Bertus Basson at Spice Route
Despite the fact that South Africa has a rich food culture, we seem to have a startling lack of restaurants that really celebrate our own local foodie heritage. Chef Bertus Basson seems set on changing that… for the better of all of us.
Bertus Basson at Spice Route is owned and run by Bertus Basson and his partner Allistaire Lawrence and the focus is on taking old favourites and giving them a place on a contemporary menu. While Bertus’ other restaurant has a similar philosophy (Overture at Hidden Valley), this restaurant is more family-orientated and relaxed.
The décor is so refreshing; as you enter the walls are painted a beautiful blue-grey and the foremost one is wallpapered with doillies which immediately gives a sense of a contemporary ‘tuisgemaakte’ environment, without looking dated. The reed roof and patterned tile flooring give a modern farmhouse feel and the bright pops of red, backlit wire buck horns and beautifully textured prints on cushions bring elements of fun. The other walls are papered in what looks like book pages and on closer inspection you will see that they are indeed pages from the ‘Woordeboek vir die Afrikaanse Taal’. There is a bread station in the centre and here the staff slice freshly baked, crusty bread, which is served at the table with an almond-dusted apricot butter.
The menu, (which changes seasonally), is a combination of dishes that you might find at a Sunday lunch in some dusty corner of the Karoo, but with a modern update. I started with a garlic and potato soup served with crispy oxtail bites and gremolata. My partner enjoyed the fish ‘pie’ served with crisp toast and signature cucumber pickles. Both were delicious. For mains we had the CBC-braised pork belly, served with soet wortels, butternut, beetroot, popcorn crackling and salsa verde, and the herb-crusted sole. We also shared a portion of hand cut chips with braai ‘sout’ and Parmesan. Both mains were generously sized; the pork was pull apart tender and the beer braising gives it almost an eisbein-type flavour and texture.
For dessert there was no way we were going to pass up on Tannie Hetta’s Apple Pudding, which is a Bertus signature dish. It did not disappoint. The apple pudding was soft and lusciously moist, served with a textbook perfect crème anglaise, as well as ice cream. The ice cream sat atop a vanilla crumble that was golden and deliciously short. The same vanilla crumble accompanied the deconstructed lemon tart, served with meringues and soft Italian meringue that was perfectly brûléed. The bowls were scraped clean on both accounts.
As this is a family restaurant children are taken care of – there is a kid-friendly menu, which refreshingly has healthy options such as a side of cucumber and carrot sticks. There are also items like calamari, cheddar cheese sticks and crumbed chicken strips – parents can rest assured that these are not the processed kind served at most restaurants. This makes it a great place to enjoy a sophisticated adult meal along with the kids who can entertain themselves colouring in the picture on the back of the menu. The highlight of the afternoon for my niece who was dining with us, was a giant cookie delivered at the end of the meal, complete with icing in a bottle fitted with a piping nozzle and a small selection of sweets. A DIY cookie decorating kit – never has a smile been wider!
There is an assortment of branded Bertus Basson goodies to purchase as take home treats – from kitchen items such as dish towels and chopping boards to a jar of those famous pickles or a bar or three melktert fudge.
A visit to Spice Route these days gives guests a wide choice of places to dine and explore, and Bertus Basson should definitely make it onto the list. This is a place to enjoy a relaxed afternoon accompanied by great service and the team’s signature hearty food and style.
Bertus Basson at Spice Route, Paarl
021 863 5222