Entries tagged with “Marine Hotel”.


Winter Specials FireThe first restaurants are sending out their Winter Specials information, summarised below. The list is updated continuously. Please do not copy and paste our list. We welcome information about new specials:

Cape Town

*   Umi in Camps Bay: 2 course set menu R200, 3 courses R240.  Beef shortrib R120, fish & fries R80, Tataki Beef R75, sweet potato parcels R50, pork belly R130, and sticky chicken wings Tebaski R65. Half price sushi. Cocktails R40  Tel (021) 437-1802 (added 14/5/16) (more…)

Diners Club Winelist banner Whale CottageThe Diners Club Winelist Awards for the Western Cape were held at Shimmy Beach Club yesterday, saluting the restaurants in the province, and the standard of their winelist content and presentation. Bushman’s Kloof won best Winelist in the Western Cape.  During the course of this week the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal awards will also be presented.

A judging panel, led by wine judge Dave Hughes, and consisting of Winnie Bowman, Nikki Dumas, Fiona McDonald, and Christine Rudman, evaluated 208 winelists nationally, and 100 from the ‘Cape‘, a province which has not existed for years!  Diners Club threw the Western Cape and Eastern Cape into one ‘Cape’ pot in reporting on the results and in handing out the awards yesterday!  A substantial number of Western Cape restaurants did not enter the competition this year, down from 96 entries last year to 80 this year.

Odd was the choice of venue, being the Bar section of Shimmy Beach Club, which did not have Diners Club Pongracz Whale Cottageenough parking for the attendees, some walking for more than 1 km to get to the venue.  We were welcomed with a glass of Pongracz, and the food was very meagre, being macaroni cheese croquettes and sushi!  There was not enough seating for everyone, in a room which had some round tables, a few chairs and couches, but had no presence in making this function special for the award winners, compared to the venue used at the Vineyard Hotel last year.  It also was not a finalist for the Winelist Awards! Very odd was using Anna Trapido as the MC, not generally known to the local restaurant wine stewards and sommeliers, in being the editor of the 2015 ‘Diners Club Rossouws (more…)

Hayden Quinn Hermanus old harbourHayden Quinn: South Africa’ focused on the Overberg last night, visiting Hermanus and Stanford, as well as Elgin, but this was not mentioned, being described as being just outside Hermanus!  It was a whale of an episode highlighting the Southern Right whale visitors, the sustainable apple and pear farming in Elgin, and Marianna’s sustainable restaurant in Stanford.  No mention was made however of Hermanus’ produce nor its world-renowned wines in the Hemel en Aarde Valley!

Hayden raved about the Southern Right whales, which visit  Hermanus’ Walker Bay from July, he said incorrectly (they arrive from the Antarctic from May onwards) until early December.  On the Facebook page of ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa it is incorrectly claimed that Hermanus is the ‘Whale Watching Capital of the World‘, copywriting nonsense.  Hermanus is however known as the offering the best land-based whale watching in the world, which is something different, and Hayden did say words to this effect in the episode!

To add some real adventure to his visit to Hermanus, Forest Adventures’ Clinton Lerm (infamous for wanting to change the name of the village to ‘Lermanus when his family tried to take over the tourism management of the town, to their own (more…)

Hermanus is synonymous with the annual Whale Festival.  This year it is laying on a 10-day Hermanus FynArts festival, a feast of the visual arts, classical music, jazz, literature, wines, and gourmet food, a fusion of Art Festival and Winter School in a town that has long been known for being home to many leading artists. It will run from 7 – 16 June.

Over the ten days entertainment will be offered over the two weekends, while on weekdays one can attend courses and workshops on photography, ceramics, painting, drawing, writing, cooking, and viticulture.  Top sculptor Dylan Lewis will exhibit his work outside the Marine Hotel and will host a talk about his work, interviewed by leading writer Christopher Hope, one of the co-founders of the Franschhoek Literary Festival. Land sculptor Strijdom van der Merwe, and co-owner of Stellenbosch restaurant Casparus, will host a photographic exhibition of his work, with a talk.  Guy du Toit’s ‘Talking Hares’ will be on show at Sumaridge wine estate. Jewellery, ceramics, sculpture, photography and film will be exhibited.  Ceramicists include Clementina van der Walt, Hennie Meyer, and Tania Babb, with Ardmore Ceramics exhibiting at the Marine Hotel.  A National Art Competition will run alongside the festival, sponsored by the SA National Space Agency.  A talk will focus on JH Pierneef, one of our country’s best artists ever.

