by Matthew Sterne
on August 22, 2010
“The downside of being better than everyone else is that people tend to assume you’re pretentious” Larry Kersten
A leopard has changed its spots. Or rather a cougar. The Grand Café is officially the sexy Grand Dame of the Cape Town restaurant scene.
If you’re looking for the ultimate spot for a beach sundowner, your search ends here. The Grand Café and Beach, Granger Bay is hidden off a slip road between the V&A Waterfront and the Raddison Hotel in Mouille Point. It reminded me instantly of Cinquante-Cinq in St Tropez. Rather like that comment, it’s a bit pretentious – but a little pretension and style every now and again can be just what the Doctor ordered.
Set on the lip of the Atlantic, The Grand is elegant and breathtaking. Relax on a white sofa on the equally white sand while a dapper waiter trudges along the beach with an ice-bucket. He’ll set up your umbrella and keep you brimful of bubbly until your credit card is declined.
The main restaurant itself is in a large converted warehouse with wooden, palm fronded walkways across the sand. Inside there’s a 15m long pure white bar with cherub detail, backed by an exhibition kitchen centred on a brick pizza oven. The decor is eclectic and romantic with enticing champagne bottles aplenty. Oversized chandeliers, antique Indian rugs, Parisian café chairs, open windows to the deck and exposed timber beams complete the picture – a great, natural setting for the lifestyle gallery and private VIP dining room. There’s a chic, bistro-styled menu for both lunch and dinner – it’s billed as beach café cuisine.
On a blustery evening (heaters and blankets included), we braved the 46m deck to watch the campari coloured sun plunge below the horizon. There’s a very cool outside beach bar where sun-worshippers can laze on Indian day beds or just kick back on the rocks.
We’ve heard reports of terrible service, but credit where it’s due – Richard was slick and professional and he knew the menu backwards with some great recommendations – it was though a quiet evening. The pricing on the menu is terrifying. R200 for a fairly nondescript pizza, R500 for a seafood one. What you don’t realise however, is that one pizza is easily enough for three people.
I had the tempura prawns to start – served with a teriyaki sauce. They were perfect – light, juicy and crisp and the teriyaki sauce was deliciously moreish – bursting with soy, ginger and chilli flavours. Now Tubby number Two and I are never ones to shy away from a generous helping. But these portions are bordering on the absurd. There were at least 10 large prawns in my starter portion, while the fishcakes were also substantial (watch out for the fiery kick in the fishcake dipping sauce).
A main of kingclip tagliatta was delicious, albeit with the same teriyaki sauce as the tempura prawns (so don’t order both of these). I had the crayfish pasta which had a generous helping of crayfish and a couple of rogue clams. It was really good – hearty and decadent comfort food.
Puddings were a little disappointing. I had a chocolate mousse cake and Tubby Deux had a cheesecake. Gargantuan slices enough for three. For the record, I finished all of mine. Why they don’t make the portions smaller, served with a little more finesse and more reasonably priced is slightly beyond me, but perhaps that’s what beach café cuisine is all about.
It’s not cheap at all – our bill for a three course meal with coffees and wine came to R1,400. But I really don’t mind paying a premium for a location like this – the food was good and we most definitely didn’t go hungry. Order wisely and your bill needn’t be extortionate. If money is an object however, there’s actually no reason to eat here – just come for drinks. It’s certainly come a long way from when it first opened and it’s worth giving another try if you were one of those left disappointed.
So if you’re after a little slice of beach front glamour and a healthy dose of style and pretention, then don your pradas and your panamas – the Grand Café and Beach is just the ticket.
THE GRAND CAFÉ & BEACH
Haul Road, off Beach Road, Granger Bay,
Cape Town, South Africa
+27 (0)21 425 0551