Mar / April, 2017: An hour or two west of Cape Town lies a sleepy coastline of windswept beaches, ochre red bauxite mines and quaint little fishing villages. Sounds like a weird combo but thankfully you only see the mines as you wiz past on the highway. The freezing Atlantic Ocean keeps the beaches relatively empty but with a strangely pristine kind of vibe. After a week in Cape Town we hired a lawnmower sized Datsun and headed for the laid back town of Langebaan. Driving the cape west coast was the perfect way to start a two week road trip.
Everyone always talks about the pretty town of Paternoster but we went for the cheaper, slightly scruffier town of Langebaan. We had hopes of a quaint seaside cottage but settled on a cheap and very friendly yachting school doubling as an AirBnB. At first we were fairly underwhelmed by the town but as time wore on we grew quite fond of it. To start with, everyone from our AirBnB host to the workmen fixing the road to the local pharmacist were super friendly. And, provided the wind wasn’t blowing too hard, the white sandy beach provided lovely sun filled views across to the West Coast National Park. The whole place made you want to grab a book or the newspaper, curl up in the sun and do nothing. The cape west coast just seems to do that to you.
As often happens to us though, our stomachs drove us from our lazy stupor so we jumped in the car and drove the 45 minutes to Paternoster. On the way we passed a sign for the town of Mykonos which hinted at what was to come. Paternoster is an old fishing village filled with white washed beach side cottages like something pulled straight from a Greek island advert. A long flat beach stretches off into the distance interrupted only by the odd fishing boat pulled up onto the sand. After a leisurely stroll on the rather chilly sand we popped into the Voorstrandt restaurant for a cheeky beverage before pulling up at an old fishermen’s cottage turned restaurant.
Die Gaaitjie holds a commanding position right up one end of the main beach at Paternoster. From our quick bit of research it also sounded like the best restaurant on the cape west coast so were always going to check it out. It’s got a rustic but no less authentic nautical feeling about it with super friendly if not overly knowledgeable staff. Chef Jaco Kruger has done time working in Asia and you can taste this influence in his food along with a healthy dose of Cape Malay spices. We started with a mildly disappointing bowl of local mussels which were cooked perfectly but lacked the advertised kick of cumin. Our mains of Spiced Monkfish and Grilled Kingklip were significantly better aided in no small part by a cracking local barrel fermented Chardonnay.
We were all set to head back to Langebaan when we thought we should go for a cleansing beverage at the somewhat dubiously named ‘Panty Bar’ at the Paternoster Hotel. As the name might suggest the ceiling of the public bar was crowded with ladies’ underwear of all shapes and sizes. And no, no one else’s undies added to the collection during our visit. While we were there on a quiet night, perched up at the bar was none other than Jaco, the chef from Die Gaaitjie. What started as one quick beer turned into two and before we knew it, it was closing time. Needless to say the drive home in the Datsun was slow and steady.
Instead of retracing our route along the cape west coast we thought we would head inland on the way back to Cape Town. Stops at the Darling Brewery in Darling and then the Ormonde Private Cellar and Groote Post winery just outside of Darling broke up the journey nicely. The various tastings ensured that our little road trip up the cape’s west coast ended ever so nicely!
Cape West Coast travel and feasting tips:
- If you’re looking for cheap and friendly accommodation in Langebaan then we recommend staying with Perry-Anne at her AirBnB. At R360/person/night in a small, simple but comfortable room it’s the best value we could find. Breakfast is included along with a full kitchen if you want to cater yourself. Note that this is a working sailing school so you’ll likely be sharing the place with a bunch of sailing students.
- The Langebaan Yacht Club is a great spot for a cheap feed and epic milkshake looking out over the water. It’s members only, but Perry-Anne from the AirBnB told us to drop her name and we got in just fine.
- While the odd dish was hit and miss at the Die Gaaitjie in Paternoster, we still thoroughly enjoyed our night there. At R580 for a shared entree, mains for two and a bottle of vino it’s also great value.
- We weren’t there on the right day but the Die Strandloper in Langebaan looked like probably the coolest seafood restaurant we’ve ever seen. It’s little more than a shack on the beach but they specialise in doing braais of fresh local seafood right on the water.
- The Darling Brewery is definitely worth a visit. We paid R135 for a tasting paddle each (5 x 100mL tasters/paddle) plus lunch. We made the mistake of sitting outside so make sure you head upstairs into the warehouse style bar which is much cooler on a hot day
- We did thoroughly enjoyable tastings at Ormonde Private Cellar (in Darling) and Groote Post (25 minutes drive out of town). Our tasting fees were waved at both.