Vintage South African movies will be screened, as well as classic Hollywood movies, in the Romantiques vintage shop.

A number of the wine farms on the impressive Hermanus Wine Route (including Hamilton Russell, Creation, Newton Johnson, Ataraxia, La Vierge, and Bouchard Finlayson), as well as the art galleries in the town will host an art exhibition, and will offer special events.   During the festival, concerts will take place at lunchtimes in the Anglican Church; high teas will be available at the town’s coffee shops at 15h00 each day; wine tasting and food and wine pairing can be enjoyed on the wine farms and at the town’s restaurants, with Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris and Eat Out Top 10 Chef Peter Tempelhoff cooking a dinner on 7 June; guided walks in Fernkloof nature reserve will be offered; and one can enjoy a ‘virtual tour‘ of South African wines.

The Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will perform in the Hawston Hall in celebration of Youth Day, and UCT Head of the Opera School Professor Angelo Gobbato will talk about opera, and one of his talks will focus on ‘Celebrating Verdi’. There will be opera recitals too, including by Gobbato!  Singer Zanne Stapelberg and Kathleen Tagg (South African pianist now based in New York) will perform ‘Soul of Fire’.  Well-loved conductor Richard Cock will be in attendance, and the baroque Camerata Tinta Barocca will perform.

To allow a feast of ‘fine living’ without concern for drinking and driving, a hop-on hop-off bus will take festival goers to the wine estates as well as to the venues in the town.  Booking opens today.

Hermanus FynArts 2013. Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  www.hermanusfynarts.co.za

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

A Hermanus restaurant space with one of the most beautiful views must be the new La Pentola (The Saucepan), previously the home of Mediterrea and Grilleria, on Marine Drive close to the Marine Hotel. Lunch yesterday, to celebrate the 16th anniversary of Whale Cottage Hermanus with our Manager Carole, was made all the more special with a school of dolphins escorting whales across the majestic Walker Bay, which La Pentola looks on to.

Carole had been to the restaurant before, having met Chef Shane Sauvage when he was at La Vierge restaurant on the Hermanus Wine Route. La Pentola opened a few months ago when Grilleria vacated the premises. Chef Shane also owns a restaurant with the same name in Pretoria, which he opened in 1995 and is now run by his sister.  Chef Shane told us that his father is of French origin and his mother came from Seychelles, yet he does not speak French.  He worked at Italian restaurants before opening his own restaurant, and this inspired the love for Italian cooking, and hence the Italian name of his restaurant.  Chef Shane impressed by being on the floor regularly, chatting to his clients, and hugging those he knows. He is proud that he started as a ‘bus boy’, fetching plates, to being the owner of two restaurants today.  He talks about the ‘fusion cuisine’ which his restaurants prepare, being French, Italian and Mediterranean dishes made with South African produce.  The website emphasises that Chef Shane uses real butter, cream and fresh herbs, as well as olive oil, and that no MSG and artificial flavourings are used in their cooking!  Only grain-fed beef, duck, and chicken is sourced.  The dietary requirements of lactose intolerant and diabetic clients are catered for.

Chef Shane has already published two cookbooks: ‘The Edge of Fusion’, and ‘InFusion’, the latter book winning him a Gourmand World Cook Book Award in 2009. He proudly brought his books to the table to show us, and they are are available for sale in the restaurant.   ‘InFusion’ focused on the ‘infusion of South African produce, liquor and lifestyle’, says its introduction, and contains Forewords written by Good Food & Wine Show owner Christine Cashmore and restaurant reviewer Victor Strugo, with beautiful food photography by Sarie Pretorius.  Chef Shane is described by Strugo to stand for FRESH: Fruit, Real, Emotions, Seasons, Herbs.  Alcohol is used in the preparation of most dishes.

