I was a skeptic about what was on the menu, because a few years ago I stayed at the Crystal Towers before it was the Cape Town Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers and the experience was not memorable, neither was the food.
The hotel and the restaurant has been revamped though, gone are the nightclub neon's in the decor and it’s been replaced with muted tones of gold, cream and grey.
The menu at the Towers restaurant has also been spruced up, thanks to Executive Chef Henrico Grobbelaar who is not afraid of pushing the flavours in a dish that others would consider a classic.
For starters there was the a Cardamom, orange cured salmon with avocado, wasabi mayonnaise, peanuts, pickled cucumber and a roe vinaigrette.
Chef Grobbelaar later described it as his tribute to Cape Malay Flavours which is exactly want you want from a starter at a restaurant that is welcoming local and overseas pallates.
He says: “Its Cape Malay flavours so there is cardamom, cinnamon, orange and naartjie peel. We take those beautiful spices, add salt and sugar and cook the norweigan salmon.
This dish was just a taste of the range of fresh seafood dishes that the chef wanted to present during a dinner for the media.
Also on the menu was a Praw Risotto which was prawn tail, parmesan, tomato, cilantro and chorizo.
For mains it was the Fish Of The Day and a Lamb Loin which was a perfectly cooked lamb shoulder.
Chef Grobbelaar lets you into his thinking by explaining that he tries “to make every dish an experience and that is why each dish has a theme.”
He is fearlessly trying to innovate both in his hotel kitchen and at home where is always experimenting with ingredients and flavours.
Even when it comes to selecting fruit and vegetables for his dishes Chef Grobelaar says he takes a slightly different approach to the norm.
“People say that (a vegetable) is R2,95 kg what you going to get for it? I look at it and ask, what can I transform it to, so for instance one of the main courses is cabbage puree and I hang the cabbage and then the puree is added.”
He does have a long list of achievements under his belt and his successes include winning four Culinary Olympic medals and heading up the South African Culinary Olympic team for two years.
Chef Grobbelaar was also named top chef of the year in both international and local culinary competitions, and awarded a FIFA Hospitality Excellence Award for his work during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
This is a chef who wants to tell a story with his food but he also aims to deliver a hearty, flavourful meal which is something you don’t often get with fine dining.
The Lamb main is his take on a black and white theme and he achieves this and bursts of savoury flavours with the butternut gremolata and tahini emulsion.
For dessert it was caramelised banana and layered dark chocolate mousse on the menu, two meals where the chef wanted to prove he can do sweet and fruit, tart flavours but not in an overpowering way.
The night out at the new Towers restaurant was definitely memorable this time round, not only because of the great food, but because the passion of the chef in the kitchen is also evident in each bite.