The Seven Wonders of the World. The Culinary World.

There were seven tastes that stood out, seven flavours of Africa that took me right back to the banks of the Zambezi River and the shores of the Cape’s seas, to safaris in the South African wilderness and dinners surrounded by the silhouette of the Cederberg. Distinct, yet magically complemented by the other ingredients in the seven dishes.

This is what the chefs of Relais & Châteaux do. What any good chef does. They take you on a journey. And they make you feel ok with the fact that you’re eating a day’s worth of food in one sitting.

Last week, the chefs of Relais & Châteaux Africa came together to create a multi-hands dinner for a few special guests at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg.

Together under one roof, for the first time, were Peter Tempelhoff – Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort, Anna Ridgewell – Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Virgil Kahn – Indochine, Delaire Graff Estate, Willie Malherbe – AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Sungani Phiri – Royal Chundu in Zambia, Alex Van As – Camp Jabulani, and Charles Hayward – Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

Each chef created a dish for the evening. On serving, the tale behind the dish was revealed… its connection to the land, or terroir, its significance to the chef, and its knitting together of experiences and influences, far and wide.

I’ll remember the incredible company I found myself sharing the night with for some time to come, but what has my attention right now are those seven tastes of Africa that so beautifully told the stories of the continent:

  1. Biltong
  2. Wild lemongrass
  3. Atlantic tuna
  4. Morogo
  5. Springbok
  6. Amarula
  7. Rooibos

Discover how these flavours fit in to the menu as a whole below, starting with the evening’s canapés and ending with the final dessert.

East Meets South – Canapés from Delaire Graff Estate

You could call this Asian food through the eyes of a Cape Malay. Indochine Head Chef, Virgil Kahn favours the Cape Malay influences and ingredients in his cooking – it is in his blood, being from the Cape himself. In the three appetisers he prepared, he combined this touch of South Africa with a Thai influence and a hint to Japan (the robust Asian flavours being typical of Indochine), and all of this prepared with French precision…. And of course, a South African favourite, biltong.

  • Tart with smoked eggplant, green curry, green pepper
  • Cookies and cream-shrimp, red curry prawn, biltong
  • Choux craquelin-cauliflower and miso, bonito

Paired with Delaire Graff Sunrise MCC

From the Zambezi

From the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia, Royal Chundu’s Head Chef Sungani Phiri created a sweetcorn brioche, with lemon grass butter and olive oil powder, as captured below by our guest @LaurasWorldza.

The dish combined lemongrass forested from around the lodge at Royal Chundu where it grows naturally and corn from the banks of the Zambezi, a staple in the local diet. This was served with an egg-based brioche wrapped in the traditional Zambian cloth known as the chitenge, creating a true cultural culinary experience. 

Memories of Japan from Peter Tempelhoff, Executive Chef at The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse, combined influences from the East and ingredients from the South: Atlantic tuna tataki, home-fermented kimchi, Elgin apple, beet kombucha radish, sesame dressing

Paired with Delaire Graff Coastal Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2017

For Peter, this dish goes as far back as 2009, at the Relais & Châteaux Rendez-vous in Japan, when he spent time walking through the local markets with well-known chef Hiroshi of Kobe Kitano Hotel. Peter was so taken aback by the unusual tools used in their cooking that Hiroshi took him to Matsumoto where they came across a knife Hiroshi noted as particularly special, because of the unique colour bone, among other aspects. Peter now uses the knife every time he cooks with tuna, as he did in the preparation of this meal and each time he does so, he is reminded of this special time in Japan.

The tuna for the evening was caught off the shores of Cape Town. This dish also featured apples from a local farmer in Elgin in the Cape and kimchi – a favourite of Peter’s as he believes fermented foods add an important flavour to cooking. In this way the dish unites Japan and the Cape and Peter’s experiences in both locales, making it a true traveller’s dish.

