It’s the Garden Festival in Bedford this weekend. A delightful little town in the Eastern Cape, famed for it’s gardens, particularly roses. I don’t like roses much, but when we visited earlier this year, there was other wonderful flora which captivated me. Wild Plumbago – everywhere. Just gorgeous. Especially near the old cemetary. I thought Bedford would be sensible to have a Blues Festival when it is in full bloom, rather than focus on the foreign roses. Euphorpias, aloes, wild olive trees are all far more interesting, I think.
We stayed in a farm cottage with a cat and 3 sheep. Jason and his friends believed they were dogs, and rushed over when our car pulled in to greet us and just wandered into our bedroom at leisure. As usual, we had planned to eat locally and were delighted to find eggs, milk and butter produced right on the farm. In the village we stocked up on local organic produce at Die Padstal – I especially loved the striped courgettes which were grown up the road in Somerset East. We also found plenty of olives and oil and some very nice cheese. We had missed the strawberry season, but saw strawberry patches dotted all over the village. We were delighted by all the fig, citrus, quince, pear and pomegranate trees everywhere. Bedford is also home to our favourite resturant in the world. Tafel Osteria at Kleine Maarstrom. Here Frans Mulder and Dave Robbins have created a completey funky and seriously stylish “edge of the karoo” venue from the old farmhouse and some outbuildings. We just loved it. In fact we just kept going back for lunch until it was time to come home again.
We were greeted by a beautiful leopard sculture and then joined by a extremely furry caterpillar cat for lunch under an enormous belhambra tree. Dave and Frans were jolly friendly too. Naturally, we do like people who are undaunted by vegetarians and who celebrate the abundance of the season. After a warm welome, we nibbled at the handmade bread and grissini dunked into olive oil and loaded with local olives, and sundried tomatoes.
We feasted on beetroot ravioli with poppy seed butter. Simple, colourful, delicious. Followed with a lemon semi-fredo with caramelised lemon slices. A bottle of South African Pinot Grigio was recommended, and was perfect.
At other times we had ravioli stuffed with potaotes and mushrooms – also sublime. And a ratatouile with small halved aubergines in a rich tomato stew. As usual, I was desperate for fresh greens and my request was granted by Frans popping into the walled potager beside the resturant and picking rocket and radishes and herbs to place on a platter beside me.Later in the afternoon, we ate a big slice of halva with a shot of Grappa and very good coffee. We thoroughly enjoyed the convivial conversation which accompanied each plate and especially, Frans and David’s unique take on small town life.
Frans used to live in Smithfield where he ran the The Colony Room and also made dinnerware in his Mulberry Studio. Before that he was renowned in Mpumalanga for the Artist’s Cafe. I eat off Mulberry plates everyday, so felt an instant connection. He is architect and artist. I’m sure everyone in South Africa knows him.
“Each plate is a detailed composition of taste experiences, freshly prepared from a focussed menu that changes with the seasons and even the weeks. The best imports are combined with local specialities and fresh produce from the farm. A variety of breads issue from the Osteria oven.” is what they have to say about themselves.
There are only four tables at this resturant. I think we should go back soon before the entire universe discovers this treasure. Perhaps, for lunch every Friday? Seems an ideal spot to watch the full moooon rising across the village too….
PS: Oh my word! Can you believe it? The very day I posted this story, the Bedford Boys had their last day of service at this lovely resturant. They sent me this message: ‘Unfortunately, we have just shut the Osteria permanently (at the conclusion of the Garden Festival this past weekend), and will be going into becoming a food and wine source (under the name of The Tafel Food and Wine Source). We will also be attending a number of Saturday and Sunday morning markets (Grahamstown, Somerset-East, Bathurst, etc.) to give people a taste of what we have to offer.’
So sorry, to anyone who was tempted by my description and missed out on this treat. Look out for them at the Eastern Cape markets.