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Revel in the Cape Town Central City's cocktail bars

by CCID 9 Mar 2021
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Despite the wave of tough lockdown restrictions that have hit Cape Town’s entertainment and retail fraternity in the past months, the Mother City is still tops when it comes to winding down with a cocktail in hand. No more so than in the CBD, where the wide array of stylish pubs, sophisticated wine bars and must-visit cocktail lounges have managed to pull through. To these tenacious Central City retailers, we say, “Cheers!”

While a handful of businesses closed due to pressures brought on by the pandemic, the Central City has seen its already varied selection of bars enhanced with new venues opening. Some of these spots are included in a new retail map, which is part of the Cape Town Central City’s Improvement District’s (CCID) #ComeBackToTown campaign, to bolster the Central City’s economy and encourage people to support local businesses.

Recent additions include Culture Wine Bar, Open Sesame, fable and YOBO Wine & Whiskey Bar. Urban Oasis’ new offering, The Urban Eatery in the East City, also boasts a spacious bar. This is also true for Zsa Zsa Restaurant & Bar and the Central City’s newest gallery, THEFOURTH. Chefs Warehouse Pinchos & Winebar by renowned chef and restaurateur Liam Tomlin is the newest bar to open.

Says Tasso Evangelinos, CEO of the CCID: “Downtown Cape Town has always been a vibrant destination for visitors wanting to unwind and enjoy themselves. While lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions have put a dampener on trade, we salute our retailers in the CBD who have pulled through spectacularly by reinventing themselves, changing their offering, or sticking to their tried-and-tested formula.”

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Twenty-four-year-old entrepreneur Josh Sarembock, the founder and owner of fable on the corner of Bree and Wale streets, says his cocktail bar celebrates South Africa’s rich and culturally diverse background. To do this, he chose “fables” and reverse-engineered his cocktail menu to tell stories.

“I had eight Western Cape myths and legends brought to life in the form of ‘fables’, had characters drawn up and developed and then decided how the cocktail would tell the ‘fabled’ experience through flavours or serving methods,” he explains. Overall, using the eight central myths, the bar will end up with 32 new cocktails for patrons to enjoy.

In trendy Bree St, it’s not surprising that Culture Wine Bar by well-known chef Matt Manning has been the talk of the town since it opened late last year. Manning teamed up with wine maestro Chris Groenewald to curate a selection of fine wines from the country’s most respected names, cult classics, hidden gems, natural wines and special imports from across the globe. This range has been popular with Manning saying the response has been “very positive”.

To enhance their offering, Manning and Groenewald have since introduced Culture Club, a monthly wine tasting club, a monthly wine box called Curated by Chris with six incredible wines put together by Groenewald and The Wine Library, a fully serviced venue offering exclusive benefits for members.

Says Manning: “I am most proud of our fantastic wine list which features local gems and a fantastic international collection as well as our snack offering which I believe does set us apart. Guests can always expect the unexpected and something new and exciting from us.”

ROOFTOP MAGIC

In Longmarket St, the Central City boasts Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar which owner Ilze Koekemoer says turns 10 years old on 17 March this year. This milestone alone is a testament to the bar’s uniqueness.

The building (Tjing Tjing House) that the venue is in is over 200 years old and houses the entrepreneur’s three other businesses. “The space has a good balance of old and new with original wooden mansards creating a Victorian attic feel but attached to a modern open-air rooftop with a view to a part of the city,” says Koekemoer.

In preparation for the birthday celebrations, the bar was recently revamped to “make the space airy and allow for more seating inside”. While Koekemoer retained the venue’s signature shrine-inspired red bar, everything else is new. “We love our new Bathing Macaque Indigo Wallpaper and Kokeshi Doll Tables.”

Emma-Claire Peter is the Innovations manager of the Chefs Warehouse Group which has opened Chefs Warehouse Pinchos & Winebar, aimed at introducing Capetonians to Spanish tapas, other delicacies as well as magnificent South African wines and cocktails. She says they support local as much as possible while also keeping the authenticity of the concept. “We’ve sourced produce and wines from Portugal and the Iberian region of Spain. On our wine list, we’ve featured local Spanish varietals which have been well received,” says Peter.

To create a bit of theatre and enhance the customer experience, the Jamón at Chefs Warehouse Pinchos & Winebar is sliced in front of guests in a service area created outside of the service kitchen.

With South African’s recent restrictions on the sale of alcohol, these Central City venues and many others took a hard knock.

MAKING IT DURING COVID-19

“It almost killed us having been a newly opened venue,” says Sarembock. For Manning, they had to temporarily shut down after being operational for only two months while Koekemoer says “the impact was dire” for all her businesses when coupled with an early curfew.

With lockdown rules now relaxed, all Central City bars are breathing a sigh of relief and are armed with Covid-19 safety measures to welcome patrons back. Fortunately, says Peter, there’s already “plenty of positivity and energy”. She adds that at Pinchos: “There’s a beautiful outdoor dining area in the courtyard if guests are concerned about Covid-19 protocols. We aim to give everyone a safe, comfortable dining experience.”

Koekemoer sums it up perfectly when she says “Cape Town’s CBD is a unique treasure” that needs to be preserved. “At its best it’s a vibrant, diverse and creative space providing a canvas for many artists and entrepreneurs to produce their craft. With a dramatic decline in tourism, this entire ecosystem is at risk. All of us can help to ensure our city’s vibrancy by supporting local independent businesses.”

Other notable bars to enjoy in the Central City include:

  • Ghibli Bar at Radisson Blu Hotel
  • The House of Machines
  • Paparazzi Bar & Lounge
  • The Village Idiot
  • Harringtons Cocktail Lounge
  • The Gin Bar
  • GiGi Rooftop Bar
  • I Love the Dough
  • 14 Stories Rooftop Bar at Sunsquare
  • The Drinkery
  • The Athletic Club & Social

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Issued by Atmosphere PR on behalf of:  
Sharon Sorour-Morris, CCID Communications Manager
Email: sharon@capetownccid.org
Cell: 082 216 0835