When it comes to the perfect date night, Radisson Blu executive chef Tyran Vaghi knows all the secret ingredients.
“It should be something different, not something you can get any day of the week, something you wouldn’t necessarily create at home,” says the well-travelled 39 year old whose responsibility it is to add some zing to the Gqeberha hotel’s menu.
The concept of a date night, when couples set aside a night of the week to enjoy each other without having to attend to the little ones or work overtime, has grown in popularity globally.
Amid the hustle and bustle of meeting deadlines while raising a family, many partners have recognised the importance of making time just for themselves.
While some may choose to stay home with popcorn and a movie, others prefer a night on the town to make memories they will cherish forever. Vaghi, who was born in Kariega and grew up in Gqeberha, oversees the Radisson Blu Hotel Port Elizabeth’s date night offering at its Tabú Grill, Bar & Lounge every Thursday.
He says no stone should be left unturned in making a couple’s night magical.
“You want calm, good music and the restaurant should not be overbooked as it takes away from the ambience,” he explains.
“Creating the mood always plays a part, from first contact and décor to the music, service and food. Nothing should be overbearing.”
He believes service is the biggest part of any culinary experience and therefore the upscale establishment allocates certain team members to date-night guests.
“They make the experience more personal and understand that a couple on a date night do not want to be bothered every few minutes.”
The chef, who received his training from the National Trust in Britain and was part of the hotel’s opening team in 2009, returned to the Radisson two years ago.
He and his wife have travelled extensively and he often incorporates foreign flavours in his date night dishes.
“I have gone with a more Nordic style menu; food items you would mostly find in your Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden.
“But I also listen to our guests to get their opinions of what they would like. I take many of the suggestions and give them a twist.”
Vaghi and his team emphasise a sharing menu as enjoying the same dish helps stimulate conversation.
His current Thursday night menu consists of a mushroom arancini with a blue cheese cream as starter. The choice of main is beetroot infused salmon with green beans and roasted beetroot, sour cream, passion fruit and homemade pickle, or lemon and honey chicken with mustard mash and veg.
“For the vegetarians, we have brown mushrooms filled with buttered couscous.”
Dessert is a trio of chocolate – velvet, volcano and white, served with ice-cream.
All ingredients are locally sourced and prepared on the day. The only item made prior to date night is the salmon, which needs to marinade in beetroot for at least 48 hours to absorb the colour and flavour.
The team is also open to creating “something special” for guests on request.
It is always pleasing to get positive feedback from couples on a date night, says Vaghi.
“Food triggers memories. The best was when I was told by a couple that they travelled to Sweden for a holiday and when they saw salmon on the menu, they immediately chose that because it reminded them of the time they were there.”
As a married man himself, he is a big believer in date nights as “time alone with your partner is crucial”.
“You need to be separated from all the distraction, whether that be your children, job or even your own family. You need time to just focus on each other.”
When not cooking for others at the Radisson, he enjoys preparing “anything I can throw on the fire” at home, though he is prone to a good sirloin with creamed spinach and crushed potato.
For his own date nights at home, his wife enjoys “any shape or form of pasta or lemon chicken, followed by strawberry cheesecake”.
As for what no date night should be without, Vaghi is unequivocal.