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Posted on: Thursday, 3 June 2010

Gardener’s Cottage – an escape beneath the trees in Newlands

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Gardener's Cottage

Gardener’s Cottage

If you’re thinking of lunching at this popular haunt, set under the trees in Newlands, then book ahead. Time spent here is always down time, whether in summer or winter. There are gorgeous, old, and huge shade trees under which lie tables, chairs and umbrellas to beat the summer heat, and in winter, the interior of the tea garden and breakfast and lunch time venue is divided up into cozy nooks.

I bustled in a little late for my lunch date with Patty, having just managed to squeeze my car into a spot outside where parking is something of a commodity, at the Montebello Design Centre. She’s always so jacked that she had already phoned ahead to book a table, both in and outside, just to ensure that we had the best possible spot! What are friends for?

Autumn was starting to turn and the wind was a little nippy, so we opted for a snug alcove inside – the room just behind the little kitchen bar is a perfect spot, just managing to accommodate  five tables and chairs (I’m sure that this is a new addition, but I cannot remember?) And the constant steam, chatting and banging that accompanies coffee making provides an ideal screen for intimate conversation – there isn’t much chance of being overheard with the noise and other table chatter going on.

Lunch with Patty is always a feast of conversation. There is no better way to describe the manner in which we caper from topic to topic, exclaiming over things as they come to us, and breaking into the middle of topics with other thoughts as they strike us. Fortunately, we manage to stay on the same page, even if simple daily routines like ordering food, becomes something of a mammoth task!

Gardeners Cottage
Photographs: Gardener’s Cottage Restaurant and Coffee Shop

But the menu at Gardener’s Cottage is not difficult to navigate, and the food is good old-fashioned, home-style cooking, with excellent choices for tea (have a look at the cakes as you enter the restaurant and you’ll see what I mean). In particular their muffins are very good (look out for the feta and herb rendition).

For lunch we could choose from the Gardener’s pie, lamb curry, coriander chicken, butternut panzerotti, roast vegetable pasta, home-made beef mince burger, a selection of salads, and what’s known as the Gardener’s cottage sushi stack – interesting layers of sushi rice, freshly diced seasonal veges, avo, smoked salmon, mayo and all the rest of those necessaries like wasabi mayo and balsamic reduction (do you not love the language of food), and of course the standard baked potato or toated sandwich option (although these come on ciabatta or wholewheat – hardly bog standard issue fare!).

Whilst vacillating over what to eat, peppered by conversation, we finally settled on a roast peppers, basil pesto, caramelized onions, camembert, feta and olives on toasted ciabatta (delicious!) for me, whilst Patty succumbed to the lamb curry.

The Gardener’s Cottage is the original gatekeeper’s lodge at the Montebello Design Centre, just off Newlands Avenue. It lies set in amongst a complex of old farm buildings steeped in history, ancient pine trees, and a host of arts and crafts workshops. Don’t think of simply coming to tea.

The design complex needs a walk through in its own right. And if the over twenty arts and craft studios and workshops weren’t enough to choose from, there is a also a gorgeous greenhouse in an accompanying indigenous garden centre, the setting of which makes you want to unearth a passion for gardening, if you haven’t already (I’m not the green fingers in the family, unfortunately; even my indoor pot plants tend to shun me after only a season).

Montebello Design Centre
Photographs: Montebello Design Centre, Newlands

The Montebello Design Centre is something of a development project, its aim to promote good local design, using craft for job creation. It even has a forge tucked around the back of the centre, a pottery studio, workshops for carpenters, paper makers, painters, jewellers, weavers, musical instrument makers, book publishers, a resident special interest map maker (he’s a colleague of mine, hence my having lunched here at least once) and then shops like Mielie that specialises in textile products handmade from recycled materials by a group of ladies from Khayelitsha (they hold an organic vege market on Fridays selling veges from their own garden project), and kwaLapa, the organic deli and wholefood shop where you can also have tea and lunch (well worth sampling) and pick up organic food items and organic food-related products.

People based here make a living from their craft. It’s a wonderful place to come and stroll around, and a must to support – if you’re looking for a special gift, then this is the place to come.

Finally, after a cup of coffee, our conversation still far from over, we dashed out – my need to pick up my son from school a pressing prior engagement.

So incredible to think that we have all of this on our doorstep. Cape Town is filled with little spots just like this, so many that we (almost) become immune. The secret is to pause a little and realise how lucky we are!

The Gardeners Cottage Restaurant & Coffee Shop
31 Newlands Avenue, Newlands, Cape Town
Telephone: +27 (0)21 689-3158 (Bookings advised!)

Useful Newlands Links:
Newlands Attractions
Things to Do in Newlands
Newlands Hotels & Lodges
Newlands – Find Accommodation
Cape Town Holidays & Accommodation

Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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