It's not just the decor that's been refreshed at Le Parc by tashas
The renovated eatery in Hyde Park is a less stuffy, more jovial space, featuring a vast menu with over 50 new dishes
A winning brand is not something you'd suspect you'd mess with — that's unless you are Natasha Sideris, CEO and founder of tashas, always up for a challenge and new things — even in testing times in the hospitality industry.
It's exactly what Sideris has done by revamping, or "re-energising" as she calls it, Le Parc by tashas in Hyde Park Corner, Johannesburg.
It was the Monday following the most recent easing of restrictions and the centre was buzzing. People had a spring in their step and a mood way more buoyant than it had been in ages. Walking into a restaurant felt a bit out of the ordinary.
Sideris describes it as a happy place and, yes, it feels jovial, the restaurant all tarted up in a new colour scheme best described as ballerina pink with candy-striped fabric on the ceiling.
It was the chairs that caught my eye. An eclectic mix of bold colours and designs, it felt quite the "girlie" place although there was a large group of guys looking ever so comfortable at the bar seating, passing the time of day.
It felt less stuffy and more family orientated and not the preserve of adults alone. And it seemed bigger, more laid back, with less pressure to be in and out.
The revamp was part of a strategic move by Sideris to bring her local brand of tashas under the umbrella of her international offering — she is based in Dubai and has restaurants dotted around the United Arab Emirates too.
And the food? It's a vast menu. They are proud of the 75 items "all made to order", of which 55 are new dishes — quite some feat in a relatively small kitchen. The tome is broken up into sections and features dishes for breakfast, lunch and supper and everything in between.
All-day breakfast items include a popular dessert, the evergreen panna cotta that features on many a restaurant menu, this one a breakfasty-style delight made up of a blend of Greek yoghurt and coconut just set with the all-important jelly-like wobble, topped with berries, rose syrup, honey, mint and nuts — and I almost forgot the homemade granola (R98).
Delicious, the granola is particularly good — and can be purchased from the well-chosen goodies, with price tags to match, in a small retail section of the restaurant. They include an array of fresh breads like sourdough, gluten-free and coconut breads made daily.
One has to hand it to Sideris, she's got her finger on the pulse and never short of great ideas in capturing the market.
Greedily, we followed the breakfast items — we'd shared the panna cotta and a smashed avo toast (R112) — with two salmon dishes.
One, a hot smoked salmon salad (R186) of pieces of smoked salmon with baby potatoes, gherkin, horseradish, fennel and gem lettuce, was disappointing. I was expecting a chorus of flavour, which just wasn't there.
The highlight, though, which gave me a punch of order envy, was my friend's choice of salmon tartare, a beautiful mound of pink blocks of salmon in the middle of the platter with soy, red onion, coriander and tomato around it, pretty as a picture. She lapped it up with a mountain of the crispiest thin slivers of melba toast. (R268). A delight.
We were convinced we'd have room for one of their gorgeous cakes or a cone of their homemade ice cream, such beautiful eye candy visible from the patisserie section, but not this time.
And lest I forget the drinks: a groaning variety from a wine list that, unlike the menu, is small and interesting, plus a selection of champagne cocktails, tashas cocktails, smoothies, cold drinks and a list of different coffees that would keep you there for a day. And don't forget the cake.
• Le Parc by tashas is open Monday to Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On Sundays for breakfast or lunch. Visit leparcbytashas.com