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R75 avg main meal
Bar scene, Groups, Local cuisine, Quick meals, Special occasions
Light meals, Modern, Tapas
Mastercard, Visa, Zapper

Critic's review

Kate Liquorish

Caitlin and Dennis Human’s small gin stand at the Linden Market was such a success that when the opportunity arose to open their own standalone cocktail bar and eatery, they jumped at it.

Whilst most people flock here for the fabulous range of cocktails and G&Ts, Tonic does also offer quite a moreish selection of small plates and titbits. The menu is made up of starters (which should perhaps be renamed to 'nibbles' as the selection comprises olives, roasted chickpeas, flatbreads and chips), small plates and desserts. The style of food is very much in line with that of Spanish bars: simple, but beautifully prepared morsels to accompany your drinks.

We skipped the nibbles and went straight for an array of small plates. We opted for the pork belly with slaw; beetroot- and gin-cured salmon; marinated aubergine with tahini yoghurt and herbs; and the lamb kibbeh with sumac yoghurt and flatbread.

The salmon is a refined dish, delicate in flavour and the ideal accompaniment to a softer G&T. The marinated aubergine was simple and straightforward, and the lamb kibbeh, whilst being very flavourful, would have been better served with a salad than flat bread as the dish needs a splash of fresh greens to pull it together. The pork belly was fall-off-the-bone good with the crispiest of crackling shards. This was the standout dish for the evening – totally scrumptious and one that I would most certainly go back for.

For dessert, the home-made ice creams are all salaciously good and not to be skipped. Think rose and yoghurt, crème fraiche with honeycomb, chocolate mousse with burnt orange cream, and, of course, a G&T sorbet and a Ginologist citrus-chocolate martini for the gin devotees.

You simply must start with one of the signature cocktails; they’re sublime. While Joburgers are becoming accustomed to serious cocktails thanks to the likes of Sin & Tax and Marble, at Tonic you’ll find something a little different. You might call them botanical cocktails: slightly more floral and spice driven with touches of herb and citrus. All syrups (except elderflower, for obvious reasons) are made in-house and the cocktails themselves are wonderfully spirit forward, so you can really taste the exquisite gins. The Livingston (Time Anchor Gin, rosemary-and-chamomile syrup, grapefruit and MCC), The Spice Club (Ginologist spice gin, pomegranate syrup, lemon, Martini Bianco and lavender aroma) and The Orient (Step 5 Gin, Pimm’s, elderflower syrup, herbal liqueur, coriander, bitters, orange, lemon and tonic water) are fantastic. Tonic also has one of the largest selections of local and International gins you may have seen, including a range of ‘suitcase gins’ brought by friends from overseas, including bottles of Nordic Spirits Lab, Daffy’s, CollaGin (yes, you read that right), Massenez Purple, and Pinkster. You’ll find every kind of local gin on the market, too, and the list of tonics is almost 20 deep. Tonic also serves G&Tea – Toni Glass tea infused with various gins – if you’re in the mood for something a little different, plus a small selection of old-school cocktails, wines, bottled beers and virgin cocktails.

It’s an owner-run establishment, so Caitlin and Dennis are always buzzing around to ensure you’re happy. The waiters are jovial and upbeat, and service is fast and informal, which complements the feel.

A fashion designer by trade, Caitlin has styled this little alcove exquisitely. It’s quirky, retro and pretty in pink. Tonic is the perfect spot for a little Friday afternoon tipple; the tables and chairs extend onto the street, so you can soak up the sun whilst sipping on something fresh, opt to sit inside at the bar or at a table, or lounge in the art-deco armchairs and couches. It’s got a great feel: airy and light, fun and frivolous. It’s not the kind of place you’d go for a serious conversation – unless you’re very serious about your gin, that is.

Sundays are Smoke Braai Day, which offers chicken wings as a starter, followed by a smoked pulled-brisket bun with slaw and pickles, and a select G&T, all for R150.

