#EggBenedictChallenge – The Highlights of 2019

EGGS BENEDICT – OF ANY STYLE – ARE THE NON PLUS ULTRA OF BREAKFAST

(Posted 05th April 2020)

(My own personal Egg Benedict creation)

When I travel across Africa, and I do that a lot – at least before #COVID19 struck – am I often booked into one of the top hotels at the respective locations. Five star hotels and to an extend even 4 star hotels, have to tick a lot of boxes to qualify for their rating and ranking, but I have added my own additional requirements which must be met to fit the bill and be among those I ranked well in my over 650 TripAdvisor reviews over the years.
Very large and fluffy towels are one such item, as are high thread number bedsheets, pillows to my liking – the Villa Rosa Kempinski has its own pillow menu – the cleanliness of the corners of the room or suite and if cups and glasses sparkle or have dull fingerprints on them.

Today, and on regular request from my many readers and followers on social media, I will try to do justice to my 2019 experiences of Eggs Benedicts.

At the Kampala Serena Hotel, the city’s top ranked hotel, is young and upcoming chef Christine Alituha my regular wizard of the Eggs Benedict.
She delivers a consistent quality, always surprises with little new ideas of toppings or base contents and she has outclassed some of her more senior colleagues across Serena Hotels who have performed nowhere near her level.

(Chef Christine Alituha of the Kampala Serena Hotel)

Chef Christine scores a regular 10 out of 10 for presentation, taste and creativity. But a rival as arrived in Kampala, where Chef Steyn – South Africa’s Chef of the Year in 2008 – is now reigning over the kitchens at Mestil Hotel & Residences. While meeting the new General Manager Mr. Basil Hamadeh in February, before Uganda was hit by Corona Virus imports, did I have a farewell breakfast with good old friend Chris Pollard, before he returned to South Africa the following day.

(Chef Bernard Steyn’s Egg Arlington creation)

He mentioned that the hotel not only had a new GM but also a new Chef, and never shy to put things to the test did I ask for an Egg Benedict. I am glad I did as his creation met all my personal standards and earned him on first attempt a 10 out of 10, giving me and readers from Kampala the choice to enjoy this dish at both the Serena and the Mestil, the wto of them on top of the leaderboard in Uganda’s capital city.

Meanwhile in Kenya did I enjoy some real eye openers.
All Inclusive accommodation, where all meals from breakfast to lunch to tea to supper are included, often stands for a lack of variety, a lack of quality and a lack of quantity. Not so at the Baobab Resorts, which also comprise Maridadi – their couples resort and KoleKole, where I stayed.
The chef, who heard about my infatuation if not obsession with Eggs Benedict, tried his hand and, while not opting for the free form preparation – he used a poached egg form – did he score high, missing out on the 10 by one point, for the lack of the free form egg preparation. Still, combined with the superb spread on the buffets for breakfast, lunches and dinners, I can highly recommend the Baobab resort complex for visitors who do care more for the food they get, besides of course a superb location along the world famous Diani Beach.

(Egg Benedict Baobab KoleKole)

At the Radisson Blu Arboretum in Nairobi, at the time of my stay only open for a relatively short time, did their chef – unlike his counterpart at the Radisson Blu Upper Hill – on second try also produce an immaculate Egg Benedict and scored a 10 out of 10. His presentation was creative, the addition of some avocado slices enhanced the picture and the taste was matching the appearance of the dish on the plate. I especially appreciated that he took time to sit down with me and discuss what an ideal Egg Benedict ought to look like, in particular the ‘decorations’ and he responded as only a true professional would do, with renewed energy and the result shown below speaks for itself.

