‘Dis daai ou wat amazing goed met bokkoms doen,’ was how Kobus van der Merwe was first described to me. Truth be told, ek skrik vir vis… fish funk – that whiff of pungent sea-dweller – shrivels my appetite. And I’ve always considered the potent little bokkom an oddity peculiar to the West Coast, like a smelly type of mobile … I remember visiting Paternoster as a teenager and being quite horrified that people actually ate them. Until I read Kobus’s blog and then it was just a matter of time.
Owned by his folks, Die Winkel is a retro sensory overload of pickles and preserves jamming with jammerlappies and doilies, while Kobus goes about his business resuscitating the culinary heritage of the West Coast from his tiny kitchen at the back.
I was downright excited about my first bokkom encounter. And a bit nervous because what if I didn’t like it? And him being Mr Bokkom and all. But when the Sandveld bean dumplings arrived I knew I was in excellent hands. Kobus is ICA trained and it shows in how he incorporates near-forgotten dune plants with fine-dining flair, plated in sharp focus yet with every element justified in the overall flavour-scheme. Nothing is there for the sake of being pretty and though some ingredients could be called rustic, the end result is always sophisticated and downright gorgeous.
He uses maasbanker bokkoms and due to short supply, recently started drying and salting his own… a necessary step in the evolution of the gourmet bokkom.
The bokkoms are marinated to soften them up and in so doing, that sharp bokkom edge becomes less pronounced. Breaded Bokkom consists of a round slice of bread, halved, with slivers of green apple and bokkom, fried in a pan and served with beurre blanc, a poached egg and garnished with samphire or seekoraal as it is called in Afrikaans – en wat ‘n mooi naam is dit nie? It resembles delicate asparagus and tastes pleasantly…. green. But it’s the contrast of crisp apple and salty bokkom that provides the X factor here.
I polished my plate. The menu is small – about six dishes per day – and changes daily. Some form of bokkom is pretty much a given and well worth the journey. Kobus harvests dune plants that used to be West Coast staples but have fallen out of favour. Now people simply no longer know about them. For a main I had to choose between old fashioned chicken pie and calamari bobotie. Much as I love old fashioned chicken pie it was a no-brainer, really.
Bland by nature, calamari perks up nicely as bobotie. The sides here were masterful and I loved how the beetroot bled around the edges. This dish is on par with anything I’ve had in one of our top fine dining restaurants and at R70 it is mind-blowing value. And that sentence really could do with an expletive or two. I’m being far too ordentlik…
Oep ve Koep Bistro is one of a kind. And Kobus is a national treasure. His commitment to raising the kontreikos bar adds heart and authenticity to the local food scene. I was most impressed that someone as young and talented as Kobus was toiling away in a tiny kitchen on the West Coast, digging deep to honour his food roots. Hy maak kosbare bydraes tot ons koserfenis.
Kobus, dankie vir ‘n heerlike kuier, die lekker vars brood en die tip oor moskonfyt. Ek gebruik dit nou ook om ‘n bietjie Bolandse umami by my kos in te werk!
If you’re looking for that typical Weskus bokkom aan ‘n toutjie vibe, Paternoster se Padstal down the road has them strung up and for the more iffy-at-heart, there’s the vacuum-packed sort that won’t honk up the car.
Paternoster has blossomed into a soul food destination with so many restaurants, you need at least a weekend to sample the best of them. Maar dis ‘n ander dag se storie daai.
Oep ve Koep was reviewed on SABC3 Expresso Show on 31 May. All my restaurant reviews are in the process of being uploaded to the Expresso website.