Restaurant recommendations

You will not believe how many emails and text messages I get every week asking me to recommend a restaurant. Now I don’t mind occasionally helping out with a recommendation but it’s kind of annoying when I am given no criteria. This is my worst, which I received today (and hopefully the sender reads this and sends me a better request):

“I’m looking for a restaurant reccomendation for the Cape Town city bowl area – nothing tooo fancy but good food and worth going to.”

So, there are plenty of great restaurants in the city bowl. You don’t want it too fancy, does that mean it must be fancy but not too fancy? Good food? I’d take that as a given, and worth going to as well. Basically the only restaurants you have knocked off the list are Ocean Basket and Spur and even the Ocean Basket might fit the criteria.

These are the things I need to know:

When? This is a really important piece of information because of you want it for tonight then most of the places I would recommend won’t have space at this late stage. If you’re planning ahead, then great, I can recommend freely.

How many people? If you’re booking for 2, you could sneak into some places but if you’re looking for a table for 8 then you could have a problem especially at short notice.

Budget is also very important because good restaurants range from reasonable to unreasonable but I’d recommend them all.

Any food preferences? Comments like “we can’t eat seafood” or “my wife is a vegetarian” really help me to recommend appropriate places.

Location is important, this particular request mentioned the city bowl which is a good. Some people want a restaurant in Cape Town including the winelands.

Ideally you would tell me what sort of food you like. Steak, Thai, etc. Or even better, tell me some places you went to and liked so I can think of a similar place or tell me some places you went to and didn’t like even.

This may seem like a lot of information to compile for a restaurant recommendation, but let me let you in on a secret: It takes me quite a while to think of appropriate suggestions and the less info I receive, the longer it takes. Why should I do all the work for you? I’m quite disinclined to respond to recommedation requests with no criteria.

While we are on this topic, if I had R5 for everytime someone asked me what my favourite restaurant is or which is the best restaurant in Cape Town, I would be very wealthy. Let me answer these questions for you right now.

I do not have one favourite restaurant. Depending on who I am dining with, what I feel like eating, what area we are in and how much money I have, there will be an appropriate restaurant. I seldom eat at the same restaurant often.

As for the best restaurant in Cape Town, again this is a difficult question to answer. There are several really top restaurants and at that level it’s difficult to choose one as the ultimate. Besides, I don’t have the money required to be eating at the top level restaurants in Cape Town all the time, so I’m not the best person to ask this question.

Thank you for listening, rant over.


  1. Brendon February 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

    get over yourself dax – it was just a simple request – with no criteria because i dont know much about restaurants and just wanted a general list of good restaurants to attend – ones that you might be inclined to always recommend.

    if you are so tired of getting requests why dont u include a search criteria tool on your blog that links to defined categories in your blog posts?

    will save you the great hassle you mention.

    indeed if i had R5 for every wine reccomendation email i receive then I too would be very rich – but i dont treat a reader like you just have – using their request to publicly rant. in fact i go out of my way to reply and make sure they get what they were looking for.

  2. Kong February 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Ag, I agree with Brendan, Dax.. what happend to you.. get over yourself dude, if they give you a vague request, give them a vague list.. but don’t be a$$ about it.

  3. Candice February 17, 2010 at 11:28 am

    i’ll stick up for you here dax. i hate people asking me questions this random. i work with students, so you can imagine this happens to me a lot!

    i totally understand the idea that people are actually expecting a lot out of you when they give you so little information to work with… why don’t they just read the reviews on your blog and decide for themselves? (laziness i suspect)

    AND most important, i think people maybe don’t understand that this blog is NOT your full-time job and you’re not getting paid to do it. therefore, if someone emails you out of the blue and asks a vague question like that, they should start out with being impressed that you actually bother to reply, out of the goodness of your heart.

    so i think maybe these people should get over themselves and make up their own damn minds.

  4. Nick February 17, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Hey Dax

    I’m looking for a place to eat somewhere in the city, pricey but not too pricey, formal but relaxed and casual, pretentious but modest at the same time, popular but cosy and intimate at the same time. So what’s a nice place to go to?

