A brand new international restaurant award system has named Wolfgat The Restaurant of the Year in the World Restaurant Awards, at a ceremony in Paris on Monday. The restaurant also won the award for Off-Map Destination. Three other top South African restaurants were nominated in categories of the World Restaurant Awards, from Cape Town, Somerset West, and Pretoria. 

The World Restaurant Awards name is very similar to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the founder of the latter, Joe Warwick, having established the new award system. Instead of naming the top 50 restaurants in the world on a ranked list, with the 51 – 100 restaurants bubbling under, The World Restaurant Awards has maverick categories in which its 50 male and 50 female judges from 36 countries award the best restaurants in the world, judges being predominantly chefs and media personalities. The only South African judge is Margot Janse. The creation of the new restaurant award system was motivated by allegations of ‘lobbying and bias against French cuisine’ in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. 

The new Award’s website provides the following background: ‘The World Restaurant Awards was created by IMG (a leading Events, media, fashion and sports company) in partnership with Joe Warwick and Andrea Petrini to celebrate restaurants as culture, considered in the same way as film, art and music. This means relevant/progressive categories judged with robust integrity by an expert panel in an attempt to better reflect the true range and diversity of the international restaurant scene: from fine dining innovators to humble, accessible establishments, major culinary capitals to more remote destinations. Expect The World Restaurant Awards to be conducted with complete integrity and make everyone think about the full gamut of the world’s great restaurants old and new, from luxury destinations to humble institutions – and what makes them so special’.

The World Restaurant Awards has various categories:

#. Big Plates, ‘to champion excellence and integrity while trying to better promote the diversity of the world’s Restaurant community’: 

  1. Restaurant of the Year: Wolfgat, Paternoster, South Africa. 
  2. Arrival of the Year: Inua, Tokyo, Japan (new restaurants opened September 2017 – 2018)
  3. Atmosphere of the Year: Vespertine, LA, USA (recognising Service, acoustics, ambience)
  4. Collaboration of the Year: Paradiso X Gortnanain, Cork, Ireland
  5. Enduring Classic: La Mère Brazier, Lyon, France
  6. Ethical Thinking: Refettorio (Food for Soul), Italy 
  7. Event of the Year: Refugee Food Festival, Paris, France, and worldwide 
  8. House Special: Lido 84, Lombardy, Italy 
  9. Forward Drinking: Mugaritz, San Sebastián, Spain, 
  10.  No Reservations Required: Mocotó, Såo Paulo, Brazil
  11. Off-Map Destination: Wolfgat, Paternoster, South Africa 
  12. Original Thinking: Le Clarence, Paris, France.

#  Small Plates, ‘recognise contemporary  cultural nuances by acknowledging the pivotal role social media now plays in the restaurant world wide, with tongue firmly in cheek, attempting to subvert current gastronomic fashion and also makes a point of championing tradition, both culinary and literary’, a mouthful of a description of what and who this more irreverent category recognises: 

   1. Instagram Account of the Year: Alain Passard, Paris, France (@alain_passard)

   2. Long-Form Journalism: Lisa Abend, ‘The Food Circus’/Fool magazine

   3. Red-Wine Serving Restaurant: Noble Rot, London, UK

   4.  Tattoo-Free Chef: Alain Ducasse, Paris France.

   5.  Trolley of the Year: Ballymaloe House, Cork, Ireland

   6. Tweezer-Free Kitchen: Bo.Lan, Bangkok, Thailand. 

Chef Kobus van der Merwe, once working for New Media, publishers of Eat Out magazine, started cooking in his hometown of Paternoster in 2010, initially inside his parents’ Oep ve Koep general dealer store, a one-man show in cooking for and serving patrons in a very informal setting.

Restaurant Review: Oep ve Eet a passionate Paternoster treat

Two years ago the chef opened Wolfgat, and he has surpassed other local chefs in the reputation as the Foraging King of SA. He has a small team of kitchen staff who have no formal training, and they operate in a 130-year old cottage and Wolfgat cave on the Paternoster beach. The restaurant serves a 7-course Tasting Menu at R850. The restaurant can only seat twenty patrons. In November last year Eat Out recognised Wolfgat as the 4th Best in our country, and Chef Kobus as Chef of the Year. Congratulations Chef Kobus and your Wolfgat team for this outstanding achievement. 

As all the media coverage about this new restaurant award system was focused on Wolfgat in our country yesterday, no mention was made of three other South African restaurants that were named as finalists: 

#. Janse & Co of Cape Town was longlisted for Arrival of the Year. 

#. Camphors at Vergelegen in Somerset West was longlisted for Forward Drinking (‘nominated for their fresh ideas in liquid refreshment’)

#  Mosaic at The Orient in Pretoria, longlisted in the Red-Wine Serving Restaurant category. 

Surprising for an inaugural international restaurant award system is the number of typos on the website, announcing the winners and nominees, as well as in their Tweets! 

The Test Kitchen and La Colombe must be more than annoyed in not even having been nominated for the World Restaurant Awards, having been on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards! 

World Restaurant Awards. www.restaurantawards.world Twitter: @worldrestawards Instagram: @worldrestawards

Wolfgat Restaurant, 10 Sampson Street, Paternoster. www.wolfgat.co.za Instagram: @Wolfgat Lunch Wednesday – Sunday, Dinner Friday and Saturday. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog  Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here