You might not believe that a 40-plus seated restaurant existed in the elongated space where Bistro Dom resides – but the Waymouth St restaurant is proof that looks can be deceiving. And the truth will always get out: Bistro Dom has just been named the ‘Hottest Restaurant in SA’ by The Weekend Australian Magazine. So, hidden away, but no secret.
Executive Chef Duncan Welgemoed greets us with his thick South African accent and impish sense of humour. He is the kind of guy you wouldn’t mess with in a dark ally.
By reputation Duncan is a no bunkum kind of guy. He says it how it is and that’s the approach he takes to his cooking too. He lets the ingredients speak, and plates them in a way that allows them to converse in kinship as opposed to fighting for the microphone.
The first thing we notice when sitting is that there are only three floor staff serving all 45 customers. My companion asks why I am looking around as if being stalked by a crazed chef from the kitchen? I try to explain how miffed I am by the lack of staff, secretly thinking, “Oh dear, I am going to be waiting an hour for the entree”.
Four courses in and it felt as if there was one staff member per guest. Each time a plate was delivered the travelling theatre came with it and we were the audience. And along with that came Mat.
Manager of Bistro Dom, Mat is a handsome young man who knows and loves his wine. His various award nominations of late reflect this. He chooses and delivers a matched wine per course as if he had made them with his own hands and feet, with each wine perfectly matched to the accompanying delicately plated dish.
When we get to the pork belly served with kimchi parcels and Duncan’s own fermented goodies on the side, the beer Mat delivers is a refreshing and welcome match five wines in. Now, let it be said I need a whole other story for the pork belly and its perfectly crisp, crunchy, salty crackling and soft fatty goodness. I would never tell my Gran this to her face, but Duncan has outdone her in the crackling department. Duncan 1, Gran 0.
Before the pork there was the lamb, and the kingfish with lardo. These arrived after the peach smoked salmon (served with a dome of smoke that took me back to bonfire night).
After the pork came Duncan’s signature dessert that is being shouted about all across our fair city right now: the empty egg shell filled with luscious salted caramel, chocolate mousse and hazelnut cream with nostalgic popping candy sprinkled on top, just like the stuff kids’ dreams are made of.
To follow, both an ambrosial step back into the 70s and a smack in the face, with a fragrant yet tasteful take on the ‘after dinner mint’ using eucalyptus in place of traditional mint.
All of these dishes were truly illustrious but the one to hold my attention was ‘the amuse’: fresh goat’s curd with honey, pumpernickel and truffle served in a little terracotta bowl. Who would have thought a bowl the size of my palm could bring one young lady so much joy? It surprised me because as simple as it was, each mouthful reflected one of the three meals of the day.
First mouthful:. breakfast (a little strange given it’s dinner time), second: lunch, and then you arrive at dinner.
Each ingredient starred yet shared the amuse stage harmoniously with its co-ingredients. And then like clockwork came Mat.
Shop 1, 24 Waymouth St
Photography by Jonathan Van der Knaap