Standing on the street outside the Signature Lux Hotel by Onomo, I exchanged a rather confused glance with my “lucky plus one”. Was this the right place? We had been lured here by the prospect of an evening of Great Gatsby style glamour, fine fare, freely flowing wine, cocktails, and a serenade by a line-up of singers from the Waterfront Theatre School. The edifice that stood before us read in faded lettering: ‘Warehouse Trading Co. (PTY)’.
That can’t be right.
In spite of our apprehension, we were seduced into the building by the golden glow emanating from the reception area’s open door. In stepping over the threshold, we were thrust into a world so opulent, extravagant, and dripping with gold embellishments that an Egyptian Pharaoh would have called it an afterlife and gone home.
Welcome to Vivaldi Restaurant
The Signature Lux Waterfront by Onomo Hotels and its restaurant, Vivaldi, is a very recent addition to the area, although the building in which they’re housed dates back to the very early 1900’s. As I initially suspected, it is a heritage building and while it’s been transformed into a modern hotel, they have mercifully left its beautiful strong bones of solid pine beams, bare face brick walls, and faded external signage untouched. Inside, however, is a different story.
Enormous glittering chandeliers lead the eye into Vivaldi Restaurant, which opens up into a single richly-appointed cocktail lounge/dining room, the theme of which is most decidedly ‘Roaring 20’s’ with a caress of African chic. There is nothing restrained about the décor here: elaborate sconces and vast mirrors set in ornately gilded frames adorn the walls and original wooden beams. Gold antique furniture stands side-by-side with animal print seating and eye-catching pieces, like a bright green faux snakeskin couch.
On paper, it sounds like it shouldn’t work and, yet, it does; it absolutely does! Vivaldi Restaurant is a feast for the eyes: all glitter, gold, and glamour. Suddenly, I understood why this flamboyant design theme had been so popular in the 20’s – the era of the Great Gatsby. During a time marked by hip society’s ripping free from tradition and the stuffiness of the previous centuries, it’s little wonder that such ostentatious furnishings were all the rage.
It took us a full 20 minutes to recover from the near-inebriation of walking into such a coruscating kaleidoscope of a room. We were here, however, not to stare slack-jawed at the furnishings but for dinner with a side of song. And with 19:00 fast approaching – the start of the show – we took our seats at our table.
Starters and the show kicks off
Unlike its décor, Vivaldi’s menu is fairly uncomplicated and clearly favours strong, honest dishes over uber fine dining. Less complicated cuisine – with distinct South African influences, I was pleased to note – makes Vivaldi more accessible and affordable for locals and visitors. And, let’s not forget, it includes a free show! For starters, we shared platters of crisp tempura prawns with a miso dipping sauce, skewers of barbequed beef medallions and peppers, and gorgeous goat’s cheese and cranberry phyllo pastry parcels. No sooner had I crunched my way through the latter than the first of three talented performers took to the stage.
The performance and performers
For most Capetonians, a night of food, wine, and entertainment provided by singing waitrons inexorably brings Stardust to mind: a long-standing Cape Town establishment that used to be in Newlands, and now Woodstock. Vivaldi does something similar but, in execution and vibe, is quite different.
At Vivaldi, the music is served more as a side dish to an evening of good food and wine (or beer or cocktails). It’s a little less showy and rambunctious. In other words, you can actually eat your meal and enjoy the music in the background if you like. Alternatively, for those of us who find it impossible to ignore live music, you can put down your knife and fork and watch or even sing along with the performers. I multi-tasked and ploughed my way through the starters (too tasty to ignore) while singing around a mouthful of phyllo pastry, the crumbs of which somehow made their way into my boots.
The singers themselves are incredibly talented – no awkward first-round Idols contestants here! And they’re all actively studying at the Waterfront Theatre School, located right across the road from the hotel, making it impossible not to leave a big juicy tip at the end of the evening.
“Vivaldi Restaurant gave me something I’ll always be grateful for. Not only wages that help me through life daily, but a platform that has pushed me to unlock my hidden potential,” says Chad Baai, one of the singing servers.
Mains and desserts
For mains, we were served a fall-off-the-bone lamb tomato bredie and a mouth-wateringly fiery chicken curry with sides of basmati rice, mashed potato, onion and tomato salsa, and papadums (crispy sheets of deep-fried dough). A beer probably would have gone down better with this meal for most but for me, the die-hard wine fan that I am, it was a glass of the Protea Shiraz 2017 from Anthonij Rupert in Franschhoek.
Our final course was one of the most exquisite malva puddings I have ever wrapped my lips around. Served quite elegantly in a martini glass with a side of vanilla ice cream, the pudding was soft and springy and swimming in a divine made-from-scratch crème anglaise. Not too sweet, the dessert was perfect and complimented with a cup of French coffee (featuring brandy rather than whiskey).
Throughout our meal, we were delightfully entertained by a procession of servers, all talented and all with beautiful singing voices. I could see them actively modulating their performance to meet the energy in the room and, given that it was a fairly quiet night, their efforts delivered an elegant backdrop to our evening, rather than becoming a jarring distraction.
I imagine on busier nights with more wine flowing that Vivaldi could give a Great Gatsby party a run for its money. It’s certainly dressed for the occasion! Speaking of hedonism, if you end up having a little too much wine or too many cocktails, you can always book a last-minute room in the Signature Lux Hotel. With small, yet clean and contemporary rooms going for as little as R900 per night (off-peak), you may as well spend your Uber fare sleeping in style!
Absolutely worth experiencing
There’s really nothing like a bit of live music to add that dimension of pure magic to an evening out. This glamorous offering by Vivaldi and the Waterfront Theatre School is absolutely worth experiencing (over and over again), whether you go for after-dinner drinks or a three-course slap-up meal. We loved our experience and are already planning our return!
Vivaldi is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Shows take place over dinner only, Monday to Saturday, 18:30 to 22:30. For bookings and enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27 (0) 21 811 4970
24 Alfred Street, Waterfront, Cape Town