maître d’ - DW Eleven-13, Johannesburg
Written by Graham Howe
No. This fine restaurant is not named after a cryptic code for a magical additive – though many believe it does stand for a secret ingredient in the fare. The post-modernist moniker of one of the top restaurants in South Africa has a more simple origin – it is shorthand for the address (11–13) at Dunkeld West (DW), an upmarket mall in the suburbs.
The sublime simplicity of the fare has put this overnight culinary hot-spot on the map like a GPS landmark. The minimalist décor of the chic bistro, in lime-green tones, creates a sleek metropolitan ambience from the elegant cocktail lounge and bar to the dining zone with its banquettes in the comfort zone. The spotlight is on the perfectly plated food of award-winning chef Marthinus Ferreira, who transforms South African ingredients on a global, contemporary plate.
He honed his skills in the kitchens of Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay, and Dominic Chapman. Back at his own restaurant in his native South Africa, Ferreira focuses on local, seasonal ingredients – enhancing the natural tastes and textures of South African seafood, meat, and produce with his own brand of culinary wizardry. For starters, try pan-fried scallops in hazelnut vinaigrette – or beer-battered prawns.
Food critics often quip, “Never trust a skinny chef.” Well, you don’t have to worry about that around here. The big, bold chef cooks with dollops of passion, creating hearty dishes with intense combinations of flavour – and a twist in the tail that bears his signature in brilliant garnishes, sauces, and stocks. His signature dishes on a refreshingly simple bistro menu are inspired by the classics – curry-cured salmon; roast rack of lamb with caramelised tomato jus; or roasted quail with raspberry jus.
His exquisitely plated fare is deceptively simple – bringing fine dining into the comfort zone. In an age when many chefs focus on the complexity of dishes and showy technique, Ferreira makes his mark by paying great attention to detail. He goes back to the basics – creating classic combinations such as slow-roasted farm chicken with truffled mash and well-aged rib-eye steak with Bordelaise bone marrow sauce. And he says he does use secret ingredients – star anise, and butter, butter…and more butter!
the love of food
Pride, passion, and perfection are the three mantras of Marthinus Ferreira, chef-patron of DW Eleven-13.
Ferreira has worked in the United Kingdom in the Michelin-starred kitchens of Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, and Gordon Ramsay’s Riverside Brasserie. He names Franck Dangereux – formerly of La Colombe (rated 12th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2010) in Cape Town – and Dominic Chapman at The Royal Oak as mentors.
He defines his food as “simple, modern European with South African flair.” For inspiration, he says he looks to market ingredients – to make a Jerusalem artichoke soup when in season – and goes through his cookbooks regularly to create new dishes.
Asked what makes a top restaurant, he replies: “Great food, consistency…the challenge all restaurants face is how you manage guest expectations.”