A family week away was rounded off with some delicious luxury when I and my family were invited to stay at Serendipity in Wilderness. This small guest house and restaurant is owned and run by Phillip and Elsabe Kuypers with chef-daughter Lizelle Stolze and her husband Rudolf.
It’s situated right on the lagoon and it seems to be quite the norm for guests to arrive for dinner by boat which is very cool! The rooms open onto a large communal sundeck with lovely views and are a nice size with all the bits and pieces you’d expect from a five-star establishment – apparently there were mini-chocolates which came on the drinks tray but my 7 year old would know more about that than I would…… Speaking of which, they were very kind and accommodating in looking after him as well and there was plenty of space in the room to add in a mattress or a cot if that’s what you need.
So it’s a pretty little guesthouse and they take great care of you – but that’s not why you go to Serendipity. Lizelle Stolze is a seriously-good chef who has kept a lower-profile than some of her illustrious contemporaries, possibly due to family commitments and the country location. I first tasted her food when she catered for an event at Hartenberg estate which included some weird, but delicious black garlic, an ancient Asian health-food slow-cooked and fermented at 40C for 40 days! Back at home in Wilderness, her food has an interesting African twist using lots of local ingredients that most of us would shy away from in fear – the menu on the night we were there included pap, madumbi, seshebo and other bits and pieces.
Her skill lies in taking these staple, frankly rather basic, ingredients and using them in a ‘haute cuisine’ way – so her risotto is made with coarsely-broken dried maize (something between samp and mielie pap) and the madumbi becomes an elegant ‘spider’ rosti served with Smoked Trout. On offer each evening is a 5 course dinner with choices on three of the courses. Stand-out dishes for us included a Twice-baked Goats’ Cheese Souffle with Crispy Apple and Baby Beets and a delicious Herb-crusted Rack of Springbok on a Maize and Mushroom Risotto. She also gave us a palate cleanser of a Fennel and Lemon ‘Slurpy’, which was the most mouth-tinglingly awesome and refreshing spoonful I think I have ever tasted. And I eat out a lot.
Lizelle and Rudolf are actually the perfect pair to run a restaurant because while she chefs it up behind the scenes, he is the perfect, entertaining ‘mein host’ out at the front. He’s chosen the wine list from favourites he’s tasted over the years, including some cellared gems such as the 1999 Fleur du Cap Cabernet which we enjoyed and the food and wine-pairing is highly recommended. I privately queried his choice at one point, thinking in my arrogance that I knew better, but when I tried my match, it was dreadful, proving that no amount of knowledge will ever beat experience! Rudi and one charming waiter effortlessly worked the entire restaurant and Lizelle found time to pop out and chat, discovering a visiting honeymooning couple who instantly got a special dessert and greeting regulars like old friends.
‘Nothing is too much trouble’ seems to be the watchword of Serendipity, making it easy to be serene and relaxed, knowing that you’re in the hands of professionals. I loved the way Lizelle calmly concocted a chop and handcut chips for my son, happily slicing raw carrots to go with it after finding out they were his vegetables of choice. She also supplied a 7 year-old buddy, a pair of grandparents and a movie when the charms of the dinner table paled, and we collected him from the study later that evening, full and fully-entertained.
You should go there if…
You love good food, excellent and professional service, a totally-relaxed time and a great night’s sleep.