What exactly is country-style food? We define it as homely, heart-warming and belly-filling kos. The kind of nosh you might get at your grandmother’s place, made with the best seasonal produce; local fish, meat and poultry; home-baked bread spread with farm butter; herbs freshly plucked from the garden; and – if you’re lucky – wine from the vineyard you can see from your table.
Sometimes these restaurants combine their down-to-earth charm with a more chic contemporary feel, so don’t think that country-style means barefoot waitresses or sharing your table with farm animals.
This list of nominees for the best country-style restaurant at the 2012 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards will guide you to the particular brand of country-style vibe that suits you best. But no matter the ambience, food at these eateries – from rich and golden pie pastry to slow-cooked lamb shanks, bobotie, succulent chops and baked puddings – remains honest, nostalgic and beautiful.
Bellgables Country Restaurant (Muldersdrift)
The surrounding gardens are strewn with statues and urns, and the inside of the restaurant with flowers, gold-plated frames, candelabra and lavish displays. Choose from their delicious soup starters and order the duck and black cherry pie with rice for mains.
Casalinga Ristorante (Muldersdrift)
Expect beautiful gardens and fine dining rooms showing great attention to detail, such as daffodil bulbs in glass jars and very comfortable chairs. Newer additions include a little chocolate shop at the entrance of the restaurant and a small coffee shop.
Die Ou Pastorie (Hartbeespoort)
This is an original 1880s pastoral home with secluded groves, seated vistas and edible plants. Try the Original Ou Pastorie chicken liver pâté with melba toast; the mini duck pies with jelly; chicken alla cacciatora; or pork belly marinated in rooibos and slow-cooked with apple and white wine.
Meadow Green (Centurion)
This spot is decorated with light wooden floors, drapes, chandeliers and soft lighting. The buffet showcases soups like creamy potato and leek or roasted beetroot with thyme and honey; or try the roasted pork chops with cauliflower purée.
Roots at Forum Homini (Krugersdorp)
Décor is discreet, with African influences and references to its setting at the Cradle of Humankind. Try the springbok served with a cocoa bean ragout, or chocolate torte with ginger soil and roast fennel ice cream.
The Other Side Restaurant, Monaghan Farm (Lanseria)
Situated in the countryside, this restaurant sports soft furnishings and farm-style fittings. Enjoy the Sunday buffet’s chilled courgette and yoghurt soup or cauliflower fritters with coriander lime dressing.
The Rambling Vine (Magaliesberg)
With a feeling of faded country house grandeur, this dining room borders onto an old-fashioned, enclosed veranda. Start with the snails and shimeji mushrooms in puff pastry, or the potato and grilled garlic soufflé. Follow with waterzooi (a seafood stew) served with a liquorice cream infusion, and end with a chocolate tasting for dessert.
Walls are white with striking design elements and features. Enjoy a meal inside or dine alfresco and sample the smoked Franschhoek trout with guava paste and burnt sage butter, or lamb shank marinated in harissa and buttermilk.
Bramon (Plettenberg Bay)
Find a spot at a table between the vines under leafy trees or umbrellas, or inside the revamped farmhouse. The veggie spring rolls, butternut soup, seared salmon, and cheeses from the tapas menu come recommended.
The Country Kitchen (Franschhoek)
The alfresco patio brings out the beauty of the vineyard. Order the popular pork belly paired with liver and a quince purée.
Eat at quirky, wobbly wooden tables surrounded by farm paraphernalia that you can purchase. Try the generous portions of bobotie, chicken curry and ostrich neck in red wine.
Sit in a restored farmhouse with screeded floors and soak up the country chic interior with vineyard views. Order the hearty chicken and ham puff pastry pie.
Eight at Spier (Stellenbosch)
Sit on the sunlit terrace and enjoy the ‘farm-to-table’ cuisine. This country kitchen sends out tasty soups, healthy salads, country pie, double-baked soufflé and golden scones.
Fynboshoek Cheese (Storms River)
Flora and a dam surround this farmhouse with its sense of being deep in the country. Cheese lovers should try the goat’s cheese crostini bites flavoured with honey and thyme.
