Elgin Oh Elgin!
Some call it little Switzerland, some call it Eden but most people who swoosh past on the N2, have no idea of the treasures hidden behind the tall trees of the Elgin Valley. The lovely and beautiful Sasha & Tammy of Rabbit In a Hat Communications recently blessed me with an invitation to explore and experience this paradisal region. I fell in love and I lóve falling in Love with places – especially when it offers so much more than beauty! Like a really handsome man who is also handy! Elgin is definitely more than handsome and the fact that it is situated less than an hour from Cape Town and is such a mecca of fabulous offers & produce makes it extremely handy.
I was ever-so-slightly late for the start of the 24 hour “Experience Elgin and Surrounds” & “Cape Country Connect” blast so, directly opposite the Peregrine Farmstall, I dashed off the N2 onto the R321 and drove almost as reckless as a sober Frenchman – overtaking on blind corners etc. Mathilda, my GPS, indicated that I will arrive 15 minutes late – it is just not my style so I floored it a little harder until a farm truck ahead forced me to slow down. And then I saw it. Majestic old Oak trees lining the road and its dappled shade made the most beautiful patterns on my windscreen. I exhaled and remembered my favourite slogan “The Joy is in the journey.” I was to have a crash-course in Elgin’s gentle and elegant ways of making one stop, exhale and breathe deeply.
Not knowing that yet and since the Elgin Twitterati almost never do the #FollowBack thing – even if you voluntarily promote your head off – I expected the people to be at least slightly distant and haughty. I was dead wrong! Every person I met was warmhearted, friendly, proudly in love with their valley and endearingly eager to share it.
The Pool Room Restaurant
Gordon Manuel is the new owner-chef at The Pool Room Restaurant on one of Elgin’s oldest family estates, Oak Valley.
The Pool Room opened in November 2012, expanding the area’s fledgling fine-dining offering with a beautifully situated restaurant built around the family’s original pool and pool house. The restaurant also served to amplify the farm’s ethos around sustainable free-range beef and acorn fed pork, reared according to best practice for top quality meats.
In partnering with Gordon Manuel, the restaurant enters a new chapter but continues to serve a menu derived from produce on the farm including the certified free pork and beef, and the harvest of the extensive 200 meter vegetable and herb garden.
Gordon Manuel brings French culinary flair and an Elgin pedigree to the table, having previously owned the restaurant on South Hill wine estate as well as Gordon’s Country Kitchen on Thandi Estate.
“The Pool Room really gives me the opportunity to work with the best ingredients in the Valley, and beyond. I am very excited about working to bring farm to table and we are committed to upholding the discernment that defines Oak Valley throughout the process,” says Manuel.
The restaurant cannot purchase cuts from the farm so makes use of the whole animal. Gordon’s skill as a saucier supports a range of dishes to utilise a variety of meat cuts. This is reflected in the ever-changing Pool Room menu that includes items from the wood-fired grill to braised shin and pork rillettes. The food is complemented by a full range of Oak Valley wines and a small deli offers items such as cut flowers, preserves, fresh Pool Room breads and baked goods.
Gordon is joined by his wife Emma Manuel who runs front of house and utilises her long-standing career in hospitality management to design and maintain all the behind-the-scenes elements of running the restaurant. (Even the Loo is beautifully well kept & sports fresh flowers.)
Key to their vision is the development of staff from the area. Elgin and Grabouw are challenged by high levels of unemployment and a lack of opportunity outside of the agricultural sector. The evolving hospitality sector has the potential to offer new opportunities in the area.
Open Tuesday – Sunday for breakfast (09h00-11h00) and lunch (12h00-15h00)
Open Friday night for dinner (16h30-22h00)
Picnics are available from November to April and can be enjoyed on the restaurant lawns beneath the oak trees.
Table reservations are essential on weekends and during holidays – picnic orders should be ordered 24 hours in advance.
