In these uncertain times, the closest you’ll get to spotting Japan’s cherry blossoms (a bucket list item for me) is at Rockets Menlyn. Yup, now that the Jacaranda blooms are fading, you can head over to Time Square for some ceiling-high cherry blossom murals, coupled with top South African entertainment and fantastic fusion food.
Sean Barber’s Rockets Menlyn is finally open! Rockets, the brand, has been around since 2007, with its flagship restaurant located in Parkhurst. Now, Rockets is not just a restaurant anymore. It has lived up to its slogan and has become a lifestyle. People unknowingly get captured by the brand. At Rockets you can have breakfast meetings, coffee with a friend, family lunch, sundowner cocktails, dinner dates, luxury celebrations, pre-club parties and more. Not to mention the brand’s expansions into Rockets Express and Rockets Man.
Being the boss
Owning a business – especially during a pandemic – is certainly not easy and often quite scary. Amidst having to close twelve business outlets during South Africa’s lockdown for at least four months, Sean Barber was busy building the brand-new Rockets Menlyn in Pretoria when the country was brought to a complete standstill by lockdown regulations. Still, the Rockets team managed to complete the construction and refurbishment of the restaurant and the venue, with its numerous facets, was officially launched on 7 October 2020.
Rockets Menlyn’s design is very similar to that of the multi-storey Rockets Bryanston, but it is a one-level venue of 1500m², which means there was a lot of space to work with. Sean creatively incorporated contrasting elements like raw industrial materials and the softness of cherry blossoms and the venue is already one of Pretoria’s top rooftop bars.
Sean is clearly an expert when it comes to using restaurant space optimally and he has created various facets within Rockets Menlyn that cater to a wide variety of visitors. At the entrance you’ll find the champagne bar, ideal for those who would like to enjoy some pre-drinks. Next to the champagne bar is the restaurant area, which is mainly used during the day. People have business meetings and family lunches here – it’s comfortable and quiet and creates a welcoming space for both businessmen and budding teens. The restaurant spills out onto the rooftop, which overlooks Menlyn to the West and boasts brilliant city light views at night. This is also where the bar is situated, with private dining corners complete with white curtains and scatter cushions, and of course the Volt, a highly exclusive VIP area.
The menu is fusion-based. It was created by Cyprus-born Group Executive Chef, Mark Alexandru and is now executed by Head Chef, Jason Kirk. From experience, I can tell you that the salads are to die for and they have a variety of delectable tapas to indulge in. Also, being the wino that I am, you have got to have some wine at Rockets Menlyn, even if it’s just for the lovely glasses they pour it into.
Rockets is known for its tradition of hosting top South African DJs. DJs will fill the air at Rockets Menlyn from Thursdays through to Sundays and you should keep your ears on the ground if you’d like to know more about their plans for a two-day New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration. It’s all about entertainment and having a good time at Rockets and Sean refers to it as the perfect pre-club destination.
- Rockets has branched out into salon franchising and now have three Rockets Man branches in Johannesburg that offer hair, beard and facial treatments for elite, trendsetting customers (both men and women).
- Rockets employs 400 staff.
- Sean Barber confirmed that he is planning another final Rockets restaurant in Umhlanga, Durban in the near future.
- There are certain rules that Barber has instilled among his Rockets tribe. “First: Be the best version of yourself that you can be. Always try your best. Second: There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so don’t be afraid to ask anything. Lastly: Don’t sulk. Life is too short for sulkers, and hospitality doesn’t have any place for it.”
Image credits: Devin Lester Portraits
Designs: Soda Custom