A small beautiful beach restaurant in an isolated fishing village in South Africa was named the best in the world on Monday, at an inaugural World Restaurant Award in Paris. Wolfgat opened a year in a 130-year-old cottage and cave on the beach at Paternoster.
Apart from the restaurant building dating back some 130 years, the placement of Wolfgat is especially meaningful to us because of the location of the Wolfgat cave on the premises - a site of immense archeological and geological significance.
According to the leading archeologist, John Parkington, the Wolfgat cave is “…a substantial chamber lying under an unusually large calcrete shelf. Almost certainly, the chamber and passages leading into it owe their origin to underground stream erosion that has removed softer sand from below the cemented shelf.”
An initial archeological survey of the cave revealed ceramic remains and sheep bones dating from some time in the last 2000 years. Bone, marine shell, ostrich eggshell, ceramics, beads and stone artifacts were also found, and patches of bedding and hearths are also expected to be buried here.
Local legend has it that the underground passages of Wolfgat cave extend some kilometres inland, and some even say that it stretches all the way into Cape Columbine reserve, with more than one southern exit.
Chef Kobus van der Merwe, who only learned to cook when he was 30, forages every day for ingredients on the wild Atlantic shore of the Western Cape near his Wolfgat restaurant. Van der Merwe, 38, also makes his own bread and butter.Van der Merwe can only feed 20 people at a sitting, which usually lasts two and a half hours.
Its seven-course tasting menu costs the equivalent of 53 Euros ($60), a fraction of what you are likely to pay at a top Paris table. Wolfgat offers a unique dining experience showcasing a selection of indigenous ingredients specific to our coastal location.
Drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape and its dramatic seasonal transformation, Kobus van der Merwe’s signature Strandveld food menu comprise a series of tasting dishes presented in seven courses. Sustainable seafood, local lamb and venison, and seasonal veldkos is featured, enhanced by wild herbs, seaweeds from the local rock pools, and pickings from the garden.
Some of the elements on the tasting menu take weeks of preparation, while other ingredients are handpicked on the day for the exact number of bookings received.
The restaurant books 20 diners per sitting - by keeping it small, they keep it sustainable.