The latest venture of the team behind Marble, chef David Higgs and Gary Kyriacou, takes shape in Saint, a crazy Italian-concept restaurant and arguably, the jewel in the crown of Sandton’s trendy new shopping precinct, The MARC.
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.
(August 2018) Eat Our critics dine unannounced and pay their way. Read our editorial policy here.
Such a bad first time experience. A booking made in advance, with 3 confirmations made via call and email for a table of 16. When we arrived 2 separate tables were reserved and to top it off with the reservation we paid a deposit of R250 pp and given bar tables not tables for eating. Pure unprofessionalism from both the manager and waiter. Utter nonsense as a paying customer to experience a disappointment for a birthday party. Sure not to come back
How disappointing! The absolute worst experience ever! Terrible booking process.
The most enjoyable thing about Saint is the game-changing decor and ambiance. There's a sense of theater as you walk in. The hostesses are immaculately dressed, the large open space is buzzing with chatter and the stunning idea of projected art is at play on the roof.
However, the seating itself is uncomfortable. The service is a little lacklustre compared to the image the establishment projects. But most importantly, the food is a tad on the pricey side for what you get. The pizzas are good but I've had better Neapolitan pizzas in Johannesburg for much less the price. The vegetarian pasta with kale is the best dish for vegetarians on the menu. However, the portion size is sparse compared to the price you pay.
Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of Saint and I know you pay for the experience as well as the food but there needs to be more emphasis on the food and service and a varied menu with maybe one or two more vegetarian dishes.
Gorgonzola/pear salad terrible, could hardly taste and find the cheese more shredded cabbage then anything else. Pizza’s very average, size ok. Drinks overpriced. Expected so much more, disappointing. Tables outside very small. Bread offered didn’t taste fresh wasn’t warm also salt in a small bowl not very hygienic in my opinion. Wouldn’t go back in a rush. On the positive side our waiter was very friendly and attentive at all times.
The interior is beautiful and the staff are friendly and helpful. However, the food was hit and miss. One pizza with raw leeks and mushrooms was terrible, the margarita was very average, the others were decent. When you are paying a premium, the food should be consistently excellent. The drinks are heavily overpriced. I would not go out of my way to come back.
The Sins of a Saint
When I heard that a new restaurant was being opened by Marble founders chef David Higgs and Gary Kyriacou, the excitement was palpable. Shortly after it opened, I read reviews and saw pictures scattered across on social media – it all looked and sounded incredible, so I decided to treat my husband for a special evening at Saint at the Marc in Sandton.
We arrived to a sea of people in the bar area, and the hostess swiftly escorted us to our table. The wide expanse of the interior was a lovely surprise – it is a big restaurant with many tables, but it doesn’t feel packed in like sardines. Our 2-seater table felt very crammed, however, with very little space amongst the table lamp, wine and water glasses, and side plates.
I was really looking forward to seeing the overhead projections on the ceiling, which is one of the main showstoppers of the interior – but to my disappointment this did not work on the night of our visit. Our waitress was sweet but she did stumble on a few of our questions when asked for recommendations. I was excited to see the arancini as a starter. This was a great dish and I highly recommend it. Hubby ordered the squad ink croquettes; it was good though not on par with the arancini.
My main course was a saffron risotto with ossobuco, while hubby had the lamb meatballs with rigatoni pasta. The risotto on its own was perfection. Having said that, the dish as a whole felt disconnected as the risotto did not complement the ossobuco. In fact, the meat was dry and pretty bland. Hubby enjoyed his dish which was layered with flavor in the pasta sauce, which also packed a spicy punch. Unfortunately, he found a piece of bone in one of his meatballs. This was quickly taken up by the manager who escalated to chef Higgs. They took the dish off our bill without hesitation, and the consideration by management was well received as there are families who dine at Saint with their kids and the dangers of small bones are obvious.
The dessert was the clear winner of the night. We had the orange cake with Campari and pistachios. What an absolute delight this dish was! The cake is served warm with a delectable orange glaze, accompanied by a smooth Campari sorbet and toasted pistachios. The warmth and sweetness of the cake combined with the slight bitterness of the Campari sorbet and nuttiness of the pistachios was a gastronomical experience. Undoubtedly amongst the best desserts I have ever eaten – and honestly this saved the night.
All in all, I have to say I was disappointed with the experience. I think if we had ordered only starters and dessert it would have been incredible. The main courses were a let-down given the cost, especially the rather expensive yet disappointing risotto dish.
The restaurant is probably a better option if you have a big group of friends, but for a two-person table you do kind of feel that you are shuffled into a corner. The only saving grace was the attentiveness of the staff and the dessert.
Expecting Excellence. On one of Joburg's warmer nights, a party of 4 and myself were in attendance for supper at Saint on the 16/09/2018. After entering the Marc we were greeted with an unassuming Saints restaurant bathed in the dying light of a perfect spring day.
The night was a little less perfect from there on out.
