My plan for the Christmas Holidays was a two week adventure in Switzerland. This meant that I was missing the traditional family holiday to Umhlanga near Durban on the coast of South Africa. As a result we needed to celebrate Christmas a little earlier and decided to experience fine dining at AtholPlace Restaurant near Sandton (as the first culinary adventure). A few months earlier a fellow food adventurer and I had gone to another restaurant during the KLM Restaurant Week. AtholPlace Restaurant was one of the restaurants on the list for the week. So I was naturally quite excited to try it out, especially since it had received some good feedback during that Restaurant Week.
The service was superb from the moment we arrived. The staff are well trained, friendly and efficient. Shortly after been seated glasses of sparkling wine and a selection of canapes were served. This included butternut soup, fried chicken and a squid head on a mussel with napolitana sauce. All were delicious! If this was just the canapes, then what would the four course menu hold?
The first course was a sweetcorn soup topped with coconut, herb oil and crispy leeks. This was an interesting combination of textures but was also wonderful to my tastebuds.
The second course was one which I have seen in a few manifestations at various restuarants and consisted of a 5 spice pork belly with carrot puree, grilled prawn, broccoli and jus. Although pork belly has been a popular choice for fine dining restaurants, this one was one of the best I have tasted. The difference in flavours between the pork belly and the prawn worked well.
Now it was time for the third course, or main course as AtholPlace described it on their menu. This was a choice of beef massamam curry with sambals, poppadum’s and basmati rice or a pan fried linefish with gorgonzola gnocchi, smoked tomato dressing, rocket and cucumber salad and parma ham crisp. My parents both opted for the curry while I decided to be adventurous with the linefish, which that evening was seabass. The curry was apparently delicious but my linefish was just amazing! This was definitely one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. The flavour combinations were interesting but just worked so well together. The softness of the fish, and gorgonzola gnocchi, and the hard, crispiness of the parma ham made for a great combination of textures. This was just amazing and a dish I really enjoyed eating. As with all dishes like this there was just simply not enough!
The fourth course was labeled as the dessert course and consisted of a deconstructed milk tart, fresh berries and chocolate ice cream. Milk tart is a South African favourite and it was great to see some South African influence on the menu. This, like all the other courses was divine. With coffee some petits fours were served.
After our fantastic fine dining meal Chef Wynand van der Watt went around the restaurant table by table chatting to the patrons about their experience and enquiring about their favourite dishes. This I found to be a wonderful personal touch and thought that it is fabulous for the Chef to show an interest in how his food was received.
All in all, AtholPlace Restaurant was an exciting food adventure which is definitely worth another visit soon. The menu does change very often so each visit will be a new food adventure.
The second culinary adventure happened the night after AtholPlace. Yes, the second fine dining food adventure in consecutive nights! This time it was for a Christmas celebration with family friends. The restaurant of choice was Cube Tasting Kitchen. This would be my second food adventure there and I was extremely excited to taste the new menu. Cube Tasting Kitchen is a great concept and serves a ten course set menu which they change monthly. They are not licensed so any wine you would like to enjoy with your meal you have to take with yourself. This is actually a fabulous idea as you can then take the wines which you enjoy and which you think would pair nicely with the food. Cube Tasting Kitchen does provide you with the menu beforehand and recommends types of wine to pair with each course. The food at Cube Tasting Kitchen could be described as quite experimental and even from the menu you are kept guessing as to the actual composition of the dishes until they arrive at the table and are explained. Often it is one of the Chefs who helps serve the food and gives the explanation.
We were lucky that our table was right next to the kitchen so we could see how the food was cooked and the dishes plated.
The food at Cube Tasting Kitchen was an intriguing mix of flavours, textures and colour. Tastewise each dish was absolutely delicious. While all ten courses were enjoyable I have chosen to only comment on a few which really stood out and deserve a mention. That is not to say that there was anything wrong with the courses that I haven’t mentioned. Nothing was wrong with any of the food. What was particularly enjoyable was the variety of dishes, not only in the food but also in how they were served and the different ways they were to be eaten.
The Asian pancake (course three) was very good and probably my second favourite. This was eaten by hand.
Dissolving Textures (course four) was quite different and was eaten in the manner of “having a tequila” by placing some sherbet on your hand, then licking the sherbet and drinking the orange and saffron bubble.
The pork and white fish (course five) was a delicious dish and worth a mention.
The braai (course six) was interesting and was served in communal dishes from which people at the table shared.
My favourite dish was the three soft rind cheeses (course eight). Each element was made with a different cheese and the onion marmalade which accompanied it was just fantastic and really complimented the cheeses well.
The most interesting dish was the dessert which was mysteriously named “Forest floor interactive dessert”. Remember what I said about Cube Tasting Kitchen keeping you guessing about the dishes? The Chef constructed the dessert as she explained it at the table. It was a food story unfolding and developing in colour and flavours as each element was added. This was eaten in another manner different to the other dishes in that each person ate off a single “plate” in the middle of the table.
The menu was as follows:
Sunday roast as a salad
Cured and smoked Sirloin / Crumbed and deep fried gnocchi / Green pea puree / Cauliflower cremeaux / Parmesan soil / Sugar snaps / Broccoli / Green bean / Mustard Mayo and Jus.
Corn and Prawn
Chilli and corn bisque / Two tone corn jelly / Deep fried popcorn ice cream / Prawn popsicle / Crispy bacon.
Spring onion pancake / Galangal jam / Chilli noodle / Asian gel / Japanese mayo / Pickled shimeji / Tempura pak choy
Clementine sponge / Orange and saffron bubble / Sherbet / Naartjie caviar
Pork and white fish
Pork belly / Roasted white fish / Pickled onions / Mustard emulsion / Butternut puree / Braised cabbage / Creamed leeks / Fragrant Jus
Beef fillet / Tomato / Chakalaka / Dukkah / “Morogo” spinach and monkey nuts / Fried pap cakes
Strawberry, tonic and Herbtanicals
Strawberry textures / Artisan tonic sorbet / Fresh herbs and flowers
Three soft rind cheeses
Tart tatin / Kataifi / Pasteis – Brie / Camembert / Chevi
Pineapple and fennel with citrus pannacotta
Forrest floor interactive dessert
Dark chocolate mousse / chocolate soil / Tuiles / Wheatgrass / Caramel / Berries / Apple marshmellow / Smoked truffles
All in all, Cube Tasting Kitchen did not disappoint in this food adventure. It was as good as the first adventure back in October 2015. When you go there for your adventure I recommend printing out the menu to take with you as a reference for each course.
So that concludes “The Tale of Two Culinary Adventures”. I hope you have enjoyed experiencing the adventures with me. If you have please like and share so that others can experience the adventure as well. Feel free to comment. Lastly, please check back soon for the posts about the travelling and food adventure to Switzerland!