The restaurant has wooden tables without tablecloths, and the chairs are covered in tan mock leather, the walls are painted in yellow/gold and tan, covered with an odd collection of paintings. The windows can open and are stack-able, allowing one to enjoy a superb unobstructed sea view over the bay, an ideal location for photography of the visiting whales.  A new lounge-style seating area has been added in one corner of the restaurant. The tables have material serviettes, but an ordinary salt cellar and a cheap black pepper grinder.  The menu and winelist are covered in black plastic, and both disappointed in their presentation, the menu just being a typed list of items with a hand-correction, and the winelist containing diagrams of the wine districts and regions, and of the Aroma Wheel, which probably were copied from coloured sources, but lose their impact in black and white.

The menu has ten starters, and Carole enjoyed her Mussels Provencal (R48), a hearty portion served with muffin-shaped rolls containing mushrooms, capers and oregano.  Every menu item is described in detail in terms of all of its ingredients, and how the dish is prepared, rarely seen on menus.  Outback Crocodile and Springbok Carpaccio are the two most expensive starters, at R60.  Other interesting sounding starters are Angel snails (‘Spanish snails wrapped in bacon, pan fried with red onion, black pepper, butter, steamed in chardonnay, bound with cream and flavoured with origanum‘, the menu describes), Basil and port livers, and Afro Parisian pastry (smoked salmon, apple, served with phyllo pastry parcel filled with brie and mango pickle). Chardonnay fig and honey and African mampoer sorbets cost R10 each, and can be ordered as palate cleansers.  The main courses range in price from R85 for Santorini Chicken to R 165 for seafood fillet (fillet steak with seafood, tawny port and basil and cream sauce) and Mozambican Prawns (served with a beer cream sauce).  I enjoyed the kingklip prepared with red onion and tomato, basted in butter, served with ‘cream rice’ dusted with parmesan cheese, carrots and beans (R120), less complex than many of the other dishes in its ingredient combination.  I was impressed that it came with a fish knife, seldom offered.  Other main courses include a fillet flamed with 10 year old KWV brandy and served with Dijon mustard and green Madagascan cream sauce (R145), and Crocodile pastry (crocodile tail in curry cream sauce wrapped in phyllo pastry, R125).  Pasta dishes are made from Overberg flour and Locke Stone farm organic eggs.  Impressive is that the children’s dishes are healthy steak, fish and chicken, served with potato croquettes and vegetables (R45 – R50).

Desserts are affordable, none exceeding R50 (Strawberry Flambé with Belgium chocolate ice cream).  Carole loved the Crème Brûlee, a deep rich yellow colour, served with a strawberry sorbet, while I had the chocolate terrine served with cream, with an excellent cappuccino. Chef Shane sent two glasses of coffee liqueur to the table, but I declined, having to drive back to Cape Town.

The winelist states that BYO costs R30, explains the Aroma Wheel, and identifies the wine districts and regions in South Africa. Most wines offered are from Hermanus.  Bollinger is offered at R1200, Van Loveren Christina NV costs R220, Goedverwacht Crane Rosé Brut R130, and Bonnievale NV R120. Few wines by the glass are offered, costing about R45.  Vintages span more than one year, to save on reprinting the winelist, one would suspect.  Three Shiraz wines are available: Reyneke Organic ‘2009/10’ (R140), Val de Vie ‘2008/9‘ (R360), and Porcupine Ridge ‘2011/2012‘ costs R135.

Chef Shane’s menu is interesting, most dishes unusual.  His willingness to connect with his clients on the floor is a strength few chefs bother with.  The presentation of the menu and winelist could be improved, to match the food, and the fantastic view offered in the restaurant.  Service was not perfect, but our waiter was friendly.  The website seems overwritten in its accolades.  The most impressive part of our visit was the understanding by Chef Shane when we had to rush back to the guest house to check in guests just after we had ordered our food.  Our order was placed on hold and our table was kept for us until we returned.

La Pentola, first floor, 87 Marine Drive, Hermanus.  Tel (028) 313-1685. www.lapentola.co.za. Tuesday – Sunday lunch and dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

I cannot remember when last I had been to the Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel, it was so long ago, for a dinner at their Cape Malay restaurant, which was previously located in the manor house, where The Greenhouse is now.  I found The Greenhouse to be an oasis of freshness and modernity relative to the very dated and old-fashioned Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel, a total contradiction.

