Restaurant Review: Origins Restaurant at The Marine in Hermanus offers poor service, not true to its name!


Last week I ate lunch at the new Origins Restaurant at The Marine, the second poor experience I have had at the hotel, despite the hotel having new co-owners, and a new GM and Chef. Given its five star status (they have lost their Relais & Chateux status), the dining experience was unacceptable. 

It was like a deja vu, the former The Marine GM Hamish Hofmeyr having been unable to satisfactorily deal with my complaint about the poor service, and poor seafood dish four years ago! 

Restaurant Review: SeaFood at The Marine very grey, poor seafood, very poor service!

Recently I saw photographs of new dishes created by McGrath Collection Chef Peter Tempelhoff, which encouraged me to try the new restaurant whilst spending seven days at the Hermanus FynArts Festival last week. I was told by a number of persons that the largest share (80%) of the hotel has been sold, the McGrath family retaining only a 20% share. No information about this sale is available on the McGrath Collection website, or by means of a Google search. However the butter served with the lunch had a ‘R’ imprinted in it, and the Restaurant Manager Sam said it was the logo of the new purchaser, but he did not know the purchaser name. It appears that the sale has made no difference at The 
Marine, the service (or lack of) still being as before. The new GM Annemie Parker moved across from The Plettenberg a few months ago, and moving with her was Chef Grant Parker, both of whom I have met at The Plettenberg a number of times. (See the update on the McGrath Collection sale in the Postscript below).

I had booked a table before attending the Gin Revolution workshop in the hotel, three hours before lunch. I was not asked where I wanted to sit. I chose to sit at a seafacing table, closest to a window, which unfortunately was next to a table with a family and their approximately 3 year old daughter, and baby son, about one year old. Both children were making noises at full volume, without any control by their parents. I asked them if they could please tone down their children, which led to an angry response from both parents, with a suggestion that I sit in the second section of the restaurant across the passage. I have never understood how one can create a restaurant running over two sections, literally divided into two by the passage. The back section has no view at all, while the front section only offers the sea view for the front tables. In the front section the dining tables are directly adjacent to the lounge couches, offering no segregation or privacy for diners. The wife said she was having dessert, and that they would be finished soon. The husband retorted that they would eat especially slowly, given my request, as they probably spent more on their meal than I would, despite not knowing what I had ordered! 

I asked the Restaurant Manager Sam to intervene, and request the other table to be more considerate towards the other guests, there being two more occupied tables in the restaurant. Sam appeared to be scared to address the guests, and told me that he would encourage them to move to the lounge for their coffee, but there is no separation between the lounge and dining room, so that would not have been of any use! I then asked him to request the GM to come to my table. It took half an hour for Mrs Parker to arrive, without apology for her lateness, saying that she had done a ‘site inspection’, and could not leave the guests. It was surprising that only one person in the hotel was able to handle a guest complaint and to do site inspections! She told me that they welcome children of all ages in the five-star hotel. When I told her that having children impact on the enjoyment of other diners, she said patronizingly ‘I’m sorry that you feel this way’. Despite us having met previously, she did not express recognition or welcome me to the hotel and its restaurant. She clearly did not care! A second family brought a noisy child, and they were in and out of the door from the lounge to the outside, again with no consideration for other hotel guests. 

Two slices of boring cheese focaccia and the butter with salt crystals were brought to the table. On the table were a salt and black pepper grinder, a glass vase with a candle and shells, a small vase with a protea, a cheap plastic woven placemat, Sola cutlery, and a material napkin. There is no tablecloth.  

