A year ago — give or take — I was wasting a lunch break stalking different figures on the Joburg food scene on Instagram. Little did I know that I was about to stumble on something big. On 13 November 2017, Gary Kyriacou, the business partner of Marble in Rosebank, posted a selfie with David Higgs, the brains behind Marble, wearing hard hats with the caption "And it all begins again". This set off a frantic series of events that eventually lead to someone spilling the beans: Gary and David were going to open a second restaurant. One month and one day later, Gary posted a teaser video revealing the name of the eatery — Saint — and that it would open in 2018.

saint

Skip 10 months ahead and I found myself standing in one of the biggest restaurant and bar combos I've visited in SA. At 1 000m², Saint can seat 230 people, has a large DJ booth, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Maude Street. Saint is based on the concept of Pazzo Italiano – loosely, the crazy Italian. It has quickly become the go-to pizza and champagne destination for Sandton’s trendy, up-and-coming business crowd.

Higgs and Kyriacou gained the original inspiration for Saint during their visit to New York in early 2016, as part of their planning and research for Marble. For David and Gary, the restaurant they went to in Manhattan had an unbelievable atmosphere. And, when clothing designer Alexander Wang walked in with a troop of models and started ordering pizza and champagne, they knew this was a combination they wanted to bring home with them.

Saint
After opening Marble, the team realised that Sandton held captive a great niche market for the idea. Beyond the food – because everyone eats and loves pizza – it was the right place for the vibe. In a city with energy, integration and positivity, Saint provides a much-needed, out-of-work experience.

In preparation for the opening of Saint, head chef Matt van Niekerk and chef de partie Tyler Clayton visited Milan, Italy, and worked alongside pizza masters Gino Sorbillo and Gennaro Rapido of Lievito Madre Sorbillo in Duomo Milan to learn the art of authentic Neopolitan pizza-making. Lievito Madre Sorbillo is a family-run restaurant, like many other authentic eateries in the city, and started rolling-out dough back in 1935, so pizza-making is a career. For Matt and Tyler, arriving at Gennaro’s Milan restaurant on a Monday morning was a welcome reward after a long journey from South Africa.

Saint

Saint’s pizza embodies this authenticity – imported flour, handmade local buffalo mozzarella and the freshest ingredients. Each pizza features a maximum of three to four toppings – unlike other local offerings. High standards and consistency are key – if a pizza isn’t the right size, right shape, has too much sauce or there isn’t a simplicity and balance of flavour, it doesn’t make the serve.

Toppings include fresh mozzarella; sirloin, caramelised onion and pumpkin seed pesto; cured meats with fresh tomato and taleggio cheese; and The Big Nacho with spicy jerked chicken, avocado, sour cream and cumin. There are also a few pizza Bianca (without tomato) options like the spinach, crème fraîche, Parmesan and fried egg; mushroom truffle, preserved lemon, Gorgonzola and asparagus; and salami, black olive, white anchovy, basil and mozzarella.

Saint

Saint gives people food they recognise and enjoy that's simple and beautiful, presented at an elevated level in a sophisticated setting. The two imported and custom-made Stefano Ferrara pizza ovens are the gold-mosaic centrepieces of the expansive kitchen. Standing amidst some of the finest equipment, chef skills and ingredients, they certainly fire-up Sandton’s culinary scene.

Saint

Dishes other than pizza include rigatoni pasta with either lamb or short rib; saffron risotto with osso bucco and gremolata; lamb shank and polenta; octopus casserole with chorizo, bean, kale and garlic; and wood-fired beets with mustard greens and beetroot pesto. For dessert, there is affogato, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, gelato and biscotti, and milkshakes.

Saint

In closing, Saint pays homage to Italian food while drenched with attention to detail. Although I wouldn't come to this eatery weekly, it's an excellent choice for special occasions and a Joburg bucket-list restaurant. Experience it for yourself at the base of the MARC building in Sandton.

For more on Saint, click here.

Address: 129 Rivonia Rd, Sandown, Sandton

Having David Higgs and Gary Kyriacou – the restaurateurs behind Marble in Rosebank and Saint in Sandton – trust you with their wine cellar says a lot about your skill as a sommelier... and that's exactly what Wikus Human gets up to on a daily basis. At 27 years old, Wikus has made massive waves in the South African wine and hospitality arena, having graduated with a BCom in tourism from the University Of Pretoria. Either way, we are happy to have Wikus Human in Joburg, doing what he does best - making the hard choices for us.

Wikus Human

What attracted you to the profession?

I was sitting around a table with a group of chefs and sommeliers at Forum Homini and Roots Restaurant where I worked. They were busy doing a food and wine pairing tasting for a menu. They spoke about all these different aromas and flavours that came from the wine. I was fascinated and had to know more. I spoke to the GM and he pointed me in the direction of a well-known South African sommelier who became my mentor.

How long have you been in the industry and where have you worked?

I have been in the industry for four years. After I finished as assistant sommelier at Forum Homini, I was approached by David Higgs to join Marble when it opened. In 2016 I passed WSET Level 3 and this year passed the Court of Masters introductory examination.

What does the training involve and what are the attributes needed to become a sommelier?

Dedication is the most important. You need to do the basic, which is on paper. This means studying maps, knowing areas, climates, soils, grape varieties and production methods.

