“When strangers gather happily together at a table, it’s because they’re getting something more than a standard meal or drink out of it.” So says Adee Braun in her article Alone Together: the return of communal restaurant tables.
There is definitely nothing ‘standard’ about the food or drink at Julia Hatting’s Reverie social table in Observatory, where strangers gather happily at one long table to enjoy a delicious meal, great local wines and friendly conversation.
I’m no wheeler dealer. I don’t strike deals, push for discount or seek out bargains. I pay the advertised price and celebrate demurely (with my inside voice) if I feel I’ve received value for money. Strange then for me to be pushing a pensioner to cough up more for the espresso cups I was trying to pawn off on her!
It’s this shop, it has that effect. Sixteen tiny rooms crammed floor to ceiling, and then some, with relics from a bygone era – Eddi buys everything, and everything’s for sale.
There are few things in life more satisfying than a snooze in dappled sunlight after a good lunch. Fewer, even, are the restaurants that cater to this impulse. The Table is just such an establishment, encouraging patrons to languish on the lawns, sipping sleepily on wines alongside the vines that gave them provenance, while slowly digesting a hearty meal… comfort food in every sense.
The Table is located on the beautiful De Meye boutique wine estate near Stellenbosch, where, for five generations, the Myburgh family has been proudly ‘keeping things real and personal’. This ethos has been carried over to the restaurant, where only a handful of tables are spread out under the trees in the vast, park-like garden, each receiving the hosts’ personal attention.
On a hot Sunday morning, at the height of a January heatwave, my friend Julie dragged me off to Bree street to experience ‘community building and healthy recreational activity’ in the form of Open Streets Cape Town.
Reluctantly, I went, with no real grasp of the intent behind the event – I returned enlightened, sunburned and spent! Open Streets is a platform for change, where people can gather en masse and integrate organically, just by interacting in a space that’s usually off limits.
Tulbagh, famous for the ‘wtf?’ earthquake of 1969, was the natural choice for yet another earth shattering event in the form of my ‘wtf-th?’ birthday. It was also the weekend of the Tulbagh Arts Festival, so I gathered the clan and we headed out to the country.
Terry, an old varsity buddy, owns the beautiful Wild Olive farm and guest cottages just outside town. We’d booked the Guinea Fowl (of which we saw many) which slept six comfortably. The cottage was beautifully appointed, the cosy fire place put to good use on the chilly spring nights and the sweeping views down the valley, breathtaking.
It’s not every day you get to cook a meal on the beach with one of your favourite chefs, but I was lucky enough to experience exactly that after a recent art holiday in Paternoster. The chef du jour was none other than Suzi Holtzhausen from Gaaitjie Restaurant. And what better way to end off a week of R-and-R-and-Art than by spending a day foraging and cooking with a personal food hero?
I love the food at Gaaitjie and have described it before as ‘highly skilled love on a plate‘. There are no pretenses, which I find particularly refreshing – flavours combine with reason, textures serve a purpose and it’s all put together with a delicate touch. Still, I was intimidated at the thought of meeting the chef.
When 2015 rolled around I hit the ground running. Work was crazy with a lot of time spent on the road. I’d barely caught my breath when March arrived, and with it, an art holiday I’d booked last year with Ajay’s Art. I wasn’t in the mood for spending yet more time away from the office, my home or my comfortable routine, but I’d paid and there really was no way out of it. Reluctantly, I packed my bags and set off for Paternoster.
From the moment I met hosts Andre (Ajay) Jacobs and his partner, Hesther, I started to relax. Their attitude was casual and laid back, yet everything had been organised well in advance – from the accommodation and restaurant bookings, to art supplies and schedules. I soon realised that all that was expected of me for the next seven days was to show up, relax and learn, which is exactly what I did.
It had been 15 years since our last reunion, a bunch of old varsity friends getting together for a major catch up to fill in the blanks left untold on Facebook. All we had were three days in Hermanus and we needed to make them count!
Day 1: The Sisterhood gathers at La Vierge (the virgin) in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley – an irony not entirely lost on this bunch of middle-aged broads!
My favourite chocolate mousse was the one my big sister used to make. It was sugary, chewy and lumpy – exactly the type of mousse you’d buy in those frosted metal parfait cups from any café or restaurant in every Portuguese town. She’d pried the recipe from a waitress many years ago by vowing to take it to her grave which sadly (but to her credit), she did.
I’ve been experimenting with a chocolate mousse recipe of my own and being a banting babe, I use severely dark chocolate and xylitol rather than sugar. But the choice is yours, it’s delectable either way.
Garlic and rosemary lamb with cauliflower and black pepper puree
To date, Banting has taken a pounding and those of us who have stuck by it have had to endure the countless jibes and derision from skeptics who have backed the food pyramid. A few months have passed and Banters have started to visibly shrink, now many of these self-same health-conscious individuals just want to know three things: ‘How much, how soon and with how little effort? ‘
There’s more to it than just that, and so for those interested in learning about a Banting lifestyle, what follows is a list of questions I am frequently asked.
Cottage pie with wilted baby spinach and cauli-mash topping