At Wolfgat, Kobus van der Merwe’s iconic Paternoster restaurant, diners can expect a lengthy food adventure that takes you through seven tasting courses showcasing indigenous ingredients specific to the West Coast. Sam Linsell takes a trip into the dunes.
Cost: R650 per person for the tasting menu Best for: Traditional South African and seafood Star ratings: Food 5, service 5, ambience 5
The menu features mainly seafood, but Kobus forages for local plants and seaweed to add to the dishes. The restaurant is purposefully kept small (maximum of 24 seats) to maintain sustainability.
The dishes are the culinary manifestation of the area and are hugely inspiring. Some elements on the tasting menu take weeks of preparation, while others are handpicked on the day. The Wolfgat menu constantly changes, adapting to what’s available and in season.
Start off the meal sipping a glass of bubbly and nibbling the amuse-bouche of minced limpets poached in white wine and garlic, and served in a shell on a bed of snoek sout. The bread course of home-made breadsticks, with a pan of hot bubbling farm butter infused with bokkums and seaweed, will have you scraping every last umami-packed morsel. These prepare your palate for the following seven courses, which are delicately seasoned to allow the flavour of the ingredients to shine through.
The meal starts off with a watermelon summer soutslaai with strips of raw yellowtail and a delicate dressing reminiscent of the sea. The lightly poached oysters with tsamma melon and samphire are presented on small West Coast pebbles that give them a beautiful sense of place. The mussel dish is theatrically brought to the table smoking in wild sage branches, with the shells served in a delicate mussel broth with peaches. The seasonal dune salad that Kobus explains is the most challenging dish for diners is made from whatever edible ingredients he finds at the time.
Farmed Jacobsbaai perlemoen poached in a creamy sauce with klipkombers is delicious and memorable, and the final seafood dish of grilled yellowtail spiced with masala and wild garlic, served with bokkom sambal and plum chutney, rounds off the savoury part of the menu. A refreshing dune celery ice cream completes this unique dining experience which is not to be missed by adventurous foodies.
A neat wine list features some unusual wines from the region and the Swartland.
Friendly and relaxed, with Kobus himself explaining most of the courses.
The restaurant is housed in a 130-year-old cottage on the historic Wolfgat cave overlooking the beach. Wolfgat has breathtaking views over Paternoster so its worth going in the day to enjoy your lunch while gazing over the sea.
Lunch and dinner is served by appointment only. Reservations can be made via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.