Kobus Van Der Merwe's new Strandveld Eatery
Trends, love them or hate them, certainly have a role to play in the style of food that a restaurant offers. Foraging is exceptionally trendy at the moment, with restaurants all over the world seeming to follow in this earth-to-table fare. Some of the best restaurants in the world, namely Noma and Faviken, forage for a lot of their ingredients and diners celebrate these chefs for punting local ingredients. Wolfgat, run by chef and owner Kobus van der Merwe, while making the best use of West Coast ingredients, is much more than a trend. It’s what defines Wolfgat, and Kobus takes his search for local and seasonal food that one step further. Everything he uses comes from the coast or the surrounding environment. Situated in the idyllic town of Paternoster, he cooks delicious, honest food that allows true local ingredients to shine.
We, as South Africans, love to punt the ‘local is lekker’ theme with keeping things as close to home. And while the term works well in some sectors, the food industry is still very much inspired by the rest of the world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Kobus is cooking food with real local ingredients in traditional ways. When you eat at Wolfgat, you won’t find steak-frites but you will find perfectly cooked lamb leg speared on indigenous rosemary accompanied by a moerkoffie and moskonfyt glaze. Kobus goes weekly, if not daily, to find ingredients in his surroundings to put his menu together. He scours the coast for delicacies like dune lettuce and celery, kelp and, of course, limpets. He prepares everything simply, to let their flavours shine – there’s no trickery here, just real and delicious food.
The menu itself changes with the tides, literally, and so varies all the time. At our meal, we pored over the bokkom (salted and dried fish) butter with fresh-from-the-oven bread, swiping the serving dish completely clean. A dish of smoked mussels alongside a dashi-based broth flavoured with naartjie, dotted with more fresh mussels, stumped and blew us away at the same time. Getting to Paternoster is always a treat, and while you could drive up and down in a day, this meal will leave you in a complete food-haze. It’s probably a safer idea to spend the night, maybe two.
When people talk of simple, local food, this is what they mean. We celebrate chefs doing this in their own country, when Kobus is doing this a mere 2 hour drive from us. If you want a meal that makes you proud of your country and its offerings, eat here. Everything from the setting (nearly right on the beach), to the food, to the wine and the service, will remind you why the Wes Kus is the best kus.