A quaint and very unusual new restaurant, called De Oude Bank Bakkerij, has opened in an alley off Church Street in Stellenbosch, and challenges conventional restaurant operations. It sells the most delicious artisanal breads baked on the property, by owner Fritz Schoon, who worked at Ile de Pain in Knysna for 18 months to learn from the best breadmaker, he says.
Fritz has Dutch roots stretching far back, and that is why he chose the Dutch name for his bakery and restaurant. It is an unusual space, and feels like a covered courtyard to a building which opens onto the Dorp Street Gallery and a crystal glass shop, the former on Church Street and the latter on Bird Street. The building previously was the offices of the District Bank. Individual square tables with very uncomfortable heavy metal chairs, as well as shared long wooden tables with benches, fill the space. One wall looks like a cosy lounge, with shelves filled with books.
As one enters, one sees the Lucas Jamon ham, from Prince Albert, hanging over the counter, with the freshly baked breads on display for sale behind it. It has a cosy ‘untidiness’, making it homely. It is also a deli, selling the breads, wines, coffee, jams and tapenades. The deli counter, and place to pay, is unusual, in being a piece of wood on top of stacked logs.
Fritz is cute, with beautiful eyes, a young entrepreneur who seems to be in his baking element in the shop. He is so hands-on that his apron is full of flour dust. He is so proud of what he is doing that he has put up photographs of all his suppliers. He has taken special care to source wines and other supplies from suppliers who are small and artisanal too. His wines come from mainly unfamiliar wine estates such as Berry Box, Noble Savage, Rainbow’s End, Bartinney, Marklew, Topaz, and Clouds, all from Stellenbosch, and his coffee comes from the Conti micro-roastery in Kuilsriver. Beer on tap comes from Birkenhead in Stanford, at R20 for 330ml and R55 for 900ml. The wine-by-the-glass cost ranges from R20 – R40, and R60 – R190 per bottle.
Fritz comes from Kempton Park, studied quantity surveying, and worked on a building site, supplying food to the construction workers on the sites he worked at. He enjoyed artisanal baking, and therefore decided to train at Ile de Pain in Knysna, regarding Markus Farbinger one of the best artisanal bakers. He also uses stoneground flour and allows the natural fermentation of his dough to make and bake his breads, just as Ile de Pain does. The breads made at the De Oude Bank Bakkerij are French Ciabatta, Baguette, Sourdough, Dark Rye Sourdough, as well as salted seed and rustic olive sticks.
What is even more unusual about the restaurant is that the menu is the cheapest possible to produce – a handwritten photocopied menu that itemises every item one may wish to order, on the principle that one only pays for what one gets. Everything is priced, and the customers at each table fill in the quantity per item they wish to order, minimising order errors. I would normally have been critical of the menu, but it is such a surprise, and in keeping with the character of the restaurant, that Fritz can get away with it – it must be the little hearts that are drawn on the menu! He has written the following on the menu, to explain his restaurant philosophy: “Pain de vie is the bread of life. This is what I hope to create here. The opportunity to break bread with friends and family. I believe that this is what fuel (sic) our daily existence, our life purpose. Sit. Talk. Laugh. Debate… and eat more BREAD!” I love it!
Some of the “Condiments” one can order with 2 slices of bread, costing R5 – 7 for two, are farm butter (R4), schmaltz (R6), mustard glaze (R5), olive tapenade (R6), roasted black olives (R10), and a most delicious shitake mushroom pesto (R8). Jams cost R5, and include olive marmalade, “nastergal jam”, rasberry (sic) jam, and bluegum honey (R6). Cheese brands are specified, Ganzvlei matured cheddar costs R10, Forest Hill brie R8, and Witzenberger Kimilili R8. On the meat side, Coppa ham costs R8, as does Smoked Pork, Beef salami and Black Forrest (sic) Ham. Namib beef biltong is R10, and Lucas Jamon costs R30.
I ordered the ‘creamy scrambled eggs with bacon on sourdough toast’ at a mere R 25, the yellowest egg dish I have ever eaten – these must be specially sourced free-range eggs for sure. Gourmet sandwiches can also be ordered, at R25 – R30, depending on the topping. A slice of Butterkuchen costs R12. Organic teas are offered at R10 and less, and a cappuccino costs R14. Six coffee styles are offered. My cappuccino was brought to the table in a wooden cup, on a wooden saucer, with a long wood handle spoon, which was far too long for the saucer, but just added to the natural wood feel of the restaurant. The bread is served on wooden boards, with wood-handle cutlery – the knives are uncomfortable to use. We saw three patrons share a wooden tray filled with a selection of bread slices and lots of little portions on the “Condiments” list, looking like a delicious tapas feast.
I loved the differentness of De Oude Bank Bakkerij, and loved the way Fritz has turned many restaurant conventions on their head, by creating a special and unusual, yet simple, restaurant. I am definitely going back.
De Oude Bank Bakkerij, 7 Church Street, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 883-2187 (phone not always answered). No website. On Facebook. Twitter: @OudeBankBakery Open Tuesday – Friday 8h00 – 15h00, Saturdays from 9h00 – 15h00, and Sundays from 9h00 – 13h00. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings pizza, beer and wine are served from 18h30 – 22h00. On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage