Revealing David Higgs’ Marble’s

“Having David Higgs man your braai is a bit like having Michelangelo round to paint your garage”, are Dan Nicholl’s words, which I thought perfectly summarized my thoughts when I first heard of David Higgs’ new venture. After years spent in the fine dining scene at Rust en Vrede, Central One and The Saxon, a steakhouse seemed to be a complete waste of his talents and I was convinced that Mr Higgs had completely lost his marbles.

Despite this, I don’t think there has been more hype surrounding the opening of a restaurant in Joburg than the opening of his restaurant called Marble in Rosebank. We followed the hype and made our reservations early, so early in fact that our first reservation was postponed due to construction delays. After much anticipation we finally got there on the first Friday after opening, all the while questioning how good a steakhouse could possibly be.

This is NOT a steak house!!

It is a tribute to man’s ability to control and manipulate fire. The control of fire is regarded as the turning point in the rise of the human species. After eating at Marble Restaurant I feel like we are on the verge of reaching the next turning point in the rise of Joburg’s foodie scene.

Marble’s website (which is still under construction) states, “Where the tradition of meeting and eating around an open flame is elevated to an art form.” Every course has some element that is licked by the fire and some of what Marble has been able to achieve using an open flame is nothing less than pure artistry.

There were, of course, a few teething issues which can be expected when a restaurant is only 4 days old. Service was on the slow side both at the bar and in the main restaurant, the sirloin on the bone was quite tough; the fillet, which we asked for medium-rare, was overdone and so was the tuna. All things that in my opinion are easily remedied given some time and once the kitchen is fully staffed and operating smoothly.

 

The underlying quality and potential for this to be a truly amazing restaurant is there for all to see. Small things like bread for the table which was slightly toasted over the fire and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone at our table. Of the starters, the blackened octopus and hot smoked trout come highly recommended. The blackened octopus was succulent and tender which is quite a difficult thing to achieve especially when cooking over an open flame. The best of the mains was the fillet which was amazingly tender and delicious despite being overcooked which is testament to the quality of produce. The lamb cutlets served with a chimichurri paste was really good and we felt that the chimichurri paste could have been put to better use over the sirloin on the bone.

Desserts were incredible and elements of the desserts also got the flame treatment. Everyone at our table had either the strawberry or guava dessert. The strawberry dessert consisted of burnt strawberries, pistachio crème topped with kataiffi (Greek dessert that looks like angel hair pasta) and the guava dessert had aged yeast ice cream with burnt guava marshmallows and a guava salad.

Despite the slow service, it is clear that no stone has been left unturned in ensuring that the customer is at the forefront of everything that Marble does. The restaurant had run out of the wine we asked for and to make up for it the sommelier took us into the wine cellar and did a mini tasting session for us which ended up with us getting a complimentary bottle of wine.

All in all, if a few small teething issues are dealt with and levels of customer service are maintained we may truly be entering into the next stage in the evolution of the Joburg foodie scene.

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Eating at the Best Restaurant in South Africa

In a world obsessed with instant pleasures and shallow wins, superficial beauty and inflated prices are often mistaken for quality.  It is then very rewarding to find a restaurant that has managed to build up a reputation over a number of years of consistently delivering high quality food without having to rely on the ubiquitous celebrity Instagram endorsement.  A warm and inviting welcome awaits you at The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort.

We were curious to find out if Peter Tempelhoff was still as engaged and enthusiastic after all these years and whether the restaurant we rated really highly had managed to maintain the standards we had previously experienced. We visited on a rainy, windy evening and when the manager came to meet us outside with an umbrella I knew that any concerns we had could be allayed.

We chose the African origin menu which is an 8 course menu priced at R1,450 per person including wine pairings.

Appetizers came in the form of an amazing mushroom terrine which looked more like a dessert than a starter.  The picture below says it all.

Mushroom Terrine

 

Every dish was amazing but I’ll highlight just a few. First course was a gamefish which was chopped up with sesame seeds and mushrooms and served on a dried piece of kelp which acted as a spoon. There was no salt added to the dish so you put the “spoon” in your mouth and kept it there for as long as you needed to get the necessary salt level. Ingenious, playful, delicious!

