Glittering crowd out to celebrate start of Tang’s dynasty

16 May 2021 - 00:00 By craig jacobs
Socialite Norma Mngoma, left, and businesswoman Johanna Mukoki.
Socialite Norma Mngoma, left, and businesswoman Johanna Mukoki.
Image: Masi Losi

You’ve got to have nerves of steel to open a 20-mill restaurant in the middle of a pandemic.

But it should come as no surprise when you’re a man who never does things by half measures.

And so, on Thursday night I suited and masked up to check out Nicky van der Walt’s return to the Joburg restaurant scene with a sexy new pan-Asian offering called Tang, in Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton.

A red carpet led to the entrance of the massive 650m² space. The interior by hotshot interior designer Tristan du Plessis mixes dark and light marble, granite and travertine details.

Inside I bump into someone whose idea of socialising these days is having tea with her Great Dane, with her husband Peter faithfully filming the occasion on her camera phone.

That’s grande dame Peta Eggierth-Symes, who has turned up in a Gatsby-esque dress and diamanté-studded mask. 

Across the room I spy that political ex-wife who had us all glued to our sets as she spilt the tea about the goings-on at the Gupta compound, Norma Mngoma, tasteful in a clingy black number with gold accents.

I must ask Malusi Gigaba’s ex about the Gupta cash machine she mentioned at the Zondo commission.

Lalla Hirayama and Ross McIlroy.
Lalla Hirayama and Ross McIlroy.
Image: Masi Losi
Nicky van der Walt and his father Frans looked stylish in their suits.
Nicky van der Walt and his father Frans looked stylish in their suits.
Image: Masi Losi

“I really thought it was an ATM, only smaller,” says Norma Mngoma.

What were her thoughts about the Saxonwold mansion? I probe further.

“It was the biggest house I’ve ever seen. And they had lots of chefs,” she says.

Waiters roam about offering Japanese izakaya-style plates of oysters with truffle shiso salsa, rock shrimp and yummy salmon tuna tartare with avo salsa and citrus soya.TV personality Lalla Hirayama arrives on the arm of a new man, Ross McIlroy, the co-founder of tech co Cars.co.za.

At the restaurant’s 60-seat Moët & Chandon bar I say hello to another loved-up couple, businessman Ze Nxumalo and his fiancée, former Miss SA Tamaryn Green.

The lanky founder of a youth investment holding company whisked Tam off to the bush for a romantic getaway two weeks ago, with the medical intern oblivious to what was in the offing.

“It was so cute. We were standing on this cliff, looking through binoculars, when I spotted this white board at the end of the river. As I focused on it, I saw the words, ‘Will you marry me?’ When I looked back at Ze, he was on his knee,” she says.

On to a table of powerhouses, with real estate queen of the Atlantic seaboard Denise Dogon seated in a booth with a group of men usually in suits, including Japie van Niekerk of the exclusive eco Sabi Sands Game Reserve development Cheetah Plains, and baseball-cap-wearing Mark Willcox.

With Mark — as CEO of Mvelaphanda Holdings — known in business circles as Tokyo Sexwale’s right-hand man, I lean in to ask about another hot topic.

CEO of Dogon Group Properties Denise Dogon.
CEO of Dogon Group Properties Denise Dogon.
Image: Masi Losi

Have you met Godwin Webb? I ask Mark about the mysterious man claimed to be mandated to represent the R1bn fund that Tokyo says has gone missing.

“Never. Or Leong Boey [the apparent chair of the fund],” says Mark matter-of-factly.

Hmmm … Quick hellos to actress Tarina Patel, power couple Jill and Klaus Grogor, businesswoman Kimberly Dally and her car-dealership-owner husband Paddy Hinde, before greeting Julius Malema’s landlord and buddy Adriano Mazzotti and his glam wife Analisa.

I chat to the tobacco kingpin about cigarettes, and he tells me he believes that “smuggle stock is flooding over the border since the tobacco ban”.

On to the man of the hour, and Nicky admits to the crowd — which includes wife Lee-Ann Liebenberg, their daughters Gia and Gabriella and Nicky’s parents Frans and Francis van der Walt — that “trying to open a restaurant during Covid is like buying a plane without wings”.

But the former polo player, whose previous venture went south, says the biggest reward was knowing that even during the pandemic they are able to employ 80 people.

He thanks his business partner — who it turns out is baseball-cap-wearing Mark — and also nods to Lee-Ann, who in March gave birth to the couple’s first son, Jagger, “for being patient. I am now no longer unemployed!” Turning to the rest of us, the ultimate showman quips: “Tonight’s on me. The next one is on you.”


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