In a beautiful old railway station, beside a quiet lagoon in the tranquil town of Great Brak River, Transkaroo dishes up plates full of passionately created South African cuisine. The vaulted wooden ceilings, delicate ostrich egg chandeliers, and rustic wooden benches that are perfect for al fresco dining on a warm evening or sunny afternoon, all serve to create a warm, relaxing atmosphere that feels a little more special than the norm when you enter. Just like the song* says, Transkaroo brings you home. If home is where mom spent hours cooking lamb neck till you could eat it with a spoon, skilpadjies were made from scratch and served with onion marmalade and pies didn’t come from the 24 hour garage shop. Chef Stefan Jamneck is serious about making everything from scratch (bar, by his own admission, “the ice cream in the Dom Pedro’s”) and his kitchen uses the freshest, local, seasonal ingredients to influence the dynamic menu. But it’s not only the menu that changes regularly to keep up with what’s good right now. The wine list comprises a trip to the wine racks in a corner of the restaurant, where the selection on offer changes as new favourites are showcased.
Dishes are unpretentious, but exceptional. As the menu changes so often, it’s difficult to recommend a dish. But no matter what you choose, you can be sure that it will be rich, packed with in-your-face flavours, and not found in any diet recipe books. It’s best not to set your heart on a firm favourite, but should you come across them, to start, the snails vol au vents (okay, I realise that sounds totally pretentious, but if escargots vol au vents could be unpretentious, this would be them) blanketed in the silkiest, creamiest blue cheese sauce to ever enrobe a molusc is an absolute must. We also had the curried coconut fish cakes which packed a real Cape Malay flavour punch and the balsamic onion marmalade and Camembert tart (the marmalade on the latter, while beautifully sweet and gorgeously jammy, overpowered the delicate Camembert to my taste though). As a main, the lamb neck – Transkaroo’s signature dish – is highly recommended. The lamb is cooked for 4 hours and would fall off the bone if you shook your plate too vigorously! For dessert, try the chocolate orange fondant. (What a ridiculous sentence. Like anyone has to tell you try a chocolate orange fondant.) That is, of course, if you can look past the lavender crème brûlée or pecan pie with homemade coffee ice cream. Starters range from R30 to R50 and mains from R85 to R190.
The service doesn’t feel like service. It feels more like a friend offering you another plate of food while you’re visiting them. The minute you walk in the door, everyone makes you feel like they’ve been waiting specially for you to arrive. That said, they won’t hover unnecessarily around you like your nosy Aunt Ida, but will keep your glass topped up so discreetly that you won’t be able to keep track of whether you’re over the limit yet. For a taste of the best traditional dishes South Africa has to offer, with a touch of something a little more special, Transkaroo is a great choice! And if you’re lucky, a train will roll past to add to the charm.
Website: transkaroo.wordpress.com (I think these guys are too busy making food to worry about an online presence!)
Address: 1 Morrison Road, Great Brak River, South Africa.
Telephone: +27 44 620 4163
Lunch: 12:00 – 14:30, Tuesday – Sunday
Dinner: 18:00 – 20:30, Monday – Saturday
*If you’re South African, I bet you’re still singing “Laat jou yster wiele rol“, huh? You’re welcome!