FOOD ENGINEER: Executive chef Henrico Grobbelaar
FOOD ENGINEER: Executive chef Henrico Grobbelaar

An email dropped in my inbox recently and I couldn’t help but giggle at the signature. We live in a world where nothing is static, so when PR account manager turns into “conversation architect”, you can’t help but smile at reinvention. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
While conceptualised and manicured food is just getting started, the food engineers, AKA chefs, are reinventing the cauliflower and throwing cabbage to the wind. Don’t be too startled when you sit down at a restaurant in a hotel and get an unimaginable five star food experience, a far cry from hotel cuisine a decade ago.

Towers Restaurant at the Cape Town Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers in Century City has identified their patrons as food connoisseurs and is catering for their discerning palates.

The cuisine they are serving is a hop and a skip away from fine dining, you get all the frills with none of the costs. In the foyer of the Crystal Towers you are welcomed with warm hellos, and an intense sense of style. High volume ceilings with curtains dropping from above conceal lounging areas where guests can stall comfortably before they check in or after they have over-eaten. You are not sure what to expect when you are seated at Towers. The menu is a surprise, nothing at all like you would expect from a resident hotel restaurant.

There are so many interesting dishes to chose from, we had to ask our accommodating waiter to come back twice. Beef tartare, tuna Titaki or prawn risotto, choices, choices.

I settled for the Cardamom orange cured salmon - great choice. Aesthetically it is a masterpiece.

Tastewise it was a multi-layered affair of unusual flavours paired to create a beautifully composed dish. Rich avocado, pops of wasabi mayonnaise, peanuts, pickled cucumber and a roe vinaigrette with slices of delicately flavoured salmon - a food engineer indeed. It makes sense that head chef Henrico Grobbelaar studied to be an engineer before becoming a chef. He has mashed up his passion for food and his precision, to create unworldly combinations.

For my main course I opted for the lamb loin - served with smoked chickpeas, butternut gremolata, rainbow carrots, and a tahini emulsion - another outstanding dish.

There was nothing to fault in either of these dishes. As you drag your fork through your plate, each bite is more intense in flavour than the last.

You can’t help but be amazed by the thought process behind these well composed haute cuisine.

Other main courses on the menu included fish of the day, red miso pork belly, game loin and a list of grills.

I didn’t need too much encouragement for dessert. I knew the sweet course would show up and show off. And it did. A snowy coconut ice cream, intense white chocolate granita and caramel with panna cotta on a crumble proved to be soothing end to my meal.

The panna cotta could have been a little lighter in texture though. Beautifully plated once again, and the execution was perfect.

The menu accounts for varying tastes, from pasta to game, and seasonally fresh ingredients raise the bar too.

The prices are on par for the quality of food you are served but you are definitely getting more than you bargained for on the creativity front.

Grobbelaar lives by the quote: “Passion is what gives meaning to our lives. It’s what allows us to achieve success beyond our wildest imagination.”

As a traveller, I love the fact you can check in to your room, walk down to the restaurant in your hotel and be served a meal of this stature.

If I had just landed in Cape Town and that was my starter meal, it would set the bar incredibly high for the rest of my stay.

I would go as far as to call the chef a food engineering architect.