The room is among the city’s most grand, chef Darren O’Donovan mans the kitchen and the service is famously mannered. But esteemed chef and culinary consultant Paulo Santo’s heady, epic ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ menus are the true heart of Aurum Restaurant, the newest addition to Joburg’s dining scene set to open its doors soon.
Aurum Restaurant, meaning ‘gold’ in Latin, is the brainchild of Paulo Santo, MD and Senior Partner of Aurum Restaurant, in collaboration with the Legacy Group and its chairman, Bart Dorrestein. True to its name, the restaurant delivers understated prestige with an excellent return on investment. “Aurum represents luxury, but not in an intimidating, pretentious or ostentatious manner. Just as gold is timeless in its appeal, we too wish to exist beyond time as a successful, renowned business serving a cosmopolitan African city – the City of Gold,” says Paulo.
Good looks aren’t everything, but at Aurum they’re serious business. Tables overlook Sandton from the seventh floor of The Leonardo, South Africa and Africa’s new tallest building. There are glorious, luxurious indoor and outdoor seating areas plus a sunlit pool terrace, two private dining rooms and a wine library. The décor and design are curated around the element of air; the transparent, exposed architecture with visible columns and beams; and Joburg, being both the City of Gold and the largest urban forest in the world. There’s the main artwork installation that represents a golden flow of air, as well as gold and green paint hues, custom designed furniture that combines natural leathers and timbers, and subtle touches of gold throughout the restaurant.
Aurum’s kitchen is headed up by Paulo’s former chef colleagues at Cube Tasting Kitchen, head chef Darren O’Donovan and sous chef and sommelier Lisa de Beer, who’ve perfected haute cuisine. The menu features contemporary European cuisine with a touch of local flair and has been inspired by Darren and Lisa’s travels around Europe and the types of food they like to eat. By day, Aurum presents the ‘Light’ menu, Solis, which offers à la carte breakfast, brunch and lunch. By night, Aurum takes on a new sense of luxury manifested by the ‘Dark’ menu, Luna, for dinner.
The food, like the space, exudes unbuttoned elegance. Signature dishes include the cured springbok, slow-braised pork belly and ‘Afternoon Tea’ – a dessert inspired by the memory of dunking Ouma rusks into tea, showcasing the flavours of rooibos, buttermilk and Clemengold. We were one of a few select media invited to an exclusive media lunch at Aurum, where we sampled the Light menu. For starters, we tried the outrageously delicious Burrata Salad with a creamy ball of fresh burrata, peak-perfect heritage tomatoes, fresh basil, candied almonds and grapefruit as well as the Buttermilk Crispy Squid; an unalloyed delight for those who love their squid golden-brown and freshly fried served with black bean purée, crispy fried capers, caper berries and horseradish.
The standout main course was the Norwegian Salad complemented by lemon curd, black pepper mayo, garden pea textures and potato air. The lemon curd that’s melted into a luscious sauce adds the perfect amount of citrus flavour to the fish with practically no effort, while the peas add vibrant, fresh flavour, texture and colour to the dish. We can also recommend the Leek Ravioli filled with degrees of leek and served in a Parmigiano sauce with white balsamic, and the Roosting Chicken – a chicken thigh, ‘crispy nest’, liver pâté, quail egg, butternut crème caramel and smoked chicken jus.
Accompanying the food menu is an equally impressive wine list, which features 99 of both South Africa and the globe’s finest wines, many of which are available by the glass. Compiled by Lisa, the wine list has been designed in such a way as to convey the best on offer from around the world without being pretentious and inaccessible. This enables guests to be exploratory but also offers them their familiar favourites from the Cape Winelands. In the wine library, there’s a smaller list on offer that boasts special vintages, limited releases and some different, more ‘edgy’ options for the adventurous. Aurum also offers a cocktail list designed by specialist mixologist, Alex Farnell, as well as a selection of after-dinner options – think grappa, cognac, fine whiskies and premium spirits.
Even though Aurum is so central to The Leonardo, it’s entirely independent from the hotel brand and a golden oasis for visitors and residents of Joburg alike. In addition to the main restaurant, Aurum will service the entire food and beverage offering at The Leonardo through its subsidiary brands, namely Leo’s Lounge gin bar and deli kitchen located in the lobby of Level 2, The Leonardo Conference Centre on Level 2, OCTO Bar pool terrace bar, Alto234 rooftop champagne bar and The Leonardo Suites Rental Pool bespoke room service to rental apartments.
Whether you’re planning to book a table for two for a hot date night or want to book in a power lunch to impress at a suitably sophisticated spot, you can trust us when we say that Aurum is just the place. Be sure to like and follow Aurum on social media so that you’re kept in the loop as to when bookings open.
The Leonardo, 0A Maude Street, Sandton