Where Quality is not an Issue at R450 a Month

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Vino Mafia in Stellenbosch.

I,DON’T really,want to continue harping on about the wine-in-restaurant thing, but some stupid restaurateurs make me unable to help myself. Obviously my pot-shots at money-grabbing eateries purporting an interest in wine whilst really only ripping the customer off are not appreciated by all. See, for example, the diplomatic and elegant comment from one Johan,to a previous posting on this topic.

The latest stave in the rotting barrel is Decameron. Yes, the beloved Decameron in Stellenbosch. Since the 1980’s this has been one of the most popular joints in town, serving excellent food and attracting a loyal clientele of local businessmen and winemakers among the thousands who visit the place annually.

Decameron, situated in Plein Street, closed a few years back for not uncontroversial redevelopment of the building it is housed in. Now it is back and by all accounts as good as ever.

But amongst the blister-thin pizzas, velvety pasta and tasty meat dishes, I smell a rat. And it is in the wine. And now I am not talking about the ubiquitous and irritating 250% mark-ups which us patrons have to endure.

A few local wine producers have alerted me to the fact that any producer wishing to see his wine on the Decameron carte has to fork out R450 a month for the privilege. Plain and simple.

I have a problem with this.

First: When visiting a restaurant where I am obliged to pay the mark-up, I have to swallow the establishment’s excuses for such a hike. One of them is that the restaurant has invested in staff who go to great lengths to manage the shops cellar and to select a range of wines complementing the cuisine.

The R450 monthly levy shoves this, of course, to the wayside. What Decameron is saying is that they will stock Ch?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¬teau KopKaas from Putsonderwater as long as the requisite sweetener is paid. No respect for the product itself. Pay as you flow.

This situation must really be pissing off the Stellenbosch Wine Routes, which brings me to gripe numero duo. Without the Stellenbosch winelands and the local winemakers, what reason is there to visit Stellenbosch apart from scoping out the first year students and a couple of yawn-inducing thatched buildings?

Wine makes Stellenbosch rock. Yet a place such as Decameron gives the finger to the region’s wine industry with its policy of wine selection. Stuff the local industry ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ pay me for being on the wine-list and I don’t care if your stuff is made in Parow-Noord or Pofadder.

This brings me to the third reason for pitying Decameron in its rudeness. The restaurant is frequented by wine makers who have introduced the establishment to associates, friends, business partners, et al. Yet, this courtesy has been thrown back in their faces with a mercenary and insensitive wine selection policy.

Some will call it business. I think it is common and greedy.

– Faizel van der Vyver

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7 thoughts on “Where Quality is not an Issue at R450 a Month

  1. Having lived in Stellenbosch for more than 10 years, I know that Decameron is not the only restaurant in Stellenbosch who does this. Other restaurants in town are also charging a levy under different disguises. Personally, I refuse to frequent any of those restaurants. I am tired of feeling (and being) ripped off. It’s time that all businesses in Stellenbosch learn 2 things: a student’s R100 is just as good as anybody else’s R100 AND Stellenbosch is NOT the centre of the universe – we can and will go elsewhere.

  2. Boet, there’s a HUGE difference in Decameron’s actions versus being refused BYO at a winebar. That said, the solution is simple: don’t eat at Decameron. Honestly, I think your own pasta at home would be much tastier, and if it’s pizza you want then Colcaccio is only a cork-throw down the road from Decameron. Here I support you all the way- far too many restaurants have absolutely no interest in what they’re seving wine-wise, except to make a gazillion. great pity, though- with careful planning and a not-indecent markup most places would add value to what they offer their patrons, and likely make more porfit too. But this behaviour of Decameron’s owners is atrocious.

  3. Stellenbosch Wine Routes have an initiative called the +ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-+Gö£GòæProudly Stellenbosch Restaurants+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-+Gö£+ª campaign to reward restaurants who support local wines. Restaurants who stock more than 75% local wines, have a reasonable corkage fee, offer wines by the glass from our region, and promotes the region as a whole, are named +ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-+Gö£GòæProudly Stellenbosch+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-+Gö£+ª and receive branding for their menu+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-úGö£Gòùs, a sticker to be placed on their door and receive coverage on the Wine Routes+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-úGö£Gòù website and in the local paper as recommended restaurants in the Stellenbosch area.

    We have requested a copy of Decameron’s winelist, but to date have received no reply.

    We will definitely be speaking to them about this issue, but in the meantime, visit our other fabulous Proudly Stellenbosch Restaurants!

  4. Great work Annareth. Only organisations such as yours’ can streamline this process and garner some sanity.

  5. I must disagree about Decameron being ‘as good as ever’. The new restaurant is beautiful, but lacks the old warm character. The food is TERRIBLE! it cannot be mentioned in the same sentence as Colcacchio or even Gino’s. So who cares about the wine if the food quality doesn’t even match Spur. I had the worst meal ever there (I’ve been living in Stb since 1990) about two weeks ago at dinner, and a week ago at lunch. It was heartbreaking as Decameron has always been such an important part of Stellenbosch’s culture. It seems as though there is a lot of cost-cutting/money-making scams going on as the food quality it unacceptable – this ofcourse goes hand-in-hand with the wine-money-making-issue discussed above. I think it is shameful.

  6. I fully agree with Johan and Racoon! We booked and an hour before going to eat at Decameron I read Racoon’s comments. I should have been warned ! Oh well, I thought, not everybody has the same taste so let’s go ahead and see! It was lousy. Sure the pizza bases are great – I refer to the tasty morsel brought to the table served with olives – but the spaghetti bolognese my husband ordered was nothing to write home about and the calamari salad I ordered (R62.00) would hardly feed a mouse ! It was tender but bland and the plate was the most boring I have seen in ages. A few plain lettuce leaves, tomato wedges and a couple of olives. Mugg and Bean’s salads are five star by comparison. Plates served at the table next to ours did not look attractive either so, after reading that plain ice cream was charged at R38.00 (I think) we ordered a cuppuchino (small but good) and beat a hasty retreat.
    The worse thing is that when I was paying the bill I was asked whether all was OK and I just nodded as I did not want to spoil the evening with a sour face. Won’t see us again – that’s for sure. Thanks Racoon – next time you crit a restaurant I will certainly take note!

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