Built on the site previously occupied by Ile Maurice, interior designer Alice Kelly was tasked with bringing “a totally new restaurant and dining experience to life”, for the three owners Trent Varejes and brothers Andile and Ayanda Ngidi. “The team from Dante approached me and asked if I would be interested in helping them with a project,” says interior designer Alice Kelly. “I was thrilled but have to admit that the timelines frightened me! Once I realised that the bones of the building were good and even though the deadlines were really tight…I couldn’t say no.”
“Dante is going to be something quite magical,” says Alice. “We have NOT held back in any way. It is the type of place where you will simply feel at home and at the same time be taken on a journey that is exciting and unforgettable. This place has brought dining pleasure to many generations over the years, so we have added some life, love and colour to the venue for the next generation to enjoy.”
Chef Marco Nico has been brought on board as chef consultant and will be working together with head chef Kyle Govender to bring to life the Mediterranean/Italian menu with a South African twist. Nico is excited to bring a whole new era of diners into a space previously recognised as one of Durban’s most famous dining spots. Inspiration from the restaurant’s former life, can be seen in the way the building has been completely re-imagined to suit its new purpose, with multiple venues over the many-storeyed space. These Include the island-style Verandah, light and airy restaurant, elegant Champagne bar, tropical Oriental bar and cigar bar, gin terrace and roof-top Bar, with a 180° Indian Ocean sea view.
Behind the reincarnation of the building are joint owners Ayanda and Andile Ngidi, who have been dreaming of a venue like this ‘for as long as we can remember’. Born and bred Durbanites, the twin brothers previously ran The Social Pop-Up event co-ordination company which they started in 2011.
The third member of the trio, Trent Varejes, hails from Johannesburg but has known the brothers for 10 years. Discussions were already afoot for Varejes to become involved in the eventing business, when the twins presented him with an idea for a multi-storey, multi-function venue, on the Ille Maurice site, that had become available for long-term lease. Seven weeks later, their dreams have been fully realised, with the opening of Dante.
According to Ayanda, Dante, which means steadfast and enduring in Latin ‘fits with both our faith and work ethic’…it’s also ‘catchy’ he says, ”we thought it would be easy for people to remember.” Combining their collective business experience and hospitality skills towards this one joint project has been ‘really exciting’, says Varejes. “We wanted to create a ‘knock-out’ restaurant and I believe that with an amazing team, we’ve realised our vision.”