Reviews

Recent posts

Dreaming of a Narina Trogon in Braamfontein

The perfect setting for a quiet lunch where the bustling streets are muted can be found in the heart of Braamfontein. Narina Trogon, a sophisticated and stylish restaurant has a subtle presence in the part of the city that is constantly buzzing with student activity. Our lunch was drizzled with a silent magic that exists within this uniquely designed restaurant.

Meticulously curated, it reflects the ideas of its owner. American-born Carlyn Zehner, an art curator by trade, who moved to Johannesburg in 2006.After decades of living in New York City and London, she brought into fruition her dream of owning a restaurant. She has put much care into every detail from glassware, furniture, lighting fixtures right down to the salt cellars and teapots.

81 De Korte Street is the home of Narina Trogon, a perfect location for passers-by keen to grab a quick coffee or light lunch however, not ideal for guests planning to graze all day as parking along the street is limited. We eventually found parking – which tested my parallel parking skills to the maximum!

The restaurant’s striking green mosaic facade and wide-street side windows welcomed us into a blendof urban renewal with a strong design ethos. We made our way into the main dining room which seats up to 80 people. The venue also consists of a small courtyard and two smaller dining areas, which, with retractable glass screens can be converted into private or conference spaces. Continue reading

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

Be mesmerized by the Mosaiek

For the working folk, Saturday is the best day of the week. One gets to sleep in. See friends; do some shopping; have a long, slow coffee. Feel good about life, the universe and, if not everything, at least most things. An event that certainly left us feeling good was the Metro FM African Masquerade hosted at the Mosaiek Teatro in Fairlands, Johannesburg.

Three of the country’s most soulful artists, Kabomo, Unathi and Zonke graced the stage of the state of the art venue in celebration of Metro FM’s 26th birthday. Themed “African Masquerade”, people from every corner of the country poured into the sophisticated Teatro wearing masks and fashionably dressed.

Adjacent to the Teatro is a smaller sized venue, Viaticus, which was prepared as the VIP lounge for guests to mingle and enjoy an African cuisine before the start to the musical extravaganza. It was already half full when we arrived with couples occupying most of the couches. The bar was lined up with inviting drinks – of course we helped ourselves to one or two.

Sounds of Unathi and Kabomo’s music flowed through speakers as the lounge gradually filled up and conversations got us in the mood. At 7pm, an upbeat house song invited people into the main theatre were magic would soon ignite. Guests gathered in the spacious foyer, some stood at the front desk to collect their complimentary tickets. Continue reading

Mango’s new mobi hits the sweet spot

I have to applaud Mango Airlines. While all the other low budget airlines are struggling to keep airborne, they’ve come out with something fairly revolutionary (in South African terms) - a mobisite with booking capability!

I’ve said many times how great it would be if more businesses would enable actual booking, ordering and purchasing capabilities on mobile and this is an example of someone thinking ahead and realizing the possibilities!

The question remains whether Mango have done a good job with it. I tend to say, yes. It’s simple and effective with no frills and that’s something we like in a mobisite!

They’ve put all the focus on booking so there’s very little else on offer. When you click on “Book your flight” you can follow the exact same process you would on the main site to do just that. The writing is all legible and the process completely optimized for the mobile platform. They could have simply replicated the web experience but it would have been clumsy and ineffective. Thankfully they realized that.

If you already have a booking you can check your details easily using the “My Booking” link. I think it’s great that they also have an “Important Update” section – presumably for customers who are on the move and need to know if there have been any major delays etc.

I only have one complaint about this very smart and seamless mobisite. The special offers are not displayed or offered anywhere? I know for a fact that Mango are running a 24 hour sale today, but nowhere on the mobisite is there any mention of it.

The mobisite is very new though and perhaps this is something that will be added in the future. Overall I love the clean, hassle-free interface. It’s fast, efficient and extremely handy.

Well done Mango for leading the way and understanding the true power of the mobile market.

9/10

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?

5fm’s mobisite is a chart flopper

It would have been so easy to create a really cool, interactive mobisite for 5fm. I would have loved to have told you to go out there and check it out immediately because it’s just so brilliant and fun and awesome, but I can’t. All I can tell you is that it sucks.

