Eugene and I love Paarl. He was born there and has strong emotional ties with his birthplace. I have come to feel very attached to this place and all that it means to him. So imagine our excitement when Café Juno burst onto the scene! The Café Juno, a wonderfully arty place for real people, is at 191 Main Road Paarl.
The first thing that strikes you as you approach Café Juno is the beautiful old Cape Dutch building that presides over Main Street like an elegant grande dame from another era. The era, the 18th century, the year, 1793, when ox-wagons trundled along the main street transporting men and women to 'town'. But now it is the 21st century and the building is home to Café Juno and the Juno Wine Company.
A few steps took us onto a stoep where upturned wine-barrels serve as tables. Here diners can sit under umbrellas and contemplate the passing show while enjoying a light repast and a glass of wine. Life just seems to slow down. Into this lovely building we went and found ourselves in a world where food and art blended seamlessly.
Immediately we were confronted by baskets overflowing with breads of all shapes and sizes. Shelves line the walls displaying all manner of bottled preserves, jams, juices and olive oil. Behind the breads is a counter, proudly displaying cakes of the day and a copper vase filled with beaming sunflowers.
To the left, a room which instantly intrigued us. An artist's studio with the door open and welcoming! As we stepped in we were assailed by the wonderful smell of oil paint. Artist's paraphernalia and old bicycles, some standing, some mounted on the walls and others hanging from the ceiling complete the scene of an other- worldly, eccentric and fascinating room.
The artist, Tertia du Toit, is at work. Tertia, a renowned artist, has had 3 solo exhibitions. Her art is clear, representative and whimsical. Her scenes of voluptuous and alluring maidens adorn the labels of the Juno wine bottles. Known as the Cape Maidens labels, her artistry reflects the quality of the wine. Larger representations of her maidens are displayed throughout the house. They are all joyous. Some flying along on bicycles, others wearing brightly coloured, almost gypsy-like outfits holding flagpoles and straw baskets. Tertia explains that the bicycles being pedalled through the clouds symbolize a leap across cultural divides.
I love the name, Juno. In Roman mythology Juno, queen goddess and wife of mighty Jupiter, was the female life force and protector of every stage of womanhood. Tertia, of the dreamy blue eyes, is a mother of four and serenely manages her life as mother, wife, business women and artist.
The Juno Wine company took a quantum leap when in 2008 they joined forces with wine-producer and vintner extraordinaire, Charles Back.
The Juno wines are produced and bottled at Charles Back's farm, Fairview. Previously, as négociants they had obtained their wine from various and different sources. Quality and consistency were always causes for concern. Now, Charles has brought his passion, expertise and superb wine to the mix of wine, art and food.
Charles brought his team, Rozanne Mouton and Swiss, Andy Küng to the birthing of Café Juno. Both are chefs and experienced restaurateurs, Their vision was to serve breakfast all day. A very special breakfast. Freshly baked bread from the Goatshed bakery, an amazing boerewors made by Nico Nel, eggs in every incarnation, divine cheeses from Fairview, and the pièce de résistance, (in my opinion), rösti, as only a Swiss could make it. I ask you, who makes better rösti than a Swiss?
The rösti is combined with delicious things such as poached egg, smoked trout, cream cheese and chives; or fried egg, bacon and portobellini mushrooms; chicken and seasonal veggie stir fry topped with yoghurt and even sirloin steak with mushrooms, tomato and brown onions. All lovely, all delicious. My favourite is the poached egg and trout option. The meal arrives in a small cast iron pan with the rösti, trout and cream cheese beautifully arranged and a plump poached egg perched triumphantly on top. It is a sight to behold! I often enjoy it as a light lunch with a glass of crisp white wine.
Eugene loves the boerewors, which the menu proudly declares is made from best cuts of meat and contains no preservatives, gluten or MSG. Called The Wors Spear, it is about a foot long piece of wors served with mash or krummelpap and brown onion gravy or chakalaka. He enjoys this as a lunch dish. It comes served with vegetables and slices of freshly baked farm bread.
For the unitiated, 'krummelpap' is a dish comprised of maize meal, salt and water. Boerewors or wors is a sausage which is very popular in South African cuisine. The word is a combination of the afrikaans words 'boer' which means farmer and 'wors' meaning sausage. Chakalaka is a spicy African vegetable relish which is said to have originated in the townships of Johannesburg. This dish and many others on the menu reflect the melting pot of cultures and cultural diversity of our country. Here in South Africa we have all pedalled through the clouds.
Also on the menu are wonderfully hearty sandwiches on a variety of breads. They are man-sized portions, yet I have seen many ladies of all shapes and sizes tucking into them. Also salads with lovely fresh ingredients. The name of another menu item, 'sweet and sexy pancakes', flapjack style, intrigues me. Divinely decadent I think!
It is fascinating to walk through the rooms and to see the scene changing. From the deli, through a room with a wall unit packed with wine bottles, to the restaurant. Mellow and restful after the bustling business of the front rooms. Here there is a marvellous miscellany of tables and chairs. Table tops of different woods, some painted, some just stained with age and happy usage blend beautifully with a medley of chairs. A bright yellow dresser against the far wall provides an interesting focus for the room. Beyond this room there is an enclosed verandah where smokers can indulge their habit.
Rozanne has brought all her expertise as a London and locally trained chef and restaurateur to bear as manager of Juno Café. She is literally everywhere, manning the kitchen, serving the food or talking to the diners. Paarl is a friendly place and so is Café Juno. They are open from Monday to Friday at 7.30am till 5pm and on Saturday from 8.30am till 3pm. Incidentally, another speciality of the Café Juno is the Paulaner Beer. They are the only establishment in the country apart from the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town to sell it. This beer, called 'weissbeer' (white beer), is a rich creamy German beer.
One leaves this unhurried world reluctantly. The clatter of Main Street, Paarl is less intrusive than the bustle of a big city street. People smile and seem more relaxed. Perhaps you will too after a Café Juno experience.
I am writing this description of Café Juno entirely of my own volition Eugene and I visit Café Juno quite spontaneously and never as guests of the owners. Back Chat hopes that you too will enjoy a Junoesque