Master brewer’s legacy lives on

Mitchell’s craft beer still a Bridge Street Brewery hit as eateries thrive around popular watering hole

Ever since master-brewer Lex Mitchell brewed the first pint at the Bridge Street Brewery five years ago, the Baakens Valley has been growing as an Epicurean attraction. The man known for his work in Knysna developing Mitchell’s beer – and which is still made there today – was at the forefront of the craft beer wave that is now cresting in Port Elizabeth and around the country.

Remo’s manager Michelle Puggia shows one of their already-famous pizzas Picture: Werner Hills

And, although officially retired, Mitchell is still a regular sight helping to refill the rapidly emptying casks at BSB but now there are several other spots – plus another brewery – dotted along the riverside.

Residents and visitors enjoy regular markets such as Food Truck Friday, the Good Night Market and the Valley Market, as well as pop-up restaurants such the Supper Club which held its last meal for the year at Chicky’s Yard, a semi-outdoor venue in the valley.

  • Bridge Street Brewery (BSB)

BSB itself offers more than a gourmet pub and grub with the attraction not only the home-brewed craft ales but also its position overlooking the Baakens River.

  • Friendly Stranger

If you are just stopping in for a cup of coffee or a slice of cake, the Friendly Stranger in the same complex is one of the cosiest coffee shops in the city. When it is full upstairs, you can sit outside or even traipse down its narrow stairwell for a quaint (and private) nook underneath. In the afternoon between 2 and 4pm (it closes at 4pm), you can enjoy coffee and cake for R50 and the cake portions are generous – the carrot cake in particular!

  • Gunston’s Gastropub

Gunston’s Gastropub is a fairly new addition to the same node and is at least the third restaurant to try the corner spot since BSB opened in 2012 – but the brothers who run it have a flair for food.

Jonathan, Nicholas and Tim Gunston know their onions, with restaurants under their chef’s apron, which include the Chart Room at the Yacht Club, Two Olives and now the new Italian restaurant Nolio in Stanley Street. Tim is still based at Gunston’s while Nic has taken over Off The Hook, the little seafood eatery at the PE Deep Sea Angling Club in the harbour and Jon is developing Nolio.

Gunston’s however is much smaller than BSB and gets buzzy at night so it is best to book ahead.

  • Remo’s

Moving closer to town, head down Alabaster Street for the delightful new Remo’s Italian restaurant which has replaced Fratelli Deli. It is still run by the same Italian family who have roots going far back into the history of this city, with Michelle Puggia at the helm.

The black and white pictures of dashing Italian motorsports aces and the shiny Vespa scooter are not purely for decoration: ask Michelle about the story behind them and you’ll discover a treasure trove of Port Elizabeth history.

Michelle’s mother was born into the well-known Scribante family and the restaurant is named after the late Remo Scribante, whose brother Renzo started the original Durban restaurant – now a franchise – in tribute to Remo.

Another interesting twist is that Chicky’s Yard is named after another Italian Remo: the late Remo “Chicky” Cicognini a well-known builder in Port Elizabeth hence the “yard”.

His son Dante now owns the restaurant and his daughter, Paula Horak, says the family hopes the venue named after their father will continue to develop as “an affordable place for street food for people from all walks of life, due to its humble beginnings”.

Forget that Remo’s is a franchise however, as the food is made with love and is gorgeous with an accent on pizza, pasta and other Italian specialities. Remo’s does not take bookings and has been incredibly popular first few months so, if you go early evening when it is busy, you may like to wait with a glass of Italian wine at the bar for a table.

It is only open for supper from Wednesday to Saturday.

  • Frederick and Son

If not, you can nip upstairs to the tiny little eatery called Frederick and Son. The affable bearded chef is Frederick Heydenrych and as the son of the well-known Port Elizabeth butcher Freddie Heydenrych you can rest assured that he knows his meat.

It shows in his delicious burger patties and boerewors and the attention to detail follows through in the chewy, pillowy buns which are not your standard burger bun and the really good home-made chips.

Frederick and Son also offers milkshakes, coffee and toast plus, if you are enjoying a frosty at the Richmond Hill Brewing Company in the same complex, you can order a meal from Frederick and wash it down with its Car Park John lager, perhaps, or a craft gin.

  • Foong’s

Last, but not least, one of the hardest-working chefs in the city – Grant Foong – opens on a Friday for Chinese takeaways. The restaurateur who popularised and drives the Food Truck Friday initiative in Port Elizabeth, offers oodles of noodles and a whole lot more but is so busy with catering and other ventures that Foong’s is not always open. However, this week, you can join him between noon and 8pm for “Foong’s Friday with Friends” at the yard.

Happy Valley eating!

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