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Last Christmas has become a distant memory, feel like eating out again?

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Eat out published a great list of recommended restaurants on the Garden Route. Born up a tree

Wilderness

Serendipity
Excellent local products form the basis for the stellar dishes created by chef Lizelle Stolze. Visitors will learn about SA culture as they sample slow-cooked ostrich or springbok; roasted veg in a mieliepap basket on tomato seshebo; and Amarula crème brûlée. You will be very well looked after in this elegant space.

The interior at Serendipity. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Sedgefield

Benguela Brasserie & Restaurant
This lakeside lodge invites you to linger over alfresco lunches of beautifully plated local cheeses, meats and olive oil with fresh bread; caprese linguine; and banting-friendly pork parmigiano with cauliflower purée, truffle oil and vegetables. The wine list is a showcase for the lovely wines of Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate in Walker Bay. (There’s a chocolate and wine pairing, too).

Inside at the Benguela Brasserie & Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Trattoria da Vinci
The marvellous food is the result of over 20 years of Leah and Steve Baletta’s hands-on approach and insistence on quality. Favourites are lamb shank al forno; chicken or veal schnitzel; roast pork with crackling; fresh tagliatelli; and crusty pizzas. The outdoor patio is a comfortable space on all but the coldest nights.

Knysna

Cathy & Remy’s Die Gieter
Casual French bistro-type fare takes the form of generous plates of pita with dips; a lovely starter of scallops; bobotie rolls; baked camembert; rich duck confit with duck-fat potatoes; and fish of the day in lemony meunière sauce. Desserts like poached pears and cheesecake are generously portioned.

East Head Café
The fish and chips are as crisp as ever and the seafood specials, which may include a piquant Cape Malay seafood curry, are top notch. Guests can enjoy splendid views of the Knysna estuary as it meets the Indian Ocean, and kids have a roomy play area off the patio.

Outside at the East Head Café. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Grain Mill Organic Bistro
There’s a focus on local, sustainable, organic and free-range ingredients, starting with the spelt flour ground on the premises and baked into loaves, cheesy pizza bread, brownies and tasty pastas. Your best bet is the chalkboard menu of specials. A charming patio meanders around the building, and inside, long wooden tables are great for large parties.

Outside at the Grain Mill Organic Bistro. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Look forward to an array of casual dishes with an emphasis on seasonal, good quality ingredients and flavour. Wood-fired pizzas are delectable, as are chilli poppers; juicy, free-range chicken skewers; and the Orange is the New Black cake. The converted house has inviting lounge areas that are perfect for groups, and gardens wind around the backyard with picnic tables under the trees.

Pembreys Bistro
Pembrey’s offers an adventurous, pleasing menu produced with confidence and know-how. Seasonal produce, herbs from the garden and local produce and seafood feature prominently. Signature dishes include butternut-and-almond ravioli with sage butter; pan-fried baby calamari with a Thai dressing; and roast duck leg confit with seasonal sides like roasted figs or balsamic-caramelised peaches. The restaurant feels like an old-fashioned farmhouse, and warm evenings allow for leisurely cocktails on the garden patio.

Inside at The Veg Table Private Dining Room. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Veg Table Private Dining Room
Brett Garvie’s background as a botanist serves him well: he forages for mushrooms, gathers pecans from the orchard and procures rich harvests from local farms and gardens in Rheenendal. The menu is ever-changing, but you could be served a honey-mustard roasted pear salad; dukkah-crusted butternut with orange-glazed carrots; silky cannelloni filled with spinach and gorgonzola; and meaty porcini mushroom risotto. What could be more enchanting than a candlelit cabin in the woods? This is a magical venue for private parties of up to 20 people.

Plettenberg Bay

Bramon Restaurant
The eclectic tapas dishes are well designed to complement the Bramon wines. Think homemade bread with chicken livers or smoked salmon pâté; bobotie rolls; sticky chicken wings; and Thai rice rolls. Oysters (when is in season) go hand in hand with the flinty Bramon bubbly. This is a spectacular setting amongst the vines, with a stylish and inviting interior.

Emily’s Restaurant
The food is as captivating as the view, with an eclectic menu that changes daily and emphasises local products. Look forward to fresh Saldanha Bay mussels baked with ricotta in phyllo pastry; homemade gnocchi in tomato-and-fennel butter; and excellent grilled Karan beef fillet in béarnaise sauce with hand-cut chips. Make time for drinks on the deck to take in the serene views of the Bitou river and soak in the romance of this magical hilltop refuge.

The interior at Emily’s Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Fat Fish
Kick things off with tapas like hot or cold oysters; crunchy panko-coated crab cakes with papino salsa; and melt-in-your-mouth pork dumplings with ginger-soy sauce. A variety of fish dishes ranges from hake fried in beer batter to clam-and-mussel linguini. This stylish but casual venue boasts views of the beach and a holiday atmosphere.

Ristorante Enrico at night. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Ristorante Enrico
When you’ve stopped gawking at the view, the aromas of sauces, slow-roasted meats and grilled seafood will vie for your attention. Highly recommended are the Fish Enrico; the slow-cooked lamb shank; spaghetti amatriciana; and the homemade apple grappa. It’s all about the views and salt water on the air. Picnic tables accommodate families outside on beautiful days.

Storm’s River

Fynboshoek Cheese
Alje van Deemter’s award-winning cheese lunches are one of the must-do experiences on the Garden Route. Expect the likes of warm rosemary focaccia accompanied by Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, just-baked tarts or crêpes with homemade ice cream. It’s an idyllic pastoral setting with fynbos-scented air and deep quiet. Kick back on the glass-enclosed veranda or at a table overlooking the dam.

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