05 June 2013 by Kate Els

Clarens, Clementines and a cat

Whether you’re just passing through or staying over, the village of Clarens has one of the best-kept culinary secrets in South Africa.

From the outside, Clementines is a welcoming spot for a delicious meal. Image: TripAdvisor

Sitting just off the main square of Clarens, a town known as the Jewel of the Eastern Free State, is the warm, intimate and all-round lovely Clementines restaurant.

Sitting down in this gourmet gem, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that you’d stumbled across a cross between a farmhouse, a jumbled collection of vintage goodies and one of the loveliest fireplaces in the country. It’s inside Clementines that I’ve had some of the best meals while travelling, and it's a place I always make time for whenever I find myself back in Clarens.

Growing up, my family always packed up and headed off towards the Eastern Free State as soon as the first autumn chill revealed itself. See, my dad loves to take photos, particularly photos of the poplar trees in this area as they reveal their golden coat. These fiery bushes make for great photos and I always laugh to myself when I think of photographers dragging their families out of bed at 6am to get that perfect shot of the poplars, which look as if Midas himself touched them.

Clem the cat relaxing in front of the fireplace with a local brew. Image: Keith Jenkins Clem the cat relaxing in front of the fireplace with a local brew. Image: Keith Jenkins

And because of the time I've spent here, I’ve gotten to know Clementines fairly well as a spot to always head for a great meal, a pretty splendid wine selection and the warm hospitality of the people that work in the belly of the restaurant.

Owner Shelley Tressider jokes with patrons about how she isn’t the actual owner – rather, the establishment is run by Clementine the cat, who will just as soon make himself comfortable on your lap as he will scatter when you make any sudden movement. He’s certain to greet you as you wander into the place, naturally for a scratch and to show his characteristic feline indifference.

The restaurant, housed in an old railway shed, is the definition of hearty dining, and the menu is complemented by a range of specials that change regularly. There is plenty on offer for all tastes and you may even find some great South African fare such as oxtail stew. Paired with some of the most delicious South African wines and beers from the local Clarens Brewery, any meal at Clementines can turn into a rather festive affair.

Delicious oxtail stew served in a traditional potjie pot Delicious oxtail stew served in a traditional potjie pot

For me, any trip to Clarens isn’t complete without a meal at Clementines and the warmth of the staff at the restaurant. For more information on Clementines, check out its website. It’s best to book ahead if you’d like to enjoy a meal there as it gets pretty busy, even during the week!

Signature dishes at the restaurant include:

  • Camembert and green fig – baked in phyllo pastry and served with a mango coulis
  • Lamb bredie – tender lamb casserole in red wine, tomato and rosemary
  • Steak Rossini – fillet steak layered with chicken liver in a spicy tomato sauce, served on a crouton
  • Pavlova – homemade meringue with fresh cream and seasonal fruit
  • Chocolate orange terrine – rich, dark chocolate terrine with a hint of orange and Cointreau

Category: Food & Wine

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