Hermanus holds many happy memories for me, having enjoyed simple holidays there as a child. My family erected a seaside bench in memory of my late maternal grandfather, a passionate fisherman who always fished there, and my grandmother, an opera singer (from whom I inherited no talent). My husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary at The Marine Hotel, so it was with nostalgia that I set off to return to this iconic property.
Booking into a beautiful, serene room with a glimpse of the sea was overshadowed by GM Jo Massie’s warm welcome, a genuine hotelier who has years of experience with The Collection. I sat and drank a piping hot cappuccino with a light shortbread whale-shaped biscuit. The hotel has a serenity and ambience that equals that of Cellars Hohenhort and The Plettenberg. After a trot around the town to the bookshops it was back to the hotel for a relaxing facial in the spa and to languish in bubble bath, for a Capetonian well aware of the drought, was truly indulgent.
An animated catch-up over bubbly with a school friend, Ros, visiting from Dallas, took place in the elegant lounge, which showcases Liz McGrath’s legacy of style and attention to detail. We got caught up in the joy of European visitors sighting whales for the first time. Dinner at Origins restaurant with its open kitchen was a pleasure. The South Atlantic tuna tartare with sesame and pickled kohlrabi was my choice, my friend drooled over the pickled fish with red cabbage and celery slaw, coriander mayo and a hot cross bun melba toast. Living in US for many years, for Ros coming home has to include traditional Cape fare, and Origins was the perfect place. The menu has a modern twist on many Cape classics, and her Cape Malay spiced mussels with green tomato pickle was fabulous. My Walker Bay fish curry was superb, a dish that has remained on the menu since the previous chef’s tenure. Thai spices and coconut dominate the flavour, and transport your taste buds straight from the Cape to the East, with aplomb. After much deliberation and good advice from our waiter, we settled on the passion fruit sago, dark chocolate sponge cake with chocolate cremaux and a passion fruit sherbet for dessert.
My next treat was to walk the cliff paths before a delicious breakfast (and another bubble bath). I then caught up with local lass and chef Tronette Dippenaar, who has in more ways than one, come home. The name of the restaurant is appropriate – there is a commitment to living up to their name. “Guests need to know what they are eating. We are so blessed to have everything we want on our doorstep – fresh fish from the harbour, vegetables from neighbouring farms, meat from the local butcher. Speciality products are sourced from Cape Town, but nothing comes from further than that,” claims Tronette. She has been with The Collection since 2008. A farm girl from Robertson, she was first exposed to the pleasures of food by her mom, who has a catering and hiring company. Tronette grew up eating meat (Karoo lamb), rice, potatoes. “I don’t over-complicate food – we offer traditional SA cuisine with a modern twist – always something special.” Eating out is a hobby for Tronette and her husband, Johan, previously also in the hospitality industry. “We have a rule that we never order the same dish, thereby giving us exposure to as much inspiration as possible. I love Creation and of course The Greenhouse – a real adventure – Peter Tempelhoff is an encyclopedia of knowledge and always willing to share. I obviously like to cook, but especially with my husband. We love Asian and Cape Malay cuisine.”
Tronette has a team approach in her kitchen, and believes that it is only a success if everyone works together. She never puts something on the menu that she doesn’t like, believing that if she likes it, someone else will too. Her inspiration comes from her staff, with whom she is constantly learning. The open kitchen at Origins gives guests not only fabulous food, but also the chance to watch the happy team. Tronette’s reward? Watching waiters and the delight on guests’ faces. Having earmarked The Marine Hotel as a future anniversary venue, I left slowly in a clean car, as the staff here really do go the extra mile!
Having launched our JHP Gourmet Guide™ at this beautiful venue last month, I am thrilled that many of our clients have woken up to its charm and diverse offerings. A quarterly lunch with a few women who also work in the luxury travel industry is a highlight on my calendar. Our last ‘ladies who lunch – and work really hard’ lunch for the year was at The Stack, now bustling with business people and visitors. Chef Jason Kosmas has settled well, and every dish ordered got full marks. Two of us savoured the Salad Niçoise, and although we loved the finesse and flavour, we nearly died of order envy when the robust cheese and ham sandwich with fries was served.
The annual Southern Charter year-end party is always held appropriately at Cape Grace, as their mission is to chart stormy seas safely for their clients. I was delighted that this year they decided to spoil each and every guest with a (signed) copy of the JHP Gourmet Guide™, in addition to a copy of speaker Martinique (Nicky) Stilwell’s ‘Thinking up a Hurricane’. Our meal, from the quail with a sweetcorn risotto to the delectable chocolate dessert, was excellent. A sweet start to beginning of the end…of the year.