Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter lunch in Shangri-La

entering the dream
We ate Easter lunch at Mosaic, the restaurant at the Orient Boutique Hotel outside Pretoria.

No, that statement does not quite do it justice. We had one of the best dining experiences of our lives over five hours in one of the most beautiful dining rooms inside one of the most gorgeous hotels we have ever seen. On Easter Sunday in South Africa.

art nouveau detail
The design of the Orient Boutique Hotel itself and Mosaic's dining room is other-worldly. Being there is like floating through an Art Nouveau dream in a Henry James novel set in Shangri-La or Xanadu. Many people opt to dine at Mosaic as part of a whole weekend at the hotel. And it would be wise after an evening spent indulging the Grande Degustation menu accompanied by the perfectly selected South African Enthusiast or International Connoisseur wine-pairings. The hotel is 45 minutes from Joburg and it would not be a good idea to drive home at night in the dark after an evening enthusing or connoisseuring.

But our reservation was at 1:00 on a Sunday afternoon. When we left to drive home, at least it was still light out. But that still didn't make me ready to leave the dream and return to reality. But unfortunately Vince had to hop on a plane later that evening for a trip to Dubai and Cairo. Dinner over. Dream over. Poof. Wake up! But first ...

Like Scheherazade, I was conjuring up the culinary genie in a bottle ...

Poof! me and Chantel
Once you get past the opulent setting, it is time to concentrate on the raison d'ĂȘtre. The food. The genie in the Mosaic lamp responsible for the fine dining is Chantel Dartnall. Chantel is the Eat Out Chef of the Year. Everything I have read about Chantel and her accomplishments is true. Everything. And everything about the menu was perfection. From the ingredients to the combinations to the preparation to the presentation. I couldn't take pictures of all the plates - we were there for five hours and they served plate after plate after plate! Vince has lost all patience with me on that score. But some of them were just too pretty to believe.

Like this sunflower made of carrot jelly and orange blossom cream. A thing of beauty for all the senses! 1000 words are just not enough.
Or this amazing construction.The Millionaire's Nest Egg. Inspired by weaver bird's nests,the nest was created with delicate courgette tagliatelle, upon which three miniature quail eggs, each with a different flavored liquid center, are placed. How did she do that? And sliced truffles on top!
Or the Mousse de Mer. The plate looked like a piece of art nouveau majolica! Hard to believe it was edible. Langoustines and risotto on a beach of ground dehydrated tomato skins! With a shot of rooibos tea and tomato on the side. Crazy delish!
Vince and I parted ways on the main course. I had the Bouillabaisse. Kakavia soup, fruits de mer and rouille. Vince had the Birds of a Feather. Quail, guinea fowl, capon and wholegrain mustard. (We could have used a third person with us to order the other main choice. Agneau aux Herbes de Provence. Free Range Lamb, Black Olive, Herbes de Provence.)

As expected, our wine pairings parted ways as well on the main course. We did take a copy of all the wine selections to bring with us on our next wine purchasing foray.

Mosaic even bottles its own vintage semillon / sauvignon blanc blend called First Kiss which they serve with the Rainbow Trout, Lime and Vanilla Velouté. Sommelier Germaine Lahodey gave us the secret phone number for the winemaker!

The cheese course came with a cheese plate already loaded up with some selections accompanied by a groaning side cart. This Karoo Crumble was especially noteworthy!
I had to drag the camera out for two more dessert dishes. I just had to! Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as the presentation for this Dark Valrhona Chocolate composition with house-made cherries? Well we hadn't either! Food calligraphy.
'Cept maybe this chocolate package of strawberries, rhubarb and yoghurt sorbet. There's my Easter orchid.

We will be back to dream the dream again someday. And we will stay over next time.

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