The Greenhouse has been operating in the current building for a year or so, having previously been in the space now called The Conservatory restaurant. It appears that the venue change sparked the creativity of Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff, having moved there two years ago.  It was seeing photographs of his work on Twitter earlier this year, Chef Peter being awarded Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef status (one of only two in South Africa), and the restaurant winning number one Eat Out Top 10 restaurant in November that led me to book a table for my birthday dinner last week, with very high expectations. Disappointing therefore was that booking a table was a problem, as the restaurant phone appeared to be ringing non-stop post 20 November, and so the hotel switchboard person asked me to wait longer or to call back, with arrogance.  When I asked for GM Tony Romer-Lee, to see if he could assist with the booking, my booking was quickly made.  I only gave my first name and cell number, yet Tony had worked out who the booking was for, and wrote an e-mail a few days ahead of the booking, apologising for his absence from the hotel on the evening of our booking.  Despite this confirmation e-mail by Tony, an assistant called on the day of our dinner, to confirm the booking.  I was surprised to receive the call, and was called by my surname, not pronounced correctly, and with the wrong title, so I invited her to call me Chris, which she clearly found difficult to do.  She spoke a very high-level formal English, saying ‘we shall see you tonight’, and once again I felt a degree of arrogance in her exchange with me.  I was therefore very nervous about the actual dinner, given these two annoying interactions.

It is difficult to find the hotel, and we came from the Hout Bay side, knowing we had to turn off somewhere on the road leading to Kirstenbosch. The hotel does not offer to send directions.  None of its literature contains an address.  It is hard to see the signage when it gets dark, and there are a number of turns to take to find it.  The boom was closed and the very old security guard took his time to come to the car, seeming surprised about our arrival, and asking what we wanted!  He let us in immediately when we said we had come for dinner, but had no name list to check, and we did not have to complete any form, so one wonders why there is security.  We were not told by him where The Greenhouse is located, and we had to check the signage on the building.  There was no staff in the parking area to guide one, surprisingly not alerted by the security guard. Inside the building a faux fire warmed up two staff who showed us the way to The Greenhouse.  It was going to the bathroom later that alerted me to the contrast in modernity of the restaurant relative to the very old-fashioned English-style drapes and furnishings of the Hohenhort Manor House, forming part of the 53-room five star Relais & Chateaux The Cellars-Hohenhort hotel. Previously part of Klaasenbosch Farm, awarded to Hendrik Ten Damme by Simon van der Stel in 1693, the farm house was transformed by its owner Arnold Spilhaus into a manor house after buying the farm in 1906.  Liz McGrath bought The Cellars in 1991, and turned the country guest house into the Relais & Chateaux hotel twenty years ago.  Two years later she bought The Hohenhort Hotel, and united the two properties.  Although one does not see it at night, the property is endowed with different gardens, the Herb Garden benefiting the kitchens. Four varieties of table grapes are also grown.

The restaurant space is relatively small, only seating about 45, and divided into two with mirrored pillars. As one enters the restaurant there is a lounge section, but we did not see anyone use it at all, feeling like a wasted space.  An interesting decor touch is many ceramic rabbits on the windowsills, with the odd watering can, and small trees in pot plants, no doubt to create the greenhouse look, but the rabbits do not quite fit the theme. Walls are painted in a light grey inside the restaurant, with green fern wallpaper in the lounge, which pattern is replicated on the back of the comfortable grey upholstered chairs. The table has no salt or pepper, but there was a vase with a beautiful orange rose and greenery.  The Greenhouse clearly is in part an addition to the manor house, with a glass roof, which does not add value for dining at night, and must be a nightmare to keep clean.  It also adds heat to the restaurant during the day, and I had to ask for a window to be opened. The design of the addition has become the logo for the restaurant.  A lamp stands at each table, a little American touch. A thick tablecloth is covered with a white one, and the table is laid with Eetrite cutlery. Tables are very close together, meaning that the restaurant has a cosy atmosphere, but one can overhear everyone else’s conversations in one’s section. The Relais & Chateaux affiliation dominates the restaurant, in that the staff name badges have the logo and they wear a pin too, the home-made butter has the logo, as do coasters and the menus.

