I always find it interesting when a restaurant invites people to their chef’s table. It’s normally people who have never met, which then provides us an opportunity to break bread with a complete stranger. Sometimes it works (as it did when I recently attended one at The Grill Jichana) and sometimes it doesn’t. But the one thing that’s always great is that we get the best out of the chef.
I once attended a dinner where the chef had to create a vegan dish for one of the guests. She was thrilled to be given a chance to venture beyond the standard menu. That made me think about how boring it gets for chefs having to stick to the menu. But the chef’s table allows them to have a bit of fun. And so I went to Elangeni Hotel’s Grill Jichana for their recent chef’s table. There were only six of us: the GM of the hotel, an influencer, a photographer, a publicist and a celebrity chef and TV personality. A pretty diverse crowd of people and I was mostly looking forward to their comments about the food.
In situations like these, the topic of conversation is normally very pretentious, from which whisky is better, why champagne is better than MCC and which is the next culinary trend that we all just must try. Thank goodness this table was surrounded by people who just loved good food and talking about everyday things, like shows we watch, hotel gossip and the funny moments we have had with food.
And the food? Well, expectations were very high and the hotel’s executive chef, Shaun Munro, and the restaurant’s chef, Prenolan Naidoo, certainly served up some really good food.
For starters we had a spread of various options (brandy-flamed pan-fried chicken livers in peri-peri sauce, creamy mussels and a prawn salad but what I enjoyed more than anything, were the peppadew chilli bites. Those spicy peppadew-and-baby-spinach fritters with a cooling minted cucumber raita were heavenly. If I wasn’t afraid of being side-eyed, I’d have had multiple servings of it.
Mains we had four options: seafood, chicken and duck, lamb and rump. I don’t care much for chicken, so I didn’t bother with it. I have, though, started enjoying duck and the breast was done really well. The confit was tender, too. Thanks to how much I’m enjoying duck, it’s definitely going on to my lunch table this Christmas.
Dessert was a dramatically delicious Valrhona chocolate bomb.
Each course was paired with various wines, but since I don’t drink any alcohol, I made do with water and cola-tonic and lemonade.
They have a pretty extensive range of wines you can enjoy with your dinner, including spirits, champagne and MCC. I was pleasantly surprised that you can come withbring your own wine if their range doesn’t please you, and even more surprising is that the restaurant doesn’t charge corkage.
I wish the Grill Jichana operated during the day. I still find it antiquated that a restaurant only operates during dinner time.
There’s something about a fine restaurant during the day. There are no bells and whistles, no fancy lighting and theatrics.
You get to see the décor, the pictures on the wall and there’s natural light, allowing you to take the mandatory social media food picture.
So I hope that they think about opening during the day, especially during the festive season. Not only is it a way for them to attract a new clientele, but also to get people to appreciate how beautiful the restaurant is during the day.