The three-course set menu wholly embraces the brunch concept of a single meal incorporating both breakfast and lunch. The menu arrives as a chatterbox – that folded paper game children love playing on their friends – and brings an instant wow factor to the experience. It is also a practical solution to a restaurant where seasonal food demands regularly reprinting menus.
The three-courses are limited to two choices per serving, providing an idyllic opportunity for romantic sharing. Current starters are a braai oil ostrich tartare with ash mayonnaise, freshly grown chive yoghurt and croutons or the blue cheese quiche with micro-greens that redefines quiche as a stodgy dish of staid egg on a dense base. Perfectly spiced, the ostrich has a melt-in-the-mouth silkiness where the last bite is taken regretfully.
The two main courses are a wagyu mince soufflé omelette filled with mozzarella, a delicate touch of the Korean fermented vegetable dish kimchi and herbed izaqheqhe (curd) or the pickled fish Durban curry with Indian naan bread, pickled onions, cumin aioli, chorizo hummus and a fried egg. Presentation on both dishes is a faultless art form speaking to the essence of eating with your eyes. The flavour combinations for each individual element as well as the whole are intense power punches worthy of praise.
Each element of these four dishes is superbly presented and crafted, creating an overall experience where the flavours are balanced and the intricate details an intriguing insight to how seemingly ordinary ingredients can be transformed.The homemade bread served with homemade orange marmalade and umsobo (nightshade) jam has been bottled for sale in the on-site deli and an essential extra for ensuring a lingering memory of the brunch experience.
Dessert is less impressive as a butternut pie (honouring Halloween), cinnamon meringue, black sesame frangipane and butternut puree and a chocolate cup cake topped with a pouring of freshly melted hot chocolate. Presented on cut-glass cake stands, these dishes are beyond beautiful in their art form – again almost a travesty to touch. However, butternut as dessert with other sweet ingredients – the meringue shards should be individually packaged and the black sesame frangipane sold in tubes for bulk consumption – holds an off-note.
The chocolate cake is too dense and the sauce had crystallised to leave a grainy texture.
Note all the dishes are haute cuisine, so the portions are tiny. The fried egg looked gigantically out of proportion on the plate with the fish curry element being literally a tablespoon.
Given this is a food and wine school, the wine choice consisting of Bon Courage sauvignon blanc, unwooded chardonnay, brut rosé and Inkara shiraz (by the glass or the bottle) is very disappointing. The cappuccino packed a rich coffee hit, but could have been hotter.
In line with a culinary school, the service is impeccable. The chef personally walks in guests from the garden gate; the waitress is attentive, informative and overwhelmingly obliging and the service delivery of courses a master class in how to welcome guests to a culinary experience.
The outdoor wooden deck has a 180 degree view overlooking Pietermaritzburg with another 90 degree view to the right encompassing natural forests and woodlands literally singing with the sounds of the red-chested cuckoo’s iconic piet-my-vrou call and the happy chatter of the dark capped bulbul.High-backed leather chairs ensure a luxurious embrace for the minimum two-hour gastronomic heaven that will do justice to the brunch, while the functioning herb gardens and the swimming pool water feature guarantee nature plays an integral part of the dining experience.
The School Outlet is an outing into the countryside best savoured rather than treated as a rushed meal. It is idyllic as a romantic couple’s brunch or maximum four people to a table as the holistic sensory experience will be lost when eating as a crowd.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.