Life in Cape Town always marches along to the beat of its own drum, but there are a few more traditional social institutions that we too subscribe to. One of these is that age-old night out: dinner and a movie. Now one of the things I’ve always envied about NYC and London, is the proliferation in those cities of independent cinemas – those small, intimate theatres, not part of any corporate chain, that offer you a more cosy cinematic experience, away from blockbuster trailers and exorbitantly priced popcorn. Luckily, Cape Town’s City Bowl offers just such a little niche of movie magic – The Labia on Orange (68 Orange Street, Gardens, Telephone +27 (0)21 424-5927), the oldest art cinema in South Africa …
The theatre gets it somewhat unusual name from Princess Labia, who, in 1949, converted the then ballroom of the Italian Embassy into a theatre for the staging of live performances, and it’s been in operation as a cinema for the past thirty years.
Whatever its origins, the Labia (as well as its sister theatre, The Labia on Kloof, located in Lifestyles Centre just around the corner in Kloof Street) is a real gem; a slice of oldy-worldy ambience, with red, velvet curtains swathed across the cinema entrances, a coffee bar trading in homemade munchies, and a weekly-changing bill of both commercial and alternative cinema.
Admission prices are reasonable, which means you can indulge in a trip to the dinky but well-stocked bar, drinks from which can be consumed in the theatre. Glass of wine, warm popcorn, cosy old theatre… you can see why The Labia is my favourite place for viewing pleasure.
Of course, emerging into the now rather chilly night air, it’s an equally rewarding dinner experience everyone’s thinking about. Deciding where to go seems an impossible choice, what with great restaurants and eateries extending up Kloof Street on one side and down Long on another.
Hunger makes a snap decision – Royale Eatery, 279 on Long Street (Telephone +27 (0)21 422-4536). This place has been sating ravenous Capetonians since it opened. The artfully styled menu offers some great salads, pastas and pizzas, but it’s the burgers that has won over half of Cape Town as regulars – that and the sweet potato fries.
‘A Royale with cheese’ is probably the most often-uttered phrase in the establishment. Vegetarians are equally looked after, with gourmet veggie options substituting the traditional beef burger. Either way, the burgers are gourmet and incredibly filling.
The downstairs level is packed with retro-cool, diner-style booths, while upstairs (my personally preferred level, which is open for reservations) offers a more whimsical, Breakfast at Tiffany’s surrounding, complete with birdcages and sheet music wallpaper. Try to save a little space for one of Royale’s famously delicious milkshakes, but honestly I’d have to say they’re a meal in and of themselves.
Of course, we’re in Cape Town, so why call it a night when the bill arrives? Just up a third flight of stairs is The Waiting Room, a trendy lounge bar overlooking Long Street, which by this time would be bustling with, shall we say, merrymakers. Chill out on the couches or hit the small impromptu dancefloor when the mood takes you.
And when it’s fully blown revelry you decide you’re in the mood for, just hop across the street to Fiction, a Cape Town club that’s managed to stand the test of time. A round of jagermeisters at the outdoor bar, a quick tour of the balcony to see what – and who – we can see, and then it’s time to head back on in to the dancefloor till the wee hours.
Hey, I didn’t say we didn’t put a twist on the ol’ dinner ‘n’ movie thing …