It had been quite a while since I had visited the KwaZulu Natal Midlands, so I was looking forward to making the drive up from Pietermaritzburg to the Caversham Mill Restaurant, reported to be one of the best outdoor restaurants in South Africa. It was a beautiful winter’s day with clear blue skies and wonderfully picturesque countryside that the Midlands is famous for, and I felt privileged to live in such close proximity to what I will always consider a small piece of heaven on earth.
Forty-five minutes later, we arrived at our destination and made our way to the establishment’s entrance, where we were greeted by restaurant manager Clint, who promptly showed us to table. After being seated, I began to take in my surroundings, which were rather breathtaking to say the least.
Situated on the banks of the meandering Lions River overlooking a sparkling waterfall, the Caversham Mill Restaurant offers an idyllic setting that is virtually impossible to find anywhere else on the Midlands. It is the epitome of tranquility and peace and has a charm that is simply out of this world.
The restaurant is also steeped in history as it was on these premises that the idea for the Midlands Meander was born. Twenty eight years ago a handful of local artists, potters and crafters got together at Caversham to discuss the possibility of pooling their resources and holding a “rolling exhibition”, where the public would be invited to come and view – and purchase – their work. That 1984 meeting marked the start of the Midlands Meander as it is known today and it is for this reason that the venue is often referred to as “the Cradle of the Midlands Meander.”
The mill itself, built some 160 years ago, was mostly washed away in 1987, but the ruins are clearly visible from the restaurant creating an unusual setting that has a unique, almost mystical appeal. Current owners Terry and Diana Acres, who purchased the restaurant and the adjacent property in 2004, decided to expand operations by opening seven days a week for breakfast and lunch and from Wednesday to Saturday for dinner. The bold move worked a treat, creating full-time employment for the staff who were subsequently given the responsibility of running the entire restaurant.
The a-la-carte menu, which changes with the seasons to ensure freshness, offers an interesting range of wholesome meals such as beef fillet with wasabi mash, imifino and caramelized onions (R109), spicy chick pea and vegetable stew (R75), lamb cutlets (R121), garlic and lemon marinated pork chops with a thyme and mushroom crust (R105), oxtail (R125), the Caversham pie (R85) and deboned trout with vegetables and potato wedges (R105).
I had the pie, which definitely lived up to its reputation as being “a long time favourite.” The meat was tender and flavoursome, the mash creamy and tasty and the vegetables crunchy and full of wholesome goodness – all in all a most delicious meal at a surprisingly affordable price.
Cally selected the pork chops and was equally impressed with her dish, describing it as “brilliant” and “excellent value for money.” She was particularly impressed with the large portions and the presentation of her meal, although she did feel that a dish of this calibre should have been served with mash rather than potato wedges.
For dessert, I had the home baked apple pie (R33), which was wonderfully good. Served ‘American style’ with a generous helping of ice cream, the apple pie was not only delightful, but exceptionally well priced as well. Cally opted for the crème brûlée (R34) to end off her meal and it, too, proved an excellent choice. Billed as “sumptuous and sensual,” the brûlée lived up to its reputation, leaving Cally a very satisfied customer. She described it as having a “lovely texture and taste,” which was “just enough to get you dancing,” – an interesting choice of words if ever there was one.
I was impressed with Caversham, which was quite possibly the best restaurant I have ever had the privilege of dining at. Now that is a huge statement to make, especially considering that I have visited hundreds of eateries over the years, but in all honesty, this restaurant has it all.
The food, which is prepared using only fresh, locally produced ingredients, was fantastic and excellent value for money, the presentation of the dishes exquisite and the mellow atmosphere and tranquil setting were perfect to calm jangled nerves and recharge the batteries. I especially loved the large windows, which not only provided a panoramic view of the beautiful surroundings, but also exposed us to the warm, energising mid-afternoon sunshine.
Caversham Mill Restaurant is a charming, child friendly venue that can seat up to 50 people inside and 45 under cover outside and is easily accessible off the R103 that runs through the heart of the Midlands Meander. If you want to treat yourself to an unforgettable experience that encompasses all aspects of what a top-notch restaurant should offer, then you simply have to visit this venue. It is not to be missed.
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Caversham Mill Contact details
Physical address: Lidgetton area, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands