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Craighall Park’s fine wine bar: Ace + Pearl

Lovers of imported magazines, caffeine connoisseurs and the neighbourhood regulars will know Warm & Glad for its good selection of music, great coffee and tasty food. But just recently, the owners of W&G, married couple Jonathan and Deborah Shaw, partnered with Derryn and Terence Orpen in their new wine bar venture called Ace + Pearl, which is located right next door. Derryn is currently the business manager at W&G, while husband Terence is a filmmaker by day.

An outside view of Ace + Pearl. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

An outside view of Ace + Pearl. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The concept

Inspired by Parisian- and New York-style bars encountered on their travels, the vision for Ace + Pearl, with its exposed brick wall interiors and minimalist design, centres on sharing winemakers’ stories. You’re not going to find just any run-of-the-mill wines here, but rather new and interesting ones – and a list that will regularly change. With tasting menus and wine sold by the glass and by the bottle, it’s a much-needed addition to Johannesburg’s social scene. Situated in Johannesburg’s upmarket northern suburb of Craighall Park, the wine bar caters to the more discerning wine lover. Not all of the featured winemakers own wine farms, but rather, have bought and cultivated some grapevines and share cellars with more established wine farms. The result is a limited release of their passion projects.

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The interior of Ace + Pearl. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

For those who are not all about wine, the bar also offers artisanal gins from independent distilleries Inverroche (based in Stillbaai) and Hope on Hopkins. The latter includes Salt River Gin served with thyme and grapefruit, while the London Dry Gin is served with lemon and rosemary (named for the area in which the distillery is based in Cape Town). Swaan Cape Tonic, which is hand-brewed in the Swartland by Badenhorst Family Wines, is also part of the menu. With a botanical infusion, it’s a less sweet alternative to commercial tonic waters available on the market.

The food

The food menu presents itself as the perfect accompaniment to the curated wine list. Le Casse-Croûte comprises tasty finger food such as hand-roasted peanuts, pickles, olives and breadbaskets; Petites Plaques offers a selection of salads, Parma ham and melon, duck rillettes, and the must-try Ace Grilled Cheese, which is the wine bar’s special version of the American classic, made with sourdough bread, parmigiano reggiano, extra-old white cheddar, gruyere and butter.

The food at Ace + Pearl. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The food at Ace + Pearl. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

There are also Charcuterie Plaques and a variety of terrines made by Jacques Coetzee, who is a regular vendor at Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein. Another not-to-be-missed specialty under the Fromage Plaques is the mozzarella ball with a soft centre known as burrata, which comprises tomatoes, strawberries and Cape gooseberries lightly dressed in olive oil and seasoned with black pepper. If you are a group of six or more, booking is essential (email reservations). You can also sign up to their newsletter by visiting acepearl.com, and be among the first to know when the “Meet the Maker” evenings take place. The visiting winemaker or mixologist plays bartender for that evening, and guests can order a tasting menu for R150 to R250 (depending on the label) and get to taste the boutique wine as well as enjoy one-on-one time with the maker.

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read the editorial policy here.

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