"A South African's home away from home, located on a beautiful kibbutz, around scenic green hilly fields. The menu boasts South African favourites - one can taste their childhood again in a warm, hospitable setting. Something different to the regular dining experience ..."
I apologise if this is a fairly long post, as a South African I feel endeavoured to inform you all of this gem we discovered through a popular Facebook group. Following its rave reviews and of course it being South African, was a great opportunity for me to introduce my fiancé (Israeli) to authentic SA food, the stuff I grew up with. It was a nostalgic experience to say the least …
Nestled deep in Kibbutz Gal-On, a kibbutz that grows avocados, has dairy cows and chickens you’d be surprised to find an authentic and one of its kind South African restaurant! Named after the lovely South African couple, whom have been in Israel for 32 years. After Mike suffered a massive health scare 12 Years ago; they decided to take on an immense project, using the only resources made available to them at the time and the little savings they had.
They completely transformed what was once a large derelict cabin that served as an ulpan and a billiard room, without windows, a dilapidated oven, two-phase electricity, and a small basin just big enough for dishes, a toilet on site and an overgrown garden. The couple nurtured it literally from the ground up, over the years buying all the many essentials for it to be a fully functional restaurant. Decking was added outside, all the furnishings and restaurant cups and crockery were shipped or flown to Israel in bulk, over the years they’d add some new element.
Today, as you walk towards the cabin, you will find a beautiful enclosed garden framed by trees, a tree house, decking, passion fruit trees and a lemon tree. Plenty of outdoor seating in the shade or sunshine, a wall with African sayings, and several African prints across old barrels that serve as a bar in the summer. The external wall of the cabin is the HIGHLIGHT of what awaits inside, a wall turned guestbook, scribbled tributes from the various people who have dined here.
Inside, these tributes continue on all 4 walls of a large space with several tables and chairs. The walls are painted in warm African colours and African wall art, like wood mask carvings and other South African mementos hanging from every inch, leaving no space empty. Towards the kitchen on the wall, is a large caricature of Mike and Sharon by a local artist. The music is fun and upbeat, of course by SA musicians…
The restaurant attracts many patrons: Worldwide tourists traveling the local area, local residents and many families across Israel that come especially here to enjoy a real authentic South African experience. During the week, they are particularly very popular among the large masses of many African pilgrims that come to Israel – Mike and Sharon are one of the few that are able to cater for authentic Nigerian, Ethiopian and Ghanaian cuisine. Many local celebrities have also ventured through their doors and even the likes of Hollywood Heavyweight actors like Sylvester Stallone and Steven Segal!
We arrived on a Friday afternoon, which Sharon says is usually the quiet days unlike Saturday, bustling with people (so be sure to book!) We were fortunate as we were the only customers and got to know more about the restaurant, sharing stories with Sharon and reminiscing about South Africa. Here you don’t feel like you are at a restaurant, rather at a close friend’s house, where you are made to feel welcome. Mike was very busy preparing our meal in the kitchen, popping out bringing our delicious dishes.
The menu is a real treat for those South Africans that are missing home, customers can once again enjoy various famous and traditional dishes like boerewors. Originating from the Afrikaans words boere (farmers) and wors (sausage), introduced by the pioneers as they continued to trek (journey) the then, Cape Colony, the meat was a source of sustenance and was preserved by the use of vinegar and salt. The best cuts of meat are used, fat and combining a special spice blend (coriander seeds, nutmeg, all spice and cloves), wine and vinegar. It’s a must-have at every braai (BBQ) in South Africa. Then there’s meiliepap or pap (ground maize meal, similar to polenta) is the main staple carbohydrate of black South Africans, but is enjoyed by all, especially famous with boerewors and chakalaka sauce, a spicy South African-style relish with a rich tomatoey-curry flavor and sliced onions – it is the best gravy and is married to pap! Another South African favourite is biltong, which Americans say is like beef jerky … I don’t suggest you call it such to a S African, it could be your last words, unless you want a klap (slap) 😉 Mike and Sharon make their own biltong on site and also their boerewors from scratch!
We had the Samoosa starter to share, an Indian-style pastry, deep fried and usually with a filling of mince, vegetables or mashed curried potato. Four mince samoosas, were accompanied with a tree of broccoli, sweet chilli dipping sauce and a fresh salad. We had a complementary vegetarian dish of buckwheat and zucchini – one of Sharon’s as she became a vegetarian a few years ago. I had the main dish of Frikadella, a South African meatball dish made from similar ingredients to boerewors. Mine was delicious, with red peppers, their in-house chutney and potatoes. Hanan’s boerwors and pap marriage, was as tasty, the chutney-gravy had a rich spicy taste and the boerwors was perfectly spiced and had the traditional texture – both beautifully presented in African dishes. Dessert we had the malva pudding, there are many theories as to the origins of its name, but it’s a traditional dish back from the Dutch Settlers – A dark, spongy hot molten cake made with apricot jam and a sticky caramel topping, traditionally served with single cream or custard. It tastes even better with a hint of brandy. Sharon who loves to bake, made this classic and it was divine, served hot and garnished with cinnamon and maple syrup, the cake was laid on a bed of cream and ice-cream. I love combining hot and cold with desserts, it’s a sure winner!
Besides the special events they host every calendar year, Mike and Sharon also cater for weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs and have had many people enter and leave the bistro, happy and satisfied. In the past, Sharon and Mike hosted a large event for a well-known business, at Masada complete with traditional poyke pots filled with various wholesome stews and boerewors on the grill.
Certainly Sharon and Mike’s love for cooking (and baking) are reflected both in their homey-comfort food and their warm hospitality. I only hope to come back for more, next time to experience their bistro in their busy hours. Try a delicious liqueur, Amarula from the marula tree fruits in SA, a delicious, creamy treat that is far superior in taste to the boring Baileys 😉
The area around the kibbutz is beautiful, rural, hilly and green. You can spot herds of cows in pasture fields. After lunch we ventured to Britannia Park and admired the view from a hilltop. Sharon also suggested the Beit Guvrin Caves, so we’ll have to check that out next time.
Besides some of the words you’ve learnt above, here’s more of the SA lingo you will hear quite a lot:
Meilies (me-lee’s) – corn on the cob
Lag (la-ch[guttural]) – laugh
Howzit – (most popular), how are you – can be used as a statement or question
Just now – not (actually) anytime soon
Now now – soon
Takkies – sneakers/ trainers
Izzit – Really?
Shame, ag shame man – an endearing term, usually when one is in a bad situation
Robot – traffic light
Loskop – forgetful or someone displaying odd behaviour
Woes (v-oos) – wound-up, aggressive
Dof – a stupid person
I’ll leave you here, with this song by a South African artist:
And for those SA’s the feeling left after being at the bistro, you know what I mean 😉
Braai Ettiquette (only the South Africans will understand – maybe the Australians ;):