Fairview Homestead | Philda Benkenstein
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(Guest Blogger is our son Alex Benkenstein)

This past December when I returned to my family’s home in George I had an overwhelming urge to take on a project. I’m all for lounging at the pool, trips to the beach, boozy lunches, extended dinners and afternoon naps, but this holiday season I wanted to produce something tangible, some kind of material proof that my holiday had consisted of more than an extended hedonistic haze. In a moment of inspiration it came to me: an owl house!

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When we lived in Namibia (1982 to 1995) no visit to the capital city of Windhoek was complete without a visit to  Weylandts.* As newlyweds, Desmond and I could only drool over the beautiful furniture and occasionally buy a small item. As we set up our first home in 1982 we bought second-hand furniture – often lovely (in those days unappreciated)  antique pieces. To my delight, I found that Weylandts had opened a store in Durbanville in 1999. The fact that our house had all the furniture it needed could not prevent me from browsing once more. And yes, there is a store less than 50km from Fairview – in Knysna. (Weylandts have about 6 stores throughout the country and have just opened the first store in Australia too.)

This year we are enlarging our Self Catering Annex to a two bedroom apartment with kitchen, laundry and lounge. And guess what? Yes, I am combining a few blond wood antiques with contemporary furniture from Weylandts to furnish it!

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….for the bedroom or the lounge?

 

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our daughter Nelleke having a bit of fun in the Weylandts Sea Point store

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Luella and her Oupa chose two cane deck chairs – hulle slaap lekker!

 

*It’s probably worth mentioning that this is not a solicited review of Weylandts and I didn’t get any payment or discount in return for raving about their store – I just really like their furniture!

I sometimes have to remind myself that I cannot please all people all the time. Recently I made the mistake of upgrading guests who had booked one of our Standard rooms to a room which I consider a Superior room. The Standard room of their choice faces west and currently looks down onto a hub of activity  because of the renovation to our Annex ( which is thankfully on schedule and should be finished in less than 2 weeks.) So I thought I was doing them a favour by giving them a free upgrade to our Room 1 which faces towards the garden. Apparently, the guest walked into the room and exclaimed in disbelief that surely this could not be considered a luxury room.

Which has me confused. The guest who stayed in Room 1 the night before them wrote in our guest book: “thank you for a wonderful stay – incredible attention to detail”. The last TripAdvisor review was from a guest who stayed in Room 1 and reads: “My husband and I stayed at Philda and Desmond Benkenstein’s wonderful B&B for three nights. What a find! Breakfasts were outstanding, room more than comfortable and the hosting fantastic! There was an equal measure of privacy and the excellent company which made us feel very much at home. Desmond’s garden has been lovingly cared for and attracts a variety of bird-life. The attention to detail in the house is meticulous: I loved the silver coffee pots, decorative antique books, and modern bathroom; my husband enjoyed attention from Juno the dog. We can’t recommend this establishment enough … and look forward to another visit in the not-too-distant future!”

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At Fairview the food is home-made and often home-grown, sourced from our own garden and we keep our own chickens for the freshest of eggs.  In recognition of our responsibility to the environment we also use ‘green’ products for housekeeping, laundry and cleaning. Desmond has a ‘wormery’ and three compost heaps. And Juno does her best to keep us in supply of dog poo to throw down  the mole holes as a way of trying to convince them to move to the neighbors for less smelly passageways.

Our garden is definitely our biggest attraction and we can  set up visits to other local private gardens.

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Knitting is the new yoga, but actually, the inspirational topic for this blog post is an issue with toilet seats…

I doubt there is anyone out there who is not yet aware that I can now claim the title GRANDMOTHER. It is with the greatest of self-discipline that I do not insist that every guest looks at photos on my mobile phone before they are allowed to enjoy breakfast. I became a champion knitter overnight – shortly after Luella’s birth I woke up with tennis elbow pain and suddenly realised: I just finished my 6th jersey for 2-month-old Luella – no wonder!!

But back to toilets…

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Apart from the last ten days of sudden summer weather we are really aware of a change of season in George. We quite enjoy the early morning and evening chill in the air.

Both Philda and I make a point of driving down Third Street to enjoy the Autumn show of browning leaves presented us  by the lane of Liquid Amber trees.

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Does the world really need another pancake recipe, is a good question to ask at this stage… I thought I’d share my story of how I became known as the ‘pancake-asaurus’ in our family. Yes, that was one of those little family words that we took the liberty of making up based on the amount of fluffy Canadian pancakes I could pack away, leaving my bigger brothers in the dust at age three. As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, my childhood was filled with vibrant adventures with my family that took us from living in a desert country on the West Coast of Africa to a small village in Canada where my father worked as a doctor. If there’s one thing that the Canadians added to our quirky array of culinary favourites it is breakfast pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. To this day when we have family gatherings it usually involves my father (who’s specialties include this, and cooking fish to absolute perfection) to don my mother’s apron and get his hands dirty

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There is no discount when it comes to paying the bill after a bad meal accompanied by terrible service, which is why you may as well take a recommendation and go to one of the few restaurants that I recommend because of consistent good food and good service. And the key word is CONSISTENT.

With a host of  restaurants  in both nearby Wilderness and George, you’ll be spoilt for choice! But short and sweet:  my very shortlist of MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE RESTAURANTS in George.

1.Fat Fish. tel 044-874 7803. The clue is in the name. Fish. Of every description. Prepared with time refined skill and attention to detail using original recipes crafted with food love and every palate in mind. Infamous for its fish. Legendary for its seafood. Famous for its beyond moreish tapas. Renowned for its sumptuous serve ups of steak and chicken. And then there’s the pudding.

