Ile de Pain
This had never happened before we discovered Ile de Pain at Knysna, South Africa. We had breakfast three days in a row at the same place. We loved this bread bakery and cafe that much.
At Ile de Pain, which means Island of Bread in French, the fresh breads baked daily in the wood fired oven take center stage. Every morning the bread kitchen gets busy as dough is prepared, rolled out, and shaped before they go into the wood fired oven. When the breads were ready to be taken out of of the oven, they were let to cool on the racks close enough to the dining area that it was hard not to stare at those delicious smelling breads ranging from baguette to rye and sourdough bread.
Ile de Pain has so much character to it and it made us feel like we were at one of those neighborhood rustic bakeries that are loved by locals. Hanging from the ceiling were multiple tools essential to bakers. With the bright orange tables, it is always a happy spring-like day even on gloomy days.
Our introduction to Markus, the owner of Ile de Pain, was an interesting one. He came over to our table and introduced himself before asking us, "Are you from the States?" and to which I replied, "How did you figure it out?" It turned out that during our hello exchange with him when we first arrived at Ile de Pain, our hellos were done in a very outgoing manner. According to him, the past times when he greeted Asian customers coming from Asia, they were generally more reserved. Interesting observation on his part, indeed.
In conversation we found out that Markus went to the Culinary Institute of America and lived in New York and San Francisco before returning to South Africa. His philosophy of running and managing Ile de Pain is wonderful and I wished I worked at this delicious cafe. Ile de Pain closes for 2 months every year so that he and his wife can take the time to travel while at the same time allowing his employees to travel home and visit their families who live up to 10 hours away (I assume he meant the driving time). In his words, he wishes to instill the value among his employees that work is important but not everything. Halfway through our long conversation, Markus realized that our half-eaten food was getting cold and he asked the kitchen to prepare a fresh half order of what we were eating. It was very nice of him to do that, so thank you Markus!
There is a good selection of hot breakfast items which we managed to try several of them during the 3 days we were there. The soft poached eggs on toast with spinach and house made tomato relish were delicious.
When we just wanted some down home good and simple food, there was the option of just poached eggs with baguette, butter, and jam, as well as the fruit plate with muesli was also an option.
The were several scrambled eggs entrees that came with either lox, bacon, or pesto and were served on a croissant or toast. Bread slices that come with the breakfast items are all baked fresh every morning.
What we also loved about Ile de Pain was the freshly squeezed juices that change in selection everyday. The cucumber juice was a winner for me. On one of the days they had beetroot juice which we did not try. The coffee list has a good variety and we had the organic flat white, latte, Vietnamese-inspired coffee with condensed milk, and mint cacao smoothie.
Not listed on the menu are pastries displayed on the shelves. Clearly, looking at the delicious pastries rather than reading them on the menu is a better way to help make a decision, although it makes the decision process a little harder seeing that I wanted to eat everything I saw. A favorite was the almond croissant that was perfect and flaky at every bite I did not want it to end. The kugelhopf was also very good with the right level of density.
We wouldn't really have wanted breakfast any other way. With freshly baked goods and equally good service at this charming bakery, it makes us want to return to Knysna to have breakfast here.
Ile de Pain has a sister cafe, Mon de Pain, which has a smaller space and does not offer all the items on the Ile de Pain menu.
Ile de Pain
10 The Boatshed