• Chef Johannes Richter’s new menu is an ode to spring and the abundance of local ingredients it brings with it.

    The chef, whose dining experience has recently been awarded a prestigious one plate at the recently held JHP Gourmet Guide awards, and which is also the only Durban-based destination shortlisted as a starred dining establishment for the up-coming Eat Out Woolworths Awards 2022, shares a taste of his hyper-endemic spring menu.

    Image courtesy of The LivingRoom at Summerhill Guest Estate.

    The first signs of spring are always a welcome sight at Summerhill Guest Estate, home of the hyper-endemic, seasonally driven The LivingRoom dining experience – helmed by Chef Johannes Richter.

    “It’s a season which calls for subtlety and a lighter approach to cooking, and this is reflected through my menu,” he explains. “The multi-course fine dining experience, offers up a taste of the season with every plate.”

    It’s this time of year when the estate’s grounds slowly begin to come to life. The herb garden usually leads the way, the fragrant lemon verbena often the first tell-tale sign of what’s to come.

    The trees which, come summer, will be hanging heavy with fruit begin to blossom and the annual spring rains mean the surrounding forests become a treasure trove of mushrooms – just waiting to be foraged.

    And it’s with these unique, local and sustainably grown and sourced ingredients, with which Chef Johannes creates The LivingRoom’s spring menu – an ode to nature, the season and all it offers.

    From the gardens he begins by harvesting herbs and blossoms. The coffee blossoms which are similar to Ylang Ylang and are used in the petit four with prickly pear, prove particularly challenging, requiring the perfect clip to use the blossoms while readying the plant to offer coffee cherries in the coming summer months.

    Images courtesy of The LivingRoom at Summerhill Guest Estate. From left to right: Willowdale truffle, cauliflower & dahl miso; Lesotho trout, pigs head & parsley; Beef picanha, smoked Zulu pumpkin & Willowdale truffle

    The vegetable garden offers up the last of the late winter’s crop – the likes of tomato, okra, sweet potato, amadumbe and even ginger is harvested – some to be used now, others to be preserved for months to come.

    This year, the chef is working on preserving the amadumbe, taking the indigenous, tropical root and turning it into an umami rich miso paste which will be used for marinating in an amadumbe inspired main course come winter. While the ginger has been finely sliced and picked for the year ahead.

    Kwa-Zulu Natal’s famed mango trees are too beginning to bear fruit – picked green they add tang and texture to a dish when fresh, while the excess will be pickled. All aligning with the chef’s dedication to sustainability and his passion for fermentation.

    It’s also the season for mulberries, picking both ripe and unripe berries, the chef will pickle the latter while using the former to make a jam. They are a flavour that works so well with venison – sourced locally from Zulu Waters – which often feature on The LivingRoom’s menu. The crunchy, tangy and sweet working wonderfully with the game meat. The spring menu sees wildebeest complimented by mulberry as a vinaigrette, pickled & compote together with elements of curried butter beans.

    It’s a season of not only new beginnings but also balance. The longer days and shorter nights, paired with the regions diurnal temperature means warmer days while evenings still recall the bite of winter.

    “Spring is all about finding balance,” says the chef, “you’ve got the fresh flowers and shoots, the sweet berries and then the earthy, nutty and umami mushrooms.”

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    Issued on behalf of The LivingRoom at Summerhill Guest Estate

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