 

The tuna and sea plant course was really well paired with a 2013 Steenberg Semillon. The tanginess of the shiso and perlemoen salsa complimented the citrus notes of the wine perfectly.

Tuna

At this stage we were highly confused, we were so impressed with the previous courses that we couldn’t wait for the next course but at the same time didn’t want it to arrive too quickly either and bring our evening to an early end.

The rabbit and parfait course was served with a Newton Johnson Pinot Noir that was voted, by no lesser publication than Decanter magazine, as one of the best Pinot Noir’s in the world outside of Burgundy.

Rabbit

The cheese course was an assault on the senses. It was made up of 4 different cheeses served at different temperatures, 56°C melted, 20°C shaved slices of hard cheese, 8°C slice of a soft cheese and -2°C cheese ice-cream.

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Desserts were both absolute winners. The first was called Beer, Crisps and Pretzels which was basically a beer ice-cream with crushed potato chips and pretzels, but this would be over simplifying the masterpiece which was a perfectly balanced medley of delicate beer flavoured ice-cream with salty, crunchy pretzels and crisps. The second dessert was a coconut parfait which had a mango puree poured over at your table which sinks into the top of the parfait. Creamy coconut goodness with tangy mango and coconut ice-cream…unbelievable!

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Beer, Crisps & Pretzels

Coconut Parfait

Every single element of what makes a memorable dinner came together perfectly at what is still my favourite restaurant in South Africa. There is no doubt that this restaurant will be a force to be reckoned with in the next Eat Out Awards and in my opinion can easily go toe-to-toe against some of the best names on the San Pellegrino Top 50 restaurants in the World.

Majeka House

When we decide to stay over at a boutique hotel, we look for an intimate sized hotel with that little special something that differentiates it from the main stream hotels.  Majeka House in Stellenbosch is one such place.

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The service we received was exceptional down to the smallest of details. We were greeted by name by the General Manager, Wonder Satiya, as well as the front office staff during our stay.  We also received delicious little canelés (see recipe below compliments of the head chef) when we checked-in and a tin full of complimentary home-baked cookies in our room.

The hotel décor is modern with a touch of romance. The fairy lights which light up the pathway in the evenings, add a whimsical touch to the garden. The hotel also boasts an inviting sheltered heated pool and adjacent jacuzzi which makes their winter specials look quite compelling.

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Indoor pool at night roof closed - high res - landscape

We stayed in the premier room, it had all the luxurious amenities that one looks for in a boutique hotel, free wi-fi, a heated towel rail, king size bed, a coffee machine and Africology products that are used by the Majeka Spa too. A really pleasant touch was the complimentary still & sparkling water in the bar fridge.

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The breakfast spread is excellent, there is a continental buffet as well as a hot food option & can be enjoyed inside or on the patio outside.

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The hotel staff are knowledgeable about the Stellenbosch winelands and can give you some advice about any wine tours and tastings you may want to do.  They also offer specials at various wine estates. While we were there they had a promotion with Waterford Wine Estate for a free chocolate & wine pairing.  Make sure you reserve a spot for this, it’s a tasting you don’t want to miss.

The hotel is located in a quiet residential area, approximately 5kms from the Stellenbosch town which has some excellent restaurants and coffee shops to visit.

Canele

Canelés by Head Chef Lucas Carstens

Ingredients

  • 1L UHT Milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 10ml rum
  • 200g flour
  • 500g castor sugar
  • 100g butter

Method

  • Boil the milk, vanilla & butter
  • Mix in the flour & sugar
  • Add eggs
  • Let the mixture cool, then add the rum
  • Pour into mould
  • Refrigerate overnight
  • Bake at 270 degrees for 5 minutes & then at 180 degrees for 30 minutes

Half the portions to make smaller canelés.

The canelé mould can be purchased on the Yuppiechef site.

Happy Baking!!!

Note that some of the pictures above are from the hotel due to some issues I had with my phone.

Taste of Turkey

The continuing revival of Norwood has seen some really exciting new restaurants taking up residence on Grant Avenue. From the likes of chain restaurants like Vovo Telo and Nonna Mia’s Kitchen to the food truck turned restaurant Baha Taco. When coupled with stalwarts like the Schwarma Co. and Hokkaido, Grant Avenue looks set to return to the glory days.

