What a relief; it wasn’t quite the crowd I was expecting – the Côte d’Azur types; the sagging, idle rich; the young buffed or boozing playboys with their bronzed and big-boobed trophy lovers. Nor was there one of that endangered species the Atlantic kugel. I doubt there is a single breeding pair left. If there were any still around, they’d surely be here – on the beach at sunset, sipping elegantly-made cocktails, and dining al fresco in style at this shabby-chic shoreline cafe.
The new Grand, on an artificial beach created in a sheltered outskirt of the V&A Waterfront, is the latest addition to the Grand Café brand (with restaurants in Plettenberg Bay and Camps Bay). The clientele is pleasantly varied – old ladies and young models, businessmen and bohemians, tourists on honeymoon and local families with children.
With about 250 covers, there are several seating areas – on the sand or the wooden deck facing out with gorgeous views across to Blouberg, or inside the converted metal shed alongside the enormous bar, a wall of rosé wine bottles and a giant, brick pizza oven as backdrop.
You enter through a designer bric-a-brac emporium of sorts. Before you have time to open your mouth, the somewhat brash maitre ‘d asks if you have a reservation. My name was there, in bold, thanks to the PR team who got me the table; now they knew who I was. They’ve been under attack. South Africans don’t take no kindly; the spoilt set have heard it so seldom in their lives. Though they will get used to it as we crash through the 10 million tourists a year mark. I don’t blame the booking team for no longer wanting to deal with bullies on the phone. Now you can only attempt a reservation by sending an SMS to a dedicated number or via e-mail. Not shy with their prices either, they have paid the price in vitriol as a result.
As tourists keep pointing out to us, Cape Town has an almost inconceivable lack of beach restaurants, and now that our nanny state has banned alcohol from your Clifton picnic, it is not surprising The Grand is besieged. They’ve had a lot of teething problems coping with the endless stream of patrons, but I suspect they will be ultimately forgiven. The spot is simply too good. They have jacked up their staff too.
There are Indian day beds to lounge on, and two hardly-used plunge-pools; no swimming in the sea, which on the edge of the V&A is as pungent as a dead seal; I saw a rat scampering along the shoreline as the clock struck ten pm.
The chairs are Parisian bistro as is the menu – bouillabaisse, fillet béarnaise, classic salads. The complimentary bread is rather stodgy, and Munchkin – who has eaten anonymously here before – wonders why they don’t put their huge pizza oven to work and produce great focaccia and fresh bruschetta all day long.
The pizzas are almost Alsace style – ultra-thin crust, gourmet (R500 for the seafood one), and served on elegant, wooden platters. They’re a great starter for four to six people.
Seafood is irresistible in this environment, and with the seagulls swooping overhead and the yachts bobbing in full view, a starter of Walvis Bay oysters and for mains a seafood platter for two was the logical choice.
What arrived covered the small table. Two crayfish – one outsized, one normal, a few mussels on the shell, loads of calamari tubes and flash-fried tiny, crisp tentacles, two fillets of line fish, shrimp tempura, half a dozen Mozambican queen prawns. It was R695, which positions it at a reasonable price (equivalent platters served elsewhere cost at Beluga R759, Blues R850, Azure at the Twelve Apostles R950). Everything was perfectly cooked, and the crayfish I am convinced had never been frozen.
Luckily, it was perfect weather, the earth cooling down on a near breathless night after a 40°C day. But ur candle still kept blowing out and attentive managers kept relighting or bringing new ones. They ought to use good old paraffin lamps.
Hopefully, this fashionable, essential addition to our restaurant scene won’t be a brief candle in the wind. On the periphery of our Dubai-style waterfront with its endless property developments, I hope it survives winters and years alike. Enjoy it while it lasts.
The Grand on the Beach: Beach Road, Granger Bay. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS: 072 586 2052