A small restaurant just outside of Cape Town has won the sought-after title of Restaurant of the Year 2019. No, not just in South Africa, in the world! That’s right, we have the best restaurant in the world right on our doorstep.
Their beginnings were humble and the mastermind behind the concept, Kobus van der Merwe, aims to keep it simplistic and authentic. After winning the award he said that he won’t be pushing up prices just because of the global stamp of approval. He feels that his victory was an achievement for the whole African content.
World Class Cuisine on the West Coast
Chef Kobus van der Merwe only started cooking seriously at age 30. His team consists of six members (mostly female) and they don’t have any formal training. He opened the restaurant in 2016. A 130-year-old cottage houses the restaurant, with a historically significant cave on the property as well. The restaurant is right on the Paternoster beach.
Kobus believes in using freshly sourced ingredients. Every day the team forages for products from the wild Atlantic shore. He also makes his own butter and bread on site. He creates unique seven-course tasting menus, at R850 per person. It’s a fraction of the price you would pay at a top-notch Parisian restaurant.
The menu includes seasonal veldkos, sustainable seafood, plus local lamb and venison. Seaweed from the local rock pools, wild herbs, and other products from his own sustainable garden further enhances the dishes.
Wolfgat only serves 20 diners per seating. This way the team can keep it sustainable. All the indigenous ingredients are specific to the West Coast location. He calls it his Strandveld food menu. At the World Restaurant Awards in Paris, Kobus impressed the judges with his dedication to sustainable cooking, and his back-to-basics style. The 38-year-old chef feels greatly humbled by the award.
The Wolfgat Team Impresses Internationals
Kobus has gathered a team that shares his dream of sustainable cooking. After receiving the award, he was eager to head home to celebrate with them, over a glass of South African sparkling wine. Every day they help him to gather the succulents, dune spinach, and herbs needed to create his masterpieces.
The special seasonal tasting menu includes dishes such as angelfish with bokkom sambal and wild garlic masala, limpets, mussels and sea vegetables, twice-cooked laver (seaweed), and more. Wolfgat also received the award for best “Off Map Destination” restaurant.
At Wolfgat the team works together with no kitchen hierarchy, everyone is involved each step of the way to create world-class cuisine. Your dining experience will include a team member explaining to you the dish you are eating, elaborating on the sourcing and preparation.
Years of Culinary Passion Captured
After school he studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, one of the best chef schools in the world. But he only completed one year of the two-year diploma programme, deciding to pursue his dream of becoming a musician. Kobus was also a former EatOut webeditor. It reawakened his passion for fine dining after meandering away from it for a few years. At 30 he decided to make a shift in his career, focusing on cooking. Although he’s influenced by spicy local Cape Malay cooking, his philosophy is to keep the ingredients as pure and untreated as possible. He calls it “hyper local cuisine”.
In 2010 his parents bought the restaurant Oep ve Koep in Paternoster, and this gave Kobus the opportunity to experiment with sustainable culinary options. For seven years he worked with his parents to build the business. It gave him the perfect platform to prepare for his own culinary venture in 2016.
New Awards Include Affordable Dining
This was the first World Restaurant Awards ceremony. It was set up by Joe Warwick, one of the 50 Best Restaurants list founders. It included affordable dining options, focusing on more dining diversity plus unique eateries.
The 50 Best Restaurants list often leans strongly towards giving French cuisine preference, these new awards strive to have a strong focus on “diversity and integrity”. Their judging panel portrays this, it consists of 50 women and 50 men. They also have tongue-in-cheek awards such as “Tattoo-free chef of the year”, won by Alain Ducasse (France) and “Tweezer-free kitchen of the year” won by Bo.lan (Bangkok).
The judges include Rene Redzepi from Denmark’s Noma restaurant, the cookbook king Yotam Ottolenghi, and Clare Smyth, the Northern Irish chef that was the first female chef to win three Michelin stars in Britain. Judges were gathered across the globe, from 37 different countries in total. Their focus was on integrity and excellence.
A Restaurant on a Mystical Cave
The world-famous restaurant is situated above the Wolfgat cave. This location holds special meaning to Kobus, with the site holding a wealth of archaeological and geological significance. The Wolfgat cave holds archaeological finds over 2 000 years old. Various ancient artefacts were found including beads and stones, ceramics, ostrich eggshell, bones, and marine shell. Bedding and hearths are also possibly buried here.
John Parkington, a leading archaeologist, says that the Wolfgat cave is a vast chamber that lies under a remarkably large calcrete shelf. According to him underground stream erosion formed the cave, which eroded the softer sand under the cemented shelf. The locals believe that its underground passages meander kilometres into the surrounding land, possibly as far as the Cape Columbine reserve.
Book Your Seat Now
Wolfgat captures the rustic beauty of the West Coast. The interior is simplistic, yet elegant. It has a fireplace, perfect to create a cosy atmosphere for an intimate winter dining setting. And the stunning views of the ocean complements the delicious food. You can watch the fishermen in their brightly coloured boats as you nibble on food from the very same waters.
The word has spread fast about this amazing secret restaurant, book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Visit www.wolfgat.co.za for more information.
Share the Fine Dining Fun with Secret Cape Town
Remember to share your epic Instagram pics with us! Tag @secretcapetown or use #secretcapetown to be featured with our #guesswhere.