Let me just start off by saying, that when they call it “Secret Eats” they really do mean that it is a “secret”. This group is so secretive you even have to request an invite to their event. Once you have done this and you receive your invite, they state the date and very little else. Intrigued, well then this is something you will truly enjoy.
A few days before the event, you receive a little more information…not much though… and you are also expected to complete a survey, strange I thought, but anyway I complied but it kept us wondering what they would use this information for as the questions were quite specific.
At about 12:30am on Friday, we are finally told where we need to meet and more importantly where we will be dining. Wow, were we in for a treat tonight! We would be travelling to the gorgeous & famous Franschhoek and will have the honour of sitting down to a feast prepared by Chef Darren Badenhorst from Grande Provence.
Secret phrase memorized, we were ready for our trip.This time the phrase made Greg’s night ;).
Being greeted by the very friendly and charming Gregory, we were immediately made to feel welcome. Once all +/- 24 guests arrived at our departure point, we were on our way to Franschhoek.
After about 40minutes, our bus filled with excitement and chatter, we arrived at out destinations. Gregory made us each choose a card, the newbies had no clue what this was about, but once we read ours, we quickly figured out what those specific questions were for. A lantern lit pathway led us to the picturesque Jonkershuis, the original manor house at Grande Provence.
Once inside, we were just in awe of the beauty of the space, we really were fortunate to share in a meal in this very special place. We enjoyed our arrival drink around the roaring fire-place and were admiring the very interesting and unique chandeliers made out of wine bottles. Gregory proceeded to welcome us and also introduced Chef Darren, who told us a little about the menu and also the added surprise courses, not even the organizers were aware of these delectable treasures.
While mingling with our fellow diners all complete strangers, we had to figure out who the owner was of the card we picked earlier. This was an excellent way of breaking the ice and networking with fellow diners. It was clear we all had one thing in common, the passion for excellent food, fantastic wine and superb service. Speaking for myself, I am a naturally shy person and was so thankful to have my wing woman with me, or I would never have found my person. Even though I was hesitant at first, I loved the idea as it brought me out my comfort zone and I had the privilege to meet some very interesting and colourful characters.
We then proceeded to the exquisite dining room table and dinner was served. Chef Darren came out to elaborate on some of the menu items and also the additional items he had in store for us. The knowledgeable sommelier and restaurant manager, Khuselo Mputa guided us through the wine selection at each course.
First up was the amuse bouche, Charred corn velouté, with crayfish and yazu pearls, moorish and yummy, a solid 2nd on my list of best dishes for the evening.
Then onto my dish of the evening… Ocean Risotto – textured soft shell Crab, turmeric confit Patagonia, barrel smoked langoustine, white mussel, saffron Bouillabaisse, air Asian micro salad served with Grande Provence Rosé 2014 there are honestly no words to describe the dance in your mouth, the smell, the look, every sense was stimulated. I must add that Chef Darren did not use the traditional Arborio rice for his risotto, but used white and black short grained Japanese rice instead which added great texture to the dish.
We then had a sublime Pineapple Sorbét with popping candy, which took you straight back to your childhood
Next was the meat course a variation of Lamb saddle …smoked dukkha-crusted, 18 hour slow braised, crumbed lamb pops, minted pea, butternut confit, pearl onions and porcini jus paired with Grande Provence Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.
And for who could do an entire meal on just dessert Chef Darren even had an extra surprise…PRE-DESSERT, yes people delicious and some more popping candy and gold 😉
Dessert Hot fondant Sphere – set Anglaise, aerated espresso, red velvet textures, salted cocoa twig and Amerula pipette paired with Grande Provence Muscat d’Alxendrie
It was apparent that Chef Darren and his team have great attention to detail and very clear that this is a very creative and experimental kitchen. The plating and presentation of all the dishes were so inspired and beautiful.
What an awesome concept,cant wait for the next one. If you interested in doing up,please visit Secret Eats,you wont be disappointed.
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Jason & René Petersen
(Jason + Ashanti + René = JAR)
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