This is one of my ‘further afield’ experiences. I was fortunate enough to be on holiday in South Africa visiting family. The occasion: a family member’s half century. Lunch destination: Caversham Mill.
The mill is located along the ‘Midlands Meander’ (an art and crafts route north of Pietermaritzburg stretching for 80km) and comprises a restaurant and accommodation. It has an interesting history and is not without its fair share of trials and tribulations. The Mill was originally built in 1852 by two brothers from London seeking their fortune. It was the first water driven mill in what was then the province of Natal. Initially the mill was made of wooden parts but was replaced in 1888 with metal wheel and cogs and millstones made of Scottish granite. The Caversham ground meal became much sought after due to its high quality. Over the years, the mill experienced fire and flooding and had been left abandoned for some time. However the site has been survived to what it is today and, whilst the mill itself has not been restored, there is evidence of it with the ruins lying below the main buildings adding character and intrigue to the overall feel of the place and provides a perfect trip down memory lane.
The Mill is nestled close to the confluence of the Lion & Impafana Rivers. The setting couldn’t be more pleasant with the opportunity to sit out in the sunshine if the weather permits. There is seating out on the veranda overlooking the river and waterfall.
The décor inside the restaurant is relaxed and welcoming with wooden beams and log fire for the winter months.
The menu caters for all tastes and dietary requirements and is complemented by a daily specials board. Here’s a sample menu to wet the apetite:
The service was attentive and cheerful. We were served by the every smiling Nonhlannhla (Zulu meaning Lucky!) who set about explaining enthusiastically, the items on the specials board and then it was down to some hard choices.
I decided to pass on a starter as was looking forward to enjoying the lamb shank I had chosen for my main. Whilst everyone was tucking into their starters a breadbasket to stem the hunger pangs was gratefully received!
Just as well I skipped on the starter because the lamb shank was a substantial portion served with mashed potato and mixed vegetables. The veg was done perfectly; just nicely al dente and full of flavour – something to do with the South African sun no doubt. The lamb shank didn’t disappoint either being beautifully tender and dropping off the bone.
The rest of the party covered various options offered on the menu for their mains – steak, fish, pork. All seemed extremely happy with their choices.
And so to dessert … again there was something on offer for all such as interpretations of sticky toffee pudding and apple pie. But most of all I was pleased to see that Chocolate Nemesis was still on the menu. When I visited this establishment last year I have the pleasure of experiencing this sublime creation and had tried (and failed) to recreate it at home.
On this occasion it arrived unexpectedly at the table in all its glory with a candle & sparkler much to the birthday boy’s surprise and embarrassment! Everyone was soon wanting to share in the ‘birthday cake’ as soon as I began to sing its praises and were all agreeing how incredibly delicious it was.
After the excitement had died down, I spent much of the dessert course conversing with the old man trying to work out again what the ingredients might be. It was flourless, that I knew but what of the other ingredients? Standing up to my principle of ‘the answer is always no until you ask’, I approached the very genial manager, Clint, and, as politely as I could, asked if I would be allowed the recipe. I explained my love of baking and I was given an extremely interesting tale of how the dessert came to be perfected. After much testing, I was told, it was the matriarch in the family, having baked for 80 years, came up with the winning recipe and method.
Before I knew it I had been graciously whisked into the kitchen and was encouraged to quiz the lovely lady chefs as to how they concocted this extraordinary delicacy. After some rummaging in their recipe file I was even given a copy of ‘the’ recipe. I felt extremely privileged at being party to this secret. I felt a little less guilty about the generosity extended to me when I was able to offer something back that they didn’t know: you can freeze egg whites!
And what of the recipe you may well ask … well I’m sworn to secrecy. You’ll have to visit Caversham or Chez Shamwari yourselves for the experience.
So as everyone had had their fill, wine glasses lay empty and all the family photographs had been taken for the family album, it was time for goodbye. When you are next in this neck of the woods, a visit to Caversham is a must.
Tel: +27 (33) 234 4524 / 234 4633 / 940 0145
Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, teas and drinks
Dinner is served from Wednesday through to Saturday