I am putting this one down as a restaurant review as I was introduced to this experience as a dinner and a show.
I have heard a lot of talk about Madame Zingara and have always been contemplating a visit. But between the ooo-ing and aah-ing I never followed though, and it was always a, “maybe next time” procrastination. Reports from friends and colleagues were mixed, some encouraging and others downright horrible. Some said the food was good but the show was mediocre and others said the show was brilliant but the food was terrible. I have even heard accusations of food poisoning. (This may have dampened my enthusiasm slightly) It eventually took an invite from a friend whose wife had bought the tickets, and I would be wasting the cost of the ticket if I did not go, to get me there.
There is immediately a buzz in the air when arriving at the restaurant, a sense of excitement. The outside décor hints at what might be happening inside and no matter how nonchalant you try to be a little spark of excitement starts to build. The décor is amazing and the atmosphere astounding. The moment you walk through the door you are transported somewhere else. I say “somewhere else” simply because our “server” was friendly, cheerful yet professional, knowledgeable and enthusiastic … we’re definitely not in SA anymore Toto ….
The service is fantastic and the only thing bad that I have to say about the service is that they are doing a disservice to the rest of South Africa, simply because they are making everyone else look bad. The service is fun, yet professional, the servers are informed, knowledgeable and polite, and best of all; you can feel the enthusiasm. There is none of this traditional South African service sense of wonder, if you are ever going to be acknowledged or hope that some time the server might do you the great favour of coming over to your table so that you can ask for an extra sauce and only pray it arrives before the end of the meal.
The menu is limited, almost set but with a few options. In my opinion this works in their favour. They went to great lengths to accommodate as many people as possible without complicating the experience. Sometimes too many options can complicate things and make it very difficult and costly to maintain. You simply cannot please everybody all the time. As a friend of mine was fond of saying when he was asked if his steakhouse had any vegetarian options; “Yes madam, we do have a vegetarian option, you can eat what’s on the menu, or you can fuck off!” The food was brought to the table quickly and efficiently. Most people got their food at the same time and the rest shortly (reasonably) after. The orders were correct and presented professionally.
To me the food was great. Even things I thought I didn’t like turned out to be good! (Did I mention I hate frakkin eggplant? Or aubergine or whatever the fuck you want to call it!) All 4 courses were good, the portions perfect for a 4 course meal. I left thoroughly satisfied but admittedly without a doggy bag as I had polished every plate they put in front of me. The courses were well timed, each course served during a lull or break in the show. (and for the record, not a hint of food poisoning)
The show? What can I say? World Class! … From the very first act you could see that this was no mickey mouse back yard production. This was a professional word class show. I would not have been disappointed had I seen this quality at any other venue in any other country worldwide. The acts just kept impressing, one after the other, without a single disappointment among them.
If I really have to say anything even slightly negative from my experience, it would simply be that the whole experience might be a bit expensive for the average Joe to be able to comfortably afford on a regular basis. The budget is probably a bit higher than your average dinner out or first date, but on the other hand this is NOT an average dinner out, in my humble opinion you should not be able to do this every day, lest you become blasé about the experience.