Anyone in Joburg who takes good food very seriously has probably heard of Signature Restaurant in Morningside.
Since it opened in 2009, Signature has been a popular choice for the city’s elite. It’s way up there with all of Jozi’s other fine dining establishments (think Thomas Maxwell, DW Eleven-13, etcetera etcetera), and its name is synonymous with excellent food, wine, service and presentation.
What almost nobody knows though, is that a second Signature recently opened in the equally snazzy neighbourhood of Brooklyn, Pretoria.
Given the reputation of the Morningside branch, you can imagine the sheer giddiness when Alex and I were invited to come and try out Signature Brooklyn’s menu. Not only was it a chance to experience the creme-de-la-creme of local cuisine (a first for our humble Fritter and Loaf), but it was also a nice excuse to venture beyond the confines of Joburg for a night.
It was a cold night out when we arrived, and the sherry awaiting us was a welcome sight. As a first impression, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the decor. Not that there was anything wrong with it…I just didn’t find anything to be particularly memorable. But I digress.
We knocked back our sherry (note to self: never go for dry sherry again) and were then led to our table where a set menu for a four-course feast awaited. Each course had two options so, wherever possible, Alex and I chose different things to get a taste of both.
Salmon roses or oyster rockefeller with spinach, bacon and hollandaise sauce.
The rockefeller was a tad adventurous for Alex and me, so we both went for the salmon roses. As you can see below, it was plated beautifully and it tasted delicious too. Though, was it any better than the sushi I usually get from Yamada? Probably not. And it was about three times the price. So. You decide.
Crispy calamari salad or cardamon glazed duck breast.
I went with the calamari and Alex went with the duck breast. Both were delicious, but the calamari salad was the definite winner (yessssss!). The flavour and texture combinations were so well thought through – with the crunchy calamari and avocado foam just melting together like heaven in your mouth. If all salads were this good, I’d definitely be eating them a lot more often.
Now, onto the duck. The breast came with a crispy duck leg croquet, a creamy profiterole and apple, radish and carrot salad. The presentation was beautiful and the food was still hot! I don’t very often find restaurants that master both. There was a vast array of flavours on the plate, which all complemented one another superbly.
Duck leg confit or salmon confit.
By now, as you can imagine, we were getting a bit full. I went for the duck leg because Alex had duck in the previous course, and Alex tried out the salmon. I loved my dish, although not quite as much as the calamari salad before it. Few meals have ever, and will ever, exceed that.
The sweet glaze on the duck leg was delicious, and the meat itself was very well cooked. Neither dry nor tough – winning! I especially enjoyed the potato dauphinoise – which was buttery and cheesy on the inside, and crispy and browned on the outside. Mmmmm…
Now here’s the thing about Alex. She’s definitely a person who likes the idea of salmon more than she actually likes eating it (other than in sushi of course). I would never have ordered this one, but she has a tendency to go for these types of things and regret her decision almost immediately.
Neither of us were particularly impressed by the fish, but I suspect it might be just be our personal taste. It was undeniably a well-cooked piece of fish; accompanied by potato, onion and pea ragout and beetroot sauce. The flavours weren’t as striking as the previous courses, but we ate it anyway. Well, she did.
Now we’ve reached the last – and sadly, in my opinion, the least – course of the evening.
Fourth Course – Dessert
Ferrero Rocher tiramisu or Lindt chocolate fondant
I went for the tiramisu, and Alex opted for the fondant. Now, on paper, my dessert had me drooling. I mean – is there any greater culinary perfection than the sweet union of tiramisu and Ferrero Rocher? I didn’t think so, until the dish actually arrived. Unlike the previous courses where different flavours had worked together so well, this dessert just had waaaaay too much going on. It still looked pretty though.
Alex had a bit more luck with her choice. The fondant was a perfect combination of crisp and goo – and the accompanying scoops of mascarpone and ice cream were super good. I’d order this one again for sure.
So, as you’ve probably gathered, the presentation of the food is what made this evening really stand out for us. Signature doesn’t just make food. They create art. Each flavour was art, and the way they were so thoughtfully plated was even more genius.
This would probably also be a good time to mention Mike, Signature’s official sommelier. That’s basically a professional wine guru, in case you don’t know. (I didn’t.) There are fewer than a hundred sommeliers in South Africa, so getting to meet one is a rare treat indeed. I’ve never been very familiar with the whole wine-food pairing thing, but Mike’s passion for his craft was contagious.
All four courses were paired with an exquisite wine, and Mike took us through his reasons for choosing each one. I don’t think I’ve had better champagne, and I could have happily knocked back a few bottles of the straw wine accompanying dessert. (The bottles are small, before you judge)
Here’s the thing. The Signature experience is something quite special and I would definitely suggest you try it at least once. If you like humungous portions and great value for money though, you probably won’t go back. Just being honest here. Signature is no Spur 2-for-1 Special kind of place, and it’s best you know that from the start.
On the other hand, if you can appreciate fine food and are looking for a real ‘dining experience’, you know where you’ll be going for your next super important business lunch or anniversary.
Thank me later.