I’ve been seeing daily ads in my Facebook newsfeed for a place called Sekelbos Restaurant, so decided to take The Bean there yesterday for a light bite. Sekelbos, as explained to us by our polite waitress (whose name I didn’t get) is a type of wood that is said to burn for ages, but never to ash.Continue reading
Restaurant Review: Salt & Copper
I took my folks and a follower-friend to a new place that opened its doors during the week called Salt & Copper, based just outside Hartenbos, Mossel Bay.
We were met at the door by the hostess, Samantha, who gave us menus, and said she’d get our waiter. We perused the menus for about 10 minutes. The food options look delicious, with dishes available for both the carnivorous human, as well as the herbivorous ones. The dessert options sound sinfully good too.
There is a extensive wine list, featuring wines for all tastes from local wineries, as well as a great gin selection. There are also gin and wine tastings available as well as pairings for both. Prices are in line with what you would expect to pay at a mid-level to up-market restaurant.
Sadly, the service left us wanting – we tried to get someone’s attention three times to no avail. Eventually our waiter came along and apologized, stating that it was his first day. There were more than enough staff on the floor (many of them behind the counter), but it is clear that some are still very unsure of themselves, and while I understand that teething problems are to be expected, I’ve lived in Mossel Bay long enough to know that bad service is not going to go down well with the often-impatient holiday makers that will be flooding in from up North later this month.
On the positive side:
The quips on the menu: “Unsupervised children will be sold to the circus…” got a chuckle out of me, as did “Champaign ice cubes” because Champaign is a city in the US State of Illonois. Champagne is what I think they meant to say. Proofreading is important, particularly when you’re presenting such a chic, swanky image.
The building itself has an industrial feel about it, but is very stylishly decorated, with various seating options, lovely glassware and striking copper items against dark, charcoal-like walls. It’s hip and trendy.
What’s also great to see is a spekboom (called an Elephant Bush, or in some instances a Pork Bush) in English on each table. It is referred to in many circles as a miracle plant and it is waterwise too, an added bonus given the water restrictions in our area.
We didn’t stay long, having only hot beverages as we had a reservation for lunch elsewhere.
** Menu, Wine, Gin and Hot Beverages Images from Salt and Copper’s webpage **
The tea was served in delightful glass teapots, but there were no teaspoons on the saucers. The only one that received a teaspoon with her drink was the cappuccino-drinker in our group. These small details need to enjoy more attention.
The cappuccino had by my follower-friend was very tasty. My beetroot latte was deliciously hot, but a little too spicy (in comparison with those I’ve enjoyed at establishments in Wilderness and Knysna) for my personal taste. I love the cup in which it was served.
There are play amenities outside to keep kids busy – one for 0-4 years, and another for bigger kids. There is also a large chessboard for those enthusiasts wanting to exercise their strategic brains into a good ol’ checkmate.
I do hope that things will improve, because its close proximity to home and variety of food and drink make it the ideal place to support. Honestly though, if I’m going to pay between R125 and R155 for a main meal, I do expect good service as well and unfortunately, our short experience yesterday left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.
With that said, I am a believer in second chances, so will visit once the Silly Season is over (but it will have to be on a weekend, given the odd operating hours:
Sun-Thurs 08:00 – 17:00
Fri-Sat 08:00 – 22:00
In the Season it will undoubtedly be profitable to trade during these hours, given the setting, but what about the locals who work (both in and out of season) who would like to have an enjoyable dinner during the week?
My suggestion is that the business hours be revisited – possibly open later during the week (my suggestion would be round 10:00 and shut shop at 20:30).
That’s my R91.00 worth, with a star rating of 2 ½ out of 5.
Circles in the Forest: Oakhurst Farm Cottages
One of the followers on my Facebook page asked for a few facts about me, so here they are – 13 of them because I’m not superstitious.
Also, four come up in this post:
Forest-lover, but not tree hugger
Enjoyer of puns
Growing up I spent time reading South African author, Dalene Matthee’s books because they were set in the Knysna Forest, which is an hour’s drive away, and also because I knew they would be our Afrikaans prescribed literature at some stage. She published many books, but the two I think would be her most well known are Fiela se Kind (Fiela’s Child) and Kringe in ‘n Bos (Circles in a Forest).
