Review: Gaaitjie Salt Water Restaurant, Paternoster

Review of Gaatjie: West Coast gem

During a recent long weekend break in Paternoster, we dined at Suzi Holtzhausen’s fisherman cottage- style, Gaaitjie Salt Water restaurant, located ideally on the beach and famed for its creative and seasonal gastronomic offerings that rival the best in Cape Town and the wine lands.

If you’ve been to the little village on the West Coast, with a population I’m yet to confirm (I’d be surprised if it’s over 3500), you can understand the awe surrounding Gaatjie and the dishes she presents her guests.

This was our last dinner in Paternoster and by far the meal I was looking forward to the most.

Roughly a week before, I booked a table with a view and spoke with Suzi herself who suggested that we come in at 7pm and not 8pm, to make the most of the views and the setting sun.

view from Gaaitjie

Service

We were greeted warmly and Suzi introduced herself and promised that we could have a little chat later.

The wait staff are mostly locals (our waitress Palieswa, from Cape Town, moved to the village in search of employment a few years ago), and I overheard fellow patrons comment about how service had improved over the last few months. Good service is pertinent to a pleasant dining experience and getting the balance of good, well presented food, friendly but not overbearing, professional but not curt service is an art.

I found the service to be of a good standard and we were made to feel very welcome.

Drinks

I had been battling horrible allergic rhinitis all weekend, and had to have a cup of tea, or three (a basket is brought out with several choices, some uncommon such as bucchu and passion flower). I was pleased with the options available.

I appreciate eating at a restaurant that does not make you feel like a leper if you do not drink wine with your meal, as more often than not we will have ice tea, water, bubbles or a cocktail instead.

The drinks menu is small and choices are local (including a lovely citrus iced tea from De Berge)

Starters

A mini loaf of bread baked in a small tin, with caramelised onions and sesame seeds and what tasted like a coriander mint chutney, served on the side, was presented with a steak knife poked through it. I thought it to be wonderfully dramatic and almost broke out in applause. It tasted magnificent too. I am an absolute sucker for good home baked bread.

I had the perdevoet (or limipit, which is a little clam) pastei (R45). Pastei is an Afrikaans word for a pastry or Cornish pasty. It was served with a spicy tamarind sauce (just up my taste alley!) The pastry was delicate, flaky and golden brown and made by Suzi’s assistant Chef.

My husband had the glorious asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon trout and served with a fresh fennel tartare sauce.

It was heavenly, and the portion generous at R50.

Suzi mentioned later that she also serves this dish with smoked tuna but had run out. (Mentally, I started to plan another visit to Paternoster. This has to be sampled!).

Asparagus and smoked salmon trout

Mains
I do not eat pork (apart from bacon). I surprised both myself and my husband (especially myself, I think), when I ordered the crisp pork belly with hot apple moes (apple sauce, a Dutch favourite that my husband grew up with – useful to drown horrible veggies like Brussels sprouts, he says), steamed greens and mash (R115)

It was delicious. I will have to get used to crackling and am no connoisseur- but, for those in the know, if the picture doesn’t do it justice, it was bubbled, browned and very crisp.

The meat was tender and thankfully not fatty (that’s the image pork belly always conjures in my mind). A successful pork belly first.

Waiter, there’s a crisp on my belly!

My husband had the yellow tail fillets prepared in a curry leaf masala with mustard seeds and served with basmati rice and a poppadom (R115)

We both loved this- it was aromatic, spicy and the gravy delicious.

Dessert

lemon meringue ice cream

We had the lemon meringue ice cream, which is a lemon flavoured ice cream with meringue piled over and a lemon sauce drizzled on (R45) and the traditional milk tart served with cardamom gooseberries.

Let me tell you about the latter. It was served warm, the pastry crisp and the milk tart filling with just the right amount of wobble. In other words, the perfect milk tart. The gooseberries were infused in a cardamom syrup which was nothing short of divine. Perhaps it’s because I have a fondness for the spice, but I found the syrup an ingenious way to serve otherwise tart gooseberries. Overall, I’m not a fan of a lot of sugar and the syrup is sweet- but you don’t need to eat it all.

But all of the milk tart and berries, were eaten.

The menu changes regularly, and I am looking forward to the start of crayfish (lobster) season in November (oooh, look: that’s right round the corner) and returning to Gaaitjie, a West Coast gem.

A Chat with the Chef

Just after the meal, I popped into the kitchen to have a casual chat with Suzi who was prepping the last of the mains for a large table of guests who were sitting out on the veranda.

Suzi was warm and entertaining and revealed that she had been in the industry for 25 years. It shows.

I must add, that even though she didn’t know us and understood that my blog is merely recreational and certainly not going to convert and influence the masses, Suzi went out of her way to twist another local’s arm to serve us breakfast (amazing, must- have apparently) the next morning. Alas, he wasn’t planning to open. (Another reason to visit the village soon!).

While I strive to be independent and as objective as I can in my reviews, I must add my personal view that a Chef’s kindness in real life can be tasted in his/her food.
I’d like to think the same applies to the cook at home as well, like myself (and you!).

Suzi’s vegetables are sourced from a local supplier, but the bulk come from Cape Town. Spices (especially the Indian essentials), are bought in Cape Town and fish from the West Coast, with some of it coming from the village.

I have the distinct impression that should the local suppliers of produce be more consistent and offer the variety, Suzi would willingly engage their services.

Knowing that it would be difficult to answer, I asked Suzi to recommend four store cupboard ingredients, essential for the cook at home.
Suzi’s everyday picks:
good tinned tomatoes
cumin (Bless her heart- I’d say the same!)
good quality salt flakes (Suzi uses a local brand)
brown sugar

Date visited: 17 October 2010
Contact: Suzi at (022) 752 2242 or email: saltcoast@tiscali.co.za
Address: off St Augustine’s Rd, Paternoster

*Note* The opinions expressed above, and interpretation of the menu and ingredients presented, are mine alone. I apologise for inaccuracies, if any.

