Every since Kobus van der Merwe cooked a meal for us at an International Wine and Food Society function in Cape Town a few years ago, visiting his restaurant in the picturesque seaside village Paternoster has been on my ‘to do list’!
Until recently Kobus worked out of the family owned café Oep ve Koep but has since moved to a 130 year old cottage overlooking the water.
It is along this coast where he forages for his unique ingredients. The sand dunes and rocky outcrops provide the ‘greens’ that are either served raw or pickled. In his open kitchen you can see jars of ‘preserved’ or pickled produce, ready to be used. A peak into the fridge is intriguing as you don’t recognise many familiar ingredients, but you get a sense that an experience of “alchemy meets culinary art” awaits.
The sea provides most of the inspiration for his menu. I have heard that he occasionally sources protein from the land too. The West coast produces some excellent lamb.
Seating only 20-24 guests per meal you are served a 7 course meal from a set menu.
The restaurant is different, no glitz and glamour, the decor is rough and basic, drawn from the land and sea. A simple bowl of abalone shells, a dried bush, a springbok skin. A bunch of fresh indigenous pelagonium hangs in the cloakroom, probably as a natural air freshener! You are welcomed by West Coast warmth and on a lovely warm day, seated on the ‘stoep’ (veranda) overlooking Paternoster bay and its pristine beach and iconic white houses. The decor is quirky and unpretentious.
The 7 course menu has simple explanations, which are elaborated on, when Kobus or one of his assistants serve the meal.
The wine list is outstanding, featuring the unusual and local produced wines. We thought that the wines were rather pricey, knowing what the cellar door charged!
Now to the food! The menu is dated…. that tells me that tomorrow may be different! It changes if Kobus is able to source unusual fresh ingredients. Expect the unusual, this man is an artist in flavours, textures and appearance……
I will take you through the menu
Course 1: Srandveld (Beach Veld) Snacks
The first snack was a Klipmossel (Rock Limpid) minced and delicately stewed and served in the shell on a bed of coarse salt. We all agreed that if this was an indication of what was to come ….. bring it on!
The second ‘snack’ was the most spectacular dish I have seen in ages! It resembled a taco….. but with beautiful colours. A leaf of ‘soutslaai’….. a delicate sorrel flavoured leaf, sandwiched angel fish serviche, finely diced watermelon and wild pelagonium petals. A visual and flavour sensation!
Course 2: Tjokka (calamari) with wild garlic masala, nartjie (mandarin orange), slangbessies (red berries from an indigenous bush)
Bread course: freshly baked bread sticks served with bokkom butter. Bokkoms are salted dried fish. They are very salty and fishy ….. well almost like anchovies, so you can see where this concept originated! We mopped up every drop of the salty-fishy butter…… subtle and rich!
Course 3: Heerenbone & Strandveld greens…… what on earth!???
Sea asparagus or samphire and a selection of interesting ‘greens’ on a bean puree ….. fresh and light!
Course 4: West Coast Oyster with quince, kelp and dune celery
This is not the prettiest dish to photograph, but, my goodness it was stunning. The oysters were plump and fresh. One was chilled with a garnish of seaweed and the other barely warmed with a dune celery garnish. Wow!
Course 5: Saldahna Bay Oysters with a dune spinach ‘blanket’ and locally grown sweet potato
Course 6: Angelfish with butternut & foraged greens
The finale: Course 7
Wild Sage: amasi (fermented milk – a natural yoghurt / soured milk – traditionally African) sage ash and nectarine. The nectarines arrived on the table on a layer of smoking wild sage.
A memorable dining experience!
Paternoster is a quaint village about 160 kms from Cape Town.
There are several B&B’s and self catering units. A lovely place to escape for a few days.