Sit at this rustic restaurant’s chunky wooden tables and order a flaky beef pie, or grab a picnic basket while watching a concert in the Cluver forest amphitheatre.
The Goatshed Restaurant (Paarl)
Sit in the enclosed courtyard and watch the goats climb their tower while you snack on a platter of charcuterie and the famous cheeses from Fairview.
Elegant in a country-casual sort of way. Choose from the moreish roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, or the cheese soufflé and slow-roasted pork belly.
Hilda’s Kitchen (Darling)
Enjoy this intimate eatery set in the historic farmhouse, with plenty of retro furniture and worn wooden floors. Try the Old Man’s Steak Roll with rustic chips and aioli, or the succulent sticky pork belly.
Houw Hoek Farm Stall (Grabouw)
Try out this mountaintop country farm stall with its old-world cosiness. Lunch on freshly baked quiche, homemade fishcakes and crispy pork belly.
An eclectic and retro-styled restaurant. Order duck spring roll, Karoux lamb chops, spicy chicken curry, lamb shanks, creamy mushroom risotto or home-made honeycomb ice cream.
A quaint home-style restaurant with a lovable quirkiness to the menu. Tuck into slow-roasted ‘skaap and dinges’, tender ‘oink neck’, a wonderfully light gruyere soufflé, or Mariana’s justifiably famous chicken pie.
Mogg’s Country Cookhouse (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley)
A rustic cottage with cats, dogs and chickens complementing the country charm. Taste the robust barley and oxtail soup or the twice-baked blue cheese soufflé.
The Stone Kitchen (Wellington)
This restaurant is framed around the Dunstone wine tanks and embodies farm-style eating from blackboard menus, with options like eland and cranberry phyllo parcels served with creamed potatoes, veg and shiraz jus.
The Table at De Meye (Stellenbosch)
Be seated at a wooden table set with vintage linen napkins, old-fashioned floral china and mismatched silver. Expect homemade treats for dessert, such as almond apple crumble with salted caramel ice cream and brandy custard.
Thyme at Rosemary’s Restaurant (Gansbaai)
Sit in a beautiful garden under two old fig trees. The interior is filled with antiques and art. Order fresh line fish and traditional South African meals. (Home bakes make it a popular stop for afternoon tea.)
Sit under the old farm boma and enjoy a Sunday three-course feast. For dessert, order a really good crème brûlée or apple pie and custard.
The Wild Apricot (Montagu)
Eat in the grand old dining room with its heavy drapes and gold chandeliers. Savour good country meals such as the Karoo lamb; braised shanks and puff pastry pie; or the Cape Malay bobotie. Finish with malva pudding and baked cheesecake.
Café Bloom (Nottingham Road)
Sit on the comfy couches in this shabby-chic café. Think of granny’s tea set laid out for you, and scones with local blue cheese and homemade strawberry jam.
Caversham Mill (Lidgetton)
Soak up the view overlooking Lions River while you choose from a list of well-priced blackboard wines and bistro-style meals such as fishcakes with pickles and sirloin with skinny fries.
Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse (Kamberg)
Built around the river in the magnificent Drakensberg, the restaurant features family-friendly dinning rooms. Enjoy prawns and avocado with a piquant sauce, or pear baked in puff pastry with butterscotch sauce.
La Lampara (Balgowan)
This old dairy has one of the best views in the Midlands and delightful gardens in which to unwind and enjoy a Sunday afternoon. Order the veal, fish, or pizza with thin bases and quality ingredients.
Nicolson’s Café (Hilton)
Overlooking the Nguni pastures, this modern building with its high ceilings welcomes you to try the local camembert served with cranberry and almond. Taste the homemade ice creams or the old faithful crème brûlée.
Tumble Downs (Howick)
Overlooking the Karkloof, the restaurant in situated inside a shed, which is warmed by a big fireplace. Enjoy comfort food and typical Midlands fare, such as lamb shank, oxtail and trout.
By Jodi Seale and Linda Scarborough