Last weekend, after literally being home from Victoria Falls for two days, I set off on another adventure with three girlfriends from work, Catherine, Yoki, Rhonda and Kerryn (Rhonda’s daughter) to Oakhurst Farm, where we stayed in one of the quaint cottages, called Kween’s Kaya (Queen’s Home). Apt, considering that we are amazing gals who could rule the world if the humdrum of work and paying bills didn’t stand in our way.
We arrived at dusk on Friday afternoon, using trusty Google Maps. We found our accommodation with no problem. There are various types of accommodation available – check out the website here. Our home-away-from-home was clean and well equipped. What I found particularly lovely is a box of different toys in one of the cupboards, for those people travelling with young ‘uns, and a really cool way to play Tic-Tac-Toe, or as some others may know it, Noughts-and-Crosses.
We lit a fire in the small indoor fireplace, more for atmosphere, than warmth and dinner prep was begun shortly after.
I go away every year with the same group of friends and every year is an experience because we gel as a team. One loves to cook, others don’t mind washing or dishes and I love setting the table. We have a silent understanding that we’re all away to relax and that there is no need to keep one another entertained.
Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast we set off to explore the farm a bit.
It is a working dairy farm so we saw many cows.
We also got to sample the fresh farm milk because our hosts had placed a bottle in our fridge. Soooooo creamy!
There is a lovely playground for children, a delightful farm shop, a farm pool in which to cool off and activities such as archery and horse-riding, costs of which are not included in your stay.
Beautiful pastures, meadows and dams are dotted around the farm, and the dusty road is lined by tall Bluegum trees.
We decided to do the Forest Walk, (which this forest lover, but not tree-hugger was happy about).
It is meant to be a 5 Km circular route, with a waterfall just past halfway. Not one of us thought to bring water, nor did we think that we would be character candidates for Kringe in ‘n Bos, volume 2. We found the waterfall with relative ease, although the water was more of a trickle than a fall.
Maybe I’m biased after having seen Victoria Falls, who knows? On the way to the waterfall, we saw a sign that read, “To Cottages/Church” and decided that this was the way home. It may very well have been, had we not gone to the waterfall, because after circling back to get on that trail, we ended up doing almost 10 Km in total. Catherine pretty much summed it up in a single sentence “It was fun, and then it wasn’t anymore”.
Mental note to self: Do not wear jeans during a hike, regardless of the distance.
Additional note to self: Take water, regardless of the distance.
While the distance was slightly killer, we made it and we got to see some beautiful things walk.
Rhonda spotted a skull in a hole in the ground. I of course immediately thought murder in the forest, but it turned out I read too many mystery novels. The victim was a baboon. Did you see what this Enjoyer of Puns did there? Kerryn adopted it, christening it Bobby/Bobbi (because we’re not anthropologists, so we couldn’t sex it just by looking at its orbital sockets), intent on gifting it to her Biology teacher.
Back at the cottage we all wolfed down our lunch (tuna or ham & cheese rolls) and Kerry and I headed off to the outride we’d booked for the afternoon. Her horse was called Striker and mine, Home James. We had a lovely walk on the farm and again through the forest, guided by Isaac, who comes from a jockeying family and clearly loves horses. He even showed off some of his dressage moves in one of the meadows.
We got back to the cottage and soon the fire was lit outside for a braai. We were intent on dining al-fresco, but we found quite a few eight-legged creepy crawlies which very quickly made us rethink our plans. This mild arachnophobe was just grateful to be inside, because even though there were spiders indoors too, they were smaller than the one that had nearly hitched a ride on me because I’d been standing too close to the wall it was on. After dinner and washed dishes, we all checked out to Club Duvet. The walk had tuckered us out.
Sunday morning, we headed home after another delicious breakfast, but not before stopping at Hoekwil Country Café, for something to drink.
