Two special specialists visit.
Lew Rood, correctly often described as a tourism icon in South Africa, never ceases to amaze me. His encyclopaedic knowledge of the tourism industry and its personalities is quite exceptional. The former International Sales Manager of the Conservation Corporation (now days & Beyond) and responsible for the opening of Singita’s marketing and reservation office, now has on his business card Tourism & Hospitality Specialist.
Lew, Peggy and Barry
“Excuse me!” I told him “ This should read THE Tourism & Hospitality Specialist.” No one I know in this country has more knowledge of whose who in the tourism industry, who owns what and who brings who to our shores. Remarkable also is his ability to describe each and every property he has visited with a photographic memory, which I assure you can even recall which flowers were in the lobby!
During his brief visit to Franschhoek, accompanied by Barry Strick, himself a specialist in the film industry, producing and postproduction specialist his card tells us, they were here to do research.
They were on a brief visit to catch up to familiarise themselves with some of the new products that have sprung up since their last visit over a year ago. Obviously La Clé des Montagnes being one and with Barry’s conversations showing his undoubted knowledge of food, they enjoyed their visits to Maison, Ryan’s Kitchen and the Rotisserie at Leopards Leap wine estate.
I also suggested they walked up to the main street to enjoy the pavement atmosphere of Sacred Ground’s, the bakery, deli and coffee bar/restaurant in the Square.
Peggy and I, who have lived in this village for 15 months now, were amazed on Lew’s knowledge of the properties in this wonderful part of the winelands. We were informed on the ownership of many of the hotels and wine estates inclusive of family backgrounds, and I personally was amazed on how many properties I have yet to discover.
A conversation with Lew requires concentration, as I believe his brain works at twice the speed of others and often he can produce two subjects (and often three) in tandem, an art which his peculiarly his and which I envy.
One of the youthful guests at Grande Roche I mentioned in my previous Blog was Michelle Katz –who works for Rhino Safaris — she posted this recently and I can add — I looked up her previous writings — she can write!
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Larry Gould – Frenchman by birth, an Englishman by education and a South African by choice…the man who knows golf. His career in hospitality has allowed him access to some of the most spectacular courses in the world and as a previous GM of the Alphen Hotel, The Stellenbosch Hydro and Fancourt in George, he is a man we can trust to combine the love of golf with magnificent accommodation.
Larry’s latest book, ‘The Larry Gould Guide to Golf in the Cape’, promotes South Africa as one of the World’s great golfing destinations, incorporating his love for food, wine and the people of South Africa. Whilst standing in one of the stunning villas at La Clé des Montagneswhere Larry assists his wife, Peggy, in the management of the boutique hotel – such a place deserves an article to its own as I was left speechless after my visit – Larry gave me a copy of his book addressed to my father and signed, “To the love of golf.”
I had to ask Larry to tell Rhino Africa his Top 5 Courses in South Africa, though his first answer is, “my favourite course is the next one I am going to play.” He says he is particularly fond of the designs in South Africa by Gary Player, Peter Matkovich and Jack Nicklaus. However, Larry’s friends point out that this may be due to his ability to play these particular courses especially well – a good reason I think!
Arabella Golf Course, Western Cape
As Larry’s home club and one considered to be the Cape’s greatest challenge, the Arabellahad to feature in the Top 5. Created by Peter Matkovich, the course is classical and scenically spectacular, attracting international events such as the Nelson Mandela Invitational Tournament. On the shores of South Africa’s largest lagoon and close to the famous whale watching spot, Hermanus, the Arabella hotel is the perfect setting to unwind after a day on the course.
Tel: +27 (0)28 284 0105 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Links at Fancourt, George
Larry describes this Gary Player creation as a “remarkable phenomenon in design, manicuring and challenge.” As an inland links-style challenge to test only the best golfers, visitors to the course are transported to a world more likely seen on the greens of Ireland and Scotland – but the Outeniqua Mountains and the far more favourable climate serve as a constant reminder of the beauty of South Africa.