I’m not sure why 5fm would choose to ignore such a crucial area of their brand. The market they appeal to is the mobile generation. They broadcast in Africa, where the majority of internet users go online on their phones and a great deal of people enjoy listening to the radio on their phones. So why is their mobisite so dismal?

Let’s start at the beginning. You wouldn’t know they even had one if you didn’t search expressly for a mobile option. There is no redirect from the main site. The home page is unexciting and, like the rest of it, features mostly barely legible writing matched with teeny-tiny pixellated images drowning in a sea of black background.

There are three reasons I, as a listener, would want to access 5fm on a mobisite and all of them involve interaction: to engage with DJ’s, to listen online and to enter a competition.

The only way I can interact with a DJ is to click on their profile and email them using a contact form. The DJ profiles are so basic, they don’t even have a Twitter handle or Facebook link in case you’d want to interact that way.

In all the menus of the mobisite, not one gives you the option to listen live! You need to exit the mobisite altogether and search or head to the main site to find the live listening area.

The competitions are is pretty dismal too. Both comps invite you to call in to enter or tell you to go to Facebook. Nowhere can you enter a competition directly from the mobisite. There’s a Coolness Radar promotion happening, but the only way you can take part is via Twitter. Why not just add a few buttons where people can vote right away? I don’t find this very cool…

I’ve never really liked the main website. I find it disorganised and unattractive and even though they’ve made some positive changes, navigating it still makes me ill and this mobisite has the same affect on me.

One can only hope that some of the advertising revenue from the Steve ads is going towards designing new mobile applications for 5fm that will actually allow their listeners to get involved no matter where they are!

2/10

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

McDonalds mobisite is lacking in taste

For some its’ an occasional guilty pleasure, while for others it’s a do or die daily affair – I’m talking about McDonalds. It’s quick, easy and often more affordable than other healthier options and ultimately McD’s know that convenience is King.

I’m just not sure why they (McDonalds SA) didn’t remember that when they created their mobisite. It’s simple enough, but I just expected so much more from a big brand like this! Interactivity? A few fun extras for the kids? PRICES?
Yes, this is the strangest thing. They have an entire menu on this mobisite (and website) with not a single price in sight?! Do they take for granted that people are so familiar with their meal deals that they know the prices off by heart? Do they think the pretty pictures will lure you in no matter what the meals cost?

All I know is that I’ve never encountered a menu with no prices on it on a website or mobisite. Add to this the fact that the menu is the main focus of the mobi and you’ve got to wonder why they even bothered? Although the menu tab on the front page looks as though it should close so that you can view the other areas clearly, it doesn’t and results in unnecessary scrolling – plus, in my mind it just looks a bit messy and unfinished.

On the plus side, all their latest specials are highlighted on the top of the home screen in turn as well as under the Promotions tab. But the promotions are such a huge part of the McDonalds experience, I’m surprised that they didn’t do something extra to make them jump out at you or incorporate something like competitions or kids games to entice and delight their littlest fans who, let’s face it, are there biggest and most captive audience? Their main site has a ‘Kids Zone’, why not add it to the mobi?

The Store Locator is very basic, doesn’t give you the option of GPS location and I couldn’t help but notice that my local branch’s address was incorrect.

All of this, to me, results in a mobisite that doesn’t really add much to the company and certainly doesn’t reflect the massive popularity of the brand. It just seems a little careless. Maybe they’re still busy with it?

3/10

Finding your Bliss in the city

While meandering through a series of specialty boutiques, restaurants and art galleries at 44 Stanley Avenue in Milpark, you will find Bliss, an oasis that offers an opportunity to escape the hurried streets of Johannesburg and recharge before launching back again.

Nestled in the serenity of 44 Stanley, this chic and sophisticated lounge serves to offer an atmosphere of bliss from the doorstep. Black and pink boutique chairs stand decorative against crisp white walls and floors. Inspirational quotes written on a chalkboard encourage guests to live the bliss experience through the tapas-style meals, sushi and cocktail offerings on the menu.

