Last Saturday morning I was pretty exhausted. I’d worked a full week and a wedding on Friday night so I only got to bed after 3am. My parents were arriving from Namibia and I had a lunch date with Bedouin Deli in Woodstock. I pulled my socks up and arrived at Bedouin which was quiet…not empty, just quiet. Patrons sat around the communal tables, relaxing, drinking, having a calm chat. And I breathed a sigh of relief.
I was greeted by Rachel, the owner, who was welcoming and down to earth. I took a seat and began to explore the menu. Bedouin’s pride is their self made Labneh cheese. I’d had Labneh at the Hidden Valley Restaurant and again from Woolies at Xmas but it lacked that slight tart kick that I had been expecting. I was, therefore, intrigued to try the Bedouin Labneh cheese.
Rachel ordered me a starter platter of Bedouin Labneh cheese, which was accompanied by their freshly made flatbreads. The cheese is available in a variety of flavours including cracked black pepper, chilli, plain and olive oil, as well as their signature labnehdews! The Bedouin labneh is absolutely beautiful. Smooth, cool, slightly tart without being sour…a really, lovely subtle cheese. For “mains” I had the chicken wrap. It does contain labneh but it doesn’t smother all the other flavours (carrots, spinach, chicken, peppers, pepperdews, pesto +). Nothing in the menu is over R60 and almost everything is made fresh at Bedouin.
The restaurant has a fascinating story which Rachel shared with me. Rachel herself works in PR and has had an amazing broadcasting career both in South Africa and the UK. Coming from radio, I loved hearing her stories and enjoyed her practical delivery there of. I didn’t feel at any point that I was obliged to try and keep up with her. I could simply enjoy her stories, including how she bought the recipe of Lebneh. On Gumtree! Can you believe it?
Rachel bought the recipe from a South African lady who had left SA during Apartheid for the States after marrying, and divorcing, her first husband. The lady then moved to the middle east with her second husband where she learned to make exquisite Labneh cheese. Creating her recipe which, upon returning to South Africa, she sold to Rachel. Bedouin makes labneh from the deli from scratch which means it’s a beautiful, delicious product.
It will sound like a funny thing to say but Rachel was exactly what I needed. I’ve said it before and it still stands; I want to support people who care, who are passionate, hardworking and realistic about their passions. Rachel was so charismatic without the pretentiousness that marketing so often entails. Patrons came off the street to simply say hi to her and to promise to be back the next week. Her Dad was even sitting at the table with us!
Gone are the days where knowing your neighbours and having loyal patrons is the norm. Yet Bedouin is practising this simple sense of community. Great food, made with love, respect and fresh ingredients, daily. None of the tappas are kept in the fridge for the next day. It’s good, wholesome, down to earth cuisine, exactly as Bedouin is. Pop by, bring your computer, order coffee or some of the beautiful lunches.
To send me on my way, Rachel kindly gave me a jar of chilli labneh and a labneh cheese cake, which my Mother and I shared over the kitchen counter for tea later in the day. Thank you Rachel for having me and for being a breath of fresh air. It’s so rare to meet someone interesting who can talk about themselves with “talking about themselves” all day!