South Africa on the road

An artisanal brewery, a fine dining restaurant and a farm. Three addresses to note down

18-08-2013
The Granny Mouse Country House in Balgowan, the

The Granny Mouse Country House in Balgowan, the location of restaurant Eaves, tel. +27.(0)33. 2344071, chef Ryan Brand. The signature dish? Meat: Lamb trio and roasted pork belly

We’re just back from a beautiful journey around South Africa - 6,500 km in 10 days: nature, animals, parks and food, of course. There’s nothing better than a braai in the Kruger Park. All South African parks are fully equipped, you just need to find the ingredients. As for restaurants, when you move away from Cape Town the quality of food changes very rapidly and you leave delicacies for decisively rustic menus.

The basic dishes of a typical South African menu on the road are fried calamari (if you’re lucky they can also be grilled), chicken liver in a spicy sauce (called peri-peri), hamburgers and steaks and, to finish, (the very heavy) malva pudding. You can survive a few days with such a menu, but then you need to organise yourself and the nice thing about this country is that you can discover some hidden gems almost everywhere. You just need to look for them a little – South Africa after all is large, the distances are substantial and the restaurants are not on the main road but when you get there, you’ll be rewarded.

Clarens Brewery, great craft beer (photo by www.craftbru.co.za)

Clarens Brewery, great craft beer (photo by www.craftbru.co.za)

Here we want to tell you about three places that have struck us in particular, thanks to the quality of food and the hospitality we enjoyed. The first is the (artisanal) Brewery in Clarens, in the Free State, a pretty town full of artists, small shops, cafés and restaurants. It offers excellent artisanal beer and huge platters full of local salamis and cheeses, olives, paté, homemade bread and a wide selection of German wurstels, not to be confused with the South African borewors (sausages).

On the way back, we spent a beautiful evening in a lovely hotel in the Midlands Meander, near Durban. The area slightly resembles the English countryside, what with its vegetation and the architecture: stone houses with hay roofs, paths surrounded by nature, horses. The Granny Mouse Country House besides being a nice hotel with a spa, also hosts a fine dining restaurant called Eaves. Chef Ryan Brand assembled a very good menu, given the access to local ingredients. Meat is the main protagonist: the lamb trio and the roasted pork pancetta were fantastic.

De Oude Kraale, 35 km south of Bloemfontein, on the road to Capetown

De Oude Kraale, 35 km south of Bloemfontein, on the road to Capetown

There’s also some fish being served: even the crispy squids were very nice. To finish, some classic cakes such as the Lemon Merengue pie or a very good selection of local cheeses. Even breakfast was spectacular: a grandiose buffet full of homemade cakes and bread, artisanal yogurt, salami, cheese, fresh fruit and much more. And a hot breakfast menu too: eggs prepared in all kinds of ways, croissants and pancakes. Everything was flawless: in South Africa breakfast is an essential meal and cooking eggs in the proper way is extremely important. At Granny Mouse there’s also a bistro offering something simpler, like patés, cheese, salami and you can get a picnic basket to take away too.

The third place we recommend is an old Cape-Dutch-style farm, 35 Km from Bloemfontein, called De Oude Kraal: it is a hotel de charme with spa and restaurant. The atmosphere is warm and cosy, this is old and rural South Africa at its best. Owners Gerhard and Marie Lombard are the perfect hosts. Marie passionately runs the kitchen. We were finely nurtured and looked after: homemade paté, a cream of beans, kingklip and kudu, Baked Alaska for dessert and then cheese served in the lounge. A domesticated meerkat lives in the hotel, to complete the experience.


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Giovanna a Capo-tavola

The food world in and near Cape Town told by Giovanna Sartor