Durban icon gets new lease of life.
“The team from Dante approached me and asked if I would be interested in helping them with a project,” says interior designer Alice Kelly. “I was thrilled, but have to admit that the timelines frightened me! Once I realised that the bones of the building were good and even though the deadlines were really tight...I couldn’t say no.” Built on the site previously occupied by the renowned Ile Maurice restaurant, Durban-based Kelly has been tasked to bring ‘a totally new restaurant and dining experience to life’, for the three owners Trent Varejes and brothers Andile and Ayanda Ngidi.
“Dante is going to be something quite magical,” enthuses Alice. “We have NOT held back in any way. It is the type of place where you will simply feel at home and at the same time be taken on a journey that is exciting and unforgettable. This place has brought dining pleasure to many generations over the years, so we have added some life, love and colour to the venue for the next generation to enjoy.”
Combined with the strong visual aesthetic, the owners set out to find a chef who could
interpret their culinary dreams for the space. Enter another local Durban industry stalwart,
Chef Marco Nico. Well respected, uber-talented, forager and charcutier Chef Nico has over the past 30 years, owned and run many of Durban’s most well-known and popular
restaurants. As Chef Consultant, Nico will together with Christina Martin-trained Head Chef Kyle Govender, bring to life the contemporary Mediterranean / Italian menu, with a South African twist. Those that know Chef Nico and his slow-food ethic, will also know about his ‘local is lekker’ approach to food and you’ll find that in abundance on the Bistro menu on offer. Chef Govender is well acquainted with the style and tastes of the East Coast, having worked at both The Oyster Box and The Beverly Hills, so expect to see an abundance of local ingredients, sustainably sourced meat and fish and the best of international... only when absolutely necessary.
Nico is excited to be bringing a whole new era of diners into a space previously recognised as one of Durban’s most famous dining spots. Inspiration from the restaurant’s former life, can be seen in the way the building has been completely re-imagined to suit its new purpose. Multiple venues on multiple floors offer something for every customer - from the island-style Verandah opening into the light and airy Restaurant, to the elegant Champagne Bar, tropical Oriental Bar and Cigar Bar, before stepping outside to a Gin Terrace and upwards to a show-stopping Roof-top Bar, with a 180 degree Indian Ocean sea view.
The re-incarnation of the building is ‘no accident’ according to joint owners Ayanda Ngidi, who together with twin brother Andile, have been dreaming of a venue like this ‘for as long as we can remember’. Born and bred Durbanites, the twin brothers are well-known in local eventing circles having been the brains and energy behind The Social Pop-Up event co- ordination company that they started in 2011.
The third member of the trio, Trent Varejes, hails from Johannesburg but has known the
brothers for 10 years. Discussions were already afoot for Varejes to become involved in the eventing business, when the twins presented him with an idea for a multi-storey, multi-function venue, on the Ille Maurice site, that had become available for long-term lease. Seven weeks later, their dreams have been fully realised, with the opening of Dante. According to Ayanda, Dante, which means steadfast and enduring in Latin ‘fits with both our faith and work ethic’...it’s also ‘catchy’ he says, ”we thought it would be easy for people to remember.” Combining their collective business experience and hospitality skills towards this one joint project has been ‘really exciting’, says Varejes. “We wanted to create a ‘knock-out’ restaurant and I believe that with an amazing team, we’ve realised our vision.”
For the interiors, designer Alice Kelly has gone big and bold, with hints of the legacy and
footprint of lle Maurice. All the existing restaurant tiles, balustrades, basins and a few
mosaics have been retained to create the base of the story. “I have added moulded pressed ceilings for character, and layered with bold wallpapers, art, velvets, linens, chandeliers, chunky bamboo blinds, elegant light fittings and furniture. I think every colour under the sun has been used in this project...however it all seems to work together like a beautiful piece of tapestry.”
Spanning three exciting levels Dante boasts a Main Restaurant and Bar, Gin Garden, Cigar Bar, Oyster & Champagne Bar, Signature Bar and Rooftop Bar with hypnotic ocean views. Opened on 29 November at 12 noon and thereafter, daily for brunch, lunch and dinner; as well as for special events and private functions.
Contact https://thedanteexperience.co.za or call 087 1333263 to book or for more