Restaurant Review

Epicure shows why African cuisine deserves to be on high-end menus

Chef Coco Reinarhz explores what it means to be African in a global gourmet context at his new fine-dining hotspot in Joburg, writes Anna Trapido

01 April 2018 - 00:01 By Anna Trapido

Epicure is rapidly becoming this season's hot spot for cool people. The restaurant (which opened at the end of February 2018) is on the first floor of an über-chic Sandton apartment building. Those who ascend Epicure's escalator find themselves in a culinary kingdom of Afro-optimistic elegance.Award-winning Belgian-Burundian chef Fathi (aka Coco) Reinarhz has decorated the space in minimalist yet luxurious style using warm wood tones and occasional splashes of gold and regal Prussian blue. A private dining room allows for special celebrations or discreet discussions and on warm nights tables spill out onto the lawns of a walled garden.Johannesburg fans of fine food will recognise Coco's signature style from his previous restaurants (Ma Passion in Greenside and more recently at Morningside's Sel et Poivre). His food philosophy and culinary aesthetic have consistently engaged with what it means to be African in a global gourmet context. And so it is at Epicure.
With a childhood spent at his mother's restaurant in Kinshasa and formal training at the École Hotelière de Namur in Belgium, Coco cooks as he lives. Under his stewardship, modern French flair and exquisite African ingredients consistently make respectful and compatible culinary companions.He says: "I hate the term fusion and it is not what I am about. I don't want to create confused amalgams. I want to take modern, international techniques and apply them to a set of cuisines that deserve to play a role in the international arena.
"African food is seldom put into high-end restaurants but that is not because there is nothing of value to serve. Great, unique ingredients and glorious flavour marriages exist. There are so many exquisite and graceful service styles and hospitality customs. African excellence should not be held distinct from other international food genres and wines.
"My hope for Epicure is that I can showcase the glories of our continent and our country. I think my food can contribute to debates on new ways of considering where and how we are."Epicure Sommelier Mike Buthelezi pairs the fine food with remarkable local and international wine. Whether diners choose the gentle mebos-infused, Cape Malay-inspired chicken supreme stuffed with dried fruit and ginger confit or a grilled sea-bass drizzled with exquisite Moroccan Argan oil, Mike has a wine for every preference.
I especially adored his delicious demi sec Armand de Brignac Champagne with dessert of Ivorian-style fried plantain aloko topped with tuile biscuit and a quenelle of ruby bissap rouge (hibiscus) sorbet.Booking is advised, but those who choose to wait for a table to become available can do so at the restaurant's rum bar. The African Diaspora comes home in style with a wide selection of rich, smooth Caribbean treasures. Oak-aged excellence abounds. Cocktail adjacent gourmet gaps can be soothed and satisfied with a bar menu which includes cracklingly crisp cassava chips and plump prawn tails dipped in Congolese moambe (palm pulp) mayonnaise.
Epicure's atmosphere and service are so welcoming that you'll want to linger. Fortunately the restaurant's excellent espresso (with a life-affirming, lovely crema) provides the perfect lingering accompaniment...

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