Interviewing international award winning chef, Chantel Dartnell is slightly overwhelming. This petite, soft spoken chef has some of the worlds top accolades hanging on her walls, and visiting her restaurant is beyond an incredible experience. In fact, we are still battling to find the words to best describe our visit…
Arriving at The Orient is like arriving in a magical kingdom. Although a mere 45 minute drive from both Johannesburg and Pretoria, once you have entered the Moorish themed gates you may forget the hustle and bustle of the city and revel in the beautiful gardens, and the view out over the Francolin Conservancy which is an oasis of green and beautiful bird life too.
The best description for both The Orient and Restaurant Mosaic itself is a ‘destination’. You would not wind up here by accident, but when you do arrive, your mind will be subsequently blown from arrival to departure – not one small tiny detail is missed, and Chantel and her team understand the concept of making their guests feel welcome, special and loved.
Natura Naturans is the name of Chantel’s current menu – and every time that we visit we are flabbergasted at the attention to detail on every plate. Whether you are doing the Market Degustation Menu or even the Grande Degustation, the entire flow and composition of your meal is as beautifully orchestrated as a symphony – with delicate notes, building to a crescendo and then perfectly fading away, leaving nothing but an incredible memory that would be hard to forget.
‘The Earth Laughs In Flowers’ is the sub heading to the menu title, and an apt fit for this fresh and floral menu which stems from the use of not only fresh and local ingredients, but also the love of Mother Nature that Chantel possesses – and of course her childhood memories, blended with fine dining.
From the “My Bento Box’ starter which evokes memories for Chantel of helping to knead dough in her family kitchen as a child, packing lunch boxes and combined with her fascination with the bite size morsels typical to their native Japanese Bento Box counterpart – this beautiful dish is presented perfectly in it’s own little box and features garden peas, pickled carrots and a smoked Snoek and potato combo that works perfectly on ones chopsticks.
‘Under The Veil’ reminds Chantel of running through the tunnels of fresh sheets hanging out on the washing line and spending time in her sheet forts with her Ouma, listening to her granny tell her stories and slowly falling asleep warm and protected. The blend of white peaches, hibiscus and oddly enough a langoustine, work perfectly to create this memory so vivid that we could almost see it for ourselves!
And so the menu continues, each dish an incredible permutation in physical form and adorned with flowers – everything edible, except the plate – and we would not be surprised if Chantel did actually create a dish on an edible plate, so passionate is she about creating unique experiences.
Now, on to the wine. Mosaic boasts one of the finest cellars in the country with some of the best and rarest wines from around South Africa and the world. Not surprisingly it has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades and the team travel internationally once a year to source new additions to add to Chantel’s amazing culinary creations. The pairing menu expertly blends these gems with the dishes in a perfect compliment, all under the watchful eye of sommelier, Moses Magwaza.
We were also lucky enough to spend the evening in the 10 suite boutique hotel ‘The Orient’ and if you are going to be doing the pairing menu, may we suggest a stay over as well, rather than driving home late at night.
Each suite is uniquely adorned with the beautiful décor and furniture items that Chantel and her family have been collecting during their 12 some years of travels around the globe. She shared with us that they love to travel together as a family and exploring antique shops, rambling alleyways and busy markets is something that makes this family happiest.
From the high bed with exotic canopies, Moroccan inspired doors and arches, to the marble adorned bathroom featuring one of the most spectacular views we have ever seen (complete with a glass shower wall, so that you can still enjoy the view while taking your morning ablutions) to every consideration in the realms of toiletries, refreshments, bedside reading materials and even a little teddy bear complete with a box of home made choccies that appears magically on your bed while you are out to dinner – this is one stay over that we plan on repeating very soon!
Find out more about both Mosaic and The Orient, right here…
Photos by Photographer Marsel Roothman were supplied to us from the venue.