Pearl of the Garden Route

With the Pick n Pay Oyster Festival celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, we revisit some favourite foodie spots in Knysna, and discover a few new hidden gems

By Andrea Pafitis-Hill

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OLDIES BUT GOODIES:

MON PETIT PAIN:

Little sister to the perennially popular île de Pain, Mon Petit Pain is pure café chic. With the warm and personal attention from hands-on owner Ilse van Staden and her dedicated team, you’ll feel like one of the family at this charming corner spot. The aromas of freshly baked loaves drifting through the neighbourhood from early morning are an irresistible incentive for regulars to leap out of bed for their morning constitutional, made complete with a stop to buy their daily bread. An avid supporter of local producers, Ilse sources figs from Prince Albert for menu favourites like the bacon, Brie, figs and rocket croissant, and her Cape Townsourced coffee is one of the best you’ll find for miles. Call 044-382-7873 or visit www.iledepain.co.za.

EAST HEAD CAFÉ:

Whether you’re sitting on the large outside terrace or inside its clean, white interior, the vantage point that runs straight through the Knysna Heads is equally mesmerising. Take your time poring over the menu, which includes East Head Café’s list of local suppliers, as well as all wines conveniently available by glass, carafe or bottle. If you’re there for breakfast, the eggs or smoked salmon hollandaise will get your day off to a rocking start! Call 044-384-0933 or visit www.eastheadcafe.co.za.

WILD OATS MARKET:

The Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market in Sedgefield still has to be one of the best ways to spend a Saturday morning. Firmly supporting small-scale and local producers, the range of brekkie and lunch options are endless – some of my favourites include the Farmers’ Breakfast scrambled eggs and boerewors, bacon and egg pies from Joan’s Bakery, fresh wild oysters, fruit-laden, creamy and perfectly gooey Pavlovas from The German Kitchen, Gansvlei’s cheeses including
the new Blue Moon addition, Le Roux Charcuterie’s Handcrafted Deli Meats and Karen Dames’ Little Herb Garden products. Saturday mornings on the western outskirts of Sedgefield, off the N2. Call 082 376 5020 or visit www.wildoatsmarket.co.za for directions.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK:

VEG TABLE PRIVATE DINING ROOM:

A self-confessed carnivore, I admit I wondered if I would need to stop at a steakhouse for a meat fix before a visit to this quirky spot, the home of chef-patron Brett Garvie. Describing his fare as “the plant kingdom on a plate”, Brett’s dishes are nothing short of a royal feast. A self-taught prodigy who moved to Knysna from Gauteng 11 years ago, he welcomes you with endearing humility and self-effacing charm. From his beetroot and dukkah salad with sour cream and citrus sauce to his aubergine involtini, handmade butternut ravioli, and rose and geranium sorbet on verjuice-poached pears, I was in seventh heaven from start to finish. Rheenendal Road (5,7km from N2, turn right at the Mother Earthworms sign, outside Knysna), Garden Route. Booking is essential. Call 074 833 9516 or visit www.vegtable.co.za.

WANDU @ EKASI:

Fuelled by his determination to fill a gap in the market, 37-year-old Mawande Kondlo has risen from working as a petrol attendant to becoming township tour operator-cum-restaurateur in just seven years. Born in Oudtshoorn and now a resident of Khayalethu township, Mawande is king of his expanding hilltop castle with a majestic view over the Knysna lagoon. Wandu @ Ekasi Restaurant is the home-based space where he and his bubbly assistant Babalwa Nokiya (aka Babalaas!) stir up local delights with a twist: their creamy pap with chives and chakalaka chicken is a winner. Speaking of which, Mawande scooped the Best Casual Eatery award at the 2012 Pick n Pay Flavours of Knysna, furthering his rising star status. For those seeking a bit of an adventure – including sightings of the township ‘Big 5’, namely the chickens, pigs, goats, dogs and cattle that roam – this is a must-visit. Mawande will personally chauffeur you into Khayalethu and back to your lodgings. Or, if you wish to linger a little longer, Mawande has a comfortable en-suite double bedroom for overnight stays. Call Mawande on 082 294 9063 or visit www.wandutours.com.

LE SEL DE PEZULA:

Chef-patron of award-winning Sel et Poivre and its less formal Le Sel Bistro in Joburg, Coco Reinarhz has extended his brand to Le Sel de Pezula, an intimate restaurant at the upmarket Pezula Estate’s Clubhouse. Burundian-born,  Belgiantrained Coco is renowned for fusion cuisine, reflected on Le Sel de Pezula’s menu, which includes dishes like confit duck legs with a mango pickle and grilled tuna steak with herb risotto and tomato vinaigrette. During the Pick n Pay Oyster Festival, Coco plans to add a little fizz with an oyster and bubbly bar – so whether wild or cultivated is more to your taste, make sure you stop by to share a treat with the golfing elite. Booking is essential. Call 044-302-5377/5318.

WHERE TO STAY:

Turn off George Rex Drive and wind your way down the narrow causeway that connects the mainland to Leisure Isle, so picture-perfect you’d swear you’d stepped onto a movie set. Positioned on Bollard Bay close to the Knysna Heads, its sandy white beaches and shallow paddling pools make for a relaxing spot to unwind, soak up the mesmerising views or simply stroll along and take it all in. For a true taste of la vie en rose, book yourself a stay at Leisure Isle Lodge. Nestled on the beachfront, this 11-bedroom boutique guest house would make Martha Stewart swoon… Complete with white  plantation shutters, comfy cream couches and lime-washed Provençal-style furniture, the decor is country chateau meets Hamptons beach house. Wonderful, friendly staff happily assist with as much or as little as you need, making you feel totally at home. 87 Bayswater Drive, Leisure Isle, Knysna. Call 044-384-0462 or visit www.leisureislelodge.co.za.

PICK N PAY OYSTER FESTIVAL:

Running from 28 June – 7 July, over 100 events will cater for all tastes, and benefit local communities and charities. Local restaurants will be identified as ‘oyster hotspots’ and festival highlights will include the Knysna Wine Festival that takes place on 1 and 2 July. Visit www.knysnawinefestival.co.za. The Local Food and Design Market will be held on 4 July from 5pm – 9pm. Call Knysna Tourism on 044-382-5510 or visit www.pnpoysterfestival.co.za for more info.

SOURCES
Photographs by Mark Hill

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