food

Bushmans Kloof

Having last been to stay at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat about two years ago, I was delighted to have the opportunity to revisit the exquisite Cederberg lodge. Fond memories of my previous trip (especially of the food), guaranteed another restorative (and filling) stay. As part of the Relais & Chateaux collection, the accommodation is super luxurious, featuring huge pillowy beds in beautiful and tastefully-decorated rooms. Attention to detail is a strong point at the resort and staff even cater to guests’ personal interests – you’ll often find boxes of watercolours and sketchpads, or ornithology books especially set out for use. Situated on a 7500 hectare reserve, the property is home to an incredible variety of endangered flora and fauna. Each of the guides who works at the lodge has a different area of interest, and as fynbos and vegetation is of particular fascination to our guide, Simone, she is able to tell us plenty about all sorts of curious-looking flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. I never really thought I had an interest in the subject before, but none of what she tells us is in the least bit boring – I can even distinguish between a male and female thatch reed now! As the lodge is situated on a South African Natural Heritage Site, which has about 130 locations of brilliantly preserved historical bushman rock art, it is of great significance from a historical point of view. Dating back thousands of years, guides explain everything from how to differentiate between the sexes of what appear initially as stick figures, as well as some of the professions, from witch doctors to chiefs. There is also an amazing permanent exhibition in the lodge’s Heritage Centre, which features the Rudner Collection of bushman artefacts. Given all the activities available on the reserve, from game drives, hikes and tours of the rock art sites, to canoeing, archery and fly-fishing, you could work up quite an appetite. That is, you could if chef Floris Smith hadn’t considered every potential opportunity for a person to get a little peckish and prepared something delicious! Food on the reserve is of particular consequence, because it is just so very good. Between the abundant breakfasts, lunches, afternoon tea and dinner, guides hosting afternoon game drives will crack open a trunk filled with snacks and a variety of drinks, and expect coffee or tea and muffins, biscuits and fruit on early morning drives. Afternoon tea is a sumptuous affair with more treats laid out than you can shake a branch of fynbos at, and at breakfast and lunch all palettes and preferences are catered for. Dinner is a most notable affair, and we are lucky enough to enjoy the new summer menu, which features many fynbos and botanical ingredients. The six-course tasting menu begins with a delicate spinach and goat’s cheese ravioli with roasted red pepper coulis. The second course of perfectly cooked pink salmon rolled in sushi rice, and a wasabi and white chocolate crème brulee, is unusual but bursting with those Asian-style flavours that often prevent you from putting your foot on the ‘stop eating now’ brakes! The duo of rooibos and vanilla smoked quail breast and confit quail leg, served with baba ganoush and pistachio crumble is possibly my favourite dish of the evening. Chef Floris’s background as a dancer is evident in the dish, as the subtle and elegantly balanced flavour combinations have the nuances of a ballet performance. A rock shandy sorbet serves as a palate cleanser, though I’d quite happily enjoy it for dessert too. The slow roasted pork belly served with roasted pear, fresh fennel, watercress and radish salad with a roobios oriental dressing is the ideal comfort food, and the Karoo rack of lamb with cumin scented field mushrooms and potato wedges hints at a North African influence. The final ‘act’ is a plate of mini desserts, all with nostalgic appeal. A tiny baked brandy pudding, peppermint crisp tart, milk tart macarons with salted caramel and a vanilla pod ice cream seal the deal. Most impressive is the organic herb and vegetable garden that provides the kitchens with much of the fresh produce used in the dishes. With anything from fruit trees and rows of vegetables to patches of edible flowers, the same love and care poured into the maintenance of the gardens comes through in the food. It’s the kind of break that leaves you feeling replete and satisfied, as you sleep well and eat extremely well the duration of your stay. So much so, that you almost need a holiday from the holiday in order to get back into the beat of city living. Visit bushmanskloof.co.za to find out more or to book your stay... Text: Raphaella Frame-Tolmie