When I heard that Master forager and award-winning chef Kobus van der Merwe brought something special and totally different to the plate, while also showcasing strandveld cuisine at its best, I knew we had to work a way to include a visit to Wolfgat into our Kgalagadi itinerary.
The eatery is named after the nearby Wolfgat cave – an archaeological wonder containing remnants of an ancient culture, and rumoured gateway to underground passages – all in the charming west coast town of Paternoster.
The now famous and impossible-to-get-into restaurant recently won the coveted title of ‘Best Restaurant in the World’, a testament to his unusual gastronomic style and philosophy: hyperlocal Standveld cuisine or, as he called it – relaxed fine dining.
Kobus’ reverence for his ingredients and their provenance, coupled with his playfulness and skill, made every mouthful a rare and delicious treat.
We arrived early (so as not to be late, as requested in our booking confirmation) and were greeted by a friendly waiter (they double up as servers) and escorted to our pretty little table on the stoep of the tiny whitewashed house. There were 16 diners in total that day, all sat outside on the stoep overlooking the bluest sky and expanse of ocean.
Fine linen napkins and good quality silver cutlery were a clue about what was to follow. Attention to detail like edible wildflowers in water jugs further added to the ambiance.
We started with three little amuse bouchée tastes – one speared on wild rosemary, a mussel with waterblommetjie and sea foam on a homemade wafer biscuit – all served in the most interesting fashion.
Then a little pan with pipping hot bokkom and herb flavored butter came sizzling out with warm homemade crispy sourdough bread for dipping in the butter. It was delicious and I plan to copy this idea at home!
Next was two kinds of oysters, one warmed with sea bamboo and wild mushrooms and a cold one with grapefruit and sea pumpkin were next. One was plated atop smooth beach rocks and the other on a black pristine plate. All the pottery crockery is sourced from a local potter.
The next dish of divineness was a simple yet delicious white bean puree (butter beans) with fried pumpkin seeds, crispy seaweed and veldkool and dune spinach
Springbok loin served as a tartar with sout slaai (beach succulent) and slangbessie (beach berry of tomato variety) with olive oil and slangberry syrup(with spilhaus knife)
Black mussel flavoured with wild garlic masala, softened mebos and bokkom sambals with yogurt and topped with a mussel custard flavored with coconut milk powder and bratslaai.
The next course was Cape bream smoked with rooibos infused tea leaves and lightly poached in butter, served with seaweed topping (called klipkombers) collected on the rocks.
For dessert we had amasi – a slice of guava, topped with amasi sorbet and an orange boego masala on a wild melon leaf, served with picked cucumber with all the flavours and textures mixed together.
I overheard Kobus telling another diner that he won because of his approach to sustainability and the gender split in kitchen, amongst other things
He didn’t know he has won, and found out when he was tagged on Instagram. The award was judged by variety of food critics, sommeliers etc. and he didn’t know they had visited him.
What’s really nice is that Kobus comes out to explain the dishes to you, alternating between tables and courses.
We ended our strand feast with moercoffee in handmade pot cups made by a local potter in Paternoster and served with raw sugar and hot milk.
The menu of the day is printed on a simple page, the cutlery and crockery is simple, elegant and changed per course and the staff quietly efficient.