Q&A with AtholPlace Executive Chef Willie Malherbe

AtholPlace Restaurant is located within the elegant, boutique-styled AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Sandton. Known for its creativity in food preparation, the restaurant – which extends out onto a beautiful terrace overlooking the manicured lawn and sparkling hotel pool – has fast-established a reputation of being one of the best eateries in the city.

The restaurant is about to launch a new winter menu that promises to continue titillating the taste buds of its discerning clientele. Sawubona caught up with the restaurant’s Executive Chef Willie Malherbe to chat about the ins and outs of the new menu.

When are you launching your winter menu?

In the middle of June. At the moment, we’re rounding off the autumn menu.

Why does a restaurant’s menu have to change?

It changes mainly because of the seasonality of ingredients. Changing the menu keeps things interesting for guys in the kitchen. As a chef, you’re always learning. It doesn’t matter if you’re 80 or 20 years old – there are always new food trends. We try to keep up to date with these trends as well as cater for our local and international clients.

Does it mean that the menu changes four times a year as the natural seasons change?

So far, we’ve been changing it four times a year. Going forward, we’ve decided to keep the basic structure of the menu the same, but we’ll also do special dishes. Our plan is to always have a main menu that reflects the season. In addition, we’ll try to do an extra-special dish for customers to try out. Furthermore, we plan to do a lot of food pairings with alcoholic beverages such as craft beers and craft gin. We’ve been doing a lot of tastings and have talked to the manufacturers of those spirits, beers and wines so that we can create dishes that best complement their products.

What can customers expect to find delightful about your winter menu?

We’ve spent some time trying out warmer, heartier dishes. We plan to keep the basic structure of four or five items for starters, main courses and desserts. I love spices in my food. I was influenced by my travels in India and Asia. So on our winter menu there will be a lot of influences from the East. We could, for example, try an oxtail dish, but done with Asian flavours.

At the moment, globally, there’s a lot of focus on street food. We plan to incorporate this street food element into our menu, giving our customers a truly global taste of flavours.

Will customers order single portions or are you thinking of offering smaller dishes?

We plan to keep our normal menu, but customers will have the option of ordering small plate-sized dishes of everything. It wouldn’t be a tasting menu as such, but customers can –without getting too full – taste a variety of flavours on the menu without going for a starter and main course.

How do you plan to price this type of ordering?

Plates will be priced individually, specifically for lunch. For dinner we charge a set rate.

In general, what makes AtholPlace such a great culinary destination?

First, AtholPlace is different because we’re a boutique hotel. The restaurant offers a very intimate, almost private dining experience. Secondly, in terms of our cooking, we like to play more with flavours. Jo’burg is up and coming in the food scene. In the last couple of years, the food scene in the city has grown by leaps and bounds, with young chefs coming to Sandton and Johannesburg. There’s a lot of innovation. We try to keep up with that trend.

Contact details:

Address: 90 Pretoria Ave, Athol, Johannesburg, 2196

Phone: 011 783 3410

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