Tel: +27 (0)44 804 0000 / Email: email@example.com
St Francis Links, Eastern Cape
Larry attended the opening of this course nestled among the natural sand dunes when the designer, Jack Nicklaus, was asked if this was the best course he had designed. He replied, “I did not say that; I said it may be the best course I’ve ever seen. That’s different. That’s better than the best I’ve ever done.” I think that says it all.
Tel: +27 (0)42 200 4500 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gary Player Country Club, Sun City
One of the longest courses in South Africa, this course is a true challenge in Africa and home to the Nedbank Golf Challenge since 1981. With lightning fast putting surfaces and imaginatively placed bunkers, this course is ideal for the skilled professional. However, a clever design featuring multiple tees without compromising design allows novices a great day out on the course too.
Tel: +27 (0)800 237 422
Leopard Creek, Mpumalanga
Gary Player and Johan Rupert joined forces to created this spectacular course on the border of the Kruger National Park – the perfect place to catch a round of golf in between game drives. Leopard Creek is an unobtrusive part of the environment and in only seven years of operation has been praised as the 2nd best golf course in South Africa.
Tel: +27 (0)13 791 2074 / Email: email@example.com
To plan your South African golf holiday, contact one of our expert travel consultants at Rhino Africa.
Good Food, Good Wine, Good Company and Nature’s Bountiful Beauty
My French Mother, who ran a famous French Restaurant in England for many years, once told me that there’s magic in good food, good wine, good company and when this is enhanced by nature’s bountiful and beautiful surroundings it takes on mystical proportions.
I need to explain that this piece of philosophy was at the end of a very long lunch, in the restaurant’s garden location, assisted by ample glasses of Tattinger Champagne. It was also on a perfect autumn day and we were at a table with some of my parents’ less than temperate friends. However I never forgot it and I still believe it to this day.
Nature’s bountiful beauty
Indeed, these thoughts were recently substantially reinforced by our visit to the Grande Roche Hotel for their wine and dine evening. Peggy and I fortunately were staying the night and we were accorded the Dahlia Suite, which, apart from excellent wall-to-wall comfort, décor and facilities, also has balcony with panoramic views of the vineyards fronting the hotel and spectacular mountain backdrops to enhance the picture.
Our suite bedroom
The word spectacular remains apt for the views from the restaurant terrace as we gathered for pre-dinner drinks on a very calm autumn evening and the seasonal colours of the vines provided a golden glow to match the mood of the attending guests. Add to this the immaculate timing of the full moon to rise between two distant mountains as the sun had politely departed to allow its replacement to bask in the glory of its presence and for us to bathe in the soft gentle and very romantic moonlight.
Already the mood was magical and when we were invited to take our seats in Bosman’s Restaurant, you could sense the evening in the gracious atmosphere of the Grande Roche’s elegant dining area was heading for success.
Anja Bosken, the General Manager of the Hotel, whose imposing presence is augmented by a sparking personality, announced the agenda for the evening. “Welcome to our Culinary Innovations Evening. We are proud to welcome Diane Awerbuck, winner of the 2004 Commonwealth Best First Book Award, who will give a reading from her latest book. The wines are presented by Matt Day, the remarkably talented and I have to add seemingly very young wine maker of Klein Constantia and our chef, Roland Gorgosilich, has created the innovations of the menu.
Matt Day – Klein Constantia’s Wine maker and wife
I attach the menu; for any attempt to describe the presentation, textures and tastes of these remarkable innovations would just negate the effect they had on us all. I leave your imagination to deliver its own interpretation, but allow me to punctuate the overall conclusion was that magic had been created in Bosman’s kitchen.
Diane Awerbuck certainly added to the evening’s atmosphere with her thought provoking reading, sprinkled with charm and humour and I have no doubt many of us will look to read ‘Home Remidies’ her latest publication.
Our table guests were a marvellous blend of experience and youth and conversation sparkled to a crescendo when the legendary Vin De Constance, a 2007 vintage, was served to compliment the delicious desert.
Great company – a blend of experience and youth.