  5. Brendon February 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    candice i think you have misunderstood the ethos of blogging. it is not emailing out of the blue – it is engaging with someone who runs a blog that invites community participation in the discussions. thats the whole point.

    i run a blog. its not my full tiem job and i dont get paid for it. but i answer every email i get politely because i value that persons readership.

    how hard woudl it have been for DAX to reply with a simple email saying:

    Hey brendon

    flattered that u may value my opinion and im not sure exactly what you are after but here is a list of five restaurants that never let me down:

    societi bistro
    and union

    take your pick mate, they all good.

    if you can provide me with a more specific list of requirements i might be able to help u out more.

    cheers dax

    instead i am directed to a blog post where there is a public rant and dax has put himself above his reader.

    when just the other day i asked a question and it was used for the current poll you see on the home page – a nice way to use and abuse a reader if you ask me.

    and by the way i went to magica roma – great spot, had a great evening – wasnt even looking for that type of restaurant or italian food for that matter – but a colleague recommended it.

  6. Hila February 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    It’s like going to a restaurant and asking for “a” beer. If you live in South Africa and drink beer you know what beer you like so say it. Just the same, you know what food you like, you dont have to know restaurants and like Candice said…this blog is full of recommendations, use them.

    Maybe your day job isnt as demanding as Dax or maybe you actually dont care enough to put a lot of thought into your replies because Dax made it clear that he does and so doesnt just flippantly recommend things, he has also built a reputation that he doesnt need to toss away on a template email and then you come back and say “Dax recommended this place, I thought he knew his stuff but this place was AWFUL, he must be talking out of his ass” and unfortunately bad opinions travel faster then good.

  7. Moi February 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I agree with Brendon. Blogs are a place to play nice. No need for rants and flames especially when we come here to RELAX with this guy DAX not RANT2THEMAX….

  8. Nash February 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    ‘Something worth going to’ Haha!
    I’m with you on this one Dax. What the hell kind of question is that?

    Seriously though, I’m looking for a romantic, yet not clichéd, restaurant to take a chick to that serves food that isn’t too warm or too cold on plates that aren’t too small but still fit on the table nicely.
    I want to eat something that goes well with red or white wine but not at the same time.
    It would be perfect if the restaurant was somewhere between Paarl and Cape Point as I don’t really want to drive further than that.

    Any suggestions?

  9. Brendon February 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    the reason i emailed dax to ask for a recommendation is because I valued his opinion and because I was open to suggestion (and interested in engaging in conversation about it).

    if someone has no preferences when it comes to wine choice (or beer) but would like a wine reccomendation – would it not be a tad rude and arrogant of me to belittle them and their question with a public rant?

    i didnt have any criteria and was looking for and open to suggestions – not a public rant.

  10. Marc February 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Brendon – you’re a bit sensitive – Dax was using your example to suggest how one could make the request differently to enable him to give a more appropriate answer. So what if a little bit of irritation came through. His point seems valid to me. Public rant would only be appropriate to you if Dax had involved you personally. Was pretty obvious to me he was talking generically. You seem to have made it personal to you through your response. Think you should give him R5.

  11. Andrea February 17, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Hear hear good comments Marc…R5 to Dax.

  12. Bugsy February 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Hello all, hope you had a wonderful day, good to see that there is a bit of banter going on as this is what a blog is all about. My personal view is that people have a choice to give out their experiences for free or at a cost. Dax gives his recommendations out for free, gratis, Mahala, with love (for his passion that is). I think Dax has written this blog not to ridicule Brendon but to give people a better idea on how to ask for recommendations, there were NO names mentioned and it was NOT personal. So my recommendations to Brendon (not that he will want them or need them)is to chill and maybe take the advice and learn from it. Recommendations to Dax is blah blah blah blah YOU ROCK.

  13. Dax February 17, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Hey, you guys have been having a party here without me! It’s been a busy day, so no time to formulate a response. I’m tired but better say something, although it seems the commenters have said what I want to say anyway.

    Firstly thanks to all who have commented, and a special thanks to those that stood up for me.

    I apologise to Brendon for making him feel that his request was unwelcome. I didn’t mention who it was from and I did send a personal email mentioning this post, expecting that I would receive a follow up email with some criteria. I wasn’t expecting that it would cause so much upset.

    I wrote the post late at night, and reading it now I realise I could have been a bit more subtle. The rant was not directed at the author of that email, it was a post I had been planning to write for a while as I get emails like that all the time and so it was just unfortunate timing.

    I am happy to assist people who email me (especially fellow bloggers) and have always done so with care and interest. That is why I like to have criteria because I pride myself on being able to recommend the right restaurant for the right occasion. I have received many compliments on my recommendations.

    Also, when there is no criteria and I make some recommendations I often get an email back telling me they did not like those restaurants or they were too expensive or whatever. It’s not a great feeling.

