Rhapsody’s opened in Green Point last week, where Doppio Zero used to be, perfectly positioned for business when the Cape Town Stadium hosts events, and for locals in general. It is the first full-scale restaurant of this Pretoria-based franchise group in Cape Town, and the 12th for the group, which has ambitious restaurant opening plans for next year. It was chatting to the Executive Chef Claire Brown, previously of Pierneef à La Motte, and some of the passionate managers that gave me confidence that this restaurant won’t be another franchise restaurant, but one that wants to make a difference for Capetonians.
I was intrigued when I first saw the logo on the boards outside the restaurant when I visited neighbouring Café Extrablatt about a month ago, and they told me the name of the restaurant. The franchisor of the group and owner of the Cape Town branch is Michalis Xekalos, who opened his first Rhapsody’s branch in Menlyn, Pretoria ten years ago. There are Rhapsody’s restaurants in Ghana, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, and Bedfordview, and an ambitious expansion plan for next year includes another branch in Ghana, two in Nigeria, and restaurants in Zimbabwe and Botswana. Outlets may also open in Namibia, Mauritius, Tanzania, Barcelona, and more in Cape Town. The restaurant pay-off line is ‘Flavours of Life’, and this governs what the restaurant group stands for.
I was astounded at the transformation of the interior from the previous Doppio Zero, the shop section on the left having become a lounge with a high tech bathroom, with a communal water fountain. A huge bar counter has yellow lighting, and tables and chairs can seat about 100 inside. A lot of money has been invested in the interior design, with a more-is-more design approach! A gas fire in the centre of the room creates ambiance, columns are black and white striped, and walls are a mix of terracotta-colour and face brick. A massive wine rack at the entrance is unlike anything I have ever seen, very modern. A communal wooden table was specially made with the Rhapsody’s logo in silver. Highback chairs in white and grey with a red thread are unusual, and the chairs around the ‘logo table’ were made from ‘synthetic’ white leather. The interior takes one’s breath away, as it is so large and has so many design features to comprehend. The architect is Chris Pattichides, who designs all the Rhapsody’s restaurants, and also does its interior design. The decor is designed to make one feel the experience of being at Rhapsody’s. The exterior of the building is strongly lit at night in the corporate blue, and one cannot miss its branding when turning into Main Road from the Stadium traffic circle.
The managers have largely come from other Rhapsody’s branches (with the exception of Chef Claire), and all seemed to radiate pride in their new operation, and seemed to be very un-Pretoria, being focused on making this restaurant meet the needs of Cape Town customers. Diederick Bissett is one of the managers I spoke to, and he told me that the time had come for Rhapsody’s to open in Cape Town, the group already having a lounge at Cape Town International airport, at which they serve drinks and light meals only. He told me that the Cape Town decor has made it the flagship restaurant, and is very different to the more conservative decor of the older restaurants, being more ‘vibey’. The restaurant will tend more to fine-dining compared to most of the other outlets, to reflect this greater need in the city. Its winelist will also be expanded, to reflect the more sophisticated wine taste of locals. The appointment of Chef Claire, sommelier Willie Kriek (previously with Cape Point Vineyards) and sushi chef JC Duarte (who has worked at Nobu and Zuma in London) demonstrates how ambitious Rhapsody’s is. Cape Town Stadium event packages, including parking across the road, the ticket, and a meal will be offered.
Chef Claire told me that ‘fusion food’ is served at Rhapsody’s, being a mix of styles, with sushi, steak, fish, and salads. The menu I saw was a standard Rhapsody’s one, used in all their restaurants. In January Chef Claire will present her own menu alongside the standard one, and will work with the sommelier to have a featured dish paired with a wine. The whole group will meet in April, to review the menu, and at this time the executive chefs will have a say in the standard menu. The Cape Town branch is likely to set the benchmark for the group menu in future. Suppliers include Fresh Produce, Hartman’s, and Gastro Foods, Southern Cross, and Illy roasts a special Rhapsody’s coffee bean. Special Supper Club functions, with a set menu and live music, are on the cards, as could be celebrity chef cook-offs. Chef Claire said her favourite Rhapsody’s dishes currently are the salmon tian (R69), chilli chicken penne (R74), and avocado brie fillet (R135). Inside tables have table cloths, and a material serviette comes with two knives and a fork, by Fortis, and Kikkoman soy sauce was brought to the table for the sushi.
