Picture the scene: a dimly lit cellar where the gleam of silver candelabra and the sheen of wine glasses waiting to be filled reflect off a long, polished wooden table.
The furnishings are plush, antique; the art on the walls enigmatic. Sounds are muted. Racks of wines rest in temperature-controlled isolation behind a wall of glass.
A trio of chefs enter to present their masterpieces.
For a moment there, we could be anywhere in the world; the chefs most likely presenting some classics of European cuisine, perhaps with their own interpretation or a contemporary twist, a foam here, a jelly there.
Instead, what arrives are sushi and sashimi, with springbok rather than salmon, and avo in place of wasabi; pork cheeks, wildebeest fillet, oxtail potjie; rooibos tea married with fine cognac; pap and chakalaka along the way; and guavas in a dessert of rum-infused pannacotta.
We’re not in London, Paris or Singapore, but in Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth, being introduced to the seasonally updated menu at the Mantis Collection’s No5 boutique hotel in Brighton Drive.
Head chef Wayne Myburgh and his team of Anele Sopeni and Sipho Mbovane, put their heads – and palates – together to produce an array of world-class dishes inspired by various cultures, with distinctly South African flavours.
Myburgh said the menu was reviewed and updated every three months, with this latest incarnation showcasing the “South African fusion” direction that he is pursuing, with plenty of experiments along the way.
They include his Afro-Asian version of sushi, with “inside-out” rolls featuring smoked springbok carpaccio alongside tender seared springbok as sashimi.
Braised pork cheeks – a starter that could well serve as a main – are slow cooked, super soft, melt-in-the-mouth, given local flavour with paptert and a spicy chakalaka ragu.
The chefs’ attention to detail is clear in the selection of mains we sampled – oxtail potjie becomes a hearty filling for handmade ravioli, accompanied by an incredible oxtail jus that must have been simmered slowly over hours to achieve its glossy richness and intense flavours.
Lamb shank is no ordinary lamb shank – it’s been roasted with boerewors, which adds a subtle, unexpected dimension of flavour and is proving a big hit with diners at No5.
The standout dish? Wildebeest, perfectly cooked – a tender, juicy and slightly pink seared fillet – is served with wild mushrooms cooked with rooibos tea and cognac, a wild mushroom puree and the rooibos featuring again in the aromatic gravy.
Dessert is just the right ending, a play of flavours and textures – crispy biscuit, creamy rum panna cotta and guava ice cream, with a smear of guava cheesecake. Subtly sweet and delicious.
No5 general manager Beverley Zonneveld and Mantis Collection founder Adrian Gardiner hosted the media in the hotel’s cellar’s private dining room to share the new menu this week.
Guests can book the cellar for private functions, or enjoy the hotel’s fare in the stylish Jazz Room restaurant.
THIS REVIEW WAS PUBLISHED IN THE WEEKEND POST ON 10 FEBRUARY 2018. PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO READ IT ON THE HERALD LIVE WEBSITE.
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