Shimmy Beach Club exterior Whale Cottage PortfolioWe were invited to try Shimmy Beach Club recently, not having had a chance to have a meal there since it opened six months ago, the restaurant, bar, and beach not being visible to visitors to the V&A Waterfront as it is hidden away in the port.  Given the client profile, and the R40 million expenditure invested in the new building, we were surprised about the good value and friendly dining we experienced.

One drives to the harbour entrance near the Caltex garage, and initially signage leads the way.  However, almost as one reaches a dead end, there is no further signage, until one sees a faded sign on top of a building with a guarded gate.  We were told that there had been an issue with the Transnet National Port Authority about the signage, and it had to be removed.  The building is adjacent to the Cape Town port authority, which regulates the shipping traffic entrance to and exit out of the port.  There was enough parking, but it could be limited in summer when it gets busy, the restaurant alone seating 220 patrons.

One is not sure what to expect from the building exterior, but when youShimmy Ian and Seelan Whale Cottage Portfolio step inside one is bowled over by the charming welcome from Spanish Guest Relations Manager Ian Ranero, who has a South African mother and decided to move to Cape Town 18 months ago.  He showed us around the spacious building, including the massive bar, the Bunnahabhain whisky tasting or function room for 24 guests, and an ice vodka tasting room to come.  The weather was not great, blustery but sunny, so everyone was inside.  Co-owner (with Shawn Mace) Seelan Sundoo came to greet us, having previously been the chef at La Perla, The Grand in Camps Bay and then The Grand on the Beach, and The Reserve Brasserie.  

In summer one can use the pool loungers or sit outside ‘along the highway of the sea’, said Ian, and use the 23 meter infinity pool. One must book outside in summer, and the deal is to buy a bottle of vodka or champagne to make use of the exterior facilities.   There is a cover charge after 22h00 to be in the bar, but if one has dinner there, one does not need to pay it.  The beach sand has been carted in, and one cannot help to compare it to the Grand on the Beach on the Granger Bay side of the V&A Waterfront,  but everything is bigger and brand new.  The restaurant is massive, and Shimmy interior Whale Cottage Portfoliocan be divided into private function sections. Half of the restaurant was set up as the lounge due to the weather, with a few dining tables set up there too, which is where we sat, giving us excellent light for the photographs.  There is a children’s play area outside, with an au pair service.  All tables are made from wooden tops, with dining chairs in wood and leather.  The lounge chairs are upholstered in blue velvet, standing alongside a  mix of beige leather and grey fabric couches.  Quirky moulded plastic chairs with a pair of eyes are visible at the entrance, Shimmy Moet & Chandon Champagne Bar Whale Cottage Portfolioopposite the Moët en Chandon champagne bar as one enters the restaurant.  The patterned wallpaper in the lounge section looked Grand-ish, and is replicated as embossing on the grey winelist, a la carte menu, and sushi menu.   In the restaurant the walls are wood-panelled, covered with massive modern paintings by Margie van Zyl, and a TV screen, and wall tiles in the sushi section. There are no tablecloths, but good quality material serviettes and cutlery by Aloe, the crockery being plain white with a green Shimmy logo. Plates are set on plastic woven placemats.

Shimmy Gilda Gray Whale Cottage PortfolioMy first question to Ian was the origin of the Shimmy name, and I was surprised to hear that it related to the name of a 1920’s dance, which was created by Marianna Winchalaska from Poland, who was adopted and taken to the USA, where she changed her name to Gilda Gray, honoured as ‘The Queen of the Shimmy‘ in the menus.  She created the dance, which was performed in films and theatre productions at the time.  It is not clear what the link is to the restaurant, as there is no dancing at Shimmy.

