On a special occasion, Boyfriend and I decided to book somewhere fancy. We chose The Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson Hotel. We were treated with an appropriate level of enthusiasm, and served a complementary glass of sparkling wine. The staff have clearly been well trained, but missed one crucial point. Soon after being seated we received a platter of truly South African appetisers, including mini mince-stuffed vetkoeks, and other meaty not-treats, for two vegetarians. So that part was understandable, considering we hadn’t yet had a chance to tell them we were vegetarians. However, even after explaining to them why we had not eaten the canapes, we were presented with a complementary braised beef and cauliflower soup. This start to the evening was rather surprising, really, especially considering The Planet offers a vegan set menu. I have to admit though, once we got it across that we were vegetarians, we were brought a newly made soup sans braised beef, and my was it incredible? It was light and fluffy, fully flavoured and very cauliflower. Delicious.
For mains I had ordered a wild mushroom risotto. Where to start. It was oily and rich and topped with an incongruent and unexplained green mouse of some description. I think it may have been a matter of too much parmesan cheese, but I was literally separating off the rice and mushrooms from the oil by tilting my plate at an angle. I didn’t finish it. Boyfriend had a butternut ravioli, which was technically a better dish, but its filing was very sweet and over-infused with a citrus flavour. All in all, neither of us much enjoyed our mains, and moved bravely on to dessert.
I had the lemon chiboust with a strawberry salad. This redeemed my dining experience. It was light and subtle, garnished intricately with burn sugar and the most delightful strawberry salad. The salad presented strawberries in a multitude of forms: dried, , candied, fresh (and so thinly sliced). Boyfriend had the fresh fruit terrine sorbet, which was an assortment of home made sorbets, that really hit the spot.
Nonetheless, it is not worth getting carried away on good desserts when the rest of the experience was not up to scratch. For an upmarket restaurant, with considerably high prices, we were not satisfied. The decor is another story. Located in the grand old Mount Nelson Hotel, right next to the elegant and grandiose Garden Room, The Planet has been redecorated to a modern style which some may not appreciate. The galaxy-patterned carpets, glittery menus and light fittings, and glass planet ball-balls really contrast with the fine linen and and vaulted ceilings that speak to the colonial decor featured throughout the rest of the hotel. It was not our taste.
If you’re vegan, it might be worth trying the vegan journey menu, considering the scarcity of vegan fine-dinging restaurants in South Africa, but as a vegetarian, I think you can do much better!