Waiter Lwazi (who was quick to correct the spelling of his name which he saw in my notes!) brought us a complimentary glass of Constantia Brut 2009, a nice touch.  I found him difficult to understand, and he had to repeat what he said a number of times.  He tried to explain the three menus to us, contained in a cover with the Relais & Chateaux logo and the following introduction: “A beautiful plate of food is eaten with the eyes first”. I chose the 7-course Chef’s Tasting Menu at R575 (with R275 for ‘complimenting’ wines), and my son the 4-course Summer Menu at R450.  One can also order a 6-course Sustainable Seafood Tasting Menu at R495 (with an additional R230 for ‘complimenting’ wines).  I did not see the rule, but it must have been in the menu, that one may not order two different menus at one table, but the rule  was waived on the understanding that my son would have to wait for his courses.  The staff wear a tie with ducks, The Cellars-Hohenhort tie design, which they wear with black pants and a grey waistcoat, creating a smart impression. Lwazi was efficient in taking our order, but became relaxed during the evening, stretching in front of me to lay cutlery on two occasions towards the end of the meal, even though there was more than enough space to do so from the other side. I asked for a jug of water for the table, but this was removed after the first glassful was poured.  Empty glasses at other tables were not replenished or removed. A delight was the Maitre’d Joshua Crowe, who shared interesting information about working at Reuben’s Franschhoek and at Beluga with me.  He is a young gentleman with a bright future, exuding professionalism.  He came to check on our table regularly, and seemed very at home in the restaurant, having only worked there for two months.  Canapés were brought to the table, consisting of sesame seed crusted prawn toast served with goat’s cheese lollipops on a stick, presented in a glass dish with wheatgrass, the most colourful dish of the evening, as well as chicken and mushroom ballantine, pear chutney, truffle mayonnaise, and an Asian dipping sauce.  A selection of breads (cheese rolls, lavosh, baguette, wheat, rye, and crostini) was served in a wooden bowl, with a nasturtium dip and edible soil in a terracotta flower pot, with carrots, pea shoots and mange tout, a further reinforcement of the greenhouse theme, and there it ended.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu started with pan-fried duck foie gras, melt in the mouth deliciousness, and the stand-out course for me, served with raspberry gel, onion marmalade, crispy Asian mushrooms and puy lentils.  My son was spoilt with an amuse bouche of crayfish custard and warm celeriac mousse and chives, which was served in an egg shell, a creative presentation, while I had the first course. The second course was Madagascan prawn roulade, served on a beautiful glass plate with cling peach, fermented black bean dressing (too salty for my taste), rice paper tuile, and ponzu snow, a Chef Richard Carstens-like study in liquid nitrogen!  I was not keen on the fynbos smoked ostrich tartar for the third course, and was allowed to choose a dish from the other two menus. The oven-roasted rare duck breast, and duck cherry jelly canneloni, was served with cherries poached in Pinot Noir, mash, savoy cabbage, and bergamot-lime jus (salty too).   The fourth course was petit poussin served with langoustine, a bacon crisp, sautéed gem lettuce, Vin de Constance gel, enoki mushrooms, and mint pea pureé.  The free-range Karoo lamb dish had the Sweet Breads excluded for me, and was served with wild mushroom agnolottio, brown beech mushrooms, pea shoots, broad beans, parmesan velouté, and a (salty) lamb juice.

By far the cleverest dish, and perhaps too clever for some, was the inverted Brûlée, served in the base of a glass filled with strawberry granité, Earl Grey espuma, with salt and green tea on the rim of the glass. One was not told to turn the glass around for the vanilla brûlée.  As if this was not enough to chew on already, the seventh course was a ‘camembert’ shaped cheese cake, served on a wooden board with roast pineapple ice cream, pine nut biscotti melba, parmesan, maple crumble, lemon marmalade, and extra virgin olive oil.  A final end to the evening was a cutely presented collection of friandise, including truffles, macaroons, and home-made nougat.

