Mosaic at The Orient

Mosaic at The Orient hotel is currently the number five restaurant in the country. Its setting is in a lush conservancy. As you travel down the winding road and glimpse your first look of the Moorish architecture you quickly forget that you are in fact in Pretoria.

There is prettiness around every corner of the property.

I loved the lushness of the trees everywhere coupled with the terracotta buildings which transports you to Morocco for the day.

The huge wooden doors offer you a glimpse of inside.

A bonsai tree and pond greets you before you enter inside.

The entrance hall is certainly very impressive.

A very French and cute bicycle that looks suited for a bread run.

The Sommelier’s selection of aperitifs was available to those who wanted a drink while they waited.

Beautiful drinks table set up and ready for serving.

An intricately built wooden house which forms part of the decor.

The area which we waited before being seated was so richly decorated.

Our first amuse bouche was a rice paper roll filled with vegetables, nuts and truffle mousse. We also had an avocado and cheese mousse. They were both delicious.

The spoon used to serve the amuse bouche was beyond pretty.

We had an adorable lunch booth for the next few hours of dining. Chef Chantel Dartnall came out to meet us and take us through the menu. The menu changes seasonally, we had the Celebrations of Spring menu. Mosaic offers two menus which are very reasonably priced. The market degustation has eight courses with the food costing R850, R425 for enthusiast wine pairing and R550 for connoisseur wine pairing. The grande degustation has eleven courses with the food costing R1250, R550 for enthusiast wine pairing and R685 for connoisseur wine pairing. We opted for the market degustation with non-alcoholic pairing for R155. I didn’t like the pairing as all the drinks had the same artifical taste to them. I did love that the natural spring water was complimentary.

The freshly baked bread selection included Aggie’s seed loaf, green olive rye bread, basil pesto & sundried tomato rolls, crusty polenta & calendula rolls and a cranberry & pear cheese bread.

There were a range of butters to try including Mooiriver salted farm butter, honey & cinnamon, anchovy & caper and lastly melon. I would recommend trying the salted butter with a flavoured bread and a flavoured butter with a plain bread as the butter flavour can be quite overwhelming. The honey & cinnamon and melon butters were quite sweet. I loved trying them out but I found them too sweet for the bread.

The set up for a romantic table for two. Doesn’t it look so quaint and intimate?

Cracker breads served with a cucumber juice. The cracker bread was pretty bland but i liked the juice.

This pretty platter contained macarons, madeleines, parmesan cheese, butter and an aubergine cone. The macarons and the madeleines are sweet so its a little like having your dessert first.

The oh so daunting wine list. I think this book is mainly for show as there is no way you would open this and pick out a wine. That is why there is a very clued up sommelier to suggest a wine should you not opt for the wine pairing.

I decided to be adventurous and try out the frogs in the pond amuse bouche with tempura frog legs, wild mushrooms and nettle jelly. They don’t taste like much but the thought of it being a frog and the oily batter put me off a bit. I am glad I tried it so I won’t ever have the urge to try it in say Paris. 

We received a detailed menu containing the name of each course, the inspiration behind it as well as the information on both wine pairings and non-alcoholic pairing.

Celebrations of spring is an ode to the European Chef Michael Bras. It’s a vegetable dish combining marinated and fresh young vegetables of the season. I loved how the dish certainly captured spring with its presentation. It tasted like a salad I make at home although mine isn’t so beautifully presented.

The Genesis course is inspired by life as we know it and made with a delicate outer layer of lemongrass and Japanese miso set around a fragrant sphere of rainbow trout surrounded by a burst of pomelo. I loved the combination of trout and pomelo presented beautifully with an added touch of dry ice for drama.

Mousse de Mer with rooibos, langoustines and risotto draws its inspiration from a walk on the beach. The langoustine shell is just for presentation as the meat is in the rooibos risotto below it. The tomato beach sand was delicious in combination with the langoustine risotto. I’m not sure what the brown accompaniment on the plate was but I didn’t like it.

