REVIEW: Heavenly helpings at Mogg’s Country Cookhouse

dsc_0002.jpg There are few things as satisfying as revisiting a restaurant that you remember fondly from years before and finding that the current experience lives up to the memory. A table for five at Mogg’s Country Cookhouse in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley during a January holiday weekend didn’t disappoint. The venue is stuck in a country time warp, complete with a dining room ceiling of pine cones and dated bric a brac. It’s the remote location, valley vistas from the rustic outdoor tables, and the wholesome flavours that gives this spot its specialness.

As has been the case for a while, a small selection of starters, mains and desserts are carted around the restaurant for viewing on a chalkboard. Julia cooks while mother Jenny serves and hosts in the front. In the old days this venue was BYO. Now diners pay small mark-ups on a valley-focused list or a corkage charge. dsc_0005.jpg The wine selection is sensible but somewhat uncreative considering the talented winery neighbours. We drank Beaumont’s uncomplicated blend labelled as Raoul’s White 2012 (R80), which could’ve been better chilled. And by the time we’d splashed out on Creation Syrah Grenache 2011 (R195) with the main course, we realised the chunky glasses didn’t help. But that’s part of the charm of Mogg’s. It’s country food in a country environment, with jugs of homemade lemonade on the menu and a plate of reassuring vegetables on offer at an extra R30. In short, delicious dining favouring a luddite more than a city slicker.

Some highlights include starters such as Gruyere cheese soufflé (while small, it had a lovely salty-Parmesan tanginess) with blended watercress sauce, perky bacon and rocket tossed in a sweet vinaigrette (R65). dsc_0008.jpg A beetroot fritter was unusual, paired with avo, rocket and a creamy wasabi drizzle, topped with a swirl of smoked salmon (R60). The calamari salad (R65) with seeds, homegrown herbs and greens from the property’s veggie garden and a not-so-gentle chilli vinaigrette with Thai or Vietnamese leanings, was declared a must-have for any Asian fans. Main course options were a little more limited in scope, but tasty enough. The duck pie (R 90) was comforting under a round puff crust with a chestnut crumble for crunch, the mild tamarind-dosed seafood curry (R110) vibrantly presented with a papadum and Asian rice.

dsc_0008.jpg We tried desserts too, three tasty scoops of vanilla ice cream (R45) probably still from that popular housewife’s recipe made with condensed milk in home freezers two decades ago, where you’ll find crystals at the end. A phyllo pastry basket of summer berries (R48) had fans, partnering a sweetly-sourish white chocolate sauce.

Child friendly? Very. A menu with tasty calamari strips and pasta kiddies’ options combine with a playground, tractor tires of sand, a chicken hatch (with a hen and cute chicks in tow) and unlimited space to run around.

MOGG’S COUNTRY COOKHOUSE, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Hermanus, Tel 028 312 4321 Mogg’s. Check opening times.