The restaurant has an a la carte kitchen, a pizza section, and the sushi section.  Master Sushi Chef Yasuhiro Yoshimura was brought in from Japan, and his beautiful presentation and preparation of the prawn, avocado and cucumber California rolls, prawn andShimmy Sushi Whale Cottage Portfolio avocado and salmon and avocado handrolls , as well as unusual soft sticky batter prawn tempura (eight pieces cost R95, available in a  choice of tuna or salmon) were an Shimmy Handrolls Whale Cottage Portfolioabsolute highlight of our meal.  He is a friend of Nobu Matsuhisa, owner of Nobu restaurants around the world, and consults to Sol Kerzner’s restaurants too, the media release informed. The sushi menu contains a large variety of options, including sashimi (4 slices R39 – R66), Nigiri (2 pieces cost R29 – R55), Fashion sandwiches (4 pieces cost R55 – R65), Maki rolls (6 pieces for R38 – R45), California Rolls (8 pieces cost R48 – R85), Temaki hand rolls (R38 – R45), salmon roses (2 pieces for R45), and Shimmy Big Roll (4 pieces for R75).

Shimmy Chicken liver starter Whale Cottage PortfolioThe winter a la carte menu offers a number of starters, including salads, beef carpaccio (R98), baked avocado with scallops and thermidor sauce (R105), pan fried chicken livers (left, at R68), soups, and oysters (SQ).  Pizzas are made in the dining room in the wood-fired pizza over, and start at R80 for Margherita, and include unusual toppings such as Asian mushroom and duck (R115), Veal Ragu with sage and onion (R110), and chili prawn and pineapple (R140).  Pasta (penne or linguine) options include Arrabiata (R75), wild mushrooms (R90), and Duck ravioli (R110).   Seafood platters start at R800 for two persons. Ten LM prawns cost R180. Tagliata is served with kingklip or sirloin, Lorraine’s sirloin being exceptionally tender.  Shimmy Duck Whale Cottage PortfolioMy slow roasted duck with orange and cinnamon, served with sautéed sweet and sour red cabbage (R170) looked and tasted good, but was tough, despite the serious-looking Grunter knife.  Other main course options include calamari (R98), salmon (R120), breast of free range chicken (R105), baby chicken (R135), dry aged beef fillet (R175), veal with a mustard and spring onion sauce (R120), and a curry of the day (SQ).   Rice, chips, and vegetables are extra.  The dessert selection is small, offering toffee bread and butter pudding, crème brûlee, apple and pear tart, Shimmy Tiramisu Whale Cottage PortfolioTiramisu, cheesecake, and warm chocolate hazelnut tart, and is available in R45 or R70 portion sizes.  This was accompanied by a LavAzza cappuccino.

The wine list features Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2011 as a winter special at R550.  Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial NV costs R145 per glass and R990 per bottle, and the Rosé Impérial R1100. Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV costs R1800, the Brut Yellow Label R195 per glass and R1400 per bottle, and the Vintage Gold R1800.  Dom Pérignon Blanc costs R4500, and the Rosé 2000 R6500. Ruinart Blanc de Blancs costs R1800, as does the Rosé, while Krug Grand Cuvée costs R5300. Local MCCs include Pongrácz (R55 per glass and R250 per bottle), De Wetshof (R450), Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose (oddly priced at R458,85), Plaisir de Merle (R750), and Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel (R270).  More brands are listed per white wine variety compared to the reds, and the Sauvignon Blanc category starts at R135 for Dombeya with Klein Constantia at R270. In the Shiraz section Stellenzicht Golden Triangle is the cheapest at R65/R195, and Hartenberg Stork the most expensive at R850.  No vintage nor wine region information is detailed.  In winter the staff receives training from the wine estates, we were told.

Shimmy Beach Club is worth going back to on a sunny warm day to enjoy the outside atmosphere, as can be seen from the photographs on their website.  It is ideal for families with children, and those wanting to have the benefit of a beach with a pool, a beach bar, and a restaurant.  We received excellent service from Ian, as well as from our waiters Markus and Vusi, and this is a good reason to try Shimmy, combined with the reasonable price range of the food and wines.

Shimmy Beach Club, South Arm Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town Harbour.  Tel (021) 200-7778.  www.shimmybeachclub.co.za  Twitter: @ShimmyBeach   Wednesdays 18h00 – 23h00, Thursdays  – Saturdays 11h00 – 23h00, Sundays 11h00 – 16h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage