[Umhlanga, South Africa] Grill Room

I seem to have missed posting this meal from our recent South Africa trip.

There’s an old fashioned elegance to the Grill Room – the chandelier, the starched linen, the waiters dressed in their very retro uniforms. Even the menu includes what you wished were more universal timeless classics. One was something definitely out of fashion in the UK – an hors d’oeuvres trolley. We couldn’t recall seeing one in the last 40 years – it was a meal with my father (and he died in 1975). We did remember how good they were. And this was an absolute cracker. There must have been at least 20 different salads, meats and seafood to choose from. Another retro things was the sorbet that arrived next – lychee and pineapple, although both flavours were very muted.

We followed that with another classic – chateaubriand – one of the items on the “Gueridon trolley service” section of the menu. It’s an enormous piece of meat, accurately cooked as requested and carved and plated at the table. There’s a bit of showmanship, with brandy being poured over and flamed before carving. And there’s an array of vegetables to go with it – asparagus, courgette, carrot, cauliflower, broccoli and baby sweetcorn. And a very well made potato dauphinoise. And some pan juices to drizzle over and an excellent béarnaise sauce.

This had been a lot of food and only one of us felt they had room for dessert. The menu described it as “caramel apple sphere”. This was disappointing, with no real flavour of caramel and precious little of apple. Nor was it a sphere, unless they meant the blob of ice cream. This could have been good if only there had been a good twang from apple and richness from caramel but this just tasted of a generic sweetness. It all made me later wonder if I’d actually been served the dessert I’d ordered.

Service was generally good but there was a quibble. The Grill Room is one of the places where, if you order a bottle of water, they don’t leave it on the table. Now, that’s OK if the waiters are “on the ball” and top up your glass regularly. That didn’t happen here and we had to keep asking for the bottle. And the second bottle we ordered, while still eating the main course, didn’t arrive until after we’d finished eating dessert.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold