Hav­ing been in the in­dus­try for al­most two decades, lo­cal chef Garth Al­mazan’s restau­rant, Leeto – in the West Coast fish­ing vil­lage of Pa­ter­nos­ter – is the sea­side des­ti­na­tion his culi­nary path has led to all these years


At Garth Al­mazan’s eatery, Leeto, in Pa­ter­nos­ter, you’ll get to ex­pe­ri­ence sus­tain­able din­ing like it’s meant to be served

Whether it’s in high­end city ho­tels, chic sa­fari camps or ac­claimed wi­neestate eater­ies, over the past two decades Garth Al­mazan has qui­etly built a name for him­self as one of the most re­spected chefs in the Cape. So, it’s per­haps fit­ting that his new restau­rant is named Leeto, or “jour­ney”, in the Khoi lan­guage.

Sit­u­ated along­side the lux­u­ri­ous Strand­loper Ocean Bou­tique Ho­tel, Leeto prom­ises con­tem­po­rary West Coast cui­sine on a menu that’s built around sus­tain­able seafood, as well as dishes in­spired by Garth’s long ca­reer in the in­dus­try. Af­ter 18 years as ex­ec­u­tive chef of Steen­berg Farm’s fine-din­ing restau­rant, Catha­rina’s, Garth left the es­tate in 2016 and set his sights on a new ven­ture.

A move up the West Coast of­fered a chance to start afresh, and while the lazy pace of life in this white­washed coastal vil­lage may draw plenty of week­enders and sem­i­grants from up­coun­try, Garth says he has never been busier. “Slow­ing down?” he asks in­cred­u­lously. “It def­i­nitely hasn’t slowed down. At Steen­berg, I had 20 chefs work­ing with me in the kitchen. Here, I have only four.” From sourc­ing sup­pli­ers and hir­ing staff to plan­ning menus and clock­ing in for the break­fast shift, Garth is work­ing harder than ever. But he looks all the hap­pier for it.

Be­fore open­ing Leeto – which is a part­ner­ship be­tween Garth and the own­ers of the Strand­loper Ocean Bou­tique Ho­tel – Garth took a sab­bat­i­cal and seized the op­por­tu­nity to go back to his roots while plan­ning his new restau­rant, lay­out and, most im­por­tantly, his culi­nary con­cept.

From join­ing the lo­cal fish­er­men on their daily catch out­ings to re­search­ing nearby farm­ers and their pro­duce, Garth re­ally dug deep in ex­plor­ing the re­gion’s of­fer­ings.

Leeto opened its doors to the pub­lic in Oc­to­ber 2017. It was well worth the

wait, as the restau­rant it­self is a strik­ing space that of­fers a dis­tinct con­trast to the seascape out­side.

Stack­ing doors open out to a spa­cious ter­race where a hand­ful of tables gaze out over a stretch of empty sands and the At­lantic Ocean be­yond. On those rare wind-free days in Pa­ter­nos­ter, these are the best seats in the house, though there is plenty of shel­ter for when the sea­sonal south-easter kicks up.

In­doors, the feel is Scan­di­na­vianchic meets the West Coast: blonde wood pan­els line the walls, tables are topped with vases of indige­nous fyn­bos and sleek leather ban­quettes cosy up to open fire­places. To one side, a spa­cious lounge and bar area beck­ons for pre-din­ner drinks and di­ges­tifs. Here, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a se­lec­tion of craft gins and a wine list that leans heav­ily to­wards some of the ex­cit­ing winer­ies that are mak­ing a name for them­selves along the West Coast. Not yet tried the su­perb chenin blanc from Donkies­baai? Now’s your chance. It’s also an ex­cel­lent foil for Garth’s menu, where seafood reigns supreme and only fish on the Green List of the South African Sus­tain­able Seafood Ini­tia­tive (SASSI) is served. “I try and get as much lo­cal seafood as I can,” Garth says. That in­cludes black bream from the lo­cal boats that launch from the vil­lage’s main beach, as well as farmed mus­sels and oys­ters from nearby Sal­danha Bay.

And while the cov­eted West Coast rock lob­ster is widely avail­able – al­beit il­le­gally – on the streets of Pa­ter­nos­ter, Garth has taken a firm stance against serving this re­cently red-listed crus­tacean. “Guests come in and ask for cray­fish, and won­der why they can’t or­der it here,” he sighs. “Even though you can get it on the side of the road all over town, I sim­ply don’t serve it be­cause it’s on SASSI’s Red List. Not only would it be ir­re­spon­si­ble, but it would jeop­ar­dise Leeto’s con­cept, which is based on sus­tain­able food. Be­sides, there are plenty of other equally de­li­cious and unique spe­cial­i­ties to choose from on the menu.”

To prove this point, what­ever line­fish is caught fresh that day comes plated with a colour­ful med­ley of broc­coli, mangetout, chilli and red onions, served with crushed new po­ta­toes with a le­mon beurre blanc and a tomato, olive and caper salsa along­side.

If tuna is in sea­son, look out for the su­perb Asian tuna tartare. “I call it our West Coast take on sushi,” Garth smiles, while chop­ping lus­cious cubes of yel­lowfin tuna be­fore toss­ing them with lime juice and avo­cado.

Fen­nel may­on­naise punc­tu­ates the dish with aro­matic silk­i­ness, while a deep-fried sheet of nori wrapped in spring-roll pas­try adds a nice crunch.

Along­side the fo­cus on seafood and heir­loom veg­eta­bles sourced from a hand­ful of small, lo­cal gar­den farm­ers, Garth is also tap­ping into the wild abun­dance of the lo­cal shore­line. On his plates you’re as likely to find sout­slaai as blanched beans, and hand-picked veld­kool in­stead of steamed as­para­gus.

With that said, for plates away from the shore­line, there are plenty of op­tions, too. And although there are veni­son, beef and lamb dishes on of­fer, you won’t want to miss out on the leg­endary vege­tar­ian dish: Garth’s amaz­ing risotto.

But no mat­ter what you choose, Leeto’s of­fer­ings re­flect all of the flavours, dishes and in­spi­ra­tions col­lected by Garth along the way; from the bush to the beach, it’s cer­tainly been a long and de­li­cious jour­ney. PAT­TER­SON SLOT, PA­TER­NOS­TER, WESTERN CAPE; 060 927 0403; LEETOPATERNOSTER.CO.ZA


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