I’d heard of Restaurant Mosaic and I’d heard of Chantel Dartnall, I’d heard the food was magical and that the service was exceptional, but I never expected to be quite so blown away after visiting this little Oasis just outside of Pretoria.
They call it ‘a restaurant with rooms’ rather than a hotel with a restaurant and I’d have to agree. The people who come to dine and stay here are serious, but not in the way you think; they’re serious about romance, indulgence, anniversaries and birthdays – they’re serious about celebrating excellence in food, wine and all things beautiful, because here is where you can experience it all.
Every world-class restaurant, that I’ve had the privilege of visiting, has one thing in common: they’re owner-run. There’s something about the care taken by an owner versus that of someone hired to do the job that just cannot compare. Mari and Chantel, the mother and daughter duo who own and run Restaurant Mosaic and The Orient Hotel, go out of their way to make you feel special; they are warm, down to earth and the epitome of proficient.
The Restaurant can seat a maximum of 40 people, so the experience is intimate and exclusive from the outset; the décor, from the wall paper to the crockery to the stained glass detailing have all been hand-picked and much has been hand-crafted solely by, and for, Mosaic. On arrival Mari takes care to show you to your table and ensures that you are comfortable, there is no rush over dinner as the journey usually takes around 3 to 4 hours, and they don’t allow second sittings, so your table is all yours for the evening.
Chantel personally comes to each table to describe the menu for the evening and she does so with such poetic prowess that each plate sounds like a fairytale, which it is.
You can choose between the Petite and Grande Degustation Menus, 5 and 7 courses respectively, both include an Amuse-Bouche (complimentary appetizer) and a Remise en Bouche (palate refresher) and both are finished with coffee and petite fours. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the Grande menu but was assured that it wouldn’t be overwhelming. The experience is just beautiful; the size of each portion is delicate, but richly satisfying, so I was able to finish every morsel without blinking an eyelid - the fact that it was exceptional probably helped.
Each plate is a work of art and each mouthful is a symphony; they are so intricately and perfectly put together that it is easy to become quite introspective as you let your mouth distinguish each flavour, as each note compliments the next. It would be impossible to describe all of the elements that make up each dish as they are so multifaceted, but in a nutshell, Chantel’s philosophy with this menu is to create dishes that revolve around a ‘secret scent’; an aromatic spice or herb that she sews through the fabric of each dish. The highlights included ‘The fungi on the Forest Floor’: a synergy of exotic mushrooms with yuzu, ‘Pebbles on the Beach’: baby langoustines, citrus and seaweed with huile de gambas and ‘Driftwood on the Brook’s Bank’: dark chocolate, pear and hazelnut with cinnamon.
The wine pairing, by Germain Lehodey is an experience in itself, Germain has created 2 pairings, an Enthusiast (local wines) and a Connoisseur (International wines) to perfectly compliment each dish. He personally pours every glass and describes in detail the nature of each wine in a way that is wonderfully informative without being long-winded.
His cellar won the Diner’s Club International Wine List Award for ‘The Best Overall Wine List in South Africa’ earlier this year, which is no surprise as there are over 40000 bottles of wine to choose from. Germain is more than happy to help you find your perfect vintage if you’d prefer not to choose the wine pairing with your menu. (It needs to be noted that the wine list prices are the best value for money I have ever seen at a restaurant of this standard, or any restaurant for that matter.)
We were seriously spoilt and had the privilege of staying in of one of their 9 executive suites for the evening, each is a Pandora’s box of Persian carpets, uniquely carved wooden furniture and exquisite antiques; it’s luxurious and luscious with no televisions to speak of – an aspect that I just loved.
The breakfast the next day was another gorgeous, 7 course indulgence; we were served spiced morning tea to refresh our palates, beautiful freshly-cut fruits, a delicate guava smoothie, subtly spiced oats, a selection of handmade French pastries and an elegantly-plated and perfectly-cooked Eggs Benedict or Traditional Breakfast, that I would call more ‘special’ than ‘traditional’.
A sanctuary like this needs to be nurtured and celebrated by the public; it is the epitome of quality, elegance and enchantment and if you haven’t been, you need to remedy that. I can’t fault the food, I can’t fault the hotel, I can’t fault the service, it was simply perfect.
5 course is R565, wine pairings are R190 for the Enthusiast and R300 for the Connoisseur
7 course is R875, wine pairings are R260 for the Enthusiast and R380 for the Connoisseur
There is a vegetarian menu at R485 for 5 courses, wine pairings are R190 and R300 respectively.
There is also an À la carte menu available at lunch and you can book for breakfast and high teas on request.