"Cross the bridge... follow the detour for 4km... look for the church and the school... look for the turnoff 1.2km from the school... go 1.5km... past the neighbour's farm... left at the fork... then go to the end of the road."
We were on a treasure hunt for Fynboshoek Cheese, a South Africa Garden Route locavore haven by award winning cheesemaker Alje van Deemder, who has been personally serving lunches for more than a decade, with just about everything served being grown and / or made onsite.
I trust this is the right way...
Success! We drive up to a mustard house garlanded with many a flowering tree, and get ushered into a breathtaking sunroom, where classical music is softly playing. If they had divans here I could dawdle with a book for many afternoons on end.
There's no menu at Fynboshoek. (The set lunch costs ZAR 110 per person. Drinks are extra.) So we wait, soaking in the view. Then the opening act arrives, with quite a bang: Fried goat cheese canapes, with a dab of jam and sprigs of fresh thyme.
Next, salad caprese, with a sunny homemade mozzerella. And rosemary focaccia, fresh from the oven. Combine with a giant bowl of vibrantly coloured salad leaves for a soul-cleansing gorge.
The headline act: The Fynboshoek cheese platter, with 3 goat cheeses of varying maturity, a couple of cheddars, a smoked provolone ball, and my favourite (on the far left) a cow's milk cheese with cumin. Not being a class-A curd nerd, I sometimes find the taste of goat cheese to be too overwhelming, but the ones put forward here were gentle and gorgeously creamy.
I've never had a meal of cheese, bread and leaves this satisfying.
You can read about the health and environmental merits of eating locally -- where ingredients are grown and sourced from as close to the dining table as possible -- but it's so much more seductive to experience the difference with all five senses.
Out bread was finger-singeing hot, with salty dough and rosemary wafting about the table. The salad leaves were surprisingly sweet, having been spared nitrogen and that awful bitter plastic infusion that comes with supermarket packaging. If you have time after lunch, you can go stroll on the grounds outside the house, and say hello to the goats and cows that provided the milk for your cheese.
The other diners in the sunroom and at a long table outside were quite uniformly of the pastel shirt and shoulder-slung sweater and posh leather loafer variety. So Mr van Deemder -- possibly pleasantly surprised by the diversity of a scrubby Chinese and Indian couple -- tarried over expressos, asking what we were doing way out here in Tsitsikamma.
He was quite amused with our casual quest of eating our way around the world, and he visibly perked up when we said we focused especially on eateries that showcased local ingredients and traditional recipes. We shared laments about how so much of South Africa's best produce (especially seafood) is sent overseas while locals lap up cheaper but lower quality imports. I told him about our frustrated quest to sample Knysna oysters, and he rejoined: "Our squid and cuttlefish is top quality, so it all goes to Europe and Asia. All the squid you find here is from South America."
Tragedy! How does one hijack a South African squid boat I wonder...
The music switches to a jaunty ragtime jazz tune. Do we really have to go?
But I take heart. Fynboshoek is that kind of treasure trove that is more likely to keep keeping on if you spread, rather than hoard, the word. So go. Off-map, off-GPS, to where cheese marks, and hits, the spot.
Off the N2 Highway across from Tsitsikamma Lodge
Calling ahead for reservations and directions is essential
+27 42 280 3879