It was a sad day when I had to say good-bye to chef Warwick Taylor and his family as they left Hermanus at the beginning of last year to start a new life in Queenstown, New Zealand. I don’t know two people who had worked harder than Warwick and his wife, Anita to establish their acclaimed restaurant, Source in Hemel-en-Aarde Village.

Biga’s owners, Johan Smit and Arthur Coulson hail from Sodwana Bay in KwaZulu-Natal and arrived in Hermanus just before the start of lockdown.

Warwick was a talented and inspired chef, having honed his skills at various establishments overseas, and locally as executive chef at the Arabella Hotel & Spa and the Creation Tasting Room, among others. The dream, however, was always to run his own show and when the Biga Bakery came onto the market, he grabbed his chance, turning it into a vibrant eatery that garnered rave reviews.

The only thing that was off was his timing. We all remember what happened in 2018 – the riots, the drought, the load-shedding, the general downturn in the economy… Warwick had enough and I’m happy to report that he and his family are thriving in New Zealand. As it happens, he also escaped the hard lockdown that was imposed here, putting the local restaurant industry under more pressure than ever before.

Which brings us back to what happened to Source. Having reverted to its former owners – and its former name, Biga Bakery – after the Taylors departed, the eatery was once more up for sale at the beginning of this year. And again the timing of the handover proved to be rather crucial, as new owners, Johan Smit and Arthur Coulson, arrived in Hermanus from Sodwana Bay on the day before the hard lockdown was announced.

Brothers Howard and Obert Chibaya taking another batch of their freshly-baked sourdough breads from the Biga oven, which takes pride of place in the open kitchen of this down-to-earth bakery.

“We were just very relieved to have made it out in time as we had sold up everything in Sodwana Bay and would have had nowhere to stay if we’d been locked down there!” laughs Johan. The first few weeks of the lockdown also gave them a chance to settle in, to go over their plans and start implementing them. As a bakery they were deemed an “essential service”, so they were at least able to keep the bakery running and do daily deliveries.

Many of Source’s staff members are still there, including the two bakers, brothers Howard and Obert Chibaya, who daily produce freshly baked sourdough loaves, ciabattas, rye breads and seed loaves, along with an array of delicious homemade pies, pastries and other treats. The premises are a bit smaller than before, as the main dining area and coffee bar utilised by Source have been closed off and rented out as separate office space, but it still feels spacious enough, especially with that delightful courtyard garden at the back.

The bakers work in an open kitchen so you can enjoy a coffee or a bite to eat while watching them do their thing. I quite like Johan and Arthur’s ‘back to basics’ approach and they plan on keeping things simple. Apart from blackboard breakfast specials, the menu offers toasted sandwiches, a few pasta dishes, burgers, chicken schnitzel, cakes and pies. The impressive Biga oven is also put to good use when it comes to pizzas and focaccias, using organic wheat from Caledon (with gluten-free as an option).

Most of the veggies and herbs used in the Biga kitchen come from the vegetable garden started by Warwick, which Johan and Arthur are keen to expand. “We want to use our own produce as much as possible while also supporting local suppliers,” says Arthur. The coffee is as good as it ever was, and they stock various craft beers and wines from Hermanuspietersfontein.

“We want this to be a cosy kuierplek for locals and visitors, with a bit of a padstal (farm stall) vibe,” says Johan, adding that “artists and crafters are welcome to display their work here on consignment”. Johan and Arthur are not big city people and Source’s days of fine dining are clearly over, but what they have created in its place is a wholesome, welcoming and down-to-earth space that is child- and pet-friendly – and a favourite port of call for the many weekend cyclists and trail runners on their way back from the valley.

Biga serves breakfast all day and is open Monday to Saturday from 08:00 – 18:00 and Sunday from 08:00 – 15:00. Call 028 125 0188.

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