If you’re looking for a stylish place to have a few drinks and listen to some superb live music, there is (literally) no place better in Durban than The Chairman.
And they’re not shy about it, either. Touting themselves as “a sophisticated world class jazz bar that stimulates the imagination and bends all rules and conventions,” The Chairman sets the bar high – and meets it.
For starters, it is a beautiful space. Part indoor, part outdoor, with plush leather couches and quirky décor, The Chairman prides itself on being a work of art – from the architecture to the interior design to the gallery and the music. It’s a project by DGIT, a young Durban architecture firm who wanted to highlight what they believe is “potentially the best urban precinct in KwaZulu Natal” – Mahatma Gandhi Road in downtown Durban. “We saw a perfect opportunity to lead by example,” they explain, “and create the city we want to live in… Project by project.”
The result is a weekend venue (open Thursday to Saturday, 7pm to 2am) with a hefty admission fee – R150 – that’s deducted from your bill, and a strict dress code. The music is all jazz, a variety of established and up-and-coming musicians that bring all kinds of creativity to the space.
And the food and drinks are top-class: an extensive wine and whiskey list, a delightfully creative menu of cocktails, some cigars and a simple food menu. The food is largely bar snacks and pizza (including a rare beast – the Shisanyama Pizza with homemade chakalaka, braaied beef steak and wors) but it’s the drinks that really bring people here, including their signature cocktail: Surrender Your Booty. With Bombay gin, martini and Cointreau mixed with strong ginger, pineapple and lemongrass flavours, this is one drink you won’t forget in a hurry…
Part art project, part social experiment, part restaurant and bar and music hall – the Chairman has it all, and is a welcome breath of fresh air in the Durban nightlife scene.
Words: Bridget McNulty