It’s easy to work up an appetite on the Garden Route, what with the glut of forest hikes, beach walks, water sports and adventure sports on offer. Here are a few of my favourite refueling stops for a food feast.
1. Top of the pops is probably the Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market on the western edge of Sedgefield every Saturday morning. It’s a great place to stock up on organically grown veggies, fine cheeses, homemade cakes, honey, pickles and much more. But the best part is breakfast. Take your pick from a full Monty of eggs and wors, or pancakes or wraps or vetkoek and find a tree stump in the shade to plonk down on. Then dig your toes into the bark mulch as you tuck into your stash in the open air. Aah, nothing better.
2. A more sophisticated but mind-blowing favourite is the Ile de Pain bakery and coffee shop on Knysna’s chichi Thesen Island. Neither Paris nor Vienna can do better than this. Throw self-control to the winds and indulge in flaky croissants, pastries and freshly baked bread from a wood-fired oven. It’s equally good for breakfasts, lunch or tea-time treats, and the cappuccino and hot chocolate are fab. Even though this trendy place is madly busy in season, you may still be lucky enough to get co-owner and bake-meister Markus Färbinger stopping at your table for an inspiring foodie-chat. His passion and enthusiasm for his work are beguiling.
3. Enjoy dinner or Sunday lunch at Pembreys on the way to Belvidere and Brenton-on-Sea (turn off under the bridge just to the west of Knysna). Peter Vadas works his magic in the kitchen, with elegant combinations impeccably executed, while wife Viv keeps things running smoothly out front. The salad bar is a cosmopolitan delight, but don’t miss the chef's specials like springbok with a touch of chocolate in the sauce for added richness.
4. Sophisticated it’s not, but a visit to the quaint gold-rush era Mother Holly’s Tea Garden in the forest is an intriguing window into the past. Take the Rheenendal Road west of Knysna and turn off to Millwood, from where the tea garden is well signposted along the gravel forest roads. Great place for a cold drink or tea and apple crumble. Allow time for a short nature walk, ramble through the old cemetery and visit the tiny museum adjacent to the tea garden.
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