Bidon Bistro offers stylishly soothing, heritage-focused food.
I had been at Bidon Bistro in the Cradle of Humankind for less than five minutes when I began planning a return visit. I first found this farm to fork eatery by chance and was instantly eager to order absolutely everything on the menu. Even with food this good, there are limits to what can be comfortably consumed in a single sitting. Hence the forward planning…
It is impossible to imagine a more soothing spot for fortunate but frazzled survivors of the Covid-19 third wave. Bidon has a charmingly rackety, freestyle vibe and so much space that it is ideal for those seeking sociable but socially distanced epicurean experiences. Prettily mismatched tables and chairs are set out on a lawn overlooking the Magaliesberg mountains. Shelter or shade can be had within the “inside” seating section which is actually a square frame that may once have been a barn but is now a semi-open edifice with support struts, a roof and only two walls.
There is also the zen of hens, both comforting and amusing as they peck about the bistro. The birds are not only kept as pets for customers to coo over, although there is some of that, but also as free-range suppliers of eggs for the menu. There is also a climbing frame far enough away from the eating area for the noise of happy children to be unobtrusive but near enough for anxious parents to keep watch without having to leave their adult dining companions. Apparently “bidon” is cycling lingo/the French word for water bottle. Those who feel the need to earn the right to eat should know that the bistro is at the start of the Cradle Route cycling loop so they can park, pedal up an appetite and then settle down to breakfast or lunch.
The landscape, the livestock and the proximity to the bike trails would make Bidon’s a pleasant space to sit under any circumstances but Chef Jane-Therese Mulry makes it so much more. Her seasonal, locally sourced menu focuses on South African heritage ingredients with witty nods to local culinary classics. From the first spoon of Maltabella breakfast porridge with toasted coconut shavings and caramelised naartjie butter to the last retro-chic sip of Dom Pedro deliciously morale-lifting whimsy is always the order of the day.
Mzansi food focus notwithstanding, Chef Mulry is originally Australian and has worked her way around the fine dining world with stints at Bangkok’s five-star Siam Hotel and Kenya’s multi-award winning Segera Retreat. A decade ago, after a two-year stretch working for Marco Pierre White in London, she “stopped off in South Africa thinking of it as a 6-month sabbatical and ended up staying”. Since then Mulry has worked at Steenberg, the Mount Nelson and most recently was the Executive Chef at Johannesburg’s super swanky Saxon Hotel.
When Covid-19 crushed hotel-based hospitality Mulry began making vegan sauces (Plantfood Cooperative) at home with her partner Andrea Evans. The pair took over the pre-existing bistro in early July 2021 “sort of by accident – I was enjoying being out of the restaurant business but the vegan range was doing so well that we needed more space to produce it. We came to the Cradle looking for production kitchen space and stumbled upon Bidon’s. We were both so charmed by the location and all the possibilities we could see for it. How could I not give restaurants another go?”.
So, she did. The new menu is replete with African innovation. A bowl of kale becomes so much more than just a side salad with the addition of sorghum pearls, roasted almonds and slivers of caramelised pear. It’s a star turn for R75. Hemp hearts are tossed into brilliant orange papaya ribbons and marula nuts with a moringa and miso dressing (R75).
Mulry’s menu is predominantly plant based but includes a small selection of ethically sourced animal products – including an exquisite Eggs Benedict to make the aforementioned chickens strut and cluck with pride. The fantastic vetkoek (with cracklingly crisp toothsome exteriors and exquisite, airy interiors) are served with aromatically spiced mince curry and jugo bean chakalaka (R55). Organic beef burgers are topped with crisp, tart pickles, a dollop of red onion chutney and a side of plump, salt-slaked chips (R85). Plates are pretty enough for those who feel the need to impress Instagram followers but style never supersedes substance.
Usually with menus this good, the ball is dropped somewhere. And it sort of is at Bidon. The nearest thing to a dessert on the menu is the aforementioned Dom Pedro (R60). Delicious as it is, sweet toothed types want pudding to put the full stop into their culinary sentence. Fortunately, Bidon is not the only business on the Jexter farm. Pinknic Patisserie is owned and operated by Chanté Rabie whose linked-in profile describes as “2x Olympic bronze medalist South African Culinary Olympic Team, Pastry Chef”. Jane says: “It seemed sensible to support each other and enhance the strengths of each business. We are putting together a plan whereby Chanté will design a range of bistro-friendly desserts and our customers can order from her through our waiters.” While the details are being worked out customers can simply get up, walk 20 meters to the patisserie and pick something from the existing offering. My husband described his beautifully burnished pastéis de nata custard tart (R20) as the best he had ever eaten. And he’s eaten a lot of pastéis de nata.
The wine list predates Chef Mulry and is currently being revamped. There are promises of better and more exciting to come but even now it has enough variety to suit every kind of palate and wallet. Mark ups are reasonable. Service has a sweet and solicitous air to it. Even at the end of a long, busy Sunday, attentive front-of-house staff are really nice about lingerers and late comers. I know from experience that they are generous about making martinis (with mokapana horned cucumber infused gin) for customers who arrive long after last orders have technically been taken. DM/TGIFood
Bidon Bistro, Kromdraai Rd, Driefontein, Muldersdrift. Open Wed-Sunday, breakfast and lunch. Bidon Bistro
The writer supports Yeoville Meals on Wheels who distribute food parcels to the elderly and needy.