Acclaimed Cape eatery Wolfgat turns its tasting menu into a posh takeaway

14 May 2020 - 09:28 By Sanet Oberholzer
Chef Kobus van der Merwe hard at work in the kitchen of Wolfgat prior to the national lockdown.
Chef Kobus van der Merwe hard at work in the kitchen of Wolfgat prior to the national lockdown.
Image: Halden Krog/AFP

Despite its popularity after being named Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards last year, Wolfgat in the Western Cape village of Paternoster has been struggling to survive. Like so many fabulous local restaurants, this intimate 20-seat beach eatery has been hit hard by the national lockdown.

Chef patron Kobus van der Merwe says the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on him and his team, financially and emotionally.

“It's the uncertainty of what lies ahead that is most difficult to cope with — will we bounce back? Won't we?” he elaborates. “For now, we're doing everything we can to try to stay afloat as long as possible.”

This includes finding an imaginative way to turn their seasonal tasting menu into a takeaway now that home food deliveries are possible — no easy feat when your dishes not only champion sustainable ingredients indigenous to the West Coast, but things like wild herbs and seaweed that must be freshly foraged.

“At the moment our biggest challenge is the shelf life of the fresh ingredients and how perishable some of the prepared dishes can be,” explains Van der Merwe.

“Packaging was also a challenge, especially since we are used to presenting our dishes on handmade custom crockery and cutlery.”

His team’s solution? To create an “interactive” hamper that contains everything you need to enjoy an immersive dining experience at home. This includes all the elements to assemble an upmarket four-course meal for two, along with instructions on how to cook, reheat or finish each dish.

On the menu is sourdough bread and homemade butter; seasonal snacks; a black or white mussel soup starter; a main course of Verlorenvlei lamb, mushroom and kelp, and a dessert that you can finish baking in your kitchen.

Wolfgat's interactive hampers come complete with a painting of the Paternoster restaurant's sea view done by chef patron Kobus van der Merwe himself.
Wolfgat's interactive hampers come complete with a painting of the Paternoster restaurant's sea view done by chef patron Kobus van der Merwe himself.
Image: Supplied

Typical of Wolfgat’s emphasis on attention to detail, each hamper also includes special touches designed to lift your spirits: a map of the Strandveld, a painting of the sea view from Wolfgat’s veranda — painted by Van der Merwe himself — and a playlist to listen to while you dine.

Each hamper costs R800 and can pre-ordered on Wolfgat's website, with delivery to select areas along the West Coast taking place on Fridays and Saturdays.

Van der Merwe says the initial response to their hampers has been incredibly positive, but that they'd need to expand their reach if this initiative is to make any difference to the negative financial impact that lockdown has had on the restaurant.