The Grand Hyatt have flown in Chef Matt from his Jo'Burg restaurant Coobs, along with Denzel Heath, award-winning bartender, and we went along last night to experience their Truly South African food festival.
(Only as I sit down to write up last night's dinner at Safari Rooftop do I realise that I went the whole evening without treating the visiting South Africans to my famously brilliant Afrikaans accent. Shame. I think I said "veld" a couple of times, but that's all. Feel free to read the rest of this post with inverted vowel sounds in your head, you'll get the idea bru.)
Anyway, that wasn't the only shame at the meal; I also skipped dessert. Now this is what happens when you have a truly awesome mixologist at the bar. Clearly a tip-top expert and a very charming guy, Denzel Heath was mixing really fantastic drinks to order, based on preference and always with very cool ingredients. I would never have thought to choose a cocktail made with port and whiskey, but they way he did it (with raspberry syrup and slightly bruised mint leaves, tasting all the time and adjusting accordingly) it came out as my new favourite drink. Of course you can't be in the presence of such talent and just try one, so I also had the Middle Eastern Margerita, spiked with ginger and date syrup. Glug glug glug and suddenly it's half past eleven and really I can't justify ordering a pudding.
Meanwhile, there was the food. Knowing this was a South African themed meal, I had been pondering the morality of eating crocodile. I am still in a state of denial about the ethics of my consumption of meat but I thought I could certainly justify helping, by the enjoyment of one of its juicy flanks, to rid the world of one more terrifying predator. At least I could feel less guilty than if I had aided and abetted the slaughter of a little lamb, plus it's a genuine taste of Sith Ifrica (there, that's the accent). In the event, though, the most exotic meat on the menu was ostrich, and they have those great big innocent eyes, so I went for a dish featuring the least sentient I could identify, which was the crayfish curry. This was delicious - Chef Matt, who patiently answered my questions when we invaded his kitchen, recommended it as a tasty example of Cape Malay cuisine, along with a sweetcorn bake based on his mother's recipe.
There is a whole load of amazing-sounding stuff on this menu, so much so that we're planning a return trip this weekend. For the rest of the promotion, the temptations of Denzel will be separated off in the John Barry Bar while the food stays up on the rooftop, so we'll probably get through the proper number of dishes next time. I want to order bobotie and chakalaka, if only because they are words I rarely get to say, although the boerwors-spiced ostrich was apparently spectacular, if you can stick your head in the sand and forget about that stupid but appealing face it has.