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Mariner’s Wharf

Indwe - - Advertisements - Text: In­grid Ken­muir Im­age © Sup­plied

Rich in his­tory and pul­sat­ing with char­ac­ter, Mariner’s Wharf must be Hout Bay’s great­est as­set. As the pi­o­neer of har­bour-front de­vel­op­ments in the South­ern Hemi­sphere, Mariner’s Wharf is now in its 332rndd year, and con­tin­ues to cap­ti­vate vis­i­tors with its unique ar­ray of del­i­ca­cies, his­tory, cu­rios and col­lecta­bles.

There is an air of ex­cite­ment as seag­ulls proudly pa­rade along the pier and fish­er­men off­load their morn­ing’s catch. Lob­ster trawlers bob gently in the wa­ter, their cargo of crates and nets piled high, while off in the dis­tance a group of min­strels be­gin their morn­ing song and dance. It is a mix of all that a hot South African sum­mer’s day en­cap­su­lates, while Mariner’s Wharf, sit­u­ated at the en­trance to Hout Bay har­bour, of­fers vis­i­tors a truly eclec­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

Stan­ley Dor­man con­cep­tu­alised, cre­ated and de­vel­oped Mariner’s Wharf af­ter vis­it­ing the USA in 1974 where he was in­spired by the hus­tle and bus­tle of the San Fran­cisco har­bour-front. He made the de­ci­sion to use his knowl­edge of sev­eral decades in the fish­ing in­dus­try to cre­ate some­thing sim­i­lar in South Africa.

Hav­ing grown up in Hout Bay, this seemed the ob­vi­ous lo­ca­tion for his mas­ter­piece. He started as­sess­ing wa­ter­fronts around the globe and his vi­sion be­gan tak­ing shape. He wanted some­thing very dif­fer­ent, that was mem­o­rably South African, and au­then­ti­cally West­ern Cape­like. Af­ter ten years, his thoughts evolved into Mariner’s Wharf, South Africa’s very first har­bour-front em­po­rium.

Mariner’s Wharf is now world-renowned and made up of an im­pres­sive com­plex of out­lets spe­cial­is­ing in seafood and mar­itime prod­ucts. The Wharf as a whole serves as a sort of work­ing mu­seum, with the an­tique shop crammed full of most things mar­itime, with a re­mark­able ar­ray of items rang­ing from old carved whale’s teeth, maps and bells to ship­wreck arte­facts.

The Wharf is also home to a seafood fac­tory, as well as the Fish­er­man’s Wharf Fish Mar­ket, where the re­mark­able hull of the orig­i­nal 1940’s trawler The King­fisher wel­comes one in­side. The Fish Mar­ket is stocked with de­li­cious del­i­ca­cies, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Cape Coast Smoked Snoek, which is pro­duced at the fac­tory’s smok­eries.

Ad­ja­cent to the Fish Mar­ket is Ye Olde Wine & Liquor Locker, the fist bot­tle store in South Africa to be li­censed for Sun­day trad­ing. Stock­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary range of lo­cal wines, beers, liquor and im­ported liqueurs, one can even buy spe­cial bot­tles of wine made ex­clu­sively for Mariner’s Wharf, pre­sented in fish-shaped bot­tles.

Through ex­ten­sive pe­rus­ing of wa­ter­front har­bours in places like Tokyo, Seat­tle, Syd­ney and Reyk­javik, Dor­man ac­quired an un­ri­valled col­lec­tion of mar­itime mem­o­ra­bilia, much of which

he used as dé­cor in the Wharf­side Grill restau­rant. The Wharf­side Grill has a dis­tinctly his­toric mar­itime theme, and a walk through the restau­rant is an ab­so­lute must, as mem­o­ra­bilia from days gone by dan­gle, dec­o­rate and de­light vis­i­tors plucky enough to dodge the busy ta­bles to look around.

Di­vided into precincts, namely Fore­deck, Cap­tain’s Quar­ters, Mid­ships and Long Room, plus six pri­vate din­ing cab­ins, the Grill also boasts a Sun­deck for al fresco din­ing and the Cray­club Bar, where spe­cial­ity drinks are served. Each of the six themed din­ing cab­ins is in­di­vid­u­ally dec­o­rated with arte­facts from fa­mouse lin­ers or pieces of mar­itime his­tory. The Grill's menu is ex­ten­sive and ex­trav­a­gant, stock­ing a "cargo of goods", rang­ing from Hout Bay Chow­der and fresh oys­ters through to suc­cu­lent fish and ex­quis­ite desserts. The food is in­dul­gent and ut­terly de­li­cious, and Dor­man takes pride in the well-de­vel­oped menu, us­ing the slower win­ter months to ex­per­i­ment with new dishes. With the Win­ter Value Menu Dor­man gives his chefs the op­por­tu­nity to try new things. Should these prove pop­u­lar on the win­ter menu, they may be­come per­ma­nent fea­tures on the sum­mer one.

In sea­son, as many as 10,000 vis­i­tors a day pass through Hout Bay, and the 350-seater restau­rant hosts up to 1,800 cus­tomers a day. That's a right cargo-load of meals! The Whar­fette Seafood Bistro is where it's at for tasty take-outs. But be warned - be­cause the Bistro's rep­u­ta­tion stretches as far as the hori­zon, so does the queue.

Mariner's Chest is the official stock­list of Repub­lic of Hout Bay Pass­ports, and over­flows with ocean trea­sures, shells, and sou­venirs. And in the Pearl Fac­tory, vis­i­tors can har­vest their own pearls by pick­ing an oys­ter and crack­ing it open. If they so de­sire, the shop man­ager will set the shim­mer­ing sparkler in gold or sil­ver, as a daz­zling re­minder of their brief trea­sure hunt.

Re­cent de­vel­op­ments in­clude freshly made sushi di­rect from the Fish Mar­ket, the launch of Olde Seadog Draught Beer, and an on-site bak­ery pro­duc­ing the Wharf's fa­mous seed-loaves and muffins. Given the on­go­ing pop­u­lar­ity and achieve­ments of Mariner's Wharf, it is cer­tainly well worth a visit, be­sides be­ing sit­u­ated in one of the most beau­ti­ful bays in the world.

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