Spending the weekend in Riebeek Kasteel is always a good idea. It’s close enough to the centre of Cape Town – 90km – to make it a viable day trip, but staying overnight is even better. That way you’ll be able to eat at more than one establishment.
Some of the restaurants, like Mama Cucina and Eve’s Eatery, have been there for as long as I can remember. But even in a small town, there can be something new; there have been a few openings and closings since my last visit about a year ago. Bay Leaf & Thyme is one of the additions, so I had to try it out. It’s in the middle of town, on a corner which faces the square, Kasteelberg Country Inn & Bistro (where we were staying), and Beans About Coffee. With all the places I’ve mentioned – and there are plenty more too – you can see why you should devote more than a day in this lovely little hamlet in the Swartland. Plus, if you make the journey soon, you’ll be rewarded with the spectacular display of canola fields in glorious golden yellow bloom along your route.
Bay Leaf & Thyme’s website tell us it celebrates “classic dishes from around the globe, prepared in our own style. The focus of our a la carte menu is to serve unpretentious food with the emphasis on quality and friendly service.” It also does breakfast all day, which is a bonus. With a kitchen that’s open throughout, we were able to visit for a proper meal at a weird time outside of when others usually eat lunch or dinner – and not have to worry about getting a table.
Sitting on the deep veranda of this converted house, we could enjoy the mid-afternoon sun. It’s still possible to do this as we head into spring (although it’s already hot by my standards, and definitely a lot warmer than Cape Town itself), but come summer when temperatures soar, you’ll probably want to head indoors. At the moment, there’s a fireplace in there for the cooler evenings. The overall feel is light and bright, and the perimeter is planted with olive trees and the ground is covered with crunchy stones.
I’ve been craving fish and chips, something I blame on the television, which has been running ads for a certain franchise. It happened to be the first thing on the menu under main courses, which I took as a sign. The hake is fried in Black Label beer batter, and served with a cup of chips, tartare sauce, and another side of your choice. I chose the salad. With a couple of glasses of unwooded Chardonnay from nearby Kloovenburg, and the sunshine, it was an all-round winner of a meal.
My partner was saving himself for a big steak back at Kasteelberg later, so he took advantage of the all-day breakfast vibes – and the specials board – with Eggs Benedict and streaky bacon, followed by venison carpaccio.
I’m definitely keeping this one on my to-do list next time I visit, even if only for the warm, soft twisted sesame rolls with hummus, which were utterly irresistible.
* Bay Leaf & Thyme is at 1 Plein Street, Riebeek Kasteel.
Cal 022 448 1137; send an email to bayleafandthyme.co.za. Opening hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays 8am till 10pm, and Sunday 8am till 5pm.