ADDRESS AND CONTACT DETAILS
The Pool Room
Oak Valley Estate
021 859 4111
From the Pool Room we went to see the Oak Valley acorn-fed pigs and the 5 star (still authentically piggy in aroma) piglet “suckling center” where the enormous sows are kept contained to prevent them from accidentally suffocating an unfortunate piglet in her sleep but allows access for breast feeding. As we know, ironically Principessa Piglet is to die much later in a peaceful fashion and become famous on a plate somewhere. But while they are on Oak Valley farm, they are treated as beloved royalty. It is comforting to know that she harbours no stress and has a happy childhood.
From the happy pigs we went to see the mostly grass-fed Simmental and Wagyu cattle. The Japanese Wagyu is genetically predisposed to intense marbling which makes for excellent meat. They looked happy and peaceful and well fed.
From the beautiful and superbly managed Oak Valley Farm we took to the road and I was very eager to see which fantastical Old Mac Daddy trailer I would be spending the night in.
The Dirkie Sanchez trailer is parked highest up the hill and I wanted to wake up to thát view. Once I stopped panting from the climb with my silly-heavy suitcase, I started giggling. It is such a funky room! A couple would have to be half dead or very out of love not to get interesting in that bed.
Room description from the Old Mac Daddy Website:
“Fancy a bit of wrestling?
This trailer is all about the bed – a fantasy set where frilly skirts and slick latex wrestling sweats tumble in a tussle of elbows and knees as you grunt and groan till you score. Naughty-but-nice creative couple; Mark and Joe Stead, have created a Mexican mash-up, a libre love truck with plenty of raunchy wrestling-inspired illustrations to inspire some hot new moves (dress-up outfits are provided).
Hillside Trailer Suite with queen-sized bed and built-on living unit.”
I also love the living room, bathroom and patio extension with its minimalist crisp elegance and wonderful view.
Please click on the thumbnails below to view enlargements of the images of Old Mac Daddy and its Dirkie Sanchez trailer.
Back down to the rustic Old Mac Daddy Barn & conference center and the happy buzz of exhibitors and impressed meandering visitors. I found everyone with a glass of very high standard local wine or cider and eagerly tasting the delicious local delights on offer. Please read more about the connect below and click here to see the impressive lists of participants.
THE CAPE COUNTRY MEANDER AND CAPE COUNTRY CONNECT
The Cape Country Meander is a portal to eight of the best towns and surrounding countryside in the Overberg region – Botriver, Caledon, Genadendal, Elgin, Greyton, Riviersonderend, Tesselaarsdal and Villiersdorp.
Cape Country Connect is a platform where local suppliers from across the Theewaterskloof area have the opportunity to introduce and showcase their products and services to local and neighbouring product owners in the hospitality industry. This is the perfect opportunity for any supplier to market themselves and we are especially encouraging restaurants, venues and accommodation owners to procure locally as much as they can.
The event is a Cape Country Meander initiative and is envisaged to be an annual event that will be hosted by a different Cape County Meander town each year. Elgin Valley Tourism launched the concept at the vibrant and beautiful restaurant venue, Brinny Breezes, at Old Mac Daddy on Wednesday, 13 April 2016.
A few examples of the rich and varied produce of the participants of the Cape Country Meander ~ CAPE COUNTRY CONNECT
Some of my favourite produce ~ which most impressed me.
As background you can watch the video below on the Craft Cider Revolution.
I fell in love with Cider in Paris France – so long ago that Appletizer was not yet available there! Typically French, the ‘Garçon’ suggested “Brute” instead (a very dry French Cider with 1% alcohol) to the 23 year old me – it was the beginning of a long and happy Cider drinking era. Coming back to South Africa I found it very disappointing that we only had sweet and slightly toxic tasting Ciders like Savanna and other big names where high sugar, carbonated, coloured and flavoured unnatural ‘ciders’ are produced.
At introduction to Windermere I instantly became a fan! Please raise awareness and complain at all local establishments where they only stocking Savanna & Hunters Dry etc when we have excellent, healthy and great tasting Ciders of our area available. (I don’t only complain because I believe in supporting deserving locals but also because I am hooked! ) Well Done Windermere!
~Gretha Quinlin Candels – Gently scented candles with soul. I have never seen candles which glow in entirety like Gretha’s.
