Don’t get me wrong, a meal at a Michelin star restaurant is an experience in itself, but I love to discover unique, out of the way restaurants that deliver not only in exquisite food, but in a memorable dining experience.
On our recent trip to Cape Town my family and I ( all 14 of us) took a drive an hour up the West Coast from Cape Town to a little fishing town called Langebaan where we had lunch at the open aired restaurant, Die Strandloper. You couldn’t get closer to the beach if you tried and with laid back, West Coast hospitality this was a meal to remember.
You know how I love to share/savour and enjoy good food? Well this restaurant expeince encompassed just that. You arrive at 12pm and the 10 course seafood menu can take up to 4 hours. Between courses you relax, chat, go for a walk on the beach, enjoy a glass of wine or if you’re anything like my nieces and nephews, try and catch an “albatross”.
All the seafood is caught locally and cooked on open fires. All of it. There is no kitchen. South Africans are pretty passionate about their braai’s (bbq) and done well, nothing beats the slightly smoky flavor of fish grilled on the fire.
Starters consist of Bokoms which is salted, sun dried fish. It’s not for the faint hearted and smells like Corey’s bait box when he goes fishing. I definitely can’t stomach it, but it is a West Coast classic.
Next is West Coast mussels, some done in garlic butter and some in white wine. The mussels have their beards and barnacles in tact just in case you weren’t sure how rustic the place really was.
Warm, freshly baked farm bread which is cooked in wood fired ovens and is possibly the best bread I have ever tasted is served with the mussels and throughout the entire 10 courses with farm churned butter and homemade jams. Major restraint has to be exercised in order to not fill up on the deliciously soft white stuff.
It’s a help yourself style of dishing up. You eat off paper plates and the cutlery comes in the form of mussel shells – The ultimate spork.
After mussels there is a series of fish courses starting with West Coast Haarders which is a small fish cooked whole on the bbq. The staff are on hand to help you debone your fish and any discarded bones and fish heads are thrown to the seagulls who quickly clean up the scraps, but leave a different kind of mess if you know what I mean? Nothing more unpretentious than having a seagull shit on you while you eat lunch. Love it.
My all time favorite fish to have cooked on the fire is Snoek. It’s a dense, meatier fish with a very subtle flavor. You baste it with apricot jam while it is cooking skin down over the coals and then eat it with apricot jam on white bread. Yum right? I promise it is.
Another course follows of seafood curry and a lamb and artichoke stew for those who have had their fill of seafood. These are cooked in cast iron pots called “potjies” which stand on 3 legs over the coals.
By this time you are getting sufficiently full, however the best is still to come.. crayfish. Crayfish taste similar to lobster, but have a more delicate flavor. First they are steamed whole, then cut in half and doused in garlic butter over the coals.
If you hadn’t had enough of the farm bread there is then Roosterkoek (Braai-bread) to be had. These are little balls of dough that are cooked directly over the coals and once again served with farm butter and homemade preserves. Carb hevean!!
I saw on the menu that the meal was ended with MoerKoffie, now it’s been a while since I had to speak Afrikaans and there isn’ t really a direct translation of the term “Moerkoffie” into English , but the closest I would say is ” Cowboy Coffee”. It’s strong, served in an enamel cup and if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it, but the kettles of coffee brewing over the coals were stired with a flaming log from the fire. Once you get over the floating bits of charcoal in your cup, it sure is the best darn coffee I had while I was in South Africa. There was much talk by my little sister and her boyfriend about opening a coffee shop in Cape Town that makes that kind of coffee.. so rustic it could be trendy. I bet the Cape Town hipsters would be all over it.
Coffee was served with koeksisters for dessert which an old school Afrikaans sweet treat. They are made from braided dough which is deep fried and then immersed in a sickly sweet syrup.
This is such a uniquely South African experience and if you ever make you make to Cape Town, it’s definitely well worth the trip and the seagull poo.