Friday, March 8, 2013

Around the Globe: Qunu

On our first night in Johannesburg, we were picked up at the airport after our direct South African Airways flight by our friends Kevin and Barbara, who are from the States but have lived in Jo’burg for more than four years (Kevin is helping engineer a massive 480 megawatt power plant nearby).  We knew we were in for a treat when we researched the Saxon before our visit and learned that Nelson Mandela (known affectionately by his African name, Madiba) wrote A Long Walk to Freedom while staying at the Saxon, and upon arrival Kevin and Barbara confirmed that it is the best hotel in town. 

Before having dinner, we grabbed a bottle of South African sparkling wine on the terrace overlooking a long infinity pool and a violet and aquamarine sunset.  We caught up on all of their wonderful experiences in Africa and people watched the fashionable jetsetters around the Saxon, while the bubbly got us properly prepared for a hearty, delicious meal from Qunu, one of two outstanding restaurants on site.

Qunu arranged a special treat for us by placing us in an exclusive spot at the very end of the terrace and surrounded on three sides by the infinity pool.  This despite the fact that our reservations were only for two and we added Kevin and Barbara (who were set to dine elsewhere) to the party at the last minute.  This touch of class was emblematic of the unbelievably attentive staff, who remembered everyone’s name after the first introduction.
We started with a fresh crayfish salad for the table.  
Corey went for some African game, the braised springbok, a small member of the antelope family.  Springbok is less gamey than venison, was seasoned to perfection, and was one of our favorite dishes in South Africa. 
I got the tender lamb curry, which was also done just right and reminded us of the Indian and Southeast Asian influences in the South African kitchen. 
We washed it all down with a Kanonkop Pinotage, which was exquisite.  We were not previously very familiar with Pinotage, as it is a South African specialty, and this was one of the best wines hands down I have ever tasted.  
After dinner we split a Don Pedro – an after dinner drink I’ve not yet seen in the States.  A Don Pedro is a rich concoction of ice cream with Frangelico poured over the top and it made a perfect treat to share.  I hope some restaurants in the States start offering it.  Chef David Higgs did an excellent job with our meal and I’d highly recommend dining at Qunu.  Shout out to Sinclair for great service.

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