You, as a person, don’t need any special attributes. You train your own nose and palate. Pick up everything around you and smell it. Smell things before you consume them. Cut an apple open, smell it when it's fresh, smell it after two hours, smell it the next day. Everything has different flavours to it. Smell an unripe strawberry against an overripe strawberry.

What are some of the tips you can give wine lovers?

Don’t be scared to try something new. Everyone has their favourite grape varietal or wine and rarely wants to try something new. Luckily, these days, more and more restaurants employ sommeliers. Sommeliers are not there to take your money but rather to take you on a journey. They listen to what you like, what you are willing to spend and what you are eating, to find the perfect combination that works for you.

Wikus Human

What can be expected at the upcoming Sommeliers Selection 2018 wine tastings?

I loved the format in which the tasting was held. All the wines were poured blind. We had very little information when tasting the wines. It makes you think harder and it gives all the wines a fair chance. There are some excellent wines from the different categories.

When you drink wine, what do you look for?

I look for classic characteristics in wine. When tasting a wine for a wine list, I look at different aspects such as aromas, flavours, age of the wine, structure, acidity, alcohol, tannin, body and finish. All of these need to be in balance to make the wine good for me. I always try to line up four or five varietals and taste them blind. Not knowing price points or the names of wines is key to selecting good wines. Then there is no pre-conceived bias.

What about current trends?

Sauvignon Blanc for me is slightly out of fashion. Chenin Blanc seems to be trendy on the white side. White blends and lighter styles of Chardonnay are also on the upside. On the reds, your easier drinking varietals are doing well; Pinot Noir, Cinsault and Rhone Blends. Consumers are also looking for some age on wines, so we try and source some older gems when it comes to the bigger Bordeaux style blends.

What are some of the common mistakes people make with wine?

Drinking wines too early for both whites and reds. Also, looking at the price point. South Africa has gone through a drought, so yields are less and the prices of wines are increasing. Being too scared to try new varietals. Always looking for the perfect food and wine pairing match. Enjoy the food and enjoy the wine.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?

Pork belly and a Riesling, as well as duck with a Pinot Noir.

By Shawn Greyling

Having David Higgs and Gary Kyriacou – the restaurateurs behind Marble in Rosebank and Saint in Sandton – trust you with their wine cellar says a lot about your skill as a sommelier... and that's exactly what Wikus Human gets up to on a daily basis. At 27 years old, Wikus has made massive waves in the South African wine and hospitality arena, having graduated with a BCom in tourism from the University Of Pretoria. Either way, we are happy to have Wikus Human in Joburg, doing what he does best - making the hard choices for us.

Wikus Human

What attracted you to the profession?

I was sitting around a table with a group of chefs and sommeliers at Forum Homini and Roots Restaurant where I worked. They were busy doing a food and wine pairing tasting for a menu. They spoke about all these different aromas and flavours that came from the wine. I was fascinated and had to know more. I spoke to the GM and he pointed me in the direction of a well-known South African sommelier who became my mentor.

How long have you been in the industry and where have you worked?

I have been in the industry for four years. After I finished as assistant sommelier at Forum Homini, I was approached by David Higgs to join Marble when it opened. In 2016 I passed WSET Level 3 and this year passed the Court of Masters introductory examination.

What does the training involve and what are the attributes needed to become a sommelier?

Dedication is the most important. You need to do the basic, which is on paper. This means studying maps, knowing areas, climates, soils, grape varieties and production methods.

You, as a person, don’t need any special attributes. You train your own nose and palate. Pick up everything around you and smell it. Smell things before you consume them. Cut an apple open, smell it when it's fresh, smell it after two hours, smell it the next day. Everything has different flavours to it. Smell an unripe strawberry against an overripe strawberry.

What are some of the tips you can give wine lovers?

Don’t be scared to try something new. Everyone has their favourite grape varietal or wine and rarely wants to try something new. Luckily, these days, more and more restaurants employ sommeliers. Sommeliers are not there to take your money but rather to take you on a journey. They listen to what you like, what you are willing to spend and what you are eating, to find the perfect combination that works for you.

Wikus Human

What can be expected at the upcoming Sommeliers Selection 2018 wine tastings?

I loved the format in which the tasting was held. All the wines were poured blind. We had very little information when tasting the wines. It makes you think harder and it gives all the wines a fair chance. There are some excellent wines from the different categories.

When you drink wine, what do you look for?

I look for classic characteristics in wine. When tasting a wine for a wine list, I look at different aspects such as aromas, flavours, age of the wine, structure, acidity, alcohol, tannin, body and finish. All of these need to be in balance to make the wine good for me. I always try to line up four or five varietals and taste them blind. Not knowing price points or the names of wines is key to selecting good wines. Then there is no pre-conceived bias.

What about current trends?

Sauvignon Blanc for me is slightly out of fashion. Chenin Blanc seems to be trendy on the white side. White blends and lighter styles of Chardonnay are also on the upside. On the reds, your easier drinking varietals are doing well; Pinot Noir, Cinsault and Rhone Blends. Consumers are also looking for some age on wines, so we try and source some older gems when it comes to the bigger Bordeaux style blends.

What are some of the common mistakes people make with wine?

Drinking wines too early for both whites and reds. Also, looking at the price point. South Africa has gone through a drought, so yields are less and the prices of wines are increasing. Being too scared to try new varietals. Always looking for the perfect food and wine pairing match. Enjoy the food and enjoy the wine.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?

Pork belly and a Riesling, as well as duck with a Pinot Noir.

By Shawn Greyling