Bohemian Melville turns on the charm at La Luna's private dining room


A French fish soup, topped with crispy deep fried prawn head, served at La Luna in Melville.

Caro&39;s Cornucopia Corner


JOHANNESBURG – "There&39;s nothing off-limits. Be adventurous and creative.”

No, not the start of the fourth instalment of Fifty Shades of Grey, but the brief given to La Luna&39;s head chef, Lindy Pretorius ahead of our supper club "blow-out" at the restaurant&39;s private dining room.

La Luna, one of the upmarket restaurants responsible for adding some swank to Johannesburg&39;s otherwise bohemian Melville, is now a well-established favourite with locals and tourists alike.

The food is primarily Italian with a few South African and German additions, inspired by chef-owner Klaus Beckman&39;s multi-cultural upbringing.

My husband and I have enjoyed many a delicious meal there, but never in the private dining room.

Our food-obsessed party went for the "no-holds barred" five courser, with wine pairing.

We got off to a good start.

A beautifully constructed pig cheek and leek terrine.

Pig cheeks, while notoriously tasty and tender, are a hack to prepare and often a hard sell.

Most chefs choose to leave it off their menus.

I was therefore thrilled to spot it as our opening gambit.

I savoured each mouthful of the tender pink nuggets amongst the well-seasoned leeks.

This unusual dish was paired with the equally unusual C68 Chenin Blanc, from Druk my Niet wine estate.

The floral acidity of the sauvignon-like chenin didn&39;t overpower the subtle flavours of the terrine and let it be the star.

Then rolled out a complex French fish soup, topped with fried prawn heads.

This dish had my friend next to me moaning with appreciation.

It was paired with one of my all-time favourite local chardonnays, Ataraxia. Truly a sip from the angels.

The third course was probably the most unadventurous but in my mind the winner of the evening.

Hand-made agnolotti pasta filled with porcini and a delicate jus of marinated mushrooms.

The accompanying wine was a typical South African blend of merlot and pinotage from Clos Malverne.

The smoothness of the merlot and the earthy tones of the pinotage complimented the mushroom pasta incredibly well.

Unfortunately for the Clos Malverne, we already knew which wine was to follow it, and I fear it was somewhat overshadowed.

The Raats caberbet granc 2011 followed, and it blew our socks off.

This award-winning wine is a stellar example of what this single varietal can deliver.

Notes of blackberry, plum, cinnamon and a hint of tobacco went brilliantly with the confit duck leg. It&39;s a union I intend on trying to recreate in my kitchen.

The duck main was cooked to perfection. Just enough sticky-glazed crunch in the skin, and tender meat beneath. Served with winter veggies, it was a main befitting of this line-up.

The final course was orange baklava, which didn&39;t set me alight. I found the orange take on the traditional nut and honey flavours interesting but I wouldn&39;t order it again.

The orange granita should&39;ve been served in a separate glass, as it melted into the pastry, making it soggy and the preserved orange was overpowering for the rest of the dish.

The dessert pales in comparison to the restaurant&39;s signature bayleaf panacotta.

But I did enjoy the Rietvallei Muscadel to finish. It brought an overall excellent meal to a sweet, if somewhat tipsy close.

For a special occasion, or a wine &39;n&39; dine business schmooze, the private dining room is a good option.

The space itself is a bit austere though, and needs a bit of work.

The addition of a few paintings, ornaments and some brighter textiles would make it warmer, and more like a home-from-home dining room.

But the candlelight and warm service quickly made up for what the space lacked.

And what did this four-hour degustation cost? The damage amounted to roughly R1,000 a head.

Pricey? Yes. But it was a bespoke, special menu, expertly pulled off. We left feeling spoilt and wonderfully satisfied. And what&39;s life about if you can&39;t treat yourself occasionally?