The Restaurant at Waterkloof Wine Estate. Photo: Instagram
  • Named South Africa’s best in 2018, The Restaurant at Waterkloof Wine Estate in Somerset West has called it a day.
  • The coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns have made it impossible to keep the business model afloat, says head chef Gregory Czarnecki.
  • The restaurant, which was founded in 2009, will close  less than two months after reopening after hard lockdown.
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The global coronavirus pandemic has claimed one of South Africa’s culinary greats; The Restaurant at Waterkloof Wine Estate in Somerset West.

In a heartfelt message to loyal patrons and staff, head chef Gregory Czarnecki announced that the restaurant would hold its last lunch service on Sunday 22 November. “Despite all our best efforts to keep the restaurant afloat, our dream alive and to pursue our passion in these strange and difficult times, it has become impossible for us to follow our business model,” said Czarnecki.

The renowned eatery, which was voted as South Africa’s top restaurant in the Eat Out Awards in 2018, reopened to the public on 18 September after languishing under the country’s lockdown since March.

The National State of Disaster, instituted to slow the spread of the coronavirus and allow the healthcare system an opportunity to prepare for the infectious peak, has had an especially devastating impact on South Africa’s hospitality industry. Stringent travel regulations have further embattled the tourism industry which is intrinsically tied to the Western Cape’s lucrative wine region.

According to Statistics South Africa, over R14 billion in revenue was lost by the food and beverages sector during hard lockdown.

Many other restaurants have already been forced to close their doors. Among the most prominent is The Kitchen in Cape Town, where former US first lady Michelle Obama famously had lunch in 2013

Popular Melville restaurant Pablo Eggs Go Bar also announced that it has closed down, as did The Myoga restaurant, launched in 2007 in the grounds of The Vineyard hotel in Cape Town. The legendary Joburg bar in Long Street, Cape Town has also called it quits after more than two decades, and the Kalk Bay Theatre & Restaurant did not survive lockdown.

 “When I started the journey at Waterkloof 11 years ago, I could not have ever conceived that it would end this way,” lamented Czarnecki. “It is unfortunately a battle that we can no longer keep fighting and so, we have decided to hang up our aprons.”

In addition to winning Eat Out’s coveted Restaurant of the Year Award, Waterkloof ranked as a mainstay at ceremonies since 2016, with Czarnecki being named as South Africa’s Chef of the Year. While the restaurant was known for its critical acclaim, patrons praised Waterkloof for its striking architecture – it is set in a glass cube on top of a large concrete building – and magnificent setting, which offered unique views of False Bay.

In bidding adieu, Czarnecki noted, with regret, the impact this closure would have on Waterkloof’s staff. “I want to thank them all for their hard work, commitment and dedication to their craft,” he said.

While the restaurant will close its doors indefinitely, Waterkloof’s Tasting Lounge and Healey’s Deli will continue to operate.  

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