For whatever reason, celebrated chef Luke Dale-Roberts has, up until now, held himself back from the City of Gold. But with Luke Dale-Roberts x The Saxon, the newest extension of his richly innovative style of fine dining, Joburg finally has an incarnation of the globally acclaimed and multiple award-winning Test Kitchen to call its own. We went inside Luke Dale-Roberts x The Saxon to find out all about the new restaurant…
Demurely tucked away on the first floor of the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, the restaurant is an exercise in warm, unaffected simplicity – elegantly appointed tables sit around a large open kitchen, a clear signal that the priority is where it should be: the food. Interior designer Sandalene Dale-Roberts went for a refined aesthetic: ‘I tried to create an Orient-Express feel of opulence,’ says Sandalene. ‘With wood-panelled walls, blue tones and lots of brass touches, it reflects the grandeur that is fitting for a Joburg setting,’ she explains.
It’s a refreshing oasis nestled among the pastiche of prints and patterns that is The Saxon itself, a welcome enhancement to its reputation of being the finest in traveler indulgence. Yet, given all the fanfare that surrounds the celebrated chef, there’s one element to an evening at The Saxon that you couldn’t possibly predict – the calm, almost baffling serenity with which your evening unfolds.
Head Chef Candice Philip takes the helm at the freshly made-over space, and half the wonder of dining there is having the opportunity to watch the seemingly effortless procession of exquisitely plated, perfectly weighted seasonal courses.
And in-between all this, the chefs are chatting in normal tones, joking between themselves and making time to taste the new things that are constantly being evolved in the saucepans and ovens of the spacious cooking area. The whole experience is quiet and confident.
No one is making a show because the show is coming to your table: sea bass ceviche with charred broccoli, spiced hazelnut salsa and lemon miso aioli; smoked salmon with wasabi humus, radish salad, squid-ink beurre noisette and lemon dashi dressing; char-grilled scallop with green beans, cured tofu cream and toasted onion and black garlic salsa; pork belly with blue cheese and parsley compressed apples… This is bravura cooking that doesn’t feel like it’s being showy.
Each course is a stunning exercise in visual design, warm colours clustered together on each plate, food rising and falling like mini landscapes. And yes, there are sprinkles, slashes and smudges of foam and sauce – but somehow it all still feels like food and not just a famous chef’s indulgence.
At their core, the concepts are simple, the flavours aren’t overloaded and don’t get in the way of each other, and the wine pairings are clever – choose between local and international wine partners or a non-alcoholic option with an Yswara tea pairing. Tasting menus like this often get accused of being more style than substance, but Luke’s created a menu where each course is like the best version of that thing you could only possibly imagine. We’d say ‘better late than never’ but our mouths are too full.
The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, 36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg, 011-292-6000