Whenever I’m with Catherine I always feel the need to drink a pot of tea, preferably Earl Grey. The friendly waitress shared a story with us about the café’s cheesecake having been voted the best cheesecake in South Africa in 2010.
It may be nine years later, but oh my giddy aunt, the cheesecake freak in me had what Sally had when she met Harry. I will drive to Hoekwil again just to have cheesecake; it was that good!
Tomorrow is Catherine’s birthday and she’s invited some friends and I to join her for lunch at a place I’ve not been to yet, and on Sunday I will be taking my mum and dad to lunch at a new place that opened on Thursday less than five minutes’ drive from my house. Reviews to follow next week 😊
In the meantime, have an amazing weekend, and if you’re crazy enough to venture to the stores for the biggest shopping day of the year, don’t get trampled by the Stampede of Shoppers.
Review: Old Drift Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Arriving at the five star Old Drift Lodge was an experience in itself. I was welcomed by the Manager on Duty, Farai and the resident “Granny”, Hilda, who is learning the ropes. To ward of the sweltering heat, I was given a cool, damp towel and my suitcase was whisked off to my quarters, while I was checked in, over my first (of what would be a few) cocktails.
The main area of the lodge, where all meals are served, overlooks the Zambezi River. The furnishings are classy and comfortable. The décor speaks to the history of the Old Drift Town, and has the touch of Africa visible throughout, with chessboards that have wild animal pieces.
Every day the lodge has brainteasers up on the chalkboard, which is a great way to get the travellers (which are from all corners of the Globe) to interact with one another.
I was escorted to my accommodation by Granny and taken aback by the size of it. The king size bed was covered in crisp white linen, and there was an elephant made out of the towels on my bed, along with a personalized note, welcoming me to the lodge.
I was given a quick tour of the lodgings and told that if I needed anything (including a change to the beverages in the minibar), it would be arranged. I tested the theory by asking for a bath to be drawn for me upon a return from an excursion my last evening, and it exceeded my expectations.
While the lodge specializes in being a couples-destination, the luxury tents are able to sleep four persons: two on the king size bed, and two more on twin beds, in a separate room. My personal feeling is that this is not the sort of place to bring small children, given the wild animals roaming around, and because the idea is to retreat from life and truly rewind.
The bathroom boasts beautiful his-and-hers handbasins, made of copper.
There is a large indoor shower, as well as one outside. What sold me on this lodge (and I considered a few!) was the outdoor bathtub. Who wouldn’t want an indulgent bubble-bath, while overlooking the Zambezi, with the possibility of view game as an added bonus?
If you’re wanting to cool down, every room is equipped with its own private splash pool; sometimes used by the passing elephants to grab a drink. If this happens and the water is left a bit murky ‘n muddy, one call to reception is all it takes for it to be turned back into sparkling blue. On my last day, I enjoyed an ice-cold local ale, Zambezi Lager in the pool.
After dinner every evening, each resident is accompanied to their room by a ranger, in case there are wild animals roaming about. This is a requirement of the National Parks Authority, and a necessary one. One evening there were both Cape Water Buffalo and a herd of elephants roaming around the lodge.
I had a busy time during my holiday, wanting to do as much as I could in the short time I was in Victoria Falls, but the staff at the lodge are flexible and always willing to help. For example, lunch is served between 13:00 and 15:00, but if one arrives back from an excursion a bit later, something to nibble on can be arranged.
The lodge offers sunrise-, and sunset cruises (whether a single person, or a number of people) are booked, as well as game drives, and nature walk safaris. The sunrise cruises include coffee, hot chocolate, and tea for your enjoyment on the river. For those that can’t resist, there is Amarula for the coffee too. Oh, and the most delicious biscuits too; the oats crunchies are dangerously addictive!
During afternoon excursions, there are alcoholic beverages available – on the sunrise cruise you can enjoy a sundowner while you gently chug along, and the game drive has a pop-up bar somewhere along the route, where travellers can sip on something cold, enjoy some bite-size snacks and soak up the breathtaking view.
