Heading down Buitengracht Street towards Cape Town City Centre, you’ll see a bar to your left. The wood panels on the window and vintage font beckon to every passerby and as you look through the window, The Athletic Club And Social magically transports you to another era.
This bar and restaurant, situated in the trendy part of the CBD, is just the thing for these cold winter afternoons. The cosy decor on all three stories speaks of a bygone era where social clubs and dinners were the order of the day.
Upstairs, three different lounges with a dedicated bar overlook the mountains and are perfect for either groups or a romantic candlelit dinner between two. Meanwhile, the ground floor, where we had lunch, has a much more professional air – perfect for a quick business lunch or quick meetups with friends.
The downstairs bar is by far my favourite and is reminiscent of an old-timey prohibition bar. The dimmed lights, lounge set up and open-faced brick walls sketch the perfect backdrop for an evening of jazz or their very popular vinyl nights.
Food and drink
We were extremely impressed by the bar’s extensive drinks menu. From an amazing collection of single malt whiskeys (think Islay and Speyside) to champagnes and cocktails. And trust me, you cannot help but imagine yourself in the downstairs bar without a whiskey and a cigar (which they also have available). Seeing that we still had to travel back to Stellenbosch in the afternoon, we opted for lattes and shared plates.
First up, we tried the charred aubergine, black garlic emulsion, sweet potato crisps, mint and pine nuts dish. The aubergine was well complemented by the crunchy pomegranate topping and mint, which cut a bit through the richness of the aubergine. I am a sucker for sweet potato chips, so I love the very thin chips that came with this dish. I’ve also been a bit obsessed with aubergine lately so I loved the way that they prepared it.
Next up, we tried the chargrilled Porcini mushrooms which is served with a pearl barley salad and sweet herbs. I’m a straight-up sucker for mushrooms. I love them in any shape and form. So this creamy combination of barley and mushroom was right up my alley and the earthy taste of the mushroom was definitely highlighted.
My favourite dish of them all was the grilled cauliflower with pickled grapes, yeasted cauliflower puree, sesame seeds and a fennel vinaigrette. I wish that while I was growing up, I understood how amazing cauliflower is, as I feel like I’ve wasted years avoiding them. This combination of grilled cauliflower, paired with the fresh mint and fennel is a definite winner.
We also had a taste of the grilled mussels with salted thyme cream and harissa aioli. Although I loved the freshness of the micro herbs that cut through some of the richness, the dish was a bit too spicy for my liking. We had also brought my brother along for the ride and he totally skipped the sharing plates, heading for the desserts instead. He opted for the dark chocolate tart served with pistachio ice cream – and he loved it!