V & A Waterfront, Cape Town: Johannesburg’s much-loved LIFE Grand Cafe takes up residence in the Mother City in December 2016.
This summer, the first LIFE Grand Café in Cape Town will be opening its doors at the V&A Waterfront in a free-standing 1902 heritage building right on the water’s edge. Parts of the LIFE Group of Companies, the collection of 5 unique cafes in Johannesburg is known for their mouthwatering soul food, distinctive décor and excellent ambiance.
Founder Maira Koutsoudakis explains: ‘We have a simple philosophy; it’s all about celebration and libation, simple sustenance and subtle ambiance, wholesome simplicity and decadent delights. Life is all these things.’
LOCATION: Overlooking the vibrant pier, the yachts and cruise boats in this working harbor, this listed heritage building was commissioned by Prince Albert in 1902, on Queen Victoria’s instruction, and is one of the oldest harbor buildings in Cape Town. Most recently home to Hildebrand and Alba Lounge, this charming building has undergone significant restoration to offer an eclectic escape for guests in this dynamic destination.
‘We spotted this gem four years ago and knew instinctively that it would be the ideal home for our LIFE Grand Café. Situated in an arterial flow between the heaving V&A Waterfront and the burgeoning Silo district, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa and the Robben Island departure point, the free-standing heritage building is situated right on the water’s edge and has views of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. Offering guests unparalleled natural and architectural beauty!”, says Maira.
BACKGROUND: This much-loved family-owned brand was established in Sandton in 1999 by husband and wife team Maira and John Koutsoudakis, and its hallmarks are accessible luxury, consistent quality and iconic events throughout its 16-year history.
DESIGN: Its designer-owners LIFE Interiors Architecture Strategic Design have designed countless private islands, boutique hotels, private retreats and luxury lodges, from the Seychelles, to London, Mozambique to Kenya, and bring a ‘restaurant as resort’ mentality to this new entertainment experience at the V&A.
The designers, who have garnered over 54 international awards, chose to craft the nearly 1000m2 heritage property into separate, intimate spaces. The journey starts at the entrance Courtyard with its festooned lights hanging from six mature trees; then the elegant Reception and Wine Cellar which leads onto the Conservatory. This light, bright space opens out to the sprawling views of the ocean, and is home to four signature theatre bars; the Salad, Crudo, Forno, Coffee and Cocktail Bars, hives of human and culinary activity. Leading off the Conservatory is the Outdoor Terrace with its wrap-around views enjoyed from marshmallowy banquette seating and convivial, communal dining under ancient olive trees.
The Pier Promenade is an inviting casual 50-seater ocean-side dining experience, with its outdoor dining and cocktail bars, artisan ice cream stall and lounge seating scenarios, with subtle music accompanying the sea gulls’ cries, bringing the feeling of holiday to the pier; its nautical niceness is sure to delight locals and visitors alike.
The upper level is accessed by an exquisite turned timber heritage staircase and opens onto the Library with one of 5 fireplaces in the building, which will ensure guest enjoyment throughout the seasons. Leading off the Library are the Upper Dining and Upper Lounge, two artfully appointed spaces which can be hired for private events, conferences, weddings, champagne cruise collaborations with charter yachts and grand celebrations in the style of the London members’ club.
‘Excavating the origins of this incredible old building, we went through a process of omission, taking away what marred the original bones and character of the building, before undergoing a sensitive restoration and the addition of period-specific Victorian and Cape Dutch nuances, Delft detailing, and references to the harbor and its historic role in the life of the City and its people’ says designer-owner Maira.
Co-owner John Koutsoudakis and partner Stelio Bakeas explain how they see the beautiful spaces working and the service style they and their team are creating:
‘They are intimate; inter leading spaces to be enjoyed with family or friends, on your own or en masse for long, lazy lunches, energetic quick fixes, healthy pleasures, naughty indulgences, or extraordinary, epic events. It’s for all the moments of life. We can’t wait to welcome you into our relaxed and decadent style of foodtertainment’.
FOOD: Brought up on the wild South Coast, LIFE Executive Chef, Jeanel Pieterse, cut her culinary teeth at the Spier Winelands, and later at the Rothschild family’s Waddesdon Manor in the UK, followed by stints in the UAE and has a history going back six years with the LIFE Group of Companies with which she has partnered. Jeanel and her team, together with owners Maira and John Koutsoudakis, craft creative menus and styles of dining that have a Mediterranean spirit married to a deep respect for the provenance of the best local produce.
‘We create the freshest food with great provenance from passionate purveyors, simply prepared; slow and languorous from our wood-burning forno, or fast and spirited from our Salad, Crudo, Cocktail and Coffee Bars. Comfortable classics with a little twist, it’s food you want to leave home for, food you feel at home with’ says Jeanel Pieterse.
Life Grand Café has a long history in Gauteng with 5 cafés, from the heaving social phenomenon that is Waterfall Corner in Midrand, elegant Hyde Park Corner, the new Mall of the South in Aspen Hills, the Club in Pretoria’s Embassy Mile and the most recent addition at Africa’s largest mall development, Mall of Africa. The Group is also the creative force behind the popular Potato Shed and the exclusive, EAT OUT Boschendal Style Award nominee, the Gentlemen’s Arthouse, both situated in 1911 heritage buildings in Newtown.
LIFE Grand Café is set to bring something truly unique to the Waterfront and to Cape Town’s highly-regarded dining landscape, wowing local and international guests with its fabulous food and beverage offering, acclaimed ambience and events, and an unparalleled setting on the water’s edge…