(Egg Benedict ‘Arboretum’ at Radisson Blu Arboretum Nairobi by Chef Robert Aluda)

On my last day of a nearly 3 week long journey across Kenya, with much time spent in Nairobi, did I stay at the Four Points by Sheraton at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, voted last year as Africa’s best airport hotel.
THAT accolade is well deserved, as my TripAdvisor review also expressed, but what got to me while there was the food.
The dinner selection, which I left to Executive Chef Chandra Pandey, was simply delicious, from soup to starter to main course and dessert. His team showed me that an airport hotel can in fact be quite capable of serving excellent food instead of – as often seen in other locations at airports – produce meals which could just as well come out of a fast food chain restaurant. But what got to me was the creation of young Chef Digvijay Singh, when he served me a trio of Eggs Benedict on the morning of my departure. This young man will no doubt go places and will make a name for himself, given his enthusiasm and the spirit with which he embraced my #EggBenedictChallenge. Did I mention he got a straight 10 out of 10 too? Well the picture speaks for itself.

(Egg Benedict ‘Four Points Nairobi Airport’ by fast rising chef Digvijay Singh)

And the Winners for 2019 are …
Well let me tell that story in some greater detail.
Last December, as another trip to Kenya came to a close, I spent two nights at the Villa Rosa Kempinski.
From arrival – the doorman greeted me by name even though there was a two year gap between stays – to departure was there not one item, service elements, housekeeping issue or otherwise and even for a 5 star luxury hotel of this kind that is a rare experience.
My TripAdvisor review is self explanatory and explains why the Villa Rosa Kempinski was my personal Hotel of the Year 2019 in the face of significant competition across Africa. The return of Roberto Simone as Cluster General Manager only lifted the already high standards even further and Chef Manoj Aswal, who was also quite new when I stayed, added his own touch to the hotel’s cuisine.

(The creations of Chefs Jackeline Kolini and Janet Basweti at the Villa Rosa Kempinski)

Roberto Simone himself is, like Chris Pollard, an aficionado of Eggs Benedict and when discussing the dish with the Executive Chef, they both promised me the experience of a lifetime. I was admittedly sceptical, given my experience during my very first stay some years ago and my curiosity only grew, when Manoj mentioned that it would not be him doing the dish but his two breakfast cooks on duty.
My pen sharpened, my camera on the ready did I turn up at 06.30 hrs to have breakfast with the GM – an early riser like myself – and after some freshly pressed juice, some bits and bobs from the cheese board and the cold cut selection, including some Sushi, did the moment arrive I had been waiting for.
If there is one thing I would change is to use regular chinaware instead of the glass plates but that did not impact at all on presentation and most important taste. The duo of Eggs Benedict, each of the ladies produced one, were putting me into culinary heaven and when I was done had to create a new ranking order, adding an 11 out of 10 to my listings.

Those would previously have been reserved for Chef Barry Tonk, Chef Christian Meinhardt – also of Kempinski and definitely the one who induced this life long passion for this kind of dish, the chef – name not remembered but his creation – of Schlosshotel Buehlerhoehe near Baden Baden some 50 years ago.

So there you are, the top 6 location for an Egg Benedict in East Africa, where you get what you expect. Just don’t go down that road and order those eggs ‘well done’ or you find yourself in my list of culinary cretins.

In closing, and often asked of me, how to make a decent Hollandaise sauce and an Egg Benedict …

Use egg yolk, lemon juice and water to whisk the ingredients into a well blended mass. Use slow heat – patience is required – and keep whisking it in the saucepan until bubbles emerge. Then add some butter until the sauce is starting to thicken … that is the signal it must come off the heat! Add some seasoning to your taste, which can be salt, chili powder or for the less adventurous some paprika powder and then pour gently over the free form eggs, where the egg white must stand still and the egg yolk must still be running and serve … The eggs should be inserted gently, using a laddle, into simmering hot water but with a dash of vinegar, or else the egg white will explode into your face.
The base of the Egg Benedict can be made of spinach, a slab of Canadian ham, smoked salmon, slivers of smoked sailfish or even smoked trout or a combination of several, all placed on a half English muffin or, if not available, a rounded slice of white or brown toast – golden, NOT burned.

So there you go, as we are now all under various degrees of lockdown and curfews, try this out and Bon Appetit. Stay Safe – Stay At Home!

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