The best restaurants on the Garden Route

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Heading to Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Sedgefield or Wilderness? Our critics in the area recommend their favourites for everything from sea views to classic pizza, coffee-shop treats, cheese feasts and wine tasting. (Each of these restaurants were rated highly enough to be included in the 2019 edition of Eat Out magazine, on sale now.)

Bramon Restaurant (Plettenberg Bay)

Best for carefully chosen tapas with complementary award-winning wines. An alluring list of mezze options showcases South African produce beautifully. Freshly baked bread served with salad – think pear, nut and blue cheese or citrus, baby spinach and toasted walnuts – make for the perfect start to an alfresco lunch. Various dips, pâtés and meaty dishes like springbok carpaccio, bobotie cigars and creamy mussels are more substantial options. End with cheese and preserves or chocolate truffles. It’s vibey and bustling here in the summer months, so book a table between the vines for a quieter option.


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Caffe Mario (Knysna)

Best for people-pleasing authentic Italian dishes. Old-school favourites dominate the menu here, but alongside pasta alfredo with ham and cream there are inspired combinations too, like the Aurora with broccoli and gorgonzola. Simple fish of the day grilled in olive oil or beef medallions in black pepper sauce are good options, and tasty salads like the Mediterranean with gorgonzola and rocket are sized to share. The standout dessert is melt-in-your-mouth tiramisu. This is one of the liveliest venues in Knysna, with outside tables next to the quays at a premium in summer.

Carola Ann’s (Mossel Bay)

Best for a South African and Syrian experience. Menu options include wraps filled with roasted sumac eggplant, baby marrow, fresh tomato, mint, halloumi and yoghurt tahini sauce, and slow-cooked tomato and beef short-rib ragù on creamy polenta with rocket and avo. The sweet offering sings with a raw chocolate, almond and date truffle, and baked banana cheesecake with salted-caramel sauce. Want to be slightly more virtuous? Grab a Turmeric Sunrise smoothie made with banana, dates, almonds, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon.


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East Head Café (Knysna)

Best for fresh eats in a stunning seaside setting. If you’re a locavore, you’ll love the way East Head highlights local produce: honey from Knysna, macadamia nuts from local orchards and excellent locally made cheese. Fish-and-chips fans will find this feathery-light version unbeatable. In addition to a good variety of salads and vegetarian fare, there are blackboard specials such as perfectly spiced seafood curry. Picnic tables on the patio are coveted for their position next to the sea, and kids can enjoy their own play area.

Fynboshoek Cheese (Tsitsikamma)

Best for a relaxing cheese-filled country lunch. Fynboshoek Cheese offers quality cheese in a farmhouse setting, where almost everything is grown or made on the premises. There’s no menu: aromatic rosemary focaccia might emerge from the oven, paired with salads studded with cheese. The main event is a feast of cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses made by your host and award-winning cheese-maker, Alje van Deemter. Fresh ricotta drizzled with honey, aged cheddar, sharp provolone, creamy chèvre and brie all vie for attention. Desserts of the day provide a fitting finish: pecan pie, crêpes or cheesecake. The inviting farmhouse celebrates living well.

The Golden Palm (Plettenberg Bay)

Best for a romantic evening. This relatively new owner-run restaurant serves Asian fusion food in generous, colourful, flavourful portions. Everything is made fresh to order in a small open kitchen that takes centre stage. Highlights are steamed dim sum, not-to-be-missed Asian ribs and the teriyaki bowls. You’re transported in a moment by the restaurant’s hip tiger-print wallpaper; the courtyard tables are perfect for summer evenings too.

Posted by The Golden Palm on Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Grain Mill Organic Bistro

Best for a relaxed meal. This modest café offers a mix of tasty dishes all made with local, organic and sustainable produce. Sit outside on the quirky patio or in a cosy nook inside. The mill’s organic spelt flour is used in wonderful breads, pastries and pastas. Variety is key: a vegan salad of delicately cut raw vegetables in lemony dressing appears alongside juicy grass-fed beef burgers on home-made buns. End on poppy-seed cake, rich and moist baby marrow chocolate cake or baked cheesecake. Apt drinks choices include cool kombucha, fresh juice of the day or yummy iced coffee.

Ice Dream Land (Plettenberg Bay)

Best for lazy family afternoons filled with delicious Italian fare. Marco Mauri – Italian cheese- and gelato maker of note – and his family open their farm for lunches starring his authentic Italian products. Pizzas are divine topped with Marco’s melty mozzarella. On Sundays, mama cooks a northern Italian meal: think buckwheat pasta with potatoes, cheese, spinach and sage butter; crispy breaded veal cutlets; or house-made tagliatelle with salmon and cream. End with gelato in fabulous Italian flavours like tiramisu and pistachio. The farm setting is relaxed and peaceful, with picnic tables scattered about.

