Covid be damned. Two plucky dudes had an idea, and opened a bar.
While Covid left Cape Town’s once-roaring restaurant industry in tatters, two young entrepreneurs had other plans. Successful chef-restaurateur Matt Manning (32) and wine aficionado Chris Groenewald (35) – armed with lorry loads of grit and creativity – decided to open a bar in what many would call scarily uncertain times.
“There’s a Warren Buffet saying,” says Matt. “‘Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.’ Although he was referring to the stock market, I applied it to the current recession. The only way to go is up, so now is actually the ideal time to expand.”
“Food and wine are – and will always be – the perfect match,” continues Matt, “so when the space adjacent to Grub & Vine became available, I took it! It makes sense to have something in that space that complements the food offering: where you can have a quick glass of wine after work, meet up with friends after the work week on Friday, or have a nightcap after dinner.”
Chris chimes in: “Wine is more than just a drink; it’s a way of life for me. It brings people together. Friends, colleagues, even strangers can get together over a glass of wine and have a common ground over which to communicate.”
For wine lovers, not snobs
Chris and Matt were on the same page when it came to the pillars of the new venue: good wine, good snacks, good music (“we both love the blues”) and were equally decisive when it came to what they didn’t want: “pretentiousness and snobbery, which sadly often accompany (good) wine”.
Matt continues: “We wanted to create an inclusive, welcoming space for wine lovers from all walks of life, and of all ages, backgrounds and professions. A comfortable space where people are inspired to discover new varietals and styles, without fear of condescension.”
“Our focus is on sustainably farmed and minimal-intervention wines (natural fermentation, no additives),”says Chris, Culture’s manager (and Publik’s former front-of-house). Other than that we want to showcase the best there is to offer in South Africa, across different styles and grape varieties. I also believe that there is an educational role to play when it comes to showing what the rest of the world has to offer, so there’s also an international focus on the winelist. Plus, a couple of beers and spirits, too.
The snack list
It goes without saying that the snack side of things is a cut above. “We’ve carried through Grub & Vine’s ethos – simple, honest cooking that works beautifully with wine,” he explains. In addition to a regular menu of snacky bits, like charcuterie and cheese, guests can also order items off a daily menu, such as prawn Po’Boy, pork pie or their wickedly cheesy Croque Monsieur.
Warm and timeless interiors
Monya Eastman of Stokperd, who did Grub & Vine’s interiors, helped Matt and Chris realise their vision of creating “a warm and welcoming space that is contemporary and also timeless”. Using the bones of the heritage building to guide her (real wood floors, thick walls, high-beamed ceilings, and an exposed brick wall that runs down one side of the space), Monya chose a rust and ink colour palette, marble countertops and leather booths.
Horse and carriage
“Do you know the reason why Bree Street is so wide?” Matt asks. I don’t, actually. “It’s because horse-drawn carts used to travel up and down the street, which was a throughway from the harbour. What is now Culture used to be a storage facility for goods that had arrived via the harbour – around 200 years ago!”
And there you have it – all the makings of a success story: a pair of plucky 30-somethings with pots of passion, a heritage-drenched venue, with good food, wine and music! Chin chin!
Culture Wine Bar opens to the public on 30 October 2020.
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