Dartnall says she still follows his advice after all these years by cooking with love and ingredients she finds in tidal pools while she’s on holiday or when using leeks in a dish called African Aromas from her latest menu, Tabula Rasa. The dish has an accent on the plate designed to look like the branches of an acacia tree and is a balanced act of Red Hartebeest venison, soetdoring smoke, baby turnips and a dusting of aubergine and madumbi skin.
“The entire plate is smoky and quite African. Interestingly enough I’ve never done anything with that many African ingredients in one dish before. The leeks are there because nothing else has quite the same accent on the plate; between their bright green bite after just being blanched to it’s earthy naturalness of flavour. So, yes, that’s where missing leeks go.”
When not hunting for leeks or eating stir-fry at home, these are Dartnall’s top three favourite places to go to for a bite:
1. l'Astrance, Paris
“To even get into this restaurant is a mission because they don’t have a website. You can only call at 10 o’clock in the morning, exactly a month in advance and then they only have 20 seats in the restaurant so they fill up incredibly quickly. There’s no menu when you get there, the chef literally sends out whatever he wants to and you get the wine that the sommelier wants to give you. So you have no choices but it is the most phenomenal experience.”
2. The Foodbarn, Noordhoek
“Franck [Dangereux] is one of my great local food heroes. Franck and Margo [Janse]. We go often to Noordhoek as we are very good friends with Lynne-Marie Eatwell, a young artist who has her gallery right there. So a visit to Franck is always on the top of the list.”
3. Restaurant at Waterkloof Wines, Somerset West
I always found Gregory’s [Czarnecki] style of cooking fascinating and his plating is truly some of the most beautiful in South Africa. I just really love going there. Funny enough, Chef Gregory is actually going to be cooking in my restaurant in a few weeks, so that should be loads of fun.