Being a great fan of the Grand Cafe and Rooms in Plettenberg Bay, and The Grand in Camps Bay, we felt lucky to be able to book a table for lunch at the new The Grand on the Beach, literally on its own private beach between the Water Club in Granger Bay and the V&A Waterfront, during the busy festive season. The restaurant has a waiting list of up to 2 weeks for bookings for dinner, but it is a little easier to make a lunch booking.
The first impression is not very grand, when one drives down a dirt track, with huge mounds of soil just left there from some earthworks. Being close to the Oceana Club launch area, the smell of fish greets you, adding to the unsavoury first impression. If you are lucky enough to park inside the gates, everything changes, with multi-million Rand cars parked inside, and the familiar Grand branding being visible. One can see the beach, with tables and chairs, and even couches, on it.
The restaurant is set inside a massive old warehouse, with no attempt made to touch it up outside. Inside it has had a coat of paint, and has shelves near the bar area. A long steel table, maybe seating 30 persons, dominates the main restaurant area, over which hangs a huge chandelier, shabby chic with its new-like-old dust. Pinkish cane-style chairs dominate inside, and the interior comes together with little effort. A side section of the building houses a shop selling towels, hats, dresses, bathroom products, etc.
First prize in eating at the Grand on the Beach is to book a table outside, either on the terrace, or even better, on the beach itself. Justin, the Manager, organised us such a table with umbrella – he was previously at the Camps Bay branch, and is a lovely helpful Manager who makes magic happen. The owner Suzie Main was also there, and attracted a lot of attention from Justin. He did make time to check on our table regularly.
Dax Villanueva (RelaxWithDax) was our guest and told us more about himself. He grew up in Port Elizabeth, where his mother runs a guest house. He studied in Durban and a lucky job offer brought him to Cape Town 10 years ago. Dax started a newsletter nine years ago, about restaurants to eat at and things to do in Cape Town. He is also a Blogger and a Twitterer (www.relax-with-dax.co.za). He does not like the question about his favourite restaurants, and sidesteps it neatly, saying that he has different favourites for different occasions.
The private beach of The Grand is about 200 meters wide, and has some tables and chairs, a collection of white couches (for the owner and her friends), a pink “kiss” couch, 2 porta pools, and some showers. While it looks inviting to swim, one cannot get into the water, as ‘dolosse’ and barbed wire cover the length of the beach, without one seeing it from the tables.
It took an unreasonably long time to get the table set up outside and to serve the drinks, with a waiter change taking place too. One of the problems is that the waiters did not seem to know which brands of beer they stock – we got the full list of Castle, Amstel, Black Lable, Jack Black, and Corona, but every beer we chose was out of stock. In the end, it appeared that they only stock Corona and Jack Black, but that they were fresh out of Jack Black, so that we could have any beer we liked, as long as it was a Corona! Once our waitress took over, things moved a little faster, and given the beach setting, the slow service seemed less of an irritation than at a restaurant where one expected to leave more quickly. In fact we lost track of time, sittting on the beach for 3,5 hours.
The menu of the restaurant is the same as at The Grand in Camps Bay. The first choice starter of Avocado Ritz (R 75) could not be ordered, as the restaurant had run out of avocado. The Caprese Buffalo salad was lovely, exactly how it should be served, slices of mozarella on slices of tomato, and some basil, drizzled with olive oil. Dax’s Waldorf salad with bacon was served in a slice of lettuce, an attractive presentation. Both salads cost R65. Alex loved his grilled chicken breast with yoghurt dressing (R 85), Dax his Steak Bearnaise (R 130), and I the grilled calamari (R 80). Other mains are entrecote (R 140), mussels and chips (R 80), line fish (R 120), sugar salmon (R145), grilled crayfish (R240), LM prawns (R 200), “Grand crayfish pasta” (R 200) and a seafood platter for 2 at R 695. Shrimp tempura (R 75), prego roll (R 75) and caviar (SQ) can also be ordered. Unlike its other Grand sisters, The Grand on the Beach has a pizza oven, and serves a large margarita at R 90 and a margarita + anchovies and artichokes at R 120. We were not offered the pizza options. The Affogato (R28), an espresso poured over ice cream, went down well.
We are charged for a green salad that was meant to come with the calamari, but which we did not receive. We missed the trademark excellent music compilation which is played at strong volume at The Grand in Plettenberg Bay.
Despite all the hiccups, the service was attentive, and the food good, so it was an overall enjoyable experience. The beer stocking and supply needs to be addressed however.
The cost of 3 Coronas, a glass of house wine, two salads, the steak, the chicken and calamari, as well as one dessert was R 602.
The Grand on the Beach, off Beach Road between Water Club and V&A Waterfront, tel 021 425 0551. www.thegrand.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com