The garden pea palate cleanser with matcha, sweet pea and lime draws inspiration by the abundance of fresh sugar snap peas grown in Mosaic’s garden. This was refreshing on the palate but super frozen and difficult to eat.

There are three main courses to choose from: quail, fish and beef. The birds of a feather course with quail, goose and capon draws its inspiration from a classic Coq au Vin. Free range Carmey King Quails are glazed with raw honey and an aged Italian balsamic. This is served with saffron scented tortellini filled with mushrooms. I really did not enjoy this main course except for the pasta and the foam which were delicious. The quail did not have much flavour and was extremely chewy. We could only manage to eat a little of each piece of meat. We were brought three other mini portions of quail in Le Creuset pots with the idea being that people can share mains. This was a little strange to me seeing that we ordered two quail and one fish I would have expected two portions of fish and one quail not all three being quail.

The bouillabaisse course with saffron, seasonal vegetables and kabeljou is inspired from visiting the Cote-d-or region of France where tasting this dish is a must. I found this dish highly inedible due to the flavours of the fish soup. Overall the mains were extremely disappointing and the reason I left a little hungry after our visit.

I love this cute teacup with TWG Sweet France ice tea which was paired with the bouillabaisse.

For dessert there was a choice between the cheese selection and chocolate cherry. You can choose five cheeses of the cheese trolley to be served with bread, figs, preserved orange and onion marmalade. There is a range of local and European cheese to choose from the highlights of which are the Epoisses de Bourgogne, (Napoleon’s favorite cheese), Belnori Phantom Forest and Dolcelatte Gorgonzola. The cheese course can be added to the market degustation at R185 supplement (a little expensive considering the tiny size of the cheese served-rather just skip the other dessert option).

Chocolate cherry course with Ivoire Vairhona chocolate and a composition of cherries. This dish is inspired by a pairing of velvety ivoire chocolate and a sweet port with an aftertaste of cherries discovered on a trip to Portugal. This dessert was yummy but mainly tasted of cherries as there was very little white chocolate on the plate. Timing was very off serving this course, the boys were almost done with their cheeses and this was served with ice-cream that had already begun to melt.

How cute is this washing line of sweets with Turkish delight, nougat and fudge. 

Macarons and Turkish delight petit fours.

Lollipops in the shape of flowers presented as flowers in a vase.

A picture of my fellow lunch companions. 

A present of sourdough bread to take home with us.

After lunch we went to check out one of wine cellars which boasts a an extensive collection of wine. 

I wish I had more time to spend in this beautifully decorated space. There was even a piano. 

In house guests can enjoy a plush and intimate cinema experience.

This personalized Rolls Royce is brought out for special occasions like weddings.

There is art to behold everywhere including beautiful sculptures.

Service was not up to scratch. The amuse bouche course and bread were served practically all at once in an ambush that didn’t afford us the opportunity of enough time to appreciate and enjoy what we were eating. The explanations of these courses which are not on the menu was often rushed. There was then a long wait till the first courses. In general the timing between courses didn’t feel evenly spread out. The pairing of one meal was not served until we had already started with our food and had to request it. We accidentally spilled the entire non-alcoholic pairing and was not offered another one. The sommelier forgot he had already served a wine pairing and attempt to do it again. There was also the wait for dessert and the pairings which were served way before the food arrived. Overall the service was very disorganized and not what I would expect from a top five restaurant.

The highlights include the beautiful setting, great dining area, delicious amuse bouche, detailed explanation of the menu, Chef Chantell coming out to meet us, a non-alcoholic pairing as well as a local and international wine pairing, wide selection of bread and butter, complimentary spring water, two different tasting menus, plenty of petit fours and bread to take home.

The low lights were the service and poor execution of timing, main courses and taste of the non-alcoholic pairing.

