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Look out Western Cape, KZN Midlands on a roll

Farm stall winners

There's a lot to look at - and buy - at Taste Buds Farm Stall in the Dargle.

Farms stalls, roadside shops, fresh produce specialty stores … who doesn’t find it hard to resist burning through spare cash (or not so spare) when visiting one of these?

And the KZN Midlands is rapidly becoming a mecca for the best quality fresh produce, specialty food, leather and craft items, artwork and design – even more so than when the Meander was established decades ago.

The last year, and the series of Covid-19 enforced lockdowns, has spurred on many people to try their hands at small businesses, as some have found themselves out of a job or with other business ventures struggling due to the regulations and lack of available cash among consumers. For some it was the kick in the butt they needed to follow their dream, for others access to their traditional markets had been diminished.

Entrepreneurial

In the past year in the Midlands, a number of quality establishments have popped up; some by new entrepreneurs, others inspired to sell the foods they were producing already, but turning them into a marketable product sold from a fixed venue. Some restaurants have also set up their venues as hubs from which to sell locally produced food items. This makes sense, as they can broaden their revenue stream while offering another venue for local producers to sell from.

Some of the better “new” ventures we’ve poked our noses into recently include:

N2 (squared) Bakery and coffee shop in Lidgetton.

N2 Bakery (N-squared) is a three months old venture near Lidgetton with a growing reputation for its bakes – cakes, pizza bases, fresh bread rolls, fresh and frozen breads and so on. It’s also a lovely spot to catch a break on the Meander while sipping a coffee under a canopy of trees. We tried and tested their pizza bases – which get a big thumbs up.

Funky hippo at the entrance to Taste Buds Farm Stall.

Taste Buds Farm Stall is housed in a building now shared with Post Postino restaurant about 4km up the Dargle road, and stocks a range of products mostly made in the Dargle. From artisan bread to meat products, dairy, jams and relishes, home made pastas, to ice cream and organic veggies, there’s a lot to see here. It’s been going for a year now and is a strong supporter of local farmers, crafters and food producers.

VT Coffee Cafe … order a coffee, head upstairs and watch them drive by.

Besides the great coffee, VT Coffee Café has all kinds of interesting treats, including CBD products, on sale. One of my favourite aspects of this venue is parking off on the “smoking area” deck one floor up, with its aerial view of the R103 and fields beyond the railway tracks on the other side. Properly “rustig”. And, if you’re feeling flush, why not pop in and see the arts and Nguni hides next door?

The Railhouse, opposite Granny Mouse in Balgowan area, has proved a popular stopping point on the Meander since opening during the past year. In addition to meals, snacks, coffee and other hot drinks, there’s also a shop attached to the coffee shop which sells fine, hand-crafted woodworking items, which is well worth a look. Many of the woodworkers showcased are locals.

Other honourable mentions include the “German bakery” at Millgate in Balgowan, The Lemon Tree coffee shop in Underberg and Farm Friends stall at Berg Air Lifestyle Centre in the central Berg.

Now read: Back to school – try these delicious, healthy treats

Seems there’s competition in terms of who provides the best pizza bases in the Midlands. File picture: Jordan Nix/Unsplash

*In Nottingham Road we also enjoy popping in to District 103 or Flamme Rouge Cycle Café for the interesting food and goodies they have on their shelves. District 103’s pizza bases, by the way, also get a thumbs up.

These venues add their colour, crafts and delicious foods to longstanding quality offerings such as Linga Lapa, the Indezi River Creamery shop, Dovehouse Organics, La Petite France, the Rotunda at Cedara and the regular farmers markets (such as Karkloof and Earth Route). In a way, the farmers markets are the ultimate farm stalls, with scores of excellent vendors all offering food, drinks or products made in the KZN Midlands.

Whereas the Western Cape used to boast about being the undisputed champion of roadside farmstalls, the KZN Midlands is rapidly revving its way up to the top of the pile. This is a trend that’s likely to develop further, as people spend more time at home, in better stocked kitchens, cooking, creating, storing and preserving.

*If you think we’ve left your impressive venue out, drop a comment in the comments field below, or send us a mail: meanderchronicle@gmail.com

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