When Île de Païn burned down in May of 2015, Knysna went into mourning. It wasn’t just the excellent coffee, exquisite pastries and delectable dishes they missed; it was their home away from home, where locals connected to their community and visitors were warmly welcomed.
Chef-patron Liezie Mulder and master baker and chocolatier Markus Farbinger has given us all a cause for celebration now that the café has reopened and transformed into a gorgeous light-filled space.
While you’ll find some delectable surprises from the kitchen and bakery, the heart and soul of Île de Païn – the smells, tastes and vibe – will be just as you remembered, says Eat Out critic Charlotte Pregnolato.
Have no fear: Fond favourites like brioche French toast, creamy bircher muesli, classic ham and cheese, juicy burgers, crispy pissaladière and earthy duck confit are just as yummy as ever. But you’ll be tempted by the new, easy-to-love contenders, too, like interpretations of global street food in the form of sunrise rolls (sushi-like wraps filled with smoked salmon, avo, cucumber, carrots and a snappy wasabi mayo); steamed pork-belly-filled buns in a scrumptious sticky Asian sauce; and falafel croquettes, which are marvellously light and tasty, served with traditional accompaniments like pickles, hummus and tahini. Just plain delicious Italian agro dolce (sweet and sour) sauce is stunning on roasted cauliflower, served with zucchini salad, pine nuts, raisins and olives.
The original wood-burning oven is running again, adding fantastic flavour to the bread you’ll find in many dishes.
While apple strudel is everyone’s tried-and-true favourite, you’ll thank yourself for trying one of the newer selections like gugelhupf, a Viennese marble pound cake rich with chocolate and vanilla.
The well-researched wine selection offers unexpected pleasures in all categories. Ciders, beers and fresh real lemonade are suitably fabulous. Hot beverages include a special selection of Nigiro fine-leaf teas as well as Île de Païn’s own special blend of coffee.
The staff members are smartly clad in stylish new linen, denim and white uniforms, but the first thing you notice are their huge smiles. Friendly and attentive, they keep up with the brisk pace of the kitchen and negotiate through the crowds with confidence that speaks of excellent training.
The beautiful, newly built café has an industrial feel, characterised by the two-storey high ceiling, glass windows, stone floors and open bakery and kitchen. This effect is complemented by the warmth of brick walls and rustic wooden tables, benches and counters, plus innovative touches like bar stools made from tractor seats, upside-down copper cookware employed as light fixtures, and a striking, copper-spouted water fountain. A dramatic archway opens into the atrium adjacent to The Lofts Boutique Hotel and shops. In fine weather, the lower-level glass doors open to sidewalk-like seating, and tables extend to a tree-covered patio that’s perfect for families and large groups.
A welcome new feature is a counter and case dedicated to takeaways and popular branded retail items.
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