Friday, October 31, 2008

A Change in Fo-ho-cus

So we had an awesome time last night at Relish (and then the Fireman's Arms) with 12 of the Ho's coming out to play. Once I've got all the pics from various cameras and phones, I'll post the review, but this post is to note a change in focus for our get-togethers. The Ho's used to have the sole responsibility of going out to restaurants and bars, and rating them in terms of a Girl's Night Out, right? But after 8 restaurants, interest seemed to be waning (and the wettest, coldest winter in 40 years hit Cape Town), and it became clear that a change was necessary. So last night we decided to extend our playing field, change the goal posts slightly, and give each Ho more autonomy: each month after payday, a Ho will host a Ho-Down. Said Ho can do absolutely anything she wants with her evening, provided the point remains to have fun. And chances are, this fun will include drinking and eating. Maybe not the food. But definitely the drink. In fact, if anyone hosts a Ho-Down without grog, there'll be a disciplinary hearing. Or something serious like that. Anyway, this blog will start looking at the kinds of things you can do with your Ho's, from events at houses, to bars, to parties, until another reincarnation becomes necessary.

But for now, look out for the Relish review, coming soon...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Slack Ho's

Ok. So we have been slack. So slack, in fact, that not only has a super-slack Ho not posted her review of The Nose Restaurant and Wine Bar from months ago, but we as a group have failed to have a Ho Down for quite some time. Indeed, it has been a long, miserable, wet winter. But fear not, intrepid readers - are there any out there?? - we are back and I will ensure that this blog keeps documenting the cool places that you can go with your Ho's. In terms of food and grog, of course. Clothes and make up and kak like that, you're on your own.

Next week, we are having an über Ho Down with more Ho's being present that ever before. We'll be going back to our roots, Relish Cape Town, where we will drink cocktails until Wendy's walker breaks...

So until then, I leave you with an image for the day:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Cactus That Is Beeg, Very Beeg...

This is a special review. Not only because it is written by me and not only because it has taken an unprecedented month or so to write. It is special because it is the first Honey Ho review that looks at two venues at once. We didn’t mean to, really. We were going to have a few drinks, couple of nachos and then call it a night, but alas…it was not to be so. I blame in on the frozen margaritas forced upon us by Nolene. (She was celebrating, you see.) I blame it on Danelle who emailed saying, “I don’t care where we go but please can we get drunk?!” (She’d had a hard week, you understand.) I also blame it on the chilli poppers that set our tongues on fire and made our asses clench at the thought of the morning. I could blame it on Eskom, because I can. And Mugabe, because hopefully we won’t be able to for much longer. But never, never would I blame it on the boogie. That part of the evening was fantastic!

Ok, let’s start the very beginning. Apparently that’s how you do it…

I was late getting to The Fat Cactus Cafe. Why? Because the Ho’s are usually late so I thought it would be cool. On the way, I got a mysterious sms from Nolene saying, “Was it 6:00 or 6:30 because I’m running out of frozen margarita!” and thus the tone of the evening was set. I arrived to find Nolene 2/3rds through a jug, in an excellent mood. She was celebrating something that I can’t post in this blog but it’s cool and no, she’s not pregnant. Slowly the other Ho’s arrived and soon the goss and chatter and laughter coming from our table was giving the other patrons a good run for their money! The Man in the Blue Shirt sitting at a table clearly too close to us practised his withering look at every chance he got – and was pretty good at it by the time he got up and left. The frozen margarita was flying (literally! Haidee managed to, after only just saying hello to everyone, throw an entire jug of margarita on the table. Messy stuff. However, Dan and I grabbed our straws, puckered up and drank most of it off said table. Generally I wouldn’t do this kind of thing but we’re talking about a whole jug here…eish…) and we had an awesome time.

Now, if you have ever been to The Fat Cactus you’ll know that it doesn’t have trouble getting patrons. If you haven’t booked by lunch time, you may not get a table for the evening, and Fridays/Saturdays are always fully booked. Why? ‘Coz it rocks. The food is great and pretty reasonable (although there have been some serious price hikes on their menu recently), their frozen margaritas are the best in Cape Town, they don’t overdo the chilli, they don’t scrimp on the cheese, and their chilli poppers kick ass! The décor is rustic without being manky and even though the tables can get a little sticky, The Fat Cactus balances Mexican Cantina with Local Pub perfectly. It’s is an institution. In a city where restaurants come and go, you can be sure that the corner of Durban Road and Caledonian Road will be home to this Mexican tribute for a good, long time.

