The somewhat bland-looking Dunkeld West Shopping Centre seems an unlikely spot to find a fine dining restaurant like DW Eleven - 13. The practical and functional building doesn't initially strike you as the setting for a candlelit dinner. But this is Joburg, after all, and defying expectation is what we do! As my date and I walked up to the restaurant, we were confronted by a large black door. We stood in front of it and, like something out of Narnia, the door opened. So, into Narnia we stepped. Or at least the foodie version.
If you're looking for an African Narnia, this might be it. The simple decor, in the calming earthy tones of beige and olive, lends a delicate African elegance. The unpolished wooden tables are bare and set with only the essentials, so as to accentuate the beautiful food presentation. A candle stands on each table, casting shadows on a vase containing a single, magnificent St Joseph's lily. Everything is elegant and tasteful, representing the ethos of DW Eleven — 13. As we took our seats on the comfortable leather chairs, I noticed the soft lighting. Hanging around the ceiling lights are elaborate wire baobab trees. Certainly, this is Joburg's unique stamp on fine dining — baobab chandeliers.
Let's move on to the mouthwatering part: the food. We chose the four-course option, which became five courses with the superb complimentary starter: a cucumber jelly with buttermilk and toasted pumpkin seeds to cleanse the palate. It sounds unusual, but the crunchy-sour-freshness did the trick. Our waitress then brought us a bread basket. Let's pause here for a second. If you don't consider yourself to be a bread person, set aside all your preconceived ideas! DW Eleven — 13 gives bread a whole new meaning. We had the crispiest chickpea churros and delicious herb focaccia served with… wait for it… salted caramel butter. I really could have eaten the salty-sweet creaminess with that bread all night. There, I've admitted it. It may sound super uncultured of me, but you haven't met this bread! There is nothing uncultured about it. Okay, okay, I'll stop now.
Before I give you the account of the actual menu, you must know something about this restaurant. It's not the kind of place where you ask for the salt or, worse, the tomato sauce. Every dish has perfect combinations and creates its own balance. The art of cuisine is taken seriously by owner and head chef Marthinus Ferreira. So, be prepared to tuck into art in the form of food.
Our starters arrived: chilled almond soup served with prosciutto, frozen grapes and drizzled with prosciutto-infused olive oil. It looked like an ocean scene with a coral-scattered beach. Clearly, the presentation is done with heart.
I was then served a dish with artichokes, porcini mushrooms, dehydrated rocket, pine nuts and Parmesan. I wish I could try this dish at home, but alas, I'm not Chef Marthinus Ferreira. Restaurant food should always leave you with the feeling that it was worth dining out. There are few things more disappointing than the realisation you could have made a dish better at home. At DW Eleven — 13, you'll never have this thought.
And then came the main course. If you know me, you know that I live and die for lamb. Served with a tower of potato slices, lemon confit, peas, anchovy, tomato, broad beans, mint and — the show-stopper — feta shavings with a delicate, crispy texture that melted in the mouth. The lamb was among the most tender and succulent I have ever tasted.
For the final act, enter the rich chocolate dessert served with flavourful, tart, blackcurrants, peanuts, raspberry and butterscotch. Dessert should only ever be ordered if it's worth all the extra calories. That's my philosophy, anyway. The beautiful balance of sweet and sour made my taste buds do a happy dance and it was definitely worth the calories.
A final note on the portions — despite the stereotype that fine dining means less food for more money, you will leave fully satisfied. You won't be stopping to grab a Big Mac after your date!
I have left my favourite part for last: the wine. Oh the wine, the wine, the wine. Each meal is expertly paired with a wine from DW Eleven — 13's excellent selection. Mario Monteiro is the wine executive, who ensures that the wines are the best quality and match each meal magnificently. They were so beautiful I could have dined on the wine alone!
We left having journeyed 'across the globe' through a rich culinary experience, all while sitting in a dining area feeling as if we were the only ones.
Click here for more information.