Classy patterns and brightly coloured cushions adorn the corners of this upmarket restaurant. Owner, Katleho Tsoku joined the 44 Stanley community 2 years ago when she opened her doors to embark on an unknown journey. She says her sense of style caters to a particular niche. The look and feel of Bliss is unique to her and resembles nothing else found on the streets of Johannesburg. Continue reading

KZNPO’s mobi hits the high notes

In an age where classical music seems to be dying out and national orchestras not always well supported, it’s exciting to see that the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) has a mobisite. Embracing digital media to market their brand is a major step in bringing classical orchestral music to the masses.

The overall design of this mobisite is great. I like the look and feel a lot. The colours and images chosen really suit the KZNPO brand of class and sophistication as well as creativity. The buttons and tabs decorated with music notes especially are a cute touch that endeared the site to me immediately.

As far as content goes, there’s quite a lot going on here. That said, it’s all valuable. The About Us section details the history and current state of the KZNPO, lists the musicians and staff, advertises vacancies by instrument and gives all relevant information on booking the KZNPO for functions.

 

Under the World Symphony Series, you’ll find event listings for all up-coming performances in the series. I was impressed that this was kept up to date and each event had comprehensive information on the works to be performed etc. This is definitely one of the most important areas of the mobi. This is the info music-lovers will most likely need on the go. That said, there’s an ‘Featured Event’ button at the top of the Homepage too. When clicked, you won’t find anything there. This led me to believe there were no performances, until I looked under the World Symphony Series section. In the same area is a Photo Gallery button, which also currently has no pics. Granted, pictures probably aren’t high on your priorities for this mobisite, but I’m of the opinion that, if the button/tab exists, it should take you somewhere/ serve a purpose – otherwise, get rid of it.

The Community Engagement area is also chocabloc with valuable content from their youth development strategy to (very interestingly) and invitation for new scores!

Under subscriptions, you’ll find everything you need to know in terms of buying season tickets, including a full price model and benefits. This, to me, is also an extremely important area. Maybe so much so that it needs a flashing ‘Buy Tickets’ button on the Homepage? Just a thought…

Overall I think the KZNPO mobisite is well designed and contains a wealth of information – though sometimes I feel like it’s a bit wordy for a mobile platform. They should consider reworking some of the blurbs so that people don’t need to read quite as much to get the point.

8/10

Oppikoppi aint for the faint of heart

It was Thursday morning and the town of Northam was already swarming with would-be revellers collecting last minute supplies from ice to toilet rolls and wetwipes and making the most of that last toilet stop. (Boy, if I’d only known then…)

It was clear from the onset that this was not just a gathering, but a full-scale production. From the massive entrance to the moneyless cards we carried all weekend, you can be sure it was all Oppikoppi branded.
After collecting our armbands in an orderly fashion, we proceeded to get lost for the first time on the campsite roads. We had a map. We tried bravely to follow it. But the map and the corresponding bushveld are just not as compatible as one would hope.

Fast-forward about 20 minutes of blasphemy in the bushveld and we found our friends and the campsite. After hacking through thorn bushes and massive tufts of stubborn grass, we cleared almost enough space for our accommodations. Time to get lost again on the way to the entertainment area. You’d think it would be easy. The koppie is visible from all around, but somehow those sneaky, dusty roads kept getting the better of us.

Getting into the festival area involves crowding through one of three underground tunnels, which can leave you, at best, gasping for air and at worst, in the midst of a claustrophobia-induced panic attack. Not my first clue that Oppikoppi aint for the faint of heart.

With two stages requiring fairly substantial climbs to reach and the other four stages (yes, SIX!) spread out in a long row around the base of the hill, physical fitness (something I’m not familiar with) is a definite bonus. The performances are excellently scheduled so that there are minimal clashes. At this point I must mention the incredible Oppikoppi smartphone app, which I downloaded a few days before. For as long as my phone had battery, it was a total winner! After marking all the bands I wanted to see, the app would send me little reminders before each show. The map and stage schedule were both put to great use. Continue reading

Pick ‘n Pay’s mobi is a modern shopper’s dream

Personally I feel that Pick n Pay are doing a lot right with their current marketing strategy. Their Smartshopper cards build loyalty and their website invites continual interaction by giving customers the option of signing up and creating recipe books and grocery lists online. These are the kind of touches that appeal to a modern-day shopper like myself.