There is a flip side to being an institution, though. If you have been going to a place for so long, you notice trends in the menu, the clientele, and most importantly, the service. And at the moment, the service is not as slick as it used to be. We used to walk in there and the waitress would know what we wanted without having to ask. We’d chat about what she was up to, what we were up to, and it was cool. Like being part of some kind of family or group, or something. Ok, maybe it’s a big ask for a successful and busy restaurant to offer this. Maybe it is an understood and acceptable compromise that a restaurant makes in return for bigger bookings. Or is it? There are a number of restaurants that manage to be successful and still leave you feeling like you are a part of something special. Anyway, the busy-ness of the Fat Cactus means an amped vibe but significantly slower service, and the high turnover of waiters there means that from one visit to the next, you may get the feeling sometimes that you’re just a number. (Except Chris. He was fantastic! And appears to be very happy wedged between the Ho’s!) But, hey. The food is still awesome and the Full Combo Platter rocks the house, and I guess you go there to eat with friends not to make friends. But there’s just a certain special something that I miss there these days.

So, fat on chilli poppers, nachos, frozen margarita and more disparaging looks from The Man in the Blue Shirt, we decide that we have to hit a dance floor. And right now, the best dance floor in Cape Town is DecoDance at the Old Biscuit Mill. It is possibly the most unpretentious space in Cape Town – which takes some doing in these parts – and no matter what you are wearing, what you are drinking and what your level of sobriety, you will fit in. Absolutely. The music is a throw back to all the stuff that the Cornerhouse used to play and that no one else seems to play on dance floors anymore. Why? 'Coz DJ’s forget that there are other people out there who are over 21 years old and who don’t always want to hear electronic music. Sometimes a slamming electric guitar is essential. The décor here is awesome: plush red carpets, paired movie house seats, old photos and images on the walls, and the obligatory black and white chequered dance floor. My only criticism is that R30 is a bit steep for couvert charge before you even start drinking – and their drinks aren’t that cheap – but hey. What would you pay for an excellent evening out? For us Ho’s: whatever it takes! So we poured into DecoDance (a few Ho’s had had to go home already) to continue to pogo the night away. The others may have been dancing…who knows. All I know is that coordination seemed to get trickier as the night went on. And why, oh, why did we end up in an ice-block-down-the-neck war with one of the staff members?! Very mysterious but damn funny!! So, well done, Ho's: truly an exceptional match of dinner and dance venues for an outstanding evening!

Quote of the evening:
“Fat girls don’t have the monopoly on body issues.”

Honey Ho Rating (these are only for The Fat Cactus as DecoDance is a little hazy...):

*Toilets – 3. A little too small and I hate having to negotiate the toilet just to open the door. But generally clean and good enough for you to do what you need to.
*Price – 4. The prices have gone up quite a bit but then so has food in general.
*Food – 6. Awesome!
*Ambience – 6. Buzzing and vibey.
*Decor – 5. What you see is what you get. Works perfectly.
*Service – 3. Service has become too slow and the waiters differ hugely in attitude and people skills.
*Value Added – Nah, nothing extra thrown in. But they will give you a litre of frozen margarita to take away if you bring your own bottle!

*Ho Rating – 11!! Pick up the phone a book now!

Tel: (+27+21) 685 1920

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tucking into Thai at Yindee’s

22 Camp Street (Corner Camp & Kloof Streets), Gardens, Cape Town.
T: 021 422 1012 F: 021 422 1014

On Koh Samui, a beautiful island in Thailand, where the exotic food is a main tourist attraction, "Yindees" means welcome…

For Starters: Yindee’s specializes in ‘authentic Thai cuisine’ so, if lemongrass, coconut milk, lime, peanut and chilli are flavours you enjoy, then this could be a dining spot for you. Arriving just after 6pm, we were greeted with wide smiles from the waiters and snatches of Thai lingo. The place itself is how I imagine Thai style to be – modest, hospitable and respectful with an appreciation for simple goodness. It’s that ‘restaurant in a house’ setting that I kinda like once in a while – it’s warm and intimate, with separate rooms for group dining without that ‘industrial’ feel some bigger restaurants have. Décor is simple with no glitz or frills. Decorative Thai prints and intricate, handcrafted puppets adorn the walls.

