Getting there (photo below):
This might seem like a strange photo to start with but we really liked the airport hotel we chose in Johannesburg (I’ll check our diary for the name soon). It’s an older hotel that has been recently renovated. The rooms are similar to any other 4 star hotel – modern and very comfortable although I don’t think many have a pleasant view…that is often the way at airport hotels of course. What I liked most about the hotel was the interior fit out and design:
After staying 1 night at the airport hotel in Johannesburg, we flew on to Port Elizabeth where we hired the car seen in feature photo. At first we thought “rather big” but it turned out to be advantageous as later we were caught, on the road, in a freak storm! It was apparently the “worse storm to hit the region in decades”… lucky us! The wind was the worse part so the bigger car handled it well and we never felt fearful during our drive from Port Elizabeth to Plettenberg Bay (about 600 km from Cape Town).
Seaside Township of Plettenberg Bay
The seaside town of Plettenberg Bay (known as Plett by locals) was named after Portuguese explorers. The centre of the township is an upmarket sea side area with many European holiday homes as just 10 hour flight from say Paris to SA. The township nearby offers a range of cafes and restaurants as well as a few stores with quality African inspired clothing, arts and crafts. Most are European inspired cafes and restaurants (photo on left) but as in Australia, some are starting to explore and experiment with traditional African foods, herbs and spices too. I’ll refer back to our diary soon and note the names of the cafes and restaurants we enjoyed here.
Where we stayed for 5 relaxing nights last June:
The Robberg Beach Lodge…we loved it!…gorgeous spacious room with a view; great breakfast (photo below); helpful staff; very short drive (or taxi) to town – highly recommended.
We went for a walk around the residential area, like we always do at a new destination, and the mix of European and African inspired architecture was interesting. The house that can be seen on the left uses traditional African materials and construction on the roof. We saw a few like this around this area…most were contemporary homes like you can see in many places in the world.
Once you drive a few miles out of the main town the rich/poor divide becomes very obvious – there is an area where middle income earners live – most of the staff at the hotel where we stayed lived there they said but a little further out there is also many miles of “temporary housing” – as we drove around the Garden Route this was evident everywhere. Of course, the damage done by apartheid lives on…we have similar equity issues in Australia with not enough being done to bridge the gap between our Indigenous people and other Australians (predominantly Anglo/European). There is something quite sad about seeing many of these huge mansions in Plett locked up and we heard some are “rarely occupied” as the owners “live in Europe”…a strange world we live in!
A few excellent seafood restaurants – this was our favourite and part of a small shopping complex that was built into a cliff face overlooking the sea. Parts of the cliff wall were visible in the restaurant so the fitout was very arty and interesting! The food was beautiful too – very fresh and not expensive compared to Australia. I’ll note the name once we get home and I refer to our travel diary.
The last photo is the breakfast area of the B&B where we stayed, Robberg House. There was a small buffet as well as a menu with quite a few choices. The food and service was excellent. So glad we stayed 5 nights as it was a nice long rest after the long flight/short drive from Sydney-JoBurg-Port Elizabeth-Plett.
Photos below: Sunset over Plettenberg Bay – views from our balcony
The next 3 photos were taken on different nights. Before we went out for dinner (town is 5 min taxi ride away) we had a drink on the balcony…the sunsets were stunning in early June this year.
Photo above: I love the silhouettes of 2 people walking along the beach…you need to enlarge to see! We watched them walk from 1 end to the other, stopping to take in the stunning view themselves. Romantic!
Plettenberg Bay reminded us of where we spend almost half our time in Australia, now we’re retired – Mollymook Beach; there are also numerous restaurants here including Rick Stein’s…a 20 min walk from our house. Comparatively it’s quite expensive so we usually go to special events eg. Author talks when a 3 course set lunch menu is served (often mid week). The last time we went Tony won the “lucky seat prize” – Deborah Hutton’s new cook book! (Photo below)
We have many of Rick Stein’s books and one of our favourites is “Coast to Coast”…”Food From Land and Sea Inspired By Travels Across the World”. This book includes some beautiful food photography including this dish “Grilled cod with aioli and butter beans” (P74). We love Rick’s philosophy – a respect for old traditions and experienced cooks…nothing too fussy and complicated. In saying that, the sauce in this recipe is the most complicated part! We’ve only had white cod like this in the UK so when at home we would probably substitute another fish eg. Snapper. It’s quite a lengthy recipe so unless I get a request I won’t type it up. However, there is a quick and easy Jamie Oliver recipe we cooked last night which I will type up tonight (2nd below).
Photo below: Crispy Squid and Smashed Avo – P33 of Jamie Oliver’s newest book “5 Ingredients”
Crispy Squid & Smashed Avo – P132 (we used baby octopus as there was no squid at Lucky’s Fish shop on the day we went…where Rick shops too. We served it with a salad of cherry tomatoes, olives and basil – quite Greek!…a post on our travels to Greece another day!
250 g squid, gutted, cleaned; 2 heaped tablespoons wholemeal flour; 1 ripe avocado; 2 limes; 2 teaspoons hot chilli sauce
Pour 1 cm of olive oil into a large non stick frying pan on a med/high heat and leave to get hot – keep an eye on it! Meanwhile, slice the squid tubes into 1 cm rings, then toss all the squid with the flour and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper until well coated. Halve the avocado, scoop the flesh into a bowl. Finely grate in the zest of 1 lime, squeeze in the juice, and mash until smooth. Season to taste and divide between two plates.
To test if the oil is hot enough, carefully drop a piece of squid into the pan – if it sizzles and turns golden, it’s ready. Piece by piece, gently place the rest of the squid in the hot oil and cook, turning with tongs, until golden all over (work in batches, if you need to). Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain, then plate up over the avo. Drizzle over the chilli sauce and a little extra virgin olive oil, and serve with lime wedges, for squeezing over.
Photo below: Tingling Prawns from Neil Perry on Australian Gourmet Traveller (1 of their Facebook posts).
Tingling Prawns Recipe
(Neil Perry’s recipe in Australian Gourmet Traveller)
You’ll need: 16 cooked king prawns, peeled and halved lengthways; 1/3 cup peanut oil; 2 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally (green tops reserved); 1.5 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns; 2 long green chillis; 1.5 cm ginger (cut julienne); 1/4 cup coriander (loosely packed then coarsely chopped); 1.5 tsp white sugar; 2 tsp rice wine vinegar.
Method: Combine oil and reserved green onion tops in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for 10 min to infuse. Cool to room temperature, then strain (discard solids).
Dry-roast peppercorns in a frying pan until fragrant (1-2 min), grind in a mortar & pestle (or spice grinder) to a fine paste. Add vinegar and 60 ml green onion oil, mix to combine and set aside.
Thinly slice remaining chilli diagonally and combine in a bowl with prawns and sliced green onions. Drizzle with dressing, toss well to coat, arrange on a serving plate and serve immediately.
Salad: was our own selection of celery, radish, red onion and cucumber with our fave apple cider vinegar dressing – good for the gut apparently!