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Somerset West’s new gem: Schoon – reviewed

Less may be more, but it is also much harder to achieve. The talented baker Fritz Schoon, after selling the enormously succesful Schoon de Companje in Stellenbosch to Boschendal, has gone back to basics by opening Schoon – an intimate bakery and café in Somerset-West. He has, quite simply, nailed it.

Here, less really is more, and infinitely so. Everything about this venture speaks of well-considered simplicity. The name, for example, is simply ‘Schoon’. The site is small and almost hidden away. The menu is compact, clever, and nicely edited. And the food is excellent – trendy without being fussy; delicious, but not overly decadent.

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Best for: breakfast, bread and pastries
Parking: Limited, out-front
Price: Average main course for R72
Star ratings:
Food and drinks: 5, Service: 3, Ambience: 4

Food

Seeing as this is primarily a bakery, the menu lends itself towards breakfast. Depending on your tastes, you may wish to sample the bone marrow on dark rye with blue-cheese cream and confit onions. Or perhaps you prefer your breakfast to be desert-adjacent? If so, try the mosbolletjie French toast with banana, cinnamon tahini and clotted cream. Go for the smoked salmon on rye with ginger-and-coriander ricotta, toasted chickpeas and mielies. Served with a scrumptious Hollandaise sauce – and, upon request, a softly poached egg – it’s perfectly proportioned. It’s also the best breakfast I’ve had all year.

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If you like your brekkie reasurringly familiar, order the soft scrambled egg on sourdough, with salmon or bacon, and slow-roasted tomatoes. Note that the bread menu alone is worth taking your time over. There are, for example, unique breads baked only on certain days of the week, like ‘corn porridge bread’ on Fridays, and mosbolletjie bread on Sundays.

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Or, if bread is not your thing, consider the za’atar-spiced bircher muesli with sour figs and honey, or the mielie pap with truffles and grana padano. It would be difficult to go wrong here.

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Drinks

Schoon’s team pour a neat flat white, served in beautiful custom-made ceramic crockery. Also recommended is the fresh green juice with apple, lemon and mint – a tonic for the brain and the body. The hot chocolate is served as a smear of dark chocolate ganache, with steamed milk, and there is an item called ‘salted caramel malt pot’ that sounds like the ultimate cold weather comfort.

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Service

Friendly and efficient. Several customers are greeted by name, which is always a good sign of an eatery’s local footprint.

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Ambience

The café forms part of a building that also houses an estate agent and a wellness studio. It’s certainly not an obvious choice of location for a bakery, but searching for it is worth the effort. There’s some nice outdoor seating on the stoep, with a counter and high chairs overlooking the street. Inside, the feeling is industrial (untreated walls; steel-backed chairs) yet not cold, thanks to hints of leather, a fire burning in the hearth, and the friendly hiss of the coffee machine. Immediately upon entering is a wide, green-tiled sink with a copper tap and stylish glasses for guests to help themselves to water – a welcome touch.

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And…

Do stock up on some pastries before you leave. The pasteis de nata is among the best I’ve ever had. Also wonderful is the seasonal friand with fresh berries. The coconut quidim (a custard tart) is beautifully fragrant, yet not too heavy or sweet. The kouignan is Schoon’s take on the French kouign-amann, which tastes like a happy hybrid of a muffin, croissant and cinnamon bun, and is an airy delight.

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Brought to you by Retail Capital, sponsors of the Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year Award.

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