All the guides that accompany guests on the excursion are extremely knowledgeable of the area, the animals and the vast array of birdlife that can be found in- and around the lodge.
The meals at the lodge are next-level delicious! Chef Gabriel and his team indeed know their onions. The menu is a five-day rotational one, as Farai explained to me, but if there is something specific a guest would like to have, it is easily arranged.
Breakfast is a continental one to begin with, and guests can order an assortment of hot meals, which are prepare to order. I had eggs benedict one morning, and the Rangers’ breakfast the next. One thing that I love about the meals served is that the hot meals are served on hot plates, keeping the food warm throughout.
At every meal, Chef Gabriel makes a turn at the tables to make sure the guests are enjoying their meals. The waitstaff are polite and always at the ready to fill your water glass or get you a drink to have with your meal. I only had lunch at the lodge once, given my hectic schedule. It was Fillet of Tilapia (one of the 80 types of fish found in the Zambezi).
The dinners at the lodge are a culinary experience, with a selection that caters to all tastes.
I had dinner on two of the three evenings I was at the lodge (as I attended a dinner excursion on the Bushtracks Express one evening).
The travel agent that booked my stay at the lodge is a friend, and mentioned to them that I was coming to Victoria Falls as a to-myself-from-myself-40th-birthday-present. On the last night I was there, the manager on duty, Lessley, joined me for dessert. Halfway through that cheesecake, all the staff on duty came out singing “Happy Birthday”. For a minute I thought it was Lessley’s special day, but it turned out that I had been blessed with a birthday cake, which I was quite willing to share with the other guests, but they were all “well fed” with no extra space for cake. I ate a piece and had the rest divided amongst the staff.
On my last night, I came back to my room to find an envelope with my name on it, and a note inside. Again, it could have just read “room 6”, but that personal touch made it special.
I wish I could remember everyone’s names to thank them individually for their incredible hospitality, but for fear of (unintentionally) leaving someone out, I am simply going to say a universal “thank you!” to everyone at Old Drift. Being at the lodge has opened my eyes to the beauty of Victoria Falls town, the Mighty Zambezi and given me renewed hope for the future. I arrived at the lodge as a weary stranger, but left feeling like part of the Old Drift family. I’ve left a part of my heart there.
You may be rated as five-star by travel standards, but in my book, you’re a 10 out of 5 😀
Thank you for the memories! Ones I will treasure forever.
Review: The Cork and Plunger
I’ve lived in Mossel Bay for going-on 31 years now. In that time, I’ve seen all kinds of places come and go: B&B’s, stationers, pharmacies, general cafés, clubs, movie houses and restaurants., particularly those of an upmarket caliber, but it appears that the tide may be turning.
As I withdraw from my memory bank, there is one posh place that has stood the test of time. A few years back, another chic, golf-inspired place opened its doors and it appears to be going strong.
More recently though, about two weeks ago, a friend and I visited the newest kid on the block: The Cork and Plunger. As the name suggests, it serves wine and coffee – a vast selection of both.
There is also a range of craft beers and gin on tap available. These drinks can be enjoyed in the comfort of the wine bar on the upper level. The way I would describe the décor upstairs is Gentleman’s Club. With its dark wood tables, comfortable booths, leather armchairs, it is a place to enjoy an aperitif or a post-dinner drink.
If you’re one for a more outdoorsy vibe, you can enjoy a cocktail on the balcony overlooking a portion of the harbour. I’m not a drinker but have sampled both a virgin mojito and strawberry daquiri so far.
If the balcony’s fully occupied, there is a vibey beer garden at the back of the building, with a pool table and a lighthouse-jungle gym for the kids to clamber around on, while you sip on a cold one.
The restaurant downstairs is combines comfortable furnishings with beautiful photographs of many stone buildings in Mossel Bay, lending to the atmosphere of homely comfort, while the white linen napkins, exquisite glassware, weighted cutlery and out-of-the-ordinary crockery remind you that you’re in a classy place.
