This is the most difficult review I have had to write so far in my fledgling career. Having been given the chance to tick off another of Eat Out's top 10 restaurants (Jozi's only one strangely), I found moments of pure class mixed in with moments of amateurism. Brilliant touches with really average ones. If I was asked to mark the experience on a scale of 1 - 10 I really don't know how I would do it. Let me explain why...
On Sunday The Rentals, The Princess and I took a drive to Roots restaurant, which is at The Forum Homini Boutique Hotel. If ever there was a destination restaurant this is it. Arhcitecture combining glass, stone and cement, a sort of African-minimalism decor and a beautiful deck overlooking a small dam. A really good setting. I was happy with the vibe.
We were shown to our seats where we sat down and waited for something to happen. And waited. And waited. Eventually I got up to call someone and ask him to please explain the menu. He was apologetic and took us through the six-course tasting menu that the chef had put together (the menu changes daily). The food is R270 per head and for a further R85 each you can enjoy a wine pairing with each course. After checking out the menu, I was in heaven. Here's a little breakdown of the six courses and how I rated them:
Saffron and potato broth with a fishcake (Glorious start. Subtle saffron)
Cured Scottish Salmon with a pickled fennel salad (Simple. Clean. Delicious)
Gremolata Kingklip with an oxtail wonton (The winner.)
Braised Pork belly with cider, pak choi and quinoa (Tender. Nice twist by adding quinoa.)
Confit Duck on a mushroom risotto (Duck sensational. Smoked mushrooms a bit overpowering)
Lemon meringue with raspberry, lavender and almonds (My least favourite. Good but not great)
We were feeling good and all went for the wine pairing. This is where things got a bit weird. Firstly, the wine was poured at a table which was in front of the entrance to both bathrooms. Like, right in front of it. There were empty glasses, half-empty glasses, full glasses and dirty glasses. Nobody really seemed to know what they were doing. The wine throughout the meal was brought to us way before the food, so we were left either with warm wine or very little wine by the time the food arrived. There seemed to be two sommeliers, one very good and one hopeless. There was nowhere near enough emphasis placed on the wines which was disappointing.
The food itself, it must be said, was out of this world and was definitley worth the hype. Something else that has to be mentioned is what happened after one of our courses failed to arrive. Philippe Wagenfuhrer, the chef, came to our table to explain the mix-up and apologise. We were then given a top-up of our wine at no charge and a complimentary glass of bubbly each. After the meal, when we were having coffee on the deck outside, he then came to our table again and refused to charge two of us. I have never seen a chef this concerned over a customer and was floored by the generosity and pride in his own abilities. He said it was his mistake, he had high standards and as a result our money was not welcome. There a few chefs with less talent who could learn something from his humility.
So, as I said, how was the experience? Amazing and disappointing at the same time. Yes, they fu*ked up but they dealt with it like true professionals. So, all things considered, I left happy. Take what you can from that.