On the magnificent coastal drive from Cape Town to Cape Point is the Wharfside Grill, but enthusing about it and not mentioning Mariner’s Wharf, of which it is an integral part, is like flying a flag without a mast. Each complements the other, and as the Grill was especially designed to straddle its world-famous Fishmarket, diners are ensured of the freshest fish and a harbourside ambience second-to-none.
Mariner’s Wharf, South Africa’s first harbourfront emporium, was conceptualised and built by the enterprising Stanley Dorman, whose local roots stretch back to the 1890’s when his forefathers settled in the Hout Bay valley. Almost a hundred years later, Stanley and his men revamped the building (originally a workshop for repairing his fishing fleet) creating from his personal collection of nautical artefacts, a masterpiece themed to the sea-faring days of the past. His phenomenal success with Mariner’s Wharf and the nearby Fisherman’s World project has brought much-needed employment, fame and fortune to the area.
Besides other outlets in-the-making, Mariner’s Wharf houses a busy Seafood Bistro for take-outs; a seven-day-a-week Wine and Liquor Boutique; olde-fashioned Oak Smokeries; and Gift, Pearl and Artifact Shops together stocking the largest range of nautical souvenirs, antiques and memorabilia under one roof anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
Although the result draws crowds like a magnet, the jewel in the crown undoubtedly is the Wharfside Grill and its Crayclub Bar, which is recommended for pre-dinner drinks, some with souvenir glasses to keep. The Bar’s vibe is an excellent precursor to a meal, and during season whales and dolphins can be seen frolicking nearby.
The Wharfside Grill itself seats 350. Its clever design with dining alcoves depicting Hout Bay’s history with the sea, ensures a very special ambience, and there are also six private cabins for more intimate occasions, such as Queen Mary, an 8-seat tribute to this grand old lady of the seas; Union Castle, a 14-seater, resplendent with the actual three metre builder’s model of the Pendennis Castle, flagship of the line; and Shipwreck, a 10-seater dedicated to the ravages of the Cape of Storms.
Equally impressive is the menu which, as is to be expected in such a location purveys mainly seafood, tons of Lobster, Prawns, Calamari, Soles and Kingklip being consumed annually. Skipper’s Catch and Fisherman’s Baskets are specialities of the Wharf, carnivores are well taken care of with a choice of superb steaks or chicken, and vegetarians can safely set sail with Landlubber’s Luck. There are also dozens of other wonderful choices, for example, the highly recommended Prawn and Chilli Soup as a starter, and an excellent Crème Brulee for dessert lovers. For wine the selection is equally exciting, but do ask to see the Wharf’s very own in a fish-shaped bottle, which doubles up as a sought-after memento. If any place on earth (or water) is worth visiting, this is it.
Bon appetit ! Bon voyage !