The last decade has seen Cape Town earn itself a reputation as one of the top culinary destinations in the world, and with over 100 top restaurants to choose from in the City Bowl alone, “being spoilt for choice” is an understatement.
Located on lower Buitengracht street, just outside the CBD, and situated in a building that dates back to 1900, is a triple-storey restaurant-meets-watering-hole, The Athletic Club & Social, is open to all who love to indulge in good food, classy-but-cheeky cocktails (when lockdown allows), live music and, of course, a spot of sports.
As the story goes, owner Athos Euripidou came to The Mother City (from Durban) with a plan to create a space that promotes inclusivity, cleverly clinging to and drawing inspiration from its roots as a speakeasy-style bar for athletes of all races during the apartheid era.
Upon arrival, Euripidou took to the City’s archives in search of old pictures of African sports teams. Coming up short, he sent a sports journalist into the townships, knocking from door to door, to unearth never-before-published photographs of African athletes, newspaper clippings, and old trophies dating as far back as 1932, to create a homage to the untold stories of our unsung heroes.
Since opening its doors in December 2018, The Athletic Club & Social has become a drawcard for locals and tourists alike for three main reasons, with each floor of the building having its own reason.
The basement, dedicated to the late and great jazz trumpet player Hugh Masekela, and known as The Trophy Room, is the jazz club. Thursday night — or whenever they have access to some of the country’s great musicians — is jazz night, booking some of the hippest jazz talents, young and old. Other nights they’ll have vinyl DJs curating their old school jazz/soul soundtrack. The decor and low lighting make it feel as though you’ve stepped into another era, with deep velvets, soft couches, and Persian rug-inspired wallpaper. This is the soul of ACS.
The ground floor is dedicated to the restaurant. Inspired by his Greek heritage, the menu boasts a sumptuous selection of Mediterranean cuisine, favourites straight from his mother’s recipe book, others that he discovered during travels to his home country as a child. Their meze and tapas menu boasts a selection of vegetarian dishes designed for sharing, surprisingly bigger than you’d expect. The mains include delicious seafood, meat, and poultry options to make any foodie’s head swoon and mouth water. This is the heart of ACS.
And Euripidou’s personal favourites? For starters, the Tahini Cauliflower: a whole cauliflower basted in their homemade tahini sauce and slow-roasted in the oven for hours, tasty, braised on the outside and juicy in the middle, and perfect for sharing. For mains, the Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder: a traditional Greek favourite, the lamb kleftiko (which translates to ‘stolen lamb’) is spiced to his mother’s instruction, wrapped and slow-cooked in the oven for four hours. Served with buttery baked potatoes, you’d be hard-pressed to find softer, tastier meat.
The first floor is known as The Library Room. Decorated with books and artworks, this room is meant as much for relaxation and socialising as it is for introspection. The books, for instance, speak volumes of South Africa’s history, and celebrate the fallen heroes of apartheid. They also tell many stories of South Africa’s history through sports. You couldn’t out-trivia Euripidou if you tried. This section also consists of booths — which range from R3000 to R7000 depending on size — that are perfect for small birthday parties. Bigger groups can opt to book the room, hand-painted from wall to wall by South African artist David Brits, and which forms part of the balcony overlooking the City. If you’re a walk-in customer and would like to experience the comfort of the booths, they’ll happily seat you in an available booth, free of booking charge.
Their ethos is, after all, inclusivity over exclusivity.
Another big plus is the staff. Not only are they friendly and on the ball, but they all seem to genuinely enjoy being part of what actually does feel like The ACS family.
Whether you’ve gone for a stroll through the City and stumbled upon ACS for lunch, whether you’ve booked a special event, or you’re there for after-work cocktails (some fine mixology, I might add) or jazz night, The Athletic Club & Social delivers on so many fronts, and while this club requires no membership, you’ll want to become a regular.
To see more of The Athletic & Social check out our recent GLAMSLAM fashion editorial shot there!