Food

All in the taste

All in the taste

Elize and Dries van Rooyen are onto a winning thing, and anyone who visits their quaint little Mbombela bistro, Sophie’s, will tell you that the food and the service are well worth going back for, time and again.

The Van Rooyens started this establishment in Mozambique but decided that it was time to return to South Africa when life there no longer felt like a holiday. “We’d been there 25 years,” says Elize, “and we decided it was time to come home.”
Named after the three Sophies (Elize’s mother Sophie, her grandmother as well as Elize herself, both Sophie Elizabeth), the bistro features many of their traditional recipes, and Elize is sure that this is one of the reasons the restaurant is so successful: everything is made with love and has been passed down from exceptional cooks.

 

Her grandmother owned and operated a successful bakery, and her mother was creatively resourceful and always on the go, constantly keeping herself busy with artistic pursuits such as painting and sewing, as well as baking and cooking.
“I got that from them,” she says, “I love to experiment with food and can happily spend hours in the kitchen. Dries has more of a head for dealing with people and the finances, I am happy in my food domain.”
Elize is one of four sisters, all native to Mbombela, and despite busy lives and one of them living in Malalane, they try to get together as often as possible for a chat and a glass of wine.
She has brought in a few elements from their time spent in Mozambique as part of her repertoire, and plenty of garlic, chilli and lemon are used in the food, bringing a depth of flavour and delightful zing to the meals.

The prawns have always been a definite favourite, but lately, the fish, hake as well as snoek, has become a crowd-pleaser. In much the same way, the beetroot salad is crisp, fresh and deliciously moreish – also a firm favourite.
‘‘Our portions are so generous that sometimes people say they are too big, but that’s just how we do things here: good, hearty, delicious food.”
If pressed, Elize would say that her favourite dish to make for people is the prawns, a speciality of hers.

 

Her kitchen staff have been hand-picked and each one trained by Elize herself, with her signature style at their fingertips.
“You’d never make food for someone that you yourself wouldn’t eat,” she explains, “so I make what I love to eat. And of course, you eat with the eyes first.”
One of the unique things about Sophie’s is the fact that you can order a fondue, reminiscent of the good old days. Indeed, on the menu, it states “romantic memories from the ‘80s”. And who doesn’t have fond memories of a fondue?
Also on the menu are biltong steak, old-fashioned fish and chips, chicken schnitzel, different types of jaffles, many different kinds of burgers, including a mushroom-and-feta vegetarian burger, delicious breakfasts and bangers and mash.

The restaurant’s quirky, laid-back feel brings in elements of coastal relaxation outside and old-fashioned country charm inside – an eclectic mix which evokes the rustic charm of the Lowveld.
The establishment is also well known as a functions venue, and weddings, baby showers and hen parties are often held here.
Theme parties are also popular, with food, dress code and decor all being matched up.
Sophie’s Bistro opens at 10 am for breakfast, and the kitchen closes at 9 pm. The restaurant closes at 4 pm on Sundays and is closed all day on a Monday.

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