    If you’re wanting a suggestion for the same night, I won’t recommend Jardine as it will be full, but I’ll recommend it if you’re looking for a place in a week’s time. The criteria really does affect my suggestions.

    I hope that helps to explain where I am coming from.

  14. Simon February 18, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Nice reply Dax but I really don’t think an apology is warranted.

    Brendon, if I am honest, your request smacks a little bit of laziness. Dax reviews places all the time. If something catches your attention make a note of it so when you do need a restaurant you have somewhere to head for.
    Failing that there are a plethora of websites around that list a multitude of eateries in and around Cape Town. Off the top of my head will provide you with loads of places and almost every entry has a review or two by previous diners.

  15. Rocky February 18, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I agree with Simon – no apology needed from you Dax. I think Brendon’s request was totally lethargic and having someone do the thinking on his behalf, without any considered thought from himself, does make it a pain-in-the-ass task that I think most people would’ve ignored. Kinda like the same principle if you’re offering to buy a round of drinks and someone says “Get me anything” – well, thanks. Will that be a cup of tea, a glass of water, a bottle of tequila or a big cup of HTFU and show some initiative, please?

    I’d HATE to think what some folks do in a grocery store when they’re planning to do a grocery shop. Dax – maybe you could suggest my shopping list for me next time. And nope, you can’t have any criteria.

  16. Brendon February 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    for the record – i read relax with dax almost daily, read all the reviews and most of the comments. i read other food blogs and consulted eat out magazine. so not lazy at all.

    my email to dax was simply to engage with a fellow blogger about a topic i though he would know more about than me. my question was a introductory line that would hopefully lead to a conversation on the topic.

    by admission i had an over reaction to his post because i thought it was a tad rude – i do agree with some of his sentiment in the post (sometimes though, people have no criteria when searching for a good restaurant so how do you help those people? what do you suggest to them?).

    anyway let bygones be bygones, i think i got my point across and a heated debate is also never the worst thing.

  17. Andrea February 19, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Ah, if only our politicians could be this mature. Well done guys.

  18. Rene February 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    actually – its like i get requests daily for a new development were doing and the requests go like this “send prices, sizes” No “Dear …… I would be interested if you could advise me what size apartments you are developing and the prices you are asking. Thanking you ……” – none of that – people are rude at times – I am not saying you were Brendon but yes when one has to answer the same question on a daily basis and people are not specific it does get a bit irritating. So now for my question – What is “Bungalow” like in Camps Bay for a sat. night for fish???? Hoping for some replies. Thanks

    1. Dax February 21, 2010 at 8:09 am

      Rene, this response might be a bit late for Saturday night but it’s not that helpful anyway so it doesn’t matter. I haven’t had a meal there, only attended the launch and had drinks there.

      I believe the menu is more tapas style. Feedback was initially not positive but it has been looking busy lately so perhaps things have improved.

  19. M February 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    RE BUNGALOW: We sat at the bar one Friday evening in Dec, just wanting a drink. Excellent cocktails, very friendly service, and a wonderful location. Although we were there when it was some promotion in Camps Bay, so there was a jazz band just outside the restaurant, which added to a lovely atmosphere.

    We decided to order a salad to snack on. Not good at all. The ingredients didn’t match the place, which is so upmarket, although the price and nouvelle cuisine did! Can’t remember the price, but at the time I thought it was outrageous to charge so much for a few bits of iceberg lettuce, some slivers of UNRIPE avo, a few more slivers of halloumi, a few bits of nuts, and about two cherry tomatoes.

    I would definitely go back for a drink at the bar, the hostess and service staff are so friendly. But not to eat, but that might be because they don’t have one vegetarian main on the menu. That also goes for their sister restaurant, Cove, next door. Incredible.

    I don’t think it’s tapas — I saw others ordering large meat and fish mains.

  20. Rene February 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Dax and M – yes unfortunately it was too late for your responses but thanks anyway. My daughter (from london) and her fiancee went last night and they thoroughly enjoyed their meal. Its certainly not “tapas” – its full meals. They ordered the line fish which was “yellowtail” and said it was excellent. It came with chips or rice or small salad, no veggies which she said wouldnt suit me. Portions were apparantely not that big. They thought the vibe was great and the food good.Lots of “fish and seafood choices”. She thought that i wouldnt enjoy it though. I have been to Kove for the winter specials and I must say it was excellent. I do know the owner Paul but he didnt know that we were there or that my daughter was there .
    He owns Pepenero in Mouille Point and Paranga. Anyway, my daughter is also a fussy eater (not as fussy as me) and she said she would definitely go back.