Restaurant week is the most amazing concept in dining. One week of massive discounts at some of the best restaurants in Johannesburg, Cape Town , Winelands and Durban. It’s a rare and fantastic opportunity to bring fine dining to people who wouldn’t usually be able to afford it. This year my husband and I picked Piccolo Mondo in the Michaelangelo Hotel to try for our anniversary.
The hotel itself is an elegant and opulent affair and allows you the opportunity to get dressed to the nines. On arriving at the restaurant we were escorted to our table which had an amazing view over the tree-lined drive below which glows with fairy lights. I found the restaurant itself to lack ambience. Although we were there on a weekday night, it was extremely quiet.
Our waiter was knowledgeable and efficient if not very friendly. Drinks were offered to us from an extensive wine and cocktail menu. A bottle of wine of any description is rather pricey with nothing below about R250 but they do have a good variety of wine by the glass. A glass of wine was roughly between R55 and R75 each but at least there was a taste for every palate. My husband had a cafe latte which was strong and tasty however at R38 was a bit steep.
The dinner was a set menu specially designed for restaurant week consisting of 3 courses at R300.00 per person. Piccolo Mondo added an amuse bouche and a palate cleanser which I felt was a lovely touch. The menu offered 3 choices for each course with all the options sounding delicious and complex. My hubby and I opted to try different meals so we could share and taste a wider variety.
Our amuse bouche was a fig and goats cheese Panna cotta. Although tasty I wouldn’t really call it a panna cotta as it was quite firm in consistency. We were also given a bread basket with a variety of freshly baked breads and served with 3 butters. My favourite was the mushroom butter. How they managed to infuse so much mushroom flavour into that butter is a beautiful mystery!
For starters I ordered the grilled halibut with a creamy coconut broth, grapefruit sabayon and asian slaw. The broth was lovely with the sweetness of the coconut beautifully complimented by ginger. The fish was delicious and tender without being sloppy and the little bits of cabbage in the asian slaw added some texture and crunch to the dish.
My husband ordered the beef carpaccio which came with olive crumbs, celery jam, wild mushroom and parmesan. I have never before had an olive crumb and didn’t know what to anticipate. The olives were cut into small pieces and made crunchy. They had a delightful sharp, bitter flavour which stood out and added the sparkle to the dish. What I would have liked to see more of on this plate was acidity. I think a squeeze of lemon would have completed this dish.
Our palate cleanser was a cranberry and orange sorbet which I found underwhelming. It tasted almost exactly like Orange-Maid water ice’s.
My main course was the ostrich fillet with beetroot tart, celeriac and mace puree and a pink peppercorn jus. I really didn’t know what to expect with regards to the celeriac and mace puree as I have never tasted either ingredient. Mace comes from nutmeg and is described as having a flavour between cinnamon and pepper. The celeriac tasted like parsnip. All together a tasty twist on your traditional potato mash with nutmeg. The ostrich fillet was, however, extremely rare even though I had asked for it medium. It was like eating a raw, warmed piece of meat. This let the dish down somewhat. The star of this dish and the whole meal however was the beetroot tart. A fuchsia filling on a crispy base topped with tiny balls of baby beetroot. It was pretty as a picture and looked like it could be a dessert. The beetroot was naturally sweet and unadorned by too many other flavours. It was simply amazing!
My husband ordered the sage butter poached chicken with macadamia nut barley and sage butter sauce. My major gripe with this dish was not in flavour, which was pretty good, but in texture. The macadamia nut barley was cooked and served as a play on a risotto however because of the small pieces of chopped macadamia, it gave the impression that the barley was undercooked which wasn’t very nice.
For dessert I ordered the peach mousse with peach salad and honey ice-cream. The honey ice-cream had fantastic flavour and was rich and creamy. The raw peach salad provided the necessary acidity to break the sweetness of the dessert and the peach mousse was flawlessly smooth with a strong peach nuance.
My husband ordered the chocolate slice with peanuts, chocolate crumbs and frozen yoghurt. To me this dessert was just a dressed up chocolate brownie with nothing truly spectacular about it. The menu also offered the restaurants signature creme brulee which came out in a silver dish overflowing with smoke from dry ice. It looked like a real show stopper and I do wish we had tried it!
Although the Restaurant week menu was not necessarily what you would find on the standard menu I truly enjoyed it and feel if this is the standard of their food, I have high hopes for their menu. I had a look at the menu and found many interesting dishes that I would love to try however be warned that the price at this restaurant can be prohibitive with starters between R100-150, mains closer to R200 and R80 for a dessert! This will not be a cheap night out!
overall rating 4/5
The Michaelangelo Hotel
135 West Street
Nelson Mandela Square