I never get bored of the West Coast. I know some people find it just too windy, too sparse, too sun-washed. And, in parts, too empty.
But for me those are the exact reasons why I love it. The bleached white of the cottages lining the beaches. The whip of spray off the top of crystal-clear icy-cold waves. The wide empty sands just begging for long lonely walks.
But on the other hand I also love good food and cosy eateries; interesting chefs and quirky farm stalls. Which is why Paternoster remains such a popular getaway for Capetonians and upcountry travellers in the know: it ticks all the right boxes between West Coast emptiness and cosy comforts to make your weekend getaway a touch more comfy.
I managed to escape up to Paternoster for a few nights this week, and discovered two new favourite hangouts. The first was chef Kobus van de Merwe’s small eatery ‘Oep ve Koep’.
Kobus has been getting plenty of much-deserved attention recently for his innovative hyper-local cooking that makes the most of everything the West Coast has to offer - from wild-growing herbs to fresh local mussels – and a quick lunch turned into a languorous multi-course affair that had me rolling away from the table.
Far and away the highlight was perhaps the most interesting oyster dish I have yet tasted: warmed under the grill and served with gooseberry, apple and beurre blanc, topped with a salty wild herb called samphire. Incredible.
Followed by a mussel bobotie – finely ground and mixed with lentils, it’s not as fishy as you might expect - and seriously-tender springbok fillet, the meal was a revelation and Oep ve Koep is now a must-visit for me on the West Coast.
And the same could be said for one of the newest accommodation options in town: Strandloper Ocean Lodge.
Paternoster certainly isn’t short of places to stay, but finding a stylish spot that has great sea views and doesn’t feel too crowded isn’t always easy. Strandloper manages to tick all of those boxes quite nicely.
Apart from the expansive Presidential Suite, the pick of the 16 rooms are the Ocean Suites, with their cool bleached-wood floors and private patios facing the deep blue sea.
Double-volume ceilings and pot-bellied fireplaces cater for summer days and winter nights, and the rooms abound with thoughtful touches: bathroom products by Rain, organic Cocoafair chocolates for late-night cravings, a Nespresso machine for morning pick-me-ups and a mini-bar with mineral water and fruit juices.
There are also smaller, more affordable Courtyard Rooms on offer, and although they don’t have sea views they enjoy sheltered sitting areas and an outside shower. If you don’t plan to spend a lot of time in your room, these are ideal, and still feature the fine linen and luxury touches of the sea-facing suites.
And if you want a sea view, there is a small communal lounge area on offer, as well as a wide wooden terrace with wonderful sea views.
It’s here that breakfast is served, a lovely mix of continental croissants and cold meats, topped up with a hearty Full English if you’re hungry. The resident chef also does dinners on request, and there were some interesting comfort food options available: an avocado ritz given a West Coast twist with crayfish, and an excellent fillet of herb-crusted kob.
The menu, like the accommodation, seemed to distil the best of the West Coast into a single stylish package. The fresh tang of the sea on the plate, and the white wide-open beaches reflected in cool airy suites.
Along with Kobus’ outstanding West Coast cooking, Strandloper Ocean Lodge is just another reason for me to head north of Cape Town the next time I need to escape the crowds.
For more information, visit www.newmarkhotels.com