Priva, Pretoria gets reviewed
A little while back I wrote an article about the men behind the famous Ritrovo restaurant in Pretoria – Giovanni and Fortunato Mazzone. Whilst interviewing Forti, he told me he was opening a new and exciting place, actually directly above Ritrovo called Priva Gastrolounge. He said it was to be a champagne sipping, oyster pairing, whiskey swilling, molecular gastronomical tapas and jazz, fine-dining restaurant and cigar lounge, and I naturally said “what?”
Forti has been working on this dream for the past 10 years and together with his partners Tufan Yerebakan and Piero Cupido they’ve brought it to life. He wanted to create a place where adults could enjoy the finer things in life late into the night without feeling like they were in a nightclub; you see it’s the first fine-dining establishment of its kind as the kitchen is open until 2am.
It’s classy and chic but it has an edge, it’s sexy – that’s the word.
The layout is the culmination of a great deal of experience and ingenuity; an entrance through to a champagne and oyster bar surrounded by sumptuous leather couches and a trio of jazz musicians on an intimate stage lead you through to the dining areas and private rooms. On the left you’ll find a smoking area cleverly ventilated with silent extractor fans that ensure that not a single puff of smoke wafts through, but there’s no door so the smokers don’t feel like they’re in a fishbowl. A walk-in cellar and humidor add to the sophistication and an outside area with tables and chez-lounges, couches and place enough to stand and admire the sunset completes the setting.
The devil is in the detail and there are some very naughty touches throughout; wooden lockers next to the walk-in humidor where the restaurant will store your personal whisky and cigar stash if you’re a regular and the pièce de résistance: a private parking bay upstairs and an entrance through the kitchen that uses fingerprint identification for serious VIP’s – Goodfellas-style. Forti also tells me that there will soon be a perfumery outside the bathrooms where you can both try and buy luxurious scents.
Priva has only been open a few days and yet the place is already buzzing with an eclectic mix of romantic diners, jazz and whiskey aficionados and cigar-loving moguls.
We’re seated at a secluded table with a lovely view of the live jazz. There’s a flock of gorgeous, well-mannered waitresses on the floor and ours is no exception; she greets us with a smile and presents us with a plate of delectable complimentary bread (all made on site) served with a trio of butters – the anchovy butter being my favourite – subtle and delightful. The wine list is comprehensive and, although being on the pricey side, offers some lovely and affordable options by the glass.
The menu itself is broken into three sections: the bar menu, the tasting menu and the set menu. Executive Chef Morgan Kloes (a young, innovative and enthusiastic talent) has created an array of dishes focusing on imaginative combinations of only the very finest ingredients, all of which are served in elegant, tasting-style portions.
The champagne and oyster bar menu features a selection of premium Luderitz oysters with a vibrant selection of dressings including: Seaweed Pesto Soup, Lemongrass Essence and Nori and Japanese Wakame-style. There are also more casual options such as a Gourmet Biltong and Dried Sausage Selection, a Charcuterie Board and an Oxtail Parcel served with Green Olive Puree.
The set menu is made up of 11 tasters, the highlights of which include: Blue cheese Beignets with Pear, Pork Belly Terrine with Ginger Syrup, Sweet potato and Whisky Dumplings, Parma ham and Watermelon soup with a Feta crumble, Kobe Beef Fillet with Soya cream and Shitake Mushrooms and Date and Pistachio Truffles…is your mouth watering yet?
The tasting menu is similar in style, but is a little more opulent; Liquorice-poached Giant Tiger Prawn with Lemon and Fennel, Forest Quail with Kiwi Fruit, and Bombay & Tonic and Veal with Apple, Chestnut and Sweet Onion…
We indulged in a combination of dishes from all three menus as well as some of the chef’s specials for the evening. We began with The Trio of Oysters, which were just magnificent – three diverse dressings that all delicately framed these little celebrities of the sea, my favourite being the cauliflower puree.
Then came The Giant Tiger Prawn which was simply sublime – the Tiger prawn was enormous and succulent and the combination of lemon and fennel in the salsa subtly cut through the richness of the flesh. The specials included mussels in a coconut broth with a vanilla foam – they were so fresh and light you’d swear they were picked just hours before, and Sea bass with white anchovies – a dish I could eat twice and then all over again. The highlight from the set menu was the Kobe Beef Fillet; the meat is unbelievably tender and, paired with the soya cream and delicate Shitake mushrooms, it literally melts in your mouth.
Forti and his partners have invested not only a lot of time and money in bringing this dream to life, but a lot of heart and soul too – their floor staff, whilst not being very knowledgeable about the wines and whiskeys as yet, are being trained and invested in so that within a month or so they’ll be top notch. They’re guiding their team towards taking something seriously special and making it something absolutely unbelievable.
As I was leaving Forti tells me with a huge grin that he can now confirm that Minette Smith, the former pastry chef from Rust en Vrede and the Saxon, and her ‘A’ team, will be coming on board. I am very excited to see what Forti and his team create with this amazing pool of talent in such a special venue.