Athos Euripidou, who hails from Durban and was behind Station Drive’s Fortune Coffee, is the brains behind Cape Town’s hottest new speakeasy-style bar. The Athletic Club & Social (ACS) is situated in a 19th century three-storey building on Buitengracht Street in Cape Town and has fast become the place for socialising.
After-work drinks and a light supper, or a cosy date night.
The food at ACS is predominantly inspired by Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, with a mezze-style selection of plates ideal for sharing and snacking. It’s light food with ample hits of flavour, offering a refreshing twist on the usual bar grub.
To start, the bread basket and olives – a perfect pairing for your first few cocktails – are good, but need the extra side of tzatziki and carrot hummus for spreading and dunking. We follow this with a plethora of colourful plates, which has us dipping, forking and scooping in true mezze fashion.
On this occasion the bowl of fior di latte mozzarella does not come as promised on the menu, but replaced by little bocconcini balls instead of the larger, plumper ball of cheese we expect. The dish, which is served with black olive and a nutty herb crumble, is still tasty despite this little omission.
We break from the cheese to tuck into a bowl of glossy, charred aubergine with an addictively good black-garlic emulsion hidden underneath. This is a hit, leaving us wishing we had kept some bread to mop up the intense flavours. An equally pleasing tangy home-made labneh is served with charred broccoli, thyme and crispy lavash for scooping.
For something a little heartier, the coal-fired rotisserie and meat and fish dishes can be ordered as a main or enjoyed alongside the other shareable dishes. The roasted lamb shoulder, while slightly overdone, is full of flavour and comes with hot, herb-sprinkled pita triangles, tzatziki, cured onion and sweet little jewels of pomegranate.
For dessert, end on really good baklava cigars or head upstairs for a nightcap in one of the cosy alcoves.
At the time of reviewing, the wine list was limited to five or so wine options, but revellers will be pleased to know that the bar’s new wine list boasts 16 wines by the glass and a much broader selection by the bottle with notable labels such as Silverthorn, Rijk’s, De Wetshof, A.A. Badenhorst, and Cederberg. Craft and draught beers are also available as well as some zippy cocktails. Try the Lilac Lady with bubbly and a lavender-and-red-grape shrub, or the ACS Negroni with coconut-infused Wilderer gin. There are also some interesting alcohol-free sippers including house-made sodas in flavours of Turkish delight, maple and thyme, and ginger and rose.
The Athletic Club & Social is busy, but staff members are on the ball and friendly.
This is a seriously beautiful space. The building dates to the 1900s, when it was home to an underground speakeasy-style bar for athletes. The ACS team has cleverly clung to that era with rattan and velvet chairs, Persian carpets, leather sofas and moody amber lighting. Vintage-style wallpaper and antique sports equipment and photographs adorn the walls, and velvet drapes create intimate nooks and seating areas. There are also three floors from which to choose: the basement bar area, dubbed The Trophy Room, where guests can enjoy live music and DJs; the ground-floor restaurant and bar; and the top-floor lounge and bar with a Signal Hill-facing balcony.
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