The extensive menu uses beautiful photographs of the menu items to create appetite appeal, and it is introduced with a quote by Coco Chanel: ‘In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different’. I ordered a prawn and avocado hand roll, which wasn’t on the menu, but it is planned to be added by the sushi chef. It costs R35, and is one of the best that I have eaten. I was impressed with the care taken in its presentation, something I have not seen for sushi before. Sushi platters range from R79 for seven pieces to R220 for 30 pieces. I also tried the salmon tian, a stack of toasted crostini with lemon-pepper cream cheese, avocado and tomato, the basil pesto on the plate being an unnecessary extra. Other starters are curried chicken liver (R47), snails (R48), calamari, and carpaccio (R59). Salads range from R55 – R69 for Thai Beef salad. All steaks come with extravagant toppings (e.g. one comes with cheese, avocado and biltong, costing R135, another with bacon and mushroom, at R129). Chicken dishes cost about R85, kingklip R125, burgers cost R59 – R69, and desserts range from R35 for Mississippi Mud Pie to R 42 for Death by Chocolate.
The Cocktail list has an orange cover, in contrast to the black covers of the menu and winelist. It is an extensive collection of cocktails, and contains branded pages with cocktails made with SKYY vodka, Glaceau vitamin water, Carvo, and Powerplay. Cigars are also presented in the list. The winelist is filled with beautiful photographs of a vineyard, champagne cork, and also contains branded pages for Saronsberg, Val de Vie and Van Loveren, reminding me of the Balducci menu and winelist. Dom Perignon is offered at R2200, whilst Veuve Cliquot NV, Moët et Chandon NV, and Barons de Rothschild Brut Rosé cost around R800. Cap Classiques (Pongrácz and Pierre Jourdan, both just under R200 for the Brut) are separated from Sparkling wines (JC le Roux Le Domaine and La Chanson, both at R99) on the list. Shiraz range from R26/R98 for Arabella, to R289 for Cederberg, with Cloof, Delaire, Saronsberg Provenance, Joostenburg Syrah and Kloovenburg offered too. No vintages are specified at all, a major weakness of the winelist, but each wine is described. Interesting is that a Red and a White wine Speciality section is listed before the variety sections on the winelist, and contained a mix of brands such as Leopard’s Leap Lookout Chenin Blanc (R99), L’Ormarins Chardonnay (R215), Tokara Walker Bay Chardonnay (R215), Guardian Peak Frontier (R195), and Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir (R375), all wines distributed by Meridian, I was told on asking. Another Cape Town winelist will be available soon, with 35 wines (with vintages) to be added, to meet the Cape Town palate. The cappuccino was weak, and Diederick was honest in acknowledging that they haven’t got the coffee grinding quite right yet.
Staff seemed plentiful relative to the customer numbers, but the restaurant filled up whilst I was there, on the terrace in the main. I liked the blue branded shirts the staff wear, a break from the standard white and black. The staff was friendly, and Diederick told me that a lot of time is spent on staff training. Rhapsody’s staff feel to be part of the ‘family’ and receive above-average pay, and this makes them stay longer and give better service. The owners are charismatic and sociable, and involve their staff. Customers too are looked after via The Rhapsodian CashBack Rewards programme, giving one 5% off, and building loyalty, one receiving the card immediately. One should not expect much live music, despite the name and logo of the restaurant, but the background music volume and compilation was good.
