Written by Lisa Leslie
This week's Slow Route Food Journey takes us to Benguela Brasserie & Restaurant at Lakeside Lodge, situated on the reed-fringed banks of the Swartvlei Lake, just a few kilometres from the Slow Town of Sedgefield. The view alone sets it apart from many other restaurants in the area, but aside from that, they recognise and implement many of the slow food principles which we are seeking to promote on this culinary journey. Their mouth-watering bill of fare is inspired by the seasonality and availability of locally produced ingredients.
Early every Saturday morning at the iconic Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield you will find Benguela's Executive Chef Kelly-Anne Pietersen on a mission. With her astute chef’s eye, she seeks out the freshest, most eye-catching seasonal produce available, and then designs her menu in accordance to what she manages to source. Other fresh ingredients are ordered directly from local farmers within the Greater Knysna or George area.
Kelly-Anne is best known for taking familiar French classics and putting her individual creative stamp on them by giving them a local, contemporary twist. She trained under several well-known local chefs and has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in South Africa, including the Cape Grace Hotel, Sofia’s Restaurant at Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate and Bertus Basson’s award-winning Overture Restaurant.
Kelly-Anne changes her menu every two to three weeks. This is due not only to the fact that her dishes are based on seasonal, available produce, but also because she needs to constantly feed her creative passion for culinary arts.
Benguela Brasserie serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, which can be enjoyed either indoors or out (weather permitting), where diners can soak up the splendour of the Swartvlei's broad liquid landscape.
Breakfast and lunch are entirely informal affairs and in-line with the typical Brassiere style dining. So guests of the lodge or locals can head here before or after a day exploring the area and enjoy a casual meal outdoors. It may be “casual dining”, but the attention to detail is notable and the quality of the dishes is consistently high.
For dinner, they take it up several notches. The owners of Benguela Brasserie, (who also own Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate, a leading producer and wine destination at the start of South Africa’s Hermanus Wine Route) saw a need in the area for a fine-dining experience and therefore decided that they would place strong emphasis on ensuring that every single aspect of a person's 'dining experience' is catered for. Dinners here can best be described as an unhurried, sensory feast. The service is exemplary, the ambiance beautiful and the food fare sublime. And all the menu items can be perfectly paired with one Benguela Cove's award-winning wines.