Here’s a good excuse to book a trip to the Cape. Wolfgat, a tiny restaurant found in a fishing village in South Africa’s Western Cape, was named Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in Paris’ Palais Brongniart. It also won a second prize, the ‘Off-Map Destination’— an award that highlights under-the-radar and off-the-beaten-track culinary gems.
Located in Paternoster, which is about 150km from Cape Town, the 20-seat restaurant is housed in a 130-year-old ‘oceanside cottage’, where chef and owner Kobus van Der Merwe offers a seasonal, seven-course tasting menu made from locally sourced and foraged ingredients. And that means “sustainable seafood, local lamb and venison, and seasonal veldkos… enhanced by wild herbs, seaweeds from the local rock pools, and pickings from the garden.
“It’s a very minimalist approach — it doesn’t make sense to gather amazing herbs but then transform them into sauce that has nothing to do with them,” said the 38-year-old Van Der Merwe.
The quaint restaurant, overlooking an idyllic beach, is run by six staff, who have been serving customers dishes that feature indigenous ingredients specific to the Cape coastline. If you have been wondering, the restaurant is named after the nearby Wolfgat cave, which still contains remnants of ancient culture and — rumour has it — underground passages.
The judges said of Wolgat: “If mother nature erected a sign saying ‘build restaurant here’, it would surely point to Wolfgat. Chosen from all the inspected big plates, our inaugural Restaurant of the Year is a small, remote haven of purity and good taste in every sense.”
The new awards prides themselves on ‘diversity and integrity’, with 50 men and 50 women on the judging panel, which include luminaries such as Rene Redzepi of Denmark’s Noma restaurant, cook book king Yotam Ottolenghi and Northern Irish chef Clare Smyth, the first woman to win three Michelin stars in Britain.
See all the winners here.