I had ordered my two courses during this upset, choosing a starter from the ‘Small Plates Tapas‘ section that sounded completely unusual: ‘Pulled winelands pork lettuce wraps, chipotle honey, crackling, Origin’s ranch dressing‘ (R70). As is evident from the photograph, no wraps were served. The dish was ‘deconstructed’, with lettuce leaves, pulled pork and Origins dressing,  a cherry tomato salad not mentioned in the dish description on the menu, and an aioli not mentioned on the menu. Sam did not explain the starter when he brought it to the table. Other Small Plate options offered are South Atlantic tuna tartare (R85); lamb frikkadel with halloumi, one of the most popular Small Plate dishes(R75);  a very odd sounding vegetable crisps, and goat’s cheese mousse (R35);  spiced fish cakes with avocado, a dish brought along from Plettenberg Bay (R60); and chicken thigh yakitori, rice, spring onions, and mushroom dressing (R65). All of these Small Plate dishes are reasonably priced. Salad choices are an Origin’s salad, with Gruberg cheese (a Gruyère style cheese from Klein Rivier outside Stanford), walnuts, celery, bacon bits, croutons, and a wholegrain mustard vinaigrette (R75), a variation on a Waldorf salad!; and a baby gem salad, with cauliflower Tempura, and a sherry dressing (R80). 

The ‘Hunted Main‘ section listed the main courses, with seven options. I chose the Craft beer battered hake, served with triple cooked chips, caper aioli (in the place of tartare sauce, Chef Grant explained), and pickled onions (R135). I had the onion removed from the dish, and the chips substituted for rice. It was attractively plated in a blue bowl, with lemon. Other options are free-range ostrich burger with goat’s cheese, mushrooms, and sweet potato (R120); Elgin free-range chicken with baby beets, quinoa, aubergine cream, and a pine nut and Sage emulsion (R145); grilled free-range sirloin steak (weight not specified), with a salad, and chunky Café de Paris butter (R185); Walker Bay fish curry, with ‘local fish and shellfish’, coconut, pickled carrots, and savory rice, a popular main course (R230); grilled LM prawns (R250); and ‘simply roast fish‘, wok-fried vegetables, and a coriander and macadamia pesto, a dish which has been on The Marine menu for the past four years or more (R165). ‘Gathered side dishes’ cost between R35 and R55, and include chips, exotic mushrooms, bok choy, jasmin rice, and steamed vegetables. 

As the service was so slow, time did not allow me to order a dessert. When I received the main course I had already ordered a dry cappuccino, and it was perfectly made. A nice touch was the whale biscuit. On the lunch bill the cappuccino was charged at R20. A dry cappuccino ordered in the lounge a few days earlier was charged at R30! Dessert options were passion fruit sago (R55); upside down Elgin apple and sage tart for two, at R120, taking 20 minutes to prepare; buttermilk panna cotta with strawberry juice, and fudged white chocolate sorbet (R65); and Origin’s Mess, with peanut butter ice cream, hazelnut ice cream, peanut meringue, orange chocolate, orange dust, and orange caramel, not a new dish, at R60. The dessert prices are very reasonable and the portions generous, the inconsiderate mother of the noisy children having ordered the Origin’s Mess. Cheese can be ordered, being local cheeses from Klein Rivier, Belnori in Johannesburg, Healey’s in Somerset West, La Petit France in Howick, and Cremazola Gorgonzola in Pretoria. Three cheeses cost R120, four cheeses R150, and five cheeses R170. Preserves are served with the cheeses, being peach and celeriac chutney, beetroot and red onion preserve, and pineapple and pepper compote. 

Whilst I was waiting for my main course, Chef Grant came to say hello, and knew who I was. He told me that he and Chef Peter had devised the new menu. The name of the restaurant denotes the close proximity of sourcing the ingredients within a 100 km radius, but this is not correct, if one evaluates the origin of the cheeses, for example! 

No staff member checked on my satisfaction with the starter or the main course. Only one waitress was on duty, and she did not visit my table again after taking my order! Each dish is served on a board, on which a sheet of paper with the new owner logo is printed. For the statute of the restaurant and the five star, not offering fish knives for fish dishes is shocking!

I was becoming more and more irritated with the slow service, having requested a copy of the bill, and wanting to pay for a dress with my meal as the shop credit card machine did not work, once again unacceptable. Getting hold of the sales person, and the task of adding two amounts together was too much for the restaurant supervisor, it being irritating that the two course lunch took one and a half hours, due to the dreadful service and eating experience created by the noisy children in the restaurant. 