I had high expectations of Mosaic and left feeling a bit underwhelmed with the food. I enjoyed everything I ate apart from the mains but nothing wowed or stood out. The setting was beautiful and there were plenty of added extras but I expected something a little more extraordinary from the food and presentation.

Overall I would recommend you visit as its one of the few fine dining restaurants we have in Gauteng and it offers a little escape from day to day life. Its also a great place to splurge on for a special occassion. I would visit again when its a menu I like. Lunch is perfect for a day visit but I would recommend staying over for dinner as it would finish quite late and the roads are not great.

Click: https://www.restaurantmosaic.com/
Ring: (012) 371-2902
Hop: The Orient Boutique Hotel, Crocodile River Valley, Elandsfontein

Morocco & Mosaic,
CG

Topo Gigo

Topo Gigo is an Italian restaurant located in Greenside. The inspiration behind the name is no doubt based on the main character from a popular Italian puppet tv show with the same name. I definitely think the little mouse drawn below represents him. 

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The decor is understated with all the TVs bringing to mind that of a sports bar. We visited on a Saturday for lunch and it was very quiet. I expect that it gets busy much later on. 

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It seems to me that the real reason everyone visits are the half price jugs which are on special every day of the week just at different times. They might not taste like much but it’s probably the cheapest way to get drunk.

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Pizzas are a speciality here with close to 40 options for you to choose from and majority of them priced at under R100. The pizza we ordered resembled junk pizza with plenty of toppings and a very thick gooey cheese.

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I tried the calamari and chips. The chips were really delicious and seasoned well. Sadly the calamari was very average and didn’t taste fresh. 

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I spotted these stickers up on a wall and thought they were quite funny. 

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Topo Gigo can be best described as a place you go for drinks where food is just an after thought.

Click: http://topo-gigio.co.za
Ring: (011) 646-9573
Hop: 12 Gleneagles Road, Greenside

Topo & Gigo,
CG

Bellagio

Bellagio is a Mediterranean restaurant located in Illovo. The restaurant itself is classic and upmarket with seafood being their speciality.

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I am not too fond of the outside area which is very open and looks out onto the parking lot. Check out the Bellagio number plate sign in the parking bay.

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This is the smaller inside section. I found it strange that all the specials were displayed on the other side of the restaurant.

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Bellagio is a perfect spot for date night. I love the fresh flowers on the table.

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The restaurant is small and intimate with the wine on display and the specials written on a blackboard.

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A very clean yet chic table set up. 

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I love the huge complimentary bread basket that is served up.

Deep fried calamari served with home made tartare sauce for R175. We weren’t offered the option between tartare sauce and basil mayonnaise. The calamari was delicious and I couldn’t finish it.

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My mother loved the grilled kingklip served with lemon butter, rocket mash and veggies.

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I love this beautiful side dish of vegetables that isn’t overcooked spinach or butternut. 

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The size of the flame grilled queen prawns was disappointingly more like prince prawns. The seasoning also had a weird taste to it.

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Chargrilled calamari with ginger, chilli and lime for R175. I love the unique flavour combinations in this dish. 

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Prawn, coriander, ginger and chill stirfry for R175. This had the same flavour as the calamari. We really enjoyed this dish the first we ordered it. The second time it had more lemongrass shoots than anything else making it unpleasant to eat.

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Mixed seafood grill with prawns, kingklip, calamari and mussels served with lemon garlic and peri peri sauce. I feel that seafood platters are always disappointing. It’s generally a lot of different food with nothing done particularly well. This was no different. The calamari was rubbery & bland, the fish overdone and prawns had a strange taste yet again. It was only the mussels that had a nice flavour although quite dry. 

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Orange soufflΓ© served with grand mariner cream was cooked perfectly with a very subtle orange flavour. The cream ruined the dish as it was very alcoholic. I personally prefer my desserts to be way more sweeter than this.

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Overall Bellagio offers a nice dining experience which is a little on the pricey side.

