Work underway on vibrant must-go, must-see BELLéZAR

Come the first of July this year, the already-lively restaurant scene in uMhlanga is in for a shake-up when Cabana Beach launches BELLéZAR, a smart new beachfront dining experience where the aim is to make waves in “Sandton by the sea” and position the resort as a leading go-to, must-see trend spot.

BELLéZAR in name is a fusion of “belle” (Italian for “beautiful”) and “ZAR” (South Africa) – and beautiful this piece of upmarket South African cosmopolitanism promises to be when unveiled in the flesh.

Barend Olivier, General Manager of Cabana Beach, said construction work and other preparations got under way at the start of April and were in hand for the opening of what is an entire revamping of the restaurant offering to guests staying at the resort and foodies and entertainment-seekers visiting from the public.

“This is a complete makeover,” he said. “The only thing that will remain is the location – the rest will all be brand-new.” Forming part of Cabana Beach’s spatial planning for the next five years, the project seeks to revitalise a key asset overlooking the ocean and keep the resort’s flag flying glamorously high in the evolving, and ever-more competitive, landscape of contemporary Umhlanga.

Until recently, Cabana Beach was host to three on-site restaurants, the one a franchise outlet near the family swimming-pool and the other two situated on the promenade of Umhlanga Rocks beach, each with a wooden deck of its own and separated from the other by a patch of lawn embankment.

That is changing, however. While the franchise outlet stays as it is, a new service provider has been appointed to take tenancy of both of the beachside premises, which are now being amalgamated into one cohesive offering in the form of BELLéZAR.

The separate wooden decks are, accordingly, being broken down to make way for a single long deck connecting the former two premises and offering a sturdy front-row platform from which to enjoy the sunsets and sea-spray aromas of the Indian Ocean over meals, drinks and company.

Two additional decks will be terraced beneath it, a fine setting for beach-café items such as coconut cocktails, oysters fresh from the tank, Norwegian salmon fishcakes, Portuguese-style sautéed shrimps, and wafered lamb-loin medallions, as well as prawn and noodle salads, nachos and Beach Bum pizzas.

The building work on the go is also patching a vulnerability: dependence on the weather. Whereas the previous decks were open to the elements, the new main deck comes with stackable doors, “so that the entire front of the restaurant can be opened on a beautiful day, but closed on a not-so-beautiful one to continue accommodating guests while allowing them to enjoy the view of the sea”.

BELLéZAR is to have a wine emporium too, from which diners can make a connoisseur’s choice of reds and whites they can either take home with them still corked, or savour there and then with a range of Mediterranean-inspired mains courses. It will offer live-music performances, along with various other drawcards that are being finalised while work is in progress and the premises are boarded up.

In the meantime, guests can get a taste first-hand of things to come from BELLéZAR, though at what might seem an unlikely, if eye-catching, service-point for an upmarket establishment. True to its quirky style, it’s put a toe in the water already and started treating joggers, strollers and holidaymakers along the promenade to its fare – from a renovated shipping container berthed next to the construction site.

Barend said BELLéZAR’s joie de vivre, and the structural work busy preparing a proper home-base for it, are just what are needed to reinvigorate this slice of prime promenade real estate, to get people to rethink what resort restaurants are about, and to put Cabana Beach at the forefront of wining, dining and entertainment in pacy, modern-day Umhlanga.

“In the heyday years, when you went to hotels and resorts you were more or less obliged to have your meals on the property, because you didn’t have the range of choice we have nowadays with the many franchise and independent restaurants out there. Umhlanga in particular has evolved over the years from a little village into a Sandton – in a stretch of three kilometres, there are 47 different restaurants.

“So we have to move with the times at Cabana Beach. Our new offering will still cover breakfasts, lunches and dinners, but it’s going to be a fresher, much more contemporary experience.

“Lots of restaurants have sea views to one extent or another, and there is a small café on the beach, but ours is the only full-scale restaurant right on the beach promenade and directly overlooking the sea. We have a unique location to capitalise on, and we’ll be building up from that to offer guests and public visitors a distinctive experience they can enjoy in-house at the resort.

“The idea, ultimately, is that if you’re in Umhlanga and ask people where to go for a great meal, they’re going to say one thing: Go to BELLéZAR.”

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