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One of the newest additions is a Turkish restaurant called 47 on Grant. Having never been to Turkey before, the first thought that comes to mind for me when I hear Turkish food is grabbing a doner kebab in London on the way back from a big night out. 47 on Grant is nothing like this at all. We were pleasantly surprised to walk into what feels like an authentic Middle Eastern restaurant. We were further surprised by the courtyard at the back of the restaurant. The courtyard houses the cag kebab oven which when operational does create quite a bit of smoke so if you don’t mind smelling like you just got back from a braai then the courtyard really is a great spot. The courtyard isn’t well lit so bear this in mind if you choose the courtyard at night.

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While service was on the slow side, there seemed to only be 2 waiters, I can put this down to teething issues. Despite this, Nadia and her team are friendly and you can be assured of being met by a friendly smile and if you are lucky you may even be treated to a tiny taste of the cag kebab by Celal Arslan who you may find in front of the kebab oven. Celal is from Turkey and brings the authentic flavours straight from Turkey to your plate.

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We ordered the Baba Ganoush and some pita to start and the Cag Kebab and the Adana Kebab for mains. The Baba Ganoush was really good and the freshly made flat breads were handmade and just the right texture. The Adana Kebab was spicy, well cooked and a far cry from the 4am binge snack that I was familiar with.

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The absolute highlight for me was the Cag Kebab, strips of succulent, tasty, well spiced lamb cooked in the Cag Kebab oven. Definitely worth a return trip! These are served with your choice of 3 accompaniments. The mango salad, watermelon salad and tzatziki were our choices. The mango has a hint of chilli and the watermelon salad has mint and feta in it, both of these are really refreshing accompaniments for the rich and spicy flavours of the kebab. Lamb with tzatziki is always a favourite.

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Turkish tea is on the house so make sure you grab some, it’s a fragrant black tea that is quite refreshing.

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This restaurant adds yet another flavour to cultural melting pot that Grant Avenue is becoming, get there soon so you can tell your friends about it!

Average main meal – R80 (Exceptions are the Cag Kebab – R130 and Lamb Pirzola – R140)

Average starter – R50

Halaal friendly – no alcohol allowed

From Good to Great?

We were lucky enough to get reservations at the Saxon’s 500 restaurant during Luke Dale Roberts’ sojourn to Johannesburg. Reservations were made in October for Valentines eve.

We enjoyed David Higgs as a chef during his time at 500 but were not overly impressed with the attention to detail of the experience on the whole. Having visited The Test Kitchen before, we were really excited to see what Luke Dale Roberts would do during his tenure.

There is something about valet parking that really makes you feel like you’ve arrived and so it was a promising start to the evening. We were lead to the lounge area as we were waiting for another couple to join us. Disappointment number 1: At every really good restaurant in the world a welcome drink is the norm. We mulled about in the lounge for 10 minutes and were not offered anything. Compounding matters there were dirty glasses on a few of the tables that hadn’t been cleaned away. Not a great first impression. Eventually someone noticed us looking at the Johnny Walker display that was set up in the lounge area and started explaining the significance of the display. Interesting fact: The Saxon has one of only 2 Johnny Walker 1805 bars in the world with the first one being in Scotland!  Thank goodness for that interlude otherwise it would have been a really disappointing start to our evening.

 

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Johnny Walker Bar

On to dinner, my first impression was that the place was quite noisy but had a nice energy to it, the hostess was really good and so were the waiters. The restaurant has not discernibly changed since LDR has taken over and has continued to have the open kitchen which is also a signature feature of The Test Kitchen. Disappointment number 2: The menu allows options for 4 of the 8 courses. Having options isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the options were really difficult to choose from like octopus or pork belly and wagyu beef or crayfish. We eventually landed up choosing one of each option so that we could get to taste everything.

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Stand out dishes for me were the pea mousse; the pork belly with the most amazing blue cheese sauce; the craysish concrete ball which was smoked in a concrete ball and  as well as the pan seared duck breast with foie gras.

Pea Mousse

Pea Mousse

Disappointment number 3: At R1,900 per person I really don’t think it is acceptable to find a piece of plastic in your food. We got this course complimentary as a result of this mistake but having sat at the chef’s table at The Test Kitchen I am almost certain it would never happen while LDR was overseeing things (he wasn’t personally there on the night we visited).

