David Higgs’ Five Hundred at the Saxon*

The Saxon has always been my venue of choice whenever I want to be wow’d. The level of opulence and attention to detail never fails to amaze me, and even if you’re just going for a drink on the terrace, you’ll be treated exactly the same as if you’re spending the week there. 

Jozi’s newest fine dining spot is Five Hundred, where David Higgs of Rust en Vrede fame is the head chef. I got a chance to try it out some time back, and it was a really special dining experience. 

Upon arrival, you are shown where to park by someone whose sole purpose is to guide you into the parkade. A 5 series BMW is waiting for you so you don’t have to walk the 100m from the parkade to reception. When you arrive, you’re greeted by name if you’ve made a reservation, and then escorted up to the restaurant, which has its own private entrance.

Five Hundred almost feels like a secret, members only spot. It’s very secluded and only seats about 30 people. The lighting is dim, and the decor is dark. There is also a private dining room overlooking the wine cellar which I’d love to book out one day.

The service is on another level. Forget those tacky handbag hooks, you’ll be given a small stool on which to place your handbag. The waiters are extremely attentive and if you so much as lift your hand to pour yourself some more water, they’ll be at your side instantly to do it for you. 

By now, you’ll know I am a sucker for bread. I’ve been given a choice of breads before, but never a choice of butters, intricately plated too! The bread was fresh, warm and crusty and I loved choosing between salted, smoked, goat’s milk and unsalted. 

Diners are presented with a choice of two menus, a four course menu priced at R650 (R1100 with wine) and a six course menu priced at R925 (R1550 with wine). The latter is a set menu, while the former offers a choice of seafood, meat or veg for the first 3 courses, while dessert is a choice of 3 options. 

Now of course this is expensive, but this is not your normal go-to Friday night spot. Keep this for a VERY special occasion. 

The plating of the dishes was very impressive, but in terms of the dishes themselves I almost think they were a bit too complex. After dining in 2 Michelin star restaurants in Paris recently, I found that the dishes at these restaurants were very simple, with only 1 or 2 elements on the plate. Instead of impressing diners visually by combining 5-6 elements and plating artistically, the focus there is on making the protein in the dish as flavourful as possible and less on plating. Now this doesn’t mean the food at Five Hundred isn’t spectacular- it is. I just think South African fine dining in general is different to the international standard, and I prefer the more simple approach. 

While it’s certainly a treat to marvel at the artwork on one’s plate, I’m not sure that my palate appreciated the combinations of flavours in my main as much as I would have liked. I loved my starter and dessert, though. Granted, I only eat chicken and seafood so my menu choices were a bit limited too. 

Pressed west coast crayfish with Hermanus seaweed and nasturtium mayonnaise- delicious

I didn’t write down the official name for this, but it was something along the lines of a brinjal mousse with a preserved baby brinjal and candied brinjal

This was my main which was the fish option. Although I thought the plating was exquisite, I didn’t really enjoy the flavours much. 

I loved dessert: eggless chocolate mousse with apple mint ice cream, coffee meringue and crispy garden mint

I particularly liked this touch at the end of our meal, which came complimentary. 

When we left, we were given some fresh honeycomb and goats cheese to take home and enjoy the next day. Rishav put it in his pocket and forgot about it. You can only imagine the situation when he wore the same jacket two nights later and put his hand in his pocket- haha! 

So.. if you love fine dining, or you have a special occasion to celebrate and want to feel like royalty, definitely try Five Hundred.

They’re open for dinner only Tue- Sat. Call 011 292 6000 to book, or visit www.saxon.co.za 

xx H