Chef Peter came to the table, a nice touch, and told us that he has a Canadian mother and an Afrikaans father, and he speaks with a Canadian accent. He is a gentle and more reserved person. He studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Cape Town, and started his career at the Grande Roche Hotel. He has also worked at Quo Vadis and Automat in London, and at Michelin-starred Hambleton Hall and Zafferano. It was at Grande Provence that he earned his first Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Award, leaving for the McGrath Collection a month after winning the accolade.  Chef Peter is proud of the garden on the property from which he can source his seasonal requirements, mainly being rhubarb and herbs.  He sources his duck and Karoo lamb from Wild Peacock.  He only has a staff of six, with trainees being a welcome addition, he said. He told us that he likes to travel overseas, to find food inspiration there.  He also is responsible for Sand at The Plettenberg, and for the two restaurants at The Marine Hotel, and admitted that he has not paid as much attention to them as they deserve, focusing on getting The Greenhouse into the top league, work which clearly has paid off. Chef Peter is justifiably proud of his two achievements, both career highlights for him.  One cannot help but feel that Chef Peter and The Greenhouse was short-changed by Eat Out, in winning Top Restaurant, but not Top Chef (the honour went to Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen) and not Top Service (the honour went to The Roundhouse).  More coverage of the Eat Out awards, in TASTE magazine as a start, also a New Media Publishing magazine, has gone to Chef Luke than to The Greenhouse.  The Eat Out awards signal that The Greenhouse may be the best restaurant in the country, but does not have the best chef nor the best service, a contradiction, and the first time that the Top Restaurant has not also received recognition for Service and its Chef.  Interesting is that Chef Luke came to dine at the restaurant a week after the Eat Out Awards, probably highlighting the competition between the two chefs.

I had ordered a glass of Groot Constantia Shiraz 2009 (R75), and it appeared fine on tasting it, but I had to return it when I tasted it after it had been poured. I chose The Yardstick instead, the only other red wine by the glass, a limited choice I felt.  The Pinot Noir is a joint venture between Chef Peter and ex-Klein Constantia winemaker Adam Mason, we were told, and is a four-star Platter 2010 vintage, at R55 per glass.

I left with a feeling of contradiction about The Greenhouse, a relatively modern space within a terribly old and old-fashioned hotel, that does nothing for the restaurant, that has arrogant hotel staff taking calls and the bookings (this is due to change, Joshua told me, in that he and another restaurant staff member will be the only one staff taking The Greenhouse bookings), that has a waiter who is near-arrogant too and not well-trained, that has typing errors in its menu, that has a terribly old-fashioned bathroom, that does not have an exceptional interior design, and that is only open five nights a week.  The food was excellent, except for the over-salted sauces, and the playfulness of the canapé and bread collection dishes lived up to the theme of The Greenhouse, but all other dishes could have been served at any other fine-dining restaurant.

The Greenhouse, The Cellars-Hohenhort, Constantia.  Tel (021) 794-2137.  www.collectionmcgrath.com www.petertempelhoff.com Twitter: @GreenhouseCT   @PeterTempelhoff  Tuesday – Saturday dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

After a three year absence, an unbooked dinner at Bosman’s at Grande Roche in Paarl earlier this week was an impromptu decision and a disappointing experience.

Bosman’s has everything going for it – it is housed in a beautiful manor house, has a captive audience with the Grande Roche hotel guests dining there, it is a 5-star hotel, and it is a member of Relais & Chateaux, an international quality accommodation association.   For years the restaurant competed with Le Quartier Francais for first and second place in the gourmet stakes, and both were Top 10 restaurants for many years.  Bosman’s introduced a tasting menu, with winepairing, before Le Quartier did.

What is it that has made Bosman’s fall off the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list completely over the past 3 years or so, and not even make the top 20 shortlist in the past two years, I asked myself, and the new German waiter Tom.  He diplomatically declined an answer to the question, and I wondered if it was the lack of awareness of Executive Head Chef Roland Gorgosilich that may be the reason.   He has worked at Bosman’s for at least 4 years, and took over the kitchen when his predecessor Frank Zlomke passed away last year.  Yet no one knows of Roland, and the hotel has not publicised his appointment, except on Facebook.   Tom the German waiter ventured one comment – perhaps the very new team at Bosman’s has not quite jelled, he observed.   Every winter the hotel and restaurant closes for a substantial break, and it loses staff who take on part-time winter jobs elsewhere and then stay on.    So, for example, the staff told me, a lot of staff left for Reubens, and more recently, to Asara, where ex Grande Roche GM Horst Frehse is the new GM.   In the past 2 years the hotel management has been (surprisingly) taken over by the Mantis Collection, the company running Shamwari, amongst others, and hardly known for its gourmet food there, and also was running the restaurant at Delaire Graff, but has already been relieved of its restaurant involvement there.

