The road between Cape Town and Knysna is, at first glance, 500km I’d like to get through as quickly as possible. When you’re heading out to the Garden Route for the weekend, the road ahead seems like an endless stretch of pretty much nothing until you hit The Garden of Eden.
However, if you take the time to look around, you’ll find that at about the 218km mark, at the foot of the Langeberg mountains, a little jewel of a town offers great food, beautiful architecture and a little piece of heaven called Schoone Oordt.
We headed out of town on Friday night and arrived at Schoone Oordt in Swellendam around 8pm. The night air was freezing cold, but inside our room, a fire was lit and a huge bed beckoned.
This beautiful old restored Manor House dates back to 1853 and has been restored to something that I think far exceeds it’s original splendour. The current owners, Alison and Richard Walker also added a stunning and bright Conservatory, where breakfast and dinner are served.
Obviously my main weekend objective is eating, so we headed to De Companjie for dinner. Our table had been booked by the lovely Alison at Schoone Oordt and I had no idea what to expect. I don’t think I can fully express how pleasantly surprised I was by the food.
First of all, the menu was exciting! I mean, it included snow peas. I had a butter chicken dish and Keenan had the best kudu either of us had ever tasted. I’m not a huge fan of game, so I only had a bite of Keenan’s dish to make him happy. But man oh man, was it good! Then, we had a dessert of brownies so good that I got the giggles. I mean it. I was giggling from brownie-induced joy.
Back at Schoone Oordt, we stoked the fire and climbed under the covers. We woke up just in time for breakfast at 9:30am, overjoyed to have slept through the neighbour’s rooster and our cat who never lets us sleep past 4am. Imagine how happy we were when our sleepy fog cleared and it dawned on us that we were actually at a beautiful country house with nothing to do all day but eat, relax and visit a spa!
Look, I’m not going to bore you with the details of my exceptional 3-course breakfast. You probably don’t want to know about my bowl of homemade luxury muesli (the kind with LOTS of nuts) followed by fluffy and delicious buttermilk flapjacks with apple compote, rounded off with perfectly-poached Eggs Benedict anyway. So I’ll leave you with these four words: Freshly squeezed orange juice.
After breakfast, the day was our oyster. We decided to spend the rest of the morning RELAXING. Which, incidentally, is one of my favourite weekend activities.
I don’t have a bath at home, so guess what I spent three hours doing? Schoone Oordt stocks their bathrooms with Rain products, which are made in Swellendam. I lathered up my hair with a masque and soaked in the tub while I read a few pages of my book. Once I was good and soaked through and far too clean, we headed out into the world for a walk through the streets of Swellendam to check out a few of the buildings in town. Some of the ones we spotted date back all the way to the 1800’s!
We spent the afternoon at Rain Day Spa. I’m not sure about you but I had no idea that Swellendam had a beautiful spa right there in its midsts. And I really mean beautiful.
It literally looks like a forest inside. We had booked a couples treatment and our Elephant Walk massage was flipping incredible! It starts off with a calabash pressure application, then the therapist pours a warming Rain Massage Candle on your body and massages the cocoa butter into your skin. It ends off with a hammer and chisel treatment. Talk about unique!
Most importantly, my therapist clearly had a lot of love for massage. It makes such a difference when you’re being massaged by someone who has healing hands and my treatment was possibly the best I’ve ever had. And surprisingly, it was really affordable at only R385. Check out their spa menu – they’ve got such interesting and unique treatments on offer.
After our spa treatment it was time for, you guessed it, more food! This time we were sitting down to a three-course meal at Schoone Oordt. We had a bottle of wine at the bar (Seven Springs Pinot Noir – phenomenal!) before dinner and chatted to Fydney, a Zimbabwean expat and one of the wonderful people who work at Schoone Oordt.
He told us about Zim and we chatted about life and family and everything else. Sonette, one half of the management team, popped in now and then to chat to us too while her husband (the chef and other half of the team) slaved away in the kitchen. It felt like we were hanging out with friends, more than near-strangers. The warmth and friendliness of everyone we met there made us feel so welcome and at home, while we were surrounded by five star luxury.
There’s just one more thing I want to say about Schoone Oordt and it has to do with food. You may know that I take food very seriously and that no weekend away would be complete without exceptional food – and lots of it. Schoone Oordt scored full marks in the food department! Their Chef, Wander Bester has serious a passion and love for food and he takes pride in finding amazing ingredients.
Schoone Oordt is open for dinner to non-resident guests, as long as you book in advance. It’s definitely well worth planning ahead if you’re going to be in the area.
By the end of the weekend, my heart was full with appreciation for this small, unpretentious town with it’s exciting food scene and hidden gems. It’s definitely not somewhere that should be bypassed. It’s the destination.