Every now and then comes along a rare occasion when the guesthouse is empty, the sun is shining, we have a little money in our pockets … and it’s Sunday!
This week we decided to take full advantage and take a drive to one of the restaurants or wine farms in the surrounding area. From a shortlist of many tempting choices, we opted for De Kaap restaurant in McGregor.
I had visited De Kaap as part of a media educational a few months previously, and remembered it as a wonderful place with great food and free flowing wines from a list of all my favourite wineries, which we, the media group, had visited after a grappa tasting at Tanagra. I was interested to see if my memories were so radiant because of the alcohol content in my blood at the time, or if indeed De Kaap was indeed the place I had stored in my memory file marked EXQUISITE.
It was Dave’s first visit, and neither he nor I were disappointed by the setting and style of the place – it’s simple and rustic, yet classy. My previous visit had been at night, so I had been unaware of the magnificent view and sun-streaked patio.
Being low season, it was quiet, which suited us very well. Inside, the cosy interlocking rooms, with simple country style decor, ensure an intimate dining experience at the busiest times – and outside, it’s possible to imagine a full complement of summer visitors enjoying magnificent views under either of two shaded terraces.
The menu was not extensive – a choice of two starters and five main courses, two of which were vegetarian. However, we were happy with all the options: the large group next to us who were accompanied by assorted small children had less luck, as there was no special provision for the short people. Who, nevertheless, seemed to enjoy the experience thoroughly as they had freedom to explore, to consort with the passing ducks and field-mice, as well as enjoy some swings, placed far enough away for the happy squeals of playing children to be unobtrusive to those who prefer to enjoy their child free status in peace.
Despite seven years living away from Britain’s rip-off South African wine prices, I still get a frisson of delight when boutique wines are offered for a fraction of the cost they would be in UK. Illogical I know, as I live firmly in the rand economy now. We were happy to see that featured on the list alongside our favourite wine farms (Graham Beck and Springfield), was Arendsig boutique winery. I love being able to accompany meals with wines made from grapevines which I can actually see from my dining table. So, when in McGregor … we opted for Lord’s Shiraz. It turned out to be an excellent choice, with the usual “food enhancing qualities of the succulent hand picked Shiraz grape.” (Dave says this sounds far too pretentious, so let’s just keep it honest and say ‘it went really well with the food’, and hope that my fledgling career as a food and wine blogger isn’t all over already).
Starters of tempura battered calamari and vegetables (Dave) and baked Camembert (Me) did not disappoint, simply cooked and beautifully presented. Dave’s vegetables were particularly delicious, crunchy and the batter was perfect. The Camembert was light and fluffy – and started the inevitable discussion of Masterchef South Africa, to which we are both addicted. Recently some of the contestants had to taste and smell cheese, and we Europeans were shocked to find that at least five of these wannabe top chefs had never heard of, or tasted Camembert. We were pleased to find that in McGregor there are well informed and cosmopolitan chefs.
I had opted for the pork fillet with cider apple sauce, This particular dish has a special place in my heart as it was the first dish I ever cooked at my boarding school “Sunday evening leisure cookery” club. (It was also my last, as I drank all the cider and ended up singing “Ain’t no mountain high enough” at the top of my voice outside the School Chapel at quiet time. I was banned for life.) (From cookery club, sadly, not chapel) I was delighted with my choice – the vegetables were crunchy and beautifully presented, the rice ‘al dente’. The cider apple sauce was a little on the sweet side for my taste, and could have done with a little more seasoning, but the fillet was perfectly cooked – tender, full of flavour. Dave had chosen a Portugese style sauce to accompany his beef fillet and shoe-string fries: described as “slightly spicy” by the waitress, he was somewhat disappointed to find that this was an accurate description, as he prefers his food on the fiery side. But he admitted that it was an spicy enough for a ‘normal’ palate, with very authentic Portugese flavourings. And the best thing - rare steak – hot!
I can’t remember if there was an alternative to the delicious dessert – strawberries, ice- cream, meringue, a perfect pavlova for a refreshing end to our leisurely Sunday sojourn. And at last there was something that all the kids on the next table were in raptures about!
I would definitely recommend De Kaap for a gentle afternoon’s relaxation with good food, local wine, and a serene ambiance. I would hesitate to recommend to families with children with unsophisticated tastes , cos a burger and chip place it really isn’t.
They don’t take credit cards, but were kind enough to trust us to pay by EFT on our return home, another example of South African hospitality you would never find in Britain! As far as price went, I think it was fair, for the quality of both the food, wine and experience.
Vrolijkheid McGregor 6708
Open Thursdays to Sundays