Chef Freddie Dias of Pot Luck Club restaurant fame has given patrons of the The Houghton Hotel another excuse to return and newcomers a reason to check out the place for those craving a quick city break.The hotel, already running for 3 years, has become the place to be for those craving a quick city break that is close to nearby amenities, but feels like another country nestled amongst the sea of green that is Joburg’s northern suburbs. It’s also recently won Best 5 Star Luxury Hotel in South Africa for 2021 as part of the International Travel Awards, and The 2021 World Travel Award’s Leading 5 Star Hotel in South Africa. Fluffy beds fit for royalty azure swimming pools and a signature golf course are reasons enough to stay longer, but Dias’s culinary magic at his SeJour restaurant is the cherry on top. We sat down to discuss what’s on his burner this summer.
We love your food and how personal it is to you. Can you tell us more about your new tasting menus for spring and summer?
Sure. I’ve added an extra tapas and grill side to the menu, so essentially I have two slightly smaller menus. The one I’ve called the Explorer menu, which is for the adventurous eater; the person who wants to try new things. Then there’s the Pioneer menu, which is a nod to Joburg and has small tapas dishes, grills and a few sauces. It’s a bit of an easier menu to navigate, more approachable. It’s built for Johannesburg diners.
So those are smaller menus that are bite sized, and you can order for a table and share?
You could do that, or if you’re ordering a grill you can order one of the tapas as a side. That’s the cool thing about it. You can order one, or two, or all of them. I’m finding that people are embracing both menus. They’re enjoying the explorer menu with the fine dining side, but they’re also enjoying the pioneer menu, and ordering from both.
Tell us how you came up with these ideas?
Well, we’re in a pandemic, and Joburg is a different market. We didn’t want to go too much on the fine dining side. I realised I could do the fine dining, but also add elements that the Joburg market is more interested in. The names of the menus are to keep telling a story and to show people there’s a reason for the two menus that’s connected to my story as a chef.
OK, so if you were to choose a dish from each menu that really sums up the ethos of each one, what would they be and why?
I think the softshell crab tostada from the explorer menu has become a very popular dish, and it’s one of my signatures now. It really sums up the explorer menu. The flavours — where they come from — was inspired by my trip to Mexico and it’s very different to what you’d find in a Joburg restaurant. It’s really up my alley. I love seafood and I love big, bold flavours. For the pioneer menu, it’s the little baby chicken that’s inspired by my mother. It’s about growing up in Joburg. My mom used to make the most incredible piri piri chicken. It’s marinated the same way my mother used to do it.
We know your ingredients and suppliers are important to you. Is this still the case?
100%. Sourcing is the real battle. Knowing where I can get the best ingredients helps me do my job better. It’s not hard to make delicious food when you’re using top quality ingredients. I’ve got a great butcher called Chris who’s got a few farms he works with. He’s really passionate about the chefs he works with. Our softshell crab comes from a really great supplier who provides us with the best local and imported seafood.
Dias’s Explorer and Pioneer menus kicked off when the restaurant reopened after lockdown in August, so make your booking now to enjoy his culinary adventures for yourself.