Home-Cooked Goodness At Twaalf In Stellenbosch
I have but dabbled in Afrikaans culture, and I’d be lying if I said I’m familiar with what it entails. Friends have tried to teach me the language time and time again, and while I can hold my own, my very strong German accent and inability to roll that ‘r’ has kept me from sustaining a comfortable level of conversation. Food-wise, I’ve come across aspects here and there, but as an inner city Cape Town girl, the Afrikaans culinary world is an almost entirely foreign concept. So, I was quite keen to check out Twaalf in Stellenbosch, a restaurant that places its focus on that with which I was (and largely still am) unfamiliar.
Twaalf is a cute little spot. Sabine and I would have had quite a hard time finding it, if we didn’t happen to stumble upon a waiter who was advertising the café just outside the square it finds itself in on Plein Street in the heart of Stellenbosch. It’s an unassuming place, sparsely decorated – but quite intriguingly so, and I fell in love with the wall of clocks. The menu, similarly, is small. But, for me, it is full of the weird and (sometimes) wonderful. Think koffie with condensed milk, Bobotie springrolls pamoenkoekies, kerrie vis, beef bunny chow, to name but a few.
Condensed Milk & Coffee
I firmly believe that condensed milk is the milk produced by cows in heaven. Yes, yes, I know it’s not true, but it should be. So I couldn’t resist trying the coffee with condensed milk (R25). Certainly I’d heard of this numerous times before, but have never had the chance to try it.
I received a giant mug of coffee with a shot of condensed milk on the side. Literally consumed by the love of the deathly sugary white stuff, I poured the whole shot into my coffee, stirred well, and began slurping. I did learn that I should have done it bit by bit – especially considering I don’t put sugar in my coffee – but who can contain themselves when it comes to condensed milk? It was a delightfully sweet experience, and while I’m not sure I’d go there again, I’m certainly glad to have ticked this off my bucket list. Sabine went for the standard cappuccino, though everything standard at Twaalf is actually an up-sized version of what you’d find anywhere else.
Afrikaans Foodie Choices
Making a food choice was a little harder. Even though I’m a foodie and I love trying new things, I still shy away from weird and strangely unfamiliar flavours. To be honest, though, I’m almost more tempted to try weird things when I’m not doing a review. But when I’m reviewing, it can be hard. I mean, how can I judge a place if I order something that’s way out there and I don’t like the taste? Then I’ll be judging a spot according to my ill-suited flavour profile, and not according to the culinary skill of the actual spot. I’ve had dishes such as bobotie and bunny chow on separate occasions before, and those definitely aren’t tastes I like exploring. So going for one of these options would have definitely not be a good choice for me.
So, with that, I thought it would be safer to stick to the ‘normal’ side of things, hoping for that Afrikaans twist that would make or break the dish for me. And so I decided to go for the Chicken Pie (R110), served with cinnamon-dusted pampoenkoekies (pumpkin fritters). Sabine took a similar approach, opting for the grilled Zamalek Fish, served with a side salad (R95).
With our ‘safe’ options chosen, it was now time to wait – wait to be disappointed, or wait to be impressed. Given that Twaalf was such a small unassuming spot, it could have gone either way. Though, retrospectively, that probably should have been cue enough to prepare us to be blown away. OMG. Both dishes were out of this world.
Fish and salad is pretty simple. It’s easy to do well, but it’s even easier to ruin. Sabine was presented with a perfect piece of fish and a gorgeously large salad with wonderful goodies. None of that ‘lettuce and two slices of cucumber’ thing that many restaurants present as their supposedly gourmet salad. This one was stuffed with beans, cucumbers, carrot twirls, baby tomatoes, and a bed of leaves and was full of crisp flavour and yumminess.
And my Chicken Pie. If my grandma had ever made chicken pie I could quite easily say ‘chicken pie the way grandma made it’. But I think that phrase literally just translates into ‘chicken pie the way it is meant to be’. The pie wasn’t your normal folded/stuffed pie though, as you’ll see from the picture. Instead, it was a crispy pie dough bowl, stuffed with chickeny goodness. I’m not a fan of eating the bowl your food comes in, as generally I find whatever the bowl is made of goes super soggy. Which in my mind equals super gross. This certainly wasn’t the case here, and the dough remained firm and crispy throughout, with the actual chicken filling delightfully tasty with each bite.
I have had Afrikaans-style pumpkin fritters before and it’s a flavour I actually quite enjoy, though I do see these more as a dessert than an accompaniment. I also treated them as such with this dish, but could have easily done without. Sure, they were delicious, but I was absolutely stuffed! The portion doesn’t look like much from the picture, but it was actually quite large and super filling. Exactly like good food should be.
I think often that’s what is missing at restaurants these days. Everything is super fancy with a dash of that and a blob of this (which I certainly love, of course, and I’d indulge in fine dining any day), but sometimes I crave that home-cooked meal away from home. Getting that quality and goodness of a home-cooked meal at a restaurant is so incredibly special. And the ladies at Twaalf do this so incredibly well.
It may be the perfect spot for the Stellenbosch student to venture to when missing home and craving that homey goodness. But it’s also the perfect place to visit for us townies who want to take a day trip out and not necessarily go all fancy at the wine estates. It’s a spot for all, a spot that caters to all! It doesn’t matter if you’re carbing out, going Banting, wanting healthy, or a hangover cure, Twaalf has got you covered. Even your vegan friend will be happy here, with a wide range of vegan options available. And, honestly, what more could anyone want?
Next time you’re in Stellenbosch – or if you live there, lucky fish – definitely check out Twaalf. They take the foreign, make it accessible, and open up your taste buds just a little for a whole new taste bud sensation! You’ll find Twaalf at 61 Plein Street in the Stellenbosch City Centre. They’re open Monday to Friday from 08:00 – 20:00 and Saturdays from 08:00 – 15:00. For more information, visit their website here or check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Article Date: May 2018
MISSED OUR LAST ARTICLE? IT’S A VEGAN CREAMY BEET SOUP RECIPE.