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

I am an absolute stickler for a high caliber sommelier when I am paying for a wine pairing with every course and I can confirm that the sommelier was really good. We opted for the South African wines which were really well paired and the explanations offered with each course were excellent. They also did not skimp on the tastings which can be a good or a bad thing depending on whether you are driving or not.

In conclusion, I am a big fan of Luke Dale Roberts and really enjoy The Test Kitchen and the amazing food combinations that he comes up which I find interesting and adventurous if not always to my palate. In this incarnation I feel like 500 misses all the things that makes LDR one of the best chefs in the country. While the food was really good in patches, it lacked the wow factor that makes The Test Kitchen amazing.

Crayfish

Crayfish

 

There is no meal in the world that by itself is worth the price that fine dining generally costs, it is the overall experience that makes it all worth it i.e. the theatre, the setting, the service and the food combine to give you a multisensory experience that should leave a lasting impression. The problem I find with many South African “fine dining” restaurants is that there is no attention given to the overall experience.

A comparison I usually use when speaking to friends is a restaurant in Algarve, Portugal at which we pitched up an hour before they started service as our watches were still on Spanish time. The courtesy and professionalism of the staff in making us still feel at home was one of the great examples of hospitality in the hospitality industry.

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Wagyu Beef Carpaccio

Stand out restaurants in South Africa for me are The Greenhouse at the Cellars-Hohenort and The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais which consistently gets the overall experience right and for this reason remain, in my opinion, the best restaurants in South Africa.

We’ll be visiting The Greenhouse in March and I will report back on whether these standards have been maintained or not!

A Fine Dining Gem in Jozi

As much as I would like to keep this gem of a place a secret, I also want to scream & shout, that Jozi has another top fine dining restaurant.  AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, based in the heart of Sandton use to only cater to residents of the hotel before, but has now opened its doors to the public. This boutique hotel was recently revamped & is part of the luxurious Relais & Chateaux group.

On arrival we were shown to the sophisticated bar for pre-dinner drinks.  I suggest that you go about 15 minutes before your dinner reservation, so you can relax with a glass of sherry & cosy up to the fireplace.  It’s an ideal rendezvous before dinner.

Bar  Fireplace

The wooden finishes gives the Dining Room a classic, chic & elegant appearance.  Careful consideration was given to the way the tables were set out. We had enough personal space although we were a party of 5.  I wish more fine dining restaurants took this into consideration.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Once seated we were offered a selection of mouth-watering canapés. That was just a teaser of what was yet to come.  The 1st course was lip-smackingly luscious, roasted sweet-corn soup with crisp basil & perfectly prepared prawns. A salt & pepper squid salad with citrus dressing followed.

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Calamari

Our choice of mains was between a Duck Breast and Grilled Cape Salmon.

The Duck Breast was seared to perfection – it was rosy pink & it was accompanied by a saffron fondant potato, braised cabbage, glazed baby carrots & tied together with a pine nut jus.

Duck Breast

The Grilled Salmon with coconut was enticing & it married well with the Asian flavours of the lemongrass & lime rice noodles & the chilli ginger caramel.

For dessert we had a Raspberry Crème Bruleè with Turkish Delight ice cream.

The dinner menu changes every night & we were told that the chef will always have one Asian item on the menu.  We opted to take our own wines, corkage was R100 per bottle.

The attention to detail is amazing & the service is exceptional.

Guys, if you want to impress a lady, secure a reservation here.  You won’t go wrong.

The Relais & Chateaux group is known for their gourmet restaurants & AtholPlace Restaurant certainly hits that mark.

El Celler De Can Roca

My hubby & I recently went on a culinary trip to Spain & the South of France. As soon as our tickets & hotels were booked, we had to try to secure a couple of Michelin Star restaurants.  Our trip was booked in March & we were off in April, so the chances of getting a table at any of the restaurants were slim.  Three days before we left, we got confirmation that a table had become available at El Celler De Can Roca due to a cancellation. We could not believe our luck, given that there’s a one year waiting list for this restaurant!!! It was the number two restaurant in the world but as of the 1st of June, they have taken over the number one spot in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

The entrance to the restaurant isn’t that grand but once you walk through that wooden door, you enter a picturesque zen like courtyard. The decor is very minimalist.

