Pictured: Proud owners of the new upmarket Danté club in uMhlanga – Ayanda and Andile Ngidi and Trent Varejes.
Entrepreneurship is at the heart of a business run by three young men on a mission to bring a touch of class to a party.
Ayanda and Andile Ngidi are quintessential entrepreneurs, looking to service a niche in a city in dire need of another upmarket entertainment venue. In November last year the twins and their partner Trent Varejes opened a swish new club, Danté, in uMhlanga. They took over the site of the old Ile Maurice restaurant and gave it a massive facelift, modernising the facility and adding five new, separate entertainment areas including a covered rooftop bar.
They now occupy a plum position in uMhlanga’s popular recreational zone and have created a plush spot amid similarly classy neighbours – the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Oyster Box and The Pearls.
The brothers are dyed-in-the-wool Durban men who matriculated from Glenwood Boys High School. Their mom was a teacher and their dad a taxi operator. He died when the boys were in Grade 10, and his passing forged a resilience in the brothers that is evident in their business dealings today. After school the twins each took a circuitous route to university where they both graduated with business administration degrees.
Mostly raised by their mother as a single parent on a set salary, the twins realised the value of improvisation. They were popular socialites at school, often organising parties and cutting and selling CDs of their dance mixes. It brought in pocket money and gave them a taste for eventing. They came up with a pop-up co-ordination company that hosted parties in interesting, underutilised spaces.
During this time, they met and befriended Johannesburger Trent Varejes, who frequently attended their gigs. Varejes is the son of entrepreneur Gavin Varejes who encouraged the youngsters to explore business opportunities.
When the iconic multi-storey, multi-function venue in uMhlanga became available, they secured the lease and invested a whack into the venue.
Andile says Danté’s location is in a league of its own on a free-standing, sea-facing venue, while Ayanda adds they want to create a sophisticated, testosterone free vibe that appeals to people their age.
Danté won’t be a dish-dish boom joint, rather a “classy, refined” place that hosts corporates and private parties in separate rooms. They don’t want to be cast as nightclub owners, rather businessmen eager to make their hospitality venue work. Trent Varejes says he and the twins all muck in at Danté, be it behind the bar or taking care of guests.
The venue seems well poised to attract a genteel crowd in a highly aspirant market.
Danté’s various offerings span different levels and boasts a basement restaurant, Gin Garden, Cigar Bar, Oyster & Champagne Bar, Signature Bar, and Rooftop Bar with hypnotic ocean views.
A key force behind the expensive makeover of the venue was interior designer Alice Kelly. “We didn’t hold back in any way – this place has brought dining pleasure to many generations over the years, so we have added some life, love and colour to the venue for the next generation to enjoy.”
Kelly retained hints of the legacy and footprint of lle Maurice. All the existing restaurant tiles, balustrades, basins and a few mosaics were retained to create the base of the story.
“I added moulded pressed ceilings for character, and layered with bold wallpapers, art, velvets, linens, chandeliers, chunky bamboo blinds, elegant light fittings and furniture. I think every colour under the sun has been used in this project.”
Christina Martin-trained head chef Kyle Govender offers a contemporary Mediterranean/Italian menu with a South African twist.
Tags: Ayanda and Andile Ngidi, Dante, Dante Umhlanga, entertainment venue, entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship, Ile Maurice, Trent Varejes, upmarket entertainment venue, venue