Win a R500 Bierfassl meal!

A section of the garden dining area at the popular The Bierfassl, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands’ Nottingham Road.

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BILLY SUTER paid a long-overdue return visit, for lunch, to one of the must-do stops on KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands Meander – the rustic, Austrian-themed Bierfassl restaurant and pub. Read his review then enter the competition at the end of this post to put yourself in line to win a R500 voucher to spend at this popular spot!
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HUGGING the side of a curving road which I hear was once a railway line, and offering tranquil views of distant rolling hills and the lake, lazy cattle, trees and scattered buildings of the Gowrie Farm across the road, The Bierfassl restaurant and pub has long been a unique attraction on the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander.

Since opening in 1998 on the grounds of Rawdons Hotel, this welcoming venue in the heart of Nottingham Road has remained a popular draw – and not only for its fine, wide selection of food. It’s also noted for the rustic charm of its buildings, its selection of 35-and-counting different beers from all over the world (including a good selection of local draughts) and a diverse, Diners Club Platinum Award-winning wine list.

The tavern is also known for its quaint, on-site delicatessen shop, where visitors can buy products they enjoyed in the restaurant, as well as a variety of German and local products.

The Bierfassl is particularly popular with families at weekends, when it offers rides and other attractions for children in a grassy play area a stone’s throw from the relatively new concrete bench and strung lights at the tavern’s boma, close to where a giant chestnut tree once stood.

A good few years have passed since I last visited The Bierfassl, so my partner and I did well by taking a leisurely, scenic drive from Durban to pop in again.

We took great delight in the many trees glistening with the golds, oranges, burgundies, browns and reds of autumnal cloaks. And we had developed quite an appetite by the time we arrived at the venue that, not for nothing, carries the slogan “home of the crispy eisbein”.

The Bierfassl is famous for its crispy, tender eisbein, assortment of mustards and sauerkraut that is produced on site in a two-week process.

The Bierfassl offers not only German fare – its very name is German for ‘beer barrel’ – but also Austrian and Bavarian fare, often with a fresh, local twist. The venue offers a warm interior with a cosy, panelled pub and fireplace, and seating spills out on to a covered verandah. This overlooks wooden tables under brollies that dot the lawns stretching to the roadside’s rustic fencing. It’s a great setting.

The eisbein at The Bierfassl has always been exemplary and the one my partner ordered – R175 for 800g, with veg and chips – was every bit as juicy, perfectly cooked, grilled to a crisp and fall-off the-bone-tender as I remembered from my last visit. He left enough to take home and enjoy the next day, and can’t wait to return to order it again.

Served with the tavern’s own sauerkraut, produced on site in a two-week process, these delicious, salted pork hocks can be ordered in varying sizes (subject to availability). The 500g goes for R145, 1.2kg for R215 and the whopping 1.7kg – a popular choice to take away and enjoy for a day or two – is priced at R265.

I opted for the Wild Boar Chops with Plum Sauce (R160) as a main meal. Nicely crumbed and topped with a cranberry and red wine sauce, these bush-pig chops were tasty, if not overly remarkable, served with a starch and veg of choice. I enjoyed, but would be lying if I said I was not jealous looking at a neighbouring table’s crumbed chicken schnitzel served with cranberry (R130), another tavern favourite. The Lamb Loin Wheels, marinated and deboned loin chops grilled on a skewer (R255), also looked yummy!

Worth trying, judging by the many orders that passed our table during the afternoon, are the enormous, 350g Viking Burgers, five variations of which are available. A diner I chatted to said his spare rib-and-basting version, and his partner’s beef-and-gherkin version, were both “super-super lekker!”. Prices vary from R110 to R130.

Other menu options include spareribs, steaks that are lazy aged for 21 days, deboned and pan-fried Drakensberg trout with capers and salad (R145) and, for R185, fresh linefish (rockcod the day we were in).

The Bierfassl was the brainchild of Ken Shuter, a master at Michaelhouse, explains Durban-born Sean Wakeford, current owner of the venue, who joined us for a chat and a beer.

The Bierfassl’s owner since 1999, Durban-born Sean Wakeford, enjoys one of the many beers on offer at this Midlands hot spot.

“Ken loved Austria and the Alps. Each year he would travel over there and work in pubs and ski resorts to pay for his holiday. He had the vision that the KZN Midlands needed an Austrian tavern, just like the one he had returned from.

“The idea blossomed and in 1998 The Bierfassl was born, with Ken at the helm. He was only here for a short while, and decided to return to teaching. Although Ken has sadly passed on, his legacy still lives at Bierfassl,” adds Sean, who took over the business in April 1999.

“It was an opportunity for me to have my own business,” explains Sean, adding that “The Bierfassl has grown from strength to strength and we have continuously added new ideas and projects to keep it fresh and interesting”.

