Remember that hilarious clip of former finance minister Nene in a TV interview, disappearing from sight as his SABC chair collapsed from under him? Well I was a bit of a Nene at the Cape Winemakers’ Guild tutored tasting recently at Nedbank’s HQ in Jo’burg.
One second I was staring sagely into my glass, and the next I was flat on my back. Two legs of my Nedbank seat had broken off, and gravity took care of the rest.
Of course, neither Mr Nene nor I could be described as petite, and it would be tempting to argue that our chairs sensed defeat and gave up the ghost.
But within minutes of my fall from grace (and sight) the same thing happened to the far-slimmer Miguel Chan, who is chief sommelier of Tsogo Sun. Only one leg of his chair snapped off, and he managed to hold his head above the table, balanced on three chair legs as only a man whose profession involves a lot of alcohol can do.
At least the wines were top class, with some gems I would willingly pay for – once Nedbank has settled my claim for loss of dignity and a scraped elbow.
Certainly the wines were of a standard fit for this fine financial institution, and so much better than the pissy plonk which we had been served a few weeks earlier when Nedbank hosted analysts and journalists to its latest financial results.
I asked then for a glass of red, took one sniff, and then asked for a glass of white. It was drinkable but I have had better wine in economy class on many an airline. The food was enjoyed by most at both the tasting and the results presentation, but I found the plain crackers during the tasting far more appealing.. They accompanied the wines and I tucked in (once I had a fresh chair).
After the tasting, I had to ask why they would serve a massive super-sized round Brie cheese if the caterers couldn’t be bothered to mature it? In fact, I have often bemoaned the massive contrast between the superb cheeses which are made in South Africa and the plastic poop which is all too often served at functions. Winemakers and their groupies are normally pretty knowledgable about food, and can tell a fuck up when they see one. So why cut corners?
I suppose I have just been rather unlucky recently. I recently took my wine guru Michael Olivier and his lovely bride to a once-great Joburg restaurant for lunch and had an awful meal. Meat should be warm, even if it is stuffed in a burger.
The same chilling thing happened at a Pretoria café a few days later. Then during two separate outings a chum had a hair in his food at the same Pretoria restaurant – not once, but twice in a row.
Fortunately I have had one excellent meal recently at Alfie’s Pizzeria, another Pretoria restaurant which I visited for the first time the other day.
Welcoming service, great food and some well-matched wines turned a casual lunch into a real treat.
The one problem was the lack of parking, which was damm annoying, but I suppose that having to walk a few yards wasn’t such a bad thing given my copious consumption.
So what conclusions can we draw?
Apart from Nebank seats requiring a health warning and Nedbank’s house wine more suited to alcos sleeping under a bridge, I have to weep at the lack of consistency of so many South African restaurants. You don’t always realise how badly you are treated and fed until you stumble across somewhere which does it right.
The Cape Winemakers’ Guild auction is looming – on the 1st of October – and I urge you to bid. The proceeds go to transformation in the SA wine industry. Given the almost-exclusively white and male bunch showing their wines, there is a hell of a way to go.
Next up on my list of treats will be the Stellenbosch at Summer Place food and wine evening later in October.
Last year there were some remarkable wines and brandies and some pretty dull and uninspiring food options. Thankfully, the cheese was good. So I knew at once I wasn’t at Nedbank.
I wrote this on board a BA flight from Joburg to PE. We had just been served breakfast. I was given a slice of bacon which was more of a ration than a rasher, and the eggs – at least they were supposed to be eggs – were so over-salted I could not eat them.
If you can’t do it properly, then don’t do it at all. BA? Bloody Awful. Must try harder, or at least a bit.
NB: I asked for a gin and tonic on the return flight, and was offered just a tonic. I then tried the red wine. Not nice. Airlines cater for tourists and are an obvious showcase for South African wines. It is unpatriotic to pour plonk, and whoever is responsible for BA catering should be made to eat only their breakfasts for an eternity in Hell.
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