• By Rosanne Buchanan

    “Welcome to the Vegas of Africa,” said the parking attendant as we (and 100s of visitors) descended on the casino complex. The last time I was at the then Caesar’s Palace (now Emperors) was around the time the casino was launched and that must be 15-odd years ago. At that stage casinos were all the rage with gaming licences a hotly contested industry.
    So when the chef’s table invitation landed in my inbox I was intrigued at the idea of revisiting the five star Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperors. The hotel has a seasoned exec chef in Bobby Doolooa, who was born in Mauritius but has spent most of his working life in SA and the rest of Africa.

    The parking lot was heaving and cars were queuing to park… first surprise (this could have something to do with having Hooters as a tenant!). But lots of restaurants are on offer and the casino itself seemed to be the drawcard.

    The hotel’s signature restaurant, Aurelia’s, was busy but we had a cosy private dining room set up for the chef’s table. A chef’s table is traditionally held in the kitchen but Bobby explains that kitchens have become smaller working spaces so it just isn’t practical these days.

    The hotel hosts ‘wine and dine’ evenings every month (info is available on the Emperors Palace website at www.emperorspalace.co.za) and we sampled the type of menu Bobby serves at these gourmet evenings. The restaurant’s regular menu includes firm favourites like lamb shanks, fresh seafood and meaty dishes like pork fillet simmered in Gorgonzola cream and chicken stuffed with avo and feta.

    We had a mini kitchen set up so that Bobby could demonstrate his culinary skills, whipping up a creamy soufflé topping for his butternut soup starter, followed by lobster tails cooked in wine and served with his legendary vanilla pod sauce (something he picked up while working in the Comores). I wasn’t convinced until I tasted it. Delicate and slightly sweet, it complemented the meaty lobster flesh.

    The fillet of beef was cooked to pink perfection and served with a herby blue cheese topping and a curry sauce… Sounds daft, but once again with Bobby’s classical French training, his sauces were just sublime.

    To end – traditional malva pud with Amarula ice cream and a taste of his French-style chocolate mousse cake. Pure chocolate heaven…

    I was suitably impressed and would definitely go back for a meal. It’s also the perfect location if you’re heading to or from the airport and have some time to kill.