Earthy fine dining

Published Nov 21, 2014


Jane Mayne

NAMED one of eight WWF-SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) Trailblazers at this year’s SASSI Seafood Circle Awards, innovative Christo Pretorius has been spurred on to create a novel Taste of the Sea menu.

Executive chef at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Pretorius has introduced two unique tasting menus to cater for vegetarians and seafood fans alike. Sampling the menus at one of executive director Horst Frehse’s Table’s of Friendship, Pretorius proved why he’s such a hotshot in the kitchen.

Despite the increasing popularity of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, non-meat eaters are frequently shortchanged when it comes to fabulous fine dining menu options. Not so at the venue’s Azure Restaurant where both chef and sommelier Gregory Mutambe work together to create inventive culinary offerings.

Award-winning Red Carnation Hotels rarely disappoint and the Cape team work hard to excel by ticking all the boxes. Gastronomes and wine enthusiasts will welcome Azure’s new Taste features.

Chef Pretorius sources his ingredients locally. “I believe I have an obligation to our diners to know exactly where our ingredients come from and how they are handled”. The kitchen receives fresh fruit and vegetables daily, including strawberries from Stellenbosch and white asparagus from Kraaifontein, fresh salmon trout, farmed dusky cob and Saldanha Bay oysters from local suppliers.

His respect for delicious fresh produce, and the increasing demand for interesting vegetarian cuisine is what motivated the design of the 4-course vegetarian Taste of the Earth tasting menu.

Delicate flavours and interesting combinations make this fine dining for non-meat eaters. A variety of colourful vegetables feature, starting with cauliflower terrine – verjuice, pickled cauliflower, sultanas, brown butter aioli and gruyere crumble; a second course of mushroom agnolotti of marinated shitake, shallot puree, truffle cream espuma, parmesan and hazelnuts leads to a main course of potato gnocchi with roast corn velouté, corn fricassee, asparagus and caramelized pearl onion.

A superb crunchy milk chocolate mousse with green tea coral sponge (microwaved!), passion fruit ice cream, brown butter shortbread and toffee sauce makes for a fitting grande finale.

The 4-course seafood tasting menu features delectable Du Toitskloof salmon trout with tonka bean cure, salt baked baby beetroot, watercress, compress cucumber and a yuzu crème fraiche.

Followed by second course of delicious prawn dhal – creamed cauliflower, cumin yoghurt, pineapple chutney, hydrated sultanas and verjuice. Catch of the day with dill pancake, Malay spiced butternut, mung beans, confit baby fennel and curried velouté stars as main course. End this off on a sweet note with coco- nut milk custard with pineapple sorbet, pineapple salad, pineapple jelly, basil and coconut oil cake.

Chef Pretorius says that, “engaging all the senses is what creates truly special memories that diners cherish forever”. Taste of the Sea and Earth certainly bring local flavour to the fore with imaginative flair.

Twenty nine year-old head sommelier Mutambe is a sought-after wine selection panellist, working on SAA’s First & Business Class Winelist and the Platter’s Wine Guide. Zimbabwean-born, his career started at the Mukuyu Winery in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland East region.

He quotes French-born master sommelier Gerard Basset as his inspiration. “If you want to become a sommelier you have to have a real passion for wine and be prepared to work odd hours. This shouldn’t discourage you though, as the exposure to different wines, and the interesting people you meet makes for the most gratifying experience, as you literally become the palate for guests who rely on your knowledge and ability.”

Tasked here with matching up fine organic wines he followed the maxim of ‘healthy eating equals healthy drinking’. His selections included a blend of sauvignon and semillon – the Reyneke Organic White 2013; Avondale Camissa Rose 2013; a Nativo White 2013 from the Swartland area (where sustainable practices are used, but it’s not labelled organic); a Reyneke Organic Red 2012 – a shiraz cabernet blend which looks thick and heavy, but its subtle tones charm with a soft finesse.

Heaven on Earth Organic Natural Sweet rounded Pretorius’ mousse off with a mix of sugar and acidity.

Azure Restaurant recently secured its place on the prestigious American Express® Platinum Fine Dining Awards list for the second year running – these excellent tasting menus demonstrate why .

l Tasting menus are R425: 021 437 9000,

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