With fine dining taking a huge knock over the last 18 months, it was welcome news that Chef Candice Philip – previously of Saxon’s fine dining Grei restaurant – would be joining Basalt Restaurant at the Peech Hotel in Joburg as Chef in Residence. It’s a match made in heaven, with the sophisticated Basalt providing a perfect platform for her thoughtful and exciting take on dining. We chatted with the chef about her role at Basalt, the vision behind the menu and why she’s enjoying being back in a restaurant kitchen.
What was it that appealed to you about joining the Peech as Chef in Residence? Towards the end of 2020 we collaborated on a short pop-up experience in Basalt, which ran for two weekends and was very well received. I love the size of Basalt, it’s intimate but relaxed, and has an amazing buzz during the evening. When we discussed the opportunity for another one we all agreed it should be for an extended time to allow more local diners the opportunity to experience the offering.
What are you enjoying about being back in a restaurant kitchen after a year or so of private dining? I love doing what I do. I thrive on the challenge of continually designing new menus that highlight the seasonality of produce and ingredients. I love creating and playing with the plating of each dish. For me, the ultimate satisfaction comes from putting together a unique tasting experience that diners can enjoy from start to finish.
Your menu changes every 4-6 weeks – what is your overarching menu style and how does this complement Basalt? We’ve seen a general demand for “celebration dining” during the pandemic, with this in mind I decided to launch the Residency with fine-dining tasting style menus. Local diners are seeking an elevated dining experience in an intimate and comfortable space, a unique and memorable occasion, a place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, date night or simply catching up with a special friend. Together, the space, menu and suggested wine pairings work harmoniously. The intention is to keep evolving the menu over time, we want to inspire guests to return again, each time offering them something new and different. The basis of which will always be seasonal influence, and really great local produce and artisan suppliers.
Tell us about your current menu. The current menu is themed “Smoke & Bones”. The predominant flavours and cooking methods are comforting and wintery, slow roasted ingredients with deep, rich, earthy flavours, there’s even a touch of mystery and theatre. These flavours and combinations will work very nicely with the Bouchard Finlayson wine pairings selected for this menu.
Lastly, are there any products/produce that you worked with during lockdown, or a technique/cooking method that you played around with, that you couldn’t wait to put on a menu? Not necessarily new products or techniques, but definitely new flavour profiles and a continued focus on local ingredients, such as artisan cheeses. I’ve always loved to do things that are slightly unusual, such as using vegetables for dessert, and people seem even more excited now to experience new and different things, which inspires me even more!