SA foraging eatery named Restaurant of the Year in worldwide awards

Posted by Christi Nortier on 19 February 2019

The rockpools, stretches of sand and swaying veld must seem an unusual place for a top restaurant when compared to the supply chains of most. Yet, a small restaurant on South Africa’s west coast has been internationally praised for its almost fully-foraged menu. Better yet, it is also the Restaurant of the Year.

‘If mother nature erected a sign saying ‘build restaurant here’, it would surely point to Wolfgat,’ says the panel of judges who unanimously decided that Wolfgat would be the recipient of the Restaurant of the Year award and Off-Map Destination award at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards 2019.

The restaurant was started a mere two years ago by Kobus van der Merwe, last year’s recipient of the Eat Out Chef of the Year award. In fact, he only started cooking full-time 10 years ago. What’s more, he dropped out of culinary school to travel the world but soon found himself back home helping his parents start the Paternoster legend Oep ve Koep.

He received praise from the judge panel for his good taste, naturalism and ability to balance creativity with accessibility in the seven-course tasting menu.

However, he lays the thanks at the feet of his six mostly female and local teammates, who have been with him from the start: ‘I don’t feel worthy. It’s a big title. My staff who go out every day gathering herbs, succulents and dune spinach, should be here… It’s their baby… I can’t wait to celebrate with them with a big glass of South African sparkling wine.’

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bqm8ZeDn4M8/

As the restaurant’s head chef, van der Merwe insists on a no-hierarchy kitchen. ‘If you pick something you prepare it yourself and maybe then take it to the table and explain it to the customers,’ he told AFP.

Each day, the team head out to the rockpools, dunes and veld within 10km from the restaurant. The menu for the 20 guests they serve changes depending on what they find and the weather. Besides a sprinkling of some Cape Malay spices, the ingredients are tampered with as little as possible to allow guests to enjoy the ingredients as they are.

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Dinner view. #Wolfgat #Paternoster

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Why forage from the West Coast? Van der Merwe told Fin24 that he grew up with cookbooks using veldkos and foraging, and that his maternal grandmother would make him seaweed jelly and his paternal grandfather was an avid veldkos forager.

Fancy trying the best Strandveld meal in the world? Wolfgat only seats those with a booking. Lunch is served from 12:30pm onwards from Wednesday to Saturday and from 12pm on a Sunday. Dinner is served only on Friday and Saturday evenings at 6:30pm.

 

Image: Wolfgat’s philosophy is to keep things as local and natural as possible. Photo: Wolfgat/Facebook.

 

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