A disruption to daily routine was gladly welcomed last week when I was invited on a very mysterious Secret Getaway to a luxury hotel in conjunction with Taittinger Champagne. Secret Getaway.
If ever you have wondered what one of the most exclusive tasting menus in Joburg is like, let me enlighten you…
We arrived to mingle in the whiskey bar with puritan-like restraint over still or sparkling water...as our palettes needed to be clear for the French Champagne pairing. We had a canape of Springbok to tide us over that set the mood for a spectacular tribute to local produce with international execution.
Andrea Britt and Tania Batista-Hofer, co-founders of Secret Getaway, welcomed us to the event with the strict instruction of phones away, social media on silent, this was about being” in the now”. Human beings instead of human doings, if only for an afternoon. The next couple of hours were about savouring one of the finest culinary journeys and a true step away from media deadlines. They described how, at the heart of Secret Getaway’s mission, is to craft unique destination experiences & limited offers for locals to experience top tourist establishments. Experiences and offers that are available through no one else, because life really is all about who you know. It did sound quite intriguing...
There are very few spots in the city of Gold quite like the Saxon hotel who had recently succeeded in luring international talent Chef Jane Therese Mulry back as their executive chef. After a decade away from the Saxon, Chef Jane-Therese has returned with a creative flair and an exploratory sense of adventure, and boy did she deliver!
Starting in Sarapana the Saxon’s secret rooftop vegetable and herb garden with a masterclass presentation of a dish of Malabar Spinach, Calabash and Aubergine. This picture perfect dish was complimented by the Taittinger Prestige Rose with it’s vibrant, rich red sparkle and full-bodied flavour. Such a visual combination as well as flavour pairing. Having spent a significant amount of time abroad learning from Michelin-starred chefs at restaurants and a resume that includes iconic global hotels, Chef Jane-Therese utilises this international expertise to maximise flavour and texture of locally available and grown produce. Honestly, the ingredients of this dish are so humble, yet combined and given 5 star treatment radically transforms them into a textual experience that matches the beauty of the presentation.
At The Saxon all guests are treated as VIPs and as such we were transported in convoy up the sweeping drive to return to the main Saxon Hotel and ushered into the Dining Library for a private dining experience that few people get to enjoy. A lightly smoked salmon, poached scallop and radish prepared in 3 ways. Yes, radish. Oh my word, who knew what a treasure trove this humble salad veg actually is? Suveed, raw and poached, it is quite miraculous.
The flavours of each element were highlighted and heroed in a different way with a 2009 Taittinger Brut Millésimé. We were given a brief but fascinating introduction into the history of what we were enjoying to drink. Did you know that Taittinger only produces a vintage Champagne when the harvests present exceptional qualities? This is then followed by several years of ageing in the cellars, ensuring a slow maturing of the flavours and the development of length and complexity. Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2009 is a blend of exclusively first press wines, and it truly is a treat that I look forward to enjoying again! This was the first time I had tried any kind of bubbles with an actual dish, let alone one of the world’s best Champagnes. It transformed the way I considered what is a traditionally a celebratory single glass into something much more versatile, robust and that it’s very complexity and elegance highlighted the light and subtle flavours of a refined dish.
Not that I needed more reason to enjoy French Champagne but at least now I enjoy it with style as well as some true understanding.
Our final course was served in the Saxon’s recently refurbished Spa that earning a collection of awards for both the level of therapist’s professionalism and range of treatments. Thus there was a palpable frisson when it was announced the final course, dessert would be served in the spa itself. The final course was a generous array of intricate, delicate and perfectly turned out small desserts paired perfectly with the dry fruity Taittinger Brut Réserve. Each dessert item was testament to the skill of pastry chef Nathan Jacobs.
The celebration of the return of chef was an ideal excuse to showcase the versatility of the Taittinger vintages, beyond a standalone treat, it is an impressive pairing partner to exquisite food. The hotel itself is a local luxury that leaves a memory long after check out, and with facilities such as the restaurant and spa that day guests can enjoy, the selection of indulgences is quite endless.
If you would like to experience a Secret Getaway to experience a version of Chef Jane-Therese’s culinary genius with a unique private dining tasting menu at the Saxon hotel including a stay over in a luxury suite at the Saxon hotel, then sign up to see the selection of culinary experiences currently available.