In an age where you can experience everything about a bar or restaurant online – bar tasting the food and drinks themselves – it’s refreshing that one of Cape Town’s hottest spots has virtually no online presence.
The Art of Duplicity’s website landing page is a simple black & white, text-only affair, and offers a simple booking link. There’s no address, no contact number, no menu, no photographs and no marketing schpiel. And that’s exactly what makes it so popular.
Book a slot via the site and you’ll receive a confirmation text to your phone that hints at the location and provides a password. If you can’t decipher the location from the clue, you’ll receive a slightly less cryptic message on the day of your booking.
Arrive at what you think the location is and find the vaguely-ominous gentleman with the clipboard, next to a nondescript door off an ordinary street. Once he’s checked your name – it’s a reservation-only spot – he’ll lead you down a dark alleyway, and up to an imposing door. A slot in the door slides open and you’re asked for your password. Remember it, and you’ll be ushered into a dimly-lit prohibition-era cocktail den. Burlap sacks line the wall, velvet couches and chairs are well-spaced around the small venue and a tiny stage sits opposite an ornate wooden bar which looks more like an 18th century apothecary workstation than a place to prop up, with a drink.
The small service team are committed to the theme – and visitors are encouraged to dress up in 1920’s gear as well. This isn’t a modern interpretation of a speakeasy – it’s as close as you’ll get to the real thing without actual ‘Bugsy Malone’ gangsters.
The menu, compiled by a man often referred to as a’ Mixology god’ – Brent Perremore – isn’t a standard cocktail bar list, by any stretch. The team behind the ornate bar make full use of the extensive collection of jars, potions and spritzes to put together drinks containing ingredients you’ve probably never heard of or tasted. There’s a theatre to the construction of the drinks, which is a wonderful departure. Cocktail shakers fly, strainers fine drinks and garnishes are placed with tweezers – every drink is a work of art, with complex, layered flavour profiles. The descriptions on the copper plate – a literal sheet of metal – menu are as ephemeral as you’d expect, and your faith in submitting to the mixologists’ genius will be rewarded with flavours you won’t experience anywhere else.
If you’re after food, there are a limited number of equally ornate desserts on offer, which are definitely worth a look. It’s odd to not give too much away in a review of sorts – but The Art of Duplicity is worth experiencing in its full glory, as the owners intended: without too much forewarning, for a properly fantastic night out.
Book a table for Wednesdays, when a Jazz band takes to the stage in the evening. Some big names have graced the tiny stage – but you won’t know who’s on the lineup until they step up to the mic. You won’t be disappointed, though.
Cape Town CBD.