I am all about birthdays. But not just my own – I really enjoy celebrating and spoiling the people I love and birthdays present the perfect opportunity to do just this. So when I found out that my dad was going to be away for work on my mom’s birthday, and that she’d be alone at home with no more than a tv and a bottle of wine for company, my dad and I decided that the best present for my mom would be me!
I wanted to be there to make my mom feel as special as she’s made me feel at every birthday over the past 28 years – from birthday parties at Gold Reef City to an obsessively sourced Spice Girls birthday cake for my 11th birthday, to my first car on my 18th . It was during my research into the best restaurants in Joburg that I stumbled across Restaurant Mosaic, at The Orient, just outside of Pretoria.
After hearing a rave review first hand from a friend, which included the phrase “I now measure every dining experience against Mosaic” I booked a table for two. I was impressed by their level of service from the very first booking enquiry email, but it was only once we arrived that I was able to truly appreciate how incredibly special this little piece of the exotic Orient really is.
The Orient is set on a stunning conservancy, so from the moment you drive onto the property, you feel like you’re far away from the city. Once you’ve turned off the main road, you follow a winding route into nature, where finally, you get your first glimpse of The Orient. Giant, heavy wooden doors usher you into a whole new world, and the architecture, lush gardens, insane art collection, opulent decor and exceptional service add layer upon layer of luxury to your experience. Described as “a restaurant with rooms”, rather than a hotel, there’s no check-in desk and guests are immediately made to feel at home.
We were staying in the Marrakesh suite, with its own private balcony, stunning views across the conservancy and a deep ball and claw bath that I couldn’t wait to use. My little sister had arranged for a bottle of Champagne in our room, so we popped the cork and sat back to relax in the sunshine. Even in the middle of July, this part of the country is sunny and warm, with a hot, dry breeze flowing through the space, transporting us further into the fantasy of being somewhere far away from home.
When the time for dinner finally came around, we were seated at one of Restaurant Mosaic’s ten tables. For the next four hours, we experienced food the likes of which I have never tasted before. We’d opted for the Grande Degustation menu; ten courses, paired with ten wines. I decided to go for the Connoisseur Wine Pairing, with wines from all over the world, while my mom had the Enthusiast Pairing, with local wines. The restaurant has one of the most extensive wine cellars in Africa and they’ve won numerous awards for their selection. The feast starts off with an extensive bread course, complete with a variety of special butters. This is followed by an amuse bouche, and then a series of starters, before the main event. Feast your eyes on the full menu here.
Chef Chantel’s menus are seasonal, so we were treated to the current Roots & Shoots offering. The printed menu comes to the table in a beautiful binder and is a full 17 pages long. Every detail behind the inspiration for all 10 courses is detailed in its pages, with Chantel’s own notes on the creation of every mouthful.
More than just plates of food being brought to your table, each course is an experience. One course involved a clear coffee percolator with an oceanic broth and a seaweed infusion bubbling away at the table. My favourite dish, the Bountiful Beetroot, involved a beetroot mouse, a six hour slow cooked salt crusted beetroot and a fifty year aged balsamic vinegar. The cheese trolley, brought to the table and served by the owner Mari herself, was by far the best selection of special cheeses I’ve ever had.
This is honestly and without a doubt the best meal I’ve ever had – and judging by my ever-expanding girth, I’ve had a lot of great meals. The combination of loving attention to detail, service that goes above and beyond, flavour, freshness and unique dishes, make this the highlight of my foodie adventures.
The wine pairing, which was largely Sauvignon Blanc driven, was a definite highlight. It’s not often that the Sommelier is there to pour every glass of wine, and tell you about it’s origin and why he has chosen it for the fish. It’s also not often that you get the opportunity to try 10 international wines at dinner.
The next morning, expecting the standard selection of cereals and fruit, followed by a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs, we were met with a five course feast of oats cooked with coconut milk and cardamom, smoked salmon with cream cheese and an incredible Eggs Benedict, amongst many other delicious things.
Our visit might only have been for one night, but it felt like much longer. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Especially if you’re as obsessed with food and wine as I am, or if you’ve got a special occasion to celebrate, but you don’t have the time to go too far away. The Orient and Restaurant Mosaic are unmissable.
* I booked and paid for our dinner and wine pairing, but our stay in the room at The Orient was hosted. The normal room rate for the Marrakesh Suite is R4000 per night, including breakfast.