Since opening its doors on 12 December 2009, this much-loved Cape Town destination restaurant and nightspot has fast become the place in the city to dine, drink and be seen. In July 2016 the expanding Harbour House Group purchased a 70 percent stake in Grand Africa Café & Beach, closed the doors for winter and set about rejuvenating one of Cape Town’s best-loved venues.
Three months and a multimillion budget later the revamp has finally been unveiled and the results are, quite simply, remarkable. The renovation and renewal hits home immediately thanks to a new beach-chic wooden walkway transforming the moment of arrival. With the Atlantic winking seductively out in front, the inviting new entrance laid out beneath swaying palm trees drives home the one-of-a-kind seafront location of Grand Africa Café & Beach.
“We wanted guests to see the water, to feel the ocean, from the moment they arrive,” explains David, architect behind the new-look Grand Beach, and Design Room Manager for the Harbour House Group.
The Harbour House Group’s internal design team have done an extraordinary job in reimagining the potential of this unique beachfront space, retaining the globe-trotting romanticism and relaxed glamour of the much-loved original, while infusing the new-look venue with a freshness befitting its seaside locale.
“We’ve done a major revamp of the indoor space in particular,” adds Sue Lerm, Proprietor of Grand Beach.
To brighten the vintage warehouse, ceilings and floors have been repainted, while the expansive bar counter was demolished and rebuilt to add a dose of glamour and comfort. The restrooms have been refurbished, while larger windows installed in the industrial-chic sliding doors have improved the sea views and natural light for diners seated indoors.
Installation of the new Absolut Elyx bar adds a sophisticated new element to the space, with this more intimate bar ideal for a pre-dinner aperitif. Alongside, a raised indoor deck has proven to be a runaway success with diners clamouring for the handful of tables set above the action, yet boasting stellar sea views.
But when the weather’s fine it is, of course, the terrace and outdoor tables that form the vibrant heart of Grand Africa Café & Beach. From the spacious terrace, the revamp here is evident in the host of new décor touches. Furniture has been restored, chairs replaced, stemware improved and additional umbrellas installed. Happily the voluptuous vases of blood-red roses remain, retaining the sense of retro-glamour the venue has long been famous for. By early-2017 the entire terrace will be enclosed with stacking glass doors, allowing diners to enjoy outdoor dining and memorable sea views year-round, whatever the weather.
A few steps from the terrace the original container bars have been given a new lease on life, and today guests can pull up a stool to watch the mixologists working their magic at the stylish Pongracz sparkling wine and cocktail bar.
Acclaimed mixologist Kurt Schlechter has been brought on board to update the expansive cocktail menu, crafting new signature cocktails and tweaking the classics.
“It’s about getting back to the basics of making drinks properly,” says Schlechter, who says juice are all squeezed fresh at the bar, all-natural cocktail syrups come from local producer Nettari, and enormous care has been taken in delicate garnishing of each and every cocktail. “We’re always aiming to bring in fresh flavours to classic cocktails, to make them unique to Grand Beach”.
A perfect example is Grand Beach’s new signature cocktail. Tapping into the global ‘tiki’ trend, the rum-based Grand African Tiki blends Havana Especial & 7, Malibu, mango, mint, thyme and coconut for a memorable cocktail served in a bespoke tiki mug.
Alongside the cocktails the wine list taps into a selection of leading Cape estates, and a partnership with G.H. Mumm Champagne will make Grand Africa Café & Beach one of the few local restaurants to serve French bubbly by the glass.
Both craft and global beer brands are offered too; best-enjoyed just metres from the sea in the dedicated beachfront beer bar. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban beach shack, it’s a more masculine space where bleached wood and black-and-white photographs bring a classic touch to the thoroughly modern space. A few steps from the beer taps a private waterside table, shaded by canvas sails, offers perhaps the best seats in the house; a hideaway perfect for bespoke private parties.
The reimagined Grand Beach has no shortage of spaces for unforgettable celebrations. A new section on the beach boasts luxurious daybeds, private bars and a dedicated DJ booth to create a comfortably exclusive area discreetly set apart from the main restaurant. On the rare occasion it’s not booked out for private events, guests are encouraged to indulge in this glamorous corner of Grand Beach.
While the new spaces add diversity to the revamped Grand Beach, the restaurant area still retains all the feet-in-the-sand charm and casual-chic appeal it’s always enjoyed.
With the new look comes a new menu, and Head Chef Dominic Faict has drawn on his experience in South Africa and abroad to craft a wide-ranging menu combining signature Grand dishes with new Mediterranean-inspired plates.
“We’re definitely going to step up the standard of cooking,” says Faict, who has the daunting task of cooking for up to 1000 guests each night. “With the wonderful beach setting we’re trying to lighten the menu and bring in more fresh flavours and seafood.”
That could mean a generous pot of West Coast mussels steamed in a fragrant coconut broth, or a Cajun-spiced linefish tagliata. Generous cuts of steaks off the grill will keep the hungry happy, while the compact sushi menu is the perfect fit for the sunny seaside setting. Loyal locals will be happy to hear that the signature wood-fired pizzas remain.
On the white sands the rows of stylish tables are now shaded by stylish G.H Mumm champagne parasols and if you’re outdoors, don’t forget to look up: 11 graceful palm trees have been planted, at considerable expense, providing a dose of island style and a welcome rustle of shade as the summer days heat up.
“We’ve really taken each space and thought carefully about how to use the whole venue to create different moods; from the restaurant, to the bar to the beach to the daybeds,” says Grant Dutton, CEO of Harbour House. “But throughout the renovation we felt it was important to keep some of the iconic Grand Beach elements, and we wanted to retain the sense that once you step through the doors you’re in a different world”.
Suzette Lerm, proprietor of Grand Beach says, “This marks an exciting new phase in our development as an ‘African-centric’ lifestyle brand. I am confident we have found our ideal investor (in Harbour House Group) who understands the brand”.
“Our strategy at Harbour House Group has been to explore and capitalise on opportunities that excite us in South Africa and to continue to innovate in terms of our casual dining offering. Our more recent acquisitions speak to our passionate pursuit of this goal. Grand Beach complements our curated stable of high-profile brands,” says Grant Dutton, CEO of Harbour House Group.
“The challenge for the design team was to make the spaces stand alone, but also to be able to bring them together into a cohesive destination for big events,” adds Radley Dijkers, Brand General Manager of Grand Africa Café & Beach, who says that the venue is already sought-after for chic events from birthday celebrations to glamorous seafront weddings.
It’s a space where guests may arrive for lunch, then relax into afternoon drinks. They may segue into sundowners with a signature cocktail, before staying for dinner and celebrating late into the night as DJs warm up the decks. Although the doors have only just opened, locals and tourists are already clamouring for a glimpse of the revamped Grand Africa Café & Beach.
Grand Africa Café & Beach, grandafrica.com