Chef Candice Philip manages it without hair in its place and with a geisha demeanor. (Photo: @daria_higgins_images)
At the end of 2020, Vicky and James Peech perfected a pop-up revolution trend. They had noticed how some of our best chefs had become detached from their restaurants and their staff. They blessed them with their new and chic Basalt restaurant.
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This is one of the dishes I had planned to eat, having pre-examined the current tasting menu with unusual excitement. My name is Tomato, I thought of the one called Mosaic restaurant in Pretoria soon after it opened. It had been served on a long, thin dish with various presentations of tomatoes, before the period of Chantal Dartnall’s flowered plates. It is nothing like what I eat. It’s a dish from individualistic chef Candice Philip.
It looks simple and whimsical in a round bowl, but it is a solid and smart tasting dish. It contains the knowledge and practice of how far to stretch flavors, whether they combine intensely or play supporting roles. My spoon picks up some of the underlying smoked tastes of the smoked tomatoes, then picks up some of the overlying parmesan cream, smooth, balanced, add a dab of semi-dried tomato flesh on the way, some flavor of babaganoush and basil that crept in with toasted barley and wonderfully crunchy lentils. It is something so delightfully different and well resolved that I want to applaud. Of course, I eat everything, even scraping the sides of the bowl, much to Vicky Peech’s amusement.
We’re in Vicky’s and her husband James’ Peech Hotel’s fine dining restaurant in Melrose North. A fire is blazing in the large dining room painted in basalt gray. Chef Candice comes in from the kitchen, looking slightly shy. I think she’s really, really fun with life and crazy about what she does but she handles it all without hair for her and with a geisha look.
A year ago the Saxon shut down due to Covid-19 reasons and Chef Candice had to shut down Grei, her magnificent restaurant there which featured her own special ways with the ingredients. It had only been open for eight months when Grei was nominated for the best fine dining restaurant in the world. The following year, it was selected as one of the 50 Best Discoveries in the World by the 50 Best Restaurants in the World. The following year, the Covid-19 struck.
Apart Go to the restaurant awards in the past, Gauteng, rich with its own excellent restaurants and chefs, has its best-ofs still discussed and discussed. Among the great names of “gastronomy” we often hear those of Chantel Dartnall, no longer in South Africa but preparing to open a new incarnation of Mosaic in a magnificent castle in France, David Higgs of Marble in particular, Ence Wessels of NCW, Marthinus Ferreira from DW11-13, Adriaan Maree from Farmer and that same chef, Candice Philip from, well, where?
At the end of 2020, the Peeches, realizing that many of our top chefs had pulled away from their restaurants and staff, came up with a food pop-up revolution trend where top chefs could be reunited with their staff by showing up in their new and stylish Basalt restaurant. It was also wildly popular, but people were calling for Chef Candice Philip’s food again.
Now I’m eating another of my menu choices, the Line Fish Ceviche. It looks like a juicy, creamy-green tangle, a delicious still life with delicate elder heads of “little star-shaped flowers” as in Marita van der Vywer Evocative power of an edible flower in TGIFood Last week.
What it tastes like is the freshness, the barely taste of firm and juicy kabeljou, the crisp fresh trout roe, chunks of lemon gel bursting with fresher flavor throughout, including the clean chef’s marinated kombu. Then this contrast of green peas and softly dampening wasabi, a taste and texture that is strangely comforting.
After all these years, I still don’t know how to tell chefs about their true culinary perfections, they are so rare. I mumble kabeljou stuff and Chef Candice gives her a sweet smile.
Vicky and I are talking about Chef Candice’s “three month residency”. Basalt is open and offers Candice Philip’s food Thursday through Saturday, its six courses, which are actually eight courses. They are simply complete. It is phenomenal. People are calling and asking ‘next one’ before the menus even change, not knowing what they will be, despite new Covid-19 curfews.
What is certain is that no one wants to lose Candice Philip as fast as three months again. Neither its hosts, nor its gourmets.
The menu to come just before mid-June is still a secret. So far, let’s say. It’s themed Smoke and Bones, with dark and slightly mysterious wintery delicacies, malty tastes, bone marrow, unusually grilled mussels with cumin cream and wild winter pickles, lamb confit and loin served with the bones. The end of the desserts on the menu is dark and deep, satisfying. Just imagine the hot magic for a cold moment.
During this time, I imagined how the dessert called Parsnip could or would be on the current menu. It turns out, to my fascinated delight, that this is a cheesecake where the vanilla and parsnip blend so skillfully that I can’t tell them apart and I’m quite shocked. with a delicious new flavor. The prettiness, like the chalices, is delicate parsnip crisps but the hidden taste details, surprises in the mouth, are coffee ice cream and tiny whiskey gels.
Vicky and I are discussing, while taking Philip’s cheese class, the list of the best chefs in South Africa published by the Hospitality Counsel in November 2020. There are 10 chefs listed. Chantel Dartnall and Candice Philip are the only chefs in Gauteng. We know Dartnall is gone. According to them, the grand chief of Gauteng is therefore, for the time being, the chief of Basalt. I shouldn’t be surprised.
What a crush on Basalt to welcome perhaps the best chef in Gauteng. Thanks to all the good work the Peeches have done, helping chefs and bringing hearts and minds together around food, guests and chefs and their staff. DM / TGIFood
Basalt Restaurant, The Peech Hotel, Melrose. Call 011 537 9797
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This notice was published: 2021-06-11 08:53:23