Monday, December 20, 2010

Café Paradiso

Richard Griffin has been at it again.   He has made Café Paradiso at 110 Kloof Street, Cape Town, his own.  This rather cranky old lady has been refreshed, refurbished, revamped and revitalised and under the unique Griffin imprint has become a special place again. 

For those of you that have just arrived from Mars, Richard Griffin is the wizard who creates restaurant experiences that are somewhat different, somewhat other worldly but always lovely.  He is the wunderkind behind Madame Zingara, Bombay Bicycle Club, Sidewalk Cafe and the newly reopened Cafe Mozart.( See Back Chat's articles on Sidewalk and Mozart and you will see what I mean about different.)

Over two decades ago, Frieda found this lovely old house and converted it into one of the most popular restaurants on the slopes of Table Mountain.  Serving Mediterranean food, she attracted people from far and wide eager to savour the delights that emerged from her kitchen.  Frieda eventually moved on and the house played host to a series of restaurateurs.  The name became and has remained Café Paradiso and Richard Griffin, as is his wont, has kept the old established name.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Café Mozart

Café Mozart at 37 Church Street, Cape Town, has a new lease on life.   Richard Griffin, grandmaster of   theatricality, has incorporated it into his family of restaurants.   He has revamped, refurnished, redecorated, re - everything and now the place hums with his magic.

Café Mozart has held court for over 30 years in a beautiful part of Church street.   Sunlight filtering through the trees casts a dappled pattern onto cobblestones below whilst stall-owners of the antiques street market compete for custom.   The Café is housed in a lovely old heritage building which has been part of the business scene for many years.  In 1939, a locksmith traded there.  Imagine what Cape Town CBD must have been like then!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


There is a new restaurant in the city, Hemelhuijs at 71 Waterkant Street,  the latest manifestation of Jacques Erasmus' creative spirit.   He has chosen the location well.  Surrounded by buildings whose facades have been restored to reflect their former glory and in sight of the World Cup pedestrian bridge, one is immediately awake to all sorts of possibilities.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Update to Email From America With James Plugh #2

                                                  Election Night Update
Results of Rhode Island name debate
What is in a name?

Dear Leslie,

It's election night here and while most everyone's attention is on the national picture where the Republican Party has won enough votes to take control of the House of Representatives, I've been watching Question 1 on the Rhode Island ballot.  You'll remember that voters in our neighboring state had been asked to decide if the official name of the state should be changed.  I can report that our smallest state will continue to have the longest official name.  The voters have decided by a 78% to 22% margin to retain the name, The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Now you can tell me how you would have voted.

Until next time,


Dear James,

Back Chat prefers to keep a neutral position on issues, however we can say that we are very pleased with the outcome of the ballot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Email From America With James Plugh #3

Join James Plugh as he searches for the ultimate recipe for clam chowder.  Follow him as he unravels the mystery of the Black Pearl.  

And when you have reached the end of the treasure hunt, you will be so hungry that Back Chat predicts that you will make yourself a pot of this heavenly brew.

Clam Chowder Anyone?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mao's Last Dancer

Mao's Last Dancer

Director:  Bruce Beresford
Cast :  Chi Cao; Bruce Greenwood; Kyle Mclachlan;  Joan Chen;
Producer:  Jane Scott
Screenplay Writer: Jan Sardi

Based on ballet dancer Li Cunxin's autobiography 'Mao's Last Dancer"

Every now and then a film happens along that is so enchanting, that one is totally captivated.  We were.  At times we laughed joyously and at others, we wept unashamedly.  Yes, Eugene too!

Join Back Chat on a journey through Chinese ballet dancer, Li Cunxin's, life.   This is a political thriller, a tender love story and a vehicle for some breathtaking performances of a selection of the world's most famous ballets.   Besides being an extraordinary dancer, Chi Cao who plays  Li Cunxin, is a fine actor and thus the film moves into a realm of its own.

I would love to know how you reacted to all the sensations.  Please leave a comment on Back Chat or email me at    And Take Note: This film is not just for ballet lovers, it is for anyone with a gentle heart.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Email From America With James Plugh - #2

What is in a name? 