Ring: (011) 268 0869
Hop: Unit 1, Oxford Manor, 196 Oxford Road, Illovo

Bellagio & Illovo
CG

Cafe del Sol Tre

Cafe del Sol Tre is the third in the Cafe del Sol franchise. The inspiration behind the name tre is celebrating the power of three present in the three members of the family, the third restaurant and triangular shapes in art deco.

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The restaurant is decorated beautifully in 1920s art deco style which is quite unique to the Johannesburg scene. Even the waiters are dressed up to transform you back to an era in New York. The decor has a very classy look and feel.

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Outside is perfect for Parkhurst people watching. I would skip sitting here in the Winter though.

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It’s also really pretty in the Summer time.

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Food isn’t served between 3-6pm but you can order afternoon nibbles. I love the unique 1920s inspired names given to each of the dishes on the menu.

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Boogie Woogie. Baked heirloom tomato and ricotta puff pastry tart topped with fresh mozzarella, cheese and a sweet basil dressing for R105.

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High Hat. Tempura eggplant melanzane stack of tomato salsa, fior de latte mozzarella, pesto, Parmesan shavings, fried basil and herb shoots for R89.

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Black Lightning. Homemade pappardelle pasta, flambeed whisky and porcini mushroom cream served with a crisp textured forest floor, earthy mushroom powder and a secret truffle scent for R140. A must have delicious signature dish with excellent flavours. 

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The second time we ordered it the pasta didn’t have enough sauce and was very yellow.

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Shakin the Blues Away. Stuffed calamari with a freshly prepared stuffing of red pepper, capers, olives and fresh ricotta cheese with a delicate angel hair pasta, stir fried seasonal vegetables and a beurre blanc cream sauce for R160 is a signature dish. It was disappointing to see the calamari burnt and the stuffing flavours were just not there.

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My favourite pasta I have eaten here was a special of penne in a tomato based sauce with olives and crumbed aubergine for R140. 

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The Big Parade. Rocket tagliatelle with signature limoncello cream sauce and five deshelled queen prawns for R180. The presentation on this dish could do with a bit more finesse. There wasn’t enough sauce and the dish was very bland. It pales in comparison to the limoncello pasta dish at the original Cafe del Sol.

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Love for Sale. Prawn, chilli and ouzo risotto with sweet deshelled prawns in ouzo enhanced risotto, fennel, wild rocket, garlic and chilli for R175. The dish had way too much salt and the ouzo flavour overpowered everything. It basically tasted like very expensive salty rice.

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Shroom Rhapsody. Porcini mushroom risotto with earthy mushrooms served with young peas and truffle scented oil for R145. This risotto on the other hand could have done with salt. Also equally as bland with hardly any flavour. Probably the worst part was suffering with food poisoning for a week afterwards. This dish has scarred me from ever attempting to eat another risotto again.

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Ain’t Misbehavin. A trio of icecream for R60 which had a pepper flavour that tasted like nothing, basil which was so unusual to eat as it tasted like basil pesto and strawberry which was by far the favourite with a natural yoghurt taste. 

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Service was prompt and friendly without being intrusive. The menu is small and doesn’t change seasonally. Prices are steep so it definitely isn’t a cheap meal out. 

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I found most of the food bland and inconsistent to justify those prices. While it might be prettier and fancier than the Olivedale branch the food doesn’t match.

Click: http://www.cafedelsol.co.za/
Ring: (011) 568 – 1063
Hop: Parkhurst Square, Corner 4th Avenue and 13th Street, Parkhurst

1920s & Cafe,
CG

Gemelli Restaurant Review

Gemelli has been the top rated restaurant in Johannesburg for the past year which anyone who has been lucky enough to get in has raved about. Firstly you need to know that you will need to reserve a table at least six weeks in advance for dinner.

