Restaurant Review: Grand Pavilion is grand in its Food and Decor, yet affordable, Website and Service needs attention



I have great admiration for what Restaurateur Michael Townsend has achieved in more than twenty years of restauranting in Cape Town, always creative in the restaurant concepts.

At a time when most restaurant owners would not dream of opening a restaurant, Michael has boldly opened the grand Grand Pavilion on Beach Road in Sea Point, opposite the landmark Pavilion, two Sea Point icons now facing each other.

The Background

Townsend built up the Harbour House Group, starting in Kalk Bay, moving into Muizenberg, followed by the city centre and the Waterfront, Constantia, and then Century City and Stellenbosch, when he owned the Group. Having to compromise his style of working and his being, he sold his shares about three years ago, and the Group was renamed Life & Brand, managing the La Parada, Tigers Milk, Harbour House, and Lucky Fish restaurant brands.

Cheekily Townsend named his new restaurant Group Cowboys & Crooks (now renamed The Sweetheart of the Rodeo), and initially operating under a restraint of trade of only allowed to open three restaurants, he soon opened Cowboys and Cooks in Sunset Beach, followed by another Cowboys & Cooks in Green Point, and Sevruga in the Waterfront. Planning for the Grand Pavilion was already underway, Townsend’s vision being a voluptuous grand restaurant on Sea Point’s palm-lined Beach Road boulevard. It has taken more than three years of seeking Council plan approval, and Corona Lockdown regulation restrictions for the Grand Pavilion to open four weeks ago.


The Grand Pavilion Website is not very grand, only containing the Menu and Social Media links. To book, which is essential currently, as the Grand Pavilion is the flavour of the month, message the What’s App number (see at the end of this post) with your date, time and number of persons. An automated message will appear once the booking has been made, it will be confirmed via Dineplan. Note that one cannot book via Dineplan, and can currently only do so via What’s App.


My guest Gary Peterson arrived before I did, and said that he was not shown to our table. He filled in a Covid form but his temperature was not taken. I did not have to sign the form on my arrival, was not sanitised, and no temperature was taken.

We were delighted to be shown our table, right at the edge of the pavement but elevated, giving us a lovely view onto  the palm trees, the Pavilion, the lovely clouds in the sky, and passersby, including Facebook Friend Johnny Snyman whom I had never met before, as well as our mutual friehd Brian van Hansen. On Facebook today we were told that we were seen at the Grand Pavilion.  Grand Pavilion GM Blayne came to greet us, having met when Blayne managed La Parada Constantia Nek when I danced there.  He was super-friendly, and requested our feedback. I told him about the Booking confusion.

The Decor 

We could not put our finger on a description of the design style, with touches of Art Deco from the Mimosa Court Building, lots of cane, white marble flooring, bamboo cladding of pillars, strings of lamps, modern glass stacking doors, an overhead covering in aluminium that can be closed when it rains, massive indoor plants with outdoor ones too, chic white leather couches with floral-themed cushions, wood-slatted tables, very modern bay windows in the north and south end lounge areas, and Art Deco style branding.

Sitting in the deck section we debated if the Grand Pavilion is really ‘grand’, and we came to the conclusion that it was not as grand as we had expected, being more casual and informal.

However, the ‘Grand’ part of the Grand Pavilion emerged once we entered Harry’s Bar, described below. I discovered that a private 8-seater room can be booked in the restaurant, subject to availability.

Our Meal 

From the outset we were in no rush, both Gary and I having a lifestyle which allowed us to enjoy more than five hours at Grand Pavilion. Our waiter Cedric was very patient,  bringing us endless jugs of lemon water. We barely got to the menu, having to catch up first, and then being entertained by Brian van Hansen, brilliant photographer and pianist at The Taj and Radisson hotels. Johnny Snyman told us that he visits the Grand Pavilion daily, and sat near us in one of the lounge nooks.

Cedric brought us a board of Specials, on which the Tian of Prawns (R105) caught my eye, a stack of Aubergine, avocado purée, chopped tomato, with four tempura prawns, on a bed of basil mayo.

The menu is chic, in blue with gold embossed logo, which Michael told us he used from that of the Grand on the Beach. It lists Starters, Mains, Sides, and Desserts. A surprise was to see that half the menu consists of Sushi dishes, but it made sense when Michael shared that his Sevruga restaurant specializes in sushi, and any Sushi staff support for the Grand Pavilion can come from Sevruga, if needed. I chose the Crispy calamari starter on a green tartare sauce (R102) as my second starter dish. Sadly it was not crispy by the time it came to our table, possibly waiting for Gary’s Karoo Rack of Lamb (R260) with garlic mash, lamb jus, baby onions, and green beans to be prepared. We shared a taste of each other’s dishes, and the Lamb was by far the highlight of the three dishes we tried at this stage.


