I am so attached to Montagu…
And this is (one of the reasons) why..
The backstory to my affinity with this pretty town on Route 62 revolves around the Arts, innovation and excellence (more about that on my next posts). Between 2012 and 2015, I made an annual pilgrimage to Montagu as a ballet adjudicator at the Montagu Music Art Dance and Drama festival aka M.M.A.D.D. The festival launched in 1995, driven by teachers, the Montagu tourism office and helpers. In 2011 Helen Gooderson took the reins, a Montagu local with a background in theatre and a passion for young people. In the same year she also registered the Rural Arts Development Foundation (R.A.D).
The much anticipated festival is now in its 24th year and thanks to invaluable community support, it is thriving. M.M.A.D.D offers an excellent opportunity for talented youth from Montagu and beyond to have an adjudicated performance platform, while offering developing talent the chance to network with artists from schools around the Western Cape and with industry professionals from across the Province.
R.A.D & BluVines
M.M.A.D.D and R.A.D was my window into Montagu and was the reason for my recent return, four years after my last proper visit. At Helen’s invitation, I was there to take a closer look at what’s happening at BluVines, the newly opened restaurant owned by Richard Weilers that multi functions as a performance space for a group of R.A.D alumni. What a privilege it was, and is, to see talented young men like Mark, Mbulelo, Aviwe and Antio in their dual roles as waiters-come-performers, efficiently serving guests and then switching into show mode mid-service. It was a full circle experience for me and brilliant to see the R.A.D ethos realised and gain understanding of what BluVines has thoughtfully established.
The visionary behind the Blu
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests”. Eleanor Roosevelt said it and at BluVines, Richard Weilers epitomises it. Watch him work the room and it becomes apparent why the restaurant is making a name for itself. Unless travelling, he is always there, in the moment and hands on, making anyone who crosses the threshold feel warmly welcomed. When chatting to him, it becomes clear he is a Montagu patriot as he explains how, from its topography to the prevailing sense of community, the town resonates with him on every level.
Formerly the C.O.O of Tsogo Sun, Richard has taken his customer-centric philosophy from the blue chip corporate sector and effortlessly transplanted it into BluVines, the chic eatery that he opened just a few months ago.
The BluVines cuisine is delicious – a combination of Asian, South African and modern European. First up though, can we please talk about the grilled grapes and deep fried camembert because I’m obsessed. Phyllo pastry replaces the usual breadcrumb coating and once done, the oozy triangles are served with chilli tomato compote and grilled hanepoot grapes on the side. Have it – you can thank me later. James (who sings too!) and Sean are at the helm in the kitchen and Roland is the in-house barista, doing a great coffee by Truth.
On the wine and spirits front, Bluvines is also the home of Mimosa Wines that are handcrafted by Bernard Hess, owner-chef of Mimosa Lodge, together with industry legend Lourens van der Westhuizen of Arendsig. Don’t forget to do a tasting in the stylish venue alongside the restaurant.
And if you’re feeling for something sweet with a subtle kick, the ‘black widow’ milkshake is for you, made with vanilla ice cream and a shot of 8 year old Mimosa brandy. It’s like a decadent liquid dessert.
Richard worked on the BluVines project with Clive Biden, a local furniture maker, home designer and artist. “I needed BV to compete in style as if I was doing this development in London, New York Dubai or Cape Town. We wanted the feel to be mysterious, unexpected and minimalistic.” He has captured all that and the result is an elegant space, with a glam edge, sans any hint of pretentiousness.
BluVines is the first building on your right as you enter town – look for the charcoal wall and the tree chandelier and voila, you’ve arrived. It is open every day except Wednesday and Thursday, from 09h00 to 18h00, for breakfast and lunch. Reservations are via 021 614 1663. On Social, Follow Bluvines on Facebook and on Instagram @bluvinesexperience
The 24th Montagu Music Arts Dance and Drama Festival is on from 14 to 24 August.