Chef Freddie Dias, previous head chef of The Pot Luck Club, recently moved back to his hometown and is at the helm of Basalt Restaurant – a new and delectable fine-dining offering at the Peech Hotel in Melrose, Joburg.
Cost: R200 average main course
Parking: Off-street parking is available
Food type: Modern fine dining
Star ratings: Food and drinks: 5; Service: 3; Ambience: 4
The menu is simple: five starters, five mains and three desserts. It’s sophisticated and clean eating, with each dish showcasing masterful preparation and perfect execution. Plating is exquisite, and flavours are intricately balanced, but it should be mentioned that portions are small and the mains, whilst sublime, could do with a little upscaling on this front.
The menu is an ode to Dias’ culinary journey: a celebration of his Portuguese roots and his time in both Mexico and France. It’s eclectic but refined. There’s very little red meat on offer, the focus being on sustainable fish (caught by small-scale fishers and brought to Joburg through the Abalobi app), game, game birds and vegetarian delights. The ceviche with squid ink tiger’s milk, pickled radish, marinated cucumber and crispy quinoa is enchanting, as is the tuna tataki with habanero salsa, avocado-and-soy purée, charred corn and red onion. It’s a sultry dish with a cheeky bite.
Mains include ‘ten-a-day risotto’, peri-peri mussels, pan-fried line fish, slow-roasted duck breast and Mexican-inspired pork belly, all of which are fantastic. The line fish with cauliflower, lime-and-curry-leaf butter and coriander chutney is an absolute showstopper and virtually impossible to beat.
Dessert is a choice between crema Catalana; naartjie granita and lemon-leaf snow; red-wine poached figs with a smoked chocolate mousse, date cream and almond praline; and a delectable cheese board for two.
You’ll find a lovely selection of refreshing signature cocktails to get your evening started and a well-curated wine list with different and dynamic boutique wines on offer (plus some nice pocket-friendly options).
Waiters and management are warm and engaged, going out of their way to ensure your every need is met. There’s a little way to go before the standard of the service matches up to the standard of the food, but it’s still early days. (The restaurant only opened its doors mid-September.) Note that reservations essential; no walk-ins are accepted.
Basalt Restaurant is an intimate 40-seater venue that’s situated in the hotel’s original heritage house, overlooking the main entrance. There’s a plush bar dotted with leather bar stools for drinks pre- or post-dinner. The venue is decorated in handsome tones of copper and charcoal; it’s distinguished but in no way pretentious.
Celebrations, tourists and romantic dates.
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