This past Saturday, we attended a rather special fundraiser for the Joburg Ballet at Pronto Italian Restaurant in Craighall.
So a bit about this special ballet fundraising team.. Who are Friends of the Ballet (FOTB)?
FOTB is made up of people like you and me, who love ballet, want to support the arts, where possible, in order to grow and support this beautiful art form. As such, this organization is primarily focused on their motto, "Growing Ballet" by organizing events such as this one in order to raise funds for the Joburg Ballet and its passionate dancers. FOTB is a non-profit organization and play an increasingly important role in terms of both their fundraising and creating awareness to people like you and me in order to support its base.
The food: The food by Pronto Italian was composed of a basic set menu of green salads (with Danish feta and olives) and a typically Italian choice of pastas. My main was a creamy chicken tomato penne which did not disappoint on the day..
Onto the wines: We were offered tastings of L'Ormarins Brut NV, Terra Del Capo Sangiovese and Protea Rose, then it was onto Strandveld The Navigator, Pofadderbos Sauvignon Blanc, and last but not least to end off the meal, the Suikerbekkie Noble Late Harvest.
The dancing itself was superb! A beautiful combination of contemporary and classic to cater to every taste imaginable. We thoroughly enjoyed our day watching 'Ballet In The Suburbs' and I personally think that it is wonderful day out filled with culture and great wine.
Last night, I felt incredibly privileged walking into the Relais & Châteaux Multi-Hands Dinner at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa for two reasons: This is one of my favorite restaurants in Johannesburg and the evening encompassed all my passions past and present into one perfect memory that I will find it hard to beat.
Onto the gastronomical evening that awaited us...
The evening started with 'East Meets South' by Chef Virgil Kahn of Indochine, Delaire Graff Estate:
Tarts with smoked eggplant, green curry & green pepper.
Cookies & cream-shrimp, red curry prawn & biltong.
Choux craquelin-cauliflower and miso, bonito.
Delaire Graff Sunrise MCC paired with 'From the Zambezi' by Chef Sungani Phiri - Royal Chundu: sweetcorn brioche, lemon grass, & olive oil powder.
'Memories of Japan' by Chef Peter Tempelhoff - Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort: Atlantic tuna tatami, home-fermented kimchi, Elgin apple, beet kobucha radish & sesame dressing.
Delaire Graff Coastal Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2017 paired wit 'Home Sweet Home' by Chef Alex Van As - Camp Jabulani: Springbok shank ravioli with spicy Asian broth, brunoise vegetables, panko crusted shimmy mushrooms, parmesan foam, Thai lemon-dressed morogo and micro coriander.
Delaire Graff Shiraz 2017 paired with 'The Art of Sharing' by Chef Willie Malherbe - AtholPlace Hotel & Villa: Lamb Rogan Josh, Creme fraiche pastry, rainbow carrots, spiced yoghurt and a curry leaf jus.
Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2015 paired with 'An African Sunset' by Chef Anna Ridgewell - Londolozi Private Game Reserve: Amarula and white chocolate creme.
'It's Simple It's the Cederburg' by Chef Charles Hayward - Bushmans Kloof: Rooibos panna cotta, spiced cake, caramelized banana and toasted coconut.
We finished up our feast for the evening with the Delaire Graff Sunburst Noble Late Harvest 2015.
What I took away from the evening? The individual passion and story told by each Chef in everything from conceptualizing their dish to their plating the finished result. This exquisite meal and expert pairing goes down as one of my best.
The Maximillien first popped up on my radar years ago and I have ardently followed its menu's ever since. Its inspiration: World famous Balthazar restaurant in New York. This restaurant is conveniently situated adjacent to Nelson Mandela Square and unlike many restaurants in the area, it offers patrons an all-day dining experience.
The Maximillien brings a touch of New York to Sandton with the launch of an inspired new menu styled on a New York bistro. The Maximillien is also one of the few restaurants that offer live entertainment as well as complimentary parking to its patrons.
Executive Chef Sylvester Nair has a reputation that precedes him for good reason, and I could not find fault with any of these dishes last night. I can safely say that (despite his internationally renowned Chef father, Luke Nair), Sylvester's cooking has established himself in his own right.
The new menu hasn't change that one bit so I will start by giving you a taste of the dishes that I sampled last night:
MUSSEL AND CLAM POT: White wine velouté and dill powder. Creamy perfection.
WAGYU STEAK TARTARE: Wagyu beef, pan-fried Cos lettuce and whipped egg.
PAN-FRIED BUTTERMILK SQUID TENTACLES: Chilli and garlic pasta, preserved lemon and truffle oil.
NORWEGIAN SALMON POACHED IN COCONUT CREAM: Cultured cream, crispy skin rounded off with bok choy. My favorite dish of the night!
WAGYU BEEF BAVETTE.
