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. Eat Out critic Kate Liquorish investigates Tonic in Linden.
Average price of a small plate: R75
Serves: Eclectic tapas
Good for: A fun and frivolous time with serious gins and cocktails
Star ratings: Food and drinks 4, service 3, ambience 4
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.
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