Point Reyes Light

An ode to Manka’s Olema

This is an ode to The Olema. It is a letter to readers about an opportunity in our midst to experience food and hospitality in a way that is both new, yet seasoned by the past. A meal at this restaurant will stimulate your soul and satisfy your need, or inform you of your need, for a deeper level of nourishment.

The creators of The Olema are familiar to us: They are the makers of Manka’s Inverness Lodge, which many of you knew as a place of magic. The kitchen, dining room and much of the lodge burned down in 2006 and while plans to rebuild stalled, the owners of the Olema Inn foreclosed.

The inside blends with the outside—the natural surroundings and the air of preserved history that imbues West Marin. Upon entry you are assailed by a mass of flowering plum branches, the same that decorate the nearby hills and valleys. Turning left into what used to be a lounge and bar, there is an open room with a massive stone hearth on which a great blue heron stands watch. There are candelabras, expertly stitched (I examined them) woolen drapes separating the four rooms that make up the first-floor restaurant, and a circle of aged Windsor chairs evoking the era in which the inn was built. On one wall is a cluster of taxidermy birds, but otherwise the space would feel stark were it not for the soft, diffuse lighting. The building feels as though it was stripped down to its historical bones, and then a few singular items placed inside, as in a museum or gallery. Also notable are the interior windows, which afford interesting views into others’ intimate dinners.

Daniel and Margaret are geniuses in the kitchen—including striking the perfect balance of salt, every time—whose gift derives from a pure, driving love of cooking for others combined with intense focus. They say the menu is still being drafted, and promises to offer items like buckets of chicken and donuts, but if it never changed West Marin palates’ are sure to be well served with The Olema open.

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