I recently visited Clarens in the Free State and had a whale of a time getting stuck into their trinket shops and art stores, chocolate boutiques and restaurants.
I am happy to say the indulgence and the adventure has not stopped, as this weekend took me to the perfectly picturesque Parys; a town riddled with quaint antique shops, coffee and tea spots, watering holes and 2 of the best restaurants I have encountered in a while.
Here’s my roundup of the best spots to visit:
The top eateries: (don’t ask me which was better, you have to go to both)
Ruby’s is an institution in Parys. It’s a menagerie of flamboyant and kitsch red roses, candelabras, feather boas and cabaret posters.
The warmth and devotion of the owners, management and staff is palpable.
And, the food is just as pleasing: freshly baked bread that I would go back for again and again, Springbok carpaccio that melts in your mouth, luxurious biltong and blue cheese soup, lamb shank that falls off the bone, a signature fillet dish that will rock your world and a baklava ice cream that you seriously NEED to save room for.
(Plus, they host fantastic live music acts twice a month.)
It’s a fantastical ‘hoi palloi’ of quirky, detailed décor; silver trophies, aloes, champagne bottles, colourful bookcases, bikes and chandeliers.
The menu echoes this, being both quirky and rather elaborate, in fact, it was very difficult to decide what to have, but I am happy to say that everything was exquisite.
The confit of duck roti, chicken livers, fishcakes, pork neck and stuffed quail were all scrumptious. And then there was the wine list - just fantastic, the best options per glass I have seen in a long time; Felcite Pinot Noir, La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, Secateurs Chenin blanc to name but a few, and all for around R28.
The best for beer:
The Pickled Pig
A beer lovers’ paradise. Serving over 60 different kinds of ales, draughts, international beers and the best of what the local micro breweries have to offer. It’s a pie and a draught, good for a laugh, pub-grub, easy-going, snug and unpretentious place.
The best view in town:
It’s located right next to the river, offering sensational views whilst you sit on the deck or amongst the flora and fauna.
Go for a cocktail at the River deck bar or settle in for a pizza, steak or good old fish and chips. A bit on the pricey side but their generous portions are enough to share.
What the locals think is lekker:
Die Koffiekan, 66 Bree
THE spot for the biggest and best boere-breakfast in town; moer koffie and all the trimmings.
The bikers all choose to stop here on their breakfast run and so should you. Easy-going and straightforward atmosphere and menu.
It’s a beautiful mix of boutique furniture, clothes, jewelry and décor accessories all under one roof with a delightful coffee-shop-come-deli that brings it all together.
Excellent cappuccinos and cakes.
A pot of tea:
La Vie en Rose
Reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland; trinkets, tea cups, cakes, flowers, hand bags and all things girly! A lovely spot to spoil someone with a cuppa, cake and perhaps a little gift on your way out too.
Off the beaten track:
Old Imperial Inn
10 km outside of Parys on the R53 and further 10km down a dirt road (follow signs for the Vredefort Dome World Heritage site), is where you’ll find this gem; a pub set in a late 1800’s historical building with a beautiful garden dappled with trees and a fantastic little bioscope fully equipped with old popcorn machine and classic Coca-Cola fridge.
Usually only open on weekends, call Nico for directions if you’re fearful of getting lost (he’s the owner of the Pickled Pig and The Plum Tree, so I am sure you can ask there too).