Home, sweet home… a taste of South African safari life from Camp Jabulani Head Chef, Alex Van As: Springbok shank ravioli with spicy Asian broth, brunoise vegetables, panko crusted shimiji mushrooms, Parmesan foam, Thai lemon-dressed morogo and micro coriander.

Paired with Delaire Graff Shiraz 2017

Alex is passionate about pasta and wanted to introduce to this Italian element a few South African flavours – such as springbok (also the name of his much cherished South African rugby team) and morogo (spinach, being a symbol of strength) – two ingredients that evoke a sense of home for him and that in turn help to connect the diner and the chef in a more intimate way.

The Art of Sharing (AtholPlace Hotel & Villa)

Lamb Rogan Josh – Crème fraiche pastry, rainbow carrots, spiced yoghurt, and curry leaf jus.

Paired with Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2015

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa Chef, Willie Malherbe is passionate about curries – because of the numerous rich flavours you can get from one curry dish. Also important to him is family and family meals, something that he grew up with and that he wanted to recreate in a new way. His family meals always included a single large pie for the family to share, and so here he created smaller pieces of the same pie for each of us to enjoy – separately and together. Inside his love for curries shows, with the Indian flavours shining through.

An African Sunset

Londolozi’s Executive Chef Anna Ridgewell served a taste of the winter African sunset after a drought – an Amarula and white chocolate cremeux, inspired by safari life at Londolozi.

Londolozi lies in the Lowveld, a macadamia growing area. Inspired by this nut and the terroir, Executive Chef Anna Ridgewell put together a dessert that combines macadamia with another South African favourite – Amarula, to evoke what she calls a winter African sunset after the drought.

It’s simple. It’s the Cederberg

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat’s Executive Chef, Charles Hayward rounded off the evening with a taste of the Cederberg… a rooibos panna cotta, spiced cake, caramelised banana, toasted coconut, paired with Delaire Graff Sunburst Noble Late Harvest 2015.

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat  is set in the rooibos-rich region of the Cederberg Mountains in South Africa and so Charles really had no choice but to celebrate this one, simple ingredient that is so much a part of the South African national identity. He combined rooibos in a panna cotta and added the flavours of the Cape Malay spices to a delicate cake to create a memorable end to a special dinner.

All together in one place… our chefs from Camp Jabulani, Delaire Graff Estate’s Indochine, The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse, Royal Chundu, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, AtholPlace Hotel & Villa and Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat…

What an extraordinary night! Thank you to our guests for sharing in our celebration of cuisine and hospitality, to our chefs from around Africa, to AtholPlace Hotel & Villa for hosting us and to Delaire Graff Estate for the beautiful wines.

A Tale of Two Cities | Cape Town & Johannesburg

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

There is something sublime about being anonymous in a foreign city, about being a stranger to the streets, smells and sounds at each turn. But I have also seen a look of something a little less like awe, and a little more like terror, in the eyes of out-of-towners. When they find themselves on an unfamiliar street corner as the sun begins to set, for instance, and as rain starts to fall and their maps make less and less sense. I have looked upon my own crumpled map and uncharged cellphone with a similar gaze.

Fear and uncertainty can do wonderful things to us, though. Perhaps it is even them to credit for the love-struck look of city-travellers dizzily gazing skyward at all the sights (when the light of day still shines over them and rain has yet to taunt). A little nervousness fizzles the mind and lets us see more, take in more and feel more. (A lot of it though… well, it should make for a good tale.)

“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open.” ― Charles Baudelaire

For the health of the nervous among us, I’ve deleted the last line of this quote. And even though I know they might quickly peruse the internet’s all-knowing matrix for it, why not throw caution to the wind? Why not surrender to that feeling of uncertainty and surprise, that feeling that strikes like young love?

Cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg never lose the element of surprise. The seasons change their appearance and habits, with summer in Jozi boasting scenes of fierce lightning while down south in Cape Town the sun bakes the city into a sweet souffle; winter in Joburg is the sunniest time of the year while Cape Town awaits the soft touch of snow fall on its mountain peaks.

