Wonder Dining in a Wasteland

When David Kramer sang Bloemfontein was the kakkest place he’d ever seen, he’d obviously never been to Citrusdal. Okay, now we are not talking to what is around this town just the other side of the Piekenierskloof. Beautiful mountains, fynbos, citrus orchards and the gushing Olifants River. But the town itself? A real example of how a community can let itself to go to waste. A long straight road lined with non-descript buildings selling garish and cheap imported garments and toys. Enough cheap liquor stores to inebriated an army of English soccer hooligans. The atmosphere of a Kurt Darren song.

I say all this to accentuate how much The Old Village was needed to breathe a bit of life into the place as well as to give any one travelling the N7 between Cape Town and Namibia a reason to stop off at Citrusdal.

The Old Village used to be on the Modderfontein Farm circa 1725. A couple of years ago a Cape Town businessman began restoring the dilapidated mountainside buildings, turning them into rural chic guest-houses, a pub and a restaurant. It all bleeds authenticity with gorgeous furniture, old wooden floors and deep panels that would give a woodworm a hard-on.

Whilst recently visiting farmer friends in the vicinity, we headed for the restaurant at Modderfontein to check things out. Well, they had already been there but I had to see whether their enthusiasm was not a case of local must be lekker.

After a few drinks at the bar to warm things up, we headed to the spacious dining room, its colourful paintings off-setting that wonderful old wooden floor. This is the domain of Keith Blake, well known in Cape restaurant circles, and chef Nico Pretorius who graduated ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ or should one say survived ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the Institute of Culinary Arts.

The menu is chalked up on a massive board, and the evening we were there starters included cheese souffl+¬ with beetroot dressing, parsnip and honey soup and eisbein terrain. Mains featured roasted pork bell, pan-fried hake, rump steak and a beef and spinach pie.

The wine-list is, well, not a list. Wine is presented in a rack and you walk over to the rack, select and that is that. We dented the supply of Tierhoek Sauvignon Blanc, though there were fine reds and whites to choose from.

The food is first class. Only two of us four ordered starters ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the souffl+¬ ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ but the others soon showed their true country appetites by homing in on these like the cast of Biafran Survivor. The souffl+¬s were light, cheesy, perfect.

The main courses included pork belly on mash and hake, with the hake being the show-stopper. Thick and succulent, it game on a bed of lentils in a perky, zesty sauce. One of the party, a self-confessed sushi head, asked herself why she should eat fish raw if it can be cooked to taste like this.

The food is fresh, portions ample without being crude. Nico the Chef came out to join us, and his take is trying to complement the region’s feeling of rustic wellbeing with tasty, fresh dishes with just a smidgen of finesse.

We passed on desserts, but could have had Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blueberries, Apple and Almond Tart with Macamadia Ice Cream of a Chocolate Fondant with mint ice-cream

Prices are embarrassingly reasonable. R40 to R45 for a starter. R65 to R95 for mains. R45 for desserts.

Sunday is buffet day, which includes all the boerekos staples. The restaurant menu changes regularly, depending on availability of produce and seasonal whims.

It can only be hoped that the arrival of more visitors to stay and eat at Modderfontein can inspire the rest of Citrusdal to realise its potential and stop insulting the majestic environment with its rude small town tackiness.

-,,,,,,,,, Faizel van der Vyver

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