IT was an evening to remember recently when the media descended on MyPond Hotel to taste the culinary delights of chef Sharmila Simon, who is currently finalising the menu for Lily Restaurant.
“I love making beautiful food,” said Simon. “I cook as I feel and, being part coloured and part Indian, I like spice.”
Together with second and third year Stenden students who assisted in preparation and serving, Simon produced a delectable assortment of dishes both in terms of flavour and presentation.
“I have been told to ‘downsize’ some of my dishes, as they might not go down well here in Port Alfred,” she said. Simon was talking about the spice and herb variations she uses to infuse her food. However, she had nothing to worry about as every dish she served was a delight to the palate.
The canapés served were substantial in themselves, The first dish, one of three starters, was a rich and creamy butternut soup, with just a hint of orange and lemon to, as Simon put it, “kick it out”. Another big bowl of that and this reporter’s appetite would have been fully satisfied.
The second starter was a Cajun prawn salad which was hot and spicy with great Cajun flavours and queen-sized prawns. The third starter was baked Camembert cheese served with an herb salad and cranberry foam. I am not particularly partial to the modern trend of “foaming” jus, but this was a masterpiece and one of the evening’s best dishes.
The mains began with a pan-fried potato gnocchi served in a roast butternut and caramelised onion sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese which was very interesting and tasted great. Next was a slow-braised pork belly with crispy bacon, and served with baby onions, potato lentils and a thyme jus. The pork was soft and melted in your mouth, while the thyme set the dish off perfectly. However, for me, the bacon could have been a little crispier.
At this point I was beginning to feel quite full, but there were still some culinary delights left to sample, so I bravely continued.
The next main dish was grilled lamb chops and, as a novel addition, a toasted onion and tomato sandwich, served with mint sauce and salsa. The lamb was, for my tastes, a little over-cooked (I like lamb rare, and this was well-done), but the strong mint sauce gave a sharp counterpoint to the meaty lamb flavour, providing an interesting contrast.
Next was the Gremolata line fish, served on a bed of roasted vegetables and, once more, thyme, this time in the form of one of the five “mother sauces” of French cuisine, a veloute. The fish was excellent, giving a strong but perfectly balanced taste of the sea.
Finally, and just in time, the final course arrived; a marinated chicken breast layered with melted feta cheese, spinach and sweet potato gratin. By this time many of the media people around the table were struggling as the portions were more than adequate in themselves, and we still had dessert to come.
Fortunately, we were only asked to select one of the three dessert dishes available which included MyPond sticky toffee pudding, served with a dollop of fresh cream, Bar One cake served with vanilla ice cream and the dessert of the day, my selection, which was a cheesecake with crushed nuts and a granadilla jus. Absolutely delicious and definitely a dessert to be recommended.
If this is the standard of food Lily intends to serve than the restaurant is a must for anyone who enjoys a fine dining experience. Congratulations to chef Simon for a great meal, and thanks to the Stenden waitrons whose excellent service made the meal even more enjoyable.