As a local one is surprised when an establishment that sets itself up as the extreme epitome of dining, can treat locals so shabbily.  The man at the boom, George, did not welcome me on arrival, just pointing his arm in the direction of the hotel, a robot just doing his duty.   When I walked in, I stood for a while in the entrance foyer, waiting for attention, and finally Edwina van der Westhuizen, the head waiter (no gender specification in her title) arrived.  She showed me to a table, and immediately asked if I did not want a Bistro menu instead.   Was this because I am a local, or because I came on my own?  It turned out that Edwina was the most senior person on duty, with all waiters and sommeliers reporting to her.  No restaurant management was on duty, despite the restaurant being fully booked, mainly with hotel guests.

Edwina talked me through the Bosman’s menu, like a machine, at an extreme speed so that one could not understand what she was saying.  She was repeating something off a ‘song-sheet’, without having the passion for what she was talking about.  All she tried to say was that one can mix and match the items between the a la carte and the tasting menus.  Tom, the new German waiter, took over the table, and took the order efficiently.   The bread plate arrived, and a dry slice of wholewheat bread and another type was served, with (soft) butter, a cream cheese and a balsamic/pine nut kernel spread, a threesome that has not changed in 3 years ago.   

I was asked what I wanted to drink before the winelist was presented, and had to ask for it.  It is intimidating, at 77 pages of wines, separated by variety and by region, making it easier to choose a wine than at the One&Only, where the region is dominant, and one has to find one’s favourite variety region by region throughout the whole winelist.   In total, 550 lables are stocked by the hotel.  Surprisingly, the Assistant Sommelier took some time to come to the table, to help with the wine-by-the glass choice.   The head sommelier ignored my table completely, only stopping briefly once, to clear the glasses without a word.   As a shiraz lover the choice of only two wines-by-the glass was disappointing, especially as the Migliarina was an unknown.   The sommelier said that the wine is made by an ex-Bosman’s sommelier, but he did not have any further details about the winemaker, himself probably being new to the restaurant.  Interestingly the sommelier tastes the wine before he pours a tasting for the guests, but only for full bottles sold, and this did not happen for the wine-by-the glass.

The white wine by the glass is as inexpensive as R 38 for a Graham Beck ‘Gamekeeper’s Reserve’.   Red wines-by-the glass range in price from R 43 for a De Waal Pinotage to R 155 for the Zorgvliet Richelle.   I was allowed a tasting of the 2005 Migliarina (R 57 per glass)  and the 2006 Ataraxia ‘Serenity’ (R 65 per glass), and chose the former.   The most expensive shiraz by the bottle was a Mont Destin ‘Destiny’, at R  1 150, a 2005 De Trafford costing R 850, and the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2005 costing R 850 too.  The 2004 and 2006 Boekenhoutskloof were a little more reasonable in price, at around R 650.   The most reasonably priced shiraz is a Black Oystercatcher, at R 220.   Meerlust Rubicon costs R 950 for the 1999, R 800 for the 2001, and R 1 100 for the 1998.  Water was brought to the table without a slice of lemon, despite a request.

Bosman’s is unashamedly expensive, more so than maze at the One&Only in Cape Town.   It offers a “Harmony of South” menu choice, with mainly seafoods, at R 525 for 4 courses and R 580 for 5 courses.  The tasting menu costs R 620 for 6 courses, without wines (Le Quartier Francais’ Tasting Room charges R 550 for 5 courses and R 700 for 8 courses).   A vegetarian menu option costs R 320 for 3 courses and R 480 for 4.   On the a la carte menu there are a limited number of choices, starters ranging in price from R 60 for the veloute’ of potato and sour cream, braised white leek and pickled duck breast – R 125 for the veal cassoulet of sweetbread.  The chef’s amouse bouche was a pepper-crusted impala.  I chose the veloute’, and it was poured over the pre-prepared duck and leeks, the little that there was on the plate, at the table by a junior waitress.  It could have been done with panache by a professional.   It was tasty, but tasted very floury.   The 6 main courses range from R 125 for a sundried tomato and marjoram risotto to R 235 for a springbok loin, the beef fillet costs R 230, the kingklip R 210 and the rack of lamb R 225.   The beef fillet was extremely tender, so much so that one could take it apart with one’s fork, but quite salty in taste.  The portion was tiny, as was the accompanying 3 minute baby potatoes.   It was amusing to see the silver dome serving still happen at Bosman’s, but the more modern rectangular plates do not lend themselves to the round dome.  The impressive simultaneous dome ‘upliftment’ of the past has been lost in the past 3 years. 

