This past Sunday, we drove out towards Hartebeespoort Dam to visit Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient. A famous, local Art Nouveau-style restaurant nestled in the Francolin Conservation Area. It was our 2 year anniversary celebration so we really wanted something special, a bit out of the ordinary. This restaurant has featured in the top 10 of South African restaurants for the last 3 years, and Chantel Dartnall, head chef and owner at Mosaic, won the 2014 Eat Out S. Pellegrino Chef of the Year Award. And so I booked…
Upon arrival, we were served our choice of Apèterif along with a few canapes: vegetables and nuts wrapped in rice paper and an avocado roulade with cream cheese and truffle pearls.
The setup was a bit uncomfortable. We were required to sit and relax in a lounge area whilst enjoying our drinks and canapes, but there were very few tables so we had to juggle holding a glass, canape spoon or fork, cellphone, etc. The decor however is extraordinary. Very busy, but extraordinary.
When I made the reservation I requested a romantic table. We were seated in a beautiful booth, but unfortunately it was right next to the drink serving station so there were constantly servers hustling and bustling to get their tables’ drinks orders out. Unfortunate, but overall it was still amazing. Beautiful French music played in the background and we were served delicious, freshly baked breads from a bread trolley.
There was such a wide variety: green olive rye, basil pesto and sundried tomato rolls, crusty polenta and calendula rolls, cranberry and pear cheese breads… the list goes on and on.
It was served with delicious infused butters: lavender and lemongrass, plain salted, honey and cinnamon, and anchovy and caper.
Chef Chantal went to each and every table, welcomed the guests and explained the two menus – Market Degustation and Grande Degustation – a beautiful gesture that makes you feel very welcome. She’s incredibly passionate about what she does. We obviously opted for the Grande Degustation (grins) and both of us decided to take the non-alcoholic pairing this time round.
Before our meal commenced, we were served an Amuse Bouche from the kitchen: deep-fried frogs legs and foie gras jelly served with a truffle bread. Yikes! The frogs legs were beautifully presented, but the fact that I had a little “paddatjie’s boudjies” in front of me did not sit well with my stomach. I kept seeing images of Kermit the frog. In the spirit of trying new things however, I had one, but I couldn’t manage any more than that, so I gave my other one to hubby. He quite liked it, saying it tastes like tenderised chicken, and it actually does, but the fact that my brain knew it was frogs legs meant my body didn’t believe that lie.
The foie gras was also beautifully presented but I also struggled a bit with that one. I recall having watched a documentary about how ducks are force-fed to fatten their livers so it can be harvested for foie gras. It was awful, but I read up about Chef Chantel before booking and know that she is very much against animal cruelty and fosters a culture of sustainable sourcing in her business, so again, in the spirit of trying new things, I overcame my mental block and tried some. It was quite fatty but well-balanced by the sourness of the grapes that accompanied it. I only had a bite or two though.
These dishes were paired with an apple and lavender juice, a sweet compliment to the salty frogs legs and a nice refreshing taste after the fatty duck liver.
Our first course was then served. Titled Celebration of Spring, Chantel conceptualised this dish in celebration of one of the greatest chefs in Europe: Chef Michael Bras. It’s a fresh garden vegetable salad served with horse radish mousse and a smooth carrot mousse. It was presented on a beautiful Rosenthal designer plate and paired with a lime and lemongrass spritzer. The vegetables were crunchy, the carrot mousse flavoursome and the little kick from the horse radish mousse rounded it all off beautifully.
The next course, Genesis, consisted of a Rainbow Trout encapsulated by a lemongrass and Japanese Miso mousse served with a pomelo salad, and a buttermilk and lemongrass sauce. All the different flavours complimented each other beautifully, making for quite a refreshing dish. Paired with a virgin pomelo and basil margarita; that and the little pops of pomelo every now and again gave an interesting soury bitter tone to the dish.
Mousse de Mer, the third course, was inspired by a walk on the beach. Presented in that way, this dish consisted of a creamy Rooibos tomato risotto (the ocean) served with a baby langoustine, tomato powder (the beach), baby shrimps and a seaweed jelly. The presentation told a story so beautiful, I was sad to ruin it. Paired with a Rooibos and citrus tea, it was an intense tomato-flavoured dish. Unfortunately the gentle flavour of the langoustine was somewhat overpowered by this, but it was still a memorable experience that told a story all the way from the plate to your tummy.
The next course was served in a beautiful glass bowl filled with tall grass stems, resembling a bird’s nest. The dish was titled Millionaires Nest Egg and consisted of quail eggs served with black truffle slices, courgette tagliatelle and a white truffle sauce. A deliciously, creamy, truffly dish complimented well by a warm wild mushroom and nettle consommé, reinforcing the bold flavours.
A quick Garden Pea palate cleanser of Matcha, sweet pea and lime was presented next followed by our entree.
I opted for the beef and hubby chose a quail and goose combo. Prints in the Paddock consisted of a 36-day matured Angus Beef infused with Sumac and Red Ivory fruit preserve served with vegetables and crispy sweetbreads served with a warm tea infused with Genmaicha, mushroom and brown rice. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth soft and perfectly prepared.
Hubby’s dish, dubbed Birds of a Feather, consisted of quail marinated in Acacia honey and lavender, and a goose and mushroom roulade served with a smooth spinach velouté. We went half/half, as we usually do. Neither of us had ever tasted goose before and we were pleasantly surprised. It was succulent and flavoursome. The quail, our now second time having it, was also well-prepared. Just a little pink, and nice and juicy.
The next part of our meal was a selection of cheeses from the cheese trolley and a freshly baked mini bread loaf, placed on our table which we could break ourselves. A beautiful extra touch.
Our meal ended with Starburst, a white peach mousse served with a peach jelly, passion fruit, vanilla meringue and a peach ice cream. Beautifully presented, resembling the galaxy, all the flavours complimented each other very well. The peach ice cream was creamy and smooth, and the pairing of passion fruit, vanilla and peach extraction juice made all the flavours pop even more.
All in all, I give Mosaic a well-deserved 3 noms out of 5. I must say: the crockery selected and presented with each dish really set this experience apart from others for me. You can see Chantel’s personal touch in each dish and the way it is presented.
Have you dined at Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient before? What was your experience like? Share it with me in the comments section below.
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