Is it possible to fall in love with a building? Or is the place where the building is situated the reason behind my heartache, my longing and my mild jealousy that other people get to call this building home on various long, sun-filled weekends during the year. The building in question that is causing me all these feelings of unrequited love is Dunstone Beach House – a whitewashed wonder of a holiday home situated in the small community of Jacobsbaai along the Cape West Coast. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of staying at another of Dunstone’s properties – the Manor House on their wine estate in Wellington – and wrote about my experience for House & Leisure Online. Abundant in luxurious finishes and old-world charm, the Manor House was an experience on it’s own. But nothing prepared me for the utter relaxation I was to enjoy at Dunstone’s seaside sanctuary.
Steadfastly set on it’s own peninsula, Dunstone Beach House looks out across two natural bays, which gives it’s inhabitants the impression of being on some wonderfully windswept island – all shrieking gulls and crashing waves. A hamlet of only a few hundred houses, no tarred roads and only one shop, Jacobsbaai has adhered to the West Coast aesthetic of white walls, thatch roofs and natural stonework. There is none of the claustrophobic ostentation found in other coastal towns and Jacobsbaai is all the more appealing for it. Dunstone is no different, with the beach house consisting of three levels – a downstairs apartment with separate entrance, the main living area and a roomy loft. Bi-fold doors open the living area out on to a spacious deck while the two main bedrooms and the kitchen each have balconies of their own. Although the surrounding beaches aren’t considered private, when staying at Dunstone Beach House one can easily mistake that they are there for the house alone – during my weekend stay, I barely saw another soul. The dunes themselves are barely held back by resilient crops of sea grass and vygies – the fleshy anemone-like wildflowers that lend their technicolour hue to early Spring – lending the house a wild, solitudinous atmosphere.
Inside it’s a different story as four bedrooms, a large kitchen and open-plan living area offer the ultimate in seaside comfort. The main bedroom is bright, airy and open to the ocean on both sides through stacking doors and picture windows. An imperative detail for me, the linen used to make up the beds is of highest quality – perfect for curling up with a good book on sunny afternoons. For the cooler months, ample heating is provided via underfloor and panel heaters in both of the main bedrooms. The two main bedrooms and the loft all feature en-suite bathrooms with ample showers and bathtubs in the former. The fourth bedroom is located downstairs and is part of a enclosed apartment with it’s own bathroom, kitchenette, lounge and braai area – perfect for extended families with small children. On the topic of children, Dunstone Beach House is entirely kid-friendly, offering up beach buckets and spades, towels and squashy beanbags to sit on. In fact, kids of all kinds are welcome as the house caters to furry friends too. The Pugs will be glad of this fact as the beach in front of the house is perfect for taking long walks at both sunrise and dusk.
For those seeking a staycation of sorts, the house offers up everything that one could want. The open-plan kitchen looks out over the ocean and is kitted out in sea-blue cast iron Le Creuset – perfect for evenings spent cooking for friends. Ample cups, plates and wine glasses are provided whilst the addition of a dishwasher makes cleaning up a fuss-free experience. Squashy sofas pushed into the sun make for the perfect nook in which to enjoy a cup of tea while the eight-seater dining table can be moved on to the deck for an al fresco eating experience. Although most afternoons along the West Coast are known for being rather windy, the deck area is pleasantly sheltered from the squalls that whip the waves to foam and whistle around the windows, thus making for the perfect spot in almost any weather.
But if your sense of adventure is piqued, one can visit the nearby towns of Vredenburg, Langebaan or Saldanha Bay or head north to Paternoster – a mere twenty-minute drive from Jacobsbaai. For the intrepid explorer, venture further up the coast and discover the small fishing communities of St. Helena Bay, Velddrift and Elands Bay. In the mood for seafood, we were fortunate to come across fresh mussels being sold at the fish market in Paternoster. Picked from the rocks that very morning and smelling tantalisingly of the ocean, black mussels are one of my favourite local delicacies and are SASSI-endorsed as a sustainable food choice – did you know that mussels and other filter feeders aid in the purification of any water they are put into? At only a mere R30.00 for a kilo of fresh mussels, the cost didn’t harm our choice of dinner either. Since Dunstone also does their own range of single vineyard wines at their estate in Wellington, I was inspired to put together a simple seaside Moules Marinere and pair it with their excellent Sauvignon Blanc.
Prep time: 15 mins / Cook time: 20 minutes / Serves: 4 to 6
You will need:
- 1 to 1.5 kilos of fresh black mussels
- 500ml fresh cream
- 2 tablespoons of butter, for frying
- 6 to 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 brown onions, peeled and finely diced
- a small head of celery, leaves removed and stalks finely sliced
- a good handful of fresh dill, washed and roughly chopped, plus extra for serving
- a few sprigs of parsley, washed and roughly chopped
- the juice of a large lemon
- 250ml of dry white wine
- coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
Using a wire brush, scrub the mussels and rinse in cold water, discarding any that stay open when sharply tapped. Place them in a large pot and pour over the dry white wine. Set aside while you make the sauce.
Melt the butter in a hot skillet and gently sauté the onions with the garlic until fragrant and translucent. Season with salt and pepper and add in the cream, lemon juice and herbs. Simmer until slightly reduced and keep warm. To cook the mussels, place the pot containing them over high heat with the lid closed. When the wine comes to the boil it will steam the mussels. Keep an eye on them and pick out any mussels that have opened and add them to the cream sauce. Steam until all the mussels are open, discarding any that refuse to open after about 8 to 10 minutes of steaming. After you’ve added all the opened mussels to the cream sauce, spoon in a few tablespoons of the steaming liquid and stir to combine. This will add a robust, fishy flavour to the dish.
Spoon a helping of mussels into heated bowls, finishing with some extra cream sauce and a scattering of chopped dill. Serve immediately with fresh crusty bread, a chilled bottle of Dunstone Estate’s Sauvignon Blanc and the scent of the ocean on the evening breeze.