They’re on opposite ends of the country, one deep in the Mpumalanga bush, the other literally on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Hout Bay. Besides their jaw-dropping locations, they both have the same relaxed, approach to hospitality in common. The type of hospitality that makes you feel as though you’re arriving home. They also both make a mean braai. A very mean braai. We visited Tintswalo Safari Lodge and Tintswalo Atlantic to find out more about these two properties, and how they make the braai sing.
“I love a braai because there’s an awesome atmosphere and vibe that you get from standing next to the fire with friends or family, with the smell of great food cooking,” says Tintswalo Safari Lodge’s Chef Chrizette Janse van Rensburg. “We try to give each guests a braai experience while on their stay here, whether it’s a braai in the boma or braai in the bush, even a bush breakfast where all meals are prepared on the fire.”
A ‘braai experience’ it certainly is. The boma comes alive on braai nights, lit by lanterns and filled with the sizzling sound and smell of cooking on an open fire. There’s something magical about eating outside, and that magic is taken up a few notches when you realise that you’re deep in the Manyeleti Nature Reserve, surrounded by miles and miles of wilderness. Being in the middle of nowhere never looked so good; the night is filled with touches that elevate the experience above your average braai. There are beautiful house wines from Alvi’s Drift, a table perfectly set for three courses, warm service from front of house staff, and a blankie for your legs, should the night get a bit nippy. Guests are seated around one big table, which adds a sense of warmth and community to the occasion, although the Lodge only caters for small amounts of guests at a time, so the community never gets too unwieldy.
The soup is up first, with homemade bread served to each guest, but before that Chef Chrizette goes up to the tables and explains the menu for the night ahead, with a short history of the dishes. “I love the traditional flavours of South Africa and I love giving guests that experience,” says Chrizette. From her vantage point, back behind the big built-in braai, she creates a feast of chicken sosaties in a sweet curry marinade, kudu loin, marinated beforehand, and aged rump steak with just a twist of salt and pepper. On the side, guests can liberally douse their meat in either a chilli tomato sauce or a rich, truffled mushroom sauce. Small potjies, filled with creamy Parmesan samp and thyme roast vegetables, are brought to the table, for guests to pass around.
Unsurprisingly, the guests of Tintswalo Safari Lodge, who are mostly foreign, are blown away by the boma braai. “Everyone loves it!” says Chrizette. “Most guests request this option for their stay here at Tintswalo Safari Lodge, and their response to the evening is surprise and amazement.” Stuffed after a night of braai’d decadence, guests are escorted back to their rooms by the world’s friendliest security guards. As you walk, they sweep a torch back and forth along the raised walkway, a reminder that even though the service and food is world-class, you’re still in the middle of the bush, and this is lion country.
Tintswalo Atlantic might not have lions surrounding its property, but who needs lions when you get to wake up on the shoreline of Hout Bay? From the entrance on Chapman’s Peak Drive, you can’t spot the hotel, and it’s only as you zig zag your way down the hill that it starts to reveal itself. It has a relatively small footprint on the beach, but it packs one hell of a punch. The long deck is just a few metres away from the crashing waves of the Atlantic, and it’s here where dinner is served when the weather plays along, otherwise the dining room is warm and inviting. However, when you’re about to dig into a seafood braai of epic proportions, you really should be outside, as close to the waves as possible.
“Tintswalo Atlantic’s setting is quite unique; we’re situated on the ocean’s doorstep,” says Head Chef Jeantelle van Staden. “This plays a huge role in what guests crave and want to eat. Because of this, and the fact that it is part of our country’s heritage, we decided to incorporate a braai theme.”
To make the braai experience that much more special, oysters kick off the extravaganza. “Oysters are very popular as we’re right next to the waves so the smell of the ocean and taste of the oysters play with the guest’s sensory perception.” When it comes to the actual braai, “We only put the seafood on the braai once the guests arrive outside so the smell of the seafood lingers and creates a special atmosphere.”
Quite possibly the most opulent seafood braai around, the kitchen team pull out all the stops, and dinner is sent out on a platter so large that it almost doesn’t fit on the table. On the menu are Parmesan and herb crayfish, lemon-crusted linefish, butterflied prawns, baked mussels, buttered scallops and Malay crab curry, with roasted root vegetables and grilled bok choy keeping scurvy at bay. Sauces are creamy garlic herb, chilli butter and lemon beurre blanc, made for lathering over the perfectly-braai’d fish or dunking a prawn into.
Even though the surrounds are 5-star, with, again, excellent service from all front of house, delicious wines (this time from Warwick), you’re never intimidated or hesitant to just get stuck in. It’s a beautiful, messy experience, as any braai should be. I think that this is testament to the incredibly warm, unpretentious atmosphere that flows through both Tintswalo Atlantic and Safari Lodge. Even though both braais are far from average, they never lose their heart.