Restaurant Review: Gaaitjie in Paternoster one of West Coast’s best


A mid-winter break in Paternoster had to include a repeat visit to Gaaitjie – Salt Water Restaurant, a restaurant with the most stunning setting on the rocks overlooking the bay, and one of the best restaurants on the West Coast. 

Suzi Holtzhausen is the owner of Gaaitjie, and moved to Paternoster from Johannesburg, where she had a cookery school, six years ago.  She started off setting up the Salt Coast Inn, offering self-catering accommodation, followed by the Eatery, which offered breakfasts, “lite meals and sweet treats”, the business card says.   Here I once had a bizarre cheese omelet (ordered as such) drowned in a boerewors and onion sauce for breakfast.  Suzi ran cookery courses.   Suzi’s mother ran the Eatery when Suzi opened Gaaitjie six months ago, but it has been closed down now.

Gaaitjie probably is better suited to a summer visit – in the early summer evening it is still light enough to sit on the terrace outside (I learnt that it is important to book the exact room you want to sit in), and to enjoy the beautiful view onto the sea, and to hear the waves crashing.  Blankets are provided should it become chilly once the sun sets.  For lunches outside it is perfect.  In winter customers have to sit inside, and this makes space restricted, and last-minute bookings hard to make.  The best tables in the main restaurant room, with a fireplace, are the first to go.  I thought I had done well with a booking five days ahead, but other bookings had been received a month ago, I was told, making my power to change my table allocation close to zero.   I was seated furthest from the action, in a room that only had a very smelly gas heater, so I asked to be moved to the main restaurant room.  This is when I learnt of my low rank from Camilla.  The best she could do was to seat me in the entrance room, which has one table, but also a fireplace.   For a single diner it is a very lonely place, but Susan, the manager for the evening and a good friend of Suzi, kept me company as she was buzzing along, checking on everyone.  She is an absolute natural at customer care and friendliness, unlike Camilla, who looked unfriendly.  A new waitress struggled with a simple order for cold water.  She received training behind the counter, which I could hear. Given the stature of Suzi’s cooking, the new waitress was not yet an asset to the restaurant.  She was allocated to my table – again I felt to have hit rock bottom.

Gaaitjie is the name of the building which Suzi rents from the local Sea Fisheries’ department, and they renovated it to her requirements. It looks like a Greek cottage, as do most of those in Paternoster.  One can only see the signage from the road, as the restaurant is so low down, at close to sea-level.   The kitchen is in the middle of the building, and one has to walk through it to get to the main restaurant room and terrace.   The generator for the fridge ticks away, and evokes a farmhouse memory.   The ceiling is covered in reeds, giving it a further Greek feel.   The doorways are low, especially for tall gentlemen passing through them.   The walls have framed yellowing newspaper clippings with general articles about Paternoster.  The cutlery is nothing special, but the serviettes are made from material, with a shell forming a serviette ring.  Here and there a fishy decor touch can be seen – an ashtray filled with shells, a fish-shaped water bottle, and a ceramic fish on the bar counter.

Gaaitjie’s menu is restricted to seven starters and mains each, and four desserts.  Each one of Suzi’s dishes are unique, and her stature as a chef comes from her marriage of ingredients, often demanding a brave palate from her patrons in trying unusual ingredients or combinations.   The paper menu starts with the sentence: “Taking time to prepare the best of what’s around the West Coast area, served by the people of Paternoster”.  The menu can change daily, depending on the produce that Suzi can get hold of.  Gaaitjie is not inexpensive, and hence it is mainly Capetonians and other out-of-town visitors who eat there.  I recognised a fellow Slow Food Cape Town member arriving with a party of six others.

I chose the mielie chowder with scallop and green pea wontons, at R 50, an ideal dish for the first chilly night of the winter.   The wontons were deliciously crispy, and the chowder very filling, topped with green beans, and I regretted having it before the main course, both being very filling dishes.   My pork belly choice was stated on the menu as requiring 45 minutes’ preparation time, so the chowder was a good way to pass the time, giving little action on Twitter that evening.   The chowder was served with the most unusual muffin-shaped bread with an onion marmalade centre and crowned with black sesame seeds and fresh herbs.   It was served with an anchovy, garlic and olive tapenade.   Anchovies are one of few things I do not eat, so I was presented with a slice of butter, beautifully served with a twig of chive balancing on top of the slice standing on the plate, so simple but so attractive.   Other starter options were angelfish bobotie spring roll on coconut and bean sambal; chicken liver peri peri vetkoek with creme fraiche and roasted chilics; spinach and curd samoosas on hot tomato and basil salad; grilled pear and deep-friend labna cheese salad; and a house salad of greens, feta style cheese, cucumber, tomato and seeds, all costing between R45 – R55. On a summer visit I had eaten the chilled pea and fresh crayfish soup, at R75, which was outstanding, but there was no crayfish on the menu as the season closed a month ago. 

