He said – The Dining Room

I am just an explorer of food and my exploration took me on one of the more recent trends in dining – the “pop-up” restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Showcasing new foods, culinary talent and limited in availability pop-up restaurants have been popular overseas for a while and the concept has now captured the imagination of South Africa’s foodies. See Thando’s post on Pop Up phenom here.

The Dining Room, collaboration between the Union Bar pop up and the glamorous Vicky Crease, of Vicky Crease Catering & Events, and who was gracious enough to personally pop in on our taste experience.

Nestled at the back of the Union’s Bar in Melrose Arch the Dining room is unassuming, quaint, intimate room hidden from the main bar area and we were pleasantly surprised at the warm candle lit, sophisticated retro décor of the room adorned with art and sculptures from up and coming South African artists.  And so our 6 course private dinner with no more than 16 fine guests wining and dining at one time.

We were warmly ushered into the room, graciously welcomed, and joined in some enjoyable “ice-breakers” as we met the other fine diners and nibbled on petit knotted rolls, focaccia and flatbreads served with a trio of unique flavoured butters: Satin thyme, truffle and volcanic salt and crushed chilli. Although the breads were uninteresting, the truffle and volcanic salt butter was the groups’ favorite with the crunch from the salt and the deeper, earthier undertone from the truffle shining through.

Next was the winner of the evening – again a trio, this time of macaroons with a basil infused macaroon topped with Springbok Carpaccio, basil aioli and parmesan shards, being the highlight. The “soft and crunchy” at the same time, textures and flavour profiles built to a perfect crescendo and offered an impeccable bite which was was well supported by an a butternut scented, creamy gorgonzola cheese and crushed pistachio nuts and a black pepper with curried crocodile, shallot marmalade and fresh baby herb macaroon. The dish was executed perfectly, with each of the colourful ingredients peeking through and packed with flavour.

While I felt the poached herb infused prawns was slightly overcooked, it was saved by the perfectly cooked scallops which were delicious, accompanied by a faultless zesty citrus crème and fresh roasted baby corn. All this rested on a poor, soft crostini which seemed an after-thought and failed to add any texture or enhance the dish.

Course number 4: The Hot Rock Salmon – which looked better than it tasted and while a novel way of cooking and presenting a meal – the seriously hot stone dried out not only the fish but the Beetroot infusion as well. The salad was delightfully refreshing and fresh berries provided an extra dimension.

Perfectly cooked, chargrilled prime beef fillet was served next, drizzled with a rich red wine jus, the dish failed to deliver on flavour and was not helped by a flat leek mashed potato. The only redeeming feature of the dish was a beautiful crisp parmesan shard that enveloped the fillet.

Dessert was a sad affair. An unexciting almond encrusted dry mousse which was far too stodgy and lacked sweetness.  Flambéed in Stroh rum did not complement the dish. Our host was humble enough to ensure the chef heard of our discontent and disappointment and promised an improvement.

The “pop up” restaurant has slowly been gaining a reputation not only as being trendy but a great night out and I must say it’s quite an experience. But for a foodie like myself I have to say this about the Dining Room apart from the macaroon dish the food was average and lacked lustre at a price point that I think missed the mark.

They change the menu every two weeks – let’s hope they get it right the next time!


The Dining Room
At Union Bar, Shop HL 63, Melrose Arch Piazza
Best for: Pop Up experience between16 May – 13 July and the trio of macarons

About thando

Hi I'm Thando Creator of the Jozi Foodie Fix, traveller, foodwriter, ramen lover, strategist, entrepreneur and follower of the Cool based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
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