Looking for a coffee shop in Hermanus over lunch yesterday I popped in at Just Pure The Bistro, located within a showroom that sells the Just Pure pure skin and body care range. I had no intention to write about my sandwich and coffee stop, but the dreadful service from the staff and owners compelled me to write a review.
The balcony has a fantastic view onto the ocean, and the ocean was particularly rough yesterday, with massive waves, making it a pleasure to sit outside. I used to love going there when Bellini had its art gallery and coffee shop in the same space. I walked inside the shop, not having been there for some time, and saw that the Just Pure showroom still looked the same, found a Cape Times on a table, and chose a table to sit at outside. I was not welcomed by any staff, and saw a waitress yawning as I wanted to ask her for a table. She brought a menu and I placed my order of a glass of ice, a jug of milk, and an espresso, wishing to make my own iced coffee, and a glass of ice water. She brought the ice on a saucer, and there was no glass into which I could pour all the ingredients. She returned with the same number of ice cubes in a glass, so I had to send her back to fill it up.
I chose to order a ‘Country Loaf’ sandwich, from the ‘Gourmet Open Sandwiches‘ section, with tomato, mozzarella, and avocado, which I asked to be toasted, and expected a seed type loaf. The waitress returned, after having taken the order, to double check that I wished to only have one slice , described confusingly in their menu as a half portion (R49), two slices being a full portion (R65). It took at least half an hour to be served, but it gave me a chance to read the newspaper, and to catch up on Social Media, having spent about two hours driving to Hermanus. What I was served was an attractively presented but non-gourmet plain slice of toasted sourdough bread. I called the waitress, and she told me that the bread was definitely the Country Loaf. I asked her to call the Manager, no such person having come out onto the terrace in the time I was there to check on the customers. The owner Tamsin Koen (whom I identified via their website afterwards, and whose photograph on their website must be about 20 years old) came to the table, and was defensive from the word go. I told her how tired her waitress was, and that she made so many mistakes just to get the iced coffee components together. She told me that she had just received a fabulous compliment for the same waitress, and was not interested in my feedback about her! She then told me that all their customers love the country loaf, and that she recommend that I eat it. I told her that I expected something seeded, so she suggested another bread style, only having a few seeds on the top, or the sourdough rye, which was not half as good as the Country Loaf! I insisted on the bread with the seeds on it, and she returned with a slice that had shrunk by one third, including the toppings! She explained that the slice was shorter but squatter!
Tamsin then asked me what my name is, and I told her my first name. She then went on a vicious attack, telling me that she had been warned about me, being someone who only slates restaurants, and that I was obviously just being difficult. I didn’t bring my notebook with me, so there was no proof that she was correct about who I was – I had only photographed the first sandwich, which the owners probably didn’t see, as they were inside. Tamsin continued her rant, and then grabbed the plate with the sandwich from the table, hurling abuse at me. I decided to leave, even though I had only had two bites of the sandwich, and while taking a photograph of the exterior, Tamsin’s husband Louis (identified from their website) ran after me, wanting to grab my cellphone, saying that photography is not allowed, even though there is no sign to this effect, nor is it mentioned on their website. I took another shot of the exterior from my car, and he proudly posed on the terrace for it, but then changed his mind, running to my car, which I had got into safely, and tried to interrogate me about who I am and where I am from, all their customers watching the spectacle he was making of himself from the terrace.
The menu is on the website, and contains a list of breakfast dishes, cakes (from R30) and scones (R25), salads (from R55 for a Greek salad to R79 to a salmon salad), toasted sandwiches (R48 – R65), cheese board (R79), burgers (R74/75), salmon fish cakes (R79), quiches (R58), and pies (R75). A Kid’s menu is available too. The winelist is part of the menu, most wines being available by the glass and bottle, but no vintage information is provided. Misleadingly they have a heading ‘Champagne/Sparkling wine’, which only contains the latter, being Stellar Organic (R120) and Claudia MCC Brut (R195). The wines are proudly-Overberg, and well priced, all being under R200, sourced from Beaumont, Creation, Gabriëlskloof, Sir Robert Stanford, Newton Johnson, and Cutters’ Cove. Corkage costs R30 per bottle.
As I had not made notes and did not plan to review the restaurant, there is little additional information to provide. The Bistro tables are extremely small, only adequate for one person to eat at. Paper serviettes are offered. The website states that the coffee is organic, and that they source organic ingredients as far as possible. I was told that their breads are supplied by Trevor Daly from Worcester. I heard at another restaurant later that day that a customer had ordered a Coke at The Bistr0, and that the waitress told him that they are not allowed to sell it to customers as it is too unhealthy, even though they stock the beverage and allow the staff to drink it!
