South Africa: Stirrings At Stirlings - New Ways in Nieu-Bethesda

analysis

Tony Jackman returns to one of the most remarkable and smallest of South African restaurants, in Nieu-Bethesda, while Bianca Coleman discovers herb queen Barbara Weitz's original cuisine for the first time.

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Nieu-Bethesda (writes Bianca Coleman) is not somewhere you end up by accident. With one dusty dirt road off the tar leading in and out in a wide circle around a whole lot of empty space, it's a place you go to on purpose. For all its small town charm there is a surprising number of guest houses and restaurants (seven, nine in high season), and there are stop streets which are merely formalities. Certainly for the guys galloping their horses bareback down the main road. Yes, that happened.

The most famous attraction is the Owl House, home of the late and troubled artist Helen Martins. It's all a bit odd; I thought it would sparkle more for some reason, but the multitude of concrete sculptures in the garden stand frozen in a march towards the east, their unseeing glass eyes dulled by time, while mermaids beckon silently, perched on the edge of empty ponds....

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