• The Free State town of Clarens has emerged as a destination for foodies and lovers of the good life. F&HE shares top restaurants to eat, places to shop and stay and things to do.

    Zaza Motha

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    278 on Main
    For the best burger in town, head straight for 278 on Main in the heart of Clarens. Owned by Sue Campbell, it’s a great place to spoil your taste buds. Try the minced lamb or chicken burger with a hearty portion of crisps. Also worth a mention is the ostrich carpaccio served with ciabatta, salsa and a balsamic glaze, as well as the baked Camembert with chives, garlic and white wine served with melba toast. In addition to offering great country fare, the venue includes a deli, gallery and accommodation. Call 082 556 5208 or visit www.278onmain.co.za.

    The Grouse and Claret
    This family restaurant and pub serves what owner Richard Siviter describes as “honest, down-to-earth cuisine”. Yummy main dishes include crumbed and deep-fried calamari strips with garlic and lemon butter served with savoury rice, or try the braised lamb shank slow-cooked in a red wine, tomato and herb sauce served with mashed potato and vegetables. Call 058-256-1795.

    Royal Coachman
    The spacious self-catering accommodation is located next to a dam and is a small piece of heaven for keen fly fishermen or those wishing to chill out on the deck with its breathtaking views. The lodge comprises a lounge with fireplace, open-plan kitchen and dining area, two bedrooms and an upstairs loft. Call 082 571 0306 or visit www.royalcoachman.co.za.

    Mona Lisa Garment Gallery
    Owner Phoebe is an avid antiques collector and her passion for things from a bygone era is evident in the vintage clothing and items on offer. You can easily find a wedding dress from the 1920s and dresses from the 1940s. The shop was opened in 2009 and its name inspired by the famous painting. “The painting is a mysterious piece of art and I realised that every woman has a mysterious side to her. They are bound to find something interesting in the store,” says Phoebe. Call 083 799 6636.

    Purple Onion Deli
    Describing itself as a country food shop, the deli offers a selection of homemade and organic products. The deli is jam packed with products from floor to ceiling and you will be spoilt for choice with the scrumptious selection of homemade fudge, chocolate and truffles, as well as the pastas, muesli, breads and koeksisters on offer. Call 058-256-1898 or visit www.purpleoniondeli.co.za.

    Velvet Café
    The Velvet Café opened last year and offers visitors the opportunity to experience life in the Clarens township of Kgubetswana. Owned and managed by Eunice Mokoena, it functions as a guest house and restaurant. The accommodation consists of a double bedroom, family room, lounge and a spacious bathroom. The café features indoor and outdoor seating areas where you can enjoy signature items such as red velvet cake and a velvet cake milkshake, as well as traditional Basotho and Afrikaans food. Tours of the township can be arranged. Call 058-256-1081 or visit www.clarensmountainestate.co.za/velvet-cafe.

    Kalm Bed and Breakfast 
    Situated in the Swartland suburb of Clarens, Kalm Bed and Breakfast is within walking distance to town. Its three suites feature quirky interiors: Anybody’s is a rustic gold place with vibrant splashes of colour, Somebody’s consists of bold colourful designs on a black and white canvas and Theirs is a premium room perfect for couples. Call 084 420 1989 or visit www.kalm.co.za.

    La Casa Restaurant
    Step into this vibrant restaurant with a menu featuring Italian influences. Try the pasta with Parma ham and spinach in a cream and cheese sauce. A deli offers imported Italian ingredients such as Parma ham, mortadella sausage, Milano salami, Asiago cheese, Provolone cheese, various pastas and olive oil. Call 058-256-1413 or email [email protected].

    Clarens Xtreme Adventures
    Those with adventure in mind should get in touch with Clarens Xtreme Adventures, which offers day trips, shuttle tours, customised one-day trips and travel packages. Venture into Golden Gate, the Drakensberg or Lesotho. Try zip lining, fly fishing, paintball, archery, white-water rafting, mountain biking, guided quad biking, abseiling, slack packing and a host of other activities. Sleep in ox wagons which were last used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Also try the lion and game farm, as well as the overhanging fertility caves inhabited by traditional healers. Call 082 563 6242 or visit www.clarensxtreme.co.za.

    Richard Rennie’s Gallery
    For an art lesson and to view beautiful paintings, visit Richard Rennie’s Gallery. He is a highly respected demonstrator of watercolours and runs workshops all over South Africa. Call 082 771 0396 or e-mail [email protected].

    Clarens Brewery
    When ready for sundowners head to the brewery for a local beer and cider tasting. Try the flagship Clarens Blonde beer, which is a light golden ale with a sweet malty aroma and a distinct biscuity flavour with a light hop finish. The Clarens Stout is distinctive, with a dark, sweet and full-bodied ale with subtle chocolate aromas and a creamy head. The ciders are gentle and refreshing with flavours of either apples or cherries grown in the foothills of the Maluti mountains. Call 082 901 4700 or visit www.clarensbrewery.co.za.

    Clarens Wellness Day Spa
    The Clarens Wellness Day Spa is the perfect place to regenerate your body and soul. It offers facial therapy, body therapy, tinting and hair removal, manicures and pedicures, massages and detoxes, which can be savoured individually or as a package of treatments designed to induce complete bliss. Call 082 887 1503 or visit www.clarenswellnessdayspa.co.za.

    Bon Appétit
    Owned by Valerie Kneppert, Bon Appétit is a gourmet shop specialising in imported and South African delicacies. Products include imported French cheeses and cold meats, locally produced dairy products and preserves, olive products from the Cape, a large selection of vinegars, salts, herbs and spices. You will also find free-range chicken products, frozen fish, a small selection of Asian products, nougat, koeksisters, chocolate salamis, fudge, brittles and seed bars, as well as a range of gorgeous kitchen accessroies. Call 079 873 1318 or e-mail [email protected]

    Clementines Restaurant and bar
    This restaurant was once an SA Railways bus service maintenance shed and was developed into a restaurant in 1997. Resident chef Osahene Amankwah Addo hails from Ghana but started his culinary career in Paris. He began cooking up a storm in Clarens in 2009. We loved the marinated fillet topped with rocket, Parmesan, berry sauce and turmeric potatoes. For dessert, the chocolate trio, which consists of layers of homemade brownie, parfait and chocolate mousse, is a must. Call 058-256-1616 or visit www.clementines.co.za

    Roelene Prinsloo