We meet the chefs and kitchen staff of some of our favourite local restaurants.
La Lampara Italian restaurant is situated in Balgowan on Farm Boschfontein, one of the original settler farms in the region. A mere 120 minutes’ drive from Durban and you are transported to Italy! It was the beautiful Tuscan feel that made Pino and Caroline Canderle fall in love with the property in 1996. The farm was bought with the purpose of opening up a relaxed, trattoria-style eatery where all would be welcome. Pino, a self-taught chef, started La Lampara in Norwood in 1977 and is no stranger to restaurant life, so when they started up in the Midlands it was like La Lampara was born again and many of their original Johannesburg customers still come and visit the country version.
Like all Italian families, cooking is pivotal to family life and Pino spent many happy hours making pasta with his mother and sister. Nona Maria was a huge influence in the Northern Italian regional cooking style and love of delicious food that has formed the basis of the menu at La Lampara. All Italians are really chefs at heart, to a lesser or greater degree.
“We change our menu weekly and try to stay true to many regional Italian dishes, using seasonal, wholesome produce where possible. You might find crab soup, fresh porcini mushrooms and quail one week, and the next we’ll have sweet potato gnocchi, pork belly and veal limone,” explains Caroline.
A wood-fired pizza oven greets you as you enter the doors of La Lampara and homemade traditional pizza is always available and a firm favourite among many of the loyal customers. Choose a cosy table by the fireplace on a cold, misty Midlands day or a seat on the herb fringed terrace with an Aperol Spritz for a balmy summer, lazy lunch.
Wine is selected by Caroline for the small but well-balanced wine display. “I love tasting and pairing wines with food,” she explains. There is always an interesting selection of both Cape and Italian wines. It is nice not to be restricted to a wine list and it allows for a lovely spontaneous approach to both wine and food.
La Lampara is a true family business – most of their wonderful staff has been with them from the day they opened, from Janet, who explains the menu so famously, and her wonderful team of waitresses to Miriam, Luwazi and Lindiwe in the kitchen. This La Lampara team has worked together with Pino and Caroline to create their special restaurant. “We have recently started a large vegetable garden where we are growing lettuce and herbs; this is a great project and a work in progress for us all. We love the Midlands and country life and plan on being here for a long time to come.”
Open Thursday to Sunday and on public holidays
Please call or text for a reservation – 082 416 0195
The Pantry on 103
Tam Quin and Caro Carlisle (partners) are old childhood friends who share a love for all things delicious. They are foodies at heart and this is what inspired them to create a food haven, or deli, of all things local (where possible). The Pantry on 103 is different from other grocery stores in what they offer, which is wholesome, delicious and quality food items. “We feel we’ve carefully selected the best ranges to offer our customers a one-stop shop,” the duo explains.
The Pantry on 103 has an amazing team who keep the place operating and running smoothly. Tats is the manager and has been with them from the start (two years ago). Together with Lucia, Angel and Precious, they all make up the enthusiastic, helpful and very friendly team who know all of their customers well and are able to offer a personalised service. “Our most popular items that customers drive far and wide to get are our homemade pies and quiches, crunchies and cinnabons all made by Precious – and our double yolk eggs!”
Pantry Coffee Bar has been a wonderful new addition and complements their offerings beautifully. The coffee bar has a happy, bustling vibe in the mornings as farmers and locals meet for their morning cuppa, and the weekends are filled up with runners and cyclists passing by for refreshments as well as families out and about at Piggly Wiggly. Pop in and try one of their delicious items or purchase something for home or as a Christmas gift.
Call: 082 804 7949
Leandra Carcary bought Artisan Pizzeria on 1 October 2018. It was already known as a pizza restaurant but she wanted to create an authentic Italian restaurant. She started by giving it a good makeover, changing the whole look of the restaurant and introducing a new menu, using recipes from her childhood. “Growing up in our family restaurant, my dad and my Nonna were known for their dishes with true Italian flavours and I have loved bringing my family heritage with me in every aspect of our business,” she says. Artisan has an incredible vibe, from the warm, inviting interior to delicious food.
Leandra has always loved the hospitality industry. “I grew up in the restaurant trade – my father owned a restaurant in town called The Spotted Dog. Even though it was always my dream to have my own restaurant, I do not regret becoming a music teacher like my mom, as I loved teaching and seeing children reach their potential and I loved being involved in school productions, etc.,” she tells us. A couple of years back, she knew she had to make a difficult decision, as the desire to own her own restaurant was still there. “I knew that I had to take a leap of faith and follow my dream. I am a single mom and I wanted to show my girls that you have to go for your dream, you have to at least try.” She heard a rumour that Artisan was for sale, and the rest is history.
Artisan offers a wide variety of dishes on their menu. “I try to run specials often alongside our menu and change or update the menu at least once, if not twice, a year. Inspiration for the menu can be drawn from anything.” Serving seasonal produce plays a big role in the menu, and nostalgia plays a big part in Leandra’s inspiration behind her dishes. The team at Artisan is also a huge part of the restaurant’s success. They consider themselves a family and laugh, work and cry together. In their kitchen, they believe in up-skilling, and everyone in the team can work in every section of the kitchen which is useful when it gets busy.
When it comes to food, the Rustica Pizza with chicken, bacon, feta, sun-dried tomatoes and avo is a firm favourite, but there are so many delicious meals to choose from. For the next few months, Artisan will be growing their deli and gifting side. They are also opening a Mexican restaurant called Tribe right next door. “Our tagline at Artisan is “la Famiglia” (family) and an addition to our family is Tribe! So watch this space. We should be up and running by mid-November.”
Physical Address: Shop 11, Hilton Village Centre, Hilton Avenue, Hilton
Contact Number: 033 343 1095
The Upper Millstone
Set in the heart of Hilton, The Upper Millstone is an artisan bakery and espresso bar serving specialty coffees, sourdough bread and delicious hand-crafted pastries. Established in 2016 by two friends, Josh Pickering and Dreyer Van Huyssteen, the idea took shape in a vacant pizzeria, a building that they renovated and crafted the custom furniture for together. This hands-on attitude still shines through today, with both owners working behind the counter every day, serving world-class fare to their customers. Both owners moved from working in the climbing industry, but shared a dream of turning their passion of owning a bakery and espresso bar into a business. Starting this new venture has been challenging and yet it is extremely exciting to see the small business grow and flourish with amazing support from the local community.
The day starts at 3 a.m., when the frantic preparations begin to have croissants and pastries ready for opening at 6:30 a.m. This is quickly followed by their ever-changing variety of sourdough breads, sandwiches and other baked goods that keep their amazing bakery staff constantly busy. Their speciality coffee is sourced direct from the farmer; sustainably grown, single origin beans that are hand-roasted and this quality is evident in every cup.
The Upper Millstone is entering an exciting new phase, with extra kitchen space and upgraded equipment opening up possibilities to expand and improve their products even further. This fantastic local spot gives every person through its doors the chance to have their own unique experience with well-crafted coffee and a freshly baked croissant or warm bread just out the oven. For many locals it is a firm favourite, and for visitors it is a must-visit!
Call: 033 343 1344