FOR some time now, I’ve been urged to visit the Wednesday morning farmers’ market (or Up Market as wags call it) at Double Storey, 12, Maasdorp Avenue, where Belgravia meets Alex Park; and a sudden, and candidly unusual, mid-morning Zesa power outage/outrage at the office in the Kopje, gave me just the kick up the backside needed to drag me away from my computer, out into a crisp, sunny day.
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
I’d already decided I needed to get to the bank at Belgravia shops…so that would kill two birds with one stone and then I remembered that The Bottom Drawer, a really lovely genteel coffee shop was over-due for a review, so that would be three pesky crows with one pebble!
Well I’m glad I left the bank leg until last. Had I got to a packed Double Storey after attacking the hole-in-the-wall ATM machine, I might have been instantly skint.
Because it’s a veritable cornucopia of really good things to eat and drink: organically grown vegetables, fruits, herbs and salads, Greek dips, Swedish biscuits, Afrikaner koeksisters, French and Belgian patēs, for instance.
There are cheeses and pickles, breads, Indian curry ancillaries, home-made fruit drinks, elderflower specialities, raw honey coming from contented bees buzzing around a variety of idyllic surroundings, jams, and marmalades.
Peter Rosenfels, who used to farm in Matabeleland South, near the Botswana frontier, is back from the Cape and is a leading light in organising these fetes and fairs. In addition to his full range of Peter Piper’s Pickles, he was selling home-baked Melton Mowbray (sorry, that’s now illegal…Melton Mandara!) pork pies, Cornish pasties and other splendid pastry products.
orico, black pudding which wouldn’t be out of place in a Burnley butcher’s shop, chocolate toppings, sipped lovely ginger beer and had a cup of tea.
But, because I was a few day’ shy of an eight day trip to Kwa-Zulu Natal, coupled with the fact that I didn’t have a lot of dosh on me, spent nothing!
But, beaming with bonhomie, I wandered next door to Number 14 to rediscover the delights of The Bottom Drawer run by the charming sisters, Bridget Hoard and Sarah MacMillan, daughters of Warwick Hale, who used to farm near Trelawney.
I was out-beamed by the trademark smile of waitress, Phoebe, who served me often when the coffee shop at Golden Stairs Nursery was called Urban Bliss and run by Tracey Bucknall, an ex- Selous farmer. It’s now named Antique Rose and under the very capable direction of Stacey Attwell, ex-Raffingora.
I’ll forgive Phoebe for not mentioning soup was on the menu, nor that the special main course of the day was oxtail casserole. The weather was a wee bit milder than it had been and chicken-and-mushroom pot pie sounded as good on the menu as it proved to be a few minutes later.
Eating is all outdoors in the glorious garden or under a shady lean-to. I had a lawn table with a colourful floral table decoration which, unusual for this country, actually exuded a heady natural fragrance.
Food was also a picture. A large piping hot ramekin topped by a lusciously light puff pastry topping was just jammed chock-a-block with delicious chunks of steaming chicken, cooked to perfection, not a hint of fat, bone, skin or gristle, in an herb-rich aromatic sauce bulked out by loads of gravy-soaked sliced button mushrooms, absolutely filled with flavour.
When I commented to Bridget that the portion was enormous: generous to a fault and far too much for someone like me (who’s not exactly Twiggy!) she revealed that the pies are often shared by two or even three lovely ladies who lunch languidly, under the trees or by the sparkling pool.
The pie cost US$12 and came with a complementary colourful salad: mixed lettuce leaves and rocket, red, yellow and green peppers, juicy cherry tomatoes bursting with flavour and slices of ox heart tomatoes, cucumber, and radish! (When did you last see radish on a restaurant salad?) Carrot and, perhaps best of all, some nutty flavoured sprouting bean shoots.
And all dressed with a very sophisticated herby, but light, salad dressing.
If you want salad alone, which I’m sure many of the leggy, willowy, yummy-mummies choose, Greek is US$7 and a classical Caesar salad costs a buck more. Full English breakfast served until 11am will set you back US$10; a full health breakfast is US$5 and various other “eye-opening” plates start at US$4. The coffee is fabulous.
Bottom Drawer is not licensed to sell alcohol and I’ve never noticed anyone taking their own bottle of wine, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem. With the pie I had a large glass beaker of drinking chocolate.
One where you are served very hot milk and a lollipop type arrangement which contains a block of hard dark chocolate on a stick, which you allow to melt in the milk before drinking.
It was so moreish and delicious that I had a second one with my strawberry Pavlova (US$6), which wasn’t so much a pudding as a still-life work of art: thick, light, crunchy meringue topped by oodles of wonderful whipped cream and the best part of possibly half a punnet of strawberries, both sliced almost translucently and whole ones.
Hot drinks are US$2 to US$4 and puddings and “tea-time treats” range from US$3-US$6.
The Bottom Drawer, 14, Maasdorp Avenue (off 2nd Street Extension) opens 8am-5pm Monday to Friday and 8am-12:30pm Saturday. The farmers’ market next door trades on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.