So, by now you might have realised that I only obviously have money for fine dining experiences once a year, given that my last post on fine dining was one year ago, hahahaha.
My husband and I basically save all year to be able to enjoy proper food spoils in our birthday and anniversary week. This year, on 25 November, we celebrated my husband’s birthday at Luke Dale-Roberts at the Saxon (LDRS). Now, I have always been a fan of Luke Dale-Roberts but have never, until now, had him or his dishes close enough to try. PotLuck and the Test Kitchen are both in Cape Town, so you can imagine how excited I was when I heard about the LDRS pop-up restaurant at the Saxon, which has since been made permanent (even better).
My husband and I had never been to the Saxon before, so we were quite surprised when we arrived. How beautiful are the gardens? When you drive through the incredible wooden gate you get transported to another world and the hustle and bustle that is Sandton, gets left behind. We parked in the basement and were taken by car (a very fancy Mercedes Benz, nogal) to the entrance of the main hotel. There, we were met and escorted to the LDRS restaurant. Upon arrival, our server seated us, offered us some water and explained the two menus to us – one 5-course and one 7-course option. We of course opted for the latter. Seeing as we only splurge once a year, we might as well splurge properly. Hubby took the local wine pairing and I opted for the interesting tea pairing.
Before our meal officially started, we were treated to some delicious appetisers: a tomato consommé with diced cucumber, scrumptious prawn ceviche, a delectable Springbok tartare and smoked-infused butter with coriander oil served with a selection of fresh breads. Oh my word, where do I start? Absolutely everything was amazingly delicious and so well-balanced. The tomato consommé was literally about a teaspoon full and when it arrives at your table it just looks like a yellow-ish ice, but when you eat it, the flavour explosion in your mouth is out of this world! The Springbok tartare was absolutely divine. Creamy and rich, served with avocado atop a nacho-like base. I would literally eat hundreds of them.
Then our menu commenced. Our Sommelier explained each and every pairing in great detail and mixed all the tea infusions himself. He was incredibly knowledgeable, explaining the history of each wine farm and why certain wines are served in specific glasses. He also went into great detail about why he chose that specific wine to accompany that specific dish, how it compliments the dish and the floral or fruity notes to look out for. He was fantastic!
After we ranted and raved about the ridiculously delicious appetisers for quite a significant amount of time, our first course was served. Titled Tomato, this dish consisted of smoked and semi-dried tomatoes served with roasted garlic and Goat’s cheese mousse, red pepper jelly and red pepper dust. Hubby’s was paired with a dry Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc and mine with a green Rooibos tea infused with orange and Saffron. You literally can’t imagine that tomatoes and red peppers can taste this amazing. The combination of sweet and sour coupled with the creaminess of the mousse literally gets your tastebuds dancing. The saffron undertones in my infused tea accompanied the tomato-y goodness beautifully. A very well-balanced dish.
The second course was a tuna tartare served with avocado, lime and mint puree, crispy parsnip chips, pickled Kombu seaweed, Nori dust and Yuzu fish dressing. Mine was served with a lemongrass and citrus-infused tea and hubby got a De Wetshoff Chardonnay. Now let me again say that this dish was probably the size of a teaspoon but again, bursting with flavour. The creamy avocado puree was refreshing and stood up well against the strong flavour of the tuna. Absolutely amazing! The lemongrass in my infused tea also paired very well with the lime in the puree. A winner!
You’ll notice by now that I have raved about every single dish – and yes – it’s all amazing. I have given my fair share of candid opinions about food on my blog. You can have a read and you’ll see what I mean. But never, and I mean never, have I literally been blown away by each and every dish put in front of me. Even the appetiser breads were amazingly soft, like little aerated pillows of gorgeousness.
Our server was quite the animated character. I enjoyed engaging with him. He was fun and energetic and this time round, came and showed us how the next course: coal-smoked Wagyu, was prepared. He brought the smoker, explained to us how the meat is smoked and ran off to the kitchen to get said smoked Wagyu plated.