~Von Geusau Chocolates – All local Accommodation establishments should sport one of these on guest’s pillows.
~Botrivier Nursery stocks lovely produce for your edible garden and also specialises in indigenous plants. (Sorry only a Facebook link available at this time)
~BIOREM BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS not only manufactures milk re-placers for calves and lambs, but also offers you the complete package necessary for rearing calves and lambs.
That includes the following:
- Calf and Lamb milk replacers (BIOMEL*; BIOLAM*)
- Transporting support for calves (TRANSPOSIN*)
- Colostrum replenishment (BIOGLOBIN*; BIOMEL PLUS KOLOSTRUM*)
- An alternative, economical wettable calf starter feed (CALFPAP*)
- Treatment of diarrhoea with a probiotic (BIOREM*)
- Stress treatment at weaning, feedlot adaptation (BIOSIN*)
- 24 Hour technical support for any problem with calf rearing or feedlot adaptation
- Continuous supply of information and research results free to our clients.
- All products registered by act 36 of 1947.
- Copyright on all information supplied
- *TRANSPOSIN is a “CUSTOM MADE” product on demand
After being fed even more wonderful snacks like gourmet Pizza, fresh salad, crispy fish & chips etc from Brinny Breezes, the in-house restaurant at the Old Mac Daddy Barn …and more good Cider, Craft Beer and wonderful wine, I ascended to my airy, relaxing deck and funky trailer. I got dressed in the wrestling gear provided and bounced about a bit, seriously considering to rejoin the happy laughter I could hear faintly from the barn, but the bed was absolutely sumptuous and I got lost in it. I woke up to the most beautiful views of dawn over the Elgin Valley and would not have wanted to leave but I was looking forward to the breakfast date at The Hickory Shack.
THE HICKORY SHACK IS MAKING SMOKE SIGNALS IN ELGIN
When a restaurant is inspired by an old shed, you can bet you’ve entered BBQ territory. Owner, and Elgin resident, Jay Haupt, had been exploring traditional food production methods for a number of years when the perfect location for a BBQ pit presented itself.
“I saw this old shed with all its character and just knew it was perfect,” says Jay, and with a bit of wrangling The Hickory Shack was born. The cooking happens in the smokehouse but the restaurant spreads out from a cosy interior to a chilled-out balcony and rolls onto a lawn complete with kid’s jungle gym. Plenty of parking is available up front – and its likely Jay’s bright red 1958 Chevy pick-up will be parked amongst the visitor’s cars.
Set on Thandi Farm on the N2, Elgin, The Hickory Shack serves Texas style BBQ made in a cantilever pit. The result is tender, lightly smoked ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken. Using mostly apple wood in the smoking process for its subtle flavours, the Hickory Shack’s pit master broods over his craft – making meat that is done low and slow.
The smoked meat dishes are served with slaw (no mayonnaise here), mash, fries or home-made baked beans. All the accompanying pickles and sauces – from apple chutney to hot bastard – are Hickory home-made.
Local Elgin ciders and Fraser’s Folly craft beer are the biggest attention seekers on the drinks menu which also includes jam jar cocktails, cordials, shakes and Elgin wines.
Whilst ribs and brisket lure in the crowds the big breakfasts with home-made links (sausages) are excellent fare for travellers needing a refuel or wedding weekenders nursing a sore head.
Open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday to Sunday and for dinner on Friday and Saturday, the Hickory Shack is the real-deal pit stop.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thehickoryshack/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/hickoryshack
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/hickoryshack/
Hickory Shack in on the N2 in Elgin – just part the Kromco Warehouse heading away from Cape Town.
Contact number: 021 300 1396
Released for The Hickory Shack by Rabbit in a Hat Communications
Sascha Polkey – firstname.lastname@example.org | 021 300 0052 | 083 414 0552
I enjoyed The Hickory Shack so much that I invited a friend over and stayed for lunch and Windermere – and even took some take-away for later. It took about 3 days before I was hungry again.
Elgin Valley is a magical destination and I will definitely be back to experience more of it.
Also see our South African Award Winning Wines