If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for the best meal of your life. Well that was my experience on our recent holiday near the Knysna forests, Garden Route, South Africa.
Brett Garvie, the unassuming proprietor and talented chef, has built an atmospheric culinary gem in his little home cottage. Our evening there was outright charming, which took us far beyond what we had might have expected and served up the best food I’ve ever enjoyed in one sitting.
VegTable, secretly nestled among a Pecan nut orchard on a farm (charmingly called Mother Earthworms), offers its patrons the best of what vegetarian mealtimes should capture; authenticity, passion, love and a deep respect and intimate knowledge to masterfully combine the best seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
As we arrived at the cottage, Brett, warm and friendly, welcomed us into his 16-seater hub of culinary activity. The cracking fireplace and restored, hard-at-work Defy Jewel wood stove, together with an array of mis-matched antique crockery, cutlery and table settings (all sourced from charity stores) had us feeling instantly at ease and comfortable.
In fact it took my daughters only an instant to recognise this as an experience to be celebrated! Brett, having not realised that two of the four vegans at our table of five were children, had prepared a deliciously hearty, albeit a somewhat spicy, creamy potato soup. Yet the girls were too charmed to forgo the love and effort put into each fiery serving!
With the kitchen incorporated into the rustic gourmet setting, the girls accompanied Brett to see our second plate of the four-course menu being garnished, and played servers as they brought the dukkah-crusted baby beetroot kebabs to our table. Served with cashew nut sauce on rocket with the most sensuous citrus dressing, this too tantalised our taste buds.
Botany buff, Brett told us of his dedication and passion in finding the best produce. His know how is expansive and catchment area abundant; like the concession he’s granted to rummage for Porcini mushrooms on a nearby farm, to refuting the trends of buying mined-for Himalayan salt, in preference to locally sourced sea salt from Coega saltworks.
He tells us of the resident baboons who strip all the orchards, all but two trees closest to his cottage. From these two pecan nut trees he gathers ample. By the light of the moon he also discovered that there’s more than enough to go around, as he quietly watches a family of wild boar enthusiastically rummaging for fallen nuts.
The penultimate course had us savouring a green pea risotto, accompanied by baby broccoli and green beans, served with the most heavenly pesto. The girls pleaded for bigger tummies, (stating the obvious; that dessert has its own special ‘tummy drawer’). The three adults gallantly ate from their plates for the satisfaction of pure taste.
Dessert. Oh goodness, the girls’ imaginations were ignited at Brett’s promise of roses, glitter, moonshine and delight. The Rose Geranium Sorbet arranged with floral-shaped pieces of pear, occasional rose petals and Turkish delight, enchanted us.
While Brett admitted that a full vegan offering seemed initially daunting to formulate, he and all his patrons had to concede that any vegetarian, and even veg-curious visitors, would surely be delighted with our evening’s custom-created 100% plant-based menu.
In the local Afrikaans language there’s a saying that goes “magies vol oggies toe”, meaning “stomach full eyes closed”!
Thank you Brett. You’ve shown us how real food, love and consciousness bring beauty to ones heart, mind, soul and satisfied tummies!