Peggy and I joined two couples for coffee on the terrace and it was one of the younger of the female guests who with a satisfied sigh and a sensational smile to her handsome partner was heard to say.
“There is something mystical about this evening.” I didn’t have the chance to tell her about my mother, but I couldn’t help but silently agree.
Special Note: Menu produced from my memory –mistakes are mine!
Bosman’s Innovative Menu
CURED FRANSCHHOEK SALMON TROUT
citrus fruit-fennel salad, watercress-granny smith jus & wonton
JUS GLAZED VEAL SHANK & SWEETBRE
carrot crème, curry mayonnaise & sesame cracker
COLD SMOKED CHALMAR BEEF FILLET& SLOW BRAISED CHEEK
roasted root vegetable purée, pancetta croquette & jus
FOURMET D’AMBERT CRÈME CHEESE-PECAN NUT SLICE
honey-lavender dried fruit crumble & pear sorbet
Special Note: the wines were a definite ingredient to that magic!
Two ‘extra’ beautiful women enrich our lives for a couple of days.
My Peggy, Coral Reynolds and Kate Turkington.
Kate Turkingon, Radio 702/ Cape Talk’s legendary radio host came to stay at La Clé des Montagnes and ‘My Peggy’ asked me to meet them on arrival. I fully admit to being charmed!
Believe it or not ‘My Peggy’ wasn’t even jealous, as the sparkling intelligence, twinkling and perceptive humour from Kate Turkington and her friend Coral Reynolds reverberated round La Cle des Montagnes.
Kate Turkington is renowned as South Africa’s legendary talk show host, who for 20 years held the record of hosting the longest consecutive talk show on Sunday nights. A three-hour program called
‘Believe it or Not’.
This was the remarkably entertaining, captivating and fascinating woman who I had met on only once, 30 years ago, and I had described, as one of my favourite guests ever!
It was when I was the General Manager of the Hydro in Stellenbosch, in those days much maligned as a quirky health resort, which charged a vast amount of money for very little food. Kate Turkington did a live radio interview from her bedroom balcony and I recall her telling the studio interviewer – ‘The most surprising factor in this place is that is a lot of laughter among the guests – it could of course be hysterical laughter, as they are all so hungry, but in fairness I actually believe it is because they are all feeling healthier!”
Well after spending time with Kate and Coral, whose own anecdotes about her travels with Kate had us in fits of laughter, Peggy and I agreed we were healthier for their visit. There can be no better experience in life when meeting people who enrich you and add extra to your life. We were enriched to the full and trust me they have been invited back!
I have returned from France where I celebrated with family and friends my Mother’s 90th birthday.
Genevieve Marie Louise Antoinette Leroy was born in Amiens, France on the 30th October 1922. Known throughout her life as Ginette and by her grandchildren as Gigi, this remarkable woman managed to marry an Englishman and have two wonderful sons -one of which is the immodest Me!
To capture her spirit, allow me to tell you that on the morning after her birthday celebrations (where she was practically the last one to go to bed) my brother tasked me to tell her that the coffee machine was broken and there was no coffee. My Brother and his wife, my mother’s two sisters and their husbands stood some distance away to await an inevitable stormy reaction. However Ginette’s response was ‘Well give me a cognac then!”
Sadly ‘My Peggy’ was unable to make it — but she was at the table in spirit and my brother had the forethought to have a place setting for her in the form of a teddy bear.
Ryan’s Kitchen – Franschhoek
My French mother ran a famous restaurant in England for 25 years.
I can recall while my brother and I were interested in sports, girls and partying, we would often have to sit for lengthy periods and ‘have to’ listen to our mother’s philosophy on life.
Of course, in retrospect, my brother and I both agree we should have been more attentive.
On eating she told us that to really appreciate the glory and joy of food, all the senses should be involved. Great dishes she emphasized do this.
Sight –it must be memorable and pleasing to the eye – a picture says a thousand words.
Smell – it must have an aroma to interest the diner heightening his or her anticipation.
Taste – It must achieve the expectation for the diner and should if possible exceed that expectation by a burst of surprise without overwhelming the core ingredients.
