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De Vrije Burger in Stellenbosch
Bertus Basson is the creative force behind the newly-opened De Vrije Burger in Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch has another jewel to add to its burger crown in the form De Vrije Burger. The eatery, brainchild of celebrity chef and restaurateur Bertus Basson and wife Mareli, brings something new to the historic town’s food scene.
First things first, there is free ice cream at De Vrije Burger. Yes, this aspect of the Plein Street burger joint entails one free “draairoomys” (soft serve ice cream) served with every burger ordered, a classic cone filled with vanilla soft serve ice cream and sprinkled with the multi-coloured 100s and 1000s candy. It’s a nod to the same style of ice cream cone many would have been familiar with growing up during the 80s and 90s in South Africa, and at De Vrije Burger there are shades of the Afrikaans community’s food culture some thirty years back – but with quirky touches.
The new addition to the bustling Plein Street stretch is light and airy inside, and, coloured like its logo, white and blue. Although primarily focusing on being a takeaway joint, it does cater for patrons who’d like the full dining-in experience through its interior and streetside seating.
Stepping inside, it’s a straightforward affair, with Basson deciding to narrow the menu down to solely feature the humble burger and include slight variations of it. The burger, a 200g free-range beef patty, is served with trimmings in the form of lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and two slices of cheese – no messing around here. Enclose this goodness in a freshly-baked brioche bun and you’ve got a contender for one of the best hassle-free burgers in the winelands region. In terms of takeaway burger, it packs a mean punch.
For those looking for a heightened burger experience, three different burger variations exist at De Vrije Burger. Melrose cheese & biltong, smoked chilli sauce and bacon are top-ups on the standard burger and during our visit, the smoked chilli sauce was the winner. Chips, known here as “tjips”, are hand-cut and also come with the option of peri-peri, barbecue and cheese.
“Uitpakslaai” is a contender on the menu which harks back to another time. It’s essentially a pre-arranged salad (not tossed) which wouldn’t be out of place being brought to a social gathering from an elderly, visiting relative. In this instance, Basson’s take on the kitsch-cool classic comes with crisp lettuce, olives, tomato, peas, onions and a creamy dressing.
Beer and wine are served on site, with a fairly limited wine list offering several estates by the bottle or carafe. A small selection of craft beers and soft drinks are available.
Overall, De Vrije Burger brings something new and exciting beyond the eateries of Cape Town. At times it may tiptoe around being too ironically kitsch for its own good, but with the award-winning Basson at the helm, diners can expect something unusually different.
The bill: The standard burger costs R75 with optional tjips at an extra R30 - R42.
24 Simonsplein, 61 Plein Street, Stellenbosch | +27 (76) 664 1154 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Try this list for the best burgers in Cape Town or refer to our guide for the ultimate guide on things to do in Stellenbosch. If you’d like to learn more about the food scene in winelands town, here’s a list about the restaurants in Stellenbosch.
Images: Claire Gunn
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