The main courses range in price from R110 for the snoek lasagne to R125 for a braised lamb shank and butter bean pie with mint and pumpkin broth.  Other mains were yellowtail fillets simmered in curry leaf masala and lentil rice; a stew of black mussels, baby calamari, sweet pepper and spicy sausage; the crisp pork belly (and crisp it was, with the most delicious crackling, which I left for last) served with an unusual leek mash; roasted quail on a hot beetroot salad; and chicken breast with pesto pasta.

Dessert choices were preserved naartjie and ginger praline cheesecake; malva pudding topped with molten local blue cheese and melon preserve;  baked custard with Witblitz-soaked Cape gooseberries; and rich chocolate mousse with salt dust (I wanted to order the mousse, but could not get a good description of its ingredients, as it was new on the menu that evening – the fact that part of the mousse was white chocolate which contained passion fruit made me decide against it, and none of the other dessert options attracted me).

The winelist is on a separate sheet of paper, and is introduced as follows: “We keep waste to a minimum and km’s travelled low so choices are local and small”.  For this reason most wines are from the West Coast.  Each wine is briefly described, and the wine estate it comes from mentioned.  Corkage is charged at R 40.  One sparkling wine (Kasteelberg) is offered at R 135, five white wines range from R 95 for a Kloovenburg Chardonnay and an unknown La Capra Chenin Blanc from Fairview, to R 145 for Fryer’s Cove Bamboes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, and The Ollo from Altydgedacht.   Four red wines include two Shirazes (Spice Route at R 165 and Nieuwedrift at R 95), an unsual sounding Cappupino Ccinotage (R105) and Cloof Inkspot R 105.  The wine-by-the-glass choice is limited to Cloof (white and rose’ at R 25), and MAN Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 at R 30.  

I left with mixed feelings, having enjoyed my two previous dinners at Gaaitjie more.   The food is outstanding, but one must make a lot of allowances in the other things one expects from a restaurant in terms of decor, service and wine selection.   Suzi strikes me as one of a rare breed of restaurateurs who believes that a focus on food is of paramount importance in a restaurant, and that little else matters. 

Gaaitjie – Salt Water Restaurant, off St. Augustine’s Road, Paternoster. Tel 022 752 2242. (page does not open).  Open for lunch and dinner on all days except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:

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18 replies on “Restaurant Review: Gaaitjie in Paternoster one of West Coast’s best”

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for Restaurant Review: Gaaitjie in Paternoster one of West Coast’s best | Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog [] on says:

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  2. Perhaps with occupancies as low as 6% at guest houses you should be focusing on filling beds and not out reviewing and blogging on other restaurants.
    I thank you for your positive comments on the food at Gaaitjie- and yes it is of paramount importance to us – infact many more restaurants would benefit with the more food focus

    Certain of your facts are incorrect: –
    I have been in Paternoster for about 6 years not about 2, The Omlette on the menu read – Farmers Sausage, Cheese and Onion Omelette, not plain Cheese, the eatery was called Suzi’s Eatery – not Salt Water Eatery and I fail to understand the significance of the mention of my mother?? Also Winter is the worst time is sit on the front verandah at Gaaitjie as the sun beats in and to avoid this we would need to block out the view

    For someone who spent the best part of the evening questioning the ladies in deapth about every detail of the menu, I would expect your info to be spot on.

    I am proud that we continue to train our staff and uplift their cababilities so they may work proudly and continue to improve therefore providing for their families as their is no more work in the fish factories

    The front room is not the “Main” part of the restaurant and as it was dark – not sure what view you were expecting to see – as I tried to explain to you in winter we are guided by the size of the group at a table as the venue is made up of odd shaped rooms and we are limited We try to accommodate all in the most comfortable way possible – good bussinessractice – turn down up a table of 9 completely to accomodate a table for 1?? – but hey I am just focused on the food.

