Hermanus is spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out – as you might expect from a popular holiday destination. A plethora of watering holes, takeaways, concessions and sea-view restaurants hug the clifftop above the old harbour. There’s a restaurant in pretty much every direction you look – and unlike the elusiveness and wonder of whale-spotting, here you are at least guaranteed sight of a waitron without it being a total fluke.
While there is a host of refreshment stations, many of these are merely middle of the road franchises that simply find themselves opportunistically located in Hermanus. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s certainly convenient for a wide range of palates and pockets.
But if you’re looking for a restaurant that is special, for a place that speaks to the region, and to the people who love living there, that is of its context and that is above the ordinary; then look to options such as Bientang’s Cave (which offers seafood in a converted cave above the waves), or Dutchies beach restaurant on Grotto Beach. Look to Origins at The Marine. Although The Marine is part of The Liz McGrath Collection, the hotel is open to the public and the restaurant is not exclusively for staying guests.
Under Head Chef Tronette Dippenaar, the Origins menu is true to its name. It reflects ingredients and dishes that honour the natural bounty of the Hermanus region and the cultural history of the area as conveyed through its cooking heritage. Similarly, the restaurant’s wine list follows this same ethos, the sommelier having drawn heavily from the award-winning wines of the nearby Hemel-en-Aarde valley.
The restaurant showcases the very best of the Overberg, with a focus on fresh regional ingredients and well-loved recipes that have been given an update. Here, local seafood is the star of the Bouillabaise and fish cakes feature as a starter dish. Overberg Gruberg cheese finds its way into a salad, while the gourmet burger boasts an Outeniqua ostrich mince patty, the Walker Bay Fish Curry is an institution and kudu loin is served with sultana chutney, and so on… Local is very lekker here as indigenous and endemic ingredients come together beautifully.
We were impressed that the restaurant also carries a full three-course dedicated vegetarian menu with multiple options per course, rather than just a standard menu with one or two vegetarian dishes. A kiddies’ menu is also available.
A complementary bread basket arrives at table and the spongy, airy ciabatta and crispy pastry “bark” are satisfyingly hand-baked and wonderfully fresh. My partner ordered the beetroot carpaccio with goat’s cheese mousse, pomegranate gel and pistachio crumble to start. This colourful, pretty dish, with presentation that’s easy on the eye, is just as pleasing on the mouth. I could not resist the allure of the seafood soup, served with rouille, gruyere and ciabatta toast.
The restaurant boasts an open kitchen that is framed by a dramatic mosaic arch that serves to place even more focus on the chefs. Watching the preparation and plating process will pique interest and whet the appetite as meals are efficiently prepared. We did not have to wait long for starters or the main course to follow.
The baby gem salad with cauliflower tempura, smoked pepper pesto and sherry dressing offered the right touch of lightness after the richness of the soup. My partner, a vegetarian, opted for the aubergine burger served with crunchy fries, and declared both to be superior.
The portions were hearty, and we sadly did not have room for dessert. This time. We will certainly return after noting the delicious-sounding dark chocolate soufflé served with crème brulee ice-cream and orange and cardamom salad, or the upside-down Elgin apple tart to share, which would be alluring enough on its own, but is made even more decadent by the addition of citrus and honey ice-cream, rooibos caramel sauce and toasted almonds! Our next visit is in the diary.
What impressed us most about Origins, other than the quality of the meals emerging from the chef-led kitchen in combination with the upmarket surroundings, was that Origins is extremely well-priced. Astonishingly enough, it is comparatively more affordable than some of the other venues that clutter the cliffs. A solid and rewarding choice if you’re visiting Hermanus, whether you’re staying at The Marine, elsewhere, or just passing through…