A Tour of Harry’s Bar

I’d seen that Michael was in the house, but sitting at the extreme opposite end of the building. It was a deja vu, seeing him sitting with a number of his past Harbour House Group managers, including Radley Duijkers, who has joined Townsend to run his Group of restaurants.

One enters Harry’s Bar through a thick blue theatre curtain, the soundproofing of the Bar and dining area having cost R2 million, Michael told us. We entered past a massive display of pampas grass in a vase, and then saw a second dining area. The first thing I looked for was the complaint I’d read about, being that the tables were too close together from a Covid perspective, but I coukd not see this at all. The decor style is different, with yellow, greens and blues, and the dining looking more formal, or ‘grand’, with table cloths on the tables. There is a long bar in this section too, and DJ Spanner (he is also the handy man) sets up in here, playing ‘Eighties music on Thursday evenings, and also on Saturdays.

The Bathrooms and open plan kitchen are also in this large section, Michael showing me their hot coal cooking grids, as well as a pizza oven in the background in which they bake some of their dishes, not serving pizzas.

A highlight is the bathrooms, which talented Executive Chef Lizaan has given a soft and feminine touch by using ferns, something I’ve never seen used in such a beautiful way.

On the way to the bathrooms is a wall of photographs, a Townsend decor touch, one being a typical one of Estate Agent mogul Lance Cohen driving. On the opposite wall is a collection of framed ocean liner prints.

Dessert and cocktails 

The dessert list only has three options, Cheesecake, Pannacotta, and a delicious sounding Dark Chocolate Torte, with Spekulaas crumble, little chocolate balls, salted caramel, Valrhona chocolate ganache, Smoked salt, and home-made  Tonka Bean ice cream (R80), which Gary said had my name on it. I know that he is not a chocolate fan, yet he had a little bite of the dessert.

As it was getting too hot at our outside table, we moved to the lounge area on the South end, enjoying the comfortable leather couch, observing the comings and goings of some of the other diners and drinkers. Michael sent a waiter to us, offering us a cocktail with his compliments. Gary does not usually drink alcohol, so he ordered a Shirley Temple mocktail (R50), with cherry syrup, ginger ale, and lime, served in a glass with glitter on the outside.  I succumbed to a Melon Ball Fizz cocktail (R65), with balls of green and orange spanspek, pineapple juice, Skyy vodka, melon liquor, and tonic water, only drinking some of it, as a later walk, and drive home lay ahead. The waiter service slowed down, mainly as our waiter was not serving in the lounge area, so it took some time to obtain information about a herb and the type of ice cream on thecdessert plate, and our bill.


A five and a half hour sojourn at Grand Pavilion went past as if time had stood still. There was so much to discover and experience. Every section we sat in had a different vibe, view, and feel. The Music was only switched on when we had the cocktails, and it was such familiar music I used to dance to at La Parada Constantia Nek, just wanting to get up and dance. For me it was the excitement of not only discovering and experiencing a brand new restaurant, and catching up with Gary, but also of good memories of Michael’s other restaurants, at which I felt so at home over the years.

We had very little to fault. I received feedback about a very disastrous Saturday evening service,  not only slow, but being refused cocktails as the bar was too busy, chips not arriving with a steak, and an overcharge on the Seafood platter, the restaurant being too full and busy. Another person fed back that corkage costs R160 per bottle.

The website needs more information, missing an About Us, a Beverage List, a Photograph Gallery, Terms and Conditions, and an explanation of the odd Reservation procedure.

The Future  

Townsend is furiously working on new restaurants, now that he has successfully challenged and won his restraint of trade, considering another Beach Road restaurant, and working on opening Fancy Franks in Somerset West.  Watch this space: there are sure to be more restaurants to come.

POSTSCRIPT 13/4: I was delighted to discover this evening that my friend Duncan Bruce, former GM of Hartford House, has been appointed as the new GM of Fancy Franks.

Grand Pavilion, 277 Beach Road, Sea Point, Cape Town. Tel 021 206-6360 What’s App 066 193 5692 (bookings) Instagram @grand_pavilion


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide


Please follow and like us:
Tweet 27k

WhaleTales Blog


We don’t spam!

Read our privacy policy for more info.