Food wise there are various menus: Canapés (which I’ve yet to try), breakfast & lunch, and dinner. All the dishes cater to varied tastes, including vegan and gluten-free options. The dinner menu is limited to a few dishes in each category of starters, main courses and desserts. In the first two groups, chicken, meat and fish are catered for. In my opinion this ensures consistent quality of the food served.
To date, during my various visits, I’ve tried the Coq au Vin, which is served with Garlic Mash and Veggies, the Ribeye Steak (which I recommend eating rare to medium-rare at most), with the crispiest baby potatoes I’ve ever had, and Lloyd’s Pork Loin with Peppers & Butternut Risotto. Honestly, I’d love to see that Risotto as a dish on its own too, because it is delicious. Marc’s Lamb Shank appears to be a firm favourite – when I was dining last night, I saw various people enjoying it. Dessert wise, I’ve only had the chocolate mousse, which is a touch too bitter for my personal taste. I’ve had their strawberry cake, which is good, but I’d opt for something less sweet, and more decadent next time, like the Carrot-, or Black Forest ones.
Finally, any place can serve good food, but it’s the added personal attention the patrons receive from both the waitstaff and the management that puts the Cork & Plunger in a league of its own. I’m a firm believer that if a person wears a name badge, it’s an invitation to use their name. To date I’ve been served by Marc, Herschel and Bridget, and when I was there with friends last weekend, Keagan showed us around the beer garden. While referring to someone by name adds an informality to things, it allows for a relaxed experience, which is what I am looking for when I go out, whether alone, or with friends.
With every visit I’ve had to the restaurant, whether just for coffee or a meal, or as has become custom for me, to get some blogging done, both owners Marc and Taha have stopped by my table to say Welcome back or it’s good to see you again.
Nothing is too much trouble for the staff at the Cork and Plunger and that’s the recipe for long term success. Keep up the good work!
I’ve also published this content on Tripadvisor
Hot Wheels for a Hip Misfit… Thanks to Seesig Motors
So, after a break-up or trauma of some sort, most women tend to make a change. It’s usually a new hairstyle or colour, or a new look. I’ve done both – the hair y’all have seen and depending on my mood (and the weather), I now don summer scarves with a tailored jacket or rock skinny jeans with heels, as you’ll see later. I also bought myself a pair of ridiculously awesome Italian boots (a pair of genuine Italian shoes has been on my dream board for a decade or so already!) which arrived today.
I feel good about the person I’m becoming through therapy and recovery and I’m happy with the persona I’m putting forward to the world. As I said to Charlie earlier this week, apparently life begins at 40; I’m just getting a few months’ head start. What most women don’t do after a disruption in their life, is buy a car, especially not on a whim. Or maybe they do?
On Monday last week, I sent a well-known car-dealer, Seesig Motors, in our dorp a message that I was in the market for a small car with aircon and power steering and readily available parts, and the budget I had in mind, but that we’d obviously need to check if any bank would be open to financing it. I wouldn’t be offering my current vehicle, a 2011 Ford Figo 1.4 Ambiente (aka Casper) for a trade-in either, because if I did qualify for the funding, I had a plan up my sleeve. Much to my surprise, I qualified for a car above the budget and the payment is still affordable enough for me to be able to keep both cars!
Gielie Slabbert, the owner (and a friend) shared the good news, telling me that if I was keen, he could offer me a 2011 Renault Sandero 1.4. I said I’d be happy to pop into the showroom for a test drive, and he said it wouldn’t be necessary because he would bring the car to me at work (which is a good twenty minutes’ drive one way) so I could take it through its paces. I was sold by the time I drove back in through the gates.
That same afternoon, I popped into the showroom (after regular business hours) where I was assisted by Elsabé van de Coolwyk. In a matter of fifteen minutes, we’d gone through the purchase agreement and signed all the paperwork. I got word from her the next day that the car would be ready for delivery on Friday.
I opted to collect on Saturday, because I decided to give The Toppie and The Bean the use of Casper (which I will continue to pay the repayments and insurance on). Casper is on loan to them and in the event of anything happening to either The Toppie or The Bean, Casper will be returned to me as per a written agreement between The Toppie and I, because I’ve seen too many people I know get screwed over by family, friends or even local employers.