Sound – It is the sizzle that sells a really well cooked and presented dish.
Touch – when required, picking them up is the best experience for some dishes. Though rare, when this is done the texture and the surfaces must be pleasant to the touch.
Well some of this has stuck and in my many travels around the world I have always recognised when many of the above attributes have been achieved.
Last night, at Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek, I can vouch that Ryan would have received high praise from my perfectionist Mother, when it came to his cooking skills.
Peggy and I were to have a kaleidoscope of visual, taste and smell pleasures worthy of applause, which we could have given directly to the chef, as he cooks in an open kitchen, which is very much part of the experience. For here the diners get a chance to watch a master craftsman at work.
Ryan and his team of two in the kitchen are focused. No repartee with the guests, as this is serious work. Quiet and efficient until suddenly the dish appears magnificently on the table.
It is Ryan’s Russian wife, Lana, (short for Svetlana — they met in Russia while Ryan was working there) who provides the personality with her captivating accent, when describing the ingredients on the plate and each dish is indeed a picture that says a thousand words – though Svetlana’s descriptions are truly worth the addition.
The restaurant has two menu choices – the Taste Africa Menu encompassing 7 courses of traditional South African and African fare. Notably on the night of our visit this menu offered Malay Curried Pickled Fish – a Line fish chosen for its availability on the day – Lamb and Quince Bobotie with Tumeric ‘Spoom’ (which I did not get to ask what that was) – as we had chosen the second menu option.
As an interim course a Smoked Snoek, Mushroom Tapioca Pudding is offered, before feasting on a Kudu Loin accompanied with beetroot and licorice, baby onions and confit mooli.
Concluding this remarkable Taste of Africa, prior to Coffee or Tea and Petit Fours – oh – and Rooibos tea jelly and custard, Malva Pudding and beer caramel and Turkish delight, is the Clove Panna Cotta –described as Apple Sorbet, caramelised apple and pasty cornet with butterscotch sauce.
I have already mentioned we chose the second menu option, but be assured we noted many of the other guests had chosen the tasting menu and as the restaurant is small and intimate we feasted our eyes on the magical sights that passed us by.
We nevertheless did not come second in any way. Our experience began with an amuse bouche never to be forgotten for its taste sensations and presentation. Two test tubes, one with parsley soup, the other with beetroot jelly are complemented with spiced tomato foam and potato and Parmesan puffs on curried aioli. All delicate on the palate but memorable in the brain!
I chose the Duck Liver Parfait ‘Peri Peri’ starter, amazingly wrapped in a Naartjie Jelly, which served to balance the Peri Peri to perfection and the accompaniments were autumn pickle and salted caramel. As always when you see you partner’s dish you wish you had chosen it and in this case I had reason. Peggy’s Slow Cooked Egg with cured ham, soft braised leeks, pressed mushroom and vetkoekies looked like a Van Gogh painting the colours so bright and so alive.
The partially deboned Baby Chicken with its sweet corn and barley, sweet corn custard and blood orange puree and lemon thyme was my revenge, as though Peggy’s excellent angel fish (the Line Fish of the day) she enjoyed to the full, I could sense a little envy.
We had chosen the 2-course option, as there is a 3-course choice, but somehow Lana (how can you resist that accent?) talked us into sharing the Guava and Vanilla Soufflé with vanilla ice cream. All I can add is that it was the exclamation mark on a wonderful meal.
Ryan’s Kitchen is on 12 Huguenot Road – Franschhoek
Open: Lunch – Friday – Saturday
Dinner – Monday – Saturday
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 876 4598
Peggy and her team had the first of many launch introductions to La Clé des Montagnes, their new property in Franschhoek. On a very sunny Cape day the invited guests were introduced to the luxurious four villas – Le Colonial, La Galerie, Le Manoir and La Grange. The villas are individually themed in decor and style and are set on working wine and fruit farm, surrounded by the majestic Franschhoek Mountains.
As always I am behind a microphone and explaining the days agenda to the invited guests, while they have to listen attentively.