DARK CHOCOLATE MARQUISE: Mocha toast, mango gel, toasted marshmallow, watermelon foam and chocolate soil.
PASSION FRUIT TART: Raspberry gel, almond dust, kiwi fruit leather andseasonal berry (which in this case was strawberries).
Its safe to say that we enjoyed an absolute feast last night!
Exclusivity, ambience and truly creative dishes that (sit on par with some of the best in the world) one would expect a visit to break the bank but I was pleasantly surprised to see that you can comfortably enjoy a meal for under R200 each.
I will return again and again..
Where to start.. I had the pleasure of taking a very dear friend out to Bellgables hosted wine pairing in collaboration with La Motte Wines, and can honestly say it is the most magical setting for a dinner!!
The wine pairing was hosted by Winemaker Michael Langenhoven and Chef Patron, Errol Gobey (of course) and neither are new to the game of wining and dining.
As us ladies put our heels on and strutted down the steps to the reception area, we were greeted by friendly staff who presented us with our welcome drink, a glass of La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and we settled in to take in our beautiful surroundings around the expansive grounds of what an only be described as an enchanting estate complete with art galley. Fountains, rich ornate antiques and artworks every where you look seductively lit by candlelight. What a romantic experience, for anyone in search of the perfect proposal spot!
It is impossible to not see why this award-winning country restaurant offering such exquisite fine dining experiences has picked up not one but eighteen American Express Fine Dining Awards over the years and I had done my research.
After being seated, it was onto the food:
Course 1: Chicken, barley, carrot and celery soup flavored with thyme paired with... La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2016.
Course 2: Norwegian salmon placed in a creamy pool of smoked salmon trout sauce paired with... La Motte Chardonnay 2016.
Course 3: Our main course was duck pie. This duck in black cherry and La Motte Syrah red wine reduction (served with rice pilaf) paired with... La Motte Syrah 2013.
Course 4: The chocolate delight dessert. Dark and white truffle chocolate pudding paired with... La Motte Millennium Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015.
Bellgables Country Restaurant manages to take the most loved staples and classic dishes, but move them to a next level, both in presentation and taste. The portions are ample and you never get the impression that you will leave hungry.
Our smiling host, as busy as he was, made a point of coming to each and every table throughout the evening to check on our experiences and us ladies could not help but feel like absolute queens.
All in all:
I can assure you that since this first visit, I have been back time and time again for their pairings (think Haute Cabriere, De Wetshof..), and I have never left disappointed! This is truly one of the top gems in South Africa but I will let the photos speak for themselves.
*Recommendation: A fine dining country restaurant that transports you into a magical, over-the-top opulent world of all art, antiques, opera and some of the best service that I have received in South Africa. If you have not visited Bellgables, what are you waiting for?
- Set seating times (Tuesday to Saturday 19:00 and 19:30 only)
- A set nine-course menu using seasonable produce, that guests can actually see growing, where it was sourced and how it was grown.
- An additional option of an affordable and unusual wine pairing with the courses makes this option a must-have with EVERY meal.
We arrived to a rather dark Roots nursery (as expected at night when it is closed) in the Karoo yard and parked outside. We then followed the sandy pathway to the front of the restaurant which is in effect, a wooden shed.
What we found inside? A simple, yet functional wooden shed complete with handmade mismatching crockery, tables and chairs and an inviting fireplace to one side.
Our meal was an absolute culinary journey with so much attention to detail that it was hard not to be impressed so I will let last nights menu (and the attached photos) speak for themselves...
Bread & Canapes paired with Tanzanite Brut MCC.
OCTOPUS: Masala, Aubergine & Tomato paired with Fledge & Co Pretty Pink.
SCALLOP: Broccoli, Radish & Turnip paired with Chamonix Sauvignon Blanc.
KABELJOU: Artichoke, Fennel & Grapefruit paired with Mount Abora Chenin Blanc.
DUCK: Egg, Bone Marrow & Pearl Onions paired with B Vintners Pinot Noir.
BEEF 1st Serving: Black Garlic, Baked Milk & Truffle paired with Spice Route Grenache.
BEEF 2nd Serving: Celeriac, Red Cabbage & Rhubarb paired with Newton & Johnson Full Stop Rock.
CHEESE: Huguenot & Pear Slices paired with Cederburg Bukettraube.
APPLE: Almonds, Burnt Butter Ice Cream & Raisins paired with Keermont Fleurfontein.
All in all - What an outstanding take on sustainable fine dining and complete attention to details with some ingredients taking up to three days to prepare.
Sadly, the one downside of last night was that due to the lack of ventilation and all that beautiful cooking in the open plan kitchen, I left smelling like I'd been sitting around a braai all evening and my eyes watered for quite a bit of the last four dishes due to the smoke. Still - worth it and I would definitely return.
*Recommendation: This is affordable fine dining with all the benefits of actually aiming to promote sustainable cooking and eating. I highly recommend the experience!