Author Archives: bianca.coleman

Bianca Coleman is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment journalist with an insatiable appetite for all the good things in life - food, wine, music, film, theatre - and the people who make them happen. She lives in Cape Town, and somehow finds the time to be a television junkie.

Flying through the air with the greatest ease

You’d have to be a little mad to allow yourself to be strapped into a harness, hoisted 30 metres into the air, then pulling a release cord that sends you plummeting into a free fall at up to 90km an hour, right?

Either that, or you can just be conned into it without knowing the details. Shame, that’s what I did to my best friend Christy the last time we went to Ratanga Junction.

The theme park will open on Friday (September 28) for the school holidays and is without a doubt, one of the funnest (yes, it is a real word) day out you can have with your clothes on. The ride to which I am referring above is the Sling Shot. Ratanga is probably most famous for its Cobra rollercoaster – now branded with a sponsored name but it will always be the Cobra to me – but the Sling Shot delivers a massive dose of adrenaline. Continue reading

Dive into an underwater wonderland

The Two Oceans Aquarium is, I believe, one of the shining jewels in Cape Town’s tourism crown.
But being Monday and all, allow me a small confession: I live in Cape Town. I love Cape Town. But man, oh man, I hate the holiday crowds. This especially includes children.

Yes, I know – they’ll be unleashed on the world once again next week and you’ll be looking for somewhere to take them; the aquarium is perfect for that. It’s pretty and it’s educational. Fun and awe inspiring even. But if you are like me and prefer to take your edification without being surrounded by hoards of screaming waist-high, ice scream-smeared creatures, then do yourself a favour and sneak off for a few self-indulgent and calming hours.

Entrance to the aquarium is not cheap, but if you plan to go regularly, get yourself a Soul Mates annual pass which offers unlimited access for a fraction of the price. They’re sneaky; you’re going to have to delve into their website a bit to find it, but it’s there and represents huge savings. Even buying your normal day ticket online is less expensive, so do your research.

Inside the aquarium a world of underwater wonder awaits you. The “Nemo” tank near the entrance, with its clear cavity into which you can immerse yourself in a cloud of swirling clown fish is a huge attraction for young and old. I suspect there are plenty of adults who wish they could fit in there.

Again, doing this with little ones or doing it as a grown up are two different things. As the latter, you can take your time and appreciate the magical beauty of marine life you’d never otherwise experience. Not all of us are cut out to be scuba divers. Continue reading

24 hours in paradise

It’s a sorry state of affairs when you sneak off for a weeknight getaway in the winelands and you pack your laptops, external hard drives, USBs and flash drives because you intend to work while you are away.
As it turned out, we couldn’t connect to the wifi at Holden Manz and the 3G was iffy. It was all we could do to manage to keep the world updated with our pictures on Instagram. So, work went very quickly out of the window and I swear it had nothing to do with the complimentary bottle of estate rose in the room, nor the pre-dinner drinks. Not even the wine with our meal. The lack of connectivity was a blessing in disguise, forcing us to kick back, relax and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings, excellent food and great company.

The Franschhoek valley is one of my favourite places in the Western Cape. A little – okay, a lot – more commercial than it used to be, but that’s mainly in the “village”.
I visit fairly often, but this was the first time I had reached the Monument and turned right. We stopped to take pictures of orchards of blossoming fruit trees on a glorious not-quite-yet-spring day before turning off to Holden Manz, where the Franschhoek and Stony Brook rivers converge on the 22-hectare farm.

The Cape Dutch-style guest house and spa has a light, airy communal area with couches on the deck overlooking the lawns, gazebo and small lake complete with Egyptian geese. The long courtyard has a water feature filled with monster Koi, and everywhere you look there is art. For all intents and purposes, the Holden Manz guest house is a gallery.
Instead of the high tea laid out, we klapped that first bottle of wine on the patio of our room, with its view of the vineyards and mountains. In the right light, and if you squint just so, you’ll be able to spot the massive elephant in the rocks; the region was once called “Olifantshoek” (Elephant’s Corner) on account of this.

The cellar, wine tasting room and restaurant are situated a short distance away. It can be walked, but we drove to our dinner prepared by executive chef Cheyne Morrisby, who has cooked for celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss – and now us. The menu is tweaked seasonally, and the estate tries to grow as much of its own produce as possible; the next day when we took an exploratory stroll accompanied by the enthusiastic trio of resident dogs, besides the orchard and vegetable garden, we discovered a coop full of chickens and turkeys. The former are so far earmarked for eggs only, but I suspect the gobblers will see their fate come Christmas.

