“Marble is a celebration of quintessential South African fare and cooking on fire. Marble embodies South African’s love of cooking on fire, a quality that makes our food culture different from the rest of the world. I’ve long been fascinated by what makes South African fare unique, and I believe it’s down to us being meat and flame enthusiasts – the timeworn ritual of cooking on wood fires, and gathering with friends. That’s what Marble celebrates – and not just meat, but all types of ingredients cooked on coals – including fish, poultry, vegetables and breads.” Chef David Higgs.
The Marble Story
Marble opened in August 2016, but the story of Marble started in 2014. Gary Kyriacou, a successful local entrepreneur, and his wife Irene have travelled extensively to international destinations. Some of their best nights out, and best memories, were from dinners and places where they’d had an experience.
And that’s where the idea for Marble came from. Gary and Irene returned from an overseas holiday and couldn’t find anywhere in Joburg where they could have a night out – get dressed up, have a great meal, but also spend some time.
So, Gary put together the concept for Marble – for a restaurant which would offer its customers more than just a plate of food. He had a name, a logo, a whole concept. What he didn’t have was someone who could not only cook… but someone who had the passion to bring this idea to life.
And then he met Chef David Higgs – it was a by chance meeting, but a few days later he called him at The Saxon and asked if he could come past and run “an idea past him”. He happily agreed, and David instantly loved the concept. Once he was on board that the idea really started to take shape, and since that day it’s been a match that’s turned into a friendship and partnership.
Marble offers Joburg diners something different – not just a plate of food, but a theatre of experience. Not only does the restaurant have a theatre of live-fire cooking which can seat 250 people, but there is also a beautiful bar (for pre- or after-dinner drinks…) and a view that stretches all the way to Magaliesburg.
Marble is nestled in the middle of the Keyes Art Mile – the regenerated hub of Rosebank – surrounded by local art – so there’s art in the area, on the walls and on the plates.
Walking into Marble, Irene has created a sense of arrival for the guests. She wants each and every person who visits Marble to get the sense they are in for a treat – and not just the food, but the décor, service, atmosphere and art. She has created a space for people to spend time with friends.
She feels that everyone can relate to something. The feminine rugs and fine glass, or the masculine touches like the Chesterfield-style chairs in the bar. It’s both refined, and unrefined. Polished and unpolished. Groomed and ungroomed.
The restaurant is also designed to have the Chefs in an open kitchen, as part of the space. It’s a large part of the theatre, experience and journey of time spent at Marble.
The Marble team worked closely with Chef David Higgs to develop the menu for the restaurant – a collection of dishes best cooked on fire. And they change regularly – based on what’s in supply and in season.
From David’s background, growing up in Namibia, he has a great love for fish cooked on an open flame, so the menu naturally includes some delicious seafood. There’s also great steak and other cuts of red meat – South African has some of the best meat in the world, so that is showcased. For the salad and vegetables, the items on the menu demonstrate the flavour that vegetables can derive from being cooked on wood and coals.
Dishes are simple – a few defined flavours in a plate.
Some of the most popular dishes so far have been the rib-eye with bone marrow, and the lamb cutlets with chimichurri; and the blackened octopus which is served with crushed paprika potato, candied lemon and squid ink dressing. With David’s Namibian upbringing, he cooks fish exceptionally well, so there’s some delicious seared tuna on the menu, as well as a hot smoked trout dish with is mouth-watering.
The design was coordinated by Irene Kyriacou, owner of Oniroco. In the early planning stages, Irene approached Reddeco to design the space and she worked with them for the interior features and layout.
It was a collaborative effort between Irene, Redecco and a host of selected South African artists and artisans including Damien Grivas, Mervyn Gers, KrisJan Rossouw and Peter Mthombeni. All of the interior items and pieces are from local designers such as Laurie Van Heerden from WIID, and lights from Anatomy and Goet.
David and Gary were also intricately involved in the selection of the furniture and finishes.
Irene is an established interior decorator and designer, and her signature is always a play on juxtaposition of styles to disrupt spaces and make them interesting. In the beginning stages of Marble, Irene worked closely with Redecco to plan the space. Once that was done, Irene started working on what the space would look like.
Irene managed all the styling and chose every piece for Marble – fabrics, leather, finishes, lamps, vases, glasses and the choosing the artists.
Fire is an element throughout – not just in the kitchen, but also in the wood-fired blue tiles behind the Grillworks, the ceramic dolos near the restrooms, and the wooden end-grains on the welcome desk and in the bar representing the wood in the fire.
There’s also a play on masculine and feminine. The fire is a largely masculine element – and the kitchen is mostly male dominated. But, the décor reflects many feminine touches from the delicate moulded cornicing, cotton napkins and ‘unfinished’ pieces such as the couches from Casamento.
Brand new items are combined with beautiful vintage pieces. Most of their decor is custom and hand made, and proudly South African. They also took careful consideration in dressing the staff to represent a sophisticated style and colour palette and use small features such as leather iPad pouches to compliment the grooming of their waiters.
The style also reflects the multi-cultural nature of South Africa. Just as the food at Marble is a celebration of what makes South African cuisine so unique – it’s cooked on fire; so too is Marble’s style a blend. It’s not just African, but there is also a strong European influence – and many say the bar, with its iconic panel in brass verdigris by Damien Grivas, is reminiscent of those found on New York rooftops.
There is thought in every detail, and something to see at every turn.
Irene looked for local artists whose work reflected both an eccentric and a contemporary style. She researched several local artists, but eventually settled on four who the Marble team best related to Marble. Irene then met with each artist, gave them each an overview on the location and Marble story; but ultimately gave the Carte Blanche to create what they felt was right for the Marble space.
• Mervyn Gers – blue tiles, ceramic plates
• Damien Grivas – Makrami, Bar Panel in brass verdigris, cement in-lay under kitchen pass
• KrisJan Rossouw – three custom photographs
Interestingly, there is a story behind each of KrisJan Rossouw’s photographs for Marble. The first (as you walk into Marble) features a beautiful model with a burnt branch – this represents the fire and ash of Marble. The second (just as you walk into the restaurant) features a woman dressed in feathers representing the style of Marble. She’s alongside a man wrapped in red cord, this represents the fibres of the meat. The third picture (in the main restaurant) features a lady with a billowing blue scarf over her head – this represents the smoke from the grill.
• Peter Mthombeni – dolos installation in the restroom area.
Marble’s two private dining rooms will regularly feature art from the private collection of Trumpet’s owner, Anton Taljaard. The pieces showcase local artists such as Irma Stern and Frans Oerden.
There is also a piece called “Ode to the free-range chicken” by artist, David Brown. Brown passed away tragically in March 2016, but his art was gifted to the Marble team by Anton Taljaard and is proudly displayed on the pass.