Last week I experienced the power of colour in two new restaurants in Cape Town, in its plating at The Shortmarket Club, and in the explosion of colour in its decor in The Stack restaurant and member club, which opened four weeks ago.
One felt for The Stack owners Nigel Pace and Sarah Ord when a large part of the building caught alight in an electrical fire six days after opening in early July last year. It has taken almost a year to redo the decor, and start again, including appointing new staff. Sarah and Nigel project a commendable fatalistic attitude to what has led to their new beginning.
Sarah Ord is an interior decorator of note, and loves the challenge of colour, and being the decorator for her own establishment allowed her total freedom in her decorating. Nigel, from Malta originally, has been in our country for 21 years, having managed top hotels, including the Cape Grace.
Sarah told me that some of the damaged window frames were turned into decorative frames around the fireplaces after the fire.
I have only been to the 160 year old Leinster Hall building once before, to attend a FEDHASA function a very long time ago. It was a member club then, and Nigel and Sarah have kept the tradition, but modernized it. They charge R15500 per year for City members, and R11500 for Country members. The Leinster Hall name will no longer be used.
The colour explosion is visible from the minute one steps into the building, having parked on the property, and walking past the outside deck, which is a little hidden and seats 40-50 guests, and past a water feature with fountain. A burst of Magenta defines the entrance hall, with a beautifully renovated wooden staircase. To the right is the public bar, with seating at tables and chairs, as well as at the bar counter. This is where I met Sarah, Nigel having offered to walk me through the building. Together the three of us went upstairs, which is the members club domain, and here Sarah’s decor touch really asserts itself, with a lounge area with wild colour touches (top photograph), a carpet which was designed for her especially, with a leopard print feel, and a member bar in Magenta and Lagoon Green.
They introduced me to ‘Fred’, the wildebeest, hung over the fireplace, a colourful head made from flip flop material. A second seating area is more pastel orientated, and two meeting rooms are on this floor, one with chairs in various colours, and another with a boardroom table and an impactful design too (left).
The Stack is across the road from the back end of The Belmond Mount Nelson hotel, on Weltevreden Street in Gardens, its pink exterior being picked up coincidentally inside The Stack in terms of the bow tie colour of the restaurant staff, in its corporarate identity, and on their menus.
The restaurant downstairs is far more muted in colour, a very large well-lit space, with natural light coming in from large windows as well as the lights which were switched on, despite it being a sunny day. Table cloths cover the tables, they offer material napkins, and a small wooden pepper grinder. Cutlery is by Pintinox. Walls are covered with ‘Brush’ wallpaper, especially designed for Sarah, and the works of art sourced by Ebony (and applied to the other artworks in the building too, available for sale, but also adding colour). Banquettes are in Lagoon Green, and chairs in Magenta. Ceilings have decorative rose designs, with brass chandeliers. Nigel explained that there was a chimney stack next door, and the name was derived from that, it originally having been planned to turn the building into a boutique hotel (too small) and to open a hotel in Woodstock (falling through).
The restaurant is defined as a Brasserie by Sarah and Nigel, with a ‘Brasserie menu unique for Cape Town’. The corporate colour pink is mild and gentle compared to the strong use of colour in the decor. The Stack S logo is on the lunch, dinner, and dessert menu, and wine list holders. Each table has a crisp tablecloth, material napkins, a wooden pepper grinder, and a side plate in white. Ashleigh was my waitress, and brought a plate with truffle-infused butter, olive-infused ciabatta, sourdough, and French baguette. I liked that the butter was presented on a stone. Chef Warwick King, previously of the Bay Hotel and Delaire Graff, heads up The Stack kitchen. The Dining Room walls are covered with Brush wallpaper in a softer grey, which has become a signature design for Sarah’s projects. Staff wear white shirts and check bow ties. The ceilings have ‘roses’, which had to be newly made by the Plaster Art company.
For my main course I selected Kolbroek pork belly, served confit with caramelised Apple purée, fynbos glazed carrots, and cider jus. I chose to order a dessert instead of a starter. Starters offered last week were French onion soup (R65), Saladé aux Lardons (with a soft poached egg), Caesar salad at R65, Saldanha Rock oysters (R22), and Bouillabaisse (R180). Le Hamburger costs R95, and is served with pomme frites. The main course options are line fish with Aubergine purée (R140), Beef Bourguignon (R150), cauliflower au gratin (R100), sirloin steak with frites and Béarnaise sauce (R140), and Ratatouille (R120). Odd is the offer of sandwiches (Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame, and smoked salmon on sourdough).
Every day of the week a ‘Plats du Jour’ (dish of the day) is available, at R160. On Mondays it is Coq au vin, on Tuesdays Toulouse Cassoulet, on Wednesdays the offering is Pork Schnitzel, on Thursdays it is Liver, onion, and pommes purée, on Fridays they offer Moules Marinières, and on Saturdays Duck à L’Orange. Sides cost R 40. For Dinner, the Plats du Jour remain the same; Beef Tartare (R85), Duck Rillettes (90), and Country Terrine (R75) are added, as is Salmon Gravadlax (R80). The sandwiches and Burger have been removed, and Navarin of lamb (R160) and Roast Baby chicken added.
Desserts have their own menu, and I found it hard to choose, opting for Tarte au Citron with popcorn (R65), and Petit fours of chocolate truffles, sablé biscuit, and meringues (R45), which I took home with me, cling-wrapped onto one of the restaurant plates, which I returned before my departure. Other desserts offered are Crème Brûlée (R65), 70% Valrhona chocolate tart (R65), Rum Baba (R65), and a cheese selection, with preserves, and Melba Toast (R110).
The Stack is sure to become a very trendy address at which to socialize and eat, its decor being unique and exceptional, with nothing else like it in Cape Town. What surprised me is the stark contrast in the strong colours used for the decor, and the muted colors in the dishes which I ordered.
The Stack, Leinster Hall, 7 Weltevreden Street, Gardens, Cape Town. Tel +27 (21) 286-0187 www.thestack.co.za. Twitter: @The StackCPT Instagram @TheStackCPT. Wednesday – Saturday Lunch and Dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog. Cell +27 825511323. www.whalecottage.com/blog. Twitter: @WhaleCottage Instagram : @chris_ulmenstein