Honoring indigenous offerings inspired by the history of early civilisation
Claim to fame: A showcase of seasonal veldkos (endemic edibles) and seafood to be found on the West Coast
Reason to go: Escaping the city, a worthwhile drive to discover beautifully basic food
To look out for: Don’t arrive unannounced, dining is by appointment only
The mindboggling idea of savoring the very ingredients that the cave dwellers of Wolfgat did 2000 years ago should be enough to lure you to this historic site. The restaurant that takes its name from these caves is perched upon the same, a grotto with tremendous archaeological significance where excavators have found marine shell, ostrich eggshell, bone and ceramics, indeed suggesting that these humans ate the same things that end up on your plate at Kobus van der Merwe’s locavore establishment. In other words, you’re the first one to enjoy the foraged bounties at this Western Cape party.
Wolfgat is new, and it’s already on the lips of all great foodies in the know. van der Merwe is understandably very proud of his new restaurant. He spent seven years experimenting in this region, playing and producing totally unique dishes in his previous kitchen, Oep ve Koep. His latest eatery is a 130-year-old historical cottage where he presents his signature Strandveld food tasting menu, showcasing the seasonal offerings that he discovers daily as he heads to the shores and fynbos floor that stretches for miles around. Weather plays an important role in his foraging excursions, directly impacting what’s on offer. Your gastronomic journey is predominantly seafood-based, a series of dishes complemented by local seaweeds, seasonal veldkos and perfect pickings from their nearby garden. Many elements are handpicked according to the number of bookings, a refreshing no-waste approach so often overlooked by most kitchens. The small number of guests that can be received – up to 20 at a time – keeps sustainability in sharp focus. The ever-changing menu is dictated by Mother Earth and never replicated. Fresh breads are served with bokkom-butter, bokkom being a local small fish (usually haarders) that are netted, salted and air-dried in the sun. Oysters are freshly shore-plucked, shucked and presented in many ways, depending on the season; in winter they are baked with a velvety bean puree and served with flash-fried local edible wild plant buds and dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
A concise wine list celebrates wines from this coastal region including Darling and small producers as far up the coast as Lambert’s Bay. Before booking a table, secure an overnight cottage in Paternoster, many of which are charmingly converted old fishermen’s homes, to perfectly experience this much-loved, quiet coastal town. It will definitely be the most rewarding culinary miles you will travel to discover this totally unique Strandveld eatery.