At the ultra-posh Cape Grace Hotel, Bascule is first and foremost a whiskey bar, with more than 400 blends and malts from around the world in its temperature-controlled vaults (which you walk through to reach the bathrooms, it’s an experience in itself). But should you also be hungry there is light tapas on offer. The choices are limited but include a modern take on fish and chips (battered hake, fries and a salmon tartar sauce), salt and pepper calamari with wild arugula and sweet chili, oysters, a springbok carpaccio and a grilled prawn salad among a few other options. I have to admit this is a place you come to drink and should you be drunk enough and hungry you’ll find the food decent. If you are sober and starving, you’ll find portions are truly tapas sized. While I found the salt and pepper calamari quite satisfying, the springbok carpaccio was just OK. However, I also had a salad that I found quite fresh and tasty. Other options on the menu include biltong, olives, oysters, and smoked ostrich.
That said, when it comes to atmosphere, whiskey and inventive cocktails, Bascule is a winner. My friend and I came after a day of shopping at the V&A Waterfront. The sun was just starting to sink, but still felt warm – it was that golden hour in Cape Town – and the location of the comfy outdoor seating area (think cushioned chairs and low slung tables) is sheltered by a building from those wicked winds that can plague al fresco waterfront dining in summer. The seats look out on a private marina and the entire experience feels very chic. Should it be cold, however, there are seats at comfy couches and tables fronting the long bar as well as stools along it.
The cocktails here are definitely stellar, and the thing to order. Beyond the hundreds of scotch and whiskey blends from South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, the U.S. and Japan – there is more whiskey at Bascule than any other bar in South Africa – the menu also features around a dozen hand-crafted and inventive whiskey cocktail choices. I had the Cape Malay Curry, which was the strangest drink I’ve ever tried, but not altogether bad, just very different – it’s the kind of beverage you just have one of. Anyway it was comprised of Johnnie Walter Platinum apricot liqueur, roasted cumin, lemon, bitters and simple syrup. The cumin really made it taste like curry.
If you’re getting together with a bunch of friends or just want to party it up, you can make reservations for reserved seatings, whisky tastings and more.
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