Decor and Interior Design: A giant deconstructed resin based angelic figure? Bold and welcomed. The garish obtrusive projectors casting vistas on the angelic face is something evocative of early Versace runway backdrops or something out of a Beyonce and Jay-Z music video (looking at you APESH*T) but executed less "tastefully". If I need to physically shift my position by walking and pivoting around corners to enjoy what is less than 5 meters away from me you have a bad interior design. Garishness aside there was little of much else going on save for the ostrich feather lampshades that look stunning with a waft of breeze coming in the restaurant. The fake plastic vines squeezed at the top of the slanted pillars can be found in any backwater pseudo olive garden-esque Mediterranean restaurant. The slate tiling seated above the kitchen and darted along the leading wall was gorgeous and had that right tinge of salmon pink that did carry through with a palette that's all too familiar from the Press Club to Mink and Trout of green with rose gold and brushed metal. Speaking of brushed metal the border of the kitchen vista is covered in brushed brass which catches and reflects just the right amount of light from the very dimly lit restaurant which is not a bad thing. Each table had a nifty and very energy conscious LED light with an adjustable luminous setting, making for tailormade table ambience. They were so good we used them to adjust the quality of pictures taken of the food, which is welcomed by any foodie or blogger. The sunken ceiling with modern takes on renaissance piece paintings that were again blocked by garish projectors was ok. To have the kitchen in full view of the patrons is altogether way overdone especially if you're doing grills-we get it flames = wow. What's less "wow" is how that heat generated then accumulates in the dining area, which when in full-service swing gets so unbearable that escapes to the bar area for a breather is needed. Since this service took place in early spring I shudder to imagine what peak dinner service in summer would feel like. All in all the decor had a lot to be desired. Minimalist works though; especially if you want to put the focus on food. Just take a page out of La Tete in Cape Town.
Service: Being familiar with David Higgs resounding restaurant career, I can safely say I know what he expects from the service he offers his patrons. I mean the guy has won service awards from Eat Out, back to back, in 2010 and 2011. Sundays service that we received was a definite far cry from home. The bar service where we first enjoyed some cocktails whilst awaiting my other guests was good as far as any bar keeps go average waiting time for 3 cocktails (5 minutes in total- this is important to keep tabs). When we went to our table for dinner service we were met with a waiter who didn't share his name or what was popular or recommended and when he was prompted for that info he sped through it so fast that in an already empty establishment we barely caught anything he said. The bread basket was brought to the table with a similar swift description of what was in front of us accompanied by any cutlery to enjoy the bread basket! I can excuse that if we were expected to go rustic and all dip in one olive oil + roasted tomato but for a table of 5 we would have to go around the table with everyone dipping in one pot... I'm sure it would have been delicious though but no one wanted to be the dispenser of crumbs into a shallow oil dish. At least we got to place 3 cocktail orders which arrived 10 minutes later (keep taking tabs). When starters arrived (more on this later) we were met with a distinct lack of cutlery for one party member. After waiting for about 5 minutes we grabbed the cutlery from the adjacent table (we were justified in doing so if the fritto misto went soggy had we waited longer). Then we got to place another cocktail order which altogether never materialized because the ingredients were out of stock or so we were told, I guess Tanqueray Number 10 is quite rare (for a cocktail that needs to be mixed and after just opening this is unacceptable). Luckily I changed my order only to receive my next order in the middle of mains a cool (30 minutes later- this time it was just one cocktail). The waiter never understood 80% of the drinks order resorting in pointing out almost every drink order from the lists provided. I hope there were chefs favourites when it came to mains we just never got to hear them.
Food: Ahh the most important thing to me and most others too. Starters presented an okay range of antipasti and insalata with some unique flare using words like "charcoal" instead of grilled. The oysters are great if not daringly tiny and overpowered with citrus flavours aka one was great the second less so and the third had me reaching for anything to get that taste out my mouth. The fritto mistos was SUPERB, each individual seafood prepared to perfection. The arancini were missable entirely. The mains were good in portion size, excellent in texture but in the case of my Ossobuco, it was bland. The main aim of any ossobuco is to have the shank meat barely held together giving way to the slightest pressure of a blunt object like a spoon. In this case the sinew binding the meat was still intact. The risotto was the bland aspect having hit the mark only on texture. The gremolata should be refreshing and a reprieve from such a heavy dish instead it blended in and was hardly present on the dish in taste and texture. The pizza was made with probably the best base I had in a long while with the toppings offering the usual fare and some out of the blue. The pasta looked good and I'm sure was cooked to perfection. The grilled chicken that rested on top of the pasta, after being replaced with the beef fillet, was magnificent-crispy skin and soft tender breast. The sea bass was a highlight too again hitting the mark on texture and for a change the taste too. The sweeter side of things was slightly more impressive than the average mains. A signature sign of gelato is that rich sugary induced smoothness which none of the blood orange, chocolate or basic vanilla gelato's offered. The tiramisu was as expected but was definitely outshone by the mascarpone ice cream- the gelato should learn from its sister's texture. The chocolate mousse was chocolate mousse. The wine list was extensive and excellent, with the cocktails winning the day on the drinks front. Its almost summer people, a flashy colourful drink wins every time! Negroni 47, old-fashioned, cape to cognac, Pepe and Bianca need to be portrayed on a pedestal and the elusive "gelato" cocktail that read like a treat, I will find you and I will consume you as you have my every thought thus far.
