Easy eating out in the heart of Harties

Taking a trip to Hartbeespoort for the day is a breeze: it takes just 40 minutes from the centre of Jozi. And it’s so worth it. When you get there you’ll discover a haven of casual eateries and picnic paradises interspersed with roadside markets, shopping centres, animal sanctuaries and wildlife reserves.

Picnic at…

Annelies van Gaalen’s special goudas, made the traditional Dutch way, can be found on her cheese farm, Van Gaalen KaasMakerij (012 207 1289 or 083 226 7834), which is ideally located in the lush valley of the Magaliesberg Mountains. Pop in for a picnic beneath the trees on the banks of a river: on arrival you’re handed a pre-packed picnic basket loaded with yummy goodies, including a selection of some of the farm’s finest goudas, assorted cold meats, biscuits, salad, fruit and other deli-style nibbles. R280 gets you a basket for two, excluding beverages, which can be purchased in the farm shop. For R45 kiddies get their own little picnic hampers, which include a cheese-and-ham sarmie, a piece of fruit, juice, crisps and sweets all wrapped in a pretty checked cloth. It’s important to book in advance to make sure the baskets are packed and ready when you get there.

The best time to enjoy a picnic at Tangaroa Strawberry Farm (082 503 5996) is when the strawberries are in season. Phone ahead to find out when they’re at their fragrant best, then pick your own and gobble them up along with a delicious pre-packed picnic basket. There are two options: the Everyday Basket (R255 for two people) will get you a selection of pâtés, meatballs, cold meats, cheese and biscuits, and a chilled bottle of wine or Appletiser. The Gourmet Basket (R445 for two people) contains smoked salmon, peppered mackerel, oyster pâté, thin slices of rare roast beef, gypsy ham, gorgeous salads, new potatoes, koeksusters, pecan pie, cheese and biscuits, and a chilled bottle of sparkling wine or a non-alcoholic alternative. Book at least 24 hours in advance to ensure that your picnic basket awaits you on arrival, then let go and unwind at this pretty weekend country retreat.

Chow down at…

The excellent quality beef at Squires on The Dam (012 253 1001) is perfectly matured for 21 days, so unleash your carnivorous cravings in this down-to-earth restaurant. Choose between tasty T-bone, rump and sirloin, or butter-soft fillet (from around R100). The menu caters for those who are all beefed out too: try the first-class fish and seafood menu. Sweeten up with the homemade nougat ice cream (R30), which is made with almonds and halva. Absolutely divine! The view over the Hartbeespoort countryside and dam makes the sizzling meat, ice-cold beers and chilled wines taste so much better than in an anonymous steakhouse in the Jozi burbs.

The famous Tan Malie se Winkel (083 458 3957) sits jauntily beneath a charming tin roof and broekie-lace-edged stoep just before you hit the Harties tunnel. Eat at the quaint restaurant or join in the real adventure under the trees where you can braai your own big juicy steaks, sosaties and wors while gazing at a stunning view of the wild countryside. The fires are lit and stoked for you, so just turn up, choose your vleis, braai it to your liking and help yourself to lekker stywe (stiff) pap and sauce and a choice of salads. Pap, sauce and salads costs R35 per head, and sosaties, steaks and wors will set you back between R10 and R80 apiece. Leave space for dessert (all between R20 and R30) and try Tan Malie se malvalekker tert (marshmallow tart) – it’s delicious.

On Sundays between 8am and 6pm, try something completely different. The Wild West meets the charming Hartbeespoort countryside at Saloon Route 66 (083 372 8118 or 083 261 2602) where biker dudes hang out with Harties locals and weekenders ­– they’re the lucky ones who own holiday homes on the banks of the dam. Let go of your urban inhibitions in this rowdy, down-to-earth joint where live music rocks from morning until closing time. It’s recession friendly too. Where else can you get sticky spare ribs and a 500g rump for under R80? Or desserts for under R20? The bikers use the place as their breakfast-run pit stop and you’ll understand why when you try their breakfast buffet – a massive fry-up for only R40 per person.

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