After a number of promised opening dates, delayed due to construction hiccups, Chef David Higgs finally opens his Marble restaurant in Rosebank in Johannesburg today.
The eagerly awaited opening of the Johannesburg-based Marble Restaurant, a joint venture between Chef David Higgs and investor and property developer Gary Kyriacou, was delayed three times. Today the dream of the two partners finally comes true.
Chef David said in a media statement a few months ago: ‘It’s been an amazing journey so far, and we have been overwhelmed by the support from everyone’.
Marble is located in Rosebank, in the Trumpet building on the corner of Jellicoe and Keyes Avenues, within the Rosebank Art Mile. Marble is unusual in its use of live-fire cooking, and a special ‘beast of a piece of equipment, the Rolls Royce‘ was imported from the USA (main photograph). Chefs David and Werner as well as Kyriacou traveled to New York last October, and checked out the cocktail and open-fire cooking scene in that city, being inspired by Union Square Café in particular. The Marble restaurant pay-off line is ‘Meat & Flame Enthusiasts’.
Chef David explained the fiery restaurant concept as follows: ‘Marble will embody South African’s love of cooking with fire, a quality that makes our food culture different from the rest of the world. I’ve long been fascinated by what makes South African fare unique, and I believe it’s down to us being meat and flame enthusiasts – the timeworn ritual of cooking on wood fires, and gathering with friends. That’s what Marble will celebrate – and not just meat, but all types of ingredients cooked on coals – including fish, poultry, vegetables and breads‘.
The restaurant describes itself as follows on its Facebook page: ‘A space purely dedicated to precision and passion. Where the tradition of meeting and eating around an open flame is elevated to an art form. Joburg is hungry for something different, and we look forward to providing this in May 2016′, punned Chef David, referring to one of the earlier target opening dates.
Marble also offers a roof-top terrace, with a view over Johannesburg towards Magaliesburg. In addition, it will have a butchery downstairs, selling the cuts of meat from the Marble menu.
What we know about Marble restaurant to date, not having yet received the media release about the restaurant opening, is the following:
# Chef Werner Spöhr (ex The Saxon) will head up the kitchen with Chef David
# The menu will include ‘easy eating‘ and ‘comfort food‘, as well as ‘well-executed cocktails‘.
# It will be far ‘more affordable‘ than Chef David’s previous five hundred restaurant, which was the most expensive restaurant in the country, ‘appealing to a wider audience‘.
# It will be welcoming to women in particular, and will offer an escape from the busy Johannesburg lifestyle. It will be more Johannesburgian than South African.
# the restaurant is a 250-seater
# Marble could go multinational, with possible future outlets in New York, Dubai, and/or London.
# The Bar counter is 8,8 meters long, with furniture designed by local designers, serving tapas, cocktails, and beers. Bars which the Marble team visited in New York were Marta, Gotham Bar and Grill, April Bloomfield, Nomad, Union Square Cafe, King Cole Bar, Empire, Gramercy Tavern, Maison Premiere, and Tertulia.
# the blue tiles in the kitchen were handmade and handfired by Cape Town ceramicist Mervyn Gers.
# Marble will offer food and wine pairing, which will not be prescriptive
Given the emphasis on meat prepared on an open flame, Marble is an excellent name for Chef David’s new venture, and its logo reflects the meat link too. The media statement announced: ‘Higgs will be bringing the international trend of live fire cooking to Johannesburg’s dining scene for the first time. Marble, a celebration of quintessential South African fare and cooking on fire, will open its doors in the Rosebank Art Mile (Roam) in May 2016‘ (an earlier planned opening date). His business partner is Gary Kyriacou, who has owned Spar outlets, and was involved in the hospitality program for the infamous FIFA World Cup Soccer in 2010. He is described as a ‘serial entrepreneur‘. ‘I have wanted to open something like Marble for a long time. However, I needed someone with a real passion for food to bring it to life. Once David was on board that the idea really started to take shape’, said Kyriacou.
The Cocktail bar is an important part of the restaurant, with a roof-top terrace with a beautiful view over Johannesburg. A downstairs butchery will sell meat which diners will have enjoyed in the restaurant, to take home. Diners in the city look for more than just a fine-dining eating experience, wanting sophistication, affordability, and a welcoming atmosphere, especially for females, and they will find this at Marble.
Chef David left five hundred restaurant at The Saxon Hotel & Spa in December, after setting up the restaurant in 2012. He left a restaurant which has been ranked in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list in the past two years, and the honour of being rated as our county’s Best Chef in 2014, the best ever performance for a Johannesburg-based restaurant! He took Rust en Vrede restaurant to the number one slot in 2010, and decided to make his way to Johannesburg. He expressed his frustration about the clientele he was serving at five hundred at the Eat Out Awards in November, and expressed his desire to see patrons understanding and enjoying his dishes!
At the Eat Out Restaurant Awards last year, Chef David said a strange thing – that he is looking forward to cooking again when he opens his new restaurant. In an interview he referred to the five hundred clientele, saying that half of the 30 patrons eating there ‘have no clue what they’re eating‘.
On average the patrons spend R1600 per head (it is the most expensive restaurant in the country based on a per course price), ‘but half the people don’t get it, and half of those who don’t get it don’t want to get it’! His frustration in not seeing his patrons enjoying fine dining at five hundred led him to resign and to plan the creation of his own restaurant. He handed over the five hundred restaurant reins to his able head chef Candice Philip, who has worked at the Saxon for more than ten years.
We wish Chef David all the best with his new venture, look forward to receiving more details about his fiery new restaurant, and to trying it out soon.
Marble Restaurant, corner Keyes Street and Jan Smuts Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg. Tel (010) 594-5550 www.marble.restaurant Twitter: @Marble_SA
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel+27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein