Monday, August 30, 2010

My Birthday @ Roots

Today is my birthday: "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Leaine, happy birthday to me" :) And boy oh boy have I been spoilt! In typical Virgo style I have already been celebrating my birthday for about a week now, but yesterday was definitely the pinnacle; 9 of my closest friends joined me for a 6 course lunch at Roots Restaurant at Forum Homini.

It was a glorious 26 degree day; the weather in itself held so much promise and there was great anticipation for the foodie extravaganza ahead.

As requested by Roots, I dutifully gave them my dietary requirements: allergies to gluten, dairy, egg, yeast and garlic... I admit, my list is long and to most people it can seem daunting, but I had high hopes for this top 10 restaurant.

Upon arrival, we started off with a celebratory bottle of bubbly. Yes, sparkling wine and all other wines do contain yeast - but I was still going to be doing the wine pairing to see how well they could do with my allergy free food. I wanted to see if they would still take into account the fact that the wine teasers needed to compliment the food and vice versa.

Our meal commenced with an amuse-bouche. Mine was a confit of quail legs, which I must confess was pretty tasteless. The whole point of an amuse-bouche is to whet the taste buds and get them excited for the meal ahead. My poor little quail's legs did not do this for me, but the others had chicken liver with goose berries, which looked rather appetising. Already, this was not boding well for me...

The starter on the menu was a chilled tomato soup with basil ice cream, strudel pieces and a balsamic reduction. Each soup was extravagantly poured into the bowls at the table. My guests raved about the flavour combinations and different textures that the crunch of the strudel and creaminess of the ice cream provided, which in turn, cut through the acid in the tomato. I on the other hand was given the tomato soup with only the balsamic reduction and nothing else to replace the creaminess of the basil ice cream or the crunch of the strudel. I was really disappointed that I had missed out on this experience, although it was very tasty. The balsamic reduction however did still contain yeast - as it is vinegar.

The second course was an apple, watercress and peppered pecorino salad with apple and grapefruit jellies and croutons. With mine they left off the pecorino and croutons. It was very flavoursome being sweet and salty and the jellies added an extra texture dimension. But I couldn't help feeling cheated that the pecorino and croutons weren't replaced with something else.

Tempura lobster came next with pickled fennel and cucumber with chilli. At last, I was getting the same as everyone else - except my batter was done with tapioca flour! Yippie! This was the best course for me - it complimented the wine the best and the flavours were out of this world. Although, once again this dish contained yeast from the vinegar - I was beyond caring as the tastes were exceptional. The theme of sweet and salty rang through and the lobster was tender with the crunch from the batter - utter yum!

An unusual sorbet of beetroot, rock salt and cumin was our palate cleanser. This was a controversial choice as some people enjoyed it, while others didn't. Other tables received cucumber sorbet. I was really happy with the beetroot.

Guinea fowl with mushrooms, smoked bacon and peas followed. I don't recall ever eating guinea fowl before, but the smokiness of the bacon really complimented it well. The original dish was done with potato gnocchi and a creamy sauce. Mine had a red wine reduction instead. The yeast allergy was not catered for again with the gravy and the mushrooms, but the flavours were good. Some complained about the fat around the guinea fowl, yet I was lucky enough to have a lean piece and I found the meat to be very tender.

"A Study of Lamb" became the hot topic of conversation - I guessed right when I said it might be a trio of lamb as "trios" seem to be very popular at the moment. The trio was a tender saddle of lamb, lamb's liver and a lamb sausage. I found the saddle and the sausage to have similar flavours, although I was not complaining as the flavour was delicious - I even enjoyed the liver, much to my own surprise. The original dish was done with a cauliflower puree, I was given a beetroot puree, which I was shocked about - but there must have been dairy in the cauliflower. The menu mentioned saffron potatoes, but we only got one cube, which was disappointing. On the whole I enjoyed this dish and I found that the beetroot worked well.

The piece de resistance was a "Chocolate Landscape". Butterflies fluttered in my stomach and I held my breath, hoping to receive something exciting for my dessert. Sadly, and I think I even shed a tiny tear, my dessert was not a master piece like the original dish, which consisted of chocolate soil, roots and branches, tiny pieces of honey comb, and chocolate blocks with a decadent brownie covered in a caramel sauce taking centre stage, and finished off with a banana ice cream. My dish of apple sorbet and fruit, although very refreshing, just could not compare or compete.

In conclusion, the original menu was a triumph. Each plate took the eater on a journey of taste, texture and sight, but my dishes in some cases left me wanting and a little envious of my friends. I know Roots' forte is not catering for people with allergies; they are clearly masters at what they do.

Each plate was not just a work of art, but was a lavish display of talent and flavour.

I do feel that they could have tried harder, maybe even done a bit more research with my dishes, as they clearly did not understand the yeast allergy for one. I give them credit for trying, but I would have even been happy with a cake made from the "Glutagon" range, found at Dischem and all other health shops, to wish me a happy birthday, instead of popcorn. It would have made me feel more special, instead of just highlighting the fact that my allergies make me "different".

Yes, I have allergies, but that doesn't make me less important or make me like food less, as a result. I am paying the same amount; (some would argue that people with allergies should pay more because they are deviating from the menu) no problem, just provide me with an equally as amazing journey as everyone else.

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone - it is certainly a must experience, but sadly they are not fully able to cater for all types of allergies.

Besides the few food hiccups, this was a day filled with laughter, happiness and very fond memories that were shared with some very amazing people! Thanks for a super birthday guys :)

Click here to see my latest review of Roots


  1. Happy birthday! Hope it was a lovely one in spite of the hiccups with the meal.

  2. Thanks Marisa :) I did have a stunning day - it was in fact one of my most memorable b-days :)