For the next 2 restaurants in Restaurant Week I flew up to Joburg. The first restaurant was the Atrium Restaurant, located in the Intercontinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers. The restaurant has a pleasant ambiance – similar to many fine-dining restaurants in Sandton – and had a views of the street.
On arrival, a friendly manager met us (Themba) and showed us to our table. A waiter appeared seconds later, ready to take our drink orders. However, we hadn’t even received the wine list! After receiving the wine list we were ready to order but the waiter couldn’t pronounce the wines and had to take the wine list with her. She arrived a few minutes later, empty handed, as she could not find the wine we requested. This was understandable as the wine list was extensive. My boyfriend (who as Janina also has a name – Lee) and I ordered 2 glasses of the Warwick First Lady unoaked Chardonnay, 2014 (it was going to be a long day so a bottle of wine would have been overambitious 😛 ). It was a lovely wine, smooth and with fruity notes. What impressed me about the wine was the wine bottle was brought to the table and poured in front of us. Not many restaurants do this when ordering wine by a glass and it’s a great service to have. For me, I’d like to be sure I’m drinking the correct wine and I’d also like to see the year.
Wine in hand we were ready to order. Another friendly waiter arrived to take our orders but could not explain any of the dishes, as the menu was new. I don’t think that is a sufficient excuse, especially when you’re participating in Restaurant Week and the restaurant will be serving the same menu for a week. Nonetheless, after a quick explanation from the kitchen our orders were taken. For starters I ordered the Thai Pork Belly and Lee ordered the Freshly Steamed Saldanah Bay Mussells. However, 10 minutes later a staff member from the kitchen arrived to inform me that the pork belly was unavailable as it was still being prepared. I must admit I was disappointed, after reading the menu I was excited about the pork belly. With great regret I ordered the same starter as Lee – regret as I live in Cape Town so I doubt the mussels will be as fresh as Cape Town.
The starter was alright, nothing amazing. The mussels were cooked well and the mariniere sauce was creamy and had a strong lemon taste. The pasta serviettes (large sheets of pasta) were al dente and added some meatiness to the dish.
For the mains, I had the Almond Crusted Baramundi, which is a fish (Sea bass) dish. The Sea bass was cooked well and was very tender. The almond crusting provided no depth to the fish. Surrounding the fish was a lentil, tomato and spinach sauce which added heaviness to the dish and an earthy taste to the fish but was quite bland. However, the creamed parsnip was delicious and made the dish enjoyable. However, every bite without the parsnip had to be forced down.
Lee had the Roast Crown of Chicken, which was a huge portion. The chicken was cooked well and was tender. The gnocchi was al dente and delicious. And then for some odd reason, chorizo was added to the dish which added saltiness to the dish. Each element on it’s own was cooked well and enjoyable, however when you combined the elements it was a complete miss. No element paired well with the other.
After the mains, and after ONLY Lee’s plate had been cleared, we waited for service and for dessert. And then we waited and waited some more. Some how all the waiters had disappeared! There was no one around – no one checking on you, no one clearing away my plate, no one bringing dessert – just an empty restaurant, which mind you had 2 other occupied tables. Never have I been to any restaurant or dive where the staff just disappeared. 20 minutes of waiting later, I went to the front desk to find out what’s happening. After a staff member went into the kitchen, dessert magically appeared after a minute, brought out by a waiter. After receiving an apology, but no explanation, we tucked into our dessert.
I had the Apple Malva, which was delicious and the best dish I had at the Atrium. The malva was moist and lovely on it’s own. The strawberries added sweetness. It really was a well-executed dish and made me realise the potential that the Atrium had – they really could produce fine-dining dishes and not the average nonsense we ate.
Lee ordered the Milk Tart Pannacotta, which was average. The pannacotta was firm and had a subtle taste similar to a milk tart. The Ouma Rusk biscotti added some crunch to the dish.
For a fine-dining restaurant I was very disappointed in the Atrium Restaurant. Service was terrible and left a lot to be desired. The food was also average, aside from the Apple Malva. I would definitely not go back. I wrote a short review on the Restaurant Week website for the Atrium Restaurant, detailing the above terrible experience. Themba contacted me and apologised for the service received and tried to explain that the Atrium is not run is this poor manner. While I appreciate being contacted it doesn’t change my mind about the Atrium. Restaurant Week is a great opportunity for restaurants to showcase themselves and the Atrium restaurant definitely dropped the ball.
I give the Atrium 1 cupcakes