Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Reviewed by Diane de Beer

If, a few decades ago, Oudtshoorn was a bit of a sleepy Karoo town, all that has changed with the advent of two now-large festivals: The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, which takes place over the Easter weekend, and the Klein Karoo Klassique, coming up in August. These result in an influx of people who, amongst all the culture, are looking for good food. And, at Jemima’s, that’s what they find.

To start, there’s the soup of the day, which can be a rich tomato soup with homemade bread and butter. There are also crispy potato skins served with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream. Alternatively, you could opt for the Klein Karoo Caprese, consisting of a pressed tomato timbale with locally marinated goat’s cheese, rocket, anchovies and spiced olives with a basil, shallot and white balsamic dressing. These are also all solid options for a light lunch.

The mains are familiar with an imaginative twist – something different for jaded palates on a visit from the city. If you’re hungry enough to try their duck confit, it will stop you in your tracks. It’s beautifully succulent, the flavours allowing the meat to soar. It’s served on a mushroom, barley and lentil risotto with braised red cabbage and enhanced with a port-and-cranberry sauce, making for the perfect meal.

Though, in the town where ostrich is king, perhaps it would be silly not to select an ostrich fillet (200 or 300g) with either a Madagascar, peppercorn, mushroom, mozzarella, port-and-cranberry, Gorgonzola béchamel or Jemima’s monkey gland sauce. Accompaniments include a choice of homemade chips, basmati rice, parsley, new potato gratin, or potato-and-parmesan gratin.

For dessert, you could perhaps persuade the chef to serve some old-fashioned pumpkin fritters (which is on the vegetarian menu) or try Jemima’s bread and butter pudding with a Kir Royale.

This is the time to try wines from the Klein Karoo vineyards, which have seen fantastic development over the past few years. In fact, while in the area, make some enquiries and visit a few farms.

What’s special is the hospitality of what remains a town far from big city lights. It’s all about friendliness, knowledge about the area and its people, and an unpretentious charm that guides you through a meal.

You’re reminded of an elegant family farmhouse – from the extended stoep that reaches right to the pavement, to tables adorned with white linen tablecloths, shiny silver tableware and pristine white crockery. Inside it’s understated yet embracing, where you’re invited to relax while plied with a stream of tasty food and bonhomie. It’s an escape from a long day, a hideaway from a busy town during festivals, or perhaps a break in a long journey on your way from one destination to the next.

Because there’s nowhere to rush to, this is a time to step out of the noise and enjoy a long leisurely lunch or dinner. Take time out, it will be worth it.

(October 2017)

Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.

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