You're spoiled for choice in Knysna, cuisine capital of the Garden Route. Besides the recommendations, which tend toward fine dining, take a look at "Dining with a Local," below, by former restaurateur and local foodie Jacqui Mansfield.
Oysters by the Dozen -- Knysna is renowned for the oysters its estuary produces, and the Knysna Oyster Company (Thesen Island; tel. 044/382-6941; www.knysnaoysters.co.za), founded in 1949, is still the most unpretentious place to order them (R78-R183 for 12).
Dining with a Local
There are many light lunch and coffee spots in Knysna. If you want to see and be seen, go to Isle de Pain (tel. 044/302-5707), on Thesens Island, or its little brother, Mon Petit Pain (tel. 044/302-5767), on Grey Street. They have very good coffee, superb bread and pastries, and innovative food, but watch the wine prices, which are rather high. Another place with fantastic pastries is Gabrielle's (tel. 076/845-6409), on Tide Street. They have a lovely quiet garden in the back and the food is fresh and interesting, such as a phyllo basket with roast vegetables and couscous. Stuck in town? Then stop at Gino's (tel. 044/382-3667), in the Millwood Centre. Gino, who hails from Belgium, often has Belgian specialties on the menu, such as croquettes and excellent pancakes.
A popular restaurant with locals is Caffe Mario (tel. 044/382-7250), at the Knysna Quays. It's best to sit outside near the water, and it offers excellent pizza, pasta, fish, and veal dishes -- plus, the wine prices are very reasonable. There's a nice atmosphere and good service. Zest (tel. 044/382-0456), a restaurant in Pledge Square, still offers good fusion food, atmosphere, and service. If we're in the mood for classic country cooking, we book at Pembrey's (tel. 044/386-0005), on Belvidere Road, which is always full; Peter cooks while wife Viv does front-of-the-house duties, offering lots of varied and different choices on a blackboard. Service is excellent, and a huge wine menu caters to all tastes and pockets. Also in Belvidere Estate is Belvidere Manor (tel. 044/387-1055), where you can either eat in the Old Manor House, with its beautiful terrace and lagoon view, or go to The Bell, a lovely old pub where they serve good, wholesome pub meals. I also like to work up an appetite by walking along the beautiful stretch of beach at Brenton-on-Sea, followed by a sundowner at Nauticus (tel. 044/381-0106). They serve very good pizzas and seafood at reasonable prices. On the Waterfront, at the Featherbed jetty, is Cruise Café (tel. 044/382-1693) -- their tempura prawns are a must. In the evenings, this is a popular sundowner venue, with a great deck and lagoon views to match, and the kind of rural sophisticates that typify much of the Knysna community.
-- Local foodie Jacqui Mansfield spent 25 years in the kitchens of her own restaurants before retiring to Knysna.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.