The West Coast stretches from Cape Town to Namibia and offers many treasures along the way, including the picturesque village of Paternoster on the West Coast Peninsula.
By Dominique Brown
A scene that speaks of a quaint Greek village comes into my line of sight and I am speechless at the picturesque beauty before me. White beach cottages flank the coast and the clear turquoise ocean blinks in the sunlight. This is my first foray to the West Coast and my visions of small fishing villages, wizened locals and sun-weathered boats are a reality. Paternoster is a fishing village and the residents live in modest houses dotted among the more luxurious holiday homes and guest lodges.
Our hosts at Abalone House, the first five-star boutique hotel in Paternoster, are as warm and inviting as the roaring fire heating up the interior. We’re just a few hours from Cape Town and I feel as though I have entered another world. We’re swiftly shown to our rooms: cavernous and individually decorated, they all showcase beautiful fittings, such as a quirky chandelier or dressing table, as well as large and colourful Tretchikoff prints.
I immediately indulge in a coffee from my personal espresso machine, and it’s not long before I’m exploring this eclectic and intimate guesthouse. With only 10 suites you’re guaranteed personal attention. A beautiful courtyard shelters a swimming pool from the elements and the upstairs deck offers a superb place to view the coast from either the patio suite or the bubbling jacuzzi.
The interior is as unique as the patch of paradise in which it’s set. Opulent decor, which includes extensive bookshelves, plush rugs and natural wood and stone textures, give Abalone House the feel of a dreamy palatial home straight from a novel. Sip on a glass of wine and warm yourself by the fire; I guarantee that the calming surrounds will have you unwinding in no time.
The West Coast offers an abundance of fresh seafood and you can’t go home without giving it your best effort. Founded on generations of fishing families, you will find the locals along the road in Paternoster flogging their latest catch. Fresh crayfish can be bought for a bargain – but be sure they are in season. Our first evening featured a seafood feast with fresh fish and crayfish as well as roosterbrood, veggies and sublime malva pudding. Chef Darren Stewart is Welsh-born but has certainly embraced the local food culture, creating fine-dining dishes using local ingredients. Breakfasts are extensive and the eggs Benedict delicious.
They also offer a superb high tea, which includes Darren’s signature Gateau St Honoré. The second night was a meal to remember, set in the cosy Saffron Restaurant, where we indulged in a six-course tasting menu designed by Darren and paired with spectacular wines. Think beetroot soup with goat’s cheese ravioli; steak tartare with a hen’s egg, rocket and Melba toast; and crispy duck with naartjie, pancake and rooibos jus. We began with a variety of artisanal breads and ended with beautiful croquembouche.
Take a walk along the quiet roads and you’ll come across a few small restaurants, including The Noisy Oyster and Voorstrandt Restaurant, which is right on the beach. For a delicious meal prepared with local ingredients, like bokkom tapenade toast, poached egg, fried tomato and basil, try Die Winkel op Paternoster – it is also a farm stall offering preserves, homemade biscuits and other trinkets. Pop in to the local gallery, Stone Fish Studio, where Dianne Heesom-Green exhibits her own work as well as that of other local artists. This multitalented woman also hosts sea kayaking adventures. I bravely paddled into the cold Atlantic, precariously balanced but determined, and was treated to the glorious view of the Paternoster coast from a different angle. The bird life is profuse and, if you’re lucky, you may bump into a few penguins or dolphins.