A gem hidden in the hills

The Gardens at the Macnut Farm in Assagay.

The Gardens at the Macnut Farm in Assagay.

Published Apr 21, 2024


Macnut Farm

Where: 13 Lello Rd, Assagay

Open: Daily

Call: 031 765 2572

“Here, have some more crackling,” our host Hannah Paine walks around the restaurant offering customers, even those who haven’t ordered the pork belly. She knows good crackling is always a hit.

And it’s good.

It also speaks to Paine’s natural generosity which fills this beautiful venue on the banks of the Umhlatuzana River.

I’m with the Glass Guy and his family having Sunday lunch at the Macnut Farm, which hosts a Sunday organic produce market. It’s also a wedding venue, guest lodge and has an art gallery.

A complimentary vichyssoise for starters.

In the gardens is what is reputed to be the smallest chapel in the Southern hemisphere, a quaint little wood building that probably seats eight: presumably your guests all peer in from outside. They’d have to, otherwise there would be no aisle to walk down. I suspect couples are married at the entrance to the chapel with guests sitting on the lawns and inside is used to sign the register. It’s a romantic setting.

We peruse the market and I’m delighted to buy new potatoes “dug up that morning” and green beans “picked that morning” for only R30. There are breads and fresh baking, delectable sweet treats and pickles and jams. I have a bottle of granadilla cordial, fresh from the vine, under one arm, and then there’s the candied jalapenos. I was intrigued. These turned out to be brilliant with a strong cheese, a mature cheddar for example. Just on toast.

A cheesy veg lasagne with a side salad.

As we head for the restaurant, the neighbours arrive on horseback. Paine has a couple of carrots at the ready.

The restaurant is a series of terraces built overlooking the river. It’s here that wedding receptions would be held. The upper terrace has its wedding drapes and chandeliers all in place. Lit up at night it would be fairyland stuff. There’s a pub and dance floor. We’re soon on the lower terrace admiring the river and the antelope that come to drink from it.

Pork belly with mash and gravy and crackling with apple and mustard sauces.

On a warm day we have a cold beer in hand, at prices Durban had forgotten years ago. Drinks here are exceptionally reasonable.

Lunch is simple. Sometimes it's served as a buffet, sometimes it’s plated. It’s all Paine’s home cooking. Today there’s a choice of oxtail, pork belly (yes, the crackling), chicken and prawn curry or veg lasagne. All meals are priced at R145.

It also comes with a complimentary bowl of soup, a vichyssoise, or leek and potato soup. Here there’s a good flavour of the leeks and the soup is better for still having some texture, the ingredients not ground to an absolute purée. Thumbs up.

Oxtail with mashed potato and carrots.

The Glass Guy goes for the oxtail which has lovely flavours and is a generous portion with plenty of mashed potato. Patricia tries the veg lasagne which she enjoys. It comes with a garden salad. Jordan and I relish our pork belly which is meltingly soft, covered in a good gravy. It comes with mashed potato and coleslaw. There are also two little bowls of apple sauce and mustard sauce. And that crackling. I relished the extra piece.

If there was a small criticism about the food it is that hot plates might keep it hotter for longer, but we all thoroughly enjoyed our meals.

Ducks in the garden of the Macnut Farm in Assagai.

After lunch we wandered through the art gallery. Paine is an accomplished artist herself with some of her own work on display. Patricia falls in love with one of her wild dog paintings that would soon be coming home with us.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had such an enjoyable and relaxing day out. If only one could have an afternoon nap in a hammock by the river.

Food: 3 ½

Service: 3 ½

Ambience: 4 ½

The Bill: R771 for four including drinks

Independent on Saturday