Cape Town restaurant review: avoid Kuzina

Cape Town restaurants have a bit of a reputation of not being fond of the locals during the busy summer months – and then of complaining during the colder winter months that the locals aren’t supporting them.

This evening we saw another example of this misguided behaviour at Kuzina restaurant in the new Cape Quarter in Green Point.

We were a party of 20 successful professionals out celebrating a friend’s birthday, and had booked the private room at Kuzina. We ordered a couple of platters, a few of cocktails, we each had something to eat and drink. We had good, friendly service.

It’s the first Friday of September, a beautiful evening – yet the restaurant was fairly quiet – there were only another 20 or 30 guests in the restaurant. Not exactly a “pumping night” – rather the kind of night where most restaurateurs are grateful for the business they get.

So I was very surprised at how a discrepancy on the bill was handled by the manager.

We’d had some cocktails during the evening – choosing these from Kuzina’s separate cocktail and drinks menu. When we ordered the main course (in many cases the steak) – 4 of us each ordered a glass of red wine as well. The drinks menu listed only two options of wine by the glass – an “Asara Ebony” or “Asara Ivory” at R25 each.

When we received the bill, however, the amount charged was suddenly R34 a glass, and for a totally different wine. That’s a 33% higher price than was expected.

We paid it, but D went to go and speak to the manager about this not being acceptable. How the price we pay should be the price we’ve seen on the menu.

At this point it might be interesting to note that the bill for our party was in excess of R5’600 – in the order of R280 per person. Not exactly small change. At least 3 of the party had been to this self-same restaurant the week before – so it was not a case of a once-off “let’s try it out” visit.

Anyway – after watching D speak to the manager for a good 5 minutes, I wandered over just in time to hear her say something along the lines of, “well I’m sorry. But the staff should have told you that the price on the wine list is applicable, and not the price on the cocktail menu”. (We hadn’t seen a wine list, and had in fact received at least 4 cocktail menus on the table).

It was when she mentioned that the cocktail menu “doesn’t actually exist” that I lost my patience. I told her that the menu very definitely exists, as I had had it in my hands earlier. And that it is against the law to charge a price different to what is shown. And that I don’t appreciate her stealing from her guests.

I was firm, a little het-up, yes, but never violent or loud. She didn’t have anything to say except “we don’t steal” and “that menu doesn’t exist”.

I expressed my disappointment that they choose to treat their guests and visitors this way, and that it certainly doesn’t make us want to come back or recommend the restaurant to anyone else.

I finally walked away from her, as there was no indication that she was even trying to understand the point we were trying to make.

We were prepared to pay the R36 extra – we received a better wine. But there is a principle involved here.

After settling the R5’600 bill, we left – with the host not even having the desire to thank the staff anymore.

(As an aside – by 23h00 the entire kitchen and waiting staff were standing around in the restaurant, no longer in their work clothes, making it blatantly clear that they wanted us to finish, so that they could go home. At 23h00 on a Friday night in the vibrant heart of Green Point? Pretty cheeky if you ask me…)

After stewing for a few more minutes I went back inside and spoke very nicely to the manager, expressing to her my disappointment at the way she had handled this situation. My sadness that she would risk 20 peoples’ word-of-mouth business for a mere R36 – an amount that is insignificant on a bill of such magnitude. She stood there with that arrogant “I don’t actually give a toss” look on her face and didn’t say anything. When I prompted her for a response she claimed that earlier on she had been thinking about what she could do, but that my “sudden attack from nowhere” had confused her and she didn’t know what to do.

Needless to say, she stuck to her guns and did nothing else, and thereby missed a second chance to make the whole thing right.

I am amazed that she didn’t realize that a simple “you know, we made a mistake. We’ll only charge you the R25” would have turned the whole thing around.

She could then have done the easiest thing in the world, and bought stickers the next morning to paste over the old prices, invalidating them until new menus are printed. And it wouldn’t have happened again. And we would have left saying only positive things about her and Kuzina.

Instead we’re left with a decidedly different feeling, and in my case at least, a determination never to set foot in that establishment again. And I certainly won’t recommend it to any of the hundreds of tourists who rely on us to recommend places to eat and sleep.

Dinner at Kuzina? I don’t think so…

3 thoughts on “Cape Town restaurant review: avoid Kuzina

  1. You are 100% right about the wine price but an honest mistake on our part. The manager should have charged you the price you saw. We apologise for our mistake and would like to offer you a meal the next time you are in the area.

  2. Dear Deon,

    Thank you for your reply – it’s a pity I didn’t get a call from you after I left my details on Saturday. Thanks for the offer of a meal – but it really isn’t about getting a freebie. It’s about the price being correct – and when an (honest) mistake is made, that it is rectified in the easiest and friendliest way possible. In this case that would have been to correct the price to R25 a glass at the time of settling the bill.
    If you’re in agreement, I’ll pop in next time I’m in the area and you can give me the errant R36, and we can consider the matter closed.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

  3. Businesses/restaurants/service providers of any kind are not judged only on how well they deliver said service. They are judged in the manner in which they handle mistakes and problems. Sadly, the manager on duty at Kuzina on the night of above incident failed this test dismally. This can be a costly mistake to an otherwise good restaurant’s reputation. Restauranteers in Cape Town would be well-advised to be a little more observant of this unspoken rule.

    It takes 20 years to build a good reputation and a mere 5 minutes to destroy it.

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