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Gemelli and I got off to a disastrous first impression. We had a horrible table in the cold closed off outside section where it was extremely noisy. The combination of terrible acoustics as well as obnoxiously loud customers really ruined our dining experience. I was snidely told that it was the best table. It would have been preferable to be informed of the seating arrangements at the booking stage. While it might be nice in Summer, take my word for it and don’t sit here in the colder months.

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On our first visit we had the tempura prawn starter, lamb ragu pasta, Alessandro pasta & panna cotta for dessert. The starter was both overcooked and flavourless, the mains were okay & dessert wasn’t set properly. Needless to say I wasnt impressed with the food, the hype or the very noisy ambience. We left with a hefty bill and an unsatisfied, empty feeling from out food. My first experience was not worth the calories, price or wait. Most disappointing of all was the rude and snooty response of the owner to my 3.5/5 review on Zomato.

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Our second visit was really enjoyable. I went with a group of friends, we sat inside and it wasn’t as noisy. Gemelli at night is more of a social than date outing. The best way to enjoy it, is not to buy into the hype like I did. The food is good but not life changing amazing as the reviews led me to expect.

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The decor has a modern and industrial look. You can find plenty of pastas and risottos on the menu at this Italian restaurant.

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We shared the gamberetti starter with tempura prawn tails, coconut cream, roasted garlic, chilli, lime and sesame for R99. The batter was thick, seperating from the prawn and tasted of oil. The flavourless sauce didn’t complement the expensive prawns which were overcooked and chewy.

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The lamb ragu pasta is made with a 6hr braised lamb, olives, goats chevin, aubergine, tomato, beurre blanc and a butternut mousse for R140. The meat was very tender, but I couldn’t taste the sweetness of the butternut coming through. The overall taste was slightly sour from the tomatoes and bitterness from the olives.

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Penne Alessandro with penne rigate, smoked chicken, prawn tails, roasted garlic, prosecco and whole grain mustard cream for R125 is the owners name sake pasta. A very rich dish with overcooked prawns yet again. I found the smokiness of the chicken, sourness of the Prosecco and mustard flavour were all unbalanced in the dish. It was great to see the excellent quality of the chicken and prawns used in this dish.

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It looked slightly different the second time when my friend ordered it. An interesting tidbit: this dish was inspired by a meal made from 2 minute noodles, mustard and cream that Alessandro made when he was a kid.

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Linguine di Mare for R170 with prawn tails, Saldanha Bay mussels, clams, calamari, tomato base, herb cream and rosa tomato. All seafood pastas taste the same to me, just a little too fishy.

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Risotto ai Funghi with porcini, local mushrooms, porcini stock, parmesan, truffle oil, porcini powder for R140 is packed with delicious flavour.

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Calamari e Chimichurri with penne rigate, calamari, pickled pepper, sofrito, rosa tomato, chimichurri pesto and basil oil for R140. I wasn’t expecting a pesto based sauce from the explanation given by the waiter. It could have done with a little more sauce and calamari.

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Risotto di Zucca with leek, pumpkin mousse, candied walnut, pumkin seeds, ricotta and parmesan for R135 was delicious. The risottos here really are a winner.

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Pina Colada panna cotta with coconut cream, vanilla bean, macerated pineapple, lime jelly and coconut cookie for R59 had way too much going on. The panna cotta was more like a mousse because it wasn’t set. The different textures and flavours didn’t work well together.

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Almond Nougat baked cheesecake with 1701 almond nougat, cranberry, vanilla meringue, marzipan gelato for R72. This is an absolutely delicious and decadent dessert. A must order item at Gemelli.

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Lemon and vanilla bean panna cotta with vanilla meringue crumble, red berry jelly and tarty limoncello cocktail for R85. It was my fault for not liking this as I am not a fan of the overpowering limoncello flavour.