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We were offered Cava on arrival where we were seated in the bar area which is a glass walled room with views over the courtyard and the restaurant.  We watched the sunset over the courtyard & when the lights were turned on, the courtyard transformed into a magical wonderland  We were then shown to our table.

We made a conscious decision not to over eat during the course of the day so that we could take in this gastronomical experience.  We opted for the Feast menu which consisted of 15 courses (that’s excluding the amuse-bouches) with wine pairings. The wine lists consists of three massive books from wines around the world (probably weighing in at 3kgs). I’m happy to say that there were 3 South African wines on the list including The Chocolate Block.

They kicked off the night by taking us around the world with miniature specialties from different countries. We had a Mexican Burrito, a lentil stuffed Turkish vine leaf, Chinese pickled vegetables, a Moroccan dish using Ras el Hanout (Moroccan spices) & Korea’s panco fried bread. In this case, dynamite does come in small packages.

The World

Around The World

The plating of the next course took us back to the childhood of the Roca brothers. A pop up card was placed on the plate, together with breaded squid, kidneys in Sherry, potato & onion omelet & anchovy bone rice tempura.  We also got to pick caramelized olives off a tree. We had already experienced so much of the creativity & imagination of the Roca Brothers and we were still on starters.

Caramelized Olive

Caramelized Olive

Brothers Childhood in Girona

Brothers Childhood in Girona

We were not disappointed by a single course but I’ve highlighted the ones that were particularly amazing.

The 3 flavored corn ice cream which was made of 3 different types of corn was a delight. It also included a layer made of Huitlacoche which is referred to as the Mexican corn truffle and is a fungus that naturally grows on corn. It really is one of those things that you need to taste at least once in your life.

Three Flavour Corn Ice Cream

Three Flavour Corn Ice Cream

The prawn marinated with rice vinegar was another stand out dish. It is made of every part of the prawn, “head juice, crispy prawn legs and prawn meat. The flavour combinations of the prawn together with a seaweed veloute was spectacular.

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Prawn Marinated with Rice Vinegar

There were many others that I could go on about but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. The deserts were spectacular. The first one was made of every type of citrus imaginable and the second one was made up of chocolate from different countries, that had varying levels of cocoa and it was prepared using various techniques. There were mousses, ganache’s, brownies, shavings, gels and more.

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Orange Colourology

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Chocolate Anarchy

We have been lucky enough to eat at some of the World’s Top restaurants & this was by far the best (no I’m not just saying that because they were voted number 1)! When we finished the meal my husband and I both agreed that this was surely a class above the rest and feel like the award just gave us re-assurance that we had experienced something special.

This was a truly memorable culinary experience.

All the hype about El Celler De Can Roca is well deserved.

Website:  http://cellercanroca.com

Coral

Coral: Pickled Barnacles & Seabream Ceviche

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Spring Vegetable Stock

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Cuttlefish with Peas

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Veal Shin & saint George’s Mushrooms

Pigeon Trilogy

Pigeon Trilogy

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Mackeral with Pickles & Mullet Roe

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Oyster with Anemone Sauce

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Confit Skate with Mustard Oil

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Surf & Turf

Iberian Suckling Pig

Suspiro Limeno

Feast Menu

Escape Reality – A Fantasy with a Beat Awaits…

Last year this time, we were planning for the most exciting holiday yet!!! A trip to the States, but not just any trip, a trip that was planned around one of the biggest EDM festivals – TomorrowWorld. Unfortunately due to my hubby’s work commitments, we could not make TomorrowLand in Belgium & was he gutted!!! So as soon as they announced that they were bringing a similar festival to Atlanta, he got a couple of friends together & Boom!!! The rest if history.

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Yesterday is History, Today is a Gift, Tomorrow is Mystery

I’m big into rock music & although I would tag along to EDM festivals for the fun of it, it wasn’t a “Bucket List” item for me but it was something my hubby really wanted to do.

The madness began when we were trying to get tickets online – after getting kicked out a few times, we managed to get those “golden” tickets. I must admit I was pretty ecstatic.

