Jacob Zuma must have thought he had died and got on the express train to heaven when the Guptas came into his life. In his former life he received pocket change from Schabir Shaik, who slipped him something at least 783 times in payments as small as R10 (for a car wash — don’t scoff, this was the 1990s).
Then the Guptas came along and, in their own words, made Zuma’s son a billionaire. And they allegedly offered deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas a whopping R600m cash bribe. You have to love these guys. They are ambitious. If you are paying bribes of R600m you must expect your take in the tens of billions. Imagine if it were focused on the positive and the legal.
Well, every so often a really ambitious, positive project comes along and you sit there and think: "Wow!"
The new David Higgs restaurant, Marble, in Rosebank, is such a project. It is ambitious in its size (it is huge), its thinking, its imagining of itself and its belief in the viability of SA.
It reminds one of the big dreamers: the mining moguls, from Oppenheimer to Motsepe, believing in the future of a commodity and throwing their all into their projects and their city and country.
It may not quite be on that scale, but it reflects the same self-belief, the same leap of faith. These are the kinds of projects where success is big and the thought of failure knots the stomach. Yet those who believe do not concern themselves too much with failure. They have a dream and execute it — like the entrepreneurs at Marble have done.
There are many reasons to go to Marble, but go for the décor. This huge, space says everything about the intentions of the owners: the signature marble at various points, the amazing central feature (a wood-fired grill that dominates the kitchen – everything here is from the grill), the fabulous views.
A lot of cash must have been invested in getting the place just right. It is understated, classy, refined. It looks great and feels great. It can compete with anything similar, anywhere.
I have been to Marble twice. It’s a new restaurant, so there are a few understandable glitches here and there. Service, though attentive, can go a bit off the rails. There are loads of waiters, but somehow they seem to get harried and disappear for long periods.
Higgs made his name at various establishments around the country and here he aimed to celebrate the grill.
Everything on his mouth-watering menu has been singed by the grill — the starters, salads and mains. The mains feature everything from pork belly to prawns to fish to wood-fired beets (with fennel bulb, burrata cheese, aubergine with garlic and lemon, rosemary and paprika pecan nuts — vegetarian isn’t boring). The salads are pretty exciting too.
On our first visit we had oysters, kudu and fired prawns to start with. Very good. On our second I tried the grilled blackened octopus, which was absolutely outstanding. There were eight of us on the second visit, and we shared the Super Salad (fired and marinated cauliflower, iceberg, edamame, peas, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, cucumber, mint, tahini and buttermilk dressing). No-one told me salads could be this great.
Mains? There are 14 items on the mains menu. Loads of people had the lamb cutlets. I asked how they were. "Excellent!" came the response.
That’s what it is. Go. And go again.
****½ Marble Trumpet on Keyes
Corner Keyes & Jellicoe Avenue
***** Thuli Madonsela
* Jacob Zuma