Acid: Jozi’s refreshing new female-owned food and wine bar

The excitement around Joburg’s new Acid Food & Wine bar is valid. The place feels like acid jazz: hip, cool and with its soul intact. It boasts a sleek, laid-back and welcoming vibe. The soul comes from the owners: chef Jess Doveton and sommelier Jemma Styer. It’s quite special that the spot is women-owned and it is something to celebrate as the industry is still predominantly male-led. The fact is something the owners consider deeply.

acid food and wine bar
“We want people to come here because our food and wine are good and the experience is great. We didn’t see women in our industry coming up like we wanted to be. It’s about straddling that line of not wanting to tokenise ourselves, our business and the people working for us, but at the same time we still want to be like, ‘we’re here, we’re in your face’,” says Jemma.

Jess adds, “Jemma and I have been in the industry for a while. We are super-passionate about it and we want to set the standard so that other people can be better. That sets our bar up for other restaurants to put in the extra effort. We started looking at the small things like having more female chefs in the team or waiter staff.”

acid wine bar

“We’re making it a safe space for them too. A safe space for anyone who identifies as female or otherwise that doesn’t often have a safe space to work in, specifically in our industry. But it is for the customers to be comfortable as well, where they enjoy themselves without thinking hard about it,” Jemma says.

The food and wine bar reflects the synergies of the two who have a playful approach but take what they do very seriously, much like acid jazz which is experimental and accessible while working from a core that is intellectual.

Jess spent a lot of time cooking abroad before consulting for a few restaurants locally. Her Thai heritage and how she plays with flavour influenced the menu at Peachy and made it interesting during her time there.

Jemma managed several restaurants before becoming a sommelier and she brings her project management and logistical skills as well as her academic leanings to Acid. The ethos of the bar is about doing things differently.

“There are so many wine bars in SA but not a lot of wine bars and restaurants together. That’s what makes us a little different,” Jess says.

“Doing things differently comes from our history of being burnt in the industry and wanting to change the way things are done, both internally and externally. How we deal with our staff; how we run the place; how we build our own business model and all the way to the customer and how they experience food and wine,” adds Jemma.

acid food and wine
Working with Asian and French influences, chef Jess has created a casual and sophisticated menu of small plates. The menu changes regularly according to seasons and inspiration, but also according to what the kitchen can handle. The latter speaks to the broader meaning of sustainability which considers the sustainability of the staff and team. The bestselling dish is Jess’s take on the classic beef tartare, followed by a new favourite: the okonomiyaki pancake with smoked pork belly, fried calamari and bonito flakes.

Jemma’s approach to the small wine menu makes it accessible as opposed to elitist, while bringing high-quality wines to the forefront. The special curation of bubbles, whites, rosé and reds promotes small, independent as well as female black and brown producers. Jemma plays around with different and interesting varietals which include the Columbar Syrah, the Genevieve Syrah MCC and the Kara-Tara Pinot Noir. These are available by the glass and bottle.

Both menus will change regularly to keep things interesting.

The space – designed by Tag Design (who also designed Morning Glory) – is the coming together of sleek and vintage tones. The convergence of the feminine and masculine is in the soft and hard curves and textures of the décor, with the horseshoe-shaped bar and the wine cellar as the focal point.

Great wine and flavourful dishes with a warm and laid-back ambience, Acid Food & Wine bar is an exciting addition to Jozi’s food and wine scene.

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