With perhaps one of the biggest range available in South Africa, Schoon de Companje is quite possibly the leader in terms of quality and offering within the artisanal and gourmet culinary space. Originally known as De Oude Bank Bakkerij, this warren of rooms which make up the various freshly baked bread, wine shop, ice cream shop, coffee roastery, bar, butchery and a section with fresh local products concessions is situated on one of those lovely and nostalgic oak tree lined streets in Stellenbosch on the corner of Bird and Church Street. It lends itself to the small town feeling that comes with owner/operator service and their complete offering.
You can’t help but develop a crush on the personable Fritz Schoon, who welcomes you for the first time as an old friend and with whom I got to know quite well while working on the Hayden Quinn South Africa TV series at his bakery, De Oude Bank Bakkerij. Soon after this I met his equally delightful wife, Chanelle (who runs her own artisan ice-cream shop in the SdC) and sister, Katryn Schoon (the boutique butchery at SdC). The beauty of the collective is the newly introduced wine shop (a joint venture between Fritz and best friend Henk Kotze) and in keeping with the current microbrewer trend, the Brasserij keeps to this on another level. On another note, Stellenbosch and Parkhurst favourite Craft does so well in their offering of a mind boggling selection as well. But I digress.
But back to the brunch. It was one of those typical Capetonian weekends that was beautifully sandwiched between two weeks of dreary rain and wind when we decided to escape and spend the weekend amongst the golden oaked boulevards of this demi-city. There we sat, curb side watching the young pretty things who study at the namesake university enjoying creamed scrambled eggs on sourdough with wild mushrooms and roast bone marrow on sourdough with confit onion and blue cheese cream accompanied with obligatory glasses of deliciously wooded chardonnay and MCC (which my weekend companion refilled frequently).
While sustainability is very big within the Schoon family, it’s good to know that all their eggs are from pasture reared hens at Spier so innovation and collaboration. For the CBC Craft Colab, which is pretty damn exciting the De Oude Bakkerij produces a bread mix, to which one last key ingredient is added: CBC Lager. Last but certainly not least, the careful handcrafting techniques employed in the artisanal bakery by some of the sexiest bakers in the land are reflected in the high-quality final products. What is the secret? Fritz produces only a small variety of breads from doughs which they blend (not mix like commercial, or other ‘artisan’, bakers) and bake in wood-fired oven based on the design of a 17th century Roman communal oven.
Sadly there are only a few good places to eat in this small town so we returned for lunch the next day which, for those inclined is filled with meaty dishes that offer a fresh take on the traditional Sunday lunch. Again I had the burger which is a definite winner (patties made by Nice to Meat Boutique Butcher) on Butter Buns with string fries and beef Frikkadel on sour dough with tomato smoor and basil cream. This time the wine was a little more liberal given the selection from Wynwinkeltjie, as the wine shop is known, with the option to buy wine by the bottle or the glass which is handy when you are wanting to experience it all. It is dominated by the Bartinney and Nobel Savage ranges though in support of the owners and to keep things interesting the Chenin Blanc, White Blend, Merlot and Syrah change every month which is a nod to seasonality and the changing flavour palette of the menu.
For those in the know, you can buy wines directly from their boutique wine shop; Het Wynwinkeltjie at retail prices and openly drink it at the table while enjoying the culinary delights. And in keeping with tradition, Het Wynwinkeltjie is divided into 6 sections representing the best wines of the 6 different regions of the Western Cape.
Schoon de Companje is in its entirety a cooperative in the European tradition which not only presents the best products at the best price without compromising on quality and freshness but also is a place that feels like home in terms of service and friendliness. Sadly they don’t take reservations but recognise the importance of giving preference to regulars who always reward them with repeat business and their cult-like devotion.