You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants in Swellendam in the Overberg, about 200km east of Cape Town. This South African town has more than 35 restaurants where you can get anything from pastries to pizzas, toasted sarmies to bobotie, even a fine dining experience. Here are some ideas about where to eat in Swellendam restaurants.
My caramelised onion, beetroot and goats cheese in phyllo tart was scrumptious, the other starter of salmon and cream cheese roulade understandably less piquant. My husband ordered a main of fillet of Black Angus beef with beans, cauliflower puree and shiitake mushrooms with a cabernet jus that was cooked medium rare and tender, just the way he likes it. I had duck breast with spiced cabbage, baby spinach and toasted almonds that was also tender and tasty.
For dessert we chose double cream vanilla ice cream with toffee sauce and toasted almonds, and an Amarula crème brûlée with Madagascan vanilla bean, just the right texture. I highly recommend this restaurant, especially if you visit when the winter special is running to make it more affordable.
The Conservatory at Schoone Oordt
If you’re lucky enough to be staying at the guest house, you’ll find that the kitchen staff continue the gourmet theme at breakfast, with a spread that includes fresh fruit salad, creamy yoghurt, home-made granola, muffins, scones, cheeses – and that's just the first course. Second course might be flapjacks with berry coulis, followed by a delicious tower of mushroom, tomato, bacon and egg – a novel and attractive twist on the same-old, same-old hot breakfast.
Note that the Conservatory is only open for dinner in summer (closed from May to September).
We enjoyed our lunch, the sort of tasty home cooking we’d been looking for. My ostrich bobotie with rice and sambals was good, a filling meal. Our other choice was chicken schnitzel, which came with two veg and some mushroom sauce. Although the sauce was good (nothing like the floury mess that masquerades as mushroom sauce in many restaurants), we thought the dish was a bit pricey at R145.
Other menu options for lunch include gourmet burgers, toasted sarmies and salads. The dinner menu has things like bobotie, steak, curries, fish and prawns, but no burgers.
[Update August 2021: this restaurant has closed permanently though another called Christelle's Bistro has taken its place. I will update you on what it's like next time I'm in Swellendam.]
Ikigai Artisan Coffee Bar & Deli
Having enjoyed really good flat whites made using Origin coffee beans by a barista passionate about her coffee the day before, we returned for brunch the next day and discovered the food was good too. Choose from croissants with scrambled egg and bacon, quiche, tarts, muffins and open sarmies. My Greek lamb on wholewheat sandwich was delicious, tender lamb topped with tsatziki. My husband enjoyed his chicken and avo on ciabatta. Between us we polished off multiple cups of flat white, they were that good.
Hot tip: there's also an Ikigai in Riversdale.
Service got off to a slow start, but when our food arrived it was good. I’d been disappointed that the signature bobotie wasn’t on the menu that day, but hubby’s chicken wrap and lemon meringue pie were tasty, as was my spicy butternut soup which came with freshly made roosterkoek. These traditional breads are baked daily in a wood-burning oven behind the restaurant and it may be the first time I’ve had such a perfect one, light and airy. Kudos to the roosterkoek baker.
Regulars on the menu include Cape curry, lamb shank, oxtail and traditional melktert. The Old Gaol is one of few restaurants in Swellendam open for lunch on Sundays and makes a perfect place to take the family because there’s a play area out back and a special kiddies menu.
We enjoyed a sophisticated breakfast of mushrooms on wholewheat ciabatta with oven-roasted baby tomatoes and rocket, and bacon and scrambled egg on ciabatta. For a light lunch, there are salads and sandwiches with ingredients like Gruyere, caramelised onions and ricotta – yum.
For more about this place, see Tredici in Swellendam: a taste of Europe.
The building that houses the restaurant used to be a Masonic Lodge and you can still see the Masonic symbol on the gable.
The menu is a mix of traditional dishes like bobotie and lasagne with lighter options like sandwiches, as well as hearty breakfasts. I enjoyed a toasted chicken sarmie, while hubby had a burger and a yummy lemon meringue pie. Service was prompt and friendly, but we didn’t feel rushed. We’d have liked to linger longer, but there were still so many things to do in Swellendam!
We’ll be back soon to try some of these.