We started with drinks, obviously. I tried my first-ever traditional Thai beer and it was delish. Singha and Chang were two on the list. Otherwise they offer the usual spirits plus a comprehensive wine list with wine by the glass at about R20+. Cocktails were more expensive than we’re used to, especially for the tumbler glasses they are served in. And the margarita wasn’t great apparently. Bubbly is a standard at Honey Ho’s and we found what we wanted (right?).

The Main Course: Our table of 10+ was in a room of our own so it had all the good feelings of dining at a friend’s house. Unfortunately the stereo speaker didn’t work so we were sans music but sufficed with conversation and laughter (always interesting and abundant!) while choosing what to eat. The menu is full of dishes that are interesting to pronounce and the descriptions were mouthwatering. It’s the familiar Thai fare – stir fry, soups, salads, satay, noodles and curries. Vegetarians would be right at home but, if you like a little meat, there’s chicken, meat, prawns, seafood and duck to choose from. We tried a bit of everything – satay and stir fry to line fish, traditional curries and pad thai. The curries were as hot and flavourful as we wanted them, the soup was ‘fantastic’ and the pad thai was tasty and satisfying for some (that was me – I was starving), but disappointing for others as there were none of the extras (dried chilli, sugar, soya sauce, fish sauce, limes, bean sprouts and ground peanuts) that it’s traditionally served with. Also, one meal arrived a little later than all the others, so we twiddled our thumbs for a minute or two. When it came to taste, most meals scored between 7 and 8 on our impromptu scoring system. Two small things I liked – cold water served with sprigs of mint (refreshing!) and chopsticks (I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I don’t eat Thai often enough and I guess I’m just used to the lazy knife and fork option).

Overall Yindee’s is a welcoming place that’s good for an evening of casual dining or giggling with a group of girls. And it’s popular, even on this Wednesday night.The place was quiet when we arrived but, by 10:30pm when we wandered out, there were very few empty tables.

Something sweet to finish: According to the web, Yindee’s kitchen is run by head chef Nirun Kong thong, and assisted by his two sisters, Wilaivan Kongtong and Onanong Kongthong. The fact that their surnames are spelt differently is not because of any profound, eastern meaning. Apparently it’s simply because, at the passport office in Bangkok, each Konthong translated their name into the English alphabet as they thought best. So, in true Thai styles, their names are "same same but different". I like stories like that.

Need-to-know Info:
Opening hours: Lunch - Mon to Fri: 12h30 – 14h30; Dinner - Mon to Sat: 18h30 – 23h00
Smoking section: Yes (although we obviously weren’t in it as we had to indulge outside).
Booking is recommended.
Parking: Could be tight as it’s a busy, popular area.
Wheelchair access: Not really as there are quite a few steps into the different rooms, although it might not be a problem if you’re dining in the front area.

Scoring criteria:
Toilets: 3. Basic but clean, which works for me.
Price: 4. Around R60 – R100 a plate plus a bit extra for drinks.
Food: 4. A good variety of tasty, satisfying dishes (but you’ve gotta like Thai).
Ambience: 4. Unintimidating; good for a relaxed, casual night.
Décor: 3. Modest, neat and no-fuss, but with all the essentials.
Service: 4. Our waiter was friendly, polite and there when we needed him. Thanks :)
Value-added: 1. No complimentary extras that I saw.
Ho rating: 4. Good for an evening of casual, frivolous, fun-filled dining and drinking.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rick’s Café Americain

First Honey Ho’s meeting of the year – promising lots of juicy holiday goss and a welcome chance to get a bit jujjed and kick back girl-style. The evening started with me executing a brilliant parallel manoeuvre into an insanely small parking space outside Rick’s Café on Park Road, off Kloof. I was chuffed that we’d managed to find parking at all (this being Friday night and all) until I got out of my car and noticed the HUGE off-street parking area on the side. In terms of security, Rick’s is great – good area, busy street, off-street parking and car guards. Lovely!

