You’ve spent the day exploring the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve and lighthouse, walking on the beach at Paternoster and kayaking in the sea. Now your stomach is growling. Luckily, there’s no way you’re going to go hungry in Paternoster, with 17 restaurants offering everything from pizzas and burgers to seafood and fine dining. Here are some Paternoster restaurants worth visiting.
As so often the case here in Paternoster, the menu is replete with seafood and fish choices. I had seafood linguini that was richly delicious, while my carnivorous lunch partner chose Chalmar sirloin. Both desserts - Amarula crème brûlée and a lemon posset with berries – were a wonderful way to end the meal. I’d definitely go back for more fine dining next time I’m in Paternoster.
The Noisy Oyster
There used to be orange, yellow and blue umbrellas to give shade in the courtyard, but those are sadly gone - sacrificed to the practicalities of providing deeper shade on hot summer days. On cooler evenings fires burn for warmth and ambience. At night it's so romantic that it’s small wonder the starters, mains and desserts of normal menus have been ditched for the more titillating ‘foreplay’, ‘intercourse’ and ‘afterglow’.
We’ve been here numerous times and always enjoyed friendly and efficient service as well as great food, from melt-in the-mouth fish to mussels and oysters, which the menu boards refer to as West Coast Viagra. If fish isn't your thing, a regular on the menu is sirloin with béarnaise sauce and mustard. Crème brûlée, chocolate marquise or cheesecake are some ways to round off your meal. This is good food in a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere.
The Square Spoon
Service was fast and friendly and whoever plated the food had an artistic eye without being overly pernickety. Other menu items were fresh fish, mussels, oysters and prawns. For an on-the-spur-of-the-moment lunch, this was much classier and tastier than we’d expected. (PS I chuckled at the sign pointing to the ladies and gents: ‘Men to the left because women are always right!’)
Reuben’s at Abalone House
The menu is small, with a handful of choices for each course. Starters included goat’s cheese soufflé, chicken livers and salads. We chose a succulent lamb shank served on mash for our main. Pork belly, rib eye steak and linefish were among the other choices. For dessert we shared a malva pudding with crème anglaise and granadilla sorbet, the granadilla giving the sweet pud a nice tang and lifting it above the ordinary. Crème brulee, chocolate truffles and cheeses also appeared on the dessert menu.
We enjoyed our calamari and chips, but it was the view and ambience that were spectacular. We were early enough to watch the sunset over the bay while three young children played on rowing boats pulled up on the sand, just an arm’s reach away from mom and dad. A dog that adopted us on the beach earlier that day reappeared to make friends with the children and a whole deckful of people.
Breakfast is my favourite meal here, either for the fresh fruit, granola and yoghurt served in a glass as if it were a cocktail or for the vegetarian omelette with sautéed mushrooms, onions and peppadews for piquancy.
The lunch and dinner menus include seafood – from simple hake and chips to full seafood platters – as well as burgers, steak and chicken. The main part of the restaurant (inside) is fairly soulless, so try to get a table on the balcony; it’s worth booking ahead to get a spot there.
Wolfgat offers a seven-course tasting menu on Wed to Sun lunch, Fri & Sat evenings, seating about 20 people for what he calls a two-and-a-half-hour ‘eating journey’. He doesn’t want to offer it more often or to more people because he wants to keep the harvesting of these plants sustainable. ‘That’s why I won’t use corms or tubers where you have to use the whole plant, just ones you can harvest and will regrow,’ he said.
He has developed his menu ideas through research and experimentation, reading old recipe books, and chatting to old people and botanists, anyone he can buttonhole to talk about his passion. ‘And I’m a danger to myself when I’m driving because I can’t keep my eyes on the road,’ he admits.
He used to operate at Oep ve Koep but Wolfgat is a much better space, with gorgeous views out to sea. The building, about 130 years old, lies above a series of calcrete chambers that were most recently occupied 2000 years ago by Khoikhoi, who ate the same kind of foods he now serves, from plants to seafood.
I haven’t tasted the food at Wolfgat but Kobus insists he’s striving to make it delicious. ‘It may be a new taste adventure so you need to have an open mind, but we’re not making Fear Factor food here,’ he quipped.
Given the amount of media coverage this restaurant has been getting, and the number of accolades it has picked up, bookings are essential. In February 2019, Wolfgat was declared Restaurant of the Year in the World Restaurant Awards, having already won the Off-Map Destination category.
Turns out it was worth waiting for.
The simple whitewashed old cottage is right on the rocks next to the sea so the views are superb. We enjoyed watching kids and dogs playing on the beach, boats coming in with their catch. The menu includes seafood as well as guest appearances by beef and lamb for those who don’t eat fish.
My Asian chicken salad was delicious, the Norwegian salmon served with a delicate orange and fennel sauce that was so good I asked for a spoon so I didn't waste a drop. And the chocolate crème brûlée was a triumph. Another restaurant to return to.
Other Paternoster restaurants
There are also two restaurants at the new Paternoster Crayfish Wharf development at the old fish factory. They are Sea & Spice and The Hungry Monk. You'll find anything from seafood to burgers and tapas; The Hungry Monk also does a Sunday roast.
Amazing to think that if you visit Paternoster you could have two meals a day, each at a different restaurant, and it would take you more than a week to enjoy all that this little town has to offer.
Note: We paid in full for all our meals. Be aware that rock lobster (crayfish) is now on the red (i.e. don't buy) list of the SA Sustainable Seafood Initiative because stocks are so low they're unsustainable. So even if you see people selling them on the side of the road in Paternoster, don't expect to find them on the menus of ethical restaurants. Resist the urge to buy them on the side of the road and give wild stocks a chance to replenish.