(December 2017)

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

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User reviews

  • What a stunning venue. We went to Tonic for my partners birthday and it absolutely did not disappoint. The vibe of the place is magic and the food was incredible. Best of all...obviously the gin! Each gin cocktail was delicious and the comprehensive list of gins makes putting your own gin together oh so exciting. Finally and enough of a reason to get to Gin ASAP was the gorgeous Caitlin. She was the hostess with the mostess and ensured that our time was nothing short of fabulous. The place positively thrived under her supervision and even though it was packed, Caitlin ensured that our drinks and bellies were kept full. She is an absolute asset and I have no doubt this spot is here to stay!
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  • I stubbled across this little gem after work one Friday, the place was buzzing. The staff are welcoming and friendly, introduce themselves by name and ask what your name is, I felt like I was at home, but a home cooler than mine. The selection of drinks is quite overwhelming, but that is because they have a huge list of local and international gins that they sell per shot (and I'd hope so being a gin bar!), so they guided me in the best way possible: start at the top and work your way down! haha, dangerous! I started with a signature cocktail, and then a G&T. Everything is beautifully presented and thought out. The G&T was superb. They definitely don't make normal G&T's here, I saw some seriously interesting combinations going out while I sat at the bar. I had some of the snacks, the pork belly and flat bread and that was the perfect amount to keep my stomach going with the drinks I was becoming all too fond of ordering. Now, I'm not sure if it is because of my name, but I have made it somewhat of a life's mission to find the perfect Martini. The Bond that we know (in the form of a suave 007) actually has the whole martini thing wrong. Martini enthusiasts will agree whole heartedly that a martini should be gin and stirred, definitely not vodka & shaken (sorry 007 and the commentator above). Tonic's gin martini was exactly what I had been looking for and what so many get wrong. They even offer you a variety of selected gins to have in your martini and a choice in which way to have it. I will definitely be back!!
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  • "Tonic is the cocktail bar adjacent a very nice little French bistro type restaurant. The two are connected, but I recently visited only the bar area (having eaten at the restaurant some time ago before the bar was split off from the restaurant proper). Firstly, the interior is lovely. Well designed and executed and the ambiance is just what you need after a long day and in need of a drink. Sadly, I have to admit that the G&T I had was not up to scratch even by a long shot. That takes some doing considering a G&T is very difficult to screw up. Firstly, both the gin and the tonic was kept at room temperature, which is fine. But any mixologist worth his tipple knows that with cocktails you need lots of ice. Lots and lots, especially if you're going to chill those room temperature liquids. Serving a G&T in a champagne coup may look fabulous, and it did, so kudos on presentation if a little unconventional for a drink traditionally served in a highball, but three very small cubes of ice will not do the job of chilling the drink. I would therefore suggest they keep their gin the freezer. And with the sheer number of different gins on offer, they'll need a big one. Or change the presentation. Service was okay, I think they might just be a little unsure of themselves, but with experience this will improve, I'm sure. Overall I applaud the effort, but I do have one more gripe which may or may not be relevant. So the bar is called Tonic; with lots of different G&Ts on offer. They do have a compact list of gin based cocktails on offer, which does not include a basic bog standard gin martini. Really? And neither the bar tender nor the waitress knew what I was talking about when I asked if they could make me one. It was like being marooned on a desert island with only sea water around you: gin gin everywhere but not a drop to drink as it were, given that the term martini seems to most people to refer to a brand name rather than the most classic of cocktails, and this after how many years of 007? That said, I've not been able to find a decent martini in the whole of Johannesburg. If someone knows of a place to get one, a decent one, let me know please. So in closing, I'll return to the restaurant. I wont return to the bar, unless they allow me to mix my own drink."
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  • Accepts credit cards
  • Beer served
  • Booking required
  • Cocktails
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Reservations recommended
  • Serves food
  • Takeaways
  • WiFi

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