Cheyne’s menu is deeply Pacific Rim inspired, with lots of coconut, miso, lotus root and so on. Presentation for several dishes is artful arrangements of colour and shape on unglazed black tiles.
Miss Christy started with the recommended warm Asian mushroom salad with cucumber kimchi and braised pistachio puree which was delicious. I had the grilled tiger prawns (thankfully entirely shelled, lord I hate having to take the face off my food) atop a perfect lemon and pea risotto with garlic croutons, also good.

We followed with duck breast with sweet miso, sweet potato puree, and red wine and star anise syrup for her, and pork belly with sweetcorn and cumin puree, coconut and potato dumplings (a bucket of those to go, please), soy and maple, lotus root crisps, and airy crackling for me.
I had to admit defeat but Christy had the Belgian chocolate mousse with salted caramel to finish. I had more wine.

When we got back to our room, the fire had been lit to warm it in anticipation of our return and I embraced my inner cavewoman by feeding it into a roaring blaze. With more wine, of course. Bliss.
Needless to say, the next morning got off to a very slow start and it was extremely difficult to get out of the wonderfully comfortable bed.

We eventually declared ourselves presentable enough not to frighten anyone and took our breakfast, of Earl Grey tea and what Christy claimed to be the best eggs Royale she’s ever had, in the dining area.

It was with great reluctance we finally headed back to the smoggy city. So what if we had to work all weekend?

Pretty as a picture at Petticoat Parlour

You would think that every woman adores a day at the beauty parlour or spa, but surprisingly, that’s not true.
Astonishingly, there are those among us who go their entire lives without a mani or a pedi – and unfortunately that shows quite hideously sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood behind someone in a queue who is wearing sandals, displaying nasty dry, cracked heels. There is no excuse, ladies! Your feet work hard for you, it’s only right that you look after them.

Perhaps you’ve been for a treatment and it hasn’t been the best experience of your life, and that can be a bit off-putting. Yes, it has happened to me too…the environment is not comfortable, the therapist is over familiar or disregards your request for more (or less) pressure while massaging your shoulders, or you have hygiene concerns. There isn’t anything much worse than walking out of what should have been a wonderful, relaxing – and let’s face it, not inexpensive – few hours not feeling, well, wonderful and relaxed.

I have been to many spas and had many different treatments over the years – I consider regular visits to be a necessity rather than a luxury – and luckily most have been good, with a few dodgy ones in between. It’s take a while, but I have finally found my favourite to which I will now remain ever loyal.

Petticoat Parlour is not only utterly gorgeous to look at but every time I have been there I have felt completely pampered in every respect. It’s owned by Wendy Chait, model, mother, businesswoman and a walking advertisement for the benefits of proper beauty regimen – the woman is breathtakingly stunning. Continue reading

New venue plays its cards right

Aces ‘n’ Spades is the newest place in Cape Town to throw itself on the mercy of the fickle herd which determines who makes it in the nightlife scene, or who breaks.
It officially opened last weekend, following a very special first night event at which former Just Jinger front man Ard Matthews launched his new solo album.

Let’s talk about the venue first. It used to be Boo Radley’s. Little has changed in terms of layout, but the redecoration is extensive. It’s a long narrow place, with a bar almost entirely down one side, with a seating area on the other divided by a wall with faux stained glass windows depicting iconic sugar skulls.
In this seating area, there are leather ottomans and banquettes, wooden barrel tables, and comfortably worn Middle Eastern carpets. One wall is wood panelled, while the other is painted black, covered with a collection of stunning and striking black and white photographs of different sizes, in different frames. Upside down table lamps hang from the ceiling.

Above the bar, lights are incorporated in to a looping tangle of thick ropes, and the centre piece on the leather-upholstered wall is the head of a wild boar, or warthog; my knowledge of such animals is sketchy, as is my familiarity with models and the like. Apparently Kate Lovemore, Playboy Playmate in March this year, was at the Ard Matthews party. I know this only because a photograph was posted on Aces ‘n’ Spades Facebook timeline. In fact, I know less about models, clothed or not, than wildlife; heck, I can’t even recognise Heidi Klum unless she is with Seal.

The other celebrity I spotted that night was Masterchef SA judge, restaurateur, chef, consultant, author, teacher and long time friend Pete Goffe-Wood, who is a big fan of Ard’s. He and more than a 100 other fans packed themselves in for this momentous occasion, which was his first performance in Cape Town with his new backing band, The Ard Matthews Affair, comprising John Ellis (Tree 63) on guitar and Josh Klynsmith (Gangs of Ballet) on drums. Ard of course handles vocals and bass guitar. Continue reading

Two Oceans unveils a fresh new look and menu

Besides that mountain, Cape Point is one of Cape Town’s – if not South Africa’s – most famous landmarks, and the 7 750 hectare nature reserve forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, a declared Natural World Heritage Site.

