Pouring rain, freezing cold, heater on high, soup on the stove, extra blanket at night and a few added kilos around the waist. Yep, winter is officially here. To us, this type of movie-under-the-blanket weather generally means having to cook uninspiring , dull looking foods that takes forever. We weren’t quite ready to embrace winter with its slow cooked oxtail stews, muskadels, bredies, gluhwein or pot pudding. However the idea of going out for a beer and a burger was not quite as tempting as it was two months back either. We were keen to experiment with something local and thus the idea of roosterkoek on an open wood fire came to mind. All we had to do was mix the dough, put it on the fire, once ready, fill the inside with ingredients of our choice, pour wine and enjoy. An uncomplicated meal…right? Wrong!! After a few burnt attempts, we were over it (including Ben, Miranda’s dog).
Lucky for me, this bad experiment triggered a memory of a really old school little place in Stellenbosch that served practically everything with roosterkoek. I remember not remembering in which of the very many side streets I parked my Volksie. I lit a cigarette – as one does when wanting to jot ones memory – and then I heard this deep, friendly male voice in a heavy Afrikaans accent from behind: “jy kan maar binne kom rook” (you can smoke inside). And that’s when I made the discovery of De Stomme Jonge restaurant originally. I decided to browse a bit whilst puffing away. “What a freakin’ awesome place” , I thought to myself. It took me back 20 years. To a time when I was young, restless and “knew everything”. The thought of going back was always there, and now we had a bloody good reason – to share our find with YOU.
Our roosterkoek ballava had determined our destiny. The three musketeers made an unabashed decision. Time to track down this roosterkoek joint . 09h30 on an icy cold Friday morning, a weak sun overhead with a slight promise of no rain, we packed into Roxy Heart (my Volksie) and made our way to Stellenbosch. We dragged Laurenda with yet again but this time as our “hired paparazzi” (facebook users apparently want to see more pictures of us gals…ugh). Dressed in bikinis, 6 inch stilettos and feather boas smothered with honey…just checking that you’re still with me. As I was saying…dressed in layers of clothing, we pulled up in Stellenbosch Middestad at about 10h30. We wanted to work up an appetite for our Roosterkoek lunch experience by means of a walk-about. Just to re-iterate a point, it was undoubtbly hair mincing and nipple freezing weather. Oh bugger the weather – all we needed was a “sterk koppie moer om ons reg te ruk” (a strong cup of coffee to get us going). Miranda and I stumbled upon a rather hidden country-like coffee shop with a heluva huge fireplace. Our frozen bits were soon well-thawed. Outside, the mist too was lifting and promise of a beautiful day was in sight.
Between Miranda and myself, walking was never our thang. This time, we didn’t mind at all. Walking around Stellies (as the locals fondly refer to it) whilst listening to the gentle twittering of birds, people chatting and laughing on the streets made for an insanely relaxing experience. This rustic town flaunting its relationship between man and nature with its original architectural structures and age old trees is a visual experience to behold. What stood out the most about Stellenbosch? Everyone there (and I mean everyone), walks or cycles. Which I suppose, is absolutely normal as it is a huge student town after all. We managed to cross very many pedestrian crossings without showing anyone the middle finger or seeing your life flash past as you thought you’re about to die. Drivers courteously stopped as pedestrians approached pedestrian crossings or stop streets. Wow! This almost never happens in Cape Town. And how is this for super cool…actual demarcated cycling lanes throughout Stellenbosch. Back home cyclists and pedestrians have to share a pavement. And I’m not even going to get onto the topic of cyclists and motorists having to share roads.
