A roadtrip in South Africa guarantees you a few things. Wide open space, beautiful vistas, birds of prey sitting on telephone poles and…padstals. Padstals (Afrikaans for farm stalls) are a point of national pride for South Africans. From strong moer koffie (literal translation – slam coffee) to roosterkoek (roasted buns), biltong (South Africa’s much superior answer to jerky), mohair socks, jams, knives and anything else you could possibly want to pick up on your way to or from a destination, padstals are essential pitstops on your journey. Perhaps the most celebrated and universal of padstal products, is the humble pie (and not the metaphorical one). If we don’t say so ourselves, in South Africa, we do pies incredibly well. And we’re not talking about sweet American-style dessert pies, but rather savoury pies in the British tradition.
Recently, the Brackin clan from the USA were with us travelling through the beautiful Elgin Valley (which boasts an incredible micro-climate, perfect for producing quality cool climate wines like Sauvignon Blanc) on their way to one of our favourite places on the planet, Grootbos Nature Reserve. During the course of their Cape stay, they would have seen some amazing things from the vistas of the Cape Peninsula, to the wild coastline of the Overberg, the ancient forests and the floral kingdom of Grootbos. However, according to the Brackin kids, none of these took the prize as the main highlight? That honour fell to the pies from Peregrine farmstall. To be precise, “it was the curry mince pies from Peregrine what done it yer honour!” with 13 pies being demolished in a pie-eating competition between six people.
What’s the big deal you may ask? Well, when guests visit South Africa, we expect you to be overwhelmed by our incredible landscapes, we know you will marvel at the amazing wildlife, we’re confident you will be surprised by just how good our wines are and be blown away by the ridiculous quality and value of our restaurants from the top-end places to your regular diners. But, when visitors declare their love for an honest padstal pie – we know we’ve done a good job showing you our country. You get it. You get us.
Everybody we know has a favourite padstal pie. The following are three of our favourites:
Ok, technically this establishment wouldn’t qualify as a farmstall seeing as it calls itself a bakkerei (bakery), but Ou Meul is an essential stop off in the Overberg town of Riviersonderend, 162km from Cape Town on your way to the beautiful Garden Route (check out our itinerary here). Probably the most substantial pies of the three places featured here, Ou Meul got so popular, it even opened a string of other outlets from farmstalls to cafes in the hipster heart of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
Best pie: pepper steak. From the use of quality meat to the level of spicing, they just get it right.
If you are heading out on a whale watching, shark diving or Overberg wine tour (a few of the options worth checking out on this customizable itinerary), the first real padstal you hit heading into the Elgin Valley after you summit Sir Lowry’s Pass, is Peregrine. It’s an impressive place (some padstals are literally shacks held together with biltong and jars of jam), boasting a full service café, a super-stocked shopping area (complete with veggies and fresh meat so you can stock up for that weekend away), an impressive selection of wine, beer and cider (Elgin has a lot of apple orchards) and lastly, not one but two areas serving pies – one inside the main building and a pie-specific stand outside.
Best pie: while we know the Brackins fell for the curried mince, our favourite is the Springbok pie. A local gazelle, Springbok has a wonderfully rich, almost earthy flavor. Many places overcook their venison pies, but Peregrine nails it every time.
Just a few kilometres further into the Elgin Valley, is Houw Hoek Farmstall. As a motorist driving by, we always imagine Houw Hoek and Pergrine are involved in a friendly pie battle and maybe they are, but both places have fans who would never think of going to the other. Slightly more rustic and old school than Peregrine, Houw Hoek’s pies are top notch, so much so that they supply a bunch of other padstals around the Cape.
Best pie: it’s a draw between a classic chicken pie (free range) and Houw Hoek’s bobotie (traditional Cape Malay savoury mince) pie.
NOTE: when it comes to choosing between Houw Hoek and Peregrine, it really depends on how early it is (as in, are the pies ready and can you stuff one in your mouth?) and also what you have been up to that day (shark diving makes you hungry). They are so close to each other, flip a coin and choose one. You can’t really go wrong.