New generations add their own changes to the character of their cities. They alter the faces you meet, the fashion on the street, the tastes and trends in bar and restaurant. Even return travellers find themselves seeing it all as though for the first time.

The beauty of cities also lies in their inability to hide the truth. Stroll the alleyways and drive the highways of the Mother City and the City of Gold and you find not merely the finery, the dazzle and the cool, but also the commonplace, the gritty and not so pretty.

But as Nelson Algren wrote of Chicago…

“Once you’ve come to be part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.”

It is in seeing the whole picture, that you fall in love with the real thing, that the tales of the cities and the cities themselves become part of you, part of your own tale.

“By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by travelling; namely, the strange.” ― Jane Jacobs

And all you need do is step outside… of your comfort zone and your hotel, such as Johannesburg’s AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, and Cape Town’s Ellerman House and The Cellars-Hohenort. Here are a few of the sights that await.

You never know where you might come across art in the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg. Here we found some beautiful local art canvassed on a building across from Agog Rooftop Bar in Maboneng. #Johannesburg #LocalArt


Meet the friendly locals when exploring Maboneng and Newton in Johannesburg. Explore SA’s World of Beer or sip on locally brewed coffee while taking in the sights. This all while being shown around by a true local, who has grown up in these vibrant neighborhoods. #Johannesburg #Sightseeing #CityLife #JoburgCulture

The beautiful stained glass at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto. Just another good reason to visit Joburg and explore this diverse and cultural city. #Johannesburg #Soweto #Culture

Get to know Johannesburg. This bustling city is full of exciting activities and has a rich history. A guided city tour is a must when staying at AtholPlace. #AtholPlace #Johannesburg

Experience Museum Night in Cape Town, where you can explore museums in the city centre in a new light, after dark. Free admission.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir.

The views from Wally’s Cave on Lion’s Head are worth waking up early for – what a wonderful start to a day in Cape Town!

On our way back from an inspiring visit to Robben Island.
#humanrightsday #inspirational #robbenislandmuseum

Explore the gardens of #TheCellarsHohenort and discover the second oldest camphor trees in South Africa.

Cape Town Can Wait

I adore Cape Town. But this is less about the destination – as it is with life. This is about a film and what it has to teach us about how we travel. Last night, I sat in the darkness of one of the city’s cinemas, lost in a world weaved by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford and mother of Sofia, watching Paris Can Wait. It is, as this film review beautifully describes, “a diverting drama about the bounties of wonder, beauty, and the art of being present to the delights of the senses.”

American Anne (Diane Lane) goes on a winding journey with Frenchman Jacques (Arnaud Viard), driving from the South of France to Paris. While she is eager to get to the French capital, his philosophy of travel is to go slow and to take the backroads. It involves lake-side picnics, wine after wine, chocolate, roses, and witnessing the marvels that dot the path.

Along the way, Anne struggles with letting go, with going with the flow, but you see her changing, you see the Frenchman’s philosophy to travel winning her over. She captures every detail of the journey through her camera, which might have been where I too was won over, seeing in her so much of myself – a mix of resistance and surrender, and an insatiable hunger for the richness of life on the move.

The film is a celebration, ultimately, of the road trip, of la Route du Bonheur. On our latest trip out of and back to Cape Town, we meandered along our own route, through the Winelands, with our own lovingly prepared meals and fine wines at the Delaire Graff Estate, and into the Cederberg Mountains, for a night under the stars at Bushmans Kloof.

We had the just as charming Annie-Claude Bergonzoli at the wheel, instead of Jacques, and a BMW instead of a vintage sports car, but we experienced the same wonder and beauty of letting go and being present, and of stopping to answer the call of the spontaneous along the way.

Once at our destination, the beauty didn’t, however, end. A new journey simply began. Because if ever there was a city that you could spend days roaming around it’s Cape Town.

Read more about our trip in our Route du Bonheur Diaries: Ellerman House; Delaire Graff Estate; Bushmans Kloof, and The Cellars-Hohenort.