We live in Karen about half a kilometre away from Marula Mercantile and it was months before we figured out it was an eatery. The vintage cowboy–esque sign down Marula Lane promised a way to spend money, ‘Mercantile’ it means commercial or shopping right? So for the longest time we just figured it was a place to buy gewgaws or groceries. However, whilst there is a craft shop on site, Marula Mercantile is a highly regarded and wonderfully rustic place for a bite to eat or a cocktail. The reason for this rather rambling diatribe is to inspire you to ignore the innocuous sign on the road, the fact that when you pull into the parking lot it looks like a shop (we actually drove away the first time) and to stick with the adventure and wander round the side, whereupon Lo! There she is.
Marula Mercantile is wonderfully eccentric in décor; think wooden tables, bikes hanging from the ceiling, rough wooden bar, fairy lights and furnishings by my absolute favorite African designers, Madoido. All seating is outside but huge heaters and atmospheric lamps warm keep you warm at night. It’s a chilled gem of a place both night and day, the playlist could have been pulled from my own iPod; folky classics and indie ballads from my misspent youth, coupled with the unobtrusive staff inspired afternoons slumbering on the cushions rather than the worky lunch we had planned.
Marula Mercantile offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails. Today we rocked up at 11.00 and ignored the scrumptious breakfast offerings in favour of a plate of southern fried chicken with mac & cheese (yes the mystery of how I can exercise so much and remain so rotund is revealed). Look, so the dish wasn’t Americana at its absolute best but it was a tasty lunch; the chicken was crisp outside and succulent in, the mac could’ve done with a bit more cheese sauce but we forgave it because it came with a pot of sweet chilli dipping sauce – who knew they went so well together, it’s a winner.
We’ve been in the evening for small plates/tapas and cocktails and invariably find it fairly busy with a local crowd. The dishes are on the small side but its quality food that you won’t grumble over. All elements of the food are made completely from scratch down to the pickles and the pastries and it shows in the food. In addition, my wobbly walk home proves that the cocktails are lush.
Marula Mercantile describe themselves as a family restaurant on the website, there is a small playground in the garden and I can imagine bringing the kiddies here for a cake in the afternoon but I’m not sure I see it a family friendly place, mainly because the chilled out vibe is part of the charm and introducing kids would knock the bohemian ambience right off its laid back socks.
So, follow the locals, take a right at the brown sign and chill out with good food and drinks at this mellow hangout.