The choicest way in which to spend a winter’s morning – the crisp air invigorating and the skies the colour blue that defies description entirely – is under the canopy of trees at the Porter Estate Market in Tokai.
Cape Town during winter is still without doubt one of the best kept secrets in the country. Yes, it rains. Of course it rains, we have a wet winter season. But when it isn’t raining, that is when outdoor living takes on new meaning. You can actually walk around at midday without blistering, everything that lives and breathes is imbued with rainfall and a zest for living, and, despite its not being spring or summer, the air is rent with the call of the sunbird, and little winter flowers are there for the finding.
And there are markets like the Porter Estate Market in Tokai, where meeting for breakfast or simply strolling your way around the food stalls, sampling their wares, has to be one of my most joyful ways of starting the weekend.
But get there early. The Porter Estate Market is a produce market with an emphasis on organic and fresh food, all of it sold to you directly by the producers of the food, and by 12pm things have more or less sold out, or only a smattering of the initial banquet remains. Expect to be inundated with good, wholesome food like organic vegetables, artisan breads, hand made chocolate, farm cheese, fresh fruit froozies (frozen fruit soft serve that has to be sampled to be believed!), a felafel deli, honey, olives, nuts and dried fruit, worm farms, hand made cakes, fine art, wooden furniture and more.
But what makes this market such an incredible pleasure is without doubt the setting. Whilst indoor markets like the Neighbourgoods Market and Earth Fair Market definitely benefit from being able to hold markets all year round, irrespective of windy, rainy days, the Porter Estate’s position at the Chrysalis Academy near the Tokai Plantation is a tour de force.
Nestled in under the trees, the mountains looming in the background, even the windiest of days finds this pretty space protected. And the views, as well as the farm feel – there are horses in a field nearby and the venue is surrounded by open fields and pine plantations, not a tarred road in sight – mean that your time here is a complete city escape, whilst remaining in the heart of the southern suburbs. What else can a girl ask for?
Do not bother eating before setting out. The market serves famous farmstyle breakfasts and moer coffee (we’re talking the kind that is dished up in an enamel mug with condensed milk!), for which you queue, where smoked salmon and scrambled egg served on a fresh farm roll will set you back only R35, and giant sausages or 100% beef burgers are R30. There are vegetarian versions of the breakie, as well as menu items for the little people, including giant muffins, and you can pick up a punnet of farm fresh free-range eggs at the same time.
And seating is more than adequate. Wooden tables and stools made from felled pine wood from the surrounding plantations, I would imagine, litter the shady areas under trees, and there are further still near the children’s play area where little ones get to clamber in and on a generous jungle gym or play under shade cloth in a giant sandpit. There is also sand art and face painting for little ones, who have more than enough to amuse them, whilst you tackle the nosh.
My little one was particularly inspired when, after handing R20 for his muffin to the genial farmstyle breakfast chef, he received R10 back. He hasn’t yet understood the concept of change, and he thought he had struck the jackpot… bless! He was already devising the number of things he would buy with the money that ‘the man gave him’, when I promptly pocketed the ‘change’ in my purse. You can imagine that it took a while to convince him of its rightful owner!
Most people arrive, baskets and cloth bags intact, already well versed in the protocol of morning food markets. The fruit and veg stall at the start of the market is filled with ‘farm fresh’ delights, but higher up the market, you’ll be able to get organic vegetables. There are at least two bread stalls – the Foodbarn, which is an outfit from Noordhoek, and Ancient Grain who are famous for their spelt bread loaves. Mac’s honey has replaced Gerald’s honey, but I suppose I can cope, Anna’s chilli creations looks heavenly, but for fear of burning the roof off my mouth, I chose not to sample, Olyfberg olives are definitely worth buying, and about a stall called La Petite Moo I will leave you guessing.
Most visitors and their dogs and children settle in under the trestle tables close to the market’s entrance for a gossip and a gawp. The market has a calm, easy going vibe and there is little of the jostling and jibing that can occur in an indoor space that is a little pressed for, well, space.
There is a recycling push too, and you can throw you polystyrene, other and paper into respective bins, whilst a designated smoking area behind the breakfast stall leaves much of the market devoid of cigarette smoke. Toilets are across the road, above the obstacle course and a sign reminds you that there are baboons in the area.
Whilst I whiled away the time in contemplation under the trees, occasionally watching an interesting person, or overhearing a conversation (unintentionally, you understand), my son careered around in the trees and my husband was deep in conversation with Kitchen Garden’s Joseph about how best to grow his broccoli sprouts. What more could you want from an early Saturday morning in Cape Town?