While it’s widely known that the wines of the Swartland are making waves all over – you’ll have heard of the runaway success of the Swartland Revolution festival held in Riebeek Kasteel annually – we’re happy to report that the area’s gourmet offering is equally admirable. From fine cured meats to scrumptious toffees and relaxed café fare to excellent gourmet cuisine, this rural district rewards the traveller with plenty of delicious eats, writes Jeanne Calitz.
Here’s where to head if you’re in the mood for:
Tucked away along the R27, just before you reach the Yzerfontein-Darling crossing coming from Cape Town, the Beulah Farm Deli is easy to miss, but deserves not to be. The cured meats of the in-house charcuterer, Gil of Eighteen94 CureSmiths, make breakfast at this café a very tasty affair. (Try the delicious shiraz-cured salami.) Their Spanish omelette with chorizo and crispy potatoes is scrumptious; the Continental breakfast with a selection of cured meats, cheeses and bread warrants definite future investigation; and the ‘Weskus Smoor’ with chorizo, feta, spinach and poached eggs sounds like the bomb. Oh, and the coffee is good too!
There’s a lot of culinary variety on the menu in the town of Darling. Aside from the friendly café fare at Marmalade Cat, you can have a fine time tasting craft beer at Darling Brew’s taproom, Slow Quarter. They offer a variety of clever bar snacks, but also proper eating in the form of free-range chicken or ostrich burgers and a Slow Platter that tempts with artisanal cheeses and meats, roasted tomatoes and caramelised onions. And if you’re after something sweet, Darling now boasts its own toffee producer! Darling Sweet can be found in Station Street and offers a selection of wonderful toffees – the version with local fleur de sel salt and veldblom honey is addictive.
The charming Cherry Lane Coffee House & Deli in Malmesbury boasts not only a lovely shaded stoep to shelter you from the Swartland heat, but a variety of sweet and savoury treats perfect for a morning or afternoon tea. Their moist, rich chocolate cake is to be recommended, or try the decadent red velvet cheesecake, classic scones with strawberry preserve and cream, or a lemon meringue tartlet. Also on offer is a tea for two option at R50 a head, which includes four manageable portions of sweet and savoury bites. Perhaps a brownie, a slice of cheesecake and a salmon sandwich, for example.
If you’re in Darling over the weekend, it might be worth your while to make a call to Marmalade Cat; their Friday pizza nights are a firm favourite and sell out regularly. You also can’t go wrong with Mama Cucina Italian Restaurant in Riebeek Kasteel. You’ll soon be won over by the friendly vibe and hearty fare waiting at this popular eatery. The pizza is very good, the pasta even more so. Weekends might necessitate a booking, as this spot fills up fast, and deservedly so.
When it comes to gourmet dining in the Swartland, Hilda’s Kitchen at Groote Post outside Darling can be trusted to satisfy with classy cooking, offering treats like springbok carpaccio or pork belly with plum sauce. Also an excellent bet is the ever-popular Bar Bar Black Sheep in Riebeek Kasteel, which serves dishes like snoek fishcakes with slow-baked sweet potato. Yum!
On the road from Malmesbury headed to Moorreesburg lies the Annex Kloof Farmstall, where you will be greeted by a group of ducks quacking contentedly under the wide canopy. Inside awaits a great mix of local produce, including a variety of preserves, wine, local honey, baked goods and also the range of Ladismith Cheese. Also worth a stop is the Desert Rose Farm Stall right at the turnoff to Koringberg. Offering café fare like wraps and sandwiches, the cool interior feels like stepping into an oasis after the dusty heat of the N7.
If you’re spending the weekend in Riebeek Valley and are not in the mood to eat out all the time, the Riebeek Kasteel’s town centre – in particular, Short Street – is a good bet. The small but expertly stocked Crisp Market offers an excellent selection of basic foodstuffs and quality deli items. Shop for free-range meats, smoked duck, farm fresh veggies, pasta and olives; you’re bound to find everything needed for a fine evening meal. Head next door to the cool wine shop, The Wine Kollective, which offers the fruits of the vine for which this area has become famous: superior Swartland wines in abundance.