Geoffrey Murray’s favourite restaurants

Executive chef of Zachary’s at Conrad Pezula in Knysna, Geoffrey Murray is a firm supporter of the slow food movement. Zachary’s has its own organic garden, and Geoffrey focuses on ingredients from local producers in the rich Knysna region, so he’s a man after our heart. We asked Geoffrey to recommend his favourite places in Knysna for lazy Sunday lunch, burgers, pizza and cappuccino art.

My favourite place for…

A pizza
Pizza is one of my favourite things to eat, so I’m pretty particular about it. We are lucky to have a little family pizza place here in Knysna called Chatters, run by a young friendly couple, Claire and Rob. They know just how I like my pizza: thin-crusted, and cooked in a wood-burning oven, and crispy on the edges! Claire and Rob are big wine fundis, so they’ve created a great list of well-priced wines and bubblies that has been recognised with a Platinum award from Diners.

Asian food
Joy’s Thai Kitchen offers authentic Thai food at incredibly good value for money. Chef Joy is from northern Thailand and what she’s cooking up is the real deal. Be careful when you ask for a hot dish – she doesn’t hold back!

East Head Café presents a simple, honest menu with local artisan products and the best burgers that I’ve tasted in South Africa. And did I mention the views? Their location is right at the mouth of the Indian Ocean, where it flows through the east and west heads into the Knysna lagoon. This place is always busy and a big local’s favourite.

A week-day breakfast
For a quick breakfast in the middle of the week after the gym I always head to Mon Petit Pain. They make the best bircher muesli full of fresh fruit and sweet dukkah, and no one makes a better cup of cappuccino or latte. The barista sometimes gets creative and sends you a little message on top of your coffee.

A lazy Saturday morning brunch
For a lazy Saturday morning brunch it has to be the parent of Mon Petit Pain, Île de Païn. Markus’s bread and Liezie’s inspired café menus are the perfect choice for lazing around on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Perfect poached organic eggs with truffle mushroom hash go nicely washed down with one of my favourite SA bubblies, Ambeloui. It can get busy during holiday season so it’s always good to arrive early.

Sunday lunch with the family
The best Sunday lunches can be had at a little restaurant outside of Knysna on the way to Belvidere called Pembrey’s. This is a true country-style restaurant that’s been around for years, with chef Peter in the kitchen and his wife, Vivian, running the front. Sunday is a big local’s day with a traditional Sunday roast lunch being served. I tend to go for the à la carte menu though, because no one prepares special cheffy dishes like offal the way Peter does. His pastas are also a must-try: they’re always house-made and perfectly cooked. There’s an incredible little wine list at fair prices, so you’ll always find something to go with his delicious food.

A blow-the-budget celebratory dinner
This one would really blow the budget because I’d first have to get to Stellenbosch! Probably the best full package restaurant that I’ve been to in SA is Rust en Vrede. It has a perfect location, incredible ambiance, amazingly well-trained service team, a wine list like no other in South Africa, with a sommelier that is so passionate and knowledgeable – and, of course, the inspired food. It has all the right ingredients to make you feel that you’ve just visited an incredible Michelin-starred restaurant somewhere in Europe.

Buying flowers
The best place for that special bunch of flowers or arrangement is from Ecozest. DP and Hannes sell at the Sedgefield Wild Oat’s Market on Saturdays, but you can contact them at any time to order flowers from their farm in Rheenendal.

Buying bread
Île de Païn again. You won’t find anything better on the Garden Route.

Ordering birthday cake
The best birthday cakes are made as a side hobby by Kim Fenner, pastry chef at Conrad Pezula. Kim is incredibly creative; she can make almost anything and the cakes always taste amazing.

Market-style shopping ?
We are very lucky to have the Sedgefield Wild Oats Saturday Market in our area. It’s been going for years now and it’s the best place to find great local farm and artisan products. You have to get there early because that’s where many of the locals do their weekly shopping. Have a spicy mince roti for breakfast and pick up a bag of samoosas and a bottle of pickled lemon from the stall operated by a lovely Indian couple; grab salami and other artisan meats from Hedrick’s La Roux Charcuterie; and buy a collection of cheeses from Klaus.

Looking for more spots in the area? Have a look at our list of where and what to eat in Knynsa.

Photographs: Geoffrey Murray, Zachary’s, the harbour by Stringer Bel, a dish at Rust en Vrede, Wild Oats Market, The Kynsna Heads by Merak Chhaya, The Waterfront by Dave Bezaire and Suzi Havens-Bezaire, the harbour by David W. Siu, bikers in Knysna by Christian Cruz, seagull by Tom Booth.

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