Join James Plugh as he examines the quirks and idiosyncrasies of a name- changing dilemma in his neighbouring state, Rhode Island.   With a droll and gentle irony, he pokes fun at the whole process.

Decide after you have read his tale, how you would vote.   Back Chat has already decided

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back Chatter on Olive Oil

Olive Oil has long been seducing our taste buds. This oil in all its unctuous glory has annointed the food of princes, potentates and people of every walk of life.

Let Back Chat take you on the fascinating Journey of Olive to Oil. Enjoy the ride and if you find that you have a problem or would like to know more, please post a comment on Back Chat or email me at . I would be delighted to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Symphony Of Oils - Part 1

Oils today are in great favour.  Debate rages as to which oil to use in our food?   We love our food and we seek to prepare our meals to tempt and tantalise.


We also now know that certain health conditions preclude some oils and favour others.

How should we be using these oils and are we making the optimum choice both for our health and for our taste buds?

From a whole spectrum of oils, Back Chat will be dealing with Cod-Liver, Salmon, Avocado, Grape Seed and Sesame oil.

Here is the low-down on five of the best.

In Part 1 read about Cod Liver Oil and Salmon oil.

Please contact Back Chat if you have any questions.  You can leave a comment on the blog or email me at .   I look forward to helping you solve your problems.

A Symphony of Oils - Part 2

In part 2 of the story of oils that are available to us in the New Millennium, Back Chat takes you through the qualities and properties of 

Avocado Oil
Grape Seed Oil and
Sesame Oil
All three are excellent edible oils.
Hopefully by the end of the article, you will be confident about your choice of oil.  

If you still have questions to ask, do please contact me by leaving a comment at Back Chat or email me at .  I would love to be able to help.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Sidewalk Café

On a corner at 33 Derry Street in Vredehoek, Cape Town, stands the Sidewalk Café.  We were meeting my daughter Lexie there to enjoy Sunday lunch together.  I was instantly intrigued by the sight of green double doors. 'The Green Door' is a  short story by O. Henry, also a song from the 50's.  It describes an  establishment with green doors, behind which a "happy crowd" play piano, smoke and "laugh a lot".   So what lay behind these green doors?   All sorts of happy surprises!

We left the damp Cape winter's day behind as we entered the warmth and buzz of the Café.  It is not a huge place and while the tables are cleverly placed to optimise the space, it filled up rapidly.  One enters what appears to be an enclosed stoep.  There are tables set against a backdrop of all sorts of interesting and quirky oddments.   Then, through a  glass door to more tables and a bar counter above which hang a variety of weird and wonderful things.

We were shown to our table near the bar.  Lexie was waiting for us, happily sipping a glass of Brampton Sauvignon Blanc, while perusing the menu and enjoying the vibe of this lovely place.  In no time at all I was also enjoying a glass of Brampton and Eugene, a Windhoek light.   We decided to order before we got too involved in the detail of all the fascinating bits and pieces around us.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Duchess Of Wisbeach

Dining with the Duchess at No.1 Wisbeach Rd, Sea Point

I would never have thought that whimsy could exist and flourish in tatty world-weary old Sea Point.   But it does exist and it has flourished at  'The Duchess of Wisbeach'.

The Duchess experience starts outside the red double doors of the restaurant.  Atop tables that are set on the pavement, gas lights flicker in their lanterns.  The door is flanked by two large painted cameos of women, one languidly smoking a cheroot.   A very elegant doorman, Innocence, welcomes us and ushers us in.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Etiquette Revisited

Are you challenged, confounded or simply puzzled by social situations brought about by a technological explosion happening at the speed of light?    Pitfalls are many and manners are in crisis.

Back Chat reviews the niceties and nuances of etiquette in a new age.

This guide deals with rules of civility and also acts as a reminder that however much the rules of courtesy appear to have changed with the times - manners matter!   We need to adapt to a new etiquette.

