A chef that rustles up seasonable delicacies from local ingredients, offers regional wines and an artisanal beer and takes your order – painstakingly explaining the menu – is a talented man indeed. Kobus van der Merwe’s restaurant is a hidden treasure, operating from his family-run farm stall (home-baked goodies galore) on South Africa’s west coast, in the sleepy whitewashed fishing town of Paternoster.
Utterly unassuming yet much respected in South African culinary circles, Kobus provides an intrinsically South African eating experience – local dishes such as bobotie and snoek are presented with creative flair and greenery sourced from the beach and served in the colourful back garden accented with bunting and family antiques.
Commonplace items are given elevated status as they are prepared with thought and skill – the humble ‘naartjie’ (clementine) is lovingly marinated and served with bread, ‘bokkoms’ (dried fish) adds salty tang to a humble pear and seaweed salad, and honey is artfully drizzled over a dessert so different as to defy description (something like soft, flavoured meringue placed over chilled and pureed fruit with a biscuit mixture in between, but tasting much better than all those things together).
In a country in which small-town gourmet treasures are the norm, Oep ver Koep becomes an exception, as it goes beyond good food to provide a faultless experience at a low price in a beautiful location. We’ll soon be back in Paternoster, if only for lunch!