No offence to the establishment, chef or staff is intended.

My photographs are unedited.


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By | 2017-05-05T17:51:46+00:00 October 24th, 2010|Restaurants, Review, Travel, Travel in Africa|10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. k505 October 25, 2010 at 2:05 am - Reply

    that tart looks scrumptious! i've never tasted a gooseberry (such a weird name for a berry, no?)… sweet or tangy? there's always a new discovery for me on your blog 🙂

  2. Ishay October 25, 2010 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Thanks for reading!
    Yes, it is a strange name for a berry!
    It has a tart flavour and makes a nice jam (jelly). When they're widely available at the stores I blitz them along with blueberries and strawberries in smoothies (one of the things I love about the warmer weather). Gooseberries are high in Vitamin C, amongst other things.
    You can have a look at this for more info on the Cape Gooseberry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physalis_peruviana

  3. Robyn MacLarty October 25, 2010 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Sounds absolutely divine… I have only ever eaten at the strandlooper and the noisy oyster, but I will definitely stop in at gaaitjie next time I visit!

  4. Ishay October 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Hi Robyn. I was disappointed that we couldn't get into the Noisy as it was fully booked. Looks like a fun place!
    When you do visit Gaatjie, please share your thoughts!

  5. Angela Nossol-Friedrichs December 28, 2010 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Hello,
    Just coming back from our holiday home in Langebaan I would like to give you a personal account of our trip to Gaaitjies:
    On 17/12/2010 we invited friends for late lunch. We had an outside table (at the edge). 2 of our group of 6 are smokers. When they started smoking they were informed by the staff that this is not allowed, not even on the balcony, only outside of the restaurant. – our friends complied. After the starter and us being the only ones left on the balcony my friend lit a cigarette and went to a far corner not bothering anyone with the smoke. Suddenly Ms Holzhausen came storming out and shouted that we already had been told by the staff that smoking was forbidden. She rushed back to the kitchen, leaving all of us speechless. My husband then went inside and asked her very kindly not to use such a loud voice towards our guests. Suddenly all hell broke loose in the kitchen. Ms H. verbally attacked my husband in a screaming (!) voice we had never ever experienced before – she was rude, loud and definitely had a hot temper.
    Even we did something “unlawful” the patron should never raise her voice towards guests !
    The cherry on top was a long black hair on my fish. Coincidence ?
    Well, we had coffee at Voorstrand with a smiling and friendly waitress as usual.
    For all of us Gaaitjie is a no go area from now on despite the partly good food.
    Kind regards
    Angela
    Windhoek/Namibia and Langebaan
    P.S.
    What also put us a bit off was the menu with the small print at the end to spend at least 150 R per person. A very unusual thing so mention.

    • Ishay December 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      Dear Angela
      Thank you for taking the time to comment on your experience.
      I am sorry to hear that yours was negative as quiet clearly, mine was the very opposite.
      As much as I have published your comment here, I do not think that this blog, which deals only with my own experiences in the kitchen and at restaurants, as part of my own food journey, is the appropriate place for your complaint to receive the attention it requires.
      May I suggest that you approach one of the following sites that cater specifically for complaints such as these: http://www.hellopeter.com, http://www.getclosure.co.za or http://www.biglittlevoice.com. As far as I understand, the latter two will approach the restaurant with your complaint and give them an opportunity to respond with the view of achieving some sort of resolution.
      It has been my experience, with poor service, that if one is open in permitting the service provider an opportunity to rectify the situation there is a better chance of closure and perhaps reconciliation from both sides.
      This, I understand, is not always the case.

      As a side note (it is certainly not my intention to dispense legal advice) may I draw your attention to the Tobacco Products Control Act 1993, and the subsequent amendments (please refer here for further info: http://www.jlesliesmith.com/default.asp?id=1204&menu=sub2,sub2,sub2) which places no obligation on restaurant owners to even host smoking areas or permit such in the building. Interesting to note that “covered enclosures” including balconies are prohibited as designated smoking areas in the newly amended Act. Owners face steep fines of up to R50 000 for contravention.

      I sincerely hope that your complaint will be addressed to your satisfaction and that you will enjoy many happy eating adventures in Cape Town and South Africa.

      Best regards,
      Ishay

  6. WannabeBond December 28, 2010 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I’ve found restaurants can be as individual as whine. I mean whine. I mean wine. What I love about blogs is the willingness of people to expose their opinions to everybody, come what may.

    Nice review Ishay, and nice response. *two thumbs up*

  7. Angela Nossol-Friedrichs December 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Hello Ishay,
    I appreciate your comments and I did not mean to whine. I just wanted to share our thoughts about this restaurant. It is not always gold what glitters.
    Best regards,
    Angela

  8. Rene Brummage August 30, 2011 at 8:44 am - Reply

    It’s all you could ever wish for from a beach restaurant and more. The setting is unparalled and the food simply mouthwatering. You often see on the food channel programmes how chefs talk about respecting food and their being sincerity in the preparation. Well Suzi @ Gaatjie delivers this and throws in an abundance of SOUL into her food as well.

  9. Sharon Small-Smillie October 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Our party of 11(4 Dutch, 2 Australian and 5 South Africans) were successful in securing a booking at Gaaitjie last year early October. We were surprised at the GREAT service we received not to mention food to die for! The group was pretty demanding and the staff managed really well with plenty of smiles. Suzi, also spent a few minutes interacting with us. We are due back at Paternoster with the same Dutch party next weekend 8th October and have already secured our booking at Gaaitjie as we would not miss out on the wonderful experience!

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