Owners Michael Louw and Vanessa Bischopp- Louw have brought that same formula and warmth to 74 Shortmarket Street, a building formerly used as an American-style diner. The duo have transformed the facility into an intimate 100-seater that’s clad in a wooden façade on the exterior, with interior décor described as “urban chic meets eclectic cool”.
“Wherever you sit, you’ve got a great view of the band, because the stage in the corner creates a sort of an amphitheatre effect,” says Bisschop-Louw.
Since opening in November last year, Café Roux Cape Town has, to the delight of its owners, been fully booked – with the who’s who of local music and comedy lined up to perform in a venue already well-regarded way in advance. They’re hoping to build on the reputation of the Noordhoek original by catering to the cosmopolitan city dwellers of Cape Town.
I found visiting the spot during the day quite deceiving because it appears no more conspicuous than other eateries in the CBD. There’s a handful of people enjoying beverages under the shade of the house parasols in the street (they also do a lunch service) and the very first thing I notice inside is the David Bowie mural looming above the tables close to the stage. Bowie’s right index finger is in front of his mouth in the hush position and cleverly, the words “ssshhh… listen to the music” are spray-painted nearby in a sort of speech bubble. There’s a strict no speaking policy while performances are underway.
Café Roux’s Green Room, already sporting its fair share of signatures and doodles by past performers, is furnished with armchairs and couches to keep the artists comfortable and allow them some privacy before, during and after performances. A Bamboo forest wallpaper adds dramatic effect.
Service in the hour leading up to the evening’s performance is particularly swift, and as the patrons start filling the tiered seating, the smell of cheeseboards and pizzas fill the air. The noise inside belies the size of the venue, because there’s a thrum of voices as tables are filled and new friends are made (seating for two is limited, so if you’re not a party of four or more, prepare to share in the evening’s entertainment with at least one stranger).
Once again, the place is guaranteed to be packed. Bisschop-Louw informs me that the demand was so high to see Gypsy jazz band Manouche that she had to seat a few people at the bar.
After a homely and heartfelt introduction by Louw, three members of the quartet take the little corner stage and start strumming and scat singing to warm the crowd up for lead vocalist Anneli Kamfer, who promptly has patrons clapping their hands. The hand-clapping gradually progresses to stamping of shoes on the floor – and by the end of their performance Manouche had almost every table in the house boasting at least one pair of feet.
“We could probably make it bigger somehow, but that would take away from the feeling of the place. Right now, you can see the sweat dripping off the foreheads of the artists because of the effort they’re putting into their performances and that’s exactly what we want our guests to experience,” Louw adds.
They’re not catering to any specific music or comedy tastes just yet, so a look on their listings page at caferouxsessions.co.za this month features a broad line-up of artists including two-time SAMA nominee Bongeziwe Mabandla, Cooler as Ekke rapper Jack Parow, afro/indie pop rock band Ben Dey & The Concrete Lions, Black South Easter and the Blues Broers.