I was absolutley in love with Madame Zingara’s from the moment I spotted a giant, red light-up heart framing a Victorian bath which has been converted into a loveseat. At the end of a winding side road of the path into the tent, my heart-capturer and I had a photo taken. I adore all things whimsical and irreverant and so Madame Zingara’s was a treat for me.
The road into Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams is paved with surprises, from an assortment of wierd and wonderful chracters to what appears for all the world to be a stuffed gorilla… Suffice to say I entered the Spiegelpaleis tent with a very speedy heart rate.
The tent is magnificent and unlike anything I have ever seen or was expecting. It is sumptuous and quite enormous. Built in Belguim at the turn of the century it is one of a kind in South Africa and called Victoria. Its outer rim is lined with booths which seat 10 people against the mirrored walls. The booths are separated by carved old wood partitions which made me nostalgic for the bygone era when things were built to last. We slid into our booth and waited with baited breath to see which of the wacky chracters would prove to be our waitron. We spotted a tall, thin Roman Gladiator with the twist of a pair of Harry Potter specs, Pochahontas and a punk. Our waiter arrived with the starters, dressed like a school boy.
The idea behind Madame Zingara’s is the basic supper theatre. But this is to a supper theatre what Monolo Blahnik is to shoes. The food is possibly the best you will get in Durban at the moment (although it must be said that I am not a foodie, so in my humble opinion, only). The starters were a mini mezze platter of a double shot of butternut soup served with foccacia, olives and one or two other yummy little treats. The main course was a choice of four, but most of us opted for the Madame Zingara signature dish, the celebrated Chocolate Chilli Fillet. There is a reason that this is a celebrated meal – it is delicious in the true sense of the word. Every mouthful explodes with a flavour that is different yet familiar. The desserts are always the deciding factor for me at a restuarant (although referring to Madame Zingara as a restaurant is almost sacrilage) as many restranteurs neglect them as an after thought. I and my sweet tooth were delighted by miniature helpings of granadilla parfait, tiramisu and malva pudding.
Billed as a “Dinner theatre spectacular” the theatre bit of Madam Zingara is every bit as worthy of praise and awe as the food. A Cirque du Soleil-type show, which according to cast member, Jonathan Cavanugh, changes every time the tent moves to a new location is simply breathtaking. The performers are world-class and a friend who has recently seen Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas said she was equally impressed with Aphrodisia. I won’t give too much away, as the element of surprise is part of the experience, except to say that the show is an intoxicating cocktail of entertainment styles that had the whole audience on its feet at the end.
Simply put, Madame Zingara’s is a unique experience which you should be disappointed if you miss. It is on until 31 August. You can’t miss the tent in the Suncoast parking or the searchlight from it’s peak at night. Oh, and if you go, do watch out for the Shadow…