Entertainment of 2014-07-01

Maestro! Accra gets a new address for classical gastronomy

The city of Accra quietly but proudly welcomed its latest bistro for international gourmet when the Maestro Restaurant opened recently at the new Koala Shopping Centre at Airport Residential Area.

A typical connoisseur’s haven, Maestro appears to have come to fill in the capital’s huge vacuum for a classical, top-of-the-scale and yet affordable eatery, which has gone missing on the local culinary market for a long time.

Managed by Mrs. Marinette Nassar, a local businesswoman with a strong appetite for perfection, Maestro operates on the unbending philosophy that ‘good food’ must always be presented in the most alluring and appealing of environments and should be delivered or served by the most pleasant and malleable of hosts.

As soon as the guest steps onto the patio, he quickly realises that this philosophy runs through everything at the Maestro and is so vividly embodied in the restaurant’s physical design, its set up and its aesthetic presentation. Right from the doorway, the visitor finds a totally new world beckoning - a dazzling salle d’accuielle which, in effect, is the Bar Maestro - already gaining fame as one of the capital’s most lavishly stocked bars as far as assorted alcoholic beverages count.

Although the bar on the ground floor is rich enough to retain the attention of any calibre of guests for hours, it will be difficult to ignore the curios ‘wine-mural’ - a deftly crafted wooden panel of a wall which also serves as the repository for a wide assortment of vintage wines and other beverages. The wine mural straddles a flight of stairs leading from the bar and will entice anybody to climb up the stairs to the restaurant proper.

Once upstairs, the guest is first greeted by the seductive ambiance that flows freely across the restaurant – the space, the tranquil atmosphere, the imposing artworks and decor, the exotic culinary aroma and the friendly smiles worn by the staff. The restaurant is roomy enough to seat 120 diners simultaneously and has an exclusive air-conditioned smoking lounge for some 24 diners. Maestro’s state-of-the-art kitchen, procured and assembled piece-by-piece from Europe is manned by Frenchman Stephanie, an accomplished gastronomic expert poached from the popular Carlton Hotel chain.

One thing which immediately strikes the guest is the fact that Stephanie’s kitchen staff and the waiters on the floor all speak more than one international language. Of course it may not be much of a surprise if one or two waiters babbled some French as they went about their work because, after all, Ghana’s neighbours are all francophone; but it is quite interesting to hear waiters communicate to guests and among themselves in French, English, Spanish and Arabic. ‘International’ might be the most appropriate description for Maestro’s multilingual waiting staff – and boy! What a delight it is, to watch them swing into action, servicing their guests and diners! They seem to know exactly what the guests want even before they asked for it, and they delivered every order, no matter how whimsical, with exultant enthusiasm.

Then the guest then comes face-to-face with the real deal – the Maestro menu – a predominantly continental (European) range, with an understandably mild bias towards French gourmet and, to some extent, Italian cuisine. Unveiled only a couple of weeks ago, it is strange that word is already out across town that Chef Stephanie produces some of the most irresistible appetizers in the city. The kitchen offers a limitless range of entrées – warm and cold, and about a dozen different salads to choose from. The main dishes are heavenly – such as the calamari stuffed with lobster and shrimps in bisque sauce - and they are always served with a side order of choice (French fries, fried rice, mashed potato etc).

Ms. Odile Assad, the restaurant’s administrator emphasizes that personal comfort and self relief are fundamental products offered freely to every guest and that explains why Maestro has invested heavily in enriching not just what is served at the table but also in the setting and the ambiance within which guests spend their time at Maestro. According to Ms. Assad, that also explains why diners who visit Maestro between 8:00pm and 10:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays are customarily serenaded with live ambient music from renowned soloists and quartets.

‘Music being food for the soul, we want our guests to relax and allow the Chef to tickle their taste buds with a concerto of spices and aromas, in a calm serene atmosphere. What we have here is Accra’s Chef d’ orchestra......the Maestro!’ she said invitingly.

At the end of the day, between musical orchestras and excellent food, who can really contest the fact that at long last, the capital has found itself a ‘yummy’ new address for serious therapeutic gastronomy?