2. 101 Mead. tel 044-874 0343. Jeremy and Ben was brought up on farms through out South Africa, that is where their love for the outdoors grew in to love for food and cooking. Both Jeremy and Ben worked in restaurants all over Europe but their harts longed for South Africa, they decided on George as the ideal spot because of its “unspoiled natural Beauty” and close proximity to the bounty of the Klein Karoo.

3. The Old Townhouse. tel 044- 874 3663.The ambiance is great , the food fantastic and the service excellent. This is a family affair, Janet is responsible for the food and husband Bryan the front-of-house.  with the son (a qualified chef) and daughter not beyond putting in the odd stint at the Old Townhouse. Janet’s desserts are beyond words – I once had an Italian guest who phoned his mom home just before midnight to rave about Janet’s ice cream!

4. La Capanina. tel 044- 874 5313. Owner Margie is ever present, the waiters are professional, the food is good, consistently…  I have businessmen who stay with us regularly who go back night after night – when they make their booking I take the liberty to book a table at La Capanina because I know how disappointed they will be when they arrive and I can’t get them a table. They do have a wood-fired oven, but the pizzas are not to my taste – if you are into serious toppings and lots of cheese you will love it (my idea of a good pizza is super thin crust, 2 toppings max and not too much cheese, so you are welcome to ignore my view on this one)

DINNER SLIGHTLY FURTHER AFIELD:

1. Transkaroo. Grootbrak. Tel 044- 620 4163. The food is excellent , I love the ambiance. I want to stop at that, because when I think back on all the meals I’ve had here I am at a total loss for words. You will not be sorry to take the 20 minute drive there…whether  it is for lunch or dinner. Oh, and Desmond used to say that this was the only restaurant that could prepare fish better than he could, but now we also go to Salinas for a perfectly cooked ‘catch of the day’. ps. 18/4/’14: just heard that they have a new chef – whoa ; watch this space…

2. Salinas. Wilderness.Tel 044-877 0001. Go early so that you can have a cocktail on the top deck overlooking the Wilderness beach. Desmond always orders ‘catch of the day’ and I’m always torn between seafood and Peri-peri chicken. When we walked the Camino from Lisbon to Santiago I looked and looked at menus to try and find Peri-peri chicken, but I had to come all the way back to George to get good Portuguese Peri-peri chicken!

SEAFOOD AND SUSHI:

I you do not want to drive 20 minutes from us to get to Salina’s or Transkaroo:

1. The Fat Fish in York street.  tel 044-874 7803. The clue is in the name. Fish. Of every description. Prepared with time refined skill and attention to detail using original recipes crafted with food love and every palate in mind. Infamous for its fish. Legendary for its seafood. Famous for its beyond moreish tapas. Renowned for its sumptuous serve ups of steak and chicken. And then there’s the pudding.

2. Ocean Basket in the Garden Route  Mall. Married to a fisherman and with 2 sons who spearfish, dive and fish – let’s face it: I am spoilt and full of nonsense when it comes to seafood. At least at Ocean Basket you know what you get and I’ve never really been totally disappointed.

3. John Dory’s is situated in our Lifestyle Meander across from the Garden Route Mall, A Good choice for Sushi, with 3 weekday specials running non stop.

FINE DINING
1. Serendipity in Wilderness. Tel 044-877 1614.Foodie aficionados will love Serendipity. Chef Lizelle Stolz prides herself in re-inventing South African cuisine. You are guaranteed a superior dining experience, both food and service, at this intimate, award winning fine dining restaurant. My first choice is always Serendipity…the first time we went was in 2002 and we have never had one disappointing dining experience. Lizelle always bowls us over with her menus and Rudolf and his front-of-house staff charms us with their service.

2. Henry Whites Restaurant at Fancourt in George. Tel 044-  804 0010. Named after one of the original owners of Fancourt. From a  decor/interior design perspective Henry Whites is quite an experience. Some may find the food pretentious and overpriced.

SOMETHING  DIFFERENT
1.Thai food at Siam Kaow Gaeng. Either order take-away or eat in at Nr 3 Ironside Road. Monday to Saturday 5pm to 9pm. Only 9 tables so booking is essential ; BYO wine as they have no liquor license. No emphasis on decor, but This is the real deal when it comes to authentic Thai food.

2.Outeniqua Farmers Market. Open Saturday mornings from 8am to 2 pm. Their brochure reads: ‘from beef to brownie, fruit to fynbos, chocolate to chicken, pancake to pizza, craft to koeksister -you’ll be spoilt for choice’. link to website.

3. De Vette Mossel.  Tel. 079 339 0170. On the beach ; coastal road between Tergniet and Grootbrak. Kick of your shoes, dig your toes into the sand and eat your seafood with half a mussel shell. Do not worry they do have cutlery too! And remember to take something warm as this is an outside ‘restaurant’ – protected by a dune and with the sound of the roaring ocean you will enjoy the freshest seafood, prepared on the coals and abundant and delicious.

HALAAL   DINING

1. Nando’s.Portuguese style food. Their salads are not too bad either. Just down the road from us ; really a take out, but they do have a few tables where you could sit down and eat your meal there.

2. Primi Piatti – George . Caledon Square, York St & Davidson Street. The food is inspired by Italian tradition but influenced by the cosmopolitan present with traditional & gourmet offerings all done healthy with the finest sourced ingredients. Décor is an eclectic mix of comfort & unpretentious style. Comfortable, but still sexy enough to sip on that cocktail & love your dining experience.