Most memorable meals of 2011

From the best restaurant in South Africa to a tiny brasserie in rural France, 2011 was a year filled with spectacular meals. Eat Out asked a few people to share their memories.

Margot Janse, chef at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français
“I have been lucky to travel a lot this year and I really loved my lunch at Bentley in Sydney in May. Totally unpretentious restaurant and bar. Brent Savage is a very humble, extremely talented chef. The tasting menu totally blew me away. Amazing balance in the flavour combinations and beautiful, unfussy presentation.”

Sumien Brink, editor of Woolworths Taste
“I don’t eat out a lot at all. I prefer to cook simple, wholesome, delicious food at home. So for me it’s a real treat to visit a restaurant that serves food that I would never attempt at home. My most memorable meal this year was with a group of journalists to celebrate Peter Tempelhoff being awarded a rare Relais & Château Grand Chef at The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel. Peter’s food is unlike anything I have seen or tasted before. It looks absolutely exquisite—art on a plate is the only way to describe it, but the taste is right up there with the look. So often one is served food that looks beautiful but the taste doesn’t deliver.

My favourite dish was the artichoke and Parmesan panna cotta with Old Brown Sherry jelly, pickled vegetable and wholegrain mustard. The whole experience was made more special by the fact that the Grande Dame of boutique hotels in South Africa, the very glamorous Liz McGrath, was hosting it. I love Liz’s quirky touch of introducing bunnies in the very stylish décor of the restaurant—bronze bunnies greet you at the entrance and ceramic bunnies nestle in the ferns and perch on the window sills gazing out to the exquisite gardens surrounding the restaurant. It’s the perfect place for a special celebration.”

Anna Trapido, author and chef
“My best meal was my last lunch at Linger Longer with darling, late, great Walter Ulz in all his classic chef-patron glory. I was there with Andrea Burgener and Paula Blacking and my three year-old son Josiah. At the time it felt shamefully inappropriate, taking a toddler into a posh nosh palace, but now I’m so grateful that he has had a forever-gone great gastronomic experience. He can tell his grandchildren that we all ate epic piles of oysters in the conservatory and the grownups drank an elegant excess of bubbly. Simple, superb abundance.”

Jacquie Myburg, editor of Visi
“My absolute best meal of 2011 was the Ethiopian-flavoured steak tartare at The Leopard in Parkhurst. It’s not an easy dish to get right: all the ingredients have to be perfect, especially the meat, and it’s always my measure of a great restaurant if they can carry it off. In 2010 my steak tartare award went to Tashas, the year before it was won by Wombles. Can’t wait to see who makes the best steak tartare of 2012!”

Pete Goffe-Wood, food alchemist
“My favourite restaurant meal this year was at The Grove in Auckland, New Zealand. I had a beautiful five-course meal showcasing some of the most professional cooking I have had in a long time. Beautiful presentation, but not overly fiddled with, combined with precision applied to magnificent ingredients. They also had an impressive international wine list with a number of very good South African options. By far my most memorable meal of the year!”

Michael Olivier, editor Crush! online
“For my finest restaurant meal, I had to wait almost until the end of the year. I have eaten—and been blown away by Peter Tempelhoff’s food before. But my visit to The Greenhouse in late November just vindicated his Eat Out Restaurant of The Year Award. A sensational experience in the most elegant of surroundings; fabulous, just fabulous food, and excellent knowledgeable food and wine service.”

Chris Roper, editor M&G online
“There’s a new spot in Parkhurst called The Leopard and, without a sliver of doubt, it serves the best food in Johannesburg, if not South Africa. The quail stuffed with macadamia rice, dressed in a piquant Maputo chilli sauce that is complex in taste, but simple in effect, is so damn good it could make a grown vegetarian cry. Start with the cucumber and ginger soup, and finish with sour cherry ice cream. And then never eat anywhere else again.”

Sam Linsell,
“One of my best meals of 2011 has to be the spectacular eleven-course lunch at The Test Kitchen paired with Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst wines that I attended in June. Not only were all eleven courses inspiring and highly innovative, but they were perfectly matched to the rare and very delectable wines.”

Alida Ryder,
“I’ve given it plenty of thought and my best meal of the year has to be at The Saxon. It was a tasting menu to introduce chef Nancy to the media and it was out of this world. Roast pigeon with pumpkin brûlée, vanilla poached langoustines and foie gras were just three of the courses of this feast!”

Marlene van der Westhuizen, author and chef
“I’ve been scratching through the food memories of 2011 and, to be totally honest, if we are talking most memorable, it has to be the meal I had in a little brasserie in the village of Espinasse-Vozelle close to Vichy in the Auvergne. Manou and Kiki, owners of the eponymous local bar, are the chef/waiter team of this delightful watering hole in the village. Every day around noon the first John Deers tractors, road maintenance vehicles and the odd ‘functionaries’ who happen to be in the area will find themselves gathering around the long communal tables for a four-course meal.

Served with litre bottles of Saint Pourcain white or red, and a little water on the side if you must— The meal that I will remember forever consisted of a rural variation of a salad Niçoise, which was plated individually, followed by large platters on the table filled to the brim with the most deliciously decadent tête de veau, or deboned calves’ head. This was exquisitely served with a proper grebiche and boiled new potatoes with parsley. The third course was a plat de fromage de Auvergne; blue d’ Auvergne, Cantal and chèvre were amongst the cheese served. Honestly! And lastly, naturally a slice of apple tart with a dollop of thick cream.”

Carmen Niehaus, food editor: YOU/Huisgenoot
“I like things simple and uncomplicated, and I judge a restaurant and eating experience on how they present their salads and vegetables. Therefore, it’s a lovely surprise every time I eat at Babel—seeing the edgy things they do with farm vegetables and products! I love the colour-coded salads so beautifully plated with a trendy dressing. The whole package works for me. I feel inspired and refreshed when I leave.”

Dax Villanueva,
“There were several memorable meals this year, but I think the one that stood out as a special treat was the six-course dinner I enjoyed at Terroir. Chef Michael Broughton really showed off. We started with a delicate gnocchi with butternut sauce, sage and burned butter. This was followed by super-fresh seared salmon with a miso glaze, smoked potato, asparagus and truffle. The third course was a prawn risotto with lemongrass and lobster bisque. Fourth was Michael’s famous pork pastille with quail egg and charcuterie sauce. The penultimate course was fillet of beef with shallot and ginger sauce, pommes dauphine and wasabi cream. Dessert was the most delicious chocolate délice with dulce de leche ice cream. All courses were paired with Kleine Zalze wines. So yes, luckily I was staying over—”

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