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Some of the items on the menu changes seasonally. I would recommend skipping starters, trying the risotto for mains and the baked cheesecake for dessert. Service is good except for the lack of knowledge of the menu. Do go with a group of friends and expect to hand over plenty of hard earned cash. Once I had adjusted my expectations I really do love Gemelli and think it worth a visit.

Click: http://gemellirestaurant.co.za/
Ring: (010) 591-4333
Hop: Posthouse Link Centre, Cnr Main & Posthouse Street, Bryanston

Gemelli & Risotto,
CG

Perron Restaurant Review

Perron is a Mexican restaurant with branches located in Illovo and Bryanston. While we have plenty of great Italian restaurants, the Mexican food scene is seriously lacking. It is great to see we are getting more restaurants because who doesn’t love Mexican food? It is flavoursome and goes down well with a margarita.

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There are ten different Mexican restaurants spread around Johannesburg but they all very average. When Perron opened two years ago I thought they would be Johannesburg’s version of El Burro.

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The pastel colours and menu layout is cute and quirky. On the menu you can find burritos, small plates, salads and more substantial meals. From jalepeno poppers to tacos, burritos, empanadas, quesadilla and chilli, there really is every type of Mexican food you could possibly want.

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I love the very fun decor which makes it a popular place to celebrate a birthday.

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Don’t you just love these lampshades and the bar area?

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Fish taco with lightly battered hake served on two soft tacos with a crunchy mexican slaw, spicy crema, guacamole and a squeeze of lime for R58.

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This was a very dry and bland dish.

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Spicy chicken quesadilla with chipotle chicken in a spicy marinade, toasted in a tortilla with loads of cheddar cheese for R54. There was no spicyness or depth of flavour in the simple tomato chicken filling.

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Prawns in adobe for R60 has shelled Mozambiqan prawns marinated in ancho chilli and orange juice. This was probably the dish we liked the least. The prawns were tiny and the sauce had a burnt taste which I didn’t enjoy .

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Mushroom quesadilla with black mushrooms fried in chilli and onions, toasted in a tortilla served with loads of cheese for R54. This only tasted of cheese and the flavours resembled something you would make at home.

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Perron is a pretty restaurant but all of their food was very average. I can sadly only get my Mexican fix on a yearly trip to Cape Town’s El Burro.

Click: http://www.perron.co.za/
Ring: 011 8807296
Hop: Illovo Junction, Corner Oxford Road and Corlett Drive, Illovo

Tequila & Quesadilla,
CG

Pigalle Restaurant Review

Pigalle is a Portuguese restaurant with several branches in Johannesburg as well as Cape Town. I visited The Melrose Arch restaurant for lunch.

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The decor is sophisticated and elegant but I thought it looked outdated during the day. 

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The ambience and decor would be much better at night. 

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We had complimentary warm rolls and a butternut soup which was delicious.

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I wouldn’t dream of ordering anything other than seafood here because that is what they are known for. We both had the Pigalle platter for R395 with four queen prawns and five langoustines served with two sides for R395. We knew that we wanted langoustines and this was the best deal from all the options. The platter was served with lemon butter, garlic and peri peri sauce. I was bit surprised that the seafood is basted in a sauce as I thought that it would be just grilled, I still liked it though. The langoustines wasn’t sweet as I expected and one half portion of mine tasted a bit strange. I probably wouldn’t be inclined to order langoustines here again. The food was more than enough and we were both sufficiently stuffed. Our sides of chips and veggies were delicious and also quite a huge portion.

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Service was great although I did find the constant clearing of side plates a tad too much and a distraction. I would say the mains here aren’t that expensive as most average around R200. A meal for two will still cost you at least R600 once you factor in drinks and tip.

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For me this is a restaurant you should visit for great quality seafood. It’s not a place I would often eat at because of the price and the indulgence of the food. I will definitely be back though when I’m craving prawns.

Click: http://pigallerestaurants.co.za
Ring: 087 550 4865
Hop: High Level Street, Melrose Arch

Portuguese & Seafood,
CG