Before I moved to London, I had only ever lived in one place – my hometown of Port Elizabeth. It's a funny thing, living in one place for many years. Not only do you get to bore anybody younger than you by reciting all the previous incarnations of a particular venue ("Well when I was your age, this was the hottest nightclub in town; then it was… now let me see… a designer boutique; and then a doctor's surgery" etc etc) – but you also build up layers of memories of a place as you relate to it in different ways throughout the years.
The Beach Hotel is one of a small chain of family-owned hotels in PE and it has been around ever since I can remember. None of the hotels is the generic modern Best Western type – they are all smaller and quirkier, but all have been beautifully renovated and maintained and offer a luxurious stay to tourists and business travellers alike. In my earliest memories of the Beach Hotel, we used to go there for Sunday lunch whem I was little, and when going out for Sunday lunch was the highlight of my week, other than the game of Putt-Putt (mini golf) that preceded the meal! Later on, the Beach Hotel brings back memories of going to listen to live music in the bar with my first boyfriend – although usually when we were in one of our periods of not officially going out, which is when we were nicest to each other. (Dude, if you are reading this, you know that's true ). And later, after I met my husband, I have memories of our going to the wine shop on the hotel premises to enjoy their free Saturday morning wine tastings.
Most recently, however, the hotel is associated in my mind with my father. Never having been one for wanton dining out, my father usually chooses one place on which to lavish all his custom, to the exclusion of everywhere else. For a number of years, this honour has been bestowed on The Verandah restaurant at the Beach Hotel. Birthday? Meet you at the Verandah. Anniversary? Let's go to the Verandah. Daughter arriving for a visit from London (ahem!)? "Just come straight from the airport and meet me at the Verandah."
It's not hard to see why he likes it. For a start, there is the possibility of near-step-free access (important when you are 88!). Then there is the fact that it has a view both of the sea and Shark Rock Pier; and the fact that the decor is relaxed and comfortable without being chintzy or overdesigned. There is the lovely shady Verandah from which the restaurant takes its name, offering the possibility of indoor or outdoor dining. And last but not least, there is the menu that contains both salads and wraps and mezze to please me; and unthreatening options like a ploughman's platter, curry or stuffed chicken breast to please my dad. Oh yes – and they do a great line in cocktails too!
I have been there many times over the past few years and below is a selection of the dishes that I and my dining companions have had. First up are two of the things that I always order first when my wheels touch down in South Africa: our very own bastardised version of a Greek salad (heavy on the iceberg lettuce!); and a toasted bacon, avocado and feta sandwich.
One of the best meals I have ever had at the Verandah was their delicious mezze platter, pictured below. It included generous portions of pita bread, olives, taramasalata, hummus, aubergine dip, and slices of spicy sausage. Sadly, I don't know if it is on the menu any more – I did not see it last time I visited.
And last but not least, we have my dad's perennial faavourite: the stuffed chicken breast with creamy mushroom sauce. The other dish pictured below is something my dad would not touch, but which instantly hooked me: a roasted butternut and feta salad – the butternut cubes are caramelised with cinnamon, which makes for a great contrast with the salty feta.
Everything I have ever had at the Verandah has been delicious – freshly made using good ingredients, and nicely plated as well. The service is unfailingly friendly although it can be a little absent-minded when they are busy. The prices are not dirt cheap but you don't mind paying a little extra for the lovely, relaxed setting and sea view. A meal for 2 with a glass of wine or a beer each comes to about R250 (just under £25). It's a lovely lunch venue, whether you are meeting friends, having a business lunch – or simply reliving some old memories
The Beach Hotel
Tel. 00 27 41 583 2161
This post is part of a series called Sundays in South Africa. The series started as a way of providing visitors with some ideas of what and where to eat during and after the FIFA World Cup 2010 which took place in June/July 2010 in my home country of South Africa! Although the tournament is over now, I still try to post a review of somewhere South African, or a South African recipe, every Sunday as culinary inspiration for visitors. Click here for previous posts in the series.