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. Part of the LIFE Group of Companies, the collection of five 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.’
Overlooking the vibrant pier, the yachts and cruise boats in this working harbour, this listed heritage building was commissioned by Prince Albert in 1902, on Queen Victoria’s instruction, and is one of the oldest harbour 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.
Its designer-owners LIFE Interiors Architecture Strategic Design 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 five 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 harbour 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’.