I used to call the Grand (now renamed Grand Africa Rooms & Rendezvous) in Plettenberg Bay my second home at the time I stayed there whilst renovating a house in the coastal town, turning it into a guest house. It was the first restaurant I returned to on arrival for dinner with my Parisian housemate, after a six year absence from Plett, late last month.
We saw Sybil the Manager on entering the restaurant, she having worked at the accommodation and restaurant establishment since it opened in 2004, then owned by Gail Behr, and operated with her son Steven Whiteman. It took her some time to remember me, but did eventually get my name, and the car I drove then.
The bedrooms and bathrooms are quirky, with extra-large and high beds in spacious rooms, done up in opulent red velvet. Sybil showed us two of the new rooms, reached by steps going upstairs behind the reception counter. These rooms are smaller, didn’t yet have carpets, and did not feel as opulent as the older rooms are. Three rooms have been added, bringing the number of rooms to eleven. Sybil told us that the other rooms have been upgraded too, I noticing coffee machines in red by Vida e Caffé.
Sybil was informative, in telling us that The Grand now belongs to the Harbour House Group, the second owner of the property, Susie Main, still having a hand in its operation, as she does at The Grand Africa Café & Beach in Granger Bay in Cape Town. She also told us that the Group, now renamed Life & Brand, had just bought the Lookout Deck as well as Equinox below it.
It was a cool evening, yet we decided to sit at a table on the deck, with a beautiful view of the lagoon. A fire in the fireplace was lit, but did not quite extend its heat to our table, so Sybil brought us a blanket each to wrap around us. Jazz music played. If one aspect of the Grand stood out the most for me in the past, it was the playlist, which varied during the course of the day and evening, starting with classical music for breakfast, going lighter during the day, and then getting jazzy towards the evening. The music alone evoked so many happy memories at this establishment. Sybil told me that the playlist is now prepared by Bradley Reissner from Cape Town. The distinctive woven brasserie chairs are still in the restaurant even though some of the furniture has been moved around in the dining room. I loved the bar counter with character, not remembering seeing it there before.
It was a disappointment therefore that the waiter Alex contradicted himself, when we checked on certain things he told us with Sybil. She apologised, saying that he was new. He spoke with such confidence, that it was hard to not accept what he told us. We had to ask for bread, for my French friend, it not arriving proactively. It was described as flat bread, oven baked. We asked for butter to have with it.
My friend ordered Kingklip Tagliata, prepared with kingklip, cherry tomatoes, shavings of Parmesan cheese, and soy, ginger, lime, and chili, with a tartare sauce, to which she requested rice to be added (R145). The presentation was above average, and my friend complimented the dish. A surprise was that there was no fish cutlery for the fish dishes. My order was one beer battered hake, with a side of Greek salad instead of chips. (R90). Tartare sauce was on the side, not enough for the generous fish portion, of which I could only eat half. We were brought olive oil and balsamic vinegar in glass bottles, with no branding on them. Similarly, the salt and pepper grinders were unbranded.
The dessert list was very disappointing, in being limited and spoken rather than being on the menu. I remember the delectable Pavlova they used to serve, and I overheard the waiter talk about it to a neighbouring table, but Sybil quickly told us that it was not on the menu that evening. I had ice cream and chocolate sauce (R35), not special at all, while my friend ordered a slice of cheesecake drizzled with caramel, which she could not finish, it being such a big slice (R45).
Breakfast is served from 7h00 to 14h00, a nice touch, and reasonably priced. A fruit platter costs R72, Müslin and yoghurt R50, croissants with butter jam and cheese R35, pancakes R60, avocado on nutty bread R70, and French Toast R68. Cooked breakfasts include the Grand Omelette at R45, Eggs Benedict (R75), and the grand slam Grand Breakfast with eggs, bacon, pork sausage, tomato, toast, and mushrooms, at R95.
The Rendezvous section of the menu kicks in from 14h00, for the rest of the day. Greek and Caesar Salads cost R70 and R75, respectively. Four pasta options range from R65 – R98; three pizzas cost between R 95 – R 175; Fish dishes dominate the menu, offering avocado and prawn cocktail (R115), fish cakes (R88), tempura prawns (R90), sugar Norwegian salmon (R195), in addition to the hake and kingklip. Meat dishes are limited to a Grand Burger (R125), fillet with béarnaise sauce R220), and Durban lamb curry (R195).
The Grand disappointed, it having lost its grand flair, other than the lovely music. The waiter was ad libbing in lots of what he told us, and very forceful. Sybil checked on us in regularly, but with long intervals, which meant that I had to go inside a number of times, with requests. I felt that she had no control over her staff, clearly not well trained. She seemed to have lost some of her hearing, I having to repeat most things I said. I’m not sure that the Rendezvous part of the Grand name will signify that it offers food. The website needs some urgent updating, the Instagram link going to the wrong account whilst there is no Twitter handle, despite it being featured on the site. It still features Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s menus. There is no menu on the site, and it opens onto the Granger Bay property page, without alerting one to the sister Plett property.
What was comforting as a long-standing customer was that many dishes are still on the menu, even after my six year absence. And the deck setting is magnificent, especially for the daytime and early evening, and on Full Moon nights.
Grand Africa Rooms & Rendezvous, 27 Main Street, Plettenberg Bay. Tel (044) 533-3301 www.grandafrica.com Instagram:@grandafricaplett
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein