Mosaic at the Orient

Because this birthday was a BIG one, it called for a suitably momentous celebration. We invited our friends, Jan and Janneke along to visit the restaurant Mosaic at the Orient headed by Chef Chantel Dartnall. At the end of last year, the Restaurant association of South Africa awarded them the “Best Restaurant of 2012” accolade, and the chef has also received “Best Chef in South Africa” awards in the past. Expectations were high – and we were not disappointed.

As you enter the Francolin Conservancy in the Crocodile River Valley, about 45 minutes from Johannesburg, a Moorish-inspired castle suddenly appears amongst the trees on the hillside, like a mirage. The Orient is a boutique hotel owned by Mari and Cobus Dartnall, who took their inspiration from the Spice Route, decorating the hotel and rooms in traditional Oriental themes ranging from Indian to Moroccan.

The restaurant décor, however, is Parisian Belle Époque and sitting down at our table, set for a feast with an array of cutlery and wine glasses greeting us, we were already delighted. Chef Chantel came to our table wearing her trademark impeccable black chef’s outfit and broad smile to share with us her menu. We were enchanted by her. And all this even before the food arrived!

All four of us chose the five-course Petite Degustation menu, the perfect choice to sample her meticulous approach to modern fine dining.

We were first tempted with a small jelly filled with petite flowers and vegetables giving us a glimpse into the incredible amount of detail each item on the plate receives. Next up was a cauliflower cappuccino with a composition of asparagus, celebrating produce from “The Garden”. “The Seashore” starter was all about different textures, from a tempura prawn to a black squid crisp, a sardine to a marine-inspired mousse. A delicate terrine was served next with a wild mushroom salad, reminding us of “ The Forrest”.

Just before the main courses were served, we were presented with “The Air”, a melt in your mouth thai lime and basil ice with a deep-fried basil leaf. I selected as my main course “The Ocean”, a piece of cape whiting served with a herb beurre blanc. It was one of the most sublime plates of food I’ve ever eaten! My dining companions ate a slow cooked pork belly with apple and mustard cream and the roasted duck leg confit. It was served with foie gras on the side and a caramelised foie gras and butternut sauce. We all selected the dark chocolate and pear opera torte as dessert. 

Our table opted for the wine-pairing as selected by their sommelier, all internationally sourced wines. But on leaving the restaurant we caught a glimpse of their wine list, in a thick leather-bound book, probably the most comprehensive wine list any of us have ever seen.

Overall, it was a wonderful and memorable experience. Chantel not only gave me a small birthday cake, but also presented me with a signed copy of the book Taking it Easy featuring recipes from 20 of South Africa’s best chefs. I could not have chosen a better place or better company to celebrate my birthday, made even more unforgettable by the hospitality of Mari and Chantell. I cannot wait for my next visit.

Restaurant Mosaic

The Orient Boutique Hotel
Francolin Conservation Area, Crocodile River Valley
Elandsfontein, Pretoria

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

My birthday tea

After a couple of scorching hot days earlier the week, (which my husband thinks was caused by my suddenly discovered enthusiasm for baking!) the weather on Saturday morning turned out perfect – slightly cooler with a light breeze making our garden in the shade of the big tipuana tree the perfect outdoor lounge. On my birthday party invitation I told my friends to arrive any time between 10:30 and 17:00 in the afternoon for cake and tea (and by ‘tea’, I meant bubbly!)

As I told you last week, I specifically wanted to make most of the cakes myself even though doing this represented quite a risk, given my (relatively) little experience at these things. But, somewhere in between my new food processor and the love which went into the process it turned out brilliantly. What a privilege to be to be able to serve up my creations to a very appreciative crowd –in a long and brilliant afternoon filled with laughter and stories, the only moments of silence seemed to be when fresh helpings of cheesecake were dished up. 

Thanks to everybody for pitching up, eating, hugging, laughing and sharing.

In Good Company

In preparation for the big tea party, I visited the delightful party shop called In Good Company, which is in Parkhurst. The shop is filled to the brim with all the trimmings you might need for any type of party. I especially love their children’s themes – here you will find all the napkins, cupcake kits, paper plates and decorations you need in themes that range from Peter Rabbit or Pirates to Princesses!

They also hire out selected items and it is all available on their comprehensive website. I am already trying to think of any excuse to plan another party just so that I can get my hands on some of their amazing goodies. 

In Good Company
52nd Sixth Street

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.