When you reach a certain distinguished age, going clubbing no longer entails engaging burly bouncers, imbibing garishly coloured cocktails and moving your body to music that sounds as if it had been composed by a heroin addict with tourette syndrome.
I am currently clubbing at what a club is meant to be. A members-only institution where bouts of civilised drinking, fulfilling eating and mannered conversation are conducted in a cavernous old building filled with a substantial element of grace and style.
Yes, the Cape Town Club is back at its original address of 18 Queen Victoria Street. Having stood closed and empty for 16 years after it had moved to Leinster Hall in the Gardens, the original creaky teak doors were thrown open recently and, hail fellows, we are back in business.
The last time I visited the original club, then known as the City and Civil Service Club, cellular telephonic instruments had yet to be invented and e-mail was a shemale without an “s”. Today I enter and find a few gentlemen sitting among the shelves of the Cape Town Club’s Colin Eglin Library perusing their i-pads, directing corporate take-overs and checking Nasdeq stock. The air is civil as always, and after approaching the rows of books to read-up on the pre-Boer War ornithological environment in Natal, I move to the lounge for a pink gin. (Slice of lime Mister Joubert? Yes please, Horatius.)
It is grey and cool outside and I look out on the South African Library and catch a bit of the Company Cardens’ winter greenness. What a pleasant city this is, really.
Dapper Eugene van der Westhuizen, the Club’s manager, I have known for over a decade. A wine lover and trader, Eugene is an asset to this institution as I am not going to spend my days in the club sipping brandy or draft beer.
Eugene takes me on a tour. Underground wine cellar, snooker room with full-size tables, obviously, a few meeting rooms ranging from small and intimate to a huge function venue large enough to hold great parties.
A few licks of paint and a bit of plastering is still going on, but the Cape Town Club is open for business with membership having edged past the 300 mark.
Unlike the old days, ladies are welcome to apply for membership and also to enter the premises as members’ guests, so when we hit the old wood-panelled bar for pre-lunch drinks, a few elegantly attired specimens are nursing G&Ts. They form agreeable aesthetical components to the room.
Yes, the old school atmosphere one would expect from a club of this sort is still there. But the dress code has been relaxed and the venue is open for the hosting of corporate functions which entails things like DJs and dance music. (As long as it does not scare the horses, you know.)
The Club’s magnificent dining area is obviously the main attraction. Wood and linen. Finely polished cutlery. Sparkling stemware. And a stunning view of Table Mountain.
I order Mulderbosch Chardonnay 2012 and am most impressed by the way the wine is presented for tasting, poured and the glasses refilled. The wine is citrus and white flowers, and an ideal match for my onion soup. The soup is concentrated and silky, with deep satisfying flavours, possibly the best onion soup I have had outside of Chez Denis, that quaint little place just off the original Les Halles market-place in Paris.
Besides the soup, the Cape Town Club’s starter menu includes salads and carpaccio, with my dining companion’s Caesar Salad receiving a rapturous reception which can be heard right up to the Natural History Museum.
Onto the main course, and I opt for a piece of steak by name of New York strip. Other guests are steak-inclined, too, while a line-fish warrants attention in one seat.
The wine is a Paul Cluver Pinot Noir 2012, and the steak is good. Very good. The cow obviously got the Full Monty: Grass fed. Pasture reared. Organic. Access to complimentary Wi-Fi. Free-roaming. Hand-job twice a week… It was that sort of meat. Well-hung to bring broody meaty flavours to the fore, perfectly grilled to medium.
A chocolate soufflé with Crème Anglais completed matters – what would a great club be without good custard, Smithers?
Post-lunch drinks and excellent coffee are enjoyed in the bar, which is beginning to fill with members, mostly well-known professional types. It will not be long now before the Cape Town Club will also becomes the home-base for a component of the local wine industry, and as a public relations professional, this could just soon be my new headquarters.
Just sign the guest-book, and do mind your manners.
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