TO EAT: PRINCE ALBERT
If ever a village was worth the detour off the N1 for a bite to eat, it’s the Karoo hamlet of Prince Albert. Over the past decade it’s become a haven for semigrants from Cape Town, and as a result, the town’s foodie scene has flourished. For a quick bite, the new African Relish Café is a fine choice for families, with tables overlooking the garden and a range of wood-fired pizzas offered alongside bistro plates.
Further down Church Street, the chefs at the Lazy Lizard are anything but, with an extensive menu of road-trip snacks and Karoo favourites. If you’re overnighting, The Gallery Café is your best bet. Chef-patron Brent Phillips-White may be self-trained, but his globetrotting menu is impressive. His duck and cherry pie is legendary in these parts.
TO SLEEP: DROSTDY HOTEL, GRAAFF-REINET
Country towns are rarely famous for the quality of their boutique hotels, but Graaff-Reinet bucks the trend. Built in the early 1800s, overhauled a century later, and completely refurbished in 2014, the Drostdy Hotel walks a fine line between Karoo heritage and chic modernity. Crisp linen meets bokkie horns mounted on the wall. Nguni-clad stools meet flat-screens. The Drostdy’s 48 rooms are scattered across three precincts, so you’ll never feel overwhelmed by numbers. There are two restaurants on-site: De Camdeboo for a fine-dining interpretation of Karoo cooking, or the family-friendly Coldstream where pizza and pasta are the order of the day. Passing through or settling in to explore the Camdeboo, the Drostdy shows that small country hotels, done right, are worth a visit.
TO EAT: STORMS RIVER
Heading down the N2? It’s worth phoning ahead to enquire (perhaps plead) if there’s a table free at Alje van Deemter’s charming country cheesery, Fynboshoek — situated a few kilometres on the PE side of Storms River Bridge. He welcomes only 20 people per day, lunch only, and there’s no menu to speak of. So what’s the fuss? In a word — cheese.
From honey-drizzled ricotta to aged cheddar and creamy chèvre, Van Deemter’s raw goat- and cow-milk cheeses are sublime, served with breads baked fresh that morning. Likewise, fresh greens are picked from the garden to order, cheeses are laid out ahead of time, desserts prepared, and homemade ice cream churned. So no, you can’t arrive without a booking and talk your way in. If you don’t get a table, plan a return visit for Van Deemter’s three-day cheesemaking courses.
TO DRINK: GARDEN ROUTE WINES
OK now, we’re not advocating driving under the influence, but if you’re passing through the Garden Route this summer you’ll want to fill the boot with a few cases of the region’s finest wine. Yes, wine. While the wineries of the Garden Route and Tsitsikamma tend to keep a low profile, the cool coastal climate here lends itself to zippy white wines and superb Méthode Cap Classique sparklings.
Bramon Wine Estate, a short way from Plettenberg Bay, is best for bubbles, with the blanc de blancs from Chardonnay a particularly delicious drop. At Packwood Wine and Country Estate, between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, winemaker Vicky Gent offers a duo of bubblies alongside award-winning still wines. Beyond George, on the Montagu Pass, the high-lying vines of Herold Wines produce memorable pinot noir.
• From the December edition of Wanted 2019.