Saint, a crazy Italian-concept restaurant and arguably the jewel in the crown of Sandton’s trendy new shopping precinct, The MARC, has opened at last. This is the latest venture of the team behind Marble, chef David Higgs and Gary Kyriacou.
Calling Saint a pizzeria would be the equivalent of calling the Rio Carnivale a get-together, or the Tour de France a cycle around town. Yes, pizza and pasta may be on offer, but the experience the restaurant delivers is so much more than that.
The menu, described by Chef Higgs as “Italian, but twisted”, features clever little takes on classic Italian dishes, while still keeping it simple and sophisticated. Start with the creamy burratta with wood-fired tomatoes or the crispy squid-ink croquettes stuffed with squid heads. For mains, the pizzas are the star attraction, Neapolitan in style, with both tomato base and bianca (without tomato base) options available. Try the classic margherita with the perfect balance of local mozzarella, tomato and basil, or the more adventurous but equally delicious wood-fired sirloin with caramelised onion and crunchy pumpkin seeds.
The ricotta gnocchi is also a standout, light and fluffy atop a textured romesco sauce with leeks and crispy kale (there’s also the option to have it with Italian sausage and capers). Those looking for meatier meals can opt for something off the Grillworks – an ode to Marble, perhaps – with mains featuring the likes of wood-fired chicken, grilled sirloin and sea bass. Finish off the meal with a rich and elegant tiramisu with mascarpone gelato, or a classic affogato.
Saint’s bar, watched over by a deconstructed Renaissance-esque sculpture, is sophisticated and stylish but also unashamedly fun. Enjoy a signature cocktail in the light cast by feathered lampshades. Go for one named after a great Italian artist – a Michelangelo or Donatello – or one of the Marble classics, which have found their way onto Saint’s menu. The wine list, a “living document” in the words of award-winning head sommelier Wikus Human, is well considered, offering a range of wines from easy-drinking local gems and perfect-with-a-pizza types to a great selection of MCCs and Champagnes and, of course, some higher-end spoils, too.
Walking into the sweeping Maude Street space, you’re greeted by hostesses – dressed by top local designer, David Tlale, no less – who will either guide you right to the bar or left to the restaurant.
The restaurant itself is a visual delight. The first thing you notice upon entering is the dome, which features a series of moving and changing artworks and scenes mapped by 3D projectors – one moment an outer-space-like night sky; the next a replica of the Sistine Chapel. Further on you’ll see the gorgeous Stefano Ferrara Forni pizza ovens, custom covered with gold mosaic, which have been imported from Italy. Wherever you look, there’s more to see. The space lends itself to just sitting back and taking it all in.
Saint, like Marble, continues to push the boundaries of what it means to be not only a Johannesburg restaurant, but an African restaurant. While the cheeky visuals and copy may hint at speaking to the sexy and sinful, at its core, Saint is ultimately about bringing people together – a magnificent space for everyone to eat, drink and celebrate.
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