A quirky mom-and-daughter duo are behind the Garden Route’s most eclectic and imaginative eatery. Situated in a rustic cottage just off the main road in Knysna, magical Firefly Eating House, with its twinkly fairy lights and off-beat decor, is somewhat evocative of an Eastern bordello, one imagines!
The restaurant, which opened in 2003, only has a few tables in an intimate dining area awash in dim red light. It’s almost always full, so it’s best to make a booking. You’ll have to abide by owners Dell Hadlow and her daughter Sanchia’s rules: no BYO and no debit or credit cards. Dell and Sanchia don’t suffer fools, and this just adds to their charm.
Their passion for fusion food characterised by complex and exotic flavours is evident from the tapas-style tasting menu, which has an array of spice-driven global dishes so appealing you’ll struggle to choose. Every serving costs between R42 and R52 and the idea is to order three or four per person and share as you go along.
We started with a home-grown spirit tasting, sampling three types of fynbos-infused Inverroche Gin, which is distilled in small batches in nearby Stilbaai. Then it was on to the tapas dishes or, as Dell and Sanchia call them, “fire starters”.
The three standout dishes were the Thai fish bites with peanut, coriander and cucumber pickle; the two-pepper calamari (we also detected a third pepper: Sichuan) with mayo; and the Cape Malay bobotie spring rolls – Firefly’s signature dish – with mint chutney.
They do a different soup daily and there’s always a fragrant curry on offer: ours was the mild but still punchy (not to mention cleverly named) Delli Lama chicken curry. Each tempting dish is served with a pretty flower, a gloriously kitschy plastic goldfish, some leaves and twigs. There’s an excellent wine list to complement the spice-oriented cuisine. Spices also find their way into the desserts, for which we scarcely had space. Other sensory touches included warm hand towels steeped in ylang-ylang at the end of a most memorable meal.
Taste for yourself
044 382 1490
Words: Louise Liebenberg
Images: Salvelio Meyer & Ewald Stander