Throughout his tenure at Five Hundred, The Saxon Hotel’s flagship restaurant, executive chef David Higgs has delighted diners with his world-class cuisine, demonstrating inspired techniques and a firm focus on seasonal, produce-driven creations, as sourced from the hotel’s stunning organic rooftop garden. Higgs, however, has recently announced his departure at the end of this year to open his own restaurant in Rosebank. He will be succeeded by Five Hundred’s very capable head chef Candice Philip.
Eat Out critic Gwynne Conlyn explains why you should save your pennies for a visit.
This is undoubtedly the brightest star of the Johannesburg restaurant skyline. The four- and six-course tasting menus are designed not just to throw light on individual dishes but to quietly and gracefully lead the palate through all the different taste sensations.
The four-course menu may start with a choice of flavour-packed minestrone with parmesan, cannellini and pine nuts, or kabeljou pickle with a wonderful chorus of sultanas, raw broad beans and peas, raw pea juice and toasted nori. The second course features a dish of free-range Magalies duck, which reveals an inspired undertone of horseradish and braised leeks. It all builds up to a crescendo with a serving of braised lamb with foie gras, hazelnut samp and nkomasi ricotta. Unforgettable, too, is the kudu loin with sherried gooseberries. Finish off with a dessert of orange frangipane, which features lemon verbena, marinated fennel and frozen fennel yogurt. If that doesn’t tempt, devour with glee the white chocolate, mango, basil and white rabbit candy parfait.
The six-course vegetarian menu is a tantalising production and cleverly makes use of some of the same dishes as its four-course counterpart. The hazelnut samp shows up once again, this time combined with inkomazi-based ricotta, served with roasted celeriac, grapes and watercress. Other tempting delights on this menu include truly excellent gorgonzola from the Karoo, served with ginger, honey and prickly pear. Alternatively, there’s the undeniably delicious hazelnut mousse with honeycomb, citrus sugar, orange peel and éclairs.
The wine list shows the same amount of innovation as the food, with an inspired selection of both local and international beauties. Sommelier Lloyd Jusa, winner of the 2015 Wine Service Award, displays an in-depth grasp of the finer nuances of food and wine.
It’s a smooth and very focused production. All the players perform their roles with precision; the result is top-notch service.
It’s a graceful room with monochromatic, minimalistic décor – all the better to showcase the food. The seduction starts at the entrance to the restaurant, which you reach via a private lift. The realisation dawns that you are about to have a very special experience. An open-plan kitchen offers views of the various chefs going about their business. The tables are well spaced and lamps at each table create a pool of light that has one feeling private and cosseted, like being on a private island. The feeling is formal and hushed, but at the same time warm and inviting.
Overall, it’s truly an exceptional dining experience. The high prices are matched by the quality of the dishes in innovation, presentation and stunning tastes. A restaurant worthy of life’s big celebrations.