We recently took some British friends who were visiting us in Cape Town up the West Coast to enjoy a quite unique lunch experience. In case you are wondering about the title, I need to do a little explaining. A “Strandloper” was the colonial name given to a tribe of hunter-gatherers, descended from the Khoisan people of the South Western coast of Africa. Before the colonization of the Cape, these people used to live a nomadic life at the coast, eating whatever fish or seafood they could catch or scavenge from the sea. The Strandlopers no longer exist as a tribe, having been gradually assimilated into other population groups.
Today, an easy 90min drive from Cape Town by rental car takes you to the town of Langebaan, a very popular weekend or summer retreat alongside a sheltered lagoon and here you can have your very own Strandloper experience. The Strandloper restaurant is in fact an open-air eatery right on the dunes. Do not expect luxury – in fact you will sit on benches around concrete tables with your feet in the sand. No tablecloths, no candles, and no cutlery! Mussel shells are used in lieu of a fork, so be warned and bring your own cutlery if you prefer.
By now you are probably thinking that this is an experience you can do without, but the fact of the matter is that people come in droves to experience the food, which is all prepared before your eyes over open fires, just as the Strandlopers would have prepared it hundreds of years ago.
What is on the Menu at the Strandloper Restaurant?
Well, fish, fish and more fish! This place would be a really bad idea if you don’t eat fish, as there are no other choices. The meal takes the form of approximately 10 different types of fish and seafood which are served up as they are ready. You start with mussels done in two different styles, and then move through several types of grilled fish, fresh bread baked in coal-fired ovens and served with traditional accompaniments and then the finale – fresh Cape lobster! You have to be very careful to pace yourself – it is very easy to eat too much and then find that you have no room for the lobster – what a shame!
At the Strandloper restaurant, there is a bar, but you are encouraged to bring your own wine. Between courses you can stroll on the beach, and if you are there for dinner, you have the added attraction of seeing a magnificent South African West Coast sunset.