The match between Basalt and Chef Diack is an excellent one. The Peech, where the restaurant resides, is a place known for treating guests with exceptional care. There’s a real sense of 'home away from home', and the same can be said about Chef Diack’s food offering: it is inviting and comforting.
When booking you’re given the choice of three tasting menu options: vegetarian, pescatarian and standard. The menu changes seasonally and Basalt is open to accommodating some dietary requirements, but it’s not top of their agenda. Diack’s certified organic, family farm in the Magaliesburg, Brightside, is responsible for 80% of the ingredients found on the Basalt menu, which is no small feat. There’s no GMO anywhere near these plates.
The food is unapologetically rich, wholesome and smacks with flavour. The plating is attractive, but it’s not going to set Instagram on fire. As mentioned, Diack calls his style ‘refined dining’ and it’s exactly that; Diack isn’t perturbed by the muted tones and colours affiliated with slow cooking – dishes such as terrines and bone marrow – and it’s quite refreshing. His food is approachable, but at the same time, it has class.
Standouts at our visit included the game bird terrine en croûte: a delicate game and pork terrine wrapped in wafer-thin pastry and brought together with whipped goat cheese, pistachio mousse and garden peas. Simple, elegant and on point. The dish of the evening was without a doubt the hand-cut carbonara wild boar pancetta, with bacon powder and smoked bacon emulsion. Perfectly al dente, freshly-made pasta served in a sinfully rich and velvety carbonara sauce, given a wild boar pancetta and bacon dust umami punch, and finished with cured duck egg yolk shavings.
Our one criticism relates to the main course: a choice between pressed beef brisket, hibachi grilled calamari or pork belly. We opted for the calamari and the brisket. The calamari, served with a blackened fish-bone jus, baked potato purée and farm greens was a beautifully balanced dish, but the brisket, served with a port wine jus, baked potato purée and farm greens, lacked textural contrasts. A small medallion of steak would have been a better fit, something to bite into, considering this dish is the main event.
To finish, the warm chocolate tart with roasted citrus coral and a beetroot and vanilla bean ice-cream was sensational. Not too sweet, almost black in colour from the richness of the cocoa and oozing from the centre, it was fantastic. We’d go back just for this and the carbonara.
The service is warm and attentive, the majority of the staff have been at Basalt for several years, and you really get the sense that you’re being welcomed into their home, albeit a rather posh one. Tinashe Manyau is the in-house sommelier, and his infectious smile and enthusiasm for his craft will delight. Wines are supplied by Toasted Barrels so expect different, boutique offerings such as wild fermented pinot noir and cool-climate pinotage.
The space hasn’t changed since Basalt opened its doors in 2019, and it works. There’s something to be said for more intimate restaurant venues; they’re romantic without having to try, and this 35-seater has just the right balance of sophistication without frump. Having said that, with Diack at the helm, there’s a greater sense of fun in the air, the setting is more relaxed and the crowd takes that on. People go to have good food and wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously: a good night out in an elegant setting with food and service to match.
On the evening of our visit we enjoyed the 'Wild & Free' menu. The tasting menus change frequently, up to eight times per year, due to seasonal availability of produce at Brightside farm. Basalt's new 'Moroccan Spring' menu is available from Thu, Sep 28. The six-course tasting menu is R895 p.p, with additional wine pairing at R750 p.p. Vegetarian menu available by request at R750 p.p. Booking is essential; book here.