When asked which of the restaurants in the JHP Gourmet Guide™ would be a good venue for me to say thanks to my team for going the extra mile, Brand Manager Natalie Brock and designer Barbara Lellyett voted for The Pot Luck Club. Prior to a spectacular festival of flavours, we popped into The Test Kitchen to present Chef Luke Dale-Roberts with a magnum of Taittinger Champagne to say congrats for being awarded three plates (TTK), two plates (The Pot Luck) and one for LDR X The Saxon.
Our waiter gently nudged us into ordering granadilla cocktails to start, and a generous array of dishes from the Salty, Sour, Bitter, Sweet and Umani sections of the menu. I declared the Moroccan tagine and crispy calamari my favourite, Natalie fell in love with the pork belly phở orange master stock, kimchi turnips and sriracha daikon, and Barbara gave the beef tataki, hoisin dressing, coriander pesto and ponzu mayo her thumbs-up. We shared the heaven’s bacon: almond and apple tart, burnt peanut butter, popcorn ice cream, apple gummies and maple-glazed bacon to round off a memorable afternoon.
First Thursday is always fun and frenetic, but when the heavens open halfway through the evening, chaos reigns! After meeting at La Parada for a few drinks we headed in and out of the galleries nearby for a few hours. Thank goodness we had booked a table at La Tête, so we sought refuge at the bottom of Bree Street, slightly separated from the madness. The restaurant could not be more different than its predecessor, Orinoco, which was loud, bright and hectic. Here one is calmed by the white walls, white linen and general sense of being on top of their game. Tête in French means head, and here chefs and brothers Giles and James Edwards offer nose-to-tail with aplomb. Almost devoid of décor (simple black lights), they rely on impressing diners with the quality of the food. Our waiter gave us a thorough run-through of the menu before we made some wise decision, and explained the reason for a separate Semillon wine list (the owners’ wine of choice). Pig’s cheeks as a starter, and the asparagus, were top notch. The quail, which I ordered with the Brussel sprouts instead of chips, was oozing flavour. The vegetables too, were good with interesting flavour combo’s.
Pretoria is on its way to becoming a culinary destination, with Forti’s Grill and Bar coming highly recommended. We decided to celebrate my godson’s 21st at Forti, where chef Fortunato Mazzone and his team gave us an evening to remember in Time Square. An alcove provided privacy and the perfect corner in which to decorate a table and celebrate without inhibitions. Every meal got full marks – from delicious starters like the buffalo mozzarella with spinach, black truffle, roasted garlic and anchovy, to the perfect mushroom risotto. Mains were a big deal – the sole, ravioli and steak were all equally generous in portion size and flavour, and the crispy pork belly with pickled ginger was sublime. Forti came to personally squeeze us out of our comfortable corner to sit in the centre of the restaurant, and before we knew it we were being entertained with a few Italian arias – with him bursting into song too! The restaurant is big on ambience and friendly service, and the expansive, interesting menu caters well for vegans and those seeking gluten-free pasta options. I’ll be back for the five-course gastronome or nine-course ultra tasting menus, I’m not sure how Forti can do anything in small doses, but I’ll be more than happy to give it a try!
Back to Jozi for an action-packed day…
MARBLE was first stop, to hand chef David Higgs his one-plate award, and to meet his team. One can only be inspired by the dramatic décor, and it was a treat to have time to chat to the brains behind the beauty of the restaurant, Irene Kyriacou.
After a catch-up meeting at SWISS to give them a personal, first-hand account of feedback from chefs and restaurants regarding the inaugural SWISS Culinary Innovation award, dw eleven-13 got theirs next (two plates). We delivered a pile of JHP Gourmet Guides™ to Bellagio – the best place to get your copy if you cannot wait until they are in Woolworths in the last week of November. (Guides are also available at Den Anker Restaurant, Chefs Warehouse & Canteen in Cape Town and Wordsworth stores.)
Lunch at Glenda’s was a conversation-rich, casual girly affair with content provider and on-the-ground informant for the gourmet guide Rosanne Buchanan and the vivacious editor of Food & Home Entertaining, Andrea Pafitis-Hill. Watch out for the new-look magazine in January, sure to be a win.
Phew, back in Cape Town just in time to witness the winners’ joy at the Showcook One & Only “Reaching for Young Stars” luncheon. It was delightful to sit with the winemakers from Reyneke Organic Wines and with Peter and Debs Ayub of Sense of Taste Chefs School, whose students walked off with what felt like the lion’s share of prizes (third in the bread category, first in the main course and second place overall). The top two chef duos will be winging their way to work for four months at Winslow’s Tavern in Wellfleet, Cape Cod. What an incredible opportunity!
I’m off to The Marine Hotel in Hermanus to meet the chef and experience his cuisine, and no doubt their warm hospitality, and then flying to Paris for three nights to experience the Everest of Gastronomy – Le Taittinger Culinaire Prix. Watch this space for details of how our chefs in SA will be invited to compete in this, the oldest and most prestigious chef’s competition in the world.