#WorldGinAndTonicDay

So, today is #WorldGinAndTonicDay…

What is your favourite G&T infusion?

Life in the Garden Route of South Africa has its perks. There are quite a few gin distilleries close to my hometown. There is even a school in town where you can make and infuse your own bottle of gin as a keepsake to enjoy in the comfort of your favourite chair at home.

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Review: Bellevue Restaurant

I’m a firm believer of taking the road less travelled, because often, they do lead to stunning destinations, unless you get lost, of course!

On Saturday a friend celebrated her birthday and invited me to join her and some others at a place called Bellevue Restaurant, at The Village Lodge.  It is about 40 minutes’ drive from my house, seven kilometres of which are on a well-maintained gravel road.  A bonus is that on the way, you may get to see some game.  In this instance we saw zebra, Cape Buffalo and some antelope (but they were too far away to photograph).

Zebra 1Cape Buffalo

It is essential to book ahead if you’re planning a visit, as the lodge may have guests, and they have preference to dine at The Bellevue.  The atmosphere is relaxed, as both the lodge and restaurant are child friendly.  There is a luscious green lawn where kids can run around to their hearts’ content, as well as a jungle gym and tyre swings.

Saturday’s meal was so impressive, that I booked a place for Sunday, intent on taking a follower-friend and my parents for lunch.

Saturday’s meal consisted of two harvest boards:  A Ploughman’s Platter and an Antipasti Platter, and three pizzas:  Parma Ham, Cajun Chicken and Pulled Pork.  The platters are colourful and fresh.  The orange slices on the ploughman’s were sweet and juice, without spitting in your eye.  The pizzas were delicious too, and have super-thin bases, making them easy to fold to enjoy your pizza calzone-style if you prefer.

Afterwards we had milkshakes for dessert.  I’d seriously go all the way back there just to drink another one.  The Lemon Meringue one I had was out of this world!  There are other options, like Bar-One, Salted Caramel and Peppermint Crisp to name a few.

Lemon Meringue Milkshake

Sunday, after our coffee-stop, we hit the road again; this time we saw zebra, some antelope and rhinos.  Even if we’d gone home starving, seeing the rhinos would have been enough.

Zebra 3Rhino and ZebraZebra 2

We were seated outside, close to the bar area, and if it’s a little chilly, there are light blankets available for patrons on request.  There is also seating indoors and in the evenings the fireplace is lit.

Our lovely waitress, Claudine, took our drinks order and within a few minutes we were clinking glasses, drinking to happy days and new places.

I ordered a Ploughman’s Platter for the four of us (which mind you, was enough for us to all have our fill).

Ploughman's Platter

Follower-friend opted for the Parma ham pizza (as I told her it’d been a hit the day before), Mom had battered fish, hand-cut chips and salad, Dad had pork hock served with mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables and I opted for a rosemary Karoo roast lamb sandwich on seed loaf with sweet potato fries and salad.  That seed loaf tastes almost sweet and has a cake-like consistency.  Deeeeee-lllliiiii-cious!!!!

At the beginning of our culinary adventure, we’d wanted dessert, but we were so full we had to take the leftovers home, so we’ll have to go back for sure.

Menu

There are dishes for every taste, ranging from mid-level to high prices.  The quality and freshness of the food justifies the price, as does the service.  The waitstaff are always close by, without hovering over patrons, which is a huge plus.  There is also a large selection of beers and ciders I’d not seen before until my visit.  The cocktails described on the drinks’ list sound superb, but if you’re driving, I’d probably say it’s safer to give them a miss until you can savour them and have someone drive you home.  The setting is tranquil, and given the distance from home, a delightful place to escape to over a weekend even if only for a cocktail, coffee and something light to nibble on.

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars.  Highly Recommended.

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.

Menu 1

Menu 2

Menu 3

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.

Wine List

Gin & Cocktails

Pairings & Kids Menu

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.

Setting

Setting 2

table-1.jpg

Table decor

Decor 2

We didn’t stay long, having only hot beverages as we had a reservation for lunch elsewhere.

Hot Beverages

** 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.

Teapot

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.

Beetroot Latte & Cappucino

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.

Chessboard

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).

Price

That’s my R91.00 worth, with a star rating of 2 ½ out of 5.

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.

C1

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.

SD

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