There are a few enduring myths about Cape Point, such as it being the southern-most tip of Africa (it’s not) and it’s the place where the two oceans, Indian and Atlantic, meet (they don’t). Okay, yes, they do flank the point but visitors who expect to see a clear line where the warm currents blend into the cold will be disappointed. You’ll also be told there is an abundance of buck, baboons, birds, zebra and fynbos. This is all true, but you will have to spend some quality time there to see all of it. Except the baboons. They are fairly high profile.

Cape Point and the reserve are spectacularly scenic and as a lifelong Capetonian I definitely recommend visitors try to fit it into their itineraries, whether for the beauty, hikes and trails, or the maritime history which has seen many a ship fall foul of the infamous “Cape Of Storms”, so named by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.

While there, lunch at the newly revamped Two Oceans Restaurant on the False Bay cliffside will provide a meal with one of the most breathtaking views money can buy.
It’s the first time the restaurant has had a facelift in years, and while it is pretty much guaranteed a captive market (the only other food available is from the snack shop next door, or you can take your own picnic), it can now proudly say it is part of the attraction of a big day out in Cape Town.

And a day out it is – no matter which direction you approach it from, going to Cape Point is going to take a long time, especially in peak season when the queue of cars creeps slowly through the entrance point, and you have to be bussed from a remote parking area to the restaurant and funicular.

Heading the kitchen at Two Oceans is executive chef Phil Alcock, who has worked with culinary luminaries such as Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc, as well as at The Cellars-Hohenort and The Showroom Restaurant with Bruce Robertson here in Cape Town. After a stint at the Palazzo in Johannesburg, Phil returned to Cape Town earlier this year to breathe new life into the Two Oceans menu, bringing it up to the international standards expected by tourists from all over the globe. Continue reading

A little slice of heaven

Style – you either have it or you don’t. It can’t be faked but it can be learned.
Jacques Erasmus, owner of Hemelhuijs, has it in abundance and it is manifested in every aspect of the restaurant.
As an artist and designer, the interior is constantly evolving; long lapses between visits will mean an entirely new canvas of eye candy every time. Meticulous attention can be seen in every detail, from the charcoal black salt in shallow bowls with mother of pearl spoons (looking deceptively like caviar from a distance) to freshly squeezed juices in vibrant colours served in glass carafes.

Hemelhuijs is more than just a uber chic restaurant where even the frumpiest of us can feel grown up and sexy, merely by association, but a showcase of Jacques’s many talents. The homeware on sale is his own range, and it is from here that he works not only as a restaurateur extraordinaire but consults with those who seek to tap his creative talent.

Last week it was the setting for a select group of ladies who lunch. Or aspire to, achieving it through the magic of it being our jobs. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it. The menu has a strong focus on traditional Afrikaaner comfort food, elevated with modern twists, and we were invited to sample at will. Luckily most of us were friendly enough to share our plates so we got to taste a variety of delicious flavours over and above our own orders.

The milk stout braised beef brisket topped with snails and oyster mushroom butter is a firm favourite, as are frikkadelle in cabbage (I know these as “ou mense onder komberse”, or “old people in blankets”, which somehow just doesn’t translate well). Other lunch options include porcini mushrooms with persimmon and feta, pan fried lamb kidneys with brandy cream and Marmite toast soldiers, and a warm baby beetroot, roast duck and walnut praline salad with naartjie. Continue reading

Hot diggity dog!

Gourmet pizzas? Check. Gourmet burgers? Check. Gourmet hot dogs? Yes, check.
On A Roll Dog Kitchen in Mowbray was opened about six months ago by a real, talented chef, Peter Ayub.
By which I mean to say, this is not some greasy dive dishing out bulk viennas in a colour which does not naturally occur in food.

At this retro-styled diner, decorated in vivid yellow and red (mustard and ketchup, geddit?), you’ll find a menu of delicious dogs, all of which are served with a bowl of hot, crispy shoestring fries and three little pots of chilli and garlic paste, gherkin relish, and Portuguese prego sauce on the side.

When I first went to On A Roll back when they first opened, they were serving the wide variety of sausages on an almost equally variety of rolls. The wow-factor was raised with additional exciting toppings but I had a few criticisms at the time.
The first was that the rolls overpowered the sausages. For me a hot dog is all about the sausage; the roll is merely there to transport it to your mouth. The ciabattas and sour doughs, while being “gourmet”, made the dogs difficult to eat – toppings slid off, and the poor sausage was lost somewhere in the middle.
Also, at that time, the fries were served separately, which pushed the overall price of the meal up way too high.