The website claim of being ‘familiar (sic) and welcoming‘ is devoid of all truth, and completely misleading. Just Pure is first and foremost a beauty range outlet, which the Koens started in 2007, having added the Bistro two years ago when they moved into the present location. Funny is the explanation of the Fleur de Lis symbols for their logo, being an ‘… icon to represent Just Pure and our commitment to ourselves (!) and the environment‘! The service and food I received was a complete contrast to their brand name of ‘Just Pure‘, being impure in every respect!
Just Pure The Bistro, corner Marine Drive and Park Lane, Hermanus. Tel (028) 313-0060. www.justpure.co.za No Social Media. Monday – Friday 8h30 – 16h30 Saturday – Sunday 8h30 – 15h00. Dinners in summer Wednesdays, Thursday, and Fridays.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Dear ‘Martin’ Louis Koen!
We have deleted your comment for its disparaging content!
Well I must say I am MOST surprised!
I have ONLY had SUPERB service and THE most delicious food.
Its my favourite spot in Hermanus!
Welcome to our Blog and thank you for sharing your feedback.
Perhaps our service and food standards differ!
My husband and I have been in Hermanus (from Canada) since the middle of January and have had great service and food many times in the past month. We have visited Hermanus many times in the last few years. Just Pure is a favourite lunch spot because of the view and the relaxed atmosphere. We love the breads there. The Rye Sourdough being a personal favourite. We took a group of 6 friends there for Valentine’s Day evening and everyone enjoyed their food (it was divine) and the service very much. They were very welcoming to our group. I find it wonderful that they have newspapers and magazines for perusal when one is alone while dining. I enjoy their cappuccino and espresso as much as anywhere. If you explain you’d like a dry cappuccino, you get what you’ve asked for. Maybe your request should have been for an iced coffee with a short explanation of how you like it. In all the years I have never heard Tamsin raise her voice or use abusive language to her customers or staff. Ever. I have never even heard anyone complain in the times I’ve been there. Not about the food or service. The portions have been more than adequate. Quality of food is very good too. Love the roast vegetable salad for lunch. We find eating outside at a bistro table is cozy for more than 2, but normally there are only 2 chairs at each small table.
Thank you for your feedback Shirley.
Surprising is your contradiction in how long you have been in Hermanus, going to Just Pure for years? or since January?
As I wrote to you by e-mail yesterday, I ask for the ingredients in the same way wherever I have my daily iced coffee, and I have never had a waitress get it so badly wrong! I don’t ask for an iced coffee as such, as there are so many recipes, including adding honey or condensed milk, none of which I want.
I am chuffed that you are a new reader of our blog!
Not really a contradiction. We’ve been in Hermanus since mid January 2014, but have visited each year for many years, and Just Pure is and has always been a favourite destination during each visit. And we love their skin care products too!
The way you phrased it was contradictory Shirley.
Just Pure The Bistro has only been open for two years, so its hardly ‘years’ that you have been supporting it!
Right or wrong, good or bad, readers of food reviews expect that food reviewers are objective and honest based on food and service paid for at the time. We may not all agree with their views but we should remember that there is such a thing as an ‘off day’. Restaurant owners as well as their staff are actually human even though we expect them to be perfectly consistent and validate our right to be right time and again.
That said, what makes a restaurant or any business stand out, is not that they avoid problems, but how they overcome them when they do inevitably happen. And in a restaurant, faced with an unhappy customer, what is important to the owner is not who is right or who is wrong. All that matters is that the conflict is resolved to the benefit of both parties.
Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool to gain or loose customers and it seems that you the unhappy customer and your requests and comments were incorrectly handled by management. It also seems that you were prejudged based on the negative attacks and gossip you so often have to she has to endure. This negative already-made-up opinion of the owners clearly robbed you of your credibility regarding comments and requests about the food and service.
What a pity. We learn more from having our weaknesses pointed out by objective critics and customers than from the silence of unhappy non-returning customers. Hang on. No. Those unhappy customers are not silent – they tell everybody they know about their experience except the management or owner of the business. Like you just did on you blog.
If this eatery had a bad day, or felt fear based on the exaggerated negativity they have heard about you, or just did not like you, then all can still be forgiven in my mind … Except the manner in which they handled the comments and requests. I will not go near them for fear of being treated the same way should they have an off day and I dare to complain.
In the restaurant business our relationship with each really matters as atmosphere (and attitude of customer and management and staff) contribute significantly to the enjoyment of our dining experiences, the nourishment of our bodies and the pleasing of our sensual natures.
Thanks for the review – keep up with the honesty and objectivity – albeit it your own! 🙂 We need a few more like you!
Thank you so much Anne, very much appreciated.
If the owners had heard of me, they could have pulled out all the stops, come to greet me when I arrived, and made sure that the best staff was serving me. As I wrote, I had no intention to write a review based on one sandwich at all, but it was the way I was treated that made me document the experience.