Dining out deliciously

Gnocchi with exotic mushrooms, crispy onions and a truffle sauce.

Gnocchi with exotic mushrooms, crispy onions and a truffle sauce.

Published May 27, 2024


The Chefs’ Table

Where: Protea Mall, 1 Chartwell Drive, uMhlanga

Open: Monday to Saturday, lunch and dinner:

Call: 031 001 0200

Food writer Ingrid Shevlin and I found ourselves at a loose end in uMhlanga this week. The spot we wanted to try was closed. I suggested she might like an adventure and we try The George. She shuddered. Instead, nestled in the heart of the village’s foodie street is The Chefs’ Table. Neither of us had eaten there recently. The restaurant was one of only three KZN eateries to win stars in last year’s Eat Out awards. While we weren't planning to go big, we jumped at the opportunity.

The restaurant ambience exudes sophistication and elegance with its dramatic murals and hand crafted plates. The minimalist decor, warm lighting and attentive staff create an intimate and welcoming atmosphere.

Duck dim sum with tom yum sauce.

The small menu showcases a range of dishes that combine global flavours with local ingredients. It’s a menu that changes regularly and one that is constantly tweaked and improved.

For starters there’s Cape yellow-fin tuna done ceviche style with a ginger and lime dressing with avocado, wasabi and pickled daikon radish. I was tempted. Mussels are done in a cauliflower and blue cheese velouté with pancetta and cauliflower couscous. Neither Ingrid nor I are cauliflower fans. I’d had their slow braised beef tongue the last time I visited and it was good. This time it was served on a bed of pickled purple cabbage with an Indian pale ale mustard. I also fancied trying the steak tartare.

Linefish of red roman in a tom yum sauce with bok choy.

Ingrid was tempted by crispy squid served in a moong dhal with lemon atchar and curry leaves. I liked the sound of the octopus ravioli with gremolata, candied lemon and brie custard.

Choices were difficult. While making such momentous decisions, we snacked on little milk buns served with a chilli butter and basil hummus.

I settled on the new season artichokes (R145) which were lightly crumbed ‒ dusted might be a better description ‒ and were perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They nestled in an earthy truffle emulsion that was rich and flavourful and were topped with a light crisp herb salad and generous shavings of Parmesan. It’s a lovely dish.

Artichokes with truffle emulsion and Parmesan

Ingrid had the duck dim sum (R155) with mango chutney, chilli oil and a tom yum sauce adding a touch of tangy heat. She loved the flavours but felt the dim sum was a shade chewy.

For mains, when we were told the linefish (R295) was red roman and fresh that morning, I went straight there. This was pan-fried and served with a tom yum sauce poured over the dish at the table. It came with smoked mussels and a sweet corn succotash and was accompanied by bok choy. The fish was cooked to perfection, with a crispy skin and flaky flesh. The tom yum sauce was flavourful and well-balanced, complementing the delicate taste of the fish. The bok choy was a great addition, adding a crunchy texture and a hint of bitterness, the corn adding sweetness.

Humble apple ‒ an apple slice with spice ice-cream

Ingrid enjoyed her pan fried gnocchi (R235) with more of that deeply flavourful and earthy mushroom sauce. It was served on a bed of spinach and topped with exotic mushrooms, crispy onions and Parmesan slices. The gnocchi were soft and pillowy, and she enjoyed the combination of flavours and textures. The wood-fired beef ‒ whether fillet, sirloin or wagyu (just close your eyes to the price on this one) ‒ are still very much a menu staple.

Chocolate symphony with spiced pear ice-cream.
Strawberries and cream ‒ with panna cotta.

Other options that tickled our fancy included the duo of duck with pistachios, cherries and a red wine jus; and a duo of lamb with white bean cassoulet, salsa verde and black kale. I liked the sound of the prawn ravioli in a shellfish bisque with confit potatoes, heirloom tomatoes and candied lemon. It was that bisque that was obviously being prepared in the kitchen and giving off such magnificent aromas as we arrived.

There were four options for dessert, one of which was a cheese selection. I indulged in the the “humble apple” (R120) which was anything but humble. This was a slice with a thin crisp pastry layer and spice ice-cream that picked up Christmas spices. The layers of pressed apple were a delightful mix of sweet and tart with a good kick of lemon, the pastry topped with caramel ganache and orange gel. It looked lovely too. Ingrid’s “strawberries and cream” (R120) was a light and refreshing way to end the meal. This was vanilla panna cotta providing a creamy and smooth base for strawberry coulis, strawberry ice-cream, strawberry jellies and fresh strawberries, and topped with a whipped milk foam. It was very much her thing.

Chef sent us out his “chocolate symphony” to try. This was like layers of chocolate on chocolate with a chocolate genoise (sponge) vanilla ganache, namelaka (rich chocolate cream) and chocolate feuilletine (crisp, flaky chocolate pancakes pieces). It was served with a spiced pear ice-cream. We enjoyed.

Petit fours of ginger chocolate and caramel shortbread.

We ended a superb lunch with a good espresso topped with a rich ring of crema. Charming petit fours completed the picture

Food: 4

Service: 4

Ambience: 4

The Bill: R1 223 excl tip

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