POSTSCRIPT 19/6:  I have received information about the sale of the McGrath Collection, and the Relais & Chateux accreditation from a reader who saw this Review earlier today. He writes that Relais & Chateaux withdrew its accreditation of The Marine and of The Plettenberg. He also sent me a media statement about the sale of all three The McGrath Collection hotels, which took place earlier this year:

‘McGrath family sell The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel in Cape Town, The Marine Hotel in Hermanus and The Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay to Liz McGrath Collection (Pty.) Ltd, retaining a minority interest.

Cape Town, February 9, 2017. Liz McGrath Collection (Pty.) Ltd., a recently formed South African company, announced today that an agreement has been signed with the family holding company to acquire The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel in Cape Town, The Marine Hotel in Hermanus and the Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay. Liz McGrath Collection (Pty.) Ltd. is owned by Mr. James B. Sherwood, founder and chairman emeritus of Belmond Ltd., owners of the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, Moulton Investment Ltd., owned by Mr. Fred Alger, founder of Fred Alger Management, Inc. in New York and the McGrath family holding company which retains a 20% interest.
Completion of the transaction will take place when the asset transfers have been registered with the land registry office. Liz McGrath Collection will take over all the employees of the hotels and central management. Mr. Sherwood, speaking on behalf of Liz McGrath Collection, indicated that no changes in the management or operation of the hotels are contemplated. The new owners plan to expand the number of rooms and facilities in step with increasing demand.
The directors of Liz McGrath Collection will be Mr. Sherwood, Nicholas Seewer who was general manager Africa and Mount Nelson Hotel for Orient-Express Hotels (now called Belmond) for 20 years, Mr. Alger, Ingrid Wheeler and Michael McGrath.

Mr. Sherwood said that he purchased the Mount Nelson Hotel in 1987 on behalf of Orient-Express Hotels and has spent much of January and February in Cape Town every year, staying at the hotel. He met Liz McGrath during his visits and was impressed with the high standards which she achieved in her hotels. She acquired her first hotel, The Plettenberg, in 1987, followed by The Cellars in 1992 to which was added the Hohenort in 1993, and The Marine in 1998. She transformed the properties to 5 star level through her superlative good taste in decor, gardens and restaurants. She sadly passed away in 2015 but her three children continued to maintain the hotels to their mother’s high standards.

The Cellars-Hohenort was known as Klaasenbosch Farm in 1693, owned by Hendrik ten Damme, Chief Surgeon of the Dutch East India Company. The Cellars building was the wine cellar of the farm. The Marine building was built in the late 19th century by Dr. Joshua Hoffman, the brother in law of General Jan Smuts. It was initially used as a sanitorium because of the “champagne air” of Hermanus Bay. It was converted into a hotel in 1902 and bought by Mr. David Rawdon in 1981. Rawdon closed the hotel for 4 years and fully renovated it, re-opening in 1985. The hotel’s splendid location on the clifffront in the centre of Hermanus makes it extremely popular for tourists, many of whom come for the whale watching which generally starts in August.
The Plettenberg was originally a beach house built on a bluff overlooking Plettenberg Bay in 1898. It was purchased by a member of the McGrath family and developed into a hotel, which opened in 1987.

All three hotels have been members of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group.

Mr. Sherwood said the shareholders had decided to call the new company Liz McGrath Collection (Pty.) Ltd. in memory of the wonderful lady who had created the hotels and devoted her later years to their highly successful operation.

​Part of The Collection by Liz McGrath which includes The Cellars-Hohenort, Cape Town, The Marine, Hermanus and The Plettenberg, Plettenberg Bay.
The Plettenberg Hotel (Pty) Ltd Company Reg. No. 1957/000342/07 Directors: M.J. McGrath, S. Nathan and L. Kelly’

Origins Restaurant at The Marine, Main Road, Hermanus. Tel (028) 313 1000. Twitter: @McGrathHotels Monday – Sunday Lunch and Dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein


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One reply

  1. I wrote a complaint a few weeks ago regarding some inedible prawns that my friend, Mrs Barbara Lee, ordered…. She’s in s wheelchair and doesn’t often go out..What has surprised me is that there hasn’t been an acknowledgement of my complaint, nor for that matter, an apology. For an Hotel, where all kind of wondrous things are claimed, I don’t get it, when just a basic courtesy is totally overlooked

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