The king of reincarnation has taken another iconic restaurant under his wing — and jazzed it up, reports Brent Meersman.
Don Pedro’s was one of the few establishments one could go to for a late-night drink and a bite — after the theatre, after the actors got out, after the musicians finished playing. It was one of a handful of places that made all races feel comfortable — before apartheid ended officially, before equality was legalised.
It was one of those eateries where you drank beer from the bottle and almost everyone smoked. Chairs and tables were white plastic and sticky. There was certainly no Gorgonzola, pear and honey salad.
But this Cape Town favourite with the left, non-governmental organisation workers, performers and Woodstock locals — although practically an institution — was crumbling.
A series of “Save Don Pedro’s” nights failed.
“When we get involved with a place it is essentially gone,” says Richard Griffin, the man behind the Madame Zingara brand and under whose sway Don Pedro’s now falls. “I went to a multiracial school. We grew up in a sheltered environment … then the reality struck, we couldn’t go anywhere — Don Pedro’s was the only place you could go with a coloured friend.”
But taking over a business that has so much emotional history is a complex matter. In Woodstock it all too easily smacks of gentrification. “This was hardcore. We got tons of flack,” says Griffin.
In his defence, his group spent time in the community forums and worked with artists from Chamberlain Street.
Prices have been kept very reasonable: under R50 for starters and many mains about R80, not to mention litre carafes of wine for R50.
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