I found Rhapsody’s to be a little overwhelming, with an incredible selection of decor styles under one roof, a massive menu which comes across as franchise-orientated, and very friendly staff and management. I am sure that the Cape Town menu of Chef Claire and Willie’s Cape Town winelist will lift the level of the restaurant, and will take away its franchise feel. Diederick refused my payment for the meal.
POSTSCRIPT 12/5: Rhapsody’s closed down in April.
Rhapsody’s, 83 Main Road, Green Point, Cape Town. Tel (021) 434-3004. www.rhapsodys.co.za Twitter: @RhapsRestaurant. Monday – Sunday, Breakfast (7h00 – 12h00), Lunch and Dinner
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Didn’t they have/open a Rhapsody’s at the Tyger Waterfront a few years back…now closed.
They didn’t seem to have been in Cape Town before, only having recently opened at the Cape Town International airport. They were very ‘Transvaal’-focused in the past, expanding north into Africa, but not to the west!
I’ll ask when I next go there.
There definately was a Rhapsody’s at the Tygervalley Waterfront (next door to Beuna Vista). It closed down thanks to its neither here, neither there appeal.
It didnt last long and neither will the one in Green Point. That same spot has had News Cafe(a all but dead brand) and Dopio Zero (excellent food offering) and both saw thy nemesis.
Green Point Main road has lost its attraction and there is no reason to visit the area unless you looking for some paid for leg over or the next crack hit.
Its amounts to financial suicide to spend millions on a fancy restaurant in this spot when previous ones, which catered for a far bigger part of the market like Dopio Zero, couldnt cut it.
I give Rhapsody’s a year..maybe two.
Maybe you should give Rhapsody’s a try Andre.
I was a regular at the Tygerwaterfront Rhapsody’s when I still lived that side of the world. It was a pleasant enough place to go to for a drink, but never hacked it as a restaurant. I think they might still have made it there, but Buena Vista next door was a lot trendier to visit at the time and took all their clientele. I also thought that the space Rhapsody’s occupied was ENORMOUS and must have been a burden. Their rent must have been through the roof. I hope lessons were learned and that the business succeeds this time around.
Thank you for your feedback Hennie.
I forgot to ask about this branch when I popped back in again at Green Point earlier this week, but will do so next time.
It struck me that they may have done better to have taken the new McDonald’s space in the V&A Waterfront.
I will give it a try. But it still amazes me when two previous restaurant fail in a spot and then comes a third with a concept that is out of sync with the area and tries to prove otherwise.
I have heard that the rent at the new Rhapsody’s is close to R100 000 a month so good luck to them.
As for McD’s at the Waterfront, the new owners of the center, Growthpoint, have realised that they need the big local retailers and brands to survive. I see a PnP clothing store has opened there making the center more appealing to families and the lower end of the market.apparently the rentals have dropped by a third due to the recession so thats a positive sign.
The previous owners, Dubai World, read the market wrong and hopefully the new owners can help the Waterfront make a comeback.
Wow, that is a huge rent Andre!
They also have a branch in Zambia (Lusaka), we were there a couple of months ago and it was absolutely awesome as well 🙂
I was very pleased to see one has opened just down the road from us…
They also have some really good sushi and cocktail specials that make it a very good option!
Thank you for your feedback Kath.
Rhapsody’s is a good franchise n they wll be opening another 1 in sandton
As I said…Rhapsodys in Green Point has closed down!
It’s on our closed/opening restaurant list Andre!
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH… Daar is n gesegde wat se “die wiel draai” almal by Rhapsodys hoofkantoor kry nou wat hulle toe kom… Mens jou dood gerwerk vir daai plek en na 2 en n half jaar besluit hulle net jys nie meer goed genoeg nie, omdat jy nie met die “politiek” binne die franchise saam stem nie…
Thanks for your feedback Marnitz. Perhaps you want to elaborate? Which branch?