It’s no secret that I’m a fan on the Mannings. Since first meeting Chef Matt Manning and his wife/business partner (and as of July 1st, co-parent!) Roxanne, I’ve been in awe of everything they do, really – from their OTT parties to their hospitality and dining establishments, the Chef’s Studio and Grub & Vine. Anyone who knows them personally will wholeheartedly agree on one thing – the Mannings do not half-arse anything. From hosting a destination wedding in Mozambique to a gender reveal party for their baby boy Roman (also, tricking us all into thinking they were going to name him Flicker! I wanted to ask if they were serious but also didn’t want to offend), it’s hard to find a couple who grab life by the horns quite like Matt and Roxy.
It should actually be no surprise then that the Mannings are responsible for what is arguably the most innovative wine and dine experience in SA in this trying time of COVID-19. Despite the restaurant industry taking possibly the biggest knock of all, the Mannings have come up with a gourmet home dining experience to eclipse all others. Introducing: Virtual Dining by Matt Manning.
How it works
- A delectable 5-course menu, available for delivery/collection between Thursday – Saturday every week.
- Three of the 5-courses are already prepared for you by Chef Matt – simply follow the instructions included to plate & enjoy.
- Here’s where the interactive bit comes in: using the elements included in your package, create your starter & main courses by following a simple video tutorial from Chef Matt, sent to you upon confirmation of your order. While the dishes are guaranteed to impress, they promise it’s quite simple to whip together, with many of the dish elements already pre-prepared for you!
- Select from optional add-ons to make your occasion even more unforgettable.
- A limited number of packages are available per day, so make sure you place your order at least 24 hours in advance.
- As if this wasn’t alluring enough, given the newly-imposed alcohol ban, Chef Matt has teamed up with premium winery Radford Dale to offer guests who purchase a R1400 voucher for this experience a free case of Radford Dale wines worth R2385, to be delivered when the alcohol ban lifts. Link here.
My Virtual Dining by Matt Manning experience
I don’t claim to be a good cook. I’m a creature of habit and to be honest more interested in choosing a great wine to pair. I have my tried and tested dishes that I know by heart, and you’d swear my inability to follow a recipe points to borderline illiteracy. So while I made what some might consider a few ‘mistakes’ in following Chef Matt Manning’s video tutorials, everything was freaking delicious – proving that this experience is idiot proof.
It was a bucketload of fun from the moment Chef Matt himself dropped off my box of ingredients on my doorstep in Sea Point. While this may look like a lot of containers, everything that comes in the box is biodegradable – how thoughtful is that?! The beautiful packaging follows through to beautiful ingredients, the likes of which I hadn’t seen or tasted since last dining out in a restaurant.
The canapés – tomato and black olive foie de brick, cauliflower arancini and curry aioli (a.k.a. Matt’s famous balls) through to the amuse bouche – chicken liver parfait, mushroom puree, hazelnut, pickled mushroom, rosemary brioche, roasted garlic butter – were essentially a matter of heat and/or scoop and eat. I felt especially ‘cheffy’ piping puree into delicate pastry shells followed by a light dusting of black olive crumb. Unfortunately – because I can’t read or follow instructions properly – I confused the Yorkshire pudding (meant for the main!) with the brioche to be enjoyed with the chicken liver parfait. But you know what? Didn’t matter, was still tasty AF.
Both the fish course and the grass fed beef sirloin main were to die for – and MADE by the heavenly sauces as prepared by chef Matt earlier on. While both the mains involved a little bit of PT, it was essentially a matter of pan fry, plate et voila! Chef Matt who? Okay fine, he did do most of the work here and guided me step-by-step with his video tutorial – but the smug sense of satisfaction was priceless… Again, TL;DR, I didn’t quite follow Chef Matt’s instructions correctly (chalking it down to genetic ADD) but the ingredients are of such a high quality that even if you don’t prepare the dishes quite to spec, it’s practically impossible to mess them up.
Dessert was a decadent affair. By the end of the meal my dining partner and I were STUFFED (subsequently I’ve noticed a number of people splitting this experience over two days because that’s how generous the portions are), but who could resist Chef Matt’s dark chocolate torte, honeycomb, raspberry, Swiss meringue and honeycomb ice cream? Not me.
All in all, it Virtual Dining by Matt Manning is an experience which I would recommend and which I would do again. While many restaurants have reopened (including Grub & Vine) and I encourage supporting them, if you are feeling nervous about venturing out but still yearn for a special gourmet experience in the comfort and safety of your own home, sans curfew, this is the choice for you. Every detail is thought out, and every morsel is a delight and a pleasure. While I opted for Burgundy (because yolo!), the suggested wine pairing by Radford Dale is heavenly and one which I would certainly recommend – so if ever there was a time to take advantage of the Restaurant Rescue special to secure a free case of these exceptional wines, it’s now. Book your Virtual Dining experience here.
Words and images: Kristen Duff