Siba Mtongana with her friendly, relaxed style is one of South Africa’s most beloved celebrity chefs. She has appeared extensively all over the world, including Russia and the USA as part of Food Network’s exciting food programming.
A brand new series of Siba’s Table will be flighted on DStv Channel 175 from Friday 16 October 2015. I attended a luncheon to launch this series at the Fairway Hotel, Spa and Golf Course. Not just any luncheon, but a special experience, Sky Dining South Africa.
Members of the media got to preview the first episode of Siba’s new series, entitled “Market Fresh”. This featured Siba visiting one of these artisinal markets in Cape Town with her basket (our goody bags were actually goody baskets this time, and I must say that it is an excellent idea because if one only fills a basket one doesn’t land up with more fresh produce than one can actually use, especially as a single person).
Seeing these delicious meals being created makes one hungry, especially if breakfast was a long time before, and we all looked forward to getting to taste Siba’s recipes cooked by the chef at the Balata Restaurant at the Fairway Hotel, Spa and Golf Course.
Unlike most Food Network events, we were NOT offered any alcoholic cocktails before lunch and we were required to sign indemnity forms for our pending lunch tour. This form expressly forbade the use of the Sky Dining experience if one was under the influence of alcohol.
We headed out to front of the spa where a large industrial crane stretched out. The 5 ton (5 000kg), 22 seater table was on the ground. In the centre was a bar (with alcohol) with a barman to service the two sections of the table. A team of safety experts strapped us into our comfortable seats. A safety talk preceded our “flight”. We were also introduced to the crane driver, the man responsible for our safety.
Then we were hoisted 40 metres into the sky.
We started lunch with beet carpaccio and goats cheese all beautifully prepared and served with a suitable drizzle.
Then the crane returned the table to the ground to collect the next two courses and to allow people to alight for a bathroom break, or simply to allow them to move to the ground based Balata Restaurant to finish their meal on terra firma.
The rest of us went up again, this time to 50 metres off the ground.
The view of the Northcliff hills and surrounds was spectacular and I was entranced by the wonderful experience. It was a minor pity that it was just two weeks or three weeks too early to catch Johannesburg carpeted in its late spring flowering jacaranda (lilac-coloured) hue, but the magnificent verdant vistas were not to be sneezed at.
We sampled Siba’s take on Asian Surf ‘n Turf. I am allergic to shellfish, so I merely pushed that to one side. I had a glass of red wine with my perfectly prepared fillet. Despite the presence of a dome, the meal was not hot, the only negative chirp I could possibly make. The fine dining experience can’t yet solve the logistical problem of the delay between serving and eating. On a summer’s day I would recommend a cold main meal to overcome this obstacle. Perhaps the meal Siba prepared in the first episode would have fared better?
Siba’s first episode meal was chicken salad with greens bound in bacon. It certainly looked both delicious and sufficiently simple for even me to prepare at home.
This was served with a variation of beer bread baked in tins. I must experiment with this to see if I can cut the recipe down to something manageable for one or two people when cooked over the coals at a braai in the Kruger National Park. It certainly intrigued me. Beer bread is only pleasant served warm, though. Day old beer bread is fit only for the dustbin (please don’t feed it to the geese, they are supposed to eat more nourishing food than bread).
We then got to try the coconut almond macaroons with fresh guava. These were really good. Not too big and not too sweet, so I (a diabetic) really didn’t feel even remotely guilty about trying them. All round the meal was very low in carbs and high in satiety value and it scored full marks for its food porn status.
Siba made her announcement that she will be publishing her first recipe book later this year, and there was great excitement about this. Until then we must be content to browse the Food Network website for these.
After a short time for us to finish our drink (or have another) we were gently lowered back to the ground, where we were cautioned to regain our ground legs if need be. I am unsteady on my feet at the best of times, but had no problems with woozy body parts of any sort.
This is a fabulous dining experience for people who do not suffer from vertigo or fear of heights. I thoroughly recommend it as an exclusive event for suitable sized groups. (Our group was split into two sessions, an early and a late lunch session but that wouldn’t work as well for dinner).
I think the evening experience with the setting sun and the lights of Johannesburg must be spectacular. Joburg has been described as a “tatty whore with a heart of gold” but she really is at her most beautiful at night when, bedecked with millions of sparkling jewels, she plays the great lady of Africa.