Now, with their mobisite, they’ve added a new level to that functionality, giving their shoppers the chance to access their grocery lists and recipes from their phones.

While the main site is sprawling and choc-a-bloc with information and options, they’ve resisted the urge to add all of this to the mobi, which is wise.
Instead, they’ve chosen the key areas smartly, including a store locator, specials, recipes and then the member content – the recipe book and grocery list generator.

The store locator is a bit odd. One would think a brand as large as PnP with so many stores would choose right away for a GPS location-based solution. Instead, you have to pick a province/area and then type in a keyword to find your nearest store. The problem is, the results differ depending on what keywords you enter! For example, I typed in Durban North, but my local Hyper did not come up. Only when I typed in Hyper did it appear. Surely it would’ve made more sense to just give the user the option to find their closest store via GPS or even simply pick a branch off a list based on their nearest suburb? 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

I found my art space

I love art. In fact, it’s one of my personal escapes that I embark on when I’m in dire agony regarding the flaws and evils of the world. Witnessing somebody else’s masterpieces and creations gives me a great sense of euphoria and yes, I do believe there is such a thing as “good art”.

Still, I find it funny how, when an artwork is deemed as “bad art” or somewhat controversial in any manner, art critics and art lovers, even artists, are quick to to say: “no. Art is subjective”.

It’s still no excuse not to broaden horizons and tap into the greater depth of creativity.

ArtSpace is one of those galleries that don’t refrain from giving originality a shot at expressing itself by challenging the norm as well as society – the way we think, in fact! ArtSpace is one of the few galleries that contribute to changing the face of art and creativity.

When I graced this creative den and submerged myself in Uwe Pfaffs masterpieces, I felt reacquainted with the surreal – you know that surrealistic state you experience when dreaming? I felt the nonsensical make sense, the intangible traced its’ texture on the palm of my hand and that was brass and copper-plated steel that he uses to create his works.
Flower Blower caught my eye. In fact, a lot of Uwe’s works got me in that artistic space where I tilted my head and tried to discover the abstract truth and tried to dismantle it in order to understand and see what my eyes wanted to see. Continue reading

Wimpy’s mobi design is a WIN

There’s nothing worse than when a big business or organisation has a mobisite that just doesn’t match their brand identity at all. It stinks of someone just not putting in the effort.

But Wimpy have come to the party with a mobisite design that is fresh and uncluttered and ultimately represents the Wimpy South Africans know and love. It’s bold and playful but delivers all the essential content.

I particularly like the layout of the home screen. With four simply but eye-catching red blocks, they’ve effectively told you quickly and visually what you can find on the mobisite: the menu, the store locations, contact details and current promotions.

Again, some thought has gone into what Wimpy consumers will want from the site. I know that one of my highlights of going to Wimpy is checking what new promotions they have on arrival. It’s important to maintain something like this though. Too many businesses add a specials area to their mobisite (or website) but fail to update the information regularly. This only leads to disappointment and frustration for loyal customers.

A fun aspect of the mobisite is their Emoticon Builder app. Running alongside their Smiley mug promotion,the app can connect with Facebook and allows you to create your own unique smileys – something which, let’s face it, everyone wishes they could do on Whatsapp or BBM! It’s things like this that keep the Wimpy brand (and mobisite) fun and playful, but ultimately add up to great marketing.

Another positive thing about this mobisite is the fact that you can choose to either search manually for a store or allow location information which will find the nearest one to you. Most mobis generally have one or the other.

The menu is also nicely done. It’s a lot of information but it’s neatly tucked away into accurate categories that make browsing simple. The writing is small, but not illegible and the vegetarian options are clearly visible.

The only thing that could improve this mobi is if you could actually place an order for delivery using it. (That said, I’m pretty sure Wimpy doesn’t do deliveries.) It’s fantastic and proves to me and other Wimpy-lovers that Wimpy are serious about the growth and evolution of their brand.

10/10