Destination dining is the ‘new black’ along Atlantic Seaboard

(Cape Town) – Destination dining is the new in thing in the Cape, with developers rushing to renovate – or demolish and rebuild – along the coveted Atlantic Seaboard real estate strip.

GOOD NEWS: A contemporary destination eatery development is changing the face of fine dining on the popular Camps Bay tourist strip.

The strip is attracting high-end restaurateurs, as foodies from around the country descend on Cape Town. The latest restaurant node to overlook Camps Bay, designed by one of South Africa’s oldest architectural firms, SVA International, is a case in point.

So successful has this new development been that both restaurants housed therein – The 41 and the Melissa’s Mantra Café – have been recently named by Inside Guide as among the hottest new eateries in Cape Town. According to the lead architect on the project, Giovanni Dolph, the client brief was to create a space which epitomised the values of beauty, functionality and simplicity.

“Camps Bay, being a tourist hotspot, is a place where the senses are heightened – the fresh smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves and now the explosion of tastes in the restaurants. And of course with the uninterrupted glass-fronted views, this new development is also the place to see and be seen,” said Dolph.


Covering a total area of 750m2, the development has been tenanted by two new upmarket restaurants. The 41, which takes its name from the building’s street address, occupies the ground floor, while the latest addition to the highly successful Melissa’s The Food Shop stable – the Mantra Café – trades on the floor above.

Developer Jack Quinlan said SVA International had perfectly captured the design aesthetic he had been looking for in the building.

“I basically gave them carte blanche. My only request was for modern, open lines and to capitalise on the view, which is precisely what they did,” said Quinlan.

The architectural team from SVA International had been on point right from their vision for the property, through to concept and design, and as principal agents on site, he said.

“The results speak for themselves. Everyone is talking about the building.”


“It’s such a prominent location, right on the beach and overwhelmingly beautiful. We allowed the site to inform us of where to put the functionalities and what type of materials to use. We really just tried to listen to what was there and be mindful of the conditions,” said Dolph.

The construction, which took approximately nine months to complete, was predominantly a rebuild, with only approximately 25% of the original superstructure retained.

“There are two beautiful old classic buildings with elegantly proportioned Romanesque arches bookending the site,” said Dolph. “This informed our approach to design something simple – an equally elegant and well-proportioned, contemporary glass box that takes full advantage of all the sensory experiences one comes to expect when visiting Camps Bay.”

He said keeping the scale of the structure, as well as the slope and shape of the roof, the same as the adjacent buildings had helped to maintain the harmony of the familiar skyline.


Prior to the revamp, the ground-floor seating had all been on one level, meaning the ocean view was not maximised, said Dolph.

“We solved this problem with tiered seating – a step up from the pavement onto the raised deck and then three steps up onto the internal level. Every decision we made was meticulous, ensuring that when seated in the restaurant, there is nothing obstructing your view,” he said.

Frameless glazing and tuck-away doors helped to create the seamless flow between inside and out. Ground floor wheelchair access is available for disabled patrons via the service corridor.


“For us, the key factors when designing a restaurant space are function, access and location. It’s vital to balance the functional aspect with creating a pleasing sensory experience.”

To this end, Dolph said they had chosen natural, hardwearing materials, with textures that invited patrons to engage with the building in a very tactile way.

“We used off-shutter concrete columns and natural granite tiles – rough textured on the walls and smoother versions on the floors. The client is from Knysna, so we brought a lot of wood into the character of the building through the exposed timber beams and wooden slatted ceilings.”

He said the deck, made of Garapa wood, would also naturally grey and mature, as the look and feel of the building changed to accommodate the weather. All steels were galvanised for protection.

“We are thinking in a very long-term way and working with the elements and the ocean. This building is about using the best that architecture has to offer. It’s not pretending to be something it’s not.”