For a meaty pitstop on your next road trip, head to this Karoo restaudeli
Jackie May enjoys pigging out at The Real Food Company in Price Albert
In a town where curried brawn is served in church halls, it should come as no surprise to find a pig's carcass on a shop counter.
When we met Jeremy Freemantle at his restaurant, The Real Food Company, while nosing about Prince Albert in the Great Karoo, he was leaning against an animal's cold flesh while it lay on its back, cleanly skinned.
Freemantle, who opened his eatery in 2015, told us he was hosting a charcuterie course that weekend.
Richard Bosman, a cured-meats expert and popular exhibitor at food festivals, travels to the Karoo a couple of times a year to offer courses to people who come from all over the country.
We spotted the meaty goods in a display fridge from the previous course and immediately booked a table for the evening.
During summer Freemantle runs a tapas bar in the open air, but when it's cold he serves meals in the pretty deli behind the outdoor bar. It's a small restaurant: six to eight wooden tables covered in white table cloths, shelves laden with recipe books and bottles of spices, a deli fridge filled with cured meats and paintings and photographic portraits on the walls.
Dinner that evening was a seven-course set menu. On other nights there's a tapas selection. The main dish, 24-hour roasted pork shoulder, and a beetroot and horta salad were put on a counter for self-service. The other orders were brought to the table.
First up were two soups, a rich creamy zucchini and broccoli soup and a traditional Vietnamese broth, which had a clean sharpness to it, clearing the way for what followed.
Densely packed roasted vegetables were served alongside a delicious Japanese-style beef tartare. It's not often I trust raw meat enough to eat it. But here in the Great Karoo I was confident that Freemantle would serve only the best quality meat. He says that his chicken is free-range and none of his animals have been fed hormones or antibiotics.
The main course, the roasted pork, was soft, tender and pulled easily apart. Of course we pigged out on the crackling.
Pudding was a poached apple with clementine jus served with a dollop of the best cream in the country from Gay's Guernsey Dairy.
If Freemantle worked in Cape Town, I'd be a regular. But since he is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from here and about a 10-hour drive from Joburg, I'll have to plan more trips exploring the Karoo. I highly recommend you do too.
Vibe: Country chic. It has a warm, friendly atmosphere and the company is polite.
Price: At R200 for an excellent seven-course set menu, it's reasonably priced.
What to wear: Don't wear your dung- or mud-spattered boots. Jeans and a clean shirt will do just fine.
People who'll like it: We spotted local farmers and weekend trippers.
Hot tip: Book. And unless you're a vegetarian, don't be afraid of the raw meat.
Visit: The Real Food Company is opposite the Swartberg Hotel, Church Street, Prince Albert. Call 082-319-7031 or e-mail email@example.com