A quick 5 minutes later and our next course was served: Coal-smoked Wagyu beef Scottati infused with ginger, and served with a radish salad drizzled with Luke’s signature XO dressing (a combination of brandy and smoked bone marrow). Hubby’s was paired with a Southern Right Pinotage, mine with a ginger, aniseed and chamomile tea. And wow, where do I start? Firstly, the Wagyu was like butter – melt-in-your-mouth delicious butter – and the XO dressing, well, I would bath in it if given the opportunity. It was absolutely amazing. Silky soft and smooth but incredibly bold in flavour. I have literally never tasted anything this deliciously delectable in my life and as I am typing this, I am still salivating.
Next came the Crayfish Braai: crayfish served with curried carrots, compressed apple, honeycomb, lime crème fraîche, flying fish roe and cucumber ribbon. A mouthful I know, but all super-complimentary flavours. Mine was paired with a black tea infused with carrot and chili and hubby’s with a Karen Rose. Each and every element on the plate worked in such harmony together and the slightest hint of chili after a sip of my infused tea sparked my tummy to ask for the next bite of deliciousness.
Our next course was a combination of quail and langoustine: smoked quail breast and butter-poached langoustine served with charred corn, leek ash and a pancetta and mussel velouté. Hubby’s was paired with a Crystallum Pinot Noir, an interesting blended warm and cold temperature wine, and mine with a black tea infused with almond and rose petals. This was my first time tasting quail. In all my hundreds of hours watching Food Network, I always remember chefs saying how hard it is to get right. It’s such a teeny tiny little bird; you need to pay very close attention to it. 30 seconds too long and it’s overcooked, tough and ruined. It should ideally be a little pink to keep it moist and succulent. This quail was exactly that – perfectly cooked. Tender, juicy and packed with flavour. The langoustine was soft and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, and the charred corn gave an interesting bitter crunch to the dish. It was fabulous!
The next course was our entrée: pan-seared Springbok loin served with red cabbage, pickled cherry pine nut salsa and an almond crème. Mine was paired with Rooibos tea infused with cocoa nibs and espresso beans, and hubby’s with a Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon. This course had me in 2 minds: I’m not generally a big fan of game meat, but it was as soft as butter and very well-prepared. All-in-all it was a good dish, but if I can give one piece of constructive criticism: the nuttiness was a bit too much. There was quite a lot of ground nuts on the plate, and that, coupled with the almond crème was a little overpowering.
A quick palate cleanser was served next before my favourite part of the meal: dessert! A delicious Bougenvilla and elder flower compressed jelly and melon sorbet. Refreshing!
Whilst we were waiting for our dessert, both super excited, the kitchen staff started cleaning the kitchen, and to be honest, this was a little off-putting. Now, don’t get me wrong. I completely understand that it’s late (this was around 11-ish on a Friday night) and everyone would like to go home to their families or better halves, but it does make your guests feel like they should hurry up and leave. That plus, the smell of cleaning liquids filling the air is not very appetising. We didn’t allow this to ruin the evening for us though, and were still waiting, with bated breath, on our amazing desserts… and then they arrived…
Hubby opted for the berry one: fresh strawberries with strawberry sponge, Pimms ice cream, rose snow and a strawberry gel paired with Paul Cluver NLH Riesling. His was crisp and refreshing. The Pimms ice cream was beautiful with a slight bitter undertone.
I opted for the White Forest: a koeksister mousse served with lime wax and milk sorbet. Mmm… Mine was paired with Rooibos tea infused with vanilla, coconut and lime zest. It was creamy, sweet and delectable. Everything a dessert should be!
An absolutely fantastic ending to an absolutely fantastic evening! Plus, to top it all off, they brought a beautiful, personally-signed birthday card to my husband from the entire LDRS team with a box of Saxon nougat. What a kind gesture!
I give LDRS a very well-deserved 5 noms out of 5. It was by far the best fine dining experience I have ever had! Luke, you’ve set the bar!
Have you had the privilege of dining at LDRS yet? If so, share your experience with me in the comments section below. I would love to know!
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