The hardest part of the whole deal was for me to keep the new car (which will be known as Deadpool from hereon out) a secret. I eventually couldn’t bear the it anymore and I told Charlie, Chanté, Elizabeth and Eleanor, promising them all an excruciatingly painful death if they breathed a word to anyone.
Saturday morning, I was up early; like a kid on Christmas morning. Elizabeth’s brother, Patrick, gave me a lift to the showroom where I was greeted with a smile by Fanie, who explained where everything was on the car, which is a good thing, because otherwise, if I’d ever had a flat, I wouldn’t have known that the spare tyre is underneath the car.
I then went to have my nails done at a new salon that opened close to home called Front de Mer Beauté. I’m happy with the result, and I think the therapist, Angie, did well considering the size of shoes she had to fill. I miss Elena though, but we’re getting together in the last week of May just as we promised we would do once a month.
Finally, it was time to execute the surprise of the year. I got into Deadpool and took the drive out to my folks. I gave them each a package – The Bean hers first (seat covers) and then I gave The Toppie his (much smaller one), the key to Casper. For a moment, they were both somewhat confused, but once the penny dropped, there were tears of gratitude, surprise, shock, relief (because honestly, the car The Toppie has now is not the most reliable in the world).
The Toppie and The Bean left The Cave in Casper, and when The Toppie is ready, he can decide what to do with his car.
Gielie, Elsabé, Fanie and the team at Seesig Motors: Thank you seems so inadequate for the appreciation I have for everything you did in helping me to be able to help my parents too. I will refer everyone I know looking for a vehicle to you, because it’s clear that those entering the showroom may arrive as customers, but they leave as friends. Wishing you growth and success all the way!
Crush ‘n Brunch
I have a new celebrity crush – Nathan Fillion…
You see, Elizabeth got me totally hooked on a TV series called Castle in which the gorgeous (or as one of his scripts says “ruggedly handsome) Mr Fillion portrays the lead role of Richard Castle, a mystery writer who ends up helping the police solve homicides, based on what he would write in his novels. What I also enjoy is that in some episodes he plays poker with some of my favourite real-life authors, like James Patterson and Michael Connelly. I don’t know what I am going to do when I have no more episodes to watch (eek!)
On other news – Mom and I seldom get to spend some quality time alone, so I thought I would treat her to brunch this past Saturday.
We went to a place in one of the little villages close by. The place is called Die Ou Pastorie (translated, The Old Manse). The house used to be home to the Dutch Reformed Minister, but is now privately owned by a local family, who live upstairs, while downstairs has been converted into a homely shop with all sorts of interesting things to buy, from homemade jams, to rusks, to secondhand clothing, to new clothing, to chunky, arty jewellery. The place is a gem!
We sat in the garden…
… where we had the creamiest cappuccinos and breakfasts with a difference. Mom opted for vetkoek (a doughy breadroll-like South African dish) which was served with savoury mince, Marmite, cheese, homemade jam and real farm butter.
Wanting something out of the ordinary, I ordered an African breakfast and well, it was amazing! It consists of stiff African maize porridge, topped with two perfectly fried eggs, which are smothered in white sauce which in turn is sprinkled with beef biltong (jerky). I loved the way it was presented – on a leopard print plate, complete with a porcupine quill to finish it off. I also had a fresh farm roll with homemade jam.
Onto more other news… Work as I’m sure you have gathered, is keeping me incredibly busy. But I’m not complaining. In fact, I am loving my job! I was told at my interview that stress levels can be high sometimes, particularly during month-end. I have been through two month ends already, and I can honestly say that on my side, they have been virtually stress free (early days, I know, but still, it’s a good start).
I am anxiously awaiting the results of my 6th novel-writing assignment. I neglected my writing for quite some time because every time that I would open a clean word processing document, the blank white page would taunt me – so much so that I couldn’t get a word typed down. Hopefully the dry spell is over now.
Anyhow, I best get some work done – before I get caught loafing.
See you on the flip-side!