Hype: Not worth it
Aesthetic: Garish and bland
Service: Far cry from award-winning
Food: Average in flavour but full on most texture
Pricing: Well above the quality of the food presented. Drinks were standard fare.
Overall rating out of ten: A very tenuous 6
I'd go back only to be proven wrong.
Beautiful setting Keith was a wonderful waiter the rest was a disaster!!! Food very average tuna salad unedible boiled egg fine!!! Good wine list! Heatefd did not work!! Cheese board???? What cheese board?? Overpriced we are all still hungry after spending R600 per head for starters only really!!!
We eat out at least 12 times a month and my spousal unit always finds fault. Went to Saint for lunch and in addition to her proclaiming it was the best pizza she has eaten in her life !!! , all guests said the food was superb .
I would suggest they put foam sections under all tables to absorb the noise as it is like sitting in a “food hall “ , outside a cinema. You have to shout at people less than 1 meter from you .
Service was great , wine list great although a bit pricey , food excellent , noise very stressful .
We visited Saint on the first Friday it opened, for dinner.
I was blown away!
Reservations were made prior to knowing anything about the menu, but I did know the chefs had visited Italy to learn the secrets of the trade regarding a very important food group...Pizza!
And we know that coming from the same owners as Marble, one could expect a great night out.
We were met at the entrance and asked if we would like to chill at the bar or head to the restaurant, I said restaurant but I had to come back to the bar area to check out the opulent decor. Few steps in and i was greeted by name by the hostess (that was really cool) and taken to our table.
It took me a few minutes to sit down as I had to get a good look at all the decor. Amazing. There are projected images on the ceiling so it changes from an almost Sistine Chapel scene to clouds floating above your head. There is so much detail. The kitchen was an open style so full view of the pizza ovens, grill, and plating stations.
David Higgs and his partner Gary were walking about ensuring that all was on track and that people were comfortable. I thought that was great.
Our waitress was splendid. We did take our time browsing through the menu and she was most patient and gave us a run down of the specials.
There was something familiar about the cocktail menu. There are two things I love about Marble, one is the ribeye, the second is the Moët cocktail...so I was thrilled to see it on the list along with a few other Marble familiars.
The bread, butter and olive oil on the tables were so delicious. There are quite a few starters to choose from, and the portions are enough to share. What I really liked was that the menu had a wide variety. Starters, pizza, pasta, grills, desserts.
The pizza was delicious. My reason for making the reservation. I savoured every bite. Yum!
The seafood we had was also really great quality and prepared to perfection.
There were about 5 desserts on the menu and we were torn between the chocolate mousse and tiramisu. We eventually decided on the nicely aerated darkish chocolate mousse.
The service we had the entire night was excellent. The waiters and managers checked up on us multiple times. The place was busy but we had enough space to feel comfortable and it was quiet enough to have a conversation.
When we were leaving, our coats were fetched for us and then we had a quick peek of the funky Italian decor in the bar before stepping out.
Can't wait for a next visit to try out more items on the menu.
I was head-down in an uber, focused on my Insta feed, when upon arrival at Saint, it took me a few seconds to acclimatise to my location. The MARC Building (host of Saint) could easily assume a position within the Dubai Skyline, except its in Sandton. The Saint is everything I wish my home was: a colour palette of blush pink, emerald green and gold. I was in a mode of constant gasp, no wonder it was assumed I was a tourist. The service is excellent and I have only rated it ever-so imperfect as our table was not ready for a 19h30 seating. A retreat to the bar for a further 20 minutes was hardly an issue as I could continue to stare at the Hollywood Regency palm tree- inspired floor lamp with an ostrich feather shade that I so wish was mine. On to the food, which is a delight by the way. The menu was designed around the concept of 'Mad Italian', and refreshingly it was. It was suggested we start with the arancini balls and mixed seafood plate. Heaven. The pizza base is undeniably authentic Italian and the salami anchovy pizza is a contender for Joburg's best. I would have rathed 5-stars for food, if my pizza wasn't 'soggy in the middle'. I understand it's early days but hey, someone has to be honest.
Smooth as silk! Is this Jozi or the Big Apple? Brilliant interior with kinetic visuals, knowledgable staff, Stefano
Ferrara woodburning ovens, everything shouts contemporary. Do visit the bathrooms, they’re incredible. Food? Cutting edge modern Italian fare, best ingredients, beautifully presented. And affordable! Classic Margerita pizza R85. Indulge!
Bellisimo! Italian at its very best. You certainly won’t find red and white check tablecloths in this place, but the restaurant is absolutely modern and beautiful! The staff are so friendly and knowledgeable. And the food! Oh the food! The absolutely best risotto I have ever had. A pea and asparagus risotto but the flavours were anything but simple! My husband and son had the most magnificent looking pizzas. The ciabatta bread which is brought to the table when you sit down puts all other bread ever baked to shame. Bravo to David Higgs and his very clever, talented team. I hope to be back again and again to taste everything you have to offer!