Frances Geoghegan, Africa Travel Director, muses over her recent meal at Wolfgat in Paternoster. This fine dining establishment owned and run by self-confessed locavoire and forager Kobus Van der Merwe only opened its doors to the paying public in September 2016, but is now firmly established on South Africa’s culinary map and is a must try for any self-confessed foodie visiting the country.
The charming fishing village of Paternoster, located north of Cape Town on the West Coast of South Africa, is blessed with plenty of great restaurants, but none is finer, and with more sophisticated dishes, than the newest kid on the block – Wolfgat, by Kobus Van der Merwe, a passionate thirty something chef who was born in the Kalahari Desert and raised on the West Coast of South Africa. Set in a 130-year-old fisherman’s cottage, this beautiful, simply-designed restaurant is located on the site of the Wolfgat cave, an archaeological and geological site which overlooks Paternoster's dreamlike beach. Local legend has it that the underground passages extend some kilometres inland, and some even say that it stretches all the way into the Cape Columbine reserve, with more than one southern exit.
The ethos of the restaurant is all about combining local and seasonal produce with exceptional technique to produce inventive and tasty dishes. The seasonal seven course tasting menu is inspired by the area, its weather and indigenous produce. Some ingredients are handpicked on the day while others are prepared for weeks in advance (I saw lots of wild plants and herbs drying in the kitchen whilst I was there). Fresh seafood plays an integral role in the menu’s design. Ingredients like local oysters, angelfish and mussels are used throughout the menu and are complemented by local seaweeds, seasonal veldkos (indigenous edible plants), and pickings from their garden. One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is local limpets minced and poached in garlic and white wine, served in their shell atop a bed of local ‘snoek sout. A wonderful dish that combines locally sourced ingredients with extraordinary flavours and exceptional technique. Due to the ethos of the restaurant and the cooking style of the chef, many food critics and bloggers have started to compare Van der Merve and Wolfgat to Rene Redzepi and his world renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. However, you can enjoy the culinary delights of Wolfgat at a fraction of the price of a meal at the two Michelin starred Noma (it’s around £40 per person for a seven course dinner tasting menu including wine).
Back to the meal itself. The restaurant is small, but perfectly formed. It’s akin to eating in someone’s kitchen; homely and welcoming with absolutely no airs and graces. My kind of place indeed. The ingredients and the food itself are the statement makers, just as they should be. As previously mentioned, much of the ingredients are foraged locally each day - seaweed, dune spinach, wild garlic, with the fish freshly acquired from the local fishermen.
We start the meal with codium capensis - moorish seaweed crisps with lightly smoked angelfish, which was followed by snoek, and then came big fat mussels in white wine with dune spinach. Smoked oysters with dune celery was next and then came angel fish with wild garlic masala. Our 7 courses finished with dune celery ice-cream, which was airy and light, the perfect finish to an outstanding meal.
Van der Merwe pushes local wines on his wine list: Groote Poste Reisling and Pinot Noir, and Teubes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Shiraz. There is only one menu, which is seasonal, and which is inspired by the changing seasons of Paternoster. The restaurant runs without drama - Kobus leads his local home-grown team effortlessly, all are in tune, all play their part in delivering some of the best food in the Cape. Reservations are essential.
If you are interested in visiting the delightful fishing village of Paternoster and sampling Wolfgat for yourself then get in touch with our experts on 020 7843 3500 and they can start planning your dream South Africa adventure today.
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