The build-up began as soon as we got off the plane!!! All we saw were friendly faces, pink & purple balloons & TomorrowWorld signs everywhere. We than made our way to one of the official TomorrowWorld hotel’s & the vibe was already amazing!!! (I’m not a camping kind-a-girl, so I didn’t experience Dreamville – don’t judge).  The majority of guests staying at the hotel were there for the festival.  It was pretty cool to meet random people in the elevator & at breakfast & all everyone talked about was TomorrowWorld.  After months of planning & waiting, just one more sleep & the fantasy becomes a reality!!!

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All geared up in our TomorrowWorld tees, we made our way to the affiliated shuttle service. Once we got off the shuttle, we received our TomorrowWorld micro-chipped wrist bands in beautifully carved wooden boxes.

Raving in our TW Tees

Attention to Detail

Attention to Detail

We spent the first part of the day walking around, sussing out where all the stages were & chatting to people from all over the world.  The South African flag we took along got so much attention & with it we managed to meet fellow South Africans who had now made Atlanta their home.  Our flag even got us a ticket into the Comfort Zone for free!!!   It was different compared to any other live concert I’d been to. People were so friendly & interested in where we were from & how far we traveled. Peace, Love, Unity & Respect – for 3 solid days, this movement/culture was so evident.

One of the stage props

One of the props at one of the many stages

Flags everywhere

Flags everywhere

Chill out spots

Chill out spots

After watching the videos on YouTube, the most amazing part of the festival for me was the opening of the larger than life “Book of Wisdom”!!! And this time around, we played a role in this “Fairytale Chapter”.  The DJs clearly fed off the energy of the thousands of fans but most importantly, they themselves were having a blast playing for us!!!  When Steve Aoki is playing & you want to get caked, then make your way through the crowd to the front of the stage but when the “Book of Wisdom” closes its pages, the view from the back is the best!!! The lazers synced to Armin van Buuren’s closing set, looked spectacular. And just because they do things bigger & better at TomorrowWorld, the firework display will have you ooooohhhhing & aaaahing. I have never seen heart shaped fireworks light up the sky in my entire life!!!

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Daft Punk?

Daft Punk?

A dream come true

A dream come true

I walked away with away with aches & pains everywhere, rugged boots, raccoon eyes but most importantly with the happiest heart & an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime!!!

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Why Should You Go…

  • Spectacular DJs from all over the world come together to perform at 1 festival.
  • Different stages means there will always be something that you can dance to.
  • The most creative & the biggest production.  Not only are the stages the highlight, but everywhere you go, you will see the attention to detail that encompasses the theme for the festival. Little things such as the paper plates carry the logo.
  • Meet people from all over the world.
  • You really are in a fantasy world for 3 days.
  • When the music stops, the party carries on in the shuttle, at the hotel & at Dreamville.
  • Even if you go alone, you will never be alone.
  • No queuing for food & drinks.
  • Dress up in your fantasy character & no one will think you’re weird.
  • It’s an experience that will stick with you for a lifetime – party on!!!

For 3 days all you know & do is EAT, SLEEP, RAVE, REPEAT…

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Scooby Doo

Scooby Doo

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David Guetta

Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone

Fellow South Africans

Fellow South Africans

Last Words...

Last Words… Use It!!!

 

 

Paradise = Where Bush meets Beach

Oceana Beach & Wildlife Reserve, part of The Mantis Collection has been on our bucket list for about 10 years now. I’m thrilled to say that we finally got to tick this getaway experience off our list.  I used to find myself logging onto their website often, dreaming about going to this place they call “Heaven on Earth”.

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As we drove in we were greeted by a herd of buck which set the tone for the rest of our stay. We were welcomed with warm hand towels & drinks to freshen up.  We than made our way to the lounge with the most breathtaking view ever!  We could not help but stare at the amazing views of seemingly endless beach in both directions. The view that I’ve been longing to see for years, was finally in front of me.

We stayed in one of the four Ocean View suites, it is luxury personified! The room is spacious, has underfloor heating, a mini-bar, a four poster super king size bed, a lounge area that opens onto a spacious wooden deck with 180 degree views of the bush & the ocean.  The jet spa bath tub & the double showers are thoughtfully placed so you get more of those astonishing views – a good way to unwind.

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The lodge also has 3 lodge suites & a private ocean house.

