The early years: Bosman Crossing
The main entrance to Stellenbosch in the early years was through Bosman Crossing. ‘De Steenenbrug’, the bridge over the Plankenbrug River ( a tributary of Stellenbosch Eerste Rivier), was built in 1691 as the first public works project in the area.
Some people reckon Bosman Crossing is named after a Mr. Daniel Bosman, who owned a brandy distillery next to this river. At his request, a single railway track link-up with the Stellenbosch station was built to load his casks of spirits more easily onto the railway tracks!
Since its establishment in the mid-eighteenth century, the site has been used for industrial purposes: from quarries and brickworks to tanneries, distilleries and winemaking. Until 1995 the headquarters of SA wine and spirits giant KWV were located at Bosman’s Crossing.
But the history of this site dates back much further than this. Approaching Stellenbosch from the western side, the traveler will notice a stone monument erected on a little patch of grass. This marks the site of the discovery of stone implements dating back to the Early Stone Age. Dr. Periguey discovered it in 1899 inside a borrow-pit.
It is here, in this historic but neglected part of Stellenbosch, where the Papeggaiberg looms above Bosman’s Crossing, where the visitor will find this picturesque blend of heritage and an industrial look.
The bakery already celebrated its 11th year of existence by the time a new ownership team became involved.
In 2014, Jurie Franken bought the bakery from Clive Hewitt’s son Alex. In December 2020, Jurie sold the bakery to Johannes Christoffel van der Merwe (JC).
More about JC
He is originally from Bloemfontein. His early years were difficult, and he had to face many hardships. He arrived in Stellenbosch with only his suitcase and baggage of dreams to be the owner of his own business one day.
Today he is married to Tammy, and they have a baby boy James David. Tammy is his support, the one sharing his dreams and who embraces the person he is today.
Stay patient and trust your journey
I have never met a person with such extended experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. He was involved in opening Cabana in Stellenbosch, and after that, he was a senior manager at Stones and Buena Vista Social Club. He also gained experience at Spier as head of the Bar. At Volkskombuis, he was the floor manager. At Eikendal, he worked closely with Mark Radnay, who taught him about food, administration, and organizing functions.
He trusted his journey and his next experience at Hussars Grill would prepare him to work in front of the house and grill food! After this, he became a food and beverage manager at Oude Werf Hotel.
It was at Nom Nom in Somerset-West, where he had the opportunity to create the gin tasting room, and he was also involved in designing the menu. The last part of his journey would take him to Digteby Estate in Vlottenburg Road. On one fine morning, he woke up and could not move his arm. He had to undergo surgery for this condition.
This was a wake-up call to burn bridges and to look for a new opportunity. He trusted his journey; it prepared him to become the owner of Fine Pastries Bakery.
A red piano against a decorative, faded and distressed wall emphasizes the environment’s character in Bosmans Crossing: this vintage industrial look and modern lifestyle trading village.
In the early years, Ralph van Pletzen was a mentor in the business, planning the interior with Jurie, creating recipes with an exciting twist. He contributed with input on how to grow and improve the business. When you enter the bakery today, the visitor will still see the red piano. Much of the interior stayed the same because JC knows that the old customers will always feel welcome and at home in familiar surroundings.
Recipes: Time is the key ingredient
This inspirational quote, a gift from one of JC’s friends, stands on the piano today. The words are written on a blue dough cutter.
Two new recipes were born during the lockdown: the Pumpkin Palio bread and the Seed and Nut Palio. It is so popular today; you will find it when you visit Mont Marie Restaurant on the Blaauwklippen Road, Tokara Wine Estate and Millhouse Kitchen at Lourensford Estate.
But the good news, you can also buy it directly at the bakery at their lovely coffee shop.
Fine Pastries came top in Die Burger’s “Melktert” competition as part of “Nasionale Melktert Dag”. This award was a reason for celebration in the kitchen, where a team of 6 talented people work. Claudine, one of the group, has been working in the kitchen for 15 years. This is her unique recipe!
For days after this announcement of the best recipe, the business got many calls from Aunts insisting that they think their recipes are even better and should be tested too!
One of their regular customers and well-known foodie, Emile Joubert described the milk tart as: “die melktert vulsel is so sag soos engelasem en geurig soos ‘n eikelaan na die reën.” (the milk tart filling is as soft as angel breath and fragrant like an oak avenue after the rain.)
In 2018, Fine Pastries also won the Bokradio sausage roll competition.
“The secret to having an epically beloved bakery is consistency”- Christina Tosi
At Fine Pastries, they do theme evenings, bridal showers, high teas and many private functions. They added cakes to their large selection of pastries and bread. Their popular meals of the day are also now booming. Make sure to place your order! They supply wineries, guest houses and restaurants.
At Fine Pastries, they prepare everything by hand and with lots of passion and love by their talented staff, always using the best and freshest ingredients available.
“You can’t do passion halfway. Living your passion means you’re all in. You trust your heart and trust your gut wherever that takes you.”
Fine Pastries bakery is also all in supporting the community daily. They believe in making trouble for people, but people should know it is no trouble for you. They give bread to a school in Devon valley. If you live with kindness and respect, the Lord will provide and look after you.
JC believes in one-on-one communication and a strong belief that his products are the best. He is prepared to go the extra mile to keep his customers happy. He embraces this new adventure and challenge. They will continue to bake the world a better place!