On the corner of Bourke and Somerset streets in the most gracious part of this heritage-rich Karoo dorp, lies a clutch of charming shops. When out and about in Graaff-Reinet, we recommend these spots to pop in to…
Words: Julienne du Toit
Pictures: Chris Marais
With its windpump blades on the outside and thorn-tree ceiling inside, this shop makes a great impression. Started by Carol-Anne van Jaarsveld, the Windmill Junction is now run by her daughter-in-law Amori. Walk around and you will have the instant urge to redecorate your house in Karoo style. Here a distressed-paint cupboard, there an adorable sideboard. How can you resist? Shop assistant Cynthia Matesa will also show you the gorgeous linen, Karoo Lavender Fields creams and another Van Jaarsveld enterprise, Baby Pearls (silicon teething balls made into lovely necklaces and bracelets that look just like chunky jewellery).
049 892 2099, [email protected]
This is the happening place in Graaff-Reinet. Polka is where locals and visitors gather for breakfast, lunch or supper and to hunt down their favourite gourmet treats. Manager-chef Hestie van der Mescht has added delicious macaroons to the choice, which includes home-made toffee apples, strawberry-swirl meringues, red velvet cake, sugar-coated biscuit hearts, cupcakes piled high with lavender icing, biscottis, Dutch stroopwafels, carrot cakes, droëwors, kudu biltong, home-made marshmallows and vanilla fudge.
Over it all hangs the irresistible smell of ciabatta bread made from stone-ground flour and pizzalediere (pizzas made with ciabatta dough), fresh from the oven. No wonder the place is so popular.
087 550 1363, [email protected]
Anyone who knows the history of the Karoo will have encountered the story of the Jewish pedlars or smouse, who travelled from farm to farm peddling and bartering goods. This history of smouse has intrigued Brian Hough (above right), a descendant of Lithuanian Jews. Brian was always a pack rat, unable to resist a bargain at an auction. He and partner Johan Maarschalk had a flat in Durban bulging with collectables. When they retired and moved to Graaff-Reinet they thought they’d downsize by selling off their collections. But the smous-bug has now hit hard and Brian’s cousin Elenor has become their roving ‘picker’. On a prowl-around, we found cuckoo clocks, whips, vintage jewellery, old paintings, toy trains, Wedgwood china, enamel tins, a Cabbage Patch doll, a lady’s mourning jacket from Victorian times, a bugle and a Hippe designer fur coat made from springbok skin.
083 977 0165, [email protected]
Come here for breakfasts and light lunches in a beautiful historic building with a sheltered courtyard. You can choose from tramezzinis, salads, wraps, kudu burgers and more. As a bonus, Karoo Sjiek is open on a Sunday (a rarity in the Karoo). Their signature dessert is the home-made cheesecake (but there are also other delicious choices) and they make a mean Karoo cappuccino. And despite the old-fashioned building, there is WiFi. They stock a range of Karoo- and South African-themed gifts. Here a windpomp, there a protea. And have a look at their special crockery as well – made for Karoo Sjiek by a local potter. This restaurant/shop is also child-friendly.
040 555 1003, [email protected]
A clue to this shop’s speciality is in the yarn-bombed tree just outside. This place is all about wool, knitting, crocheting and the joy of creation. Every item here is handmade by Helen Jacobus and other crafters who used to meet twice a week at Polka Cafe to drink coffee over the quiet click of knitting or crochet needles. It was one among them, Jackie Bezuidenhout, who motivated for this shop, where they now sell their beautiful handmade wares – knitted baby clothes, blankets, clothes, mosaics, soap, biscuits, rusks and biscotti. There are even frozen home-made meals. If you’re looking for mohair or the finest merino wool in Graaff-Reinet, this is the best place to find it, and the ladies who run it are very keen to help fellow knitters with tips or patterns.
082 377 5049, [email protected]
Master roaster, chef and manager André van Rensburg will treat you to coffee in all forms – from beans to latte. There are also great light meals in an airy eatery. But that’s not all. Walk in a little further and you’ll find a den of T-shirts, every one advertising Graaff-Reinet in cool colours and designs. You simply cannot leave the town without one. There’s also an art gallery with excellent local canvases and ceramics. And at the end is a small deli with wildly exotic foods and a haven of calm that is a tea room. Here you’ll find the usual teas, plus exotic flavours like Strawberry and Vanilla, Cranberry, Caramel and Vanilla Rose. It comes as no surprise that Maria’s Roastery & Our Yard is also the brainchild of the Van Jaarsveld family – mainly Hannes and Carol-Anne, with daughter-in-law Amori helping with the gallery.
071 870 5081, [email protected]