Posted by Ice Dream Land on Friday, June 22, 2018

Île de Païn

Best for a buzzing vibe and extraordinary food. Breakfasts range from superfood smoothies to hearty hunger busters. Later on in the day, feast on marvelous duck confit with Asian orange salad, steamed dumplings and peanut coconut sauce. Pissaladière flatbread comes with soft cheese, caramelised onions, kalamata olives and rocket. Finish with apple strudel or a baked chocolate tart. A good range of wines sits alongside off-the-charts delicious hot and cold drinks. Staff smiles are abundant and contagious.


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Newstead Wines (Plettenberg Bay)

Elegance and simplicity are the watchwords here. Start with the rich salmon pâté served with crispy melba toast or order a picnic with a variety of goodies like olives, pesto, preserves, cheese and bread. Pizzas, crisped to perfection, come with toppings such as Parma ham and caramelised onion. The roast of the day could be spicy chicken with potatoes or slices of rare roast beef with parmesan and rocket. Refreshing salads picked from the garden balance the meal. The Newstead range of wines is sophisticated yet accessible. This comfortable farmhouse has picnic tables outside and a bar inside serving bubbly and herb- and spice-infused gin cocktails and mocktails.

A spread at Newstead Wines

A spread at Newstead Wines. Photo supplied.

Pembrey’s (Knysna)

Best for a gourmet celebration. The chalkboard menu changes often and offers a pleasing array of starters like legendary gruyère-and-nut soufflé, classic steak tartare and decadent roasted marrow bones with toast. Light-as-air ravioli with fillings like butternut and almond topped with mascarpone can be ordered as a starter or main. Bust your hunger with the delectable pulled lamb bobotie or roast fillet of springbok in a quince port sauce. Peter’s bread-and-butter pudding served with home-made cardamom ice cream have regulars returning again and again, as does the lush lemon posset with berry sorbet and honey ice cream. There’s an award-winning wine list, too.

Ristorante Enrico (Plettenberg Bay)

Best for families spreading out at a picnic table and watching the kids frolic on the beach below. What puts this restaurant on the map food-wise is the fresh seafood. Enrico’s own fishing boat brings in the catch each morning. Fish of the day is baked in a delicate sauce of garlic white wine and lemon and served with fresh zucchini. Sharing antipasti like the puffed-up focaccia, fresh frittura mista, light-as-air prawns, squid and mussels or wild oysters turns your meal into an event. Authentic Italian endings include ricotta cake, tartufo and home-made gelati.

Carpaccio at Ristorante Enrico

Carpaccio at Ristorante Enrico. Photo supplied.

Serendipity (Wilderness)

Best for intimate celebrations. This special restaurant draws from South Africa’s rich cultural cooking heritage to create an exceptional fine-dining experience. The menu changes fortnightly, but you could start with hand-cut tartare of springbok served with a quail egg and spekboom chutney, and follow with a richly flavourful cauliflower soup with biltong powder. Mains may include grilled fillet of ostrich and Mossel Bay line fish. Don’t miss dessert – a modern take on classics like date-and-brandy pudding served with quince purée and rooibos jellies. The extensive wine menu includes French bubbles and other more exclusive bottles. Candle-lit tables, crisp white tablecloths and beautiful fresh flowers exude grandeur here.

Thyme and Again (Plettenberg Bay)

Best for a hearty family lunch. Stop by this much-loved farm stall for locally sourced veg and fruit, artisanal baked goods, preserves, sauces and pickles from the deli, or stay for a meal. For a more adventurous breakfast, try quinoa patties served with garden greens, poached free-range eggs, sprouts, seeds and avocado. For lunch, don’t miss the gourmet burgers with great vegetarian options, wraps, quiche, shakshuka and falafel.


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Trattoria da Vinci (Sedgefield)

Best for indulging in earthy Italian home cooking. The pizza oven in the centre of the restaurant produces roasted pork loin with crackling, lamb shank with crisp potatoes and fresh fish cooked to perfection. Pasta is made on the premises and the pizza is wonderfully crisp. Regulars pace themselves to save room for espresso cake with almond meringue and Frangelico cream. The outside pavement under an awning offers cool summer dining.

The VegTable Private Dining Room (Knysna)

Best for a leisurely farm-to-table feast. Chef and owner Brett Garvie finds, forages and grows everything that makes its way to your plate. Ingredients are always seasonal, of the finest quality and prepared with love. Start with a bright sharing platter of veg fritters with a piquant sauce or home-made dolmades. The main course could be porcini mushroom ravioli with truffles and gorgonzola sauce, or perhaps pasta with pesto. Seasonal fruits star in desserts such as caramelised pear tart with luscious coffee ice cream or classic peach melba. The magical atmosphere of this cottage is delightfully quirky, with charming mismatched vintage tableware.

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Dining in Cape Town too? Check out our list of the 144 best restaurants in Cape Town.


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