Dramatic decor sets the scene for a celebratory dining experience.
Gilt-framed portraits of the bard, velvet banquettes, bookshelves with leather-bound tomes, pictorial dogs, glittering chandeliers, and heavy velvet drapes evoking the excitement of curtains going up before a performance… there’s a sense of drama in the decor at Shakespeare’s, which sets the scene for an elegant dining experience.
The origin story
Serendipity and happenstance thread the story of how Adri and Johan Engelbrecht came to open Shakespeare’s in 2019. Johan was about to realise his long-held dream of owning a landmark Parow restaurant that the couple had loved and frequented for years, when the owner decided not to retire after all. Unwilling to let go of the dream, and let down the restaurant manager they had already hired, Johan quickly found a new space in Durbanville’s Heritage Square, which meant they had to start from scratch. The name Shakespeare’s leapt to Adri’s mind, with an idea of over-the-top, theatrical décor, and as for the chef they knew exactly who they wanted.
After 12 years as head chef at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, Chef Floris Smith had opened his own restaurant in Clanwilliam when Adri and Johan met him and became regulars whenever staying at their nearby holiday home. The small town didn’t give him enough scope for the creative cuisine he loved, and he was ready for a change. His menus celebrate South African heritage ingredients – in quality and beautiful presentation – exactly what you’d expect of his background in five-star lodges, translated to this theatrical environment with a touch of humour and flair.
Of his approach to heritage cuisine, he says: “Food influences peoples’ moods and that changes constantly. It’s about taking them back in time, reviving childhood memories, and making them happy.”
Heritage food with flair
Fish and chips proves to be salmon ceviche with truffle aioli and two perfectly cooked fat chips as a starter. A Shakespearian quote, “Some men there are love not a gaping pig” announces the popular pork belly with sweet potato, plums and amaretti. Bobotie is reimagined with delicately spiced, slow-cooked pulled lamb shank in a light pastry case, rice and a spicy pineapple chutney on the side, and the duo of guinea fowl combines confit leg with Parma ham-wrapped breast, ricotta, date, creamy mushrooms, with sherry adding a festive richness. It’s fine dining for those who prefer à la carte to tasting menus, with elegant but substantial mains that won’t leave you hungry.
A sweet finale
A short but sumptuous dessert menu stays close to the classics – crème brulée, malva pudding, chocolate fondant – each with a palate-teasing twist. Homemade honeycomb, marshmallows and pistachio dust, for example, add texture and interest to the lavish chocolate fondant, extravagantly plated as a Rocky Road. A lovely selection of home-made ice cream (black honey-roasted coffee stands out) and sorbets is perfect for a lighter finish.
Adri poured her heart into the décor, together with designer Merle Theunissen, scouring every antique shop and market in the land, for vintage crockery, furniture, frames and chandeliers to create a quirky and opulent backdrop to the beautifully presented food.
The theatrical element of Shakespeare’s is mostly in the décor and atmosphere. You don’t need to worry about spontaneous sonnets or lines from the plays declaimed as you eat, or being tested on your knowledge of Othello – although there are plenty of quotes scattered tongue-in-cheek fashion throughout the menu.
The servers in their retro costume of flat cap and waistcoat are skilled in silver service not the silver screen, although their friendly and knowledgeable demeanour has plenty of stage presence. There’s low-pitched background music for atmosphere, and on Friday nights a professional pianist plays the baby grand piano from 6pm till 9pm.
As well as lunch and dinner, Shakespeare’s offers breakfast and high tea menus (24hours notice is needed for tea bookings, as it’s all freshly baked by their pastry chef) and the restaurant can also be booked as a venue for intimate weddings and special events.
Opening times Tuesday – Wednesday, 12pm – 10pm
Thursday – Saturday, 9am – 10pm
Contact 021 569 0244
Where to find it Heritage Square, Vrede Street, Durbanville
Book through DinePlan
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