Dining at a chef’s table is culinary exclusivity defined. The private dining experience allows you to get to know the men and women behind the preparation of your delicious meal – the latest stage in uplifting people who diners see as interesting because of what they cook into those who are interesting simply because they cook.
The often intimate setting, secluded from the main restaurant, allows diners to focus solely on the food and company before them. Chef’s tables provide diners one-on-one access to the heart of the restaurant or hotel, and to the conductor – the executive chef.
For a very long time, executive chefs have been only defined and respected solely by their function; but those perceptions are changing thanks to their rising celebrity statuses and television appearances, new trendy cooking styles and ingredients, and showcasing unparalleled creativity in plating. Combining textures, flavours, scents and colours – cooking is a creative profession that requires artists, in this case chefs, who are extremely passionate about their craft to be able to produce beautiful and inspiring plates of food day-in and -out.
If you have never dined at a chef’s table, I urge you to give it a try. The enlightening experience will change your understanding of chefs, dare I say, forever. Of course, there’s the special attention from the chef, waiters, and sommelier – often opportunities to get to know the team, and ask questions about the menu.
CHEF’S TABLE AT SAROVA STANLEY
The Chef’s Table at Sarova Stanley, which has been hosting some of the world’s most acclaimed luminaries since 1902, is the latest hotel to offer a chef’s table experience in Kenya. There’s something exciting and special about being able to walk through and past the kitchen door of a fashionable eatery such as Thai Chi, navigate through the maze of service hallways, and up a flight of stairs into the intimate surrounds of Chef Godfrey Ouda’s former office. High above the kitchen, the room accommodates 4-6 people; the dining room is a striking combination of industrial and mellow décor thanks to a floor to ceiling 180-degree view of the heart of the hotel – all ensuring an intimate atmosphere from a unique perspective, perfect for a special meal with friends, family or business associates.
The customized experience also comes with customized prices. Whether you’d like to have Chef Godfrey and Chef Isaac create something unique for you or order from a menu – loosely written on a hanging whiteboard – the food will be made from the most seasonal and fresh ingredients possible. Opened for both lunch and dinner services, guests are recommended to make a reservation 48 – 72 hours in advance. Aside from having the two top chefs of the hotel cook specifically for your table and ensuring every dish is immaculate, two handpicked waiters,Alice and Martin, will shower you with personalized butler-esque attention.
The lunch menu began with a refreshing and bite-sized Nicoise Salad with Seared Tuna – the delicate components, carefully arranged on the plate, included a carved potato, caviar, a slice of heirloom tomato and a slight piece of seared tuna steak, which was overdone for my liking. The flavours were balanced but simple – a great way to awaken your palate.
Next, a decadent dish of Lobster Tail and Crab Roulade wrapped with thinly sliced creamy avocado and topped with crunchy roe to add textural interest and bite, arrived with Tomato Vodka Jelly. An interesting and light combination that reminded me of flavours of summer – colourful, bright and delicious.
The Broccoli and Apple Velouté was a velvety combination of sweet and savoury. The sprinkling of chili over the crème fraîche added just enough character to otherwise a soothing and creamy soup. Fragrant aromas envelop your nose as you watch amusingly: pieces of broccoli and apple float to the surface of the espresso cup as the soup is poured tableside.
For the last of the savoury offerings, another rich but expertly measured dish in the form of Salmon Ceviche with Saffron Dressing, Supreme of Chicken with Asparagus and Truffle Beurre Blanc, and Grilled Fillet of Beef with Basket Mushroom Puree continued to take my palate on a journey. The fillet was expertly prepared to my favourite, medium-rare. However, the Martell jus, which was flambé tableside, was overwhelmed by flavours of raw alcohol and harshness. Unfortunately, the tableside theatrics failed to burn-off some of the alcohol of the delicious cognac.
Sticky Toffee Pudding concluded the highly personal experience, where my companions and I felt like insiders. What a pleasure, privilege and honour to not only be welcomed into one’s office, but also to dine in it.