Before he owned the tavern, Sean had been involved in the food and beverage side of hotel management and worked in various country hotels for 11 years – Mount West Inn, Rawdons Hotel and Crossways Country Inn among them. Prior to that, he ran a fish-and-chip takeaway.

He currently employs four cooks at The Bierfassl. They have been taught the secret recipes over the years and are supervised by head chef, Delisile Dlamini, who has been at the restaurant for 15 years.

“We believe in being a little different in our food and beverage servings and tend to steer away from the run-of-the-mill products.”

If it is proof you are after, try the platter Sean suggested as a shared starter for my partner and I. It features three popular speciality sausages, all locally hand-made, served with salad. At Sean’s insistence, we tried them with a fair-sized, glossy, golden, crispy pretzel each. Glad we took his advice.

My partner loved the smoked, cheddar cheese-filled sausage known as Kasekrainer, but I preferred the unsmoked German Bratwurst, filled with course-textured pork and beef, and also the traditional Bockworst, smoked and great with sauerkraut.

Simply yummy. The Bierfassl’s Sauerkraut Balls, pretzels and assorted speciality sausages.

All these sausages can also be ordered as separate meals, with various accompaniments, but if you have yet to sample them, the sausage platter is the way to go. It costs R155.

Sean also suggested we try the tavern’s apparently very popular Sauerkraut Balls. What a winner – sizeable, deep-fried balls of sausage meat, blended with mustard, cream cheese and sauerkraut then coated in golden breadcrumbs. I loved them!

And speaking of mustard, The Bierfassl has quite an array of mustards among condiments on the table – among them Pickled Pig Beer Mustard and Spicy Mustard. Some of these can be bought at the deli to take home.

Interesting sounding picks among other starters are craft cheese made with the local Pickled Pig Porter beer, served with rustic ciabatta bread and pickle (R115), and traditional Bismarck pickled herring in a sour cream, gherkin and mustard sauce, served with salad garnish (R55). For colder days there is a choice of pea and ham soup (R55) and a beef and potato soup slightly spiced with paprika (R75).

The menu doesn’t change much, but does get tweaked seasonally for popular summer and winter dishes, says Sean, as we take time out before considering dessert.

“We add new menu items that have been popular on the chef’s special board,” he adds, going on to say that the tavern sometimes features performances by musicians and come September 4 – Covid-19 regulations willing – is to present its annual beer fest, which usually takes place on the second weekend of February each year.

And so on to puds. Diners have five choices, including carrot cake, Black Forest Gateaux, berry pancakes and a delicious looking chocolate mousse that is served in a mug. However, you simply have to order the Apfel Strudel (R55). This is a sizeable serving of heaven – caramelised dates and apple in a crispy phyllo pastry, topped with toffee rum sauce. We shared a serving with a dollop of cream and ice-cream, and it was truly sublime! I will certainly have that again.

To round off a wonderful afternoon we had to go with a longstanding Bierfassl tradition and each order a shot of Merry Mountain Goat (R11), the tavern’`s home-made Apfel Schnaps, complete with mini apple-with-stalk in the tiny glass. Or you could brave the St Anton’s Tickler (R55), the venue’s very own naughty cocktail. All I was told was that it would “ruffle your tailfeathers”.

The Bierfassl, which also has an eight-item kiddy menu labelled Hansel and Gretel, is open every day from 9am to 9pm. To book phone (033) 266 6320.

The cosy interior of The Bierfassl which has a great pub and a fireplace.

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WIN A R500 MEAL VOUCHER FOR THE BIERFASSL!

Care to put yourself in line to be the winner of a R500 meal voucher at the popular The Bierfassl restaurant and pub in Nottingham Road, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands?

You simply have to be a follower of the SoSuterBill site to win.  At no cost.

If you are not already a follower, simply leave your email address in the space provided towards the end of the cover page of this site, sosuterbill.com

You will then be a follower, and receive email notification whenever I file a new story.

Once you have subscribed (there is no cost), send your NAME and PHONE NUMBER via email (NOT THIS SITE’S CONTACT FORM) to sosuterbill@gmail.com and place the words ‘BIERFASSL COMPETITION’ in the subject field. 

Note that the competition closes at 6pm on Saturday, June 26, and the lucky voucher winner will be contacted soon after. Also note that the prize does not travel and/or accommodation should this prove necessary. (The lucky winner, chosen on June 26, was Lyn Wilson, who was mailed her special prize voucher).

NOTE: PLEASE READ ENTRY DETAILS CAREFULLY AS SOME PEOPLE ARE ENTERING COMPETITIONS INCORRECTLY.

ALSO NOTE THAT ONLY ONE ENTRY PER SUBSCRIBER WILL BE CONSIDERED.

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Wonderful views are part of the pleasure of a visit to The Bierfassl in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

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