It’s easy for anyone from the biggest cities in SA to want to dismiss the Free State as being “the place we drive through to get anywhere else”, but the province has a lot to offer, not only for travellers but also for foodies.
There is a wealth of excellent restaurants in the Free State and not just in Bloemfontein either. Here is a list of some of our favourite places to eat – particularly if you are on a countrywide road trip and need a comforting meal.
Margaritas – Bloemfontein
If there is one thing the people of Bloemfontein clearly love when it comes to eating, it’s a place where they can get seafood and steaks at the same time. The city is awash with this sort of establishment, and Margaritas is the best of them.
Despite being in the middle of the country the fish at Margaritas is as fresh as if you were eating it in Cape Town. The greek owned establishment also offers traditional South African steak house meals with excellent ribs and steaks a big attraction for the locals.
Clarens Brewery – Clarens
An open, high-ceilinged, bar-style restaurant with a large outdoor area located on the town square in Clarens, this is a must for fans of beer or simple, hearty meals. The beers are excellent, and a testament to the years of hard work that has gone into perfecting them.
Despite the fact that it always seems packed, the staff remain efficient and friendly, and the atmosphere relaxed. The food itself is basically upmarket pub grub with offerings that include a delicious sausage basket, or go for the platter for two, which includes, pickles, condiments, sausages, cheeses, and bread – the perfect accompaniment to the beer.
Die Plaasstoep – Fouriesburg
This is where you come if you are on a long drive and looking for hearty home-style cooking. Die Plaasstoep restaurant is particularly memorable in appearance, and no one is plating the food as they would in a fancier establishment, but offering a children’s play area, a fireplace and a friendly atmosphere, it is ideal for a family.
The food itself is traditional cooking at its best the restaurant offers all sorts of SA classics from Bobotie to Oxtail. Particularly hungry? Try the “Boeppens burger”, you won’t regret it. The real secret, however, is their buffet breakfast, which is laden down with options.
Nell’s – Zastron
The biggest surprise about Nell’s is just how good it is being so far away from everything. With a simple menu on a chalkboard, the food is always delicious from the steaks to the spring rolls. The owners make the venue feel like home, and the staff are quick, friendly and efficient.
The food is all cooked with passion and is surprisingly reasonably priced for such good quality. Try the choc-chip cookies, they are a hidden gem.
O’s – Parys
Right on the border with Gauteng, O’s restaurant is situated right on the Vaal River. Styled as a cocktail bar, it’s really not the drinks that make this place one of our favourites, but rather the effort that the staff and owners go to with everything. There is nothing they won’t try to do, and this shines through in the welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
With generous portions, all the food, from the oxtail to the pizzas, is solid, quality examples and the perfect accompaniment to a drink under the trees.
Addo’s – Clarens
Usually, when a restaurant tries to do it all, they are forced to sacrifice some of the quality. This is not the case with Addo’s. Mussels, pork belly, racks of lamb, oxtail, gnocchi and tempura prawns are all on the menu at this top-notch establishment and all of them are delicious. The food is prepared with the freshest ingredients, lifting classic meals to the next level.
The staff are friendly, with Chef Addo himself sure to make a stop by the table to ensure everything is as you like it. The ambience laid back, without being inefficient, in this no-frills and simple place that simply aims to deliver good wholesome food, and succeeds.