But are you still at sea?   Do you still have niggling doubts about this new etiquette?  Then remember that help is at hand.   Contact me by email at or leave a comment on the blog.  I would love to help you sort out the tricky situations that are troubling you.

How To Behave When You Mean Business


The rules of business etiquette are unique.  It is all about communication.
You and your company will be judged by how well you communicate!
Social etiquette is based on chivalry;
Business etiquette is based on hierarchy.
Rank and authority outrank gender and age.

Does this seem like a minefield?  Are you bewildered and confused by all the possible pitfalls? Join Back Chat as we take you through the nuances and niceties of this tricky business.

If you still have problems do contact me by email at or leave a comment on the blog.  I would love to hear from you and help you solve your problems

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Bistro Sixteen82 Experience.

Approaching Bistro Sixteen82 on a road that meanders through the vineyards of the oldest farm in the Constantia Valley, we were instantly transported from the past to the present day by the sight of a huge industrial type building with automated sliding doors.  Passing through this very modern-day portal, we were met by the sight of lots of  glass,wood and sleek shiny steel.  A very lovely quiet, cool space.

Architects, Richard Perfect and Jan Desseyn have succeeded brilliantly in creating unison between the past and the present.  All the different textures blend harmoniously into a perfect whole which more than defines the sum of its parts.   In order to reach the restaurant, we strolled through the Cathedral-like space of the tasting room, the 'Cellar Door'.  Immediately we were transfixed by the sight of a huge brilliantly multicoloured glass chandelier.   This remarkable structure that has 2,700 hand-crafted resin grapes making up the installation, took two weeks to fit it into place.  It is suspended above an oval-shaped counter.  Here one can sit and have a tasting of exquisite wines and glance upwards in homage to the grape.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On The Move With Back Chat

Travelling today is no longer a casual and leisurely affair.   On the contrary, it is full of pitfalls and needs a serious plan of action.

Travellers appear to fall into two categories:  the 'bring everything you might need' and the 'bring only what you use.'   Where do you fit in?

Do you appear to be carrying all you own, or are you one of those rarefied creatures that strolls up to the check-in counter - cool, calm and unhurried.   Just the elegance of chic luggage and a relaxed expression.

Preparing to travel can be easy and untrammelled or a muddled nightmare.

From the essential paperwork to perfect packing, Back Chat gives you the nuts and bolts.

If after you have read the article, you still have a problem to solve, do contact me at Back Chat at or email me at .   I would love to help you make your travel experience a breeze.

International Air Travel Update - What You Need To Know About Carry-On and Check-In Luggage.

International air travel today operates in an era of heightened security

Packing has become a separate science. No longer do we have the luxury of bulging carry on luggage and fitting it all in! 

Back Chat gives you a summary of the do's and don'ts of what you need to know about carry-on and check-in luggage. 

For seasoned travellers this may be old hat. But for many all this will be new and possibly bewildering.  Do contact me if you need to know more about this very important aspect of modern day International Air Travel.   Either email me at or leave a comment on Back Chat. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Societi Bistro

When Societi Bistro moved from the V&A Waterfront to 50 Orange Street, it underwent a complete change of style and personality.   A beautiful Edwardian heritage house, superb food, a warm, happy and welcoming atmosphere and voila, the ultimate neighbourhood restaurant was born.

Situated just a few minutes walk away from the arched entrance to the Mount Nelson Hotel and across the road from the University of Cape Town Art School, Societi Bistro's red and green sign beckons.  How lovely to walk up to the front door along a narrow path flanked by a guard of honour of carefully trimmed small trees and bushes.  On one side there is a patio which on any fine day is abuzz with guests enjoying drinks and meals.

The dimly lit interior has the air of an elderly aunt welcoming you into the warm bosom of her home.  Walls painted in shades of teal contrast most effectively with plain unplastered brick walls while yellow wood  floor boards creak underfoot.  An antique cast iron fire place spans two rooms providing warmth and congeniality.  Lovely high ceilings and thick outside walls with deep inset windows lend a  mellow patina of age.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Email From America with James Plugh

There is an exciting new section in Back Chat,
'Email From America'. 

