A stone’s throw past the West Coast National Park, right as you drive into Langebaan, you’ll find a beach restaurant that is so authentically and deliciously “West Coast, South Africa” that it has become a port of call for many Capetonians wanting to impress visitors to the Cape. It’s called Die Strandloper (‘beach walker’ in Afrikaans) and with course after course of rustic seafood fare, a ceiling of heavy fishing nets, a floor of soft white beach sand, and the smell of braai wood, sea spray, and fresh roosterkoek perfuming the air, you simply won’t find a more quintessential West Coast experience anywhere else.
Be warned: if you haven’t yet paid Die Strandloper a visit, you might just change your weekend plans after reading this.
The menu… all 10 courses of it
From beginning to end, Die Strandloper is about good, honest food served in authentic West Coast style. There is no picking and choosing here: the menu is an epic 10-course seafood braai feast that kicks off with fresh roosterkoek (baked bread) which is pulled steaming from the open-air ovens as guests begin to arrive. Crisp crust and pillowy soft insides, the bread is served with real butter, konfyt or jam, and a creamy, garlicky West Coast mussel potjie.
Now listen very carefully: you will be tempted to go back for seconds and even thirds. The way that freshly baked bread soaks up that sweet, creamy mussel potjie is a very, very fine thing and extraordinarily difficult to resist. But resist you must or else you won’t have space for the remaining eight courses and – spoiler alert – the final savoury dish isn’t one you’re going to want to miss.
Next up are a variety of fresh caught and prepared seafood, including barbecued Weskus haarders (West Coast mullet), fish curry, barbecued snoek with potatoes and patats (sweet potatoes), beef and boontjie (bean) bredie (traditional South African stew), smoked angelfish, and linefish. Can you see how authentic Die Strandloper’s fare is? I practically had to translate every word from Afrikaans!
My recommendation is to try them all but be modest with your serving sizes because it’s the penultimate course that you’ll want to reserve a little stomach space for. It’s kreef (crayfish) prepared simply and beautifully on the barbecue with nothing more than fresh lemon, butter, and a little seasoning to complement its wonderfully sweet and succulent flesh.
If you can fit another ounce of food into your belly, the final courses are koeksisters, a traditional Afrikaans treat made from plaited dough, which is deep-fried and drenched in syrup. This is washed down with good old moerkoffie (ground coffee made in a tin pot on the fire) or rooibos tea.
And there you have it! An epic crash course in West Coast cuisine and culture (and language).
Beach setting, seating, and set-up
The seating in Die Strandloper restaurant is very informal. A series of ramshackle wooden cabanas have been set up, each of which has low tables and benches for parties to sit on. The floor, as I mentioned, is silky soft white beach sand and the ceiling, little more than heavy fishing nets dotted with suspended seashells for décor. This set-up is all centred on the braai and serving area, from whence the mouth-watering aromas of roasting fish, bubbling stew, and freshly baked bread waft.
The meal is staged over several hours so guests are free to get up between courses, wander on over to the beach, which is mere steps away, or even order drinks from the bar located a short distance off. Another great thing about the informal vibe at Die Strandloper is that you’re welcome to bring your own drinks, which is particularly great if you’re overnighting in Langebaan because the only thing that marries better with seafood than butter is white wine!
Experience it for yourself
Die Strandloper is the ultimate in traditional, down-to-earth, West Coast hospitality, cuisine, and culture. If you’re as vulnerable to temptation as I am, you can probably expect a serious bout of food coma afterwards but it’s absolutely worth it, especially at a price of only R325 per person over 12. Its gorgeous setting on the beach only adds to the allure and, shared with good friends, a little live guitar music, and staff that is more family than co-workers (and it shows), you’ve got a quintessential South African experience neither local nor foreigner will ever forget.
Die Strandloper is open Wednesday 12:00 to 15:30 | Friday and Saturday, 12:00 to 15:00; 18:00 to 21:30 | Sunday 12:00 to 15:30; 18:00 to 21:30