I have enjoyed chatting to Phillip Aplas since he opened Allora Ristorante, the Italian restaurant at the entrance to Franschhoek, two years ago.   He and his wife Amanda are Greek, and they have created a space on the property for The Olive Shack, which is Amanda’s dedicated focus on olives and olive oil, and is an ode to her Greek heritage.

As one drives into Allora, The Olive Shack lies directly ahead, not visible from the road.  Some newly planted olive trees provide shade to tables outside the olive emporium.   A central table displays all the olive oils they stock – eight brands with many flavour varieties – as well as olives, tapenades, preserves, jams, and soaps.  What one can taste one can also buy.  There is no charge for the tasting. 

Amanda wants to present the best olives and olive oils of South Africa, but most of these are from the Western Cape, she says.  She even heard of an olive oil made in the Karoo recently, so is continuously searching for new additions to her range.   She only opened The Olive Shack three weeks ago.   Greek delicacies such as baklava can also be bought, and a serious-looking coffee-making machine making the best Illy cappuccino in Franschhoek is in the shop. 

One can sit outside on the Allora side of The Olive Shack, or be more private on the parking side, sitting under the olive trees.   Amanda has also introduced a Breakfast Menu for The Olive Shack, a Greek tapas and mezze menu, and picnics are also supplied.   One can order light lunches, including lasagne, cannelloni, panzerotti, mousaka, freshly-made spaghetti and fettucini, and sauces.  She will add kebabs and pancakes in future.

In chatting to Phillip, it is clear that he is dedicated to his restaurants, and is hands-on, one of few restaurant owners in Franschhoek to be so.   He says that they have not increased their prices since they opened, and the menu is the same as the opening one.   The Allora branches in Bedfordview and Sandton have higher prices, and are run by Phillip’s brother.

The Olive Shack tables are covered in brown paper, over a white table cloth, in Greek style.   They look a bit messy on the car park entrance, as the wind lifts up the paper.   The menu is printed in green and laminated, and one’s first reaction is disbelief at the low prices of the mezzes.   I was brought a beautifully designed glass water jug to the table, with lots of slices of lemon.   Olive oil and balsamic vinegar was brought to the table, in glass bottles, and the brand of olive oil used was one I had not heard of before, being Porcupine Hills from Elgin.  

While I had not ordered it, Amanda sent ciabatta made with olives to the table, as well as the three mezzes of Tzadziki (their spelling) (R10), grilled halloumi (R20) and grilled pickled octupus (R25), in addition to which came a container of olive oil as well as an olive tapenade, all served on two wooden boards.    It was a feast, which cost a mere R55 in total, which Amanda did not want to take payment for, but I insisted.   The squid was served chilled, which made it refreshing, not only due to its temperature but also its marinade of vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and oreganum.  Other mezzes one can order out of the list of eighteen include hummus, melitzanosalata, grilled aubergine rolls stuffed with feta cheese, grilled brinjals and baby marrows, tiropita, and keftedes, all costing R20 or less.   Ciabatta costs R10 for a basket.  A variety of salads can be ordered, and range in price from R45 – R65.   Paninis with toppings such as smoked salmon trout, roast lamb, and chicken and avocado cost between R 50 – R75.   Desserts range from R25 – R42, and include baklava, chocolate mousse, fruit salad and yoghurt, and sorbets.   Breakfast of free-range scrambled eggs served with salmon, cold meats or feta and halloumi costs R35, or R29 if served with bacon.

Picnic baskets can be pre-ordered, costing R105 per person for the Alfresco Picnic, consisting of a small bottle of water, dips, cold meats, olives and tapenade, Greek salad, French loaf, olive ciabatta, chicken kebabs, fruit, and chocolate brownies. A Gourmet Picnic costs R360 for two persons, which includes a Franschhoek Cellars wine, mineral water, a tapas selection, dips, smoked salmon roses, French loaf, olive ciabatta, Caprese salad, chicken and prawn skewers, a cheese platter, strawberries and chocolate brownies.  Both picnic options offer a generous food selection. 

A small wine list of 17 Franschhoek wines is available, and the wines are very reasonably priced.  Six wines by the glass are available, and cost R28/R85 for Franschhoek Cellars Chenin Blanc, The Churchyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc; Eikehof Chardonnay; and Franschhoek Pass Rosé.  The L’Omarins Protea Red costs R35/R115.   Solms Astor Cape Jazz is the only Shiraz available.

I loved the informality and friendliness of The Olive Shack, the authentic Greek mezzes served, and the excellent cappuccino.   It is excellent value for money.   I will be back.

The Olive Shack,  Allora Restaurant, 58 Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4375.  www.allora.co.za (No dedicated website for the The Olive Shack, and not mentioned on the Allora website).  Open Monday – Sunday, 9h00 – 17h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage