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Restaurant Review

It's official: the world's Best Female Chef is South African

Mosaic's culinary alchemist Chantel Dartnall outranks the likes of Heston Blumenthal on the Best Chef Awards Top 100 list for 2017

05 November 2017 - 00:00 By Janine Walker
Chantel Dartnall has been named the world's Best Female Chef at the Best Chef Awards 2017.
Chantel Dartnall has been named the world's Best Female Chef at the Best Chef Awards 2017.
Image: Supplied

Mosaic at the Orient is unabashedly seductive restaurant - an opulent and whimsical fantasy where Morocco meets Art Nouveau in a feast for the senses. And it's the place where culinary alchemist Chantel Dartnall weaves her magic.

Dartnall has just been named the world's Best Female Chef at The Best Chef Awards 2017, which took place in Warsaw. She was also placed at number 32 in the Best Chef Awards Top 100 list for 2017, ahead of luminaries such as Spain's Elena Arzak at 33, France's Sebastien Bras at 35 and celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal at 37.

Dartnall was the only South African in the top 100 in the awards, which are by invitation and voted for by chefs, the restaurant industry, food writers and culinary experts as well as 1.5 million followers on the competition's digital platform.

"I didn't have a clue that I would win," says Dartnall. "It was just a privilege to have been nominated with people that I have looked up to and admired from afar. I attended the ceremony because I would get to meet some of these giants."

Dartnall - who has twice been South African Chef of the Year - says the win is intimidating: "Of course, there is pressure. There's been a lot of international attention since I have been put in the same category as these major Michelin-starred chefs. But those who have followed Mosaic since we opened 11 years ago know that I have
never stood still when it comes to creating dishes so it will continue to be an evolution for us.

"Once people arrive at The Orient they are exposed to something quite extraordinary. It is designed to stimulate all of a person's senses ... This is the stage and I put on the show."

And what a display she and her team put on. Her food is feminine and sensual. Her new spring/summer degustation menu is titled CosmOrganic and is Dartnall's take on the universe as a living organism. There is a selection of tantalising amuse-bouche followed by a prelude of first courses.

Song of the Sea combines salmon with ground wasabi peanuts, coconut flour, oyster leaf, kombucha and yuzu oil in a brilliant, balanced gastronomic delight.

In Sea Mist, soft aromas of the sea merge with succulent langoustine and scallop with a touch of saffron foam, while Some Birds Don't Fly is a cold beetroot and ostrich tartare accompanied by a hot ostrich ravioli in a rich consommé.

Sea Mist.
Sea Mist.
Image: Supplied
Song of the Sea.
Song of the Sea.
Image: Supplied

There's Tajine du Maghreb, a goat terrine served on the shoulder blade alongside a goat tagine with a deep yet slightly sweet sauce. Cote D'Azur combines perfectly cooked seabass with a courgette flower and flavours of ratatouille.

Mosaic is known for its cheese trolley and you can opt for this or the 36-month-matured Charles Arnaud French Comte.

Chantel pays tribute to Quetzalcoatl, who gave cacao to humans, in a dish named after the Aztec god. The colourful Clash of the Constellations is a lighter dessert option made with passion fruit, mango and fresh berries.

Mosaic also boasts one of the most comprehensive and lauded wine cellars in Africa, comprising more than 75,000 bottles of wine under 5,500 local and international labels and so each course is paired with what the team believes is the perfect wine to enhance the dish.

It's all part of the magical, slightly otherworldly experience, that Dartnall - a true perfectionist - is determined to give her guests.