James Plugh, erstwhile newspaper owner and  journalist, divides his time between his homes in Massachusetts, London and Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa. 

The best part of all of this is that Back Chat has prevailed upon him to become a contributing editor!

So, from time to time, he will email accounts of his adventures, experiences and encounters.   He will keep us entertained with his wonderfully informed, humorous and sometimes irreverent approach to the world he inhabits.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Magical French Food At The Foodbarn

As anybody who has read 'Travels With Back Chat' will have realised,  Eugene and I are pretty passionate about food.  We have eaten in many parts of the world and have come to think of French food as our spiritual home.

So it is with great joy that we have become regular patrons of The Foodbarn' at Noordhoek.   Franck Dangereux is the maestro who creates the magical meals.  Originally at La Colombe, now at The Foodbarn, he is cooking for everyman and still maintaining the standards of a michelin star restaurant but without all the michelin hype.

One can eat from a bistro menu, which allows 3 courses, or from the A La Carte menu.  Both are seasonal and change often depending on the availability of fresh produce.   Have you ever seen a Frenchman or a Frenchwoman choose fresh produce?  Only the very best will do and don't rush them, it is a very serious and painstaking business. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Foodbarn Bakery & Deli

The Foodbarn Deli started in a corner of the Foodbarn Restaurant in Noordhoek Farm Village.   We all loved the cakes and the croissants, the pastries and the pies that emerged hot and steaming from the kitchen. There were all sorts of other wonderful treats to buy and buy we did.  It became part of the Foodbarn experience to wander over to the deli during the course of a meal and scrutinise the day's offerings.  The waiters knew where to find us when our food arrived at our tables.    In 2008, the deli moved across the village green into new premises with shiny bright kitchens and shelves groaning with produce.
Franck and Pete, as ever, pooled their talents in the creation of this incarnation of the deli and bakery.  The food remains Franck's domain.  Everything that is cooked or baked originates from him and is subject to the maestro's purist's eye and unshakable standards of perfection.  Pete, a passionate ideas man, handles all things commercial, from the administration to the marketing and the accounting.  Not least of all are his formidable people skills.  He is a genial and welcoming host who enjoys the company of his guests, many of whom are now like old friends.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Marika's For Amazing Greek Food.

Marika's at  38 Victoria Road, Bakoven,  is one of those very rare gems, a neighbourhood, family run restaurant serving amazing food to an adoring public.   And best of all, the amazing food is Greek food.  Yes, can you believe it and right under our very noses!

As a family we love Greek food, having learnt all about it at the table of  the late great Greek Master Chef, Strati Constanides.  I mention him as a tribute and also as an indication of the level of our expectations when we eat Greek food.  So imagine our joy when we tasted Marika's food and realised that we had come home.  Here were the long- remembered and long sought - after flavours, textures and aromas.   Life really does dish up wonderful surprises.

Marika's Restaurant opened on the 10th December 2005.  Marika Pettenuzzo and Frank Resnik are the helmsman of this lovely place.  Marika is the culinary force and her son Alessandro, a superb chef, alternates with his mother in the kitchen, producing food of the same remarkable standard.  Frank is a genial welcoming host ably assisted in this job by Fabiano, Marika's younger son.  Fabiano also waits tables and is an informed, friendly and good looking addition to the whole scene.  I told you it was a family  affair .                               

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mia Feinstein - Celebrity Dog Photographer - Pooch Paparazzo

Watch out pooches, Mia Feinstein is back in town.  You and your human may see her at any time in the course of your daily outings.   Mia of the graceful Mediterranean good looks and the shy smile, strolls and wanders, camera at the ready, looking for the next subject for her photographic library.

Mia has relocated to Cape Town after 16 years in London.    Whilst in London, she earned Pooch Paparazzo status, but her love of the craft started years before, when as an eleven-year old, she photographed her beloved Yorkie, Gucci, with a 35mm film camera.   Nowadays her cameras are the latest in high tech and many of  her subjects are the beloved and pampered pets of celebrities.