The chefs on duty take pride in the meals they prepare.  Each meal is beautifully presented. Nick the sommelier is readily available to advise you on a wine that will pair perfectly with your food.  Depending on your mood you have the choice to dine in the dining room, on the deck or in the privacy of your own room. Due to the limited numbers this lodge holds, you get to know the staff & other guests by name during your stay.  Somehow, pre-dinner gatherings took place every night at the bar, we got to exchange stories of game spotting and our stay with other guests & Oceana staff over a cocktail.

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The game drive was a bit different, there were points during the drive where we caught glimpses of the ocean while keeping an eye out for wildlife. The game ranger was knowledgeable about the array of birds, animals & plants. We were in luck because most of the animals came out to play.  We stopped for sundowners & snacks on a slope that overlooked buck grazing, with the ocean as a backdrop. We kept warm with the blankets provided and a cup of hot chocolate awaited us after the game drive.

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It was raining for two days non-stop so we couldn’t go to the beach on those days.  The rainy weather didn’t phase us, we got ourselves some rejuvenating & relaxing spa treatments, played with the shuffle board in the games room, got a few DVDs from the library & relaxed in front of the fire place in the lounge.

On the day that we were leaving the weather cleared up.  We asked them to arrange a sunrise trip to the beach for us & they did so without hesitation.  I wasn’t dressed for the beach because at 5:30am, mid April, the weather doesn’t permit bikinis.  If you want to experience paradise, you need to make your way to this 7km seemingly private beach (all beaches in South Africa are public beaches, but with 7km’s of beach and not much else around, you are pretty much guaranteed to find yourself alone somewhere along this coastline).  It was one of those rare moments for us as we stood on a massive sand dune & watched the moon set & the sun rise with only the sound of the waves hitting the shore.  The sky flaunted different shades of sunrise hues.

The only way to get to the beach is in the game rangers vehicle.  There is a deck at the beach so you can spend the whole day there when the weather is good & the staff at Oceana will arrange for your meals & drinks to be served while you lounge around.

All meals & game drives are inclusive in the price per person. We booked our accommodation through BushBreaks & More & got to stay over at a discounted rate.

Two words sum up our experience – Pure Bliss!!!

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VickyChristina’s Johannesburg

I was very excited when I heard that VickyChristina’s opened up a branch at the Colony Shopping Centre in Hyde Park.  The first branch was opened in Durban. After visiting Spain, I had high expectations stepping into this restaurant. And yes, I know I shouldn’t, but I found myself comparing it to the country that is passionate about food & wine.

The restaurant got it’s name from Woody Allen’s movie Vicky Christina Barcelona (a must watch if you haven’t already). The walls are plastered with a variety of Spanish pictures & posters of well known actors & actresses. Pressed black ceilings, grand chandeliers, mirrors & dim lighting gives the restaurant a Spanish/French Baroque feel to it.  But what really brings all this to life is when the Flamenco dancers take to the floor.  They bring in that fire & passion you will find everywhere in Spain.

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We had an array of tapas from the cheeky menu and we enjoyed everything we ordered.  Between four of us we had meatballs, calamari, chorizo, the fillet steak stack & their Moorish lamb cubes which is slow braised with cumin, cinnamon, raisins, sultanas & almonds.  The spices used in this dish best symbolizes Spanish cuisine. We ended off with Spain’s most popular dish, Seafood Paella.  When I visited the South of Spain, I tried to have Pealla religiously & I must admit that it wasn’t loaded with a mixture of ingredients. They focus on one ingredient meat, fish or vegetables. I’m happy to say that the Paella at VickyChristina’s got that spot on.  The rice however seemed a lot like risotto rice but it didn’t lack in taste, I’d easily order a full portion without hesitating.  The tapas served with a jug of Sangria between friends makes for a good evening.

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Desserts didn’t disappoint either, we ravished the chili-chocolate lava cake. After all “chocolate is Spain’s gift to the world”. (According to their menu & I wasn’t about to argue with them because hundreds of years ago the Spanish introduced this addictive delight to Europe).

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It’s good to go as a group of 4 or more, as most tapas are priced at around R50.00 & over.  The portion sizes were quite generous, so going as a group will not only save you a bit but you also get to sample a lot more.

A Spanish experience awaits you!

345 Jan Smuts Avenue, Craighall Park,
Johannesburg, Gauteng
Tel:  (011) 325-1263