    I believe a restaurant blog/review to be something for people to read and potential customers to use as an informed guidence to the experience they may expect and something for the restaurant to learn from: – I find your review to be factual and bitter that you didn’t get to sit where you wanted. Still unsure if I should continue to focus on the food or not

    You have completly misunderstood the message behind the restaurant even though you have quoted our menu introduction, it’s certainly not about the cutlery!

    I have always believed the right people will find us – seems I was wrong, you know nothing about me or what matters to me!

  3. Haven’t been to the restaurant but am still waiting for Suzi to contact me re her cookery school. I contacted her when it was first published in a food magazine. She said that once she had opened she would contact me. Did I hear from her? Yeah right!No wonder it has closed down with service like that.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter and blog Suzi, and for the two corrections, which I have made.

    Allow me to correct some of your errors:

    1. The 6 % occupancy I wrote about in my newsletter is that of a 5-star hotel I referred to – I run a portfolio of 4-star guest houses, and I was not referring to them.

    2. You encourage me to look after my occupancy rather than to blog – blogging is the most vital element of social media marketing, and my WhaleTales blog plays a very important role in attracting traffic to my Whale Cottage website, up by 20 000 unique readers in the past month alone. My blog contains restaurant reviews, amongst others, to assist my guests, propective guests and blog readers in general in providing tourism related information.

    3. I did order an omelet at your Eatery, and received it as I described. The waitress confirmed that all omelets are always served with this sauce.

    4. I was not “bitter” about the fact that I could not sit in the main section of the restaurant, just disappointed. I just realised that in future I must specify the room in which I wish to sit. The booking was made on my behalf by Abalone House, and I was not sure what they had requested. The room with the gas heater is unbearable, and the entrance room is not great for a single guest, all of which I explained. The party that came in was a group of 7, by the way. I did not want to sit in the front room for the view, obviously, but for the atmosphere which a busy and buzzing full room brings. You make the 1/9 business comment, but consider how many persons will have read this review, coming from that single person.

    5. For the prices you charge (many top Cape Town restaurants charge around R 150 – R 200 for 3 – 6 course meals at the moment) I do not expect to have to train your staff nor to speak their language.

    6. I have been to your restaurant three times this year, and stand by my review. As you are hard to speak to, given your commendable personal involvement in the food preparation, it is difficult to obtain information about you and to chat. I am grateful for the few minutes you have been able to spare me in the past. Everything I know about your restaurant is what I experienced and what Susan told me. Your website not opening is not helpful in obtaining factual information about you.

  5. Hi Chris/ Suzi,
    I have read both review and your comments….for me food is paramount, but complemented by ambience and service……. I am torn… be honest I would rather be having my own picnic on the beach with great surroundings… if the ambience is not as good as I would have at home Chris/ Suzi, the menu sound like it speaks for itself, I think some pictures would have been good Chris?

  6. Hi Chis,

    I have never heard of you, not met you, and frankly don’t care to either, and think that you should rather just concentrate on getting people to stay in your guesthouse in Franschoek, Hermanus and Camps Bay rather. You clearly do not know much about gourmet food, and by going into detail about your surroundings and “in training” staff, all you liked was the pork crackling and Susan? Did you expect a red carpet and exclusive service because YOU have arrived? (and you asked what black sesame seeds were as you have never heard of it before?)
    Suzi’s restaurant is fully booked most of the time, and not by first timers only, but by returning patrons who enjoy her FOOD!. So my advice to you is to go and do a 3 year cookery course, become a Master Chef, run a few restaurants and by then you should be able to give a good repertoire on a restaurant.

    Suzi, you are TOPS!!

    Kind Regards,


    Curry Chef,


  7. Hi Albert

    Thank you for your comment 5 months after our review of Gaaitjie was published.

    As the husband of Suzi’s Manager Susan van den Bergh, it is sweet of you to come to the defence of the restaurant and of Suzi. I praised the good service I received from Susan, so I am not sure what you are on about, especially as you were on your oil rig at the time.

    No review would or should focus on the food alone – Suzi charges Cape Town gourmet prices for a restaurant experience that is not gourmet in all respects – especially when she uses trainee staff!

    I am sure that you will agree that there is no standard way to do a restaurant review (and not ‘repertoire’ as you wrote), and that I have the freedom to review restaurants my way!


