How seafood restaurant Perlemoen in Hermanus is uplifting its community and tackling sustainability
The historic Old Harbour has been Hermanus’s main attraction since it became a fishing port in the 1850s. Now, there is a fresh incentive to head to the water’s edge as it is also home to an award-winning seafood restaurant that is taking the local area by storm – and making waves on the international scene.
Perlemoen Restaurant, opened by co-owners head chef Jannie Malherbe and his wife Annabella in May 2022, offers a unique opportunity to taste the delicacy abalone while drinking in the spectacular views of Walker Bay.
“It’s about tasting seafood fresh, combined with the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean,” says locally-born Jannie. “Eating perlemoen in another setting wouldn’t be the same. There aren’t many other places in the world offering anything similar.”
The stone building is also where Hermanus vet Dr Pierre Hugo first experimented with breeding the molluscs in captivity in 1984.
Perlemoen offers casual dining with attentive service, for up to 65 covers.
The interior features neutral colours, historic photos and art made with the abalone shells. “We wanted it to look original, in keeping with the location,” says Annabella.
Outside, you can watch the boats and wildlife, with the waves lapping at your feet.
Starters include pan-fried abalone with curried aioli, and abalone and prawn half-moons. Perlemoen risotto is a favourite from the mains.
“Sustainability is a priority,” says Jannie. “The majority of our produce is local – because it’s the best way to secure our future environmentally and put something back into the community.”
Hermanus-based HIK Abalone Farm supplies the shellfish. One of only two South African producers certified as responsible farms by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, HIK runs a sophisticated breeding programme to promote faster growth, says stock manager Sally Paulet. It also invests heavily in training its 300 employees.
Perlemoen buys its fish from a Gansbaai-based supplier. All the wines – Ashbourne, Ataraxia, Benguela Cove, Bouchard Finlayson, Creation, Gabriëlskloof, Hamilton Russell, La Vierge, Southern Right and Whalehaven – are from nearby, mostly from the renowned Hemel en Aarde Valley. You can also try Hermanus Brewery’s Old Harbour Beer.
The local approach to sustainability at Perlemoen and its peers was cited by UNESCO in designating Hermanus and the wider Overstrand region as a Creative City of Gastronomy in 2020.
It also helped the eatery win a ‘Hidden Gem’ award from Paris-based international restaurant guide La Liste in November 2022, gaining it plaudits from Michelin-starred South African chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. “I am so proud of the team at newly opened Perlemoen in Hermanus for making the list as a Hidden Gem at the Paris awards of La Liste. This is a true honour,” he said.
In future, Perlemoen aims to offer fine dining and the business is off to a strong start. But with green issues and the economy both hot topics, a restaurant working hard to minimise its environmental impact, while supporting local employment, has every chance of success in the long term.
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