Not so long ago, taking a drive up the West Coast could leave even the most adventurous food lover high and bokkom-dry. Fortunately, it seems the days of mediocre rollmops and limp crabstick salads are numbered.
Simply follow the R27 north of Cape Town and head to the fertile Darling hills for buckets of fine wine and craft beer; meander past Yzerfontein and Langebaan for a pinch of heritage and some casual seaside dining; and finally land yourself in the lap of luxury with an offering of the fine coastal cuisine right on the beach in Paternoster. Kobus van der Merwe of acclaimed restaurant Oep ve Koep shares his favourite places to eat on the West Coast.
Chicory Cheese Cafe
A welcome, fresh addition to the café scene in Darling, Chicory and Cheese offers simple meals made with fresh produce (often straight from the garden), with a variety of choices especially suited to vegetarians. Lunch is a small but pleasing offering of banting-friendly salads and bowl food ranging from curry to pasta.
The Cloof Kitchen
There are delectable, rustic treats on offer at the Cloof Wine Estate’s Cloof Kitchen – think chicken pie from scratch or a ploughman’s platter with homemade pickles and preserves – but your main reason for visiting should be for a taste of the estate’s well priced, award-winning selection of signature red blends: The Cloof Duckitt (cabernet sauvignon/merlot/cabernet franc), The Dark Side (cabernet sauvignon/shiraz) or the Inkspot Vin Noir (pinotage/shiraz/cinsaut/cabernet sauvignon).
The slightly offbeat combination of a country store with an eatery right in its belly clearly works, as Darling’s beloved Marmalade Cat has proven time and again. The home-style comfort food reigns supreme, with weekly pizza night still a favourite with locals and tourists alike. Opt for lunch on a sunny day if you’d like to sit in the charming courtyard.
The Slow Quarter – Darling Brew Taproom
Years before the craft beer craze had the hipsters of the city in a twist, Darling’s slow brewery was already serving wit beer and ale on tap. In their new taproom, tuck into ostrich burgers, homemade pies or a local cheese platter while sampling the delicious range of beers.
Vygevallei Farm Stall
Situated barely an hour’s drive from the Mother City, Vygevallei Farm Stall offers delicious baked goods, preserves, jams and pickles – the bobotie pie and koeksisters are exemplary. Owned by the Louw family of Nuweland estate near Malmesbury, the staff also offers an array of regional wines for sale. If you’re in the area on the first Sunday of the month, don’t miss the Vygevallei Farmer’s Market for a range of regional produce such as pomegranates and free-range lamb from Darling, home-grown vegetables, and wine tasting and sales.
!Khwa ttu San Cultural Centre
Somewhat 70km north of Cape Town on the R27 lies the !Kwha ttu San Cultural Centre, where visitors can experience a glimpse of fascinating San history. Take a stroll through their sign-posted indigenous herb garden displaying an array of edible and medicinal endemic herbs. The adjacent restaurant offers South African comfort food treats such as bobotie and venison pie, with accompaniments often subtly infused with indigenous herbs from their garden.
Lekka by die See
Situated at Hobie Beach, adjacent to Club Mykonos, this casual seaside restaurant is owned by Kokkedoor finalist Le Roux Schoeman. Opt for lunch of comfort food classics like black mussels or line fish and chips while soaking up the beautiful view over the Langebaan lagoon and Saldanha bay.
Visit for the most beautiful view of the Paternoster bay and the best pizza this side of the Mother City – or Napoli, for that matter. The affordable wine and friendly service means you’ll often find the verandah packed with locals. The newly extended menu also offers favourites such as fish and chips, or burgers with homemade patties.
Several years after swapping Joburg city life for the fishing village of Paternoster, the doyenne of West Coast country cuisine is still cooking up a storm in what is arguably the best location in town. The inimitable Suzi Holtzhausen continues to charm with her fresh take on coastal fare and a fusion of flavours from across the South African heritage spectrum: cream of shoreline greens, hot baked oysters or snoek pie, biltong mash and chillied moskonfyt.
This is still one of the village’s favourite eateries and it’s no secret why: the formidable front-of-house and kitchen team, run by Debbie Jaentsch, Camilla Richter and Peet Steyn, are a force to be reckoned with. The seasonal menu rivals city hotspots with specialities such as pig cheek terrine with soft egg and apple chutney, or a legendary seafood laksa with hake, prawns, mussels and calamari in a rich coconut broth.
Reuben’s at Abalone House
Franschhoek’s most famous export has now also found a home on the West Coast. Situated at the elegant Abalone boutique guesthouse, this Reuben’s incarnation offers a selection old favourites, such as the signature chilli salt squid, with new favourites such as line fish with corn salsa and spicy tomato sauce.
*Oep ve Koep
The very humble writer, Kobus van der Merwe, didn’t include his own restaurant, Oep ve Koep, in this story, but needless to say, it should be near the top of your to-do list. Using locally foraged ingredients, the restaurant showcases the unique flavours of the West Coast on a blackboard menu that changes daily. Think yellowtail pickle with ice plant, grapefruit and fennel; carrot and dune celery bootie; or Saldanha Bay mussel umqa (pap) with shoreline greens. It might sound exotic, but rest assured, it’s utterly delicious too. Also check out Kobus’s beautiful blog and brand new cookbook, Strandveldfood, launching this spring.