Thesen Island is a newish part of Knysna, a housing development with a few upmarket shops, a superb hotel and a handful of eateries. Its picture-perfect Stepford feel is off-putting to some, but its position, jutting out into the Knysna Lagoon should be able to win over even the staunchest hater of cookie cutter architecture.
Probably the most popular place for lunch on the island – and one of the best-loved in the whole town, Île de Pain is frequented by locals and tourists alike and you’ll often have to wait for a table. Open for breakfast and lunch, there’s plenty for health nuts, including power smoothies, freshly squeezed juices and salads. The breakfast menu kind of makes you wish that your accommodation didn’t come with breakfast included, with dishes like brioche French toast with mascarpone and berry compote or smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and capers served with a croissant outshining the standard buffet and bacon offerings at most guest houses and hotels.
There’s also a lot on offer for the gourmand. The lunch menu is small but very varied, with gourmet burgers and pizzas, steaks, seafood and a couple of Asian-inspired dishes. The duck confit has perfectly crispy skin and a tangy, full-flavoured marinade – highly recommended.
There’s also a daily selection of pastries and desserts either to finish off a meal or to eat with a fine cup of coffee out on the patio. And there’s a pretty good wine list, if coffee isn’t doing it for you. Staff are smiley, efficient and plentiful, making it pretty easy to see why empty tables are a valuable commodity at Île de Pain.