DURING lockdown in 2020, Hentie van der Merwe and Frits Reyneveld took over Evita se Perron in Darling. You can read my Daily Maverick story about that here, for the background (sign up to be an Insider to access it from the archives). The restaurant was also featured in Bertus Basson’s TV makeover show, In Die Sop, which you can read about here.
When I spent the weekend in the pretty little West Coast town, I was invited to luncheon at Kossie Sikelela, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Hentie has created his own new Early Spring Menu, which features his take on traditional South African classics. You can order a two- or three-course lunch on Saturdays and Sundays – dinner service will be introduced soon as we head into season – for R215 and R285 respectively.
Before you begin eating, you are served a coupe glass (so classy, so retro) of bubbly, and your palate is awakened with a cute little golden vetkoek and consommé in a tea cup. Flavour of the day was roasted sweet pepper and boy, did it pack a flavour punch. The clear, quiet liquid almost seems to have no business being so powerful, but the surprise is wonderful.
There are three choices for starters: warm red cabbage and tamarind salad with green apple, walnuts, Kokerboom feta and fenugreek oil (I didn’t have that one); naartjies en biltong – house-cured Buffelsfontein eland biltong on naartjie carpaccio with herb oil and sunflower shoots; and snoek en patat – sweet potato and West Coast snoek fritters with Thomas tomato confit petals, num num jam and red onion chutney. Please do not be alarmed by the portions in these photographs; they are much more generous, this was only so I could taste more than one dish.
For main course, I would have been happy with any of the four options. There is spiced eggplant and lentil bootie with caramelised red onion chutney, tomato confit and coriander for the vegetarians. For the other end of the spectrum, there is sirloin steak prepared with braai spices and served with red onion confit, onion rings, vegetable fritters, daltjies, and green beans in creamy vinaigrette (groenboontjies en suursous).
Pork belly is braised in local Darling Brew beer, glazed with sweet ginger, with glazed carrots and salsa verde to balance those flavours. But it was the waterblommetjie bredie that stopped me in my tracks. even if you can freeze the blommetjies, this is a seasonal favourite of mine that I absolutely must have at least once a year in winter.
Hentie’s method is slightly different, with an ample chunk of lamb shoulder swimming in the braising broth, with plentiful waterblommetjies. The meat was tender and pink, and I loved the side bits of pumpkin fritter and spinach daltjies.
In between courses, to allow time to relax and digest, you can wander around Boerassic Park and view the collection of art and artefacts collected by Pieter-Dirk Uys over his decades at the Perron. If you’re lucky, the freight train will clickety clack through while you’re there, loudly announcing itself with its horn as it approaches the level crossing. I found this rather thrilling.
Dessert can be one of two things, or both if you’re lucky like me: a syrupy koeksuster ring on melktert ice cream on burnt pineapple; or “Japie se Gunsteling & Floating Islands”. If I’d been left to my own devices and only one dessert, I would have chosen the former, because it fitted so well with my previous courses. However, I am forever indebted to Hentie for the deconstructed lemon meringue, which was utterly heavenly…soft meringue floating in lemon sabayon with exactly the right ratio of tart to sweet, and secret biscuit crumbles, and a paper thin almond – they say praline on the menu but I think it’s more like a tuile – disc topping it off.
This is the fancy food at the Perron but you can also go casual in the Café for breakfast or lunch, where you can gaze upon the wonders that are Tannie Evita’s frocks and also shop for Darling Sweet toffees and caramels, and Swartland Kitchen rusks, which are Hentie and Frits’s other hustles, and when you leave Kossie Sikelela you get little samples to take with you. I was delighted to see how busy the place was. That truly warmed my heart. It’s been so flipping tough for so flipping long, so it’s pure joy to see success. For more information, click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: Bianca Coleman ©