IF bling’s your thing, this is the place for you. And if you’re 25+ and upwardly mobile, with a penchant for clubbing and yen for the hits of the 1950s and 1960s, it’s tailor-made. The kitchen will even rustle up an avocado ritz on request.
A member of The World’s Finest Clubs and punted as “the only luxury supper club of its kind in SA”, the Reserve requires no membership. Patrons are welcome to move from brasserie to club.
The mood is escapist, the décor an eclectic mix, showcasing fashion and interior designer Gavin Rajah’s signature style. While the luxury club exudes glitz and glamour, the brasserie offsets the marbled grandeur of the former Standard Bank with soft drapes, Victorian opulence, banquettes and relaxed booths, lowering the lofty ceiling with trailing leaves and flowers to create a “secret garden”.
As only a curtain separates club from brasserie, check if there’s an event on in the club when you book your brasserie table. On the night we dined, a 21st birthday was in full swing and their hired disco drowned conversation. With only two tables occupied, the brasserie had been plundered of furniture to accommodate party guests, leaving vast spaces between tables and robbing the room of intimacy. Wilting roses in the hanging “garden” accentuated the vault-like ambience.
Presumably because of the pressure of the party, we had to wait a while for our starters, giving us time to study the varied menu and label-conscious wine list (Kanokop cabernet, no vintage given, is R755 a bottle).
Our engaging waitress combined professionalism with charm, her repartee enlivening our evening. Apologising for the lack of life, she enthused about theme evenings when patrons might sport a fedora or dress as a moll, and she’d flick her feather boa, flourishing a long cigarette holder.
The flavour-driven, Mediterranean-style menu gains new dishes weekly. Despite the hype, don’t expect subtlety. A brasserie is designed for conviviality rather than lingering gourmet dinners with tasting portions. Chef Seelan Sundoo has travelled from Sea Point (think La Perla) to St Tropez, and his robust cuisine includes Australian touches.
Pizzas take tasty toppings like gorgonzola and anchovies; best-selling fish bisque captures piquancy in a bowl, and tuna tartar (sic) is hand-chopped, succulent and appetisingly presented.
Asked for advice on mains, our waitress laid her head on a block that the giant veal chop (aka baby beef) with wild mushroom and sautéed potato, was the best. In taste terms, yes, but the meat was tough, whereas soy-marinated sirloin with truffle and Parmesan was toothsomely tender. But I was prepared to chew for the sake of the flavour.
Smooth-textured lemon sorbet was a tangy dessert and homemade limoncello a tasty finale.