As residents of the Western Cape, we are truly blessed with a bounty of outdoorsy options on our proverbial doorsteps. In 2021, any type of change is as good as a holiday so when I was recently presented with the chance to flee the city for a couple of days, I sprinted out of the front door. I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend with my sisters, my cousin and his delightful 4-year-old daughter on the West Coast in Dwarskersbos, right on the beach.
Here’s what we saw, what we did and crucially, what we ate.
Friday: Winding down with a comforting classic
Before being there, we had to get there, obviously, and that meant that we had to pass a petrol station with at least one iconic fast-food franchise on its property. It’s pretty clear where I’m going with this. My Wimpy burger was sublime, the fries were rubbish and the coke was okay, surely there were better things to come once we reached our final destination?
Once I had put my things down, deciphered the Wi-Fi password and jumped on my bed for a few seconds, I was still a little restless so I went for a barefoot run on the beach, and the heart rate stats showing up on my Strava app were those of a man in his mid-30s who had eaten a Wimpy burger just three hours prior. For dinner, my sister rustled up an old family favourite pasta dish. I won’t divulge all of the details but roasted slivers of garlic in tinned tomato and olive oil with a whole lot of butter and parmesan provide the basis for an astoundingly simple yet stunning pasta sauce. There’s nothing as nostalgic as the meals you used to eat when you were a kid.
Saturday: A seaside braai-ella
Imagine a balcony view like this one, for keeps, forever ever? Can’t be real.
Once I peeled my eyes away from the sunrise and demolished a coffee (Moka pot, double espresso, smidgen of frothed milk) there was every intention to attempt a half marathon distance of road running on my part, but those dreams fell away and I settled for a more modest trot before getting slightly (very) lost in the beachside estate.
Once little Mimi and I were done burying and then unearthing various tiny treasures in the sand directly on the “patio” of our braai area, it was time to start mentally preparing for chicken & chorizo paella. My cousin Matt (writer, bagel slinger at Max Bagels and accomplished amateur chef/wine aficionado) chose to fashion a simple, classic take on a Spanish favourite over the fire for about an hour.
The labour-intensive bit came in with the red peppers which were roasted directly on a flame on the gas hob until slightly blackened/charred, and cooked through. Then they were seasoned and lashed with olive oil and placed under the grill. From there, they sat in a Tupperware for a while (any airtight container will suffice) and peeled. The skins should fall right off, revealing slivers of rich roasted pepper. It’s difficult to describe their flavour so I won’t.
That dollop of extra effort goes a helluva long way when all is said and done. Paella isn’t a technically difficult dish by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s fun to make for amateur cooks who enjoy a methodical approach to their meal preparation and, of course, a hearty and colourful final product.
As if paella wasn’t enough decadence for one day, we threw a few prawns on the braai grid (or shrimp on the barbie, if you also like to pretend that you can pull off a semi-decent Aussie accent), which we served with a green salad, baby potatoes and artichokes because why not? I’ve got an acute phobia of having dirty/greasy hands at the best of times, but I’ll always make an exception when there’s a pile of prawns next to me with a lemon butter dipping sauce alongside.
Sunday: Waffles to start
Little Mimi was up pretty early and pretending that my pillows were icebergs or something like that. It was cold. Not Joburg cold, but “cold for a Capetonian” cold. Coffee for pre-breakfast to acquire the tools that help me process the sheer absurdity of being alive on a daily basis, and then actual breakfast of waffles with whipped cream, blueberries & raspberries, drizzled with Sols West Side Fynbos Honey (which is deeply imbued by Fynbos and Gousblomme from this exact region). I’m not usually a huge breakfast eater but that stance isn’t gonna fly with a small child around and if you have to eat before midday, why not eat waffles laced with rich fynbos honey and fresh berries? I’m still patting myself on the back for having the forethought to pack my waffle iron.
I wasn’t a key player in the preparation of Friday’s pasta or Saturday’s paella and prawns fiesta, so I felt the need to make myself useful and put some food on the table on Sunday morning. Fortunately, the waffles were sensational. After three of them (yes, three) my food journey in Dwarekersbos was over, although a return trip of fewer than two hours to Cape Town saw my appetite return with interest. I cannot actually remember what I ate that Sunday night and that’s probably because I wasn’t with my crew on the beach.
There’s not much that can restore one’s soul quite like a weekend away with family, eating exceptional food and breathing in the fresh coastal air. To merely have the opportunity to enjoy simple pleasures at such immediate convenience is a privilege that I’ll never take for granted.
West Coast attractions
The critically-acclaimed and award-winning Wolfgat restaurant, spearheaded by chef Kobus van der Merwe, is well worth a visit. It’s a quaint setup in a whitewashed cottage but don’t let that deceive you, this is a place that creates world-class culinary experiences, overseen by an expert who insists on foraging for ingredients in the surrounding area. If you have the chance to book at Wolfgat in advance of a weekend away, do it.
The West Coast is also popular for its sleepy getaway locations. Like Dwarskersbos and Velddrif, Paternoster, Tietiesbaai & Yzerfontein possess a unique “chilled out charm” while further north there’s the enticing prospect of a surfing sesh at Elands Bay. One of our esteemed suppliers, Kokerboom Kaas, is located in Velddrif too. If you need cheese, they’ve got it.
Gift a hamper of cheese, preserves and charcuterie to get your next weekend away off to a classy, convenient start.