Ile de Pan – a Knysna Epidemic

29 Feb

Arriving in Knysna on a quiet Tuesday morning and driving over the bridge to Thesen Island we wondered where all the people were. It looked like a bit of a ghost town to be honest. We wandered around for a while thinking that there had been some sort of viral epidemic that had claimed the lives of all the inhabitants overnight.

Then we spotted Ile de Pain, our main reason for visiting Knysna. It was packed with people eating at the wooden tables or queueing to buy the fabulous bread and cakes. It was like the whole of the town and a fair few tourists were sharing in the joy that the the Ile de Pain experience brings.

We had reservations for lunch and it was only 11 am. You have no idea how much I wish we had booked for breakfast too. I had to get a blow dry just to waste some time before lunch. We also had a look around a new boutique hotel called The Turbine which is a converted wood fired electricity power station. Its industrial past combines with chic comfortable design pieces to create a contemporary space with a relaxed vibe.

But back to the food. We arrived at Ile de Pain hungry and excited. For lunch the vegetarian choices are excellent. I went for the Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes with tomato salsa, tzatziki and fruit chutney. The Washer Up ordered the Halloumi Bruschetta with rocket and a lemon caper vinaigrette. Other options that looked equally good were the Wild Mushroom Tart with roast tomatoes, leeks and a shitake mushroom pesto or The IDP Pissaldiere, a thin crust french style pizza topped with caramelised onions, mozzarella, olives and rocket.

Both dishes were delicious. The squash & chickpeas cakes were light and spiced with cinnamon. Too often any cakes made with pureed chickpeas can be dense and heavy. The bruschetta was amazing – I can see why their Companio bread is so popular. It’s chewy, crunchy, airy and has fantastic flavour. The dressing was zingy to contrast with the salty Halloumi and the heirloom tomatoes and peppadew peppers were sweet and spicy.

Stuffed as we were from cleaning our plates, I was still powerless to resist when they brought around a two tiered cake stand filled with all the different cakes and pastries they had on offer that day. The difficult thing was which ones to choose.

We made our decisions though. A sticky, chewy walnut slice and a peach and blueberry cake.

Both stunning…..

They very cleverly put the lunch and breakfast menus on the same sheet so you get to see both. I couldn’t think of leaving Knysna without trying out the breakfasts too so we decided to come back the following day.

I ordered the Green Envy, scrambled eggs, basil pesto, rocket and parmesan on wholegrain toast which was lovely but The Washer Up made me green with envy when his choice arrived at the table. “Como” is delicious steamed vegetables, mushrooms, poached egg and tomato shitake pesto. It has a slightly Asian flavour from the vegetables and is the best breakfast dish I have ever eaten. Yes I had to help him eat it, for research purposes only, you understand. The poached egg was perfect too.

We were meeting up with my Dad on the next leg of our tour later that day so I thought it was only right that we buy some of the beautiful tarts as a gift. He has never been to Ile de Pain and loves a little cake with his afternoon coffee. We chose the Portuguese custard tarts Pasteis de Nata (pictured above) which also happen to be The Washer Up’s favourite, a creme brulee tart…..

And a mini lemon and passion fruit meringue pie……

They were all beautiful, even though everything got a little bit squashed in the box on the back seat of the car when my suitcase slid along the seat on a sharp bend. We saved them though. It was hard to chose a winner, but I think the custard tarts just made it. Not eggy or bouncy at all, just creamy and ever so slightly burnt, which is a good thing. And that pastry…..

Ile de Pain is a must on any trip to Knysna or Plettenberg Bay. They only open for breakfast and lunch and you will want to try both. It gets very busy especially at weekends so make sure you book. You really wouldn’t want to miss out believe me, this place is special and so is the food.

Oh and Liezie very kindly gave me the recipe for the Butternut & Chickpea Cakes so I will be making them soon. Watch this space…


13 Responses to “Ile de Pan – a Knysna Epidemic”

  1. Carol Campbell February 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    can’t wait for the recipe!lovely photos as ever.

  2. Pat Ward February 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    I have this craving for something sweet this afternoon, and have now looked at your amazing photos of those amazing cakes……… did not help me at all!!!

  3. Sharyn Dimmick February 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    What beautiful food and surroundings. Sounds like my kind of place. Lovely photos, too.

  4. Tony Ward February 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    I will get to Ile de pan, if it means me walking !!! Those devine cakes/ pastries are worth the effort guapa.
    The most amazing content for a breakfast hey ?
    Well done on your first feature for Elle magazine, the first of many I’m sure. Soooooo glad your trip home was O.K. we miss you and so do the Cap Classique Rose’ producers !! xx

  5. Chica Andaluza February 29, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Elle magazine?! Wow! Saw what your dad wrote above. Many congratulations, how very exciting. Glad to see the trip is still going so well, I´m so happy for you.

  6. Mandy Vellacott February 29, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Gosh – so pleased you said you had the recipe for the Butternut and Chickpea cakes – saves me a zillion goes trying to make it up and failing dismally. Cant wait for that recipe (and any others you managed to get!). x

  7. Rhian sellers February 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Wow looks amazing! I feel hungry and I’ve just had my dinner!! Keep them coming xx

  8. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide March 1, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Um, wow to everything above!

  9. kellie @ foodtoglow March 1, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Pasteis de Nate are my favourite too. I have occasionally made them, but they are far too dangerous to keep in the house! And as for the Como breakfast, that sounds absolutely fantastic, and so inspired – tomato-shiitake pesto. Must have a go at trying to make something like that. Wondering if sun-dried tomatoes used in it.South Africa sounds like a place it is worth getting the jags for.

  10. Christine March 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    I loooove Ile de Pan and always come back to Joburg with a huge loaf of bread. We need an Ile de Pan here, please! Looking forward to that recipe.


  1. Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes with salsa, raita and red onion maramalade « Cook Eat Live Vegetarian - March 3, 2012

    […] It’s so good to be back in the kitchen after three weeks of eating out every day. The first recipe inspired by our trip to South Africa is for these beautiful Butternut and Chickpea Cakes that we enjoyed at Ile de Pain in Knysna. You can read my review of this fantastic place here. […]

  2. Asian Mushrooms and Pak Choy in a Crispy Noodle Basket with a Poached Egg « Cook Eat Live Vegetarian - March 6, 2012

    […] chestnuts because I didn’t have any. The poached egg and watercress were inspired by the gorgeous breakfast we had at Ile de Pain in Knysna. So this is really a hybrid of two of the best dishes we ate while […]

  3. Brunch recipe: Kitima’s mushroom and egg basket - Food | Getaway Travel Blog - March 25, 2012

    […] of water chestnuts because I didn’t have any. The poached egg and watercress were inspired by the gorgeous breakfast we had at Ile de Pain in Knysna. So this is really a hybrid of two of the best dishes we ate while […]

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