Home to the country’s most popular winter gourmet get-together – the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival – the town of Knysna has become a Garden Route gourmet destination of note.

Festival time sees the village coming alive with a week-long celebration of sporting events and carnival-fun, not to mention oyster shucking and Champagne sipping galore.

If you happen to head this way from 3 – 12 July this year, be sure to also visit one of these dishy little spots around town:

The Oyster Catcher
Whether it’s the coastal or cultivated variety, if you like your oysters fresh and served in a bright and airy seaside location, head to the Oyster Catcher restaurant on Knysna’s Waterfront (it’s run by the well-known Knysna Oyster Company, so rest assured that it’s official, local stuff). It’s not the most adventurous or gourmet fare in town, so stick to oysters – they’re plump and come at seriously pocket-pleasing prices. Bubbly is served by the glass – an added bonus.

Mon Petit Pain
This cute bakery and breakfast spot is much-loved Ile de Pain’s smaller cousin. It’s a bustling little café where the service is laid-back and the baking taken very seriously. Choose from a range of rustic breads, delectable Danish or dainty pastries, grab a coffee and sit in the sunny window while scanning the morning paper. Absolute bliss.

The Red Barn
Situated a couple of minutes out of Knysna on the beautiful Rheenendal road, this bright little bistro is a welcome new addition to the region’s easygoing restaurant set. The Red Barn effortlessly produces the tastiest tapas and wood-fired pizzas using only the freshest local produce, with anything from bacon to gooseberries, mushrooms and eggs supplied by neighbouring farms. Think chicken skewers with a generous sprinkling of home-grown herbs, baked camembert with nuts and local honey, or crusty thin-based pizza with bacon and wild funghi.

34˚ South
This lively restaurant and deli is a favourite with Knysna’s fabulously fit and trendy boating crowd – no doubt dictated by its spectacular Knysna Quays location and the classic blue-and-white, nautical-themed interior. Feast on ocean-fresh seafood, larger than life tramezzinis and scrumptious breakfasts. If it’s sushi you’re after, the convenient conveyer belt sushi counter will feed your need. Alternatively pop in for a quick sundowner, and then stock up on some take-away deli produce and seafood friendly whites from the adjacent wine boutique.

Mother Holly’s Tea Garden
The quaint Mother Holly’s Tea Garden is situated in a rustic cottage right at the top of the hill after a stunning scenic drive through the Millwood indigenous forests. Spot Daleen Matthee’s Circles In A Forest memorial on the way, or meander the Jubilee creek for a possible glimpse of the elusive Knysna Elephant (last spotted here as recent as 2006). Ex-Capetonian, Kate Severein, is the friendly face that greets you at the tea garden. Settle in next to the fire and feast on a selection of home-baked cakes or scrumptious scones and jam, or if you’ve worked up more of an appetite, opt for delicious homemade soup. The tea garden also hosts the Materolli Museum  – a fascinating collection of photographs, anecdotes and objects depicting the gold rush of the 1800’s.

One of the sexiest new additions in town, trendy Dish restaurant is part of the Rex Boutique Hotel complex. Rub shoulders with Knysna’s young, hip and happening crowd while feasting on the likes of chicken and prawn curry with cashew nuts, seared beef fillet with béarnaise sauce, or salmon served on creamed sorrel and steamed asparagus. The sleek rounded bar and opulent décor makes this the perfect spot for cocktail sipping before a night on the town.

The pearl in Knysna’s restaurant-crown, Zachary’s is a fine dining experience not to be missed, located at the fabulous Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa. Dress to the nines, head out of town to a spectacular hilltop location and indulge in five-star service and chef Geoffrey Murray’s award-winning culinary creations: think seared scallops with roast butternut purée, shitake mushrooms and pinot noir reduction to start with, roast quail with young root vegetables and organic pork sausage and quinoa stuffing for mains, and candied cherry tomato and almond nougatine with chocolate cremeaux and chickpea sable as a delicate dessert. It’s sophisticated fare in a beautiful, world-class setting.

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