Incidentally, she has left her beloved Frankie, a miniature dachshund, behind in the U.K.   Quarantine laws make it very difficult to move pets from Britain to South Africa.  Frankie is now happily hunting rabbits in Scotland which is exactly what dachshunds with their short stubby legs are bred for.  All the better for crawling down rabbit holes.    He is featured in a photograph as a very classy gent in a tuxedo jacket, white shirt and black bow tie.

She has published two beautiful coffee table books; 'Pooches in Shades' and 'Andy Warhound Pup Art'.   Sexily packaged and presented, they now adorn coffee tables from Los Angeles to Cape Town.

I have come to interview Mia about her books, but find that it is impossible to discuss the books in isolation.  Her art surrounds everything that she does and collects, so I question her about the genesis of her career.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

'Let's meet at La Perla'

It seems as if La Perla has been around forever.  It has become a way of life for many of us.  Our children know La Perla and grew up enjoying the Italian food and became hopelessly precocious little foodies.  They knew the waiters by name and the waiters treated them like honoured guests.   There are now new generations of young gourmands being spoilt rotten.

Forty years ago, Emiliano Sandri, an Italian immigrant, opened La Perla, one of the first coffee bars in Cape Town.   It was situated at the bottom of Waterkant Street and we all flocked there.  We knew little of the coffee bar culture and were captivated by the concept.  We could sit for hours with a cup of excellent espresso and feel so liberated and continental.   The beautiful people streamed in and out and people watching became a fashionable pastime.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Grand times at the Grand Café & Rooms

It was early evening and Eugene and I were visiting the first born of the Grand sisters, The Grand Café & Rooms at 27 Main Road, Plettenberg Bay.

We entered the Café through huge double doors and the same feeling of otherworldliness that we experience at Grand, Camps Bay and Grand, Granger Bay overtook us.  We were encountering another era, another time and place.  Lights are dim and the lamps are lit.  But it is far from gloomy.  It is warm, welcoming and bewitching.

Plettenberg Bay was enjoying a balmy evening and we were shown to a table on the terrace.  This meant passing through the interior of the restaurant and past the fantastical things that are everywhere.   The terrace is cool and sheltered with a view of sea and white sands and pale blue mountains in the distance.   

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Channel Ferry Tickets

Channel Ferry Tickets

Find cheap Ferry tickets quickly - Channel Ferries a fast way to search for tickets 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vienna, Fabulous City of Music, Where Even The Horses Dance.

Eugene and I were in Vienna for three whole days, so much to do in so short a time.
Let Back Chat guide you through the fabulous city of music where even the horses dance.
We hope that you will love Vienna as much as we did.  If you would like to find out more about this extraordinary city, do contact me.  Either leave a comment on Back Chat at or email me at .  I would love to hear from you

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back Chatter on Cheese

Say Cheese
Buying cheese can be a minefield, bewildering and intimidating.  The labels are confusing as there are so many varieties of the same yet different cheeses.
Not all of us are cheese fundis and many of us are unfamiliar with 'cheese speak'.
Back Chat to the rescue
Allow Back Chat to lead you through the maze of names and processes.     We will research it together and you will become comfortable and relaxed about the whole cheese imbroglio.

If you still have doubts or uncertainties or you just want to talk about cheese, do please contact me.  Leave a comment on the blog, or email me at    I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Back Chatter on Salad Leaves

Salad Leaves - Behind The Frills

A beautifully presented salad is a many splendoured thing.  It enchants the eye and tantalizes the taste buds.
Crisp, green leaves are a vital part of our menu, especially during starch driven winter days.

Our lives are so hectic that many of us use pre-packaged washed salad leaves.  Half a salad all at once! Quick, easy and practical!   
BUT...what lies behind these pristine leaves in their puffed out plastic cocoons?    We need to know more.

Join Back Chat as we investigate.  We will follow the trail and learn more about the salad leaves some of us take so much for granted.  
If you have your doubts about anything or would just like to know more, please email me at or leave a comment on the blog.

Remember Back Chat is on the case.

Monday, January 11, 2010

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