Things look and taste better against a Grei background

Lifestyle

Things look and taste better against a Grei background

Chef Candice Philip blurs the lines between art and food at Grei, the Saxon Hotel & Villa’s new restaurant

Roberta Thatcher

In an industry dominated by larger than life personalities and egos, Candice Philip is an anomaly. Head chef at the Saxon Hotel & Villa’s new fine-dining restaurant, Grei, she is quiet, humble, and seemingly a little in awe of where she’s ended up. “I’ve dreamed of having my own restaurant since I was five,” she admits shyly. “I just never thought that it would happen at the Saxon.”Philip’s rise to the top is about good old-fashioned hard graft. She has spent 13 years at the Saxon, where she’s toiled alongside David Higgs and Luke Dale-Roberts, the South African culinary icons who were head chefs before her.“The owners asked me what I would do if I had my own space, and the ideas were all already here,” she says. “I put forward the concept, and they said: ‘Okay.’ It was an unreal moment.”Philip’s concept is simple yet strong. The name “Grei” loosely translates as “a society of people”, which for her is what dining is all about. Playing on the word’s other meaning, Candice has swathed the 32-seater restaurant with layers of textured grey, “the colour without colour”, with the idea that the food will emerge from the kitchen, bringing colour to the room.Philip’s exceptionally creative approach to cooking has won her many accolades over the years. In a nod to the artistry of her presentation, in 2016 her Pea Wasabi Mousse was nominated for Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa. It was the first time in the awards’ history that a culinary item had been put forward. It’s this blurring of the lines between food and art that makes the subtle grey of the restaurant’s aesthetic the perfect backdrop, allowing the chef’s colourful, intricately crafted creations to take centre stage.Grei’s six-course menu is what Philip calls an herbaceous journey. Making the most of the Saxon’s rooftop vegetable garden, the menu takes often overlooked herbs and transforms them into the hero of the dishes. “People often throw herbs into a dish without thinking about the colour, aroma and flavour they bring to the table,” she says. “We want to really bring those elements out.”From the king crab, broadbean and verbena first course to the lamb, pumpkin and lovage consomme, the frozen mulled wine palate cleanser and the unfathomably beautiful guava, beetroot and hibiscus dessert, the meal is a sensory journey that is artfully presented every step of the way.“I want people to come and appreciate what we’re doing – to take the time and enjoy the journey,” says the chef of the three to three-and-a-half hour experience.“The Saxon is my second home, and my team and I are like family,” she says. “That’s what makes it all the more special. I’m excited to finally bring to the space my own long-held vision. It’s like a dream, it still doesn’t feel real.”The Saxon is at 36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg. www.saxon.co.za

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