Secret Diner: Tasting the good life at Summerhill

The Living Room

Where: 9 Belvedale Road, Cowies Hill

Call: 063 529 1966

It was the only KZN restaurant to feature in Eat Out’s top 20 nationally last year. The Living Room, the dining area of the Summerhill Boutique Hotel Estate in Cowies Hill, is a testimony to the creative talents of chef Johannes Richter.

So when Restaurant Week – in reality it was Restaurant Month – offered a deal of R500 for a five-course Sunday lunch, we jumped at the opportunity. And here five courses generally morph into many more, with things like bread courses, palate cleansers and the most delectable home-made truffles.

Bread course at the Living Room complete with stuffed patty pans straight out the garden.

The kitchen is top-notch, all courses imaginative, presented with flair and everything fresh, local and seasonal, much of it grown in the estate’s garden. We opted for the chef to surprise us with his choice of courses.

First up was a bread plate complete with patty pans that had been picked 10 minutes earlier from the garden, stuffed with goat’s cheese and topped with a patty pan flower. These were beautifully fresh flavour-bursts, and I am not normally a huge fan of patty pans. The bread was a lovely home-baked rustic loaf with a herbed butter.

Trout with a falafel and crispy kale and a troutroe salad.

Next up was a duo of cauliflower, another veg I normally wouldn’t travel far for, but with both renditions exceptional. One was a raw cauliflower done with little balls of coconut cream, the other a battered, deep-fried version topped in a distinctive, but not overly hot, red curry cream. We scooped the last remnant of those sauces off our plates with our fingers.

The fish course took in fresh Midlands trout, cooked sous vide, and finished with crispy kale, and a “salad of spinach, three different types of basil and trout roe”. An exceptional dish.

Chicken with roasted beetroot and popped sorghum, in a rich jus.

Chicken with roasted beetroot and a deliciously deep chicken jus was up next. By this stage we weren’t only using our fingers to lick the plates.

The main course was two beautifully cooked slices of sirloin in a beurre blanc and beef jus along with a potato parfait which had us all in raptures. It truly was a beautiful dish.

The bold ice palette cleanser got us ready for dessert, an ode to pineapple with cake, pineapple jelly and a decidedly boozy syllabub made with pineapple wine. By this stage all decorum had gone out the window as we lapped up spoonfuls of the delicious “custard”.

Dessert was an ode to pineapple with cake, pineapple jelly and a decidedly boozy syllabub made with pineapple wine.

We finished with dark chocolate and orange truffles that were so good we tried to hijack those coming out to the neighbouring table.

People may think five-course tasting menus excessive, or too fancy, but the joy of so many different flavours and combinations is really worth trying. And, no, you don’t feel stuffed afterward, but you certainly don’t need to go to KFC, as some would claim.

Hats off to the chef for giving us a truly delightful afternoon tasting some exceptional cooking.

Food: 4 ½

Service: 4 ½

Ambience: 4 ½

The Independent on Saturday

Delectable chocolate and orange truffles.