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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The tastes of Hondeklipbaai

Picnic on the shores of the Namaqua National Park

No conversation about an extended visit to any place, is complete without having addressed the topic of food. I have had some very interesting taste experiences in a quaint little town and some of these have scored highest in its category for best food ever! Having just arrived in Hondeklipbaai, L and I decided to take a stroll along the beach. Here, we discovered a pretty little eatery overlooking the main beachfront, called Sam's Restaurant. L promptly suggested we have a cup of coffee there. This coffee turned into a suggestion of fish and chips and the order was placed. You will have to search high and low for better fish and chips than what we were served here. The fish turned out to be fresh snoek in a batter, which the local fishermen brings into the harbor, exactly at the spot we were overlooking. You have the taste of the food, the smell of the ocean, the cool blue waters to rest your eyes on, the breeze gently teasing your hair, and the soothing drone of waters to entice every single one of your senses. Add brilliant company to this mix, and the eating experience can hardly be topped.

Fish and Chips at Sam's Restaurant, Hondeklipbaai

The view from Sam's Restaurant

Another local place that we visited more than once, was the local coffee shop, simply called The Shack. The Shack's decor is rustic and reminiscent of good times gone by, with a dash of eccentricity and humour to bring it back to the future. Simply put, it is a place you want to flop down in and forget that time exists. Take a book, and linger. Better yet, take a camera, go sit on the porch and take photo after photo of the story that unfolds before your eyes. Whether it is people, animals, scenery, or even shopping you are interested in, The Shack will not disappoint. The coffee is brilliant and the food is good, but the one thing I want to mention specifically is the bacon. The bacon is smoked in the German butchery next door to The Shack and I have never tasted better anywhere else. I am told that the other cold cuts are just as good, but I did not get to try these for myself. All I know is, that I would go back for breakfast at The Shack, simply to have the bacon.

Settling in at The Shack, Hondeklipbaai

Breakfast (with bacon!) at The Shack

A view of The Shack

The Shack is also a good place to buy locally produced products, such as trinkets, T-shirts and caps, glass tiles, honey, and so much more. There are a small collection of shops in town and you should treat yourself to stopping by all of these as the concentration of products in this remote area, is something to applaud. The people are friendly, open, and welcoming. This in itself, makes every meal a pleasure. An added bonus to a visit to The Shack is that two local artists have their outdoor gallery right next door to it. Can any arrangement in life get better than this? Coffee, food, art, and the ocean!

Some of the adorable creatures at The Shack

Sunset, as seen from the vicinity of The Shack

I have talked about the fresh snoek of Hondeklipbaai in a couple of blogs, but I can not skip this in a blog dedicated to the food of the place. Talking to the fishermen, I watched them recover and clean so many of the inner parts of the fish, that they barely threw anything away. It would seem that the locals have turned almost the entire fish into a meal in some way or another. Viskuite was one of these brand new 'cuts' I was introduced to. Viskuite is litterally the spawn/roe of the fish. The whole tube is removed from the fish and is then deep-fried in oil. L was brave enough to try this and I blogged about it on A Pretty Tourist's sister blog, A Pretty Talent. Simply click on the link, to learn more about preparing Viskuite.

Frash Snoek from the ocean 

Snoek, filleted and ready to be sold to restaurants from the surrounding areas 

Deep-fried Viskuite

With L having visited Hondeklipbaai before, and getting to know some of the locals there, we found ourselves with a number of invitations to local homes. I wish I could share these experiences with you, or tell you to go knock on those doors, for here I had some of the best meals ever. There was gluehwein, Potjiekos, Porkbelly, Rib of lamb, braai-broodjies, snoek on the fire, and so much more, that simply thinking about it has my mouth watering all over again. Instead of telling you more about the food, which was incredibly good in itself, I should rather tell you about what made the meals so special. It boils down to a combination of factors; good food, interesting company, a spectacular setting, and people who know how to listen, as well as share. We were invited into more than just people's homes, we were invited into their hearts.

 At home with the locals

Happy meals and warm friendships were forged around this fireplace

There is one meal that stands out from the rest. This was the one we haphazardly threw together when we decided to picnic on the shores of the Namaqua National Park. As with all things concerning this trip, we did not organize the picnic. Someone made the suggestion, the others agreed and everyone took what they had available to share. That simple! The simplicity in itself, makes the picnic more enjoyable. We had tin cups for coffee and proper wine glasses for wine. There were no plates and most of the crockery and cutlery were shared. We ate straight from the containers and had a fabulous time, stripped of all pretense and airs. Whoever came up with the idea of planning a picnic and getting it just right with a whole bunch of pretty things, would have cringed. And yet, we got it just right. And it was fun! And isn't that the whole point of breaking bread with friends and family?

A haphazard picnic on the coast of the Namaqua National Park

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
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