A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to get to shoot within the Wolfgat kitchen and restaurant once more. While I’ve previously experienced (and gushed about) the unique Strandveld cuisine of Chef Kobus van den Merwe, it was a pleasure to be able to return and capture the inner workings of the Wolfgat team as they prepped for their lunch service.
This time around I wanted to capture more of the process than the dishes themselves, although Kobus very kindly extended an impromptu invitation to Dawid and myself to sample his summertime menu.
Watching Kobus and his team prep for lunch is fascinating – the attention to detail is intricate and precise. Here, a fresh catch of Cape Bream is carefully filleted by Kobus and pin-boned by Tarryn De Kock – Masterchef finalist and private chef – before being prepared into an elegant ceviche with foraged soutslaai.
The restaurant sits atop the Wolfgat cave – a historical grotto from where the eatery takes its name. Its lofty location means that diners can enjoy commanding views out over Paternoster beach and if one is lucky enough, see the crayfish boats returning from a day’s fishing.
A long-standing dish on Wolfgat’s menu is their bokkom butter served with homemade roosterkoek. The bread is cooked over low embers and served amongst fragrant wild herbs. The butter is surprisingly devoid of any of the overpowering fishiness one associates with bokkom, but rather has a robust richness – almost a cheesiness – to it that is delicious with the roosterkoek and citrus-topped heerboontjie purée.
Shimeji mushrooms being prepared for Chef Kobus’ dish of locally caught chokka or Cape Hope squid. The buttery texture and delicate flavour of the squid makes it an ideal pairing with the earthy sweetness of the mushrooms. One of my favourite details at Wolfgat is Kobus’ collection of Scanlen knives – made by master knife smith Frederick Scanlen in Prince Albert in the Karoo. I’m fortunate enough myself to own two of his creations and they are a joy to work with and use in my imagery.
A few of the wines on offer at Wolfgat. Both chef and sommelier, Kobus carefully selects wines from the West Coast, Swartland and beyond to pair with each dish. For the whites, we enjoyed Tulbagh-based Lemberg Wines‘ single cultivar Hárslevelü and for the red, Intellego Wines‘ Kedungu – a Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedré blend hailing from the Swartland.
Kobus’ kitchen spills out into the restaurant, and so much of what goes on is visible to diners. However, when the sun is shining and the ocean is blue, the best seats in the house are on the stoep – leaving indoors exclusively for the team – and two very lucky photographers.
Finally, a sweet-savoury salad of apple and rehydrated bokkom served as the ending to our meal and for the third time in almost as many years, left no doubt in my mind as to just why Wolfgat was voted best restaurant in the world.