The few dessert options were of no interest, and as the wait for the main course to be served had been 2 hours after arrival, they were declined, but an apple strudel from the Bistro taken home in a most boring cardboard box, with no attempt to decorate it, other than sprinkled with castor sugar, as it would have been on a plate.   The full menu price was charged.

A visit to the cloakrooms showed up another 5-star hotel, the second in a week (see the review of Seafood at the Marine Hotel in Hermanus here), with a less than adequate public bathroom.  The toilet doors and seats are wooden, giving these bathrooms a cottage-like feel, contradicting the crystal chandeliers and high gloss tiled floors in the restaurant.   Some messy trunking to hide the wiring of the airconditioning caught one’s eye immediately.    A definite bathroom upgrade is needed.

Grande Roche has been known to have a large following of German guests, and it was a language heard spoken by the guests throughout the evening.  Only one German speaking waiter was on the floor, and the head sommelier appeared to be able to speak the language as well.   Given a full restaurant, and more staff than guests, it seemed, this must be a disappointment for them.

The most glaring deficiency of the evening was that no one came to the table to check on one’s satisfaction with each course, and this is where Bosman’s falls short.  The staff seemed static and mechanical, lacking spontaneity, only Tom the German waiter responding to questions put to him.   Not one staff member was interested in one’s reason for coming to the restaurant, one’s past history with it, or the motivation for coming to eat there – in fact it seemed that the restaurant staff are totally disinterested in their clients!   It took a concerted effort, after a number of reminders, to obtain details of the new F & B Manager Alan Bailes – he is so new that it took some time to find his e-mail address in the computer!   What was impressive was the spontaneity and service interest shown by the German-speaking hotel receptionist, the only staff member seemingly enjoying her job.   On driving out one had to hoot for George to open the boom, despite the longish driveway between the restaurant and the boom, which should have made him stand at the boom already when the car arrived.  He got into an argument with the guest about the fact that he felt that he had been at the boom promptly.  His attitude was a disappointing end to an evening that confirmed that the staff’s arrogance at Bosmans, bar an exception or two, is the downfall of this once highlight of gourmet grandeur!

The total cost of the veloute’, the beef fillet , the glass of red wine and the ‘take-away’ slice of strudel was R 402.   Bosman’s Restaurant, Grande Roche Hotel, tel 021 863-5100. www.granderoche.com.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Wilbur Smith’s heaven-on-earth is Hermanus, he says in an article he wrote in yesterday’s Telegraph, in a series of “Heaven-on-Earth” articles written by celebrities.

Smith is an internationally recognised and prolific writer, having just published his 32 nd book ‘Assegai’, and lives in Cape Town.  He enthused about Hermanus as follows:

“Hermanus is famous for whale watching during South Africa’s winter and spring – the whales can be seen from the town’s cliffs as early as June. It also hosts an annual whale festival during the mating season at the end of September. 

The area has some beautiful beaches while the interior is quite mountainous and a great place to cycle and hike.The hinterland is dotted with vineyards, all of which are so good I find it hard to single out any one in particular. Just be sure to drink some of South Africa’s delicious wines before heading home.    I invariably stay at The Marine (0027 28 313 1000; www.marine-hermanus.co.za),a superb five-star hotel perched on top of a cliff and run by a lovely lady called Liz McGrath. It offers wonderful views of the sea from the bedrooms. It also has a fantastic restaurant, Seafood at the Marine, which I can thoroughly recommend, though if you want to find out more about the other restaurants I’d suggest visiting the town’s website (www.hermanus.co.za)