I have been to The Plettenberg hotel a number of times to eat at its former Sand and now renamed Seafood restaurant. Given that the hotel is five-star graded, a Relais & Chateux property, and under the supervision (long distance) of Eat Out Top 10 Chef Peter Tempelhoff, my expectations are high of the restaurant in being the best in Plett, yet sadly are never met.
A surprise was being recognised as I parked outside and took a photograph of the hotel exterior. Deputy GM Louis Kruger asked me a question relating to Camps Bay, and even though we had never met previously, he knew who I was, having worked in Franschhoek at L’Ermitage before, and we had spoken a few months ago on the phone about accommodation rental in the village. It was a friendly welcome and Louis walked me to the terrace, at the pool, with a lovely view.
The first unprofessionalism was when I wanted to photograph the restaurant name, and one of the three waiters in its doorway decided to clown around for the photograph, not what I wanted! The ‘clown’ waiter became my waiter, and dropped three documents onto the table, without explanation. For such a top hotel I was surprised that there was no branding and presentation synergy between the sizes of the menus and wine and cocktail lists! They all look rather worn too.
The Cocktail Menu is an A5 size paper menu. The wine list holder has a black plastic cover with Relais & Chateaux branding, which was missing one of its four studs to hold it together! The menu is in an A3 cream-colored slip-in leather holder. Only in hearing the manager speak about another menu did they bring a Terrace Menu, long after we had ordered! When I asked why we didn’t receive it with the other documents, I was told that I should have asked for it!
I arrived just after midday, and it was irritating hearing a lawnmower close by, despite other hotel guests lying at the pool. I was amused to watch the interaction of the seagulls, who seem to feel very much at home at the pool, with the pool cleaning person. He shooed them away, cleaned the wall on which they sit, and they promptly returned when he had left! Dolphins were visible from the terrace when the mist had lifted.
The tables and chairs are blue metal, the tables have white table cloths, there are napkins, and most of the tables are shaded with umbrellas.
It was a hot and humid day, and I asked the waiter to bring me a jug of water. He was far more keen to remove the excess cutlery and crockery from the table. It took him more than ten minutes to bring the water – in a glass! The ‘comic waiter’ brought bread on what looked like a much-used wooden board, and was so boring, with baguette, seed loaf, and lavash, as well as a very small portion of butter. He did not explain the bread types. A second waitress, when asked, described the baguette as ‘sourdough‘.
Restaurant Manager Annette de Villiers has been at Seafood for six months, and made her appearance some time later. She took my order, and with a sharp almost condescending tone asked if I was not having a starter or a side! I was shocked that someone of her stature placed my fish knife from my left across me on my right! She also rattled off the password for the wifi when I asked her for it, using her own shorthand description without it being understandable to me. Hotel GM Annemie Parker came to greet me, having been at the hotel for some time already. Her husband is the Head Chef Grant Parker, and even he came to my table to introduce himself. He told me that Chef Peter Tempelhoff visits every two or three months, and Chef Grant’s menu changes are rubber stamped by Chef Peter.
Starter options are the Garden Route salad (R55), a twice-baked cheese soufflé (R65), a Tuscan seafood soup (R80), Thai-scented fish cakes (R70), a warm calamari salad (R80), mussels in two portion sizes (R85/R140), beef carpaccio (R85), and spice-crusted chicken (R70).
I was surprised at how quickly the beer-battered hake (two pieces) with reasonably prepared French fries, sweet mushy peas, lemons, and a very small container of tartar sauce, on a green plate (R135) was brought to the table. The fish knife was a good touch. I requested a second container of tartar sauce.
The rest of the main courses are largely seafood-based, to suit the name of the restaurant, including calamari (R150), line fish (R150), seafood curry (R190), sole (R170), and King tiger prawns in two price options of R140 and R280. In addition they also offer slow roast duck (R160), a free-range cheese burger, and grass-fed beef sirloin at R160, reasonably priced. A seafood platter costs R 295 per head.
None of the desserts (costing R65, and including Crème brûlée, banana tart (sic) tatin, panna cotta, a trio of ice cream and sorbets, and a dark chocolate and Guinness pudding, the latter sounding very wintery!) on the main menu interested me, so I chose a Strawberry Delight (R45) from the Terrace Menu, described as strawberries and ice cream. What was served was a shocking pink liquid to which a colourant had been added!
The same menu is used for lunch and dinner. The Terrace Menu offers Club Sandwiches (R75), sandwiches (R55), French Fries (R24), Garden Route Salad (R55), and a Tapas platter for two at R120, including calamari, olives, beer battered fish, sirloin strips, boerewors, chili bites, breads, and dips.
The wine list consists of 31 pages, and has a welcome page which the menu does not have. It describes the wine list as ‘work-in-progress’, as they always aim ‘to better our selection‘. Wines on the list come from Plettenberg Bay, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Robertson, Swartland, Constantia, Elgin, Walker Bay, and Elim.
An unusual offering is ‘Connoisseur’s Choice‘, being wines they have available in limited quantities. A surprise for this list is that vintages are not mentioned. Wines on this list include Villiera Rhine Riesling, Buitenverwachting Cabernet Sauvignon, Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Franc, Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage, and Hamilton Russel (sic) Pinot Noir, La Motte Pierneef Syrah Viognier, Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, Vriesenhof Kallista, and Radford Dale Gravity. Champagnes offered are Pommery Brut Royale (R900), Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial (R1000) and Rosé (R1100), and Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin (R1100). Six Sparkling wines are Graham Beck Brut and Rosé (both R350), Villiera Tradition Brut (R300), Krone Rosé Cuvée Brut (R300), Jacques Bruére Blanc de Blancs (R375), and Boschendal Grande Cuvée Brut. Plettenberg Bay wines stocked are Bramon Brut, The Crags, Plettenvale, Newstead, Luka, and Packwood.
It appeared to me that Manager Annette does not have a control over her restaurant, and its staff, and she herself may need training to sensitize herself to her customers’ needs, and to smooth her rough edges! There were too many unforgivable errors in the restaurant of such a top hotel!
POSTSCRIPT 27/1: On Twitter Relais & Chateaux communicated this morning that ‘The Plettenberg is not a Relais & Châteaux anymore since Dec 2015‘!
POSTSCRIPT 27/1: The Plettenberg hotel GM Annemie Parker was most professional in responding to our Review: ‘I wanted to send you an email to acknowledge that I have seen the blog that you posted about Seafood at the Plettenberg. Thank you so much for all your comments, we appreciate the feedback and we will most certainly action all the points raised and hope that you will visit us again in the near future’.
SeaFood at The Plettenberg, The Plettenberg, 40 Church Street, Plettenberg Bay. Tel (044) 533-2030. www.collectionmcgrath.com Twitter: @McGrathHotels
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here