This is the first of several launches and the Media, Tour Operators, Travel Agents and Guests of the owner will enjoy the introduction of this excellent venue – hopefully also under a Blue Cape sky.
On reflection the visit by Daniel, Tracy and young Jasper Brown was both delightful and reflective.Delightful, as Daniel, who is the Owner/Managing Director of DM Africa, a highly successful destination marketing company with its head office in Johannesburg, and his charming wife and wonderfully alert young son Jasper are simply just wonderfully vibrant and pleasant company. Peggy hosted us all at La Clé des Montagnes for a glass (or two) of local wine while Daniel did take time to inspect the property, as he does specialise in promoting Africa and the Indian Ocean to a very discerning clientele.
Reflective, as Daniel is the son of Alan Brown who I worked with in both Tanzania and Seychelles in a bygone era. Alan is (I nearly said was, but believe me still is – well – Daniel told me his Father had just got married for the fourth time!) one of the characters of the tourism industry with a formidable knowledge as a tourism marketer and he is still operational these days as the Marketing Manager for DM Africa.
Daniel and Alan are based at the World-Wide Sales Office in the UK, though I can tell from our meeting with Daniel and Tracy their heart is surely in Africa. Apart from the UK and Johannesburg, the company has offices in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe supported by representation offices in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Italy, Russia and the USA.
Apart from my obvious connection to the Browns through my long-term friendship with Alan, Daniel and his team were also responsible for bringing a Chinese Golf educational to South Africa, consisting of Golf Course owners, managers and media. A truly memorable experience, which I think personifies the company statement that they are ‘Experts in Creative Management.’
Perfectly portrayed in this picture, with the by-line ‘If there is a purple elephant we will find it for you!’
These past two months seem to have been a little travel, a little golf and a lot of remarkable meetings with old friends and new acquaintances.
One of the highlights was to be invited by Leon Plutsick to meet in Worcester for lunch, as his Shongolo Express Train was stationed there for a couple of days. Leon has for many years invited me (and ‘My Peggy’) to experience the train, especially as he has introduced a golf itinerary to complement the many off train choices on offer during the train’s journey.
What a surprise! When describing his product to me, Leon often used the example that while the Blue Train was the Mount Nelson, Rovos Rail, the One and Only, The Shongolo Express was City Lodge.
Well this could be the Rolls Royce of City Lodges, for while indeed not flushed with the cabin space or finishes of its more illustrious rolling hotel stock it has nevertheless all the ingredients to satisfy the romance of train travel.
The dining car, the lounge and bar have the exact aura made for an Agatha Christie story and immediately noticeable is the friendly attention from the trained (pun intended) personnel. While sleeping, wining and dining are the evening routines, daily excursions provide high interest in differing locations and several choices are offered to cater to all tastes.
During this brief visit I was to meet up with Steve Botha who works on the train. He reminded me that I once gave him a lift from Fancourt to Cape Town and bored him to death on the wonders of golf, which he had told me he had absolutely no interest in playing!
AND as I was leaving I was pleased to bump into Helmut and Laura Prast, friends from Cape Town who were taking the trip and enjoying a glass of wine before returning to their cabin for the evening departure.As the train was stationary Leon suggested we find somewhere in town for lunch and a very pleasant addition to our lunch was the company of Nienke Sterenborg, from Holland, who was in South Africa as an International Intern on the online magazine Spice4Life and who was on the train as part of her internship.
Without doubt Peggy and I will ensure we take advantage of this ‘experience’ in the very near future, especially with the golf options now on offer.
‘Bonsoir monsieur, nous sommes arrivés en France le 2 mai avec pleins de belles images d’Afrique du Sud dans la tête, quel beau pays.’This is a picture sent to me by the French family I bumped into in Franschhoek recently –the above statement says ‘Good Evening Sir –we arrived in France on the 2 May with plenty of wonderful images of South Africa in our head, what a beautiful country’
Oh and I immodestly add the other line, ‘Votre livre est magnifique. Notre voyage aussi, nous reviendrons sans doute un jour.
‘Your book is magnificent. Our trip also, we will without doubt be back one day.’