It’s hard to miss the sophistication of the Winehouse Restaurant at Ten Bompas Hotel in Dunkeld. The interior is made up of modern yet inviting furniture, a fireplace, warm lighting and dark wood floors. Crisp white linen covers the tables, which also feature tea light candles and fresh flowers. Hanging above the fireplace is a modern painting of the late singer Amy Winehouse, the restaurants’ namesake. This contemporary piece by Polish artist Joanna Flatau, features Amy, with a cigarette hanging from her bright red lips. Like the singer, this work is quirky, edgy and moody. Winehouse is stylish without trying too hard, which helps create a rather relaxed atmosphere.
Art at Winehouse is not confined to the walls. It extends into each serving created by Chef Johannes de Bruijn and his team. With a menu that reflects the seasons, cuisine here is French with a strong South African influence. The current winter menu offers much comfort.
Electing to try the wine pairings, my friends and I settled in for the food journey that lay ahead. To get us started we sipped on a chilled glass of Saronsberg Brut. Crisp and fresh, it’s the right bubbly treat to enjoy with appetisers, which are pretty, bite-sized and playful. I really enjoyed the kitchen’s take on a caprese salad – it looks nothing like a salad but packs all the flavours you would expect from the coming together of tomato, mozzarella and basil. The next plate to come from the kitchen was the bread and butter offering. You can expect fresh, well baked breads which are teamed with three varieties of creamy goodness. I never eat anything other than the truffle butter, which is my all-time favourite!
For starters, I opted for the polenta, which is served with nutty oyster mushroom, sweet caramelised onion and a rich dashi broth. Punchy flavours that don’t leave you feeling like you’ve eaten too much. The pairing of Julien Schaat Chardonnay didn’t blow my socks off butwas okay to drink. Other must try starters are: the roast pork served on a bed of congee and topped with pork popcorn – crispy, delicious crackling style nuggets of edible joy! The sole and the quail were also all well received.
For mains I was faced with a tough choice. I must confess, I visit Winehouse often and if pork belly is on the menu, it’s my go to main meal. This time I decided to give another cut of meat a try as it contained truffle (an ingredient you may tell I am obsessed with). Beef short ribs, cooked till tender, served with rich, hearty lentils and black truffle. It’s a perfect dish to help get through a Joburg winter. I really enjoyed the La Bri Affinity Red Blend, which was paired with the meal.
My companion described the Barramundi (a type of sustainable sea bass generally farmed around Australia) as “epic”.
No evening at Winehouse would be complete without desert and this evening was no different. “Bubbles” is a wonderful mix of flavours and textures that include Tonka bean, strawberry, coconut and cream cheese. I went out on a limb and opted for a “cheesy” desert: gorgonzola, macadamia nuts and pear granita. Expecting something like a cheese platter I was pleasantly surprised by an airy, light, cloud like, white mousse that carried a beautiful gentle cheesy flavour and balanced off well against the other condiments.
One expects a range of flavours at any restaurant, but what the Winehouse team do very well is incorporate textures which elevate the taste. There is always a nice surprise, whether it’s a soft mousse or something crispy or gooey.
There is a good selection of wines (including both mainstream and some boutique estates) if you prefer not to follow the pairing which was a hit and miss affair and in some instances the dinner talk veered towards discussing alternative wine preferences.
Service was faultless. Staff were discreet, quick, efficient and friendly. It’s also really pleasant to have some of the dishes served by the kitchen staff who helped make the meal. It’s a nice touch to have them interact with guests, as they are often the unseen heroes behind the edible creations.
Winehouse is consistent: great food, service and a wonderful ambience. The only critique is that sometimes the menu is in fact too consistent with only subtle changes to the menu from season to season – I would like the Chef to be more radical in his menu changes. Nevertheless, I always leave with a smile on my face. It’s no surprise then that Chef de Bruijn and his team, have won the Zomato Users (as voted for by the public) Choice Awards for 2017 for the Joburg region.
While I have yet to try them, Ten Bompas Hotel also offers jazz lunches and picnics’ in the garden.
Bookings are essential.
Address: Address: Ten Bompas Hotel, 10 Bompas Road, Dunkeld West, Johannesburg, 2196
Phone: 011 325 2442