Often associated only with bokkoms (a whole, salted and dried mullet delicacy) and the Berg River, the sleepy West Coast town of Velddrif is also home to the holiday resort of Port Owen – a maze of artificial canals and waterways situated along the river mouth.
Russell’s on the Port has provided locals and holidaymakers alike with the opportunity to experience the best of the Cape West Coast. Featuring a total of 15 rooms in their boutique guesthouse alongside a restaurant that is able to comfortably seat 90, Russell’s offers visitors a combination of a welcoming atmosphere, comfort, and excellent food. Each room in the guesthouse comes standard with a shower, and the two swimming pools are fed with purified borehole water, making for eco-friendly accommodation in an often water-stricken area.
Owner Russell Foster hails from the United Kingdom, and first visited the West Coast over a decade ago, falling in love with the unique beauty of Velddrif. He purchased a holiday home in Port Owen and, born from his desire to experience excellent food and service in the area, Russell’s on the Port began a mere year ago. It has since flourished into a successful enterprise that includes the guesthouse and restaurant, as well as the potential of boat trips up the river and across to St Helena Bay in the future.
For those looking to avoid the often-maligned fare of the area, the restaurant at Russell’s on the Port offers an impressive selection. Veering away from the typical West Coast fry-up of fish and chips and opting instead for home-style cuisine-meets-fine dining, chef Charl Coetzee has curated his menu to include seasonal ingredients, contemporary flavours and familiar classics. Change is what keeps a restaurant fresh and Charl isn’t afraid of experimentation – every dish is stylishly plated and the portions are appealingly generous.
To start, we sampled farmed kob ceviche in gin and grapefruit vinaigrette with a garlic aioli coloured with squid ink, pinkly succulent Moroccan lamb rump with baba ghanoush and mint labneh, and nut-crusted springbok loin with layered sweet potato, beetroot reduction and goat’s cheese sourced from the nearby town of Darling. For dessert, it was both the homemade ice cream (the flavour changes from week to week) and chef Charl’s exquisite combination of fresh strawberries, butter-rich cake, Chantilly cream, meringues and a decadent crème fraiche sorbet. Russell’s on the Port also offers a selection of flatbreads and pizzas for anyone seeking a more informal dining experience.
An optimal spot to view the sunset, Russell’s spacious veranda overlooks the moored pleasure yachts of Port Owen and the view further out towards the river. As well as offering a comprehensive cocktail menu, Russell also imports his own brand of gin and will soon be opening an exclusive poolside gin bar. We sipped on a Strawberry Picnic cocktail – a refreshing combination of Russell’s gin, tonic, fresh strawberries and cranberries, enjoyed through a reusable bamboo straw.
To find out more and book your stay, visit russellsontheport.co.za.