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Review: Art and cocktails of the highest order at MESH in Rosebank

MESH Club is that exclusive and outrageously stunning networking space on the second floor of the TRUMPET building on Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank, Johannesburg. While it’s for members only by day, come four o’clock the bar section opens to all and sundry. Fittingly for this area of town, the space is a massive collection of artworks. Founder Jonathon Meyer is the brains and heart behind it all. Eat Out critic Marie-Lais Emond pays MESH bar a visit for conversation and cocktails.

Flamingo-toned chairs add colour to the dramatic interior. Photo supplied.

Flamingo-toned chairs add colour to the dramatic interior. Photo supplied.

Fast facts

Cost: The average cocktail is R125
Serves: Elaborate cocktails with an arty twist and other excellent drinks
Parking: Find a bay in Keyes, where the guards direct and oversee parking and pick-ups
Best for: A bar experience with a creative and arty buzz
Star rating: Food and drinks 4, service 4, ambience 5

Expect cocktails of the highest order. Photo supplied.

Expect cocktails of the highest order. Photo supplied.

Food

David Higgs’s Marble upstairs has been supplying the bar’s food, but a plate-tapas menu is being designed by Open Food, known for the culinary skills of Rasi van Greune and JP Roger in particular. (The chef for MESH will be announced this week.) The food will be set out on different plates and containers on the catwalk-table, from which patrons will choose and pay accordingly.

Order an art-inspired cocktail. Photo supplied.

Order an art-inspired cocktail. Photo supplied.

Drinks

Cocktails form the smallest section of the excellent bar menu but are the biggest MESH attraction. The superb spirit selection takes up three pages alone.

Currently there are two art-inspired cocktail specials, and a third Kentridge-inspired one is being developed.

A wraparound balcony offers another stylish space to sip on cocktails. Photo supplied.

A wraparound balcony offers another stylish space to sip on cocktails. Photo supplied.

For the first, a paint box that Pierneef would have loved is delivered to our window table (chosen to watch the sunset) and opened to reveal a smoking glass within, smelling quite earthy, among the brushes and palette. Presentation aside, the contents are exquisite. It’s a serious cocktail, each sip a mouth-filling combination of Caperitif, Botanist gin, a balance of pelargonium syrup, bitters and fynbos smokiness. It’s a drink to last while others are on seconds.

The second, the Graffiti cocktail, has been designed by mixologist Gareth Wainwright. It’s served in a metal glass within a concrete block fastened to a tray painted by Skullboy, the artist who’s responsible for a mighty mural on the wall. A pineapple leaf peeps over the edge of the long drink, containing Mount Gay Barbados rum, pineapple juice, lime, ginger syrup and IPA beer. It’s surprisingly dry and refreshing.

A painting by Pierneef holds court over two bright chairs in the bar. Photo supplied.

A painting by Pierneef holds court over two bright chairs in the bar. Photo supplied.

Four more iconic cocktails on offer at the moment are a French 75, a Corpse Reviver, the Cape Haze (Absolut Elyx, lemon juice, cognac and Vin de Constance), and an oak-smoked Old Fashioned.

It’s an attractive journey through the rest of the drinks menu: After the very exciting spirits section, including whiskeys listed in nine sections of origin, come the wines, all South African. A third of this selection is available by the glass, and prices range from R40 to R450. There are seven superb local MCCs and imported Champagnes, and then a choice of local beers and ciders.

The beautiful illuminated bar. Photo supplied.

The beautiful illuminated bar. Photo supplied.

Non-alcoholic cocktails are whipped up for anyone who desires one, and there are soft drinks and juices, too.

Service

Outstanding. Chief bartender Caid Aspden (responsible for that Lowveld cocktail) visits tables, as does the manager and the star of our personal show, waiter Mandla Sibanyoni. There are four seriously pro bartenders in all. We also spot owner Jonathon Meier at a table in the adjoining lounge and regard that as a good sign.

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Ambience

The exceptionally well-displayed art, lighting and design contrasts the brutish and the sleek, accounting for a large part of the overall fascinating experience. MESH’s circadian-rhythm lighting gets warm coloured by drinks time, mellowing patrons into relaxed contentment and fine conversation. A long sunset alley of floor-to-ceiling glass is remarkable. Bookings are limited to no more than a hundred patrons.

And…

Hey, was that J’Something who just passed by? We hear he’s a founder member. Last Fridays of the month are MESH Fashion Fridays, where the catwalk table makes itself very useful.

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

Have you been to MESH in Rosebank, Johannesburg? Tell us what you thought by writing a review. For each review you post, Eat Out will pledge a meal for a hungry child through Stop Hunger Now SA. Get writing.

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