In the interests of full disclosure, when I first heard about Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Brandy Bar, I did a mental eye roll. “Not another pretentious cocktail place with ingredients which belong on a plate, not in a glass,” I thought, somewhat cynically.
I am happy to report that after visiting, my mind was well and truly changed, which proves a point of some kind.
It’s the brainchild of Kurt Schlechter, an award winning bartender and drink consultant with more than 25 years’ experience. With his business partner bartender James Philips, their mission is to bring a unique cocktail experience to Africa inspired by their surroundings.
Their passion is brandy and telling the stories of South Africa’s award-winning brandy makers, and as such you’ll find this sometimes replacing traditional spirits; like in an Old Fashioned – which is delicious, by the way.
“South African brandies are among the best in the world; they are really, really good,” states Schlechter. A Cause Effect initiative is the Love Brandy Project where a guest bartender comes in on one Wednesday a month to share his or her expertise. Part of the challenge, says Schlechter, is that they are given only 15 litres of water to make 100 drinks, including the ice.
The surroundings of which they speak include Cape Town’s natural bounty, the ocean, the mountain, the vineyards and the fynbos. These elements are reflected not only in the decor, but in the spectacular drinks they create.
You can get a margarita but I recommend you order a Daisy. Not to give too much away, it’s very similar to a margarita in terms of its basic flavours but delivered in a whole new fashion to challenge your comfort zone, and includes a fair amount of theatre and fire, real fire. And that is always impressive.
Nelly the Elephant is made with “waste” – items that would normally be thrown away but instead are utilised to create new ingredients in line with the bar’s overall philosophy of eco-friendliness and sustainability; for example, there are no running taps behind the bar and water-saving methods are employed.
The drink is served in a cute and quirky ceramic elephant with a jaunty circus attitude and a hat of bright pink candyfloss.
While the thinking behind the cocktails is quite serious, no one here is taking themselves too seriously either. Nelly is a bit of fun but there are plenty more drinks that are sophisticated and elegant, and will challenge your taste buds as well as everything you ever thought you knew about cocktails – all served with flair and fascinating patter from their makers who are genuinely ardent about what they are doing.
The aperitif section of the menu is a good place to begin your visit with vermouth-based spritzers. Some are served with a tiny nibble on the rim of the glass – such as the Aperitivi – brandy, Caperitif, and fynbos liqueur topped with a puff pastry slice with crème fraîche, biltong and micro-herbs.
Another option is to choose a platter or board for two, which includes drinks and paired snacks. A full menu of proper main dishes is available, as well as bar appetisers, salads, and desserts. Pop a Bloody Mary cocktail tomato in your mouth, or indulge in a deep-fried brandy shot and custard. Intrigued? Me too, but I’d like to let you discover these for yourself.
Schlechter and his team behind the bar adopt a system similar to that of a kitchen, whereby orders are called out and responded to, which adds another interesting dimension I’ve not seen elsewhere.
Coffee, wine, beers, ciders, punch bowls – the earliest cocktail, according to Schlechter – digestifs, and an astonishing selection of brandies from four regions to savour on their own are also available. Tinctures, cordials and bitters are made in-house, sweetness is added naturally with the likes of honey or sherry, and the cocktail menu will change with the seasons.
Cause Effect is at 2A Park Road, Gardens. It’s open Tuesdays to Sundays 12pm till late.