Personal recommendations: Ilse van der Merwe’s favourite restaurants

Nominee for Best Local Food Blog at the 2014 Eat Out Zonnebloem Produce Awards, Ilse van der Merwe calls herself a food lover, preferring to steer clear of the label ‘blogger’. In 2011, she took the leap and changed career paths from being a music booking agency owner to working in the local food scene. Her blog, The Food Fox, opened up great opportunities for her in the form of recipe development, food writing, reviews and even cooking for TV. We asked this genuine foodie to share her favourite restaurants with us.

Ilse van der Merwe

Ilse van der Merwe

My favourite place for…

A pizza
My local Prima Pizza in Welgevonden makes pretty amazing pizzas: thin bases, crispy wood fired oven crusts, and really tasty tomato sauces with a hint of chilli. I like mine with salami, feta and pineapple. Perfect for a lazy night in.

Asian food
Ho-Ho Takeaways in Kenridge has the most legendary sweet-and-sour pork. The woman who fills the polystyrene containers has this amazing way of stacking gazillions of crispy deep fried nuggets into a seemingly small container. Watching her operate is an essential part of the charm, but the food is absolutely delicious.

I don’t eat burgers often, but I love a McDonald’s McFeast when I’m on the road. I eat it “skelm” in my car, with the air-con and the radio on. A rare and very guilty pleasure.

The cosy Genki in the De Wet Centre in Stellenbosch is one of the best sushi restaurants I have experienced. They are very authentic, and the quality of their sushi is faultless.

A great view
Few restaurants can match the view at Ristorante Enrico in Keurboomstrand. They are literally situated on the rocks at the beach and they serve some pretty amazing Italian food. Try their legendary bomba for starters (blown-up garlic pita bread) along with a proper Caprese salad; and then there’s always their array of fresh fish, delicious seafood pasta and other Italian delights. One of my favourite places to eat in the world.

Ristorante Enrico

Ristorante Enrico

There’s a place called Fantastic Food Court opposite the taxi ranks in Stellenbosch. They do all kinds of regular cheap chip rolls and polony gatsbys etc, but there’s a rumour that chefs at the best Indian restaurants in town go here after hours to buy chicken korma takeaways. I’ve tried it, and it is done proper tandoori-style served with rice – the best in town.

Takeaway coffee
I love the energy of the guys behind the counter at Vida e Caffè in Stellenbosch. They make great cappuccinos, and I love the little Lindt chocolate too.

A week-day breakfast
Schoon de Companje is hard to beat for breakfast, any day of the week. The early-morning freshly baked bread smell of that shop will put you in a happy place for the rest of the day. I sometimes skip the eggs and toast for a decadent breakfast brownie (or rocky road, when it’s on the menu) with my coffee. Very naughty.

Schoon de Companje

Schoon de Companje

A lazy Saturday morning brunch
We like to get a few friends together for a brunch at Tokara Delicatessen. The kids love the playground and the tree nest, and we love the view, the wine and the food. Stock up on some of their brilliant olive oils before you leave; the Frantoio is my favourite.

A business lunch
I love to sit in the tranquil courtyard of the Blackhorse Centre off Dorp Street in Stellenbosch at any of the spots there: Inniebosch Restaurant, Dorp Street Deli or Mila The Cake Shop. It’s quiet enough for a more serious discussion, and the food never disappoints.

Sunday lunch with the family
Jordan Restaurant always gets my vote. Their seasonal menu along with George Jardine’s expertise cannot disappoint. Another great spot for a family outing is Leopard’s Leap in Franschhoek – good value for money and loads of space in a spectacular setting

Jordan Restaurant

Jordan Restaurant

A romantic dinner
Terroir has been our choice for many romantic dinners and anniversaries over the years. Their atmosphere is very tranquil and private, and I love the beautiful setting of Kleine Zalze’s vineyards and adjacent golf estate. The food has always been magnificent, and the seasonal menu changes often. We prefer to book on weeknights and to arrive early – this way we have the place to ourselves for a while

A blow-the-budget celebratory dinner
I wish I could say I’ve been to The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, but I haven’t. It would be my very first choice for a “blow-the-budget celebratory dinner”. Soon, very soon…

The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen

An end-of-the-month weekday dinner
Home, my stoep, chicken pieces on the braai spiced with Cajun mix from Atlas Trading, no side dishes, bottle of wine. Happiness.

Market-style shopping
Stellenbosch Slowmarket remains my favourite market to shop for artisan products such as cheese, charcuterie and specialty sausages. And look out for the fresh oysters and MCC – for breakfast, of course.

Follow Ilse on Twitter (@the_foodfox) and use the hashtags #eatoutproduceawards and #WDC629 (our World Design Capital number).

See the other nominees for the Best Local Food Blog category.

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