FOR me and my man, no Garden Route visit, albeit brief, is complete without a palate- pleasing pitstop in the Crags – that pretty pocket of the route that always seems to offer an amazing concentration of things to see and do.
Sometimes we call at Bramon wine estate, or at Kurland Hotel, that favoured destination of still-skinny former super-models and suave polo types.
Five-star (we think it should be 10!) Kurland won out this time as, following a family wedding in the Cape, we thought we'd try their new bistro on our way back to the Bay.
Another reason for our choice? To avoid an overcrowded petro-port swarming with sugar- powered six-year-olds and their holidayed-out parents, where there'd be little alternative to a greasy gob-stuffer of some sort. (As if 11 hours on the road isn't painful enough.)
Katarina's is named after Kurland custodian Peter Behr's eldest daughter, now 10.
I say custodian, as his iconic family, while still living on the huge estate, technically no longer owns it.
The new restaurant opened in December last year and is already well supported by the Plett crowd and, of course, the hotel's guests.
Kurland is enchanting this time of year, the leaves vivid green and the foals fat and frolicking.
We sank our numbed bums down on comfy vintage wire chairs, our verandah table laid with crisp white tablecloth, sparkly cutlery and some polo-themed paraphernalia (of course).
Our waiter, Sindile, was cheery and impeccably attentive. And from Grahamstown, which made us instantly warm to him.
Mindful we'd soon be back on the road, we limited ourselves to just one glass each of Sindile's recommendation of the Pecan Stream sauvignon blanc (R35 per glass). It is a delightfully fresh and palatable wine that suited every course we chose.
Wanting to avoid a post-lunch slump behind the wheel, we nibbled on complimentary nuts, cheese straws and home-baked rolls before sharing a starter of excellent home-made gnocci with a summery scattering of cherry tomatoes, courgettes and fresh herbs (R85). It was an attractive dish to behold and more than enough to share.
For mains, Salvelio heartily tucked into baby chicken with minted carrots (R90) which was deliciously moist and as elegantly plated as baby chicken can be plated.
Some "baby" chickens look more like stunted adults, but this one had all the right proportions.
The skin was crispy, too, and the meat had a rustic, herb-infused flavour.
My main course was one of my all-time faves, steak tartare. It was pricey at R160, but a classic worth shelling out for, as one does not see it on South African menus nearly often enough.
It's essentially raw, chopped steak, raw egg yolk, raw onion, raw everything – but then I've never found rawness off-putting (chicken and pork aside!).
Granted, I'm not quite in the league of Mia Farrow in that hideous scene from Rosemary's Baby where she rabidly stuffs raw meat into her mouth, but I'm always more than chuffed with a very rare steak as long as its origins are known.
I didn't this time but, knowing Kurland's finickiness, am sufficiently convinced the yolk was free-range, the beef grass-fed and the veggie/ herby bits organically grown (probably in their kitchen garden). Our most marvellous meal ended with a refreshing strawberry sorbet (R25) to share, before heading home after our whirlwind coastal trip.
Katarina's Bistro is on (044)534-8082; bookings are recommended. Our meal came to R480 including a tip. This MyWeekend review visit was unannounced and paid for in full.