A small beachside restaurant in South Africa has won the top prize at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in Paris.
The Wolfgat – whose six staff have no formal training – opened in 2016 in the small fishing village of Paternoster on the west coast of South Africa.
Head chef Kobus van der Merwe forages daily for ingredients on the seashore.
The awards, set up by one of the 50 Best Restaurants list’s founders, went to mostly affordable restaurants.
The restaurant, which serves a seven-course tasting menu priced at 850 rand (£46; $60), can only feed 20 people at one sitting.
Van der Merwe – Eat Out’s reigning S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year – collected the award from television host, celeb chef and fellow South African, Lorna Maseko.
The restaurant, which is housed in a converted 130-year-old fisherman’s beach cottage in Paternoster offers one of the best, most untouched views in the country and is praised for a menu that is built freshness and locality. “If mother nature erected a sign saying ‘build restaurant here’, it would surely point to Wolfgat. Chosen from all the inspected big plates, our inaugural Restaurant of the Year is a small, remote haven of purity and good taste in every sense,” reads the World Restaurant Awards website.
Mr van der Merwe – a former food blogger who trained as a chef later in life – told AFP news agency: “I don’t feel worthy. My staff who go out every day gathering herbs, succulents and dune spinach, should be here… It’s their baby.”
His philosophy was to “interfere as little as possible with the products, and to keep them pure, raw and untreated”, he said.
“We serve a small, seasonal tasting menu, about seven courses, predominantly seafood, and then we enhance that with some indigenous pickings that we find seasonally around the village, wild herbs, succulent seaweeds.”
Judges include René Redzepi of Denmark’s Noma restaurant, cookery writer Yotam Ottolenghi and Northern Irish chef Clare Smyth, the first woman to win three Michelin stars in the UK.
The awards boast some unusual categories including tattoo-free chef, red-wine serving restaurant, original thinking and ethical thinking. The Wolfgat won a second award for best “off-map destination”.