Public holidays are great, especially when you get given money to buy whatever food you want. Granted, it was a limited amount, but still, it’s money that you didn’t have before, and if you were smart, you spread it out nicely over a few meals. Unlike me, who spent it all in one excursion. This is not a bad thing though. It’s not every day you get an opportunity to visit a place you’ve never been before, AND get to try what has been dubbed as the best pizza in the country. So all in all it was a pretty successful midweek public holiday.
When people hear that I’m studying in Grahamstown or the Eastern Cape, they immediately ask if I’ve been to the big pineapple. I still haven’t been to see it, but at least now I can say I’ve been to the dorp that it is situated in, Bathurst. This is kind of a big deal because it is only a 30 minute drive away, it’s unfortunate that I hadn’t been sooner.
Pic-Kwik’s menu proclaims “Best pizza in South Africa”, and, as a pizza-lover, this really had me excited. The people I went there with had been there two weeks earlier, and they kept raving about it, although this could have been to make me jealous as well. We sat down for our lunch in the dying-summer sun, in a garden adorned with hair curlers, computer keyboards, and all sorts of other incredibly random items. It certainly had character.
At times like this, you need to ensure that you don’t waste time deliberating: pick the first thing that you see that appeals to you on the menu. I chose a Milo milkshake, and it was definitely a great choice. I had misgivings at first after I had placed my order and proceeded to peruse the rest of the beverage menu, but I was not disappointed when my milkshake came. You can’t go wrong with that malt-y goodness. It kinda makes me miss Milo Krushers from KFC, but then I realised the milkshake was better. So that says something, if you’ve ever tried one of those Krushers.
We had a meander around the second-hand/antique goods store. They had the most wonderful assortment of bizarre things in there, some of which kind of freaked me out (clowns!) and some which truly fascinated me and my friends (“I think it’s a coffee grinder…” “Actually I think it’s a butter churner…” We never got conclusive evidence for what it actually was). Then there were the classic items: old coins, and old type writer, a mix match of mugs, and what could likely be first editions of some of the greatest classic books.
When the pizza finally came, there was a flurry (at least for me) to swop pieces with my company. That crispy thin base, that melted cheese, those assortments of toppings: all things that make me happy for the existence of pizza. I had a Southwell, named after a place that we drove past on the way to Bathurst. Bacon and chicken is what had me going for it, they’re not paired up often enough at conventional pizza places, and I do think I will do it again next time I get to “make-my-own”.
It was good, don’t get me wrong. Unfortunately, I think they could have done more with it. The bacon was clearly bacon, and it tasted pretty much like bacon, but it didn’t have that happiness-in-a-pan bacon flavour, the one that makes your whole house smell like bacon. The chicken had a similar problem: there was nothing special to it, it pretty much tasted just like cooked chicken, which is a good thing, but it’s also how it should be, so nothing beyond expectations of a cooked meal. Those two ingredients were thus merely average. As a pizza though, it was great: deliciously melted cheese, a trickily thin base that was successfully crispified, but not burnt, and not chewy. Overall, a well-made pizza, with cooked toppings.
The other pizzas were quite nice as well. The Salami Bomb was subtly meaty, the spinach and feta pizza somehow ended up a bit soggy in one patch, but, so long as you really enjoy the taste of spinach, it was a good pizza, one that knew just how to emphasise spinach flavour. The other to pizzas don’t stand out in my memory apart from: cooked pineapple (I’m not a fan…) on the one, and peppadews on the other, which complemented the meat on that pizza quite well.
Definitely worth the trip though, if you enjoy pizza. It certainly deserves to be near the top of the pizza crop in South Africa, but not quite in first position.
Dessert was an educational experience: Dutch Speculaas – a traditional spicy tart-cake thing with almonds. This was my first time hearing about it, and I was told that it involved chocolate, so I was almost disappointed by the cinnamon-y gingerness I found. It turned out to be great, however. I need to learn how to make this and publish the recipe so that you can enjoy this little piece of yumminess from my country.
It was a public holiday well-spent, and definitely worth the visit for anyone passing nearby. It needs to build a reputation like that of the Pig and Whistle across the way (which I have also yet to visit…), so that everyone will learn to appreciate great pizza, and share my love for great food.