You can still order an extra side dish of fries, by the way, as well as potato salad with buttermilk, Swiss chard and crispy bacon; Mediterranean roast vegetables; garden salad; corn on the cob with chilli butter; and a chickpea, lentil and pepper salad with orange and chive vinaigrette. This is Chef flexing his culinary muscles. Continue reading

Delaire Graff is a work of art – on every level

The problem with visiting Delaire Graff on the Helshoogte pass between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek is that it will ruin you completely for any other visit to the wine lands.
The location and view is breathtaking, the interior design is vibrant, uber-stylish and exciting, there are artworks upon which to feast your eyes and your soul.

The wines are delicious and the food is simply spectacular. It’s hard to write about it without sounding like a gushing teenager with a new crush, and I will probably use far too many adjectives.
They even have a diamond shop and a boutique with Italian clothing and Murano glassware, for heaven’s sake!

From the moment I arrived all I wanted to do was take photographs. The tree-lined driveway leading up to the wine tasting lounge, cellar and restaurant is populated with life-size human sculptures with outstretched arms, their faces raised to the sky. I am not really an arty person as such, but I could certainly feel the sentiment there.

The occasion was a media lunch to showcase chef Christiaan Campbell’s new menu, and the reopening of the restaurant following an intensive, month-long refurbishment of the kitchen which has introduced cutting edge culinary technology including a Josper charcoal-burning oven that delivers instant heat at extremely high temperatures. Central to the kitchen’s layout is a bespoke Charvet cooking range from France with energy-saving features.

That’s all very nice and I am sure Christiaan and his team are super excited about it. What matters to us as diners, however, is the end result. I don’t really mind how they do it, and what magic goes on behind the scenes; it’s about what is on the plate. And that, I can tell you, is superb.
We met in the elegant tasting room where a baby grand resides in the corner, and a magnificent fireplace spans almost an entire wall. Everywhere you look there are large, bold, contemporary sculptures and paintings which inspire a sense of awe, drama and beauty. Continue reading

Get your kicks in the Karoo

Want to get away from it all, but with the option of either lazing around all weekend doing nothing, or having a bit of a jol? I have just the place for you.
The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is about two and a half hours drive, without stops, from Cape Town on the legendary Route 62, which runs all the way to Port Elizabeth – a scenic and infinitely more interesting alternative to the N2. Okay, well not exactly on the route itself, but down the sudden and unexpected right turn off the wide place in the road that is the Barrydale most people know.
From Cape Town you take the N1, turn right at Worcester and right again at Robertson. This puts you on a very long wine route, one of the longest in the world, they say – which is always a good thing.

The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is one of those beautiful old-fashioned small town places where the locals all hang out in the bar and are very friendly (sometimes overly so), where visitors come to loll in the gorgeous lounge areas decorated in quirky queer style (lift the cushions on the chairs, if you’re not a prude). There are just 15 individually created rooms. Some are basic, some are more extravagant, all offer comfort, peace and the creature comforts you need, like tea and coffee. This is not, however, the hotel you come to watch TV in your room.
I’ve been there three times in the past year, each time in the company of musicians playing gigs in the bar, so by definition, they have not been entirely relaxing trips. Continue reading

Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry

Who doesn’t love the blues? Not the kind most of us get on a Monday morning, but the music genre that has its roots in the deep south of the early 19th century and has influenced hundreds of musicians ever since.

With its basic 12-bar chord progression and repetitive narrative lyrics, it’s a sound that comes from the heart and soul. There is a certain amount of gut-wrenching sadness in the blues, but it fulfils one of music’s most essential requirements: it makes you feel something.

Not only are the blues the foundation of many other genres like jazz and rock ‘n roll, but it lends itself so well to collaborations and jamming between like-minded musos. If your blood runs blue, you can get a regular fix of this magic in action at Mercury Live, on the second and last Thursday of every month.

The Bluestown Sessions have been running regularly since September last year, organised by Charlene “Charlie” King, herself an accomplished blues singer, songwriter, promoter and all-round hard-working tireless champion of the blues.

The venue, Mercury, is of course also something of a legend, a decades-long supporter of the local music scene. Everyone who is anyone has played that stage, and crammed themselves into the tiny, dingy backstage area with its graffiti-covered walls, tatty couch, guitar cases and bottles of Jagermeister.

