Clico has always been a favourite destination since I first set foot there a number of years ago. It’s beautiful, lush, luxurious, and it has one of the best restaurants in Johannesburg, Clico Restaurant. During a recent stay at Clico Boutique Hotel, we had the added privilege of also enjoying a three-course food & wine pairing experience.
Location & Venue
The very definition of intimate dining, this beautiful 36-seater restaurant is the perfect location for a special dinner or that next-level date-night. Situated in the leafy suburb of Rosebank, it’s ideally located in the heart of Johannesburg. The glass stack doors can be fully opened on a lovely summer’s day, or closed tight against winter, while still allowing tons of light to flood in. In winter, the fireplace also keeps guests nice and toasty. And Clico Restaurant makes for a relaxed brunch or lunch stop, if you’re keen to escape the mall crowds.
For my starter, I had an exquisite Aubergine Ravioli (of course, as I have a soft spot for anything eggplant). The flavours play a masterful song & dance on your tongue, as you have the lovely tartness from the tomato, texture in the form of macadamia nuts, and immensely fresh flavours. The colours pop on the white plate, especially on the drab rainy day we had our recent lunch. The strong flavour of pepper leaves a perfect finish.
I ended up accidentally having Travel Gigolo‘s wine pairing with my starter, but I found it to be an excellent error, as I do so love Beaumont Wines. I’ll never forget tasting their Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc and finally being won over by a Chenin. It’s a brilliant wine farm.
Travel Gigolo enjoyed his fresh Octopus starter, a salad that included gooseberry, papaya and a hint of chilli, making for bursts of fruity flavour. I took a big bite and enjoyed the crispy zing from the radish, with fennel adding a surprisingly complementary liquorish flavour to the dish. The sweetness of the papaya balanced out the saltiness of the octopus.
I decided on everyone’s favourite (including our waiter’s) and chose the pork belly for my main. This is one of the few spots that gets the pork crackling exactly right! What a treat. I considered this a very large serving, but likely it would be right for the average South African appetite. I would definitely go back and enjoy this for dinner on a cold winter’s evening. I personally would have liked a larger serving of bok choi, but it might have disrupted the symmetry of the plating. The cauliflower puree makes for a nice neutral accompaniment to the strong flavours of the pork and the bold sauce.
Travel Gigolo ordered his favourite, lamb. The lamb noisette comes with parmesan, olive, barley and mint jus, as well as a pulled lamb meatball, rolled in sesame seeds. This serving was also quite large, by our standards. I couldn’t pick up enough strong minty flavour, which was my main reason for grabbing a bite, but the lamb noisette was delicious, and I enjoyed it with my own red wine, meant for the pork.
I absolutely adore the wine selection at Clico. They go to extra lengths to source boutique wineries, in line with their own smaller-is-better unique client-centric philosophy. The inclusion of such wineries as Beaumont and Vondeling, both personal favourites, is one of the reasons they come highly rated. This was the first time I had the Catherine Marshall Amatra Red. Though it was paired with my pork belly, I enjoyed it more with the lamb noisette. I would have certainly loved to try the wine meant for the lamb, the Beaumont Pinotage, but that would have been me going overboard. I really enjoy seeing a restaurant that places boutique wineries front and centre. It’s great because it gives guests the opportunity to try some of our country’s most excellent wines, instead of automatically falling back on their favourites or usual choices.
As is my habit, I was going to skip dessert entirely and leave the sweet stuff to Travel Gigolo. However, when I looked at the dessert menu, and spotted the Cheese Board, I was immediately delighted! How rare that I find a dessert option just perfect for me. And to make the ending of my meal all the more glorious, the cheese board option was paired with the perfectly complementary and fantastically delicious Paul Cluver Riesling! “Over the moon” is an understatement.
As a massive fruit lover, Travel Gigolo naturally gravitated toward the Berries dessert. He ended up talking more about the rose-water ice cream, waxing lyrical about the intense rose taste and aroma. We both enjoyed the lovely way it was served, colourful and an interesting “plating”, if you could call it that. He enjoyed the overall freshness of the flavours, the sweet tartness of the berries and the crispy element from the berry granola. After the large meal we had just finished, he declared the dessert to be “a lot”, and had to throw in the towel before it was all gone, a possible first for him!
My overall feeling of Clico Restaurant can be summed up in one word: “superb”. I enjoy the sumptuous intimate venue, which is warm and elegant on a winter evening, sunny and light in summer. Mains are large, hearty servings for those who believe fine dining is mere “decoration on the plate”, as one reader once protested. If you can, opt for a multiple course food-and-wine pairing experience, as this is always extremely rewarding and will allow you to enjoy some amazing wines. Refined food and personal service ensure a delicious dining experience. Try it for your next special dinner or date night, to impress and really enjoy somewhere new and lovely. Dining at Clico is available to anyone – you do not need to be a guest at the hotel.