Going away on holiday is usually a depressingly organized affair. As a herbivore one cannot simply slip into any roadside café or glitzy restaurant without a strategic perusal of the menu, which usually leads to disappointment. Accordingly I made a heck of a lot of food for our journey to Mpumalanga, including the delicious dal (amazing on rye toast for a protein-packed breakfast, and nom with couscous and salad for dinner), carrot-beetballs, roasted carrot hummus, and lots of crustless tofu quiches. Seriously, we were overflowing with protein this weekend, and had a disgusting amount of energy (for a bunch of housecats). We went swimming in the hot mineral pools at night and even went for an amazing, long walk into the hills down a beaten but muddy path. Such wild growth everywhere, and then random little relics like a fading statue of a Madonna on the side of the path. Generally, however, we’re not an adventurous bunch, and were rather disgusted by our official outing to the Sudwala Caves – a brief, uninformative tour showing off the shadows the calcium deposits make, with little to no geological and historical context for such a beautiful and eery cave system. Next time we go cave spelunking we’re taking a geologist with us!
Holidays are generally a time to read for us, and because I knew we’d need an excuse to leave the chalet and our books, I scoured the internet last week to see if I couldn’t find a restaurant that could at least be persuaded to accommodate my vegan sensibilities. Score! I came across Old Joe’s Kaia Restaurant, not a stone’s throw from where we were staying. Their correspondent, Paul, was very thoughtful and assured me they accommodated vegans, and even had Meatless Mondays…in South Africa! I’m really flabbergasted, because meat is often portrayed as something of a human right across the country. Anyhow, their menu looked delicious and intriguing, and the website also mentioned a labyrinth to walk, so I spammed Man-thing with the menu and spent the entire week bouncing around with the idea that at least one meal would be prepared by new hands. Glee!
When we got there it was a veritable forest and the loveliest restaurant with a wooden deck, intense view over the treetops, and charming trinkets, colourful throws and other little details one would need a few hours to eye. Our hostess came out (apron and everything! Then you know it’s serious business) and assured me I choose anything with a “v” on the menu and it would be vegan, including the dish with cheese! Seriously, cheese! I nearly squealed like a girl when I heard that, because it’s been more than a year since I last ate cheese, and although I can make my own cashew cheese, it’s really not the same thing. I chose the stir fry on flat bread with vegan *blue cheese* and olives and oh.my.*!@(*!.
That? The shavings? Blue cheese straight from Scotland. Ye gods it was glorious. It just added such depth to this amazing meal that was just elevated by the loveliest stir-fry coated in some delicious oil-herb sauce with the daintiest, flower-strewn salad. I’m so used to pizza without cheese, or modified salad, that having a meal prepared especially for me *with* cheese and with care is such a blessing. The flatbread, especially, was so soft and delicate, soaking up the flavours. I was so chuffed to see actual vegetables after a whole two days without green smoothies and non-chopped goodies that I had hidden in the dahl, and I even ate all my olives (I usually slide them across my FIL or SIL’s plate).
Sorry for the chunk out of the flat bread, but I couldn’t wait to dig in before I got my first photo, and then I didn’t want to be a total prat and stand up and around the plate and take snaps with poor Man-thing burning up in shame at his crazy wench. Anyway! Blue cheese was seriously one of my favourite, if not the ultimate favourite of the cheese family, and to have some again made me grin like an idiot for the entire meal. Our super helpful and kind hostess even said they usually make their own cashew cheese on site – once I heard that I had 100% confidence everyone here knew what “vegan” actually meant, and wouldn’t go slathering butter in between things for “taste” or using chicken stock or something crazy. After this plate of goodness I was already scheming how we’d get back into this neck of the woods again so that I could plan an entire weekend around feasting at this restaurant, because with the divine food and stunning scenery, there really is no better combination in ensuring a delighted Marfi.
I was absolutely ready to sit back and enjoy some coffee whilst Man-thing ate dessert, not expecting anything more, because vegan dessert? No such thing seems to exist in my city. We got asked what we want as a follow-up, and naturally Man-thing nearly trips over his own eager eyeballs when he hears the words “date pudding”. And then the hostess turns to me and asks if I’d like a vegan pudding!! An apple crisp pie with vegan chocolate sauce and vegan caramel!! I couldn’t say no, because HOMG! Pudding! Like a real person!
Can you get over how magnificent this is? I certainly can’t. A lovely baked spring roll stuffed with crunchy apples and strewn with the loveliest combination of sauces. NOM! I couldn’t even manage a coffee after that, so stuffed was I. All in all, so very enjoyable that I’ve been inspired to try out more places in Pretoria and ask ahead for vegan meals. I may not get spoilt with imported vegan cheese, but it’s such a treat to eat out and munch on healthy food to boot! Nothing can easily beat this experience though. Green for my eyes and green in my stomach? Oh yarr!
I found out afterwards, with a more careful perusal of their website, that they actually have their own veggie garden from which they try and source as much of their ingredients as possible. They also dish out some recipes for their meals – you can bet your socks I’m going to veganize their date pudding and surprise Man-thing, because that’s one of his ultimate favourites, and he was rolling his eyes in pleasure the whole time whilst munching down on his dessert. I can’t wait to organize my way back to this place – they have such lovely soups and other tasty noms I have yet to try!