City Press reviews Joburg's new culinary space, Aurum

2020-02-15 00:00

Located at the foot of the tallest building in Africa is a graceful and stylish dining room where delicious food is served at reasonable prices, writes Welcome Lishivha.


Level 7, The Leonardo, 75 Maude Street, Sandton

087 536 0100 


The interior décor of new Sandton restaurant Aurum is graceful and stylish, with an A-shape industrial design above the seating arrangement, where a gold decoration floats.

Upstairs is a wine library with dining rooms for tastings and masterclasses. The library features unique and aged wines, vintage wines only offered by the glass and others in taster portions, says sous chef and sommelier Lisa de Beer.

Head chef Darren O’Donovan describes the cuisine as a “modern European interpretation with a twist of local ingredients”. O’Donovan and De Beer joined Aurum after embarking on a four-month gastronomic tour around Europe, where they explored cuisines from Russia to Poland, Spain to Finland and beyond, to get inspiration for the menu.

The emphasis is on ingredients that are sourced locally and from suppliers that specialise in producing one ingredient – from olives flown from Cape Town and grown by a farmer who flavours them to the restaurant’s liking, to getting their duck from a farm on the East Rand that specialises in the delicacy.

I love duck, so I jump for duck ragu (R135) on the appetiser menu. The dish is served with spiced butternut purée, charred nectarine, duck and juniper jus, and whisky and honey carrots. I can almost hear the flavours having a Super Bowl half-time performance on my palate. And, with the last bite, the whole dish culminates in an exquisite crescendo. I taste my friend’s tuna tartare and have her taste my duck. I am happier with my decision, and can’t help notice the food envy growing on her face as the duck flavours announce themselves on her palate.

Afternoon tea: This rooibos panna cotta and buttermilk rusk tastes like an afternoon tea. pictures:supplied

For mains, I try the pork belly (R210), served with vanilla-buttered cherry-sized apples, smoked onion, sweet potato and crisp pancetta. It’s delicious, although I worry I might have opted for a safe choice because pork belly always slaps. Out of food envy, I try my friend’s beef fillet and, although I didn’t quite enjoy the beef, I thoroughly enjoyed the onion cream.

For dessert, I opted for Afternoon Tea, a rooibos panna cotta, buttermilk rusk, buttermilk mousse, brown sugar tuile, naartjie and vanilla bean ice cream.

All meals have a recommended glass of wine from their comprehensive list, to complement the dish. The options of good-value wines mean you can order the cheapest bottle without shame or concern.

“With this list, we wanted to showcase some of our fantastic local wine producers who are competing on a world stage,” says De Beer.

My favourite part: if you ask, they are happy to verbally share recipes, so that cooks like me can come close to recreating an Aurum on our dining tables.

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March 29 2020