It’s good to get off the beaten track once in a while. Just over 5.5 kms up the Rheenendal road there is a small green oval sign for “motherearthworm” farm. Turn in there onto a single lane farm-track. Follow this up the hill, and through the trees, until you reach a clearing. In the clearing you will find a woodcutters-style cottage, glowing warm with welcoming candle-light. Park in the allocated area, neatly demarcated with piles of stacked flat white stones. As you climb out of your vehicle you will notice Brett, the chef, waiting to greet you on the porch. You have not only reached Brett’s home, but also the home of VegTable, a small restaurant in the forest. This is where I had dinner last night – it is somewhere I have been wanting to try for some time and it was so very worth the wait.Stepping into the cottage you first notice the pot-bellied, wood-burning, fireplace in the centre of the room. It was a chilly, wet night so the warmth of the fire was very welcome indeed. Roughly 6 tables occupy the L-shaped room – what would be the lounge / dining room no doubt – beautifully set with vintage silver cutlery and proper tablecloths. Brett’s other job is stone-cutting, so each table is topped with a unique centre-piece. Ours had a malachite pumpkin on it, whilst the table next door boasted a snail and some frogs, and behind us lived a lady-bird. The bulk of the light is supplied by the candles on each table, and several dotted around the room. Nestled in the corner of the tiny kitchen is an old wood-burning aga-type stove, topped with an eccentric collection of well-used pots, several bubbling away producing delicious aromas.
VegTable is unlicensed but you are welcome to bring your own bottle, which we did (naturally). We were the only diners at the venue last night, so it really felt more like a small dinner party than a meal at a restaurant. Brett is attentive without being obtrusive – we (the girls and I) caught up over our pink bubbles whilst the chef happily clattered away in the alcove behind us.
First course arrived soon after that. I loved the antique, mismatched crockery – it really added a homely, farmhouse feeling to the meal. We were presented with a trio to start – delicious olives, porcini mushrooms sautéed with preserved lemon and garlicky croutons, and grilled courgettes topped with pesto-esque sauce.
VegTable is, as you would imagine from the name, vegetarian, but the philosophy is “the journey from local organic gardens, and local foraging to the finale at dinner table; flowering in an indulgent four-course menu, starring the finest, freshest seasonal vegetables and fruits”. And it really does deliver on that promise.
The next course was couscous topped with a sesame-cream, golden discs of butternut crusted in dukkah (or duqqa) and baked, heirloom carrots with orange – sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds.
We thought this was our main course until we were surprised with the next – home-made gnocchi in a roast-tomato sauce, topped with local chevre. The cheese melted into the hot sauce leaving it rich and more-ish, whilst the garnish of tiny basil leaves offered small pops of complementary flavour. I found the goat’s cheese delicious – and I am not normally a fan – but it was subtle and not at all “goaty”.
By this stage we were completely stuffed, but there was one more course to go – pudding! And everyone has room for pudding right? Phyllo pastry “hearts” filled with chocolate, and sprinkled with pecan brittle served with home-made caramel ice-cream. Oh my word – divine.
Not able to consume another morsel we declined the tea and coffee offered.
I really do recommend you give it a try, its truly a gem and Brett is a delight.
VegTable at http://www.vegtable.co.za/
Location: on the ‘Motherearthworm’ Farm, 5.7km along the Rheenendal Road
Timing: Wednesday through Friday evenings, from 7 for 7.30pmin (Winter) and 7.30 for 8pm (Summer)
Contact: Brett on 0748339516 (bookings essential)
Other notes: Cash only / BYO
* Apologies for the picture quality – my phone battery was almost flat so no flash, and candle-light, whilst romantic, is not great for photos.
* Restaurant picture borrowed from the VegTable website.
featured image: credit to my step-father, The Tourist’s Friend