Dion Vengatass

Dion Vengatass

Graduated from Swiss Hotel School with a hotel management diploma. Travelled and worked in America, before joining the Saxon Hotel as demi chef de partie, where he worked with chef Rudi Liebenberg for two years. Joined Rudi at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in 2009, starting in the breakfast restaurant, and eventually taking over the hotel’s main kitchen and fine-dining restaurant.

Credits his Ouma Violet for instilling his passion for cooking.

Current Executive sous chef at Lord Nelson Restaurant at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel

Restaurants he rates in 2019

For a casual meal Marika’s in Upper Buitenkant Street. Such a relaxing, calm setting with the most amazing mezze selection – all cooked by Marika herself. It almost feels as if you were in her home in Greece, that’s how hospitable it is. And the food tastes like granny prepared it. It touches the soul and leaves you with warm tingles in your tummy.

For a special occasion Not being biased, but the Lord Nelson Restaurant at Belmond Mount Nelson has the most nostalgic atmosphere: an old-school fine-dining set up with tablecloths and the works. You feel special just entering the room. The food is simple and unpretentious, but adventurous at the same time. Very attentive professional service with great old-school classics like Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska.

For a guilty pleasure Lefties. I just simply love their cheese burger, that slow-roasted tomato and smokey basting just brings another level of umami to your palate. With a good craft beer, I’m good to die.

For a Winelands experience Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia – the most beautiful views overlooking the winelands and vegetable gardens. The sunset is jaw-dropping and the food fits the part. Ivor [Jones] changes the menu quite frequently, and plays with Asian flavours and contemporary cuisine. I love the simplicity of the presentation, but yet it has such intricacy in terms of the layering of intense flavour that leaves you mesmerised and wondering “how did he do this”. I simply love this restaurant and wish I had a budget that would allow me to eat there every day.

For authentic cuisine Obi Restaurant. I’m a huge fan of Japanese cuisine, and there’s no place that has such authenticity. Papa San, the master sushi chef, has way too much experience; and you can taste it in the detail of every bite of sushi. It’s unpretentious, and food is the focus. The service is great, and you are always greeted by the man himself. I love a restaurant where you can taste and feel the energy of the chef’s presence.

Best new restaurant Eike by Bertus Basson. Not many South African chefs actually cook what we were raised to cook, what comes from our heritage; and I absolutely respect that from a local chef. Why look abroad when we have such beautiful local techniques and flavours? He plays with local produce in such a smart manner, leaving you wowed by flavours you grew up eating. The service, like in many of his other establishments, never fails to amaze; attention to detail is always key in his book.

Best “oldie but goodie” Chef’s Table at Belmond Mount Nelson. That old hotel still has a restaurant with spunk and personality. Hidden in the corner of the live and vibrant kitchen lies a beautiful but natural setting, with a five-course tasting menu and many surprises. The service is great, and the atmosphere is not stuck up; it’s about the food, and enjoying the theatre show put on by the chefs, who come to explain the dishes, giving you a unique insight into how they conceptualised their creations. If you are a foodie, or just enjoy cooking, this is a must.

The best restaurant overall The Restaurant at Waterkloof. There is no mistaking that this is the number one restaurant in the country. Chef Gregory Czarnecki simply knows what he and his team are doing. From the setting, to the service, to the mouth-watering cuisine; it all wows and leaves you in an absolute amazement. There’s not much to say other than “near perfection”.