A Culinary Journey at Botanica With Chef Ray:
An Afro-French Collaboration
As I walked into the familiar and intimate dining room at Botanica, I was filled with nostalgia, as delectable memories of my last culinary adventure there flooded my mind. The restaurant had recently welcomed Chef Ray, a culinary virtuoso, as its new Executive Chef. Right from the moment we arrived, our waiter greeted us with a radiant smile, exuding genuine warmth.
Chef Ray, whose full name is Ray Tatenda Juru, discovered his passion for cooking at a tender age. Growing up in Zimbabwe, he found solace in his mother’s kitchen, captivated by the enticing aromas that wafted through the air. Attending food and nutrition classes in high school felt like second nature to him. He recollects, “I was always drawn to the kitchen, unable to resist the alluring scents that beckoned me.”
Taking a leap of faith, Chef Ray made a pivotal decision, shifting his focus from technical graphics to food and nutrition. Being the only male student in the class initially felt peculiar, but when his grades soared during the second term, he realised that his love for cooking had found its calling. With 14 years of culinary experience and training at the prestigious Christina Martin Culinary International Hotel School, where he honed his skills in classic French techniques, Chef Ray brings a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to Botanica.
The new menu at Botanica, masterfully crafted by Chef Ray, draws inspiration from the timeless French classics. He confidently states, “French classics are an impeccable foundation, and with my experience and creativity, the possibilities are limitless.” Having dined at Botanica in the past, I was elated to discover that the menu was now à la carte, granting diners the freedom to explore various options. As Gabriel, our attentive waiter for the evening gracefully draped a napkin on my lap, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement as the unveiling of the new menu commenced.
I indulged in the bread symphony, a trio of bread offerings. The charcoal bread, infused with sultanas, the cape malay bread with curry and semolina, and a selection of flavoured clarified butters took my taste buds on a compelling journey. The green-hued butter, infused with molten salt, chives, and parsley, added a vibrant touch. The combination of flavours from the cape malay bread transported me to an aromatic oasis, evoking a warm, cosy feeling akin to snuggling under a fluffy blanket during the winter.
As an aperitif, I was presented with a visually stunning amuse-bouche in delicate, translucent mini-glass cups. At first glance, it appeared to be a coffee-based concoction crowned with microfoam. However, upon closer inspection, I discovered a symphony of braised pulled duck, butternut, and cappuccino infused with five-spice. The unexpected marriage of flavours lent a delightful sweetness with earthy undertones, presenting a remarkable twist on familiar ingredients.
Botanica’s ambiance effortlessly blends the serenity of a botanical garden with the charm of antique-style decor, creating a haven of relaxation between courses.
For the main course, I delighted in the kandolo steak tartare—a luscious, melt-in-your-mouth medley of rich, tender beef sprinkled with biltong powder and accompanied by layers of mustard, curried apricot, and French bread. The succulent, buttery texture of the steak blended harmoniously with the mustard’s creamy sweetness and the apricot’s savoury hints. Each bite showcased the impeccable quality of locally sourced ingredients, leaving an indelible impression.
The dessert presentation featured a captivating blend of dried marigold meringue and blackberry textures. A mosaic of white chocolate, Cointreau chocolate cremeux sable, and blackberry sorbet delighted the senses. The vivid purple hue of the frozen fruit purée, slightly tart and refreshingly acidic, artfully cleansed the palate, juxtaposing the sweetness of the white and dark chocolate components.
The culinary creations from Botanica’s kitchen, guided by Chef Ray’s unique flair for combining flavours and aesthetics, deliver an extraordinary gastronomic experience. From the moment the appetisers grace the table to the last crumbs of dessert, the quality of the food and service remains unparalleled. As someone who has experienced Botanica’s wonders before, I can confidently say that each visit is a marvellous experience, with consistently superb cuisine.
MORE ABOUT CHEF RAY
Chef Ray is an alumnus of the prestigious Christina Martin Culinary International Hotel School, where he trained in the classic techniques of French cooking.
FARM TO TABLE:
Botanica prides itself on its farm-to-table concept, ensuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients are used. The restaurant’s commitment to sustainability is evident as soon as you enter, with shelves adorned with lush herbs. The menu itself is a harmonious fusion of fresh produce and culinary artistry.
- Nestled within the eco-friendly Ciêla Resort, the establishment goes above and beyond to minimise its environmental impact.
- The hotel demonstrates an eco-conscious approach by efficiently recycling green distilled water generated through osmosis, within its premises.
- The utilisation of heat-absorbing windows across the estate enhances indoor comfort, reflecting a thoughtful and sophisticated design choice.
- Within the estate, a remarkable assortment of over 1000 trees forms a man-made grove, adding to its allure and ecological significance.
Renowned for its fine dining, Botanica requires reservations to accommodate guests’ dietary restrictions and preferences.