Throughout our walk, smells of wood-burning fires and home-cooked meals where omnipresent. That’s when the girls started throwing heavy hints about perhaps meandering toward our chosen destination for that day. With really crappy round about directions, I led the way to De Stomme Jonge Restaurant. This, I did deliberately . I wanted us to get completely absorbed by the town’s tranquillity with a touch of nostalgia one more time. Walking in dappled shades in almost every street created by the scores of well-established trees made for a breathtaking sunny winter’s morning walk-about. Gob smacked with the displays of giant artworks on various spots. The architectural structures together with the old-world charming little restaurants, diminutive tables and chairs set up on pavements in true French or Colonial style made it unmistakably clear whom roamed and occupied Stellenbosch in the past. We kept asking: “Why can’t Cape Town CBD area look like this”? When I noticed the answers to that question turning rather argumentative, I realised I best head straight to the restaurant in order to steer the topic to something more pleasant…food and drink!
This time we were greeted by a bearded man called Simon, too with a heavy Afrikaans accent and super friendly: “kom binne, kom binne en maak julle self asseblief tuis” (come inside and make yourselves at home). And so we did – this place just had such a familiar feeling. Miranda and Erika both agreed that the general set up of De Stomme Jonge triggered fond memories of being in their twenties (a small clue…the 90’s). The interior had a certain rawness about it – it was quite apparent that the decor wasn’t placed to create an aesthetic appeal. Whilst waiting for our table to be made available on the pavement (very French you know), we chilled in the smoking lounge quenching our thirsts with their locally made house draft beer called Stellenbrau Lager and Ale, and a ginger beer (as in real beer) called Dragon Fiery. Erika grabbed a guitar that was lying around and started singing Afrikaanse volks liedjies (Afrikaans folk songs) loudly and proudly (no, she is not for hire as she cannot sing, nor play the guitar).
Between having our first beer and eventually sinking our teeth into our roosterkoek, there was lots of chatting, drinking, taking photographs, kak praat, laughing, ooh-and-aah’s, still taking photographs, more kak praat, ordering the locally made house wine (Unbelievable Dry Red by Gravel Road) , taking photographs, yuk, yuk, yuk and then we ate. Oh….my….goodness!! We were in roosterkoek heaven! Word of advice to the English folk – it is essential to have a drink whilst choosing a meal as everything is in humorous Afrikaans. The Roosterkoek Platters had names like: Saartjie (I assume the girl from primary school textbook called Boet en Saartjie), Eva (Adam’s lady, Eve from the garden of Eden as there’s fig in this meal) or Stomme Jonge (I think it means “dumb struck youth”) to name but a few. The Gourmet Roosterkoek selections were named after South African icons like Madiba (naturally), Jacob Zuma (hmmm), Paul Kruger, Miriam Makeba, Desmund Tutu and Oom Boom (have no idea who he is).
We loved the to-the-point description of the salads. Hoender Slaai met blaar, blaar, blaar en slaai goed; Biltong en Bloukaas met blaar, blaar, blaar en slaaigoed. Thank goodness, Erika is an afrikaanse meisie (Afrikaans girl) as she came in very useful with the translation of a few of the items like: swerwersham (gypsy ham), augurk ( gherkin), blatjang (chutney), varkspek (bacon), soet-brandrissie (sweet chilli) and the list went on. Our choices for lunch? I had the Simon (assuming named after Simon, the part-owner), Miranda had, Net vir my (she eats like a bird), Erika had the Desmund Tutu (in honour of the man himself), and Laurenda had Oom Boom (as a nature conservationist, she wanted to remain close to nature). Wow, Oom Boom was humungous! My eyes practically popped out of their sockets when I saw it. A stoner’s delight? Laurenda soooooo didn’t see that one coming. The shit-eating grins on our faces at the end of our meals confirmed that we were indeed very well satisfied.
Making the journey to De Stomme Jonge on 3 Ryneveld Street in Stellenbosch for a roosterkoek experience is definitely worth the trip. For those worried about the cost of petrol and their oh so tight budget. Simply follow our example. Get a few friends together, split the petrol cost, do a walk-about to enjoy an entire day out and feast on their gourmet roosterkoek or platters that will by no means hurt your wallet.
You can contact Simon at De Stomme Jonge at 082 054 0125