There have been nights when we have packed in there like sardines for some of the biggest names in South African music – and some internationals too; and others when it takes on a completely different atmosphere and vibe. Like for the Bluestown Sessions. Continue reading

Saturday afternoons will never be the same

There are plenty of places around the Mother City where you can get your fix live music, in a variety of genres. Most, but not all, of these take place after dark.
Sometimes you just feel like a li’l bit of a midday boogie…maybe with a delicious meal and a few refreshing beverages thrown in for good measure, right? Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you Rolling Stone Saturdaze at the Fat Cactus.

Rolling Stone magazine has been an international brand for decades, its finger firmly on the beating pulse of the global music scene. Our homegrown version launched late last year and has already become the must-have publication for all music fans, both in print and online. So when they decide to initiate a monthly music event, you sit up and listen.

Rolling Stone Saturdaze, the brain child of digital editor Anton Marshall (himself a successful musician) has only been running since June, and judging by last week’s, it’s already established itself as a firm fixture on the event calendar.

It takes place at the Fat Cactus in Gardens, supposedly from 11am on the last Saturday of the month. The time is fluid and flexible as any Capetonian knows. It was a grey day so my own start was a bit slow. Arriving closer to 1pm, I thought I would be distinctively and very fashionably late, but the band had only just started playing.
There was already a good crowd, which continued to grow, and the vibe was fantastic. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many of my friends in one place at one time, all out to support and socialise. Continue reading

If you go down to the Mill today you’re in for a great surprise

Fireplaces! We love venues that have great big roaring log fires, especially when said venue is in the wettest part of Cape Town.

This week we visited the newly opened Josephine’s Cookhouse in the historical Josephine’s Mill in Newlands, where the highest rainfall is recorded annually. As a result, the trees and plants in the area are lush and green, and at Josie’s – as it is already becoming affectionately known – reaps the benefits of that with a beautiful outside deck surrounded by greenery, running water, and the mill itself.

The interior is glass-walled for what estate agents like to call inside-outside flow, so you lose nothing of this tranquil view. And when the sun slides behind the mountain, troupes of men in overalls and gumboots start magically appearing with crates of logs to build a massive fire. It’s all rather delightful.

Josie’s is brought to us by the creators of the very popular Societi Bistro in the city bowl and Societi Brasserie in Tokai so you’ll immediately notice certain similarities in food style and pricing. There are some menu items you’ll find at all three, like certain pastas, but each has its unique dishes. What is consistent across the board, however (and I have eaten more than once at all three, for the record) is that quality of ingredients is never compromised thanks to passionate chefs like Stefan Marais, organic, free range and sustainable produces is used wherever possible, and the results are delicious.

They also have a lovely approach to wine, with a wide selection, many available by the glass or carafe. It being a gentle sunny afternoon I sipped delicious Simonsig chenin blanc while my (currently) teetotalling and vegetarian best friend knocked back lemonades like there was no tomorrow. I don’t judge. Continue reading

Award-winning wines on your Doorstep

Cape Town is famous for many things. The mountain, obviously. The beaches, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch, and of course, its winelands.
The winelands make me happy. Whenever I drive into an area where vineyards suddenly start appearing, a feeling of calm and wellbeing descends upon my world. Drinking the delicious nectar of the fruit of those vines doesn’t hurt either.

Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are our biggest and most well known wine producing regions, but there are other small valleys which should not be overlooked. The one in Durbanville, for example.
Its proximity to the Atlantic ocean and resultant cooler climate make it ideal for producing particularly great sauvignon blancs, although a wide range of reds and whites emerges from the 12 wineries in the area. Many of them win prestigious awards, and the other day a group of renowned wine writers were invited to taste some of them. They also invited me, although I am not entirely sure why because I could never be a proper wine expert. For one thing, I cannot spit, only swallow. But I do have a healthy appreciation (okay, love) of wine, and enormous respect for wine makers, who are part artist, part scientist, part agriculturist, part poet. If only more people knew about the blood, sweat, tears and passion that is inside every bottle of wine. Continue reading

Brunching for the brave

Hello. We are Capetonians and we love talking about the weather.
Perhaps it’s because we have so much of it in one day, unlike the rest of you in Durban and Joburg.
For example, last weekend when we went to the 12 Apostles Hotel for the Saturday jazz brunch, we left a sunny city bowl, drove over Kloof Nek and descended into a chilly, damp, foggy Camps Bay. You just never know what’s on the other side of our famous mountain.
It was a bit sad because I had been looking forward to sitting outside on the deck and savouring the spectacular view of the ocean across to Lion’s Head, but at the same time it was quite wonderful to be enveloped in the ethereal mist, with just the faintest glimpse of the foamy waves breaking on the rocks below.
Inside the Azure restaurant, however, it was cosy thanks to our table right next to the (gas) fireplace. Continue reading