In keeping with the fabulous places to eat in Swellendam, one of our favourite lunchtime spots is about to celebrate their 10th birthday!

What we particularly love about The Old Gaol (besides the delicious food, of course) is the fact that they are actively involved in caring for the town and the upliftment of the local community – something that is close to our heart.

The Old Gaol on Church Square started out just more than ten years ago as a humble Coffee shop, trading from premises in the old Gaol building of the Drostdy Museum. The primary vision was skills training and the creation of jobs in the hospitality/restaurant sector and at the same time to deliver a professional service to tourists visiting the Museum. Their involvement formed part of the Swellendam ‘Alive’ project. Staff were literally recruited off the street. One of their first employees, the vibrant Michelle Dyanti is still with them and is a partner in the business today.

The driving force and hugely creative spirit behind this fabulous place, Judi Rebstein has this to say:

“On looking back and paging through old newspaper clippings, we were amazed to see just how vibrant things were back then; community projects were facilitated (Buffeljags crèche, Stitching friends), concerts organised (Dance for All, Cape Classic), all whilst we were training various staff members the basics of food preparation, tourism & service industry. Menus were worked out to compliment the ‘working Museum’ layout of the tradesmen’s yard. Trips were made to Worcester Museum to learn how to bake our now famous ‘Melktert’ and ‘Roosterkoek’. We were experimenting with various techniques to present traditional food in a modern stylish way. Many delightful events were held in the courtyard of that wonderful old building. These were indeed exciting times; we were rushed off our feet, the nights were short and the days long but we had the energy and the passion.
During 2003 we were the recipients of the following awards;
•Winner – Overberg District Municipality Mayoral award for Human development.
•Finalist – Fedhasa, Imvelo awards for Responsible tourism (emerging)
•Winner- Western Cape Tourism award as emerging tourism entrepreneur for 2003.
In 2008 we received the Soill award for outstanding contribution towards tourism through creating capacity.
This determination was fully tested when the coffee shop was unable to extend the lease at the original Museum premises – but a wonderful old house, fortuitously, became available on historical Church Square!
We made a new home there and life has been good to us under the oaks with a magnificent view on the Church and the mountain.

Heartfelt thanks to those who have shared their considerable talents and time, to help us turn our dream into reality. And the most important thanks of all – to our regular clients, who have returned time and again, following us to our new premises. We love to see you, exchange news and ideas, and ultimately share some good times.

We invite all of you to celebrate with us during the week of the 24th October – 29th October. A programme of activities, fabulous food and special offers will be advertised and is available at the Restaurant.”

Huge CONGRATULATIONS go to the Old Gaol team. We wish you every success. We love you.


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