Birthdays are taken very seriously in the Strumpman household. Presents are usually opened at my parents’ house at the crack of dawn (even though my brother Dean and I are well into our 20s, and he has his own place), sweet treats are baked well into the night (Dean just got a box-full of my speciality Nutella choc chip cookies, reserved for my favourite peeps) and day trips in pursuit of a lazy, boozy lunch are planned meticulously and well in advance.
This past weekend was no exception. My dad and Dean celebrate their birthdays a week apart so decision-making fell on the boys. The boozy Sunday lunch destination of choice? Darling Brewery. And a top choice at that since we’d never been there before, burgers were on the menu and the town of Darling is an hour drive away, so my adventure-senses were tingling.
When Sunday rolled around, I got my comfy denims on in preparation for a longish car ride, and my cameras charged for photo opportunities a-plenty. Because a sneaky day trip to Darling isn’t all craft beer and burgers. It’s also spring flowers, artisan toffees, Frying Nemo and sweet potato chips worth fighting each other for.
Spring has sprung!
Spring time in South Africa is just around the corner, and fields of brightly coloured flowers are popping up all over the show. If you were just scrolling through Instagram (or search #CapeTown on social media) you’re sure to find more than one snap of luminous yellow canola fields. Besides for the canola, little blooms in strikingly fluorescent shades of purple, pink, orange and white are starting to carpet the Cape’s rolling landscape.
Considering the time of year, I was anticipating some flower sightings en route Darling Brewery. After all, the West Coast road is always lined by vibrant flowery patches around Spring. What I wasn’t anticipating, though, was being able to do so without trespassing on someone else’s land. But, as we turned off the West Coast road and right onto the R315 (opposite the turn-off to Yzerfontein, where you’ll also see the West Coast Farm Stall) in the direction of Darling, we only had to drive another couple 100 metres before noticing a bunch of cars parked on either side of the road – a sure sign of action!
Sure enough, we’d discovered a spot where you can climb out the car, climb over the style (or just go through the open gates if that’s your vibe), and stroll amidst the blooms to your happy heart’s content. And totally legally. Nature lover’s and I-did-it-for-the-Instagram-ers of all ages were bending down to admire the flowers, taking photos, or simply sitting amongst them.
Obviously, I had to get involved too. Just remember, if you’re gonna take a walk through the flowers for a close-up or a photo opportunity, try your best not to tread on the little buds.
Happiness is a mint-flavoured artisan toffee
What kinda travel blogger would I be if I didn’t research the destination thoroughly the night before, and pinpoint a bunch of places I want to visit as well as possibly map out a shot list and a couple blog content ideas? Probably a less crazy one. Anyway. As we drove into the speck of a town that is Darling, I casually mentioned to the fam that the artisan toffees we all love so much (and only ever buy from Ikigai, the cutest coffee bar in Riversdale en route Plettenberg Bay), are actually manufactured right in the middle of Darling. Because I know them so well and am the actual best and most organised day-trip planner, it was a no brainer to take a sneaky little detour to Darling Sweet with about 10 mins to spare before our lunch booking.
Darling Sweet is housed in a grand Edwardian-style building, gleaming white in the spring sunshine, that used to be home to the town’s General Dealer business and has become an architectural icon in this small town. The company applies an equally classic style to their toffee production, using a traditional recipe and all natural, locally-sourced ingredients. This makes for a top notch, handcrafted toffee…
…which I can 100% confirm because my family and I got to try all of them. Probs should have been more polite and only eaten one or two. But, I mean, how could we resist when faced with a delectable tableful of mini toffee tasters as well as jars of toffees spreads and raw honey?
There was many an outburst of “Ooh, now THIS one is the best” as we loitered in the small shop (which is lined by display cases filled with an impressive collection of vintage toffee tins), chewing on sweets and deciding which one was REALLY the best. But, of course, you can’t just buy one box. My parents bought five different ones between them (the mint and coffee flavours are my favourite), and those gorgeous little sweets are now in a glass bowl in our kitchen, tempting me with their menacing deliciousness every time I walk past. As if I didn’t snack on enough of them on the sleepy drive home after lunch…
Let the battle for sweet potato chips commence!
If you spot a fish and chips shop called Frying Nemo on your way from Darling Sweet to the brewery, keep going (or stop and take a snap of the orange store front because low-key bleak I didn’t get to do that myself). The Darling Brewery and Tasteroom is just around the corner!
The taste room sits within an industrial-style building and we were greeted with a relaxed and friendly vibe befitting of the brewery’s philosophy. Darling Brewery is all about ‘slow beer’ (which is also the name of the brewery’s original beer), where the alcohol is left to ferment slowly over long periods of time.
Scribbled on a standing black board that gets moved around the restaurant floor, the menu is small and simple. But, we came for beer and burgers, and beer and burgers we did get! We also got a big bowl of bright orange, super crispy sweet potato chips to share which lasted a whole 10 seconds before we’d successfully devoured them all (and dropped a couple on the floor and table in our aggressive haste). There was no mention of these chip-tastic beauties on the hand-written menu, but we watched as they arrived at the tables of other diners. Anyway. Moral of the story: swop out the regular chips for the sweet potat-variety when putting your order in. You will not regret it.
But, of course, sat by the bar overlooking the microbrewery, the beer was the real hero here. Not being much of a beer fan (yes, I know, I’m a poor excuse of a South African), I ordered a berry cider (don’t judge me, it was delicious and not too sweet either) while my brother assembled a tasting of five different 100ml beers. As we know from the Darling Sweet debacle, it’s always a fun time getting to taste a bit of everything. The best part, though, is that each beer is named for an endangered creature (like the Slow Beer which is inspired by the geometric tortoise, an endemic species to the Western Cape area) and proceeds are donated in support of various conservation projects.
A spring time lunch outing and beer with a good conscience? That’s a yes from me. Now excuse me while I go help myself to another mint toffee.
Until next time. xx