Lunch at Delvera – Mama Joan’s Farm Kitchen, a delight
I’ve heard of Delvera. They are connected with a full moon hike, and children’s theatre, and I’d stumbled across them a couple of times in my trawlings of the web in the bid to find exciting things to do over weekends in the Cape Winelands.
What I didn’t realise was that a visit out to Delvera is a day’s entertainment on its own. This is not, as I first thought, a wine estate – although you can sample around 400 top South African wines on the estate at the Vineyard Connection, a wine shop in what was once a hay store. But let me not get ahead of myself. Delvera is actually something of a village that is also part of the Klapmutskop conservancy (five farms, including Delheim, share ownership and protect and conserve the area though sustainable practices). In the late 1980s Delvera was bought by Delheim, a neighbouring family-owned wine farm, so that they had a bountiful supply of water for their vineyards.
Delvera started off life as a piggery (numerous stalls and sties still in evidence in renovated outbuildings, including the pottery studio) that have now been converted into a series of workshops, shops, nurseries, restaurants and hikes and biking trails. Each of these is an independently owned business
The farm is a sprawling, beautifully renovated and beautifully planted (succulents and indigenous plants abound) feast of nooks, crannies, pathways and buildings. Most people make the mistake of heading for the first thing that meets their eye, the Simonsberg Café, probably believing this to be the only restaurant on the estate.
Photographs – Left: Beautiful art at the pottery gallery / Centre: Cedric tells us his story / Right: The wool shop
Not that the Simonsberg Café doesn’t look lovely – I had a glance at the menu, which seemed more than functional, and the grounds very pretty, with a children’s play area set in amongst the trees – but there is another coffee restaurant down the bottom, called Mamma Joan’s Farm Kitchen, and another collection of shops, that are easily overlooked because of this, and shouldn’t be. My advice to you, when visiting the collection, is to walk around first and get a feel for the place, before selecting where to eat.
‘It’s that people don’t realise that we’re down here’, Helena at Hands On arts and crafts – a group of local artists who display their works down the bottom of the farm, close to Mamma Joan’s and the Wool Shop, says. She’s taken to pinning up a series of red cutout hands and pinning them up on trees – this over and above the many wooden, handpainted signs that indicate this end of the village. ‘We need more passing traffic’, she remarks as I suggest a series of tractor rides or pony rides from the top of the farm down this end.
Look out for the mosaic project on a wall in the courtyard at Hands On. It’s an effort to raise around R7000 for Stellenbosch Safehouse, an organisation that accommodates abused women and their children.
We ended up having a wonderfully peaceful lunch, away from the throng, in amongst the other handful of people who had managed to uncover Mama Joan’s Kitchen, set in a little garden under grapevines, an organic vegetable garden nestled in under the eves, and rolling vistas out over neighbouring farms. The interior of the shop is a wool shop – balls of wool nestle in amongst racks of knitted garments and Indian fabric skirts that are all the rage at the moment, which can also be a little misleading, if you don’t know that through in the garden is a certain utopia.
Photographs – Left: For walks, head this way / Centre: The gardens at Simonsberg / In the shade
Put it this way: if you’re looking for quiet, and out of the way, then this is spot for you. And Mama Joan herself runs the shop and restaurant, along with a couple of really nice young girls who can’t do enough for you. Despite juggling food orders and balancing cups of tea and homemade pieces of baked cheesecake, Mama Joan still had time to help me find a skirt to try on, which, had it not been orange (I had visions of pink or green) I would definitely have bought.
Whilst I was getting waylaid by the sensuous folds of the Indian sarong-style skirt, my five-year old was well on his way to swinging the swing off its hinges, the bottom of his shorts already sopping wet from having trawled his way though the plastic swimming pool Mama Joan’s had set out for just this. If your children have bicycles, do take them along, as just below the grassy garden of the restaurant is a cycle track of note that would have kept our little person occupied for most of the time, if there had been a bike of any description.
I settled in under an umbrella, the gentle breezes down this end of farm heaven-sent, to survey the menu. There is little that is vegetarian on the menu. Obviously the average client here is rabidly carnivorous as when we smiled enthusiastically at the fact that there was indeed a vegetarian quiche, our waitress immediately apologised and offered that with bacon, should we want it.
We emphatically shook our heads and were more than elated, when the quiche arrived, to sample one of the most delicious side salads imagineable. Crisp lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pieces of carrot, and chives mixed with an assortment of melon and grapes and dripping in a homemade vinaigrette. It was almost as delicious as the home-made quiche, the pastry of which was close to the best I’ve ever sampled.
Photographs – Left: Whats on the menu at Mama Joand / Right: Delicious quiche and salad
And dessert was a home baked amarula cheesecake that was incredible. Other items on the menu included chicken or duck pie, lasagne, bobotie, toasted sandwiches with fillings like homemade chicken mayo, a breakfast menu that they serve all day, and a kiddies’ menu that includes a big basket of chips or a pizza toastie. There is a long list of teas and coffees, and a selection of cakes and scones. Basically, there is something for everyone.
I smile at a chalk board with the words, ‘Eat, Love, Knit’ as I walked out.
Directly across from Mama Joan’s we meet Cedric, Johan Swart’s assistant. The pottery studio is really worth a visit, as not only are many of the works on display affordable, they’re also beautiful and you get to see Cedric at work. Cedric, who hails from the Congo, has been working with the ‘master potter’ as he terms Johan Swart for three years now. To become a master at what he does, he will have to put in at least 40 years, he says. He obviously loves what he is doing, and there is a peaceful atmosphere here as he relates the different meanings of the signs he is busy painting on the coaster in his hand.
Other things to do and see at Delvera:
- Dirtopia Trail Centre
- Aspidistra garden centre
- Crisna’s Olives and Deli
- Kokerboom nursery
- GoBraai (braai wood from invader species)
- Earthworm Al
- Let’s talk rubbish (recycling and composting all Delvera’s waste)
- Biodiversity and Wine Initiative
- Wines with heart
- Thou Art Useful
Find Delvera on R44, next door to Laibach organic wine estate, between the N1 and the road to Elsenburg, Stellenbosch. It is open daily from 9am – 5pm.