In June last year, Kobus van der Merwe from Wolfgat in Paternoster and Willem Hiele from Willem Hiele Restaurant in Koksijde Belgium came together for an inspiring and unique dining event at Willems restaurant. 6 months later the second of the “Two Brothers from Another Sea” collaboration saw these two chefs reunited in Paternoster.
I was ecstatic to have been invited and so humbled by the experience that it is a memory I will cherish forever.
Both chefs have a very similar ethos around food and the hyper-local sourcing of ingredients. They obtain the bulk of their produce from their respective coastlines. Willem gets much of his seafood from fishermen that use horses to draw nets in the icy North Sea, whilst Kobus has generations-old local fishermen bringing live mussels, crayfish, oysters and fish daily, not to mention the wild produce from the dunes and surrounds.
“It feels like the West Coast is our muse and that we continue to explore and discover every day. We want to go on challenging our guests in an interesting way with textures and tastes and lighting new pathways in the brain.” KOBUS VAN DER MERWE
“The North Sea and the Flemish seaside are a source of inspiration and a playground where I can lose myself every day…. through our dishes, we aim to ignite the fire deep down inside you.” WILLEM HIELE
The magical sunshine pierced day started as we gathered in the charming ‘Oep ve Koep’ shop and bistro which is where Kobus started his West Coast culinary journey. The rustic old trading store with its characteristic whitewash, soap, wood and leather smell, opened up to welcome our motley crew of global journos and aficionados. Snacks that would boggle the minds of many were accompanied by the most delicious Swartland bubbly. it was a great start and a perfect way to meet the group of strangers that would soon become friends.
The special bites included:
FISH TACOS REMIX
- Catch of the day, soutslaai, watermelon
- Oyster, appelliefie, basil
- Angel fish heerenboon croquet, suurvy
The myriad shades of white from the quaint houses echoed against the magnificent azure sea and giant boulders as we were led by the team through the dunes and onto the beach. A table with a crisp white tablecloth on the edge of the water was filled with the most magnificent treats and the backdrop was one of the fishermen bringing in his just caught haul. We were entranced by our next course, aptly titled THE FISHERMAN THAT CAME OUT OF THE SEA.
It’s here that we met the two chefs and were treated to four delectable morsels which were dished up as we stood on the beach. Kobus collected a box of legally harvested West Coast crayfish from the fisherman’s boat and turned it into a lively tartare with lime and sea herbs in front of us. We drank a mocktail of cucumber juice, sea fennel, sea celery garnished with a soutslaai flower. To add to this fantasy of all things sea fresh were:
- Limpets, red pepper, wild garlic, lemon
- Black mussel, avocado, dune celery
- Bream, veldolyf, wild fennel, dune spinach
We walked up the dune following the tattooed and bearded wild man for our next course, WOLFGAT, A PASSAGE BETWEEN TWO WORLDS.
This was an oyster with springbok, plums and seaweed served in the road at the stoep outside the restaurant. Crossing the threshold into the restaurant we were serenaded by Kobus on the keyboard and chef Adél Hughes from Oep ve Koep on an African drum.
FEED ME WITH MUSIC was a cabbage roti filled with wild garlic masala tjokka and sambals
MY BROTHER’S CAPPUCCINO was a delicious dish of white mussels that was a riff from one of Willems signature dishes at his restaurant. It was served with the iconic Wolfgat bokkom butter, sourdough bread and a rooibos cream.
My favourite course of the day was the SEAFIRE.
This was not only because it was sublimely delicious but we also watched the entire process of it being made by Willem overlooking the sea right before our eyes, who by this stage had become a magician entrancing myself and all the guests.
Dampened coffee sacks were draped over a blazing fire under which the humble Jacopever fish was smoked, broiled and steamed. They were brought whole to the table by Willem, hissing and spitting from the fire, steam rising. After being filleted and shredded they were then placed in beautiful simple bowls and an incredibly pure and aromatic green broth was poured over to add depth of flavour.
This species is being brought into the spotlight through the amazing Abolobi initiative and the main seafood supplier to Wofgat.
THE LAMB HAS LANDED was the only meat course of the day and was a small dense aromatic phyllo pie encasing extremely tender Verlorenvlei lamb with Koppiesveld mushrooms, and served with a subtly smoky-sweet date, orange and whisky sauce.
Each course of the day was paired with a different Swartland wine poured by Willems partner Shannah Zeerboek who somehow managed to acquire the depth of knowledge on each wine and pairing you would expect from a seasoned local sommelier.
Somewhere during the course of the meal, a band of twenty or so elderly locals formed an impressive choir and sang songs passed through generations – even more heart-warming was that they were led by Kobus’ mother on piano. This strongly brought home the philosophy of Wolfgat and the importance of not only the food and sense of place of the ingredients but also the people and the community in which the restaurant operates.
Whole fire-roasted pineapples formed the base for the sorbet in our first dessert called AFKOEL. This was served with wild sage, buchu, buttermilk rusk crumbs and amasi.
BRUXELLES, MA BELLE, our second dessert, was a Belgium waffle topped with Kobus’ mother’s marmalade and lemoenboegoe.
Two Brothers from another Sea was a culinary event that transcended other experiences, and the memories of that day stretch beyond the food, the exquisite scenery and the lovely people. It will stay embedded in my heart as a celebration of life, caring, friendship, community and passion. It reminded me why I do what I do as a lifestyle choice and the magic that can transpire when you bring people together around a table.
WEST COAST INGREDIENTS:
As part of this special one-off collaborative culinary performance, chefs Willem Hiele and Kobus van der Merwe showcased some typical Strandveld ingredients: Wild edibles unique to the Fynbos kingdom of the Cape West Coast. These included the following amongst many other endemic elements.
DUNE SPINACH (Tetragonia decumbens)
Dune spinach (‘kinkelbos’ in Afrikaans) is a low-growing (0.1 – 0.3 m high) creeping shrub that is found in coastal areas such as on dunes near the sea. The plant is found from southern Namibiaalong the coastline to the Eastern Cape.
SOUTSLAAI (Mesembryanthemum guerichianum)
Mesembryanthemum is a genus of flowering plants in the family Aizoaceae; like many members of this family, it is characterized by long-lasting flower heads. Many Mesembryanthemum species are known as ice plants because of the glistening globular bladder cells covering their stems, fruit and leaves.
DUNE CELERY (Dasispermum su_ riticosum)
The leaves are variable, with toothed leaflets, and a celery-like aroma and they grow on coastal dunes and headlands.
KAPOKBOS (Eriocephalus Africanus)
This small shrub with silver leaves and white flowers are called Eriocephalus africanus and is of the Asteraceae family. Named after the fluffy seed tufts, the Cape Snowbush is also called kapokbos in Afrikaans or wild rosemary. In southern Africa there are 34 species of Eriocephalus, all with these woolly fruits.
STRAND SALIE (Salvia africana-lutea)
Salvia africana-lutea (beach salvia, dune salvia, golden salvia, bruin- of sandsalie, geelblomsalie) is a shrubby evergreen perennial native to coastal sand dunes and hills on the coast of the Cape Province in South Africa. It has numerous woody stems growing to more than 1 m in height and width, with sparse grey-green leaves. The flowers start out bright yellow, turning into a rusty colour with the dark rusty-coloured calyx persisting long after fruiting begins.
SEEPAMPOEN (Prenia Vanrensburgii)
A fast-growing, short-lived perennial succulent, endemic to the sunny, windy, littoral seafront or shoreline zone in the coastal parts of the eastern part of the Western Cape. It has flat, egg-shaped leaves with white flowers in spring.
More about this amazing event: