"Bijou" is the French word for gem and what a gem this eighty seater at Toadbury Hall is!! The latest offering from Chef Philippe Wagenfuhrer encompasses all of his rich history and knowledge from all of his travels into one restaurant, creating dishes that have touched him as a child growing up in a family of Chefs and Restauranteurs! But, first a bit about the Chef himself.
Philippe, I met and got to know many years ago and have followed closely ever since. Over the years, he has become a friend but he is also one of the BEST chefs in South Africa (in my humble opinion) and is set to change the face of Toadbury Hall this year with BIJOU!! Philippe was a fully qualified Chef by the age of 17 and he went on to complete a degree in hospitality and another in cooking, working with, and gaining experience with Uni7 (A group of Michelin star restaurants). Chef Philippe was able to travel the globe developing his own unique cooking style which led to him becoming an executive Chef at the age of 25, taking charge of three kitchens and sixty personnel. His travels to Scotland saw him gaining a Michelin star and he earned a reputation as a 'funghi' (pronounced fun guy) due to his love for wild mushrooms... this man is a guru in the industry! Bijou's menu is in French (with an English translation for those of us whose high school French isn't quite up to scratch). He has a wine cellar offering a great selection of SA wines, and some French options thrown in, but Philippe is adamant "why choose French wines if our terroir in South Africa is just as good." (and I am inclined to agree)!
Onto the food (and boy did we have a feast):
1. Tomato fondue with swordfish Provençal and Goat's cheese.
2. Tabouleh with babaganoush, and peperade, crushed avocado, blood orange reduction and lime.
3. Pressed Terrine of maize fed chicken with pomegranate, onion chutney.
4. Cold-served Caribbean curry with baby carrot and lentils.
5. Char-grilled Angus mature sirloin with roasted beetroot, forestiere split sauce.
6. Caramelized pear with homemade cheese and walnut, brioche soil and grain mustard sauce.
7. Marquis de Chocolat Valrhona with berry compote and vanilla double cream.
Bijou is currently undergoing a renovation, but is still open to the public for incredible fine dining experiences and wine pairings in the meantime. What a countryside gem! Full review and pics to follow, but I could not resist sharing this first glance at what is one of my favourite restaurants of 2017..
What an absolutely stunning evening getting a first look (and taste) at J Something's delicious food.
J Something has really come full circle with this new offering and it is hard not to catch the passion that he has for his tried and tested favourites!
Onto the food:
Pork Belly: Ramen, smoked pork belly and aromatics.
Heirloom Tomato & Beetroot Salad: Heirloom tomatoes, beet variations, chevin, hazelnut. This Heirloom tomato for me was incredibly special - well presented - beautifully plated and deliciously healthy whilst also managing to be tasty!
Pollo: Baby chicken, Piri Piri, Pineapple.
The Catch: White fish, matcha, pistachio. Also a favorite on this first visit! Good texture, cooked to perfection and a wonderful yet unlikely combination of different flavors.
A Lamb Feast: confit lamb, hummus, red onion, aubergine.
The Afroguese: rice pudding, milk tart, milk ice cream, blood orange.
Death by Coco: Flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, blonde creme brule, and passion fruit sorbet.
*Recommendation: J Something has kept his concept simple taking all his favorite tried and tested dishes from home and sharing them with us.. It is a concept that I personally love and this menu seems to just have something for everyone!