Walker Bay Grill in 10th Street, just a stone’s throw from the iconic VoëIklip beach, celebrates its first birthday this month. Owner, Han Meerburg certainly has come a long way in creating a friendly neighbourhood establishment that attracts both locals and visitors, and offers excellent food at reasonable prices.
Dutch by birth, Han came to South Africa with his family as a child (and no, he is not familiar with Han Solo and has never watched Star Wars!). He started working in restaurants while still a school boy and, later, as a student, before venturing into the IT industry. Only after 20 years did he turn his back on the corporate world to pursue his love of food and wine. And tea and coffee, as it turns out.
Han’s first venture into the food and beverage business was the Caturra Coffee Company, followed by three restaurants in and around Cape Town. In 2002 he went back to Holland, where he marketed rooibos tea throughout Europe. He also met his future wife, Marijke van Bergeijk and, after a decade in Holland, Han decided to return to South Africa.
The couple settled in Hermanus five years ago and opened a guesthouse, Walker Bay Manor. With the business up and running smoothly, Han started looking around for a way to indulge in his favourite hobby. “Food is my passion but I knew that I needed the right spot. That is exactly what I found at Walker Bay Grill, along with excellent chefs and an experienced staff complement,” he says, adding that “I’m having such fun – this keeps me young!”
Marijke, who is an interior designer, took charge of the restaurant’s stylish make-over. The overall effect is one of elegance and sophistication but without any hint of stiffness; instead the ambience is relaxing and inviting. Han describes the food as “simple and good”, which is perhaps a touch modest. The menu offers a varied selection of starters and mains, including fresh linefish, crayfish (when available) and tuna. From this week, Walker Bay Grill also has fresh oysters available, with a glass of free bubbly for every six oysters ordered.
As the name would suggest, the main focus however is on steak, offering Sirloin, Rump and Fillet, cut to size (200g – 320g) and T-bone (600g – 700g), served with a choice of sauces. Their special steak dishes such as the Old Man’s Fillet Steak (topped with Walker Bay Grill’s three-way mustard sauce) and Matt’s Fillet Steak (served with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce) come highly recommended.
Chef Matt Becker is a Durban dude who loves the ocean and surfs almost every day. He started working in restaurants when he was only 14 and trained at the Compass Group Chef Academy in Johannesburg. For his practical training he worked at several restaurants and developed a keen interest in fine dining, specialising in meat and seafood. After he’d obtained his diploma, Matt returned to Durban (“I missed the ocean”) and also worked in Florida, USA for six months.
He ended up in Hermanus when he decided to visit a friend who was working at the Birkenhead Brewery. “It was a beautiful day, and as I drove through Hermanus I just thought to myself: ‘I’m staying!’” That was three years ago and after stints at Coco’s, Aromatish and Lemon Butta, Matt was appointed as head chef at Walker Bay Grill when it opened last year. He says he couldn’t be happier. “I live one kilometre from the restaurant and the ocean is right on my doorstep – I love it!”
Matt says he likes to experiment and try new things. “I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. Especially for the tourists I enjoy adding a local twist to our dishes.” So don’t be surprised to find that Matt has snuck some traditional favourites in, such as corn on the cob, deep-fried mieliepap balls or boerewors with a tomato chutney.
To coincide with their first anniversary, Walker Bay Grill has launched a Sunday Roast which, at R150, offers excellent value for money. Forget about either pork or beef; this Sunday Roast comes with both pork and beef (each with its own flavourful gravy) plus stuffed chicken. Add to that crispy roast potatoes, minted peas and cinnamon butternut, and you have a Sunday feast on your plate.
Matt says the Sunday Roast will be different every week, so the next one might feature lamb and carrots or broccoli. “It all depends on what meat and seasonal produce are available.” This means you can lunch there two Sundays in a row without getting the same food. Another plus is that despite having a comprehensive wine list, the restaurant will not charge corkage if you bring your own special bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal.
Find Walker Bay Grill at 121 10th Street, Voëlklip. They are open every night for dinner from 18:00 (except Sundays) and for lunch from 12:00 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Call 028 314 1637 to book a table.