smith, Retha Erichsen, Julia Stadler, and Elsa Young.  Some lifestyle photographs break the monotony of the recipe pages.

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