  8. Dear Chris,
    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 outside. Our friends then smoked outside of Gaaitjies. After the starter and us being the only ones left on the balcony my friend lit a cigarette and went to a corner of the balcony not bothering anyone with the smoke. Suddenly Ms Holzhausen came storming out and told us in an more than angry tone to refrain from smoking, we already had been told by the staff that this was forbidden. She then rushed back inside leaving all of us speechless. My husband went inside and asked her very kindly not to use such tone to our guests. Suddenly we heard only shouting and screaming from the kitchen. Ms H. verbally attacked my husband in such a manner we had never ever experienced before. What a behaviour towards paying guests !
    Sorry to say, Ms H. likes her cooking better than people !
    Despite the good food not one of us will be back to this restaurant !
    Kind regards
    Windhoek/Namibia and Langebaan

  9. Hello Chris,
    just forgot to mention that the food was good, apart from a long black hair on my fish…..
    What we also did not like was the small print underneath the menu that you had to consume for at least 150 R per person. This is something which leaves a bitter taste.
    Kind regards from Windhoek

  10. Oh my goodness Angela, this seems to be going from bad to worse, but nothing surprises me. I too received a blast from Suzi after writing this review.

    I have never ever seen a restaurant specify a minimum order value per head.


  11. Hi Chris

    Just came across this. Just a note re minimum spend. I have not personally eaten there, but I understand Haiku in Cape Town also has a minimum spend per head – something I find absurd. It seems to work for them though – I believe they are bustling.


  12. Thanks Hennie.

    The difference is that Haiku has used stars as a pricing mechanism, and set a minimum star level from day one in opening.

    Gaaitjie has not had a minimum spend level in the two times I visited earlier this year, so it smacks of greed to me that they have introduced this recently – no top Cape Town restaurant resorts to this pricing directive.


  13. You know what Chris , We stayed at your placed in Campsbay …(we are from the west coast) We were looking for red wine and you only had 2 choices…… and you in CAMPSBAY! To critised our local restaurants in the West Coast wil take years. And they try to make a living out of it….whauuu … go back to the overseas attracking world….If you had read the history of this will understand how this lady tried to make it comfy as she could ..this house stayed empty for so many years. And you came along from outside and trying to blame good food on your own insecurity. This is what happens from the outsiders like you … you want the best but you dont earn the best because you dont know the best … only the money. Our west coast is life and there life within the sea and people escape to live a life. dont ever come to west coast if you dont understand the west coast .. People like you we can throw for the fish.

  14. Wow Nala, I am surprised at your vitriol!

    First, this is not a review site for my guest houses. We offer three red wine brands in our Honesty Bar, and this is a courtesy service, but that has nothing to do with our review of Gaaitjie. I would be happy to receive your review of Whale Cottage Camps Bay, as I do not recognise your name as a previous guest.

    I don’t have any ‘insecurity’, in fact most would describe me as over-confident! I am not sure in which capacity you are defending Gaaitjie, but it sounds like you want to keep it for the Paternosters, and not allow us Capetonians in there, especially if we are critical. The restaurant won’t survive if the Cape Town visitors do not frequent it.

    I do love the West Coast, but I can also judge when guests at Gaaitjie are overcharged and when the service is unacceptably poor, given the prices charged.


  15. I just wanted to thank you very quickly for you advice regarding
    eating spots in Paternoster. We booked at Gaaitjie and had a
    super experience. I had emailed Suzi before hand to let her know it
    was a very special occasion and from the minute we arrived
    we were made to feel like royalty. Laititia (excuse the spelling) was great and a super host
    and Suzi even remembered our names from the email, called my dad over and thanked him. Its all these small touches along with the most fantastic setting that made it a very memorable and happy experience!

  16. Thank you Mark

    I am happy to hear that you enjoyed your lunch, and that Suzi was nice to you.


  17. Hi Chris

    I have a holiday home in Paternoster and love Gaiitjie it is very different to your restaurants in Franchoek to me the food is far better as is the type of service they offer. I really feel your remarks pretenious. Suzi we love your restaurant, food ambiance even the small wine list and all guests we take just love the package

  18. Thank you for your feedback Sue. You are entitled to your opinion.

    Just to correct you – I do not own any restaurants, and I do not live in Franschhoek.

    I did not experience excellent service at Gaaitjie at all. I have heard about guests who have been kicked out by the owner, and even some of the commenters to this blogpost have expressed their dissatisfaction with the service.


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