Umhlali

Vast stretches of sugar cane may have given way to retail development and exclusive housing estates, but KZN’s Umhlali maintains its appeal with great foodie haunts and things to see and buy…

Tracy Gielink

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Best for casual dining
MANGE TOUT (98 DUNKIRK ESTATE, 1 SALT ROCK ROAD, SALT ROCK, 032-525-7803)
Essentially a club house for eco-estate dwellers, Mange Tout is also a superstylish respite for outside diners. The sign of civilised society is an all-day breakfast with chef-patron Jacqui Rey’s classics such as Eggs Benedict or scrambled eggs with truffles. Light lunches include homemade fish cakes with Hollandaise sauce, while more substantial fare includes pork neck crumbed and baked with lemon, parsley, almonds and caper butter. Diets are glibly broken over Jacqui’s trademark cakes. Open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday to Sunday and dinner Thursday to Saturday.

Best for a food and retail fix

SAGE CENTRE (1 OLD FORT ROAD, FOXHILL)
Sage Café (032-525-8059) is a familyfriendly eatery where tables spill into the pretty gardens. Pop in for breakfast, tea and cake – the carrot cake and nougat cheesecake are big sellers – or linger over lunch. Try the aubergine and Parmesan fritters with chilli cumin yoghurt and Thai pesto or the grilled calamari and avo salad with a lime, chilli and coriander dressing. Sage recently expanded into the adjacent covered courtyard to launch Basilico Pizzeria. Fare ranges from basic focaccia to classics like margarita with rocket, to gourmet pizzas. Open 8am to 4pm Monday to Sunday and for dinner on Friday.

Pure (032-525-7775) is dedicated to organic living. Bring the outdoors in or revel in coastal veranda living – think galvanised watering cans, rustic wooden crates used as compact salad gardens and lovely ceramic containers.

Willow (071 605 1949) celebrates contemporary colonial living and natural materials. Embellish your space with beautiful scatter cushions, botanical prints or paintings by local artist Natasha Barnes. Hands-on owner Wendy Struik offers decor services such as upholstery, curtaining and wooden furnishings.

Happi Days (082 554 6258) is geared for kids and offers separate play areas with activities and staff to assist, plus a shop dedicated to children’s interests.

Best for farm-fresh goodies
THE LITCHI ORCHARD (SEAFORTH AVENUE, FOXHILL, 032-525-5118)
At Orchard Café (032-525-5991), order a cappuccino made with beans from the on-site Beanstruk Coffee Roasters. Chalkboard specials (overlook the spinach cheesecake at your peril) augment the simple daytime menu. Quality produce includes Chuck & Bob’s bacon and hams, and wonderful carrot and chocolate fudge cakes. Venture into the orchard with a picnic (order a day ahead) and take containers to buy honey on tap.

The Litchi Orchard Market (032-525-5118) operates in an adjacent open-sided shed on the first and third Saturday of the month and a night market on the last Friday of the month. Shop for pickles, preserves and chutneys, or stock up on cheeses, fresh produce, locally grown proteas, wine, baked goods (try the authentic German treats) and olives.

Also on the litchi farm is the newly relocated Driefontein Garden Centre (032-525-7748).

Best for floral beauty
INHLE ORCHIDS (KARIBU GARDEN CENTRE, 083 228 2413)
Just before you reach the heart of Umhlali is Inhle Orchids, a family-run business. You’ll find more unusual orchids from Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Jamaica, as well as indigenous varieties. Once your Inhle orchid has finished flowering, you can return the live plant and get 20 percent off your next purchase. Regular workshops are a mere R10 per person.

Best for homemade produce
CINDY’S UMHLALI FRESH PRODUCE (1 CARLISLE PROPERTY, 5 MAIN ROAD, 032-947-1495)
Cindy Valayadam has reached foodie cult status with her homemade preserves and jams. Perennially popular items include the lemon and granadilla curds,vegetable atchar, the French-Mauritian speciality mazavaroo (super-hot but addictive) and raspberry jam. The unpretentious store also sells fresh flowers and farm produce like beautiful lettuce, spinach and avos.

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