Live-fire cooking is at the core of David Higgs’s new multimillion-rand venture, Marble. It’s a concept that’s been in vogue around the world for several years, and David has merged it with his fine-dining expertise to bring Johannesburg something very innovative and different.
Food type: Live-fire cooking
Average price for main meal: R200
Best for: An indulgent, romantic meal or seriously splashy business lunch.
Star rating: Food 4, service 4, ambience 5
At the heart of the restaurant is a magnificent, custom-made wood-fired grill. It’s the Cadillac of grilling machines: Its signature crankwheels allow you to adjust the height of the cooking surface over the open flames to modulate the temperature, but it’s still down to the chefs to create the magic. It’s a little bit cowboy and wonderfully theatrical, and for Higgs it’s a chance to show South Africans the kinds of marvels you can create with – to put it plainly – a really big braai.
The menu remains the same for both lunch and dinner service. It’s concise and beautifully presented. There’s an element of smoke or fire to every dish, but each take is unique, with no two looking or tasting the same. You’ll find paprika, harissa, chipotle and other well-known smokey components dotted through the dishes, but other fascinations, like smoked eggs, ash butter, burnt orange and dishes like the coal-roasted soup, will have foodies clamouring for more.
The menu showcases a wide range of both fish and meat dishes with a good array of enticing vegetarian options that steer clear of the obvious. Favourites from the starting line-up include fired prawns with lime, honey and sugarcane; hot-smoked trout with green pickles, endive salad and a dill-and-caper yoghurt; and blackened octopus with a crushed paprika potato, candied lemon and a squid-ink dressing.
There’s also a selection of salads that keeps with the smoked and flame-grilled philosophy, from which the Super Salad – a spectacle of fired and marinated cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, edamame, peas, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, cucumber, mint and a tahini-and-buttermilk dressing – is testament that salads can be pretty damn exciting.
For mains at Marble you’ll choose between an assortment of either Works or Signatures. The Signatures are made up of four sharing dishes for two people, and celebrate David’s take on the true nature of the South African braai: The primal joy of eating together around the open flame. The côte de bœuf, served with bone marrow, thin-cut fries, grilled asparagus and parmesan, is a carnivorous feast, and the fried fish and shellfish for two is a carnival of prawns, calamari, mussels, octopus, linefish, lime rice, braaied greens and a shellfish butter.
The Works are individual dishes celebrating popular and unusual cuts of meat, as well as an assortment of fish and vegetables, flame-grilled to perfection and presented in fine-dining fashion with the most sensational accompaniments. The pork neck, served with grilled pineapple, bok choy, sugar snaps, celeriac remoulade, pork crackling and a jalapeño syrup is a gorgeous fusion of sweet, savoury and spice with Asian undertones. The classic selection of steaks, served with wood-fired vegetables, fries and your choice of sauce, are highly recommended. The sauces are like nothing you’ve experienced before: smoked field mushroom, herb jus, chakalaka and smoked red pepper and chipotle that will have you scraping the last morsels from your plate.
Desserts continue in the same vein, but with hints of childlike abandon. For something playful and light, choose from an assortment of ice-cream sandwiches, all featuring different fillings and biscuits or, for something a little more serious, the burnt strawberries with pistachio crème, ash meringue and kataifi.
The floor-to-ceiling glass cellar that separates the restaurant from the bar is a spectacle to behold, and its contents of international and local wines is spellbinding. Marble’s in-house sommelier is ready and waiting to guide you through the list and point you in the right direction. There are also some great options by the glass.
The service is excellent and on point. As Marble has only just opened, waiters aren’t yet as well versed in the menus as they could be.
Being four floors up, you’ll revel in palatial views across the Johannesburg skyline. The décor is so refined, so beautifully put together, that it’s worth a visit just to experience interior design and décor at their most exceptional. From the bathrooms to the chairs, the light fittings to the antique toothpick boxes, no expense has been spared – and it shows. The ambience is formal, but the bar area allows people to kick back and relax in wingback chairs and on soft leather couches. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic indulgence or a seriously splashy business lunch.
The cocktails at the bar are superb; book early for dinner so you can enjoy an aperitif and soak up the sunset.
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