Last week a group of writers was invited to try the new Winter Menu at Shimmy Beach Club, on a beautiful sunny day. The impact of GM Clayton Howard is visible, compared to my last visit to Shimmy about a year ago, when it was in a sad state, Clayton giving the Club new energy, a chic character, and introducing a vastly improved menu.
We were told that the owners of Shimmy Beach Club also own other properties, including Bloemendal in Durbanville, and we were served their Waterlily wines for the lunch. A small hotel is being established on the wine estate, and Shimmy Chef Adrian Cook also spends one day a week at Bloemendal, and its restaurant Bon Amis. Clayton told me that new staff is being sourced from the hotel sector, given the growing accommodation focus of the hospitality company, and is Clayton’s own career background as GM of top Cape Town hotels. It would not be a surprise if Shimmy goes up a floor, and builds a hotel upstairs!
Clayton told us that Shimmy Beach Club is a popular ‘show-off venue‘, not only in being seen to be visiting the venue, visitors often using Facebook tags to share their venue choice with their friends and colleagues, and also when eating and drinking bottle service is offered, so that the guests of the patrons can see which brands of sparkling wines or even champagnes have been ordered. He told us about the coverage the Sunday Times gave to Shimmy ten days ago, when it reported that the Minister of Energy had hosted an exclusive function for 450 guests, with an extravagant food and wine list!
All Shimmy guests were accommodated in another section of the Club so that we could receive dedicated service from our waiters, and enjoy our lunch undisturbed. The 280-seater dining room looks onto the Shimmy beach, the only private beach in our country, and therefore patrons are allowed to drink on the beach, which they cannot do on the public beaches of our city. A new dome has been added for performances, giving the Club an upmarket feel. Should there be a large event, a Bedouin marquee is added, which covers most of the beach.
When I arrived at Shimmy, there was no obvious parking available ( a problem in summer, but they offer a shuttle service from the Clocktower side of the V&A Waterfront, where patrons can park too). Service is impressive, fellow Manager Malcolm Moodie directing me to a parking bay near the entrance to the building when I arrived.
A long table had been prepared for us, with platters of vegetable dim sum and Thai tuna wontons already on the table. Waiters offered wines and water. Clayton welcomed us, and told us the magnitude of their operation, it being the second largest food server in Cape Town, after Grand West. In summer they serve an average of 3800 meals per day, of which 1200 are plates of salad. There is a new style, drive, and energy at Shimmy, making it more chic and styled to the requirements of locals. It has become a Music Festival haven and party club, but it is also a venue for conferences and even children’s parties. Clayton acknowledged that with such a large number of patrons (4500 on average per day in summer) they cannot always be perfect.
For our Starter course, we were offered Gruyère and Leek tart with rocket, topped with a granadilla and pawpaw salad, and with a pomegranate reduction (R75); chicken livers and tomato fondue with basil and Parmesan polenta (R70); fresh black West Coast mussels cooked in a pancetta and fennel cream sauce, served with very spicy Cajun sweet potato crisps (R95); my favorite in terms of presentation was a chessboard design calamari, the black blocks colored with squid ink, served with pickled garden vegetables, and saffron beurre Blanc, the most popular starter on their Starters List (R110); and grilled Tiger prawns with Thai flash-fried egg noodles and lime (R105), a less successful dish. Other starter options are biltong-encrusted venison carpaccio with an interesting sounding caper berry popcorn (R85); grilled artichoke, asparagus, and lemon risotto with scented mascarpone (R65); calamari batons with tartar sauce (R65); and baked fior di latte and beef tomato, with basil and pine nut pesto (R105).
The main course list offers 14 options, and five mini portions of these were on our main course plate: slow-roasted oxtail tortellini with a pumpkin purée and sage beurre noisette (R115); lamb shank pot pie with candied butternut (R175); a very very tasty rib eye steak, served with celeriac puree, topped with salsa verde, and potato wedges (R195 for 300 gram, R290 for 500 gram); smoked salmon and curaçao ravioli, served with pea shoots (R125); and herb-encrusted line fish on artichoke, Rosa tomato and baby potato salad, served with a lemon butter sauce (R160), the most popular of the main courses on the Winter Menu so far, Clayton shared. Other main courses one can order are duck confit leg with wood roasted breast (R220); chicken breast (R105); ostrich fillet on toasted ciabatta, a burger without it being called that (R135); beef fillet (R210); veal masala (R130); veal chop Milanese (R185); free-range beef penne Alforne (R105); a grilled seafood platter with langoustines, tiger prawns, black mussels, line fish, calamari, fragrant rice, and sauces (R900, and an additional R1260 for crayfish added); and sesame-encrusted salmon served on Indonesian stir-fried vegetables and wasabi mash, with a citrus soy reduction (R145).
One can order pizzas, eight options being available, at a range between R 85 for a Margherita up to R 155 for a Tiger prawn and calamari, crème fraîche, rocket, and pomodoro sauce pizza. A large section of the menu is dedicated to Sushi, with various combinations of items, and prices based on the number of pieces per platter. One page is dedicated to Dim Sum. A special children’s menu offers meatballs, pizza, chicken, and a burger.
The dessert list is warm and wintery. Our mini-dessert platter consisted of ginger and orange steamed pudding with orange and nut crunch biscotti, chocolate coated orange segments, and créme anglaise (R60); a star anise and cinnamon baked Winter Fruit Crumble served with crème anglaise(R70); candied fruit and mascarpone cannoli with a rich white chocolate sauce (R80); and port and Pinotage poached pear, black pepper and yoghurt ice cream, and toasted chocolate brioche (R70). A delicious-sounding guava cheesecake had met with an unhappy end in the kitchen, Chef Adrian admitted, which they usually serve with a unique macadamia nut crust, peanut butter ice cream, and strawberries (R60); pistachio and honey panna cotta with figs and toasted pistachio (R65); and 70% dark chocolate fondant with naartjie ice cream, Cointreau short bread, and hazelnut praline crumble (R60).
Clayton told us that they do not have freezers at Shimmy, so that all food is freshly prepared daily, and some suppliers deliver twice a day. An unusual touch was being served mulled wine in-between courses, made from Bloemendal’s Waterlily wine.
An interesting communication angle Clayton shared with me was the negative publicity which Shimmy Beach Club has received since its opening. The Club has created a page on its website to address and correct the misperceptions proactively. Shimmy is the first private club with its own App, which they use as a proactive communication tool, first releasing information about new events and news on the App before it is listed on the website. The Winterglow campaign sees Shimmy offer a DJ in the club on Fridays, and in the restaurant an electronic violinist, saxophonist, or trumpeter performs. On some Friday evenings they offer joint fashion and beauty shows in the restaurant. On Saturday evenings they offer themed parties.
With GM Clayton running Shimmy Beach Club now one can expect a vast improvement in the quality of food and service, as we experienced last week.
Shimmy Beach Club, South Arm Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 200-7778. www.shimmybeachclub.co.za Twitter @ShimmyBeach Monday – Sunday. Closed for renovations 1 – 31 July.