The décor inside is elegant but not intimidating – there’s a hint of 20’s chic wrapped up in jazz lounge possibility. Downstairs is the (smoke-free) restaurant area, separated by a screen from a lively (smoking) bar area. Upstairs is another (smoking) lounge area and a beautiful outside deck with its own service bar that is available for functions. Oh, and the toilets are really nice as well. Not very exciting but clean, simple, and with wheelchair access.

Right-o, now for the most important part – drinks, and food! I’m a beer drinker most of the way and beer generally slides down well in any setting. But, beer in hand, I had a squizz through the wine list and drinks menu to get a feel for what was on offer. The wine list was impressive, if a bit pricey, and there was a good selection of carafes available; those not in the mood for wine could make a selection from the cocktail, beer and spirit menus – all of which were pretty extensive. Only negatives in the drinks department were not being able to bring our own wine/pay corkage and a limited choice of champagne. (Not that that stopped some of the more intrepid Ho’s.)

Once we’d done a basic catch-up and had some liquid in us, we turned to the food menu. Quick note here: larger tables need to put in their orders as soon as possible, especially on busy nights, or alternatively ask in advance for the set menu, which looked really yummy when we had a look through it. I ended up going with a double order of chilli poppers (small obsession) which were absolutely superb!! I have eaten a few chilli poppers in my time and none of them came close. This was the king of all chilli poppers! I even woke up the next morning wishing I’d taken another order to go… The general consensus about the food was that it was delicious. Off-hand I can only remember some of the other dishes we ordered (Fish & Chips, Chicken Brochettes, a Vegetarian something) which isn’t very helpful, I know, but have a look at their website where the menu is very nicely laid out. Other Ho’s, feel free to fill in the gaps! The service was great. Frank managed our various queries and requests calmly and efficiently. Not so easy when you’re dealing with nine crazy women. So Frank, you totally rocked dude!!

On one of our smoke breaks at the very lively bar, Ali and I met James, the Financial Manager of a cosmetics company, with an unequalled capacity for tequila. After we’d finished eating, he surprised our table with a checkers packet full of sample cosmetics. The next few minutes were spent in an acid moment of make-up absorption, much to the amusement of our neighbouring tables. It was a great evening and we all agreed as we sat at the end of the evening sipping our Johnny Black that Rick’s Café had turned out to be the perfect spot for our first meeting.

Scoring Criteria

Toilets: (4)
Price: (5) Great spot for a Ho on a shoestring budget: meal, drinks and Johnny all for under R150
Food: (5) Scrumdiddlyumptious
Ambience: (5) Alchemical combination of super-coowil venue and FABulous company!
Décor: (5)
Service: (5) Yes Frank, that’s you!
Value Added: (No rating) I saw evidence of snacky things on the tables when I arrived but the early Ho’s had done a good job of dispatching anything that may have been edible.

My Ho rating: all you Ho’s out there looking for a good time – grab a bunch of your mates and hit up Rick’s for an EPIC evening!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Welcome to The Honey Ho's!

Firstly, don't judge us by our name. We were drunk and it seemed funny at the time. And, like those unattractive University nicknames that just seem to stick, The Honey Ho's never went away. So here we are.

We? We are a group a fantastic women who get together regularly to check out new bars, restaurants and venues in Cape Town with three specific points of interest: food, drink & atmosphere. Finding new places to go in Cape Town is easy. Finding places with reasonably priced food, interesting drinks and a great vibe is a bit trickier. While researching places to go on the web, I found I wanted an opinion not a menu. I wanted to chat to someone who had been there, who could say: Wow! What an awesome place! or A little pricey but worth it. or Jesus Christ! Run for the hills!

Being the astute young individual I am, I saw an opportunity for us to have some fun: do what we would do on any other Girl's Night Out, just review the places that we go to and put our findings up on a blog. Call it culinary research or investigative entertainment or something like that. Bottom line is, this blog is about having fun. One of us will "review" the most recent place we have been to, post it on the blog, and if we want, the rest of us will comment. If you care, you can read it and maybe it will help you choose a place to go next time you are looking to have a night out. If it sucks, well, isn't that the beauty of blogging?!

The Honey Ho's will be starting the 2008 adventure with a night out on Friday 18th January. Obviously, we won't tell you where we are going just yet because you'll have to watch this space for details. That's if you care, remember?

Until then, look out for the next post after the 18th as well as the development of this blog with pics and menus and other interesting things.

Here we go, ladies! Drinks on me...