Everything about them silently screamed old money. They must have been in their seventies. He in a dinner jacket, she in floor-length Diane von Furstenberg. She probably should have stopped with the work on her face two surgeries back. They sat looking around at the other diners in silence - like they’d run out of things to say to each other thirty years ago. You just knew that if it wasn’t the Saxon, it would be somewhere in the Napa Valley or Gstaad. Like everyone else in the room (I suppose, unless you know someone, who knows someone) they would have booked months in advance to nab a table on an evening when South Africa’s adopted culinary wunderkind Luke Dale Roberts was in the kitchen.
Once a month, Luke swaps his Mother City ménage à trois (that’s The Test Kitchen, Potluck Club and The ShortMarket Club) for a couple of nights with his Golden Girl, Luke Dale Roberts x the Saxon. The food Luke offers here is more classic and French-inspired than at his Cape Town ventures. The restaurant is small and polished and politely heaves with both hotel guests and Joburgers. The latter are famously starved of any really good fine dining, and so for them an evening with Luke and Head Chef Candice Philip (or in fact, just Candice) and the team is spoken of in reverential tones at Saxonwold dinner parties. It is the thing to humble brag about.
For added boasting rights you need to have sampled Luke and Candice’s newest offering – their Four Hands menu. As the name suggests, it’s a collaborative affair with both chefs working together to create the nine delightful dishes on offer. Guests pick five courses from the nine so it’s a much lighter alternative to the restaurant’s Gourmet Menu – a bacchanalian event that involves all nine course and wines to match. Standout choices include a punchy Seabass Tartare, created by Candice, that comes with pickled shimiji mushrooms, lovage pesto and garlic catalan (we didn’t know what that was either) and Luke’s Salmon with curried carrots, compressed apple, honeycomb and lime – a contemporary take on traditional pickled fish. Pastry Chef Megan Meikle rounds off the team effort with two desserts. Her raspberry financier, burnt plum and rum ice cream option is deeply sexy and deeply delicious. Sommelier William Riffel’s pairing choices are also exceptional. This ‘light’ meal is an impressive showcase of the best South African food and wine working together. As your smug friends who’ve had it already will tell you, no doubt.
The five-course Tasting menu, Vegetarian menu and Pescatarian menu are currently priced at R790; R960 with tea pairing; R1,150 paired with local wines; and R1,280 paired with international wines. For reservations, call (011) 292 6000.