QuillsI hate traffic so much that when I need to catch an early morning flight I always long to stay overnight at an airport hotel.
I’d love to stroll out of the lobby and over to OR Tambo without the stress of gridlock on Gillooly's, or the panic in your stomach when Gautrain drivers go on strike.
Then I check the hotel prices, abandon the idea and sadly set my alarm for a disgustingly early wake up.
If you are in that fortunate price bracket – or perhaps catching a late night flight - treat yourself to supper first at the airport’s Intercontinental Hotel. I went for a business meeting but stayed for supper, and found Quills Restaurant a comforting place for a woman dining alone.
The tables are far enough apart not to eavesdrop easily, but I could tell that the guests around me were an eclectic bunch. I’m sure one couple was there on a first date, which seemed like an extraordinary choice of venue. The others were businessmen and travellers speaking a variety of languages.
The food also has some international twangs with a South African undercurrent, and the meals are beautifully and artfully presented.
My starter was butternut and almond bobotie on open ravioli garnished with sweet tomato and onion chutney for R100. It was absolutely delicious with a dozen different flavours and textures to examine.
I found myself analysing every mouthful before and during eating it, picking up different pieces to taste one flavour before combining it with another to see how well it works. Butternut and almond work well together, I decided.
A bread basket contained a normal roll and a black roll, and curiosity made me pick the black one. It would have been an entertaining talking point, if I’d had someone to talk to. And soon I did, because chef Trevor Boyd has a habit of wandering around greeting the guests, so I asked him what was colouring it. It certainly wasn’t squid ink, but a tight-lipped Boyd just called it the chef’s secret.
My main course of maple and soy braised pork belly at R180 came with roasted pear and potato mash, roasted pear pieces and a little empanada pastry parcel stuffed with pork cheek. Again it was a delightful mix of textures, colours and flavours, with the pork cooked for seven hours and melting on the tongue.
The crockery is as carefully chosen as the ingredients, and I watched the waiters delivering other meals on grey slates or white porcelain shaped like shoe horns, with each colour or shape augmenting the stylish presentations.
I was drinking Winery of Good Hope unwooded Chardonnay at R70 a glass, and it went remarkably well everything. A top-up meant I still had enough wine left to cut through the richness of a dessert.
Pure lust trumped the decidedly full feeling that had gripped me and I ordered the over-the-top special of the day. The plate contained a Rocky Road brownie served with white chocolate Rocky Road ice cream, a marshmallow macaroon, a steamed hot chocolate pudding and a passion fruit and strawberry salad for R75.
That wasn’t one dessert, it was at least three, or four, if you count the pretty trail of sliced passion fruit and strawberries that ran like a river between the each island of calories.
I couldn’t decide which was my favourite part, the moist and luscious brownie made with top-quality chocolate, the light steamed pud or the chewy macaroon.
This was food of photogenic qualities, and tasted so good that I had to wipe my finger through the very final trail of chocolate.
Quills has that transient feeling of a hotel restaurant, although it certainly doesn’t feel like an airport restaurant. I can guarantee it’s going to make your in-flight food taste awfully shoddy though.
The Intercontinental Hotel, OR Tambo Airport
Open 24 hours a day.
Tel: 011 9615400