Restaurant review: InterContinental O.R. Tambo Airport
By Anna Trapido, 16 April 2019
Perhaps there are people who eat hotel room service fully clothed and at a table but I have yet to meet them. If they exist I am pretty sure that we would not/could not be friends. As far as I know, the point of room service is to dine alone, tucked up in bed, in one’s underwear while watching back to back episodes of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
There is something special about eating anything that has been covered with a cloche and wheeled along carpeted corridors. I have engaged in this epicurean activity all over the world. I once went all the way to New York where I grudgingly got out of bed to attend conference sessions and politely engaged with the Big Apple cultural excursions that my hosts had laid on. Museums and meetings not-withstanding, the most memorable part of trip was the room service menu. I nodded and smiled my way through all manner of posh stuff while wishing for the moment at the end of each day when I could shut the hotel room door, pick up the phone and order pastrami on rye and a Diet Coke.
There are times when the trials of going outside and talking to people are unavoidable but there is no rule that says room service is only available in such circumstances. Or that you have to travel long distances in order to deserve it. True luxury is ordering hotel room service in your own home town. Trust me. I know.
I have seldom felt more serene than the evening last month when I ate en chambre at the OR Tambo Inter-Continental Hotel in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Almost everyone at an airport is going somewhere but I wasn’t. There is a special kind of calm and anonymity that comes from knowing that others are passing through and preoccupied.
I knew that I had a lot of terrible TV to revel in so I ordered up a storm. First was a starter-sized portion of Caesar salad (R100) which went crunch in all the right places and had a pleasing Parmesan meets anchovy tang to the dressing. Wine options were limited but my choice of crisp Laborie Brut (R90 per glass) harmonized well enough with the salad’s briny-cheesey-fishy-croutony qualities. The second cloche contained rich, hearty, slow braised lamb shank (R290). Deep, dark, velvety wine sauce coated succulent, soft meat which rested on a billowing soft pillow of potato and butterbean mash. One of the many nice things about solitary in-room is that no one sees when you run your finger around the edge of the plate. Best of all was the superb soji. This cardamom and semolina pudding was dotted with flaked almonds and plump, golden sultanas. The final course is not normally on the room service menu but rather was a gift from the hotel’s executive chef Yoshan Naidu who had heard (because I told him at least twice) that this Durban-Indian style dessert is my favourite food of all time. Much as I love soji, the portion was so generous that there was some of the sweet treat left over the next morning – which is how I know that soji sets into a fabulous fudge-like substance. And that it is the perfect accompaniment to just woken up, bleary eyed gawping at documentaries about polar bears.
Everything I ate was beautifully cooked and tasted jolly nice but in truth it wasn’t the actual food that I most adored. It was the exquisite, impenetrable boundary of inconspicuousness and solitude that accompanied the experience.
InterContinental O.R. Tambo Airport: 011 961 5400; Tsogosun.com/intercontinental-or-tambo-airport
- Dr Anna Trapido was trained as an anthropologist at King’s College Cambridge and a chef at the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine. She has twice won the World Gourmand Cookbook Award. She has made a birthday cake for Will Smith, a Christmas cake for Nelson Mandela and cranberry scones for Michelle Obama. She is in favour of Champagne socialism and once swallowed a digital watch by mistake.