Wolfgat has won the Off-Map Destination category, for remote restaurants where the journey to get there is a story.
Although only a couple of hours drive north of Cape Town, on South Africa’s Western Cape, the sleepy fishing village of Paternoster, famous for its lobster, feels like another world. It’s home to Wolfgat, named after a famous cave of geographical and archaeological significance, that lies beneath the premises.
It’s a restaurant of idyllic rustic dreams, an intimate 20-seat dining room with an ocean view, housed in a converted 130-year-old whitewashed fisherman’s beach cottage, the likes of which are dotted along the western coast, brightly painted boats outside providing the occasional sun-bleached splash of colour.
The South Atlantic doesn’t just provide a pretty view and the soothing soundtrack of surf crashing. Kobus van der Merwe, Wolfgat’s chef and driving force, builds much of his menu – an exercise in the hyperlocal, perfectly balanced between creativity and accessibility – around local fresh catch and dresses his dishes with wild herbs and seaweeds, which he forages from the dunes and rockpools along the shore.
He describes his seasonal, seven-course tasting menus as ‘Strandveld food’, after the region, and makes a point of listing wild ingredients and those that grow wild in his garden under each dish description in italics. A plate of fat ‘Saldanha Bay mussels, Tjokka (Afrikaans for squid), cauliflower, wild garlic, masala and sambals’, for example, is supplemented by ‘Tulbaghia violacea’, a flowering plant also known as society garlic.
They also keep things local on the wine list, with a selection of Strandveld’s finest.