I don’t know if it’s the unmarked door, the “please wait a minute” routine upon arrival while an unnamed person peers inside the joint to see if there’s space for you to have a drink, or the moody room you enter once you’re allowed through, but Joburg’s award-winning speakeasy Sin+Tax always makes for a fun night out.
Acclaimed mixologist Julian Short has worked at Sin+Tax since it opened in 2016 and said he’s always seen its potential, which is why together with Evert De Jong, he decided to buy the bar late last year — a risky move considering the pandemic has been a rollercoaster of lockdown levels and alcohol bans.
The pair embarked upon a renovation, adding an open-air courtyard space that greatly increases the venue’s seating capacity and introducing gourmet bar snacks.
De Jong, who worked as a chef before moving onto mixology a few years ago, was the natural choice to head the kitchen. The menu cleverly blends his love of food and cocktails with alcohol and other bar ingredients featured in some offerings.
As an avid flexitarian, De Jong has made sure to cater for meat and veggie lovers.
His most cracking vegan creation so far is the King Oyster Taco. Generously filled with king oyster mushrooms, ancho-chilli sauce, tequila and pineapple salsa and vegan cheese, this softshell taco was bursting with flavour — it’s a dish I’d happily return for. I say this as someone who eats meat regularly but has no objection to going without it if a meatless option is equally, or even more, delicious.
The Rum Tum Taco — undoubtedly yummy, but not as saucy is its vegan counterpart — is filled with pork belly, champagne-pickled apple salsa, rum sauce, mature cheddar and fresh mint.
Patrons can also order lime-spiced, chargrilled corn ribs (whole mealies that have been quartered) and crack chips (their take on slap chips) with a homemade tomato sauce, biltong or deep-fried juniper-crusted green olives.
As intriguing as I found the olives, it was the martini aioli served with them that I particularly loved. It is made with gin, dry vermouth, vegan mayo, lime zest, salt, garlic, red onion and white pepper.
While De Jong is finding his feet in the kitchen, he’s keeping the menu small. He does have plans to expand it and is looking at adding food options that speak to the cocktails crafted behind the bar. When he does, I’ll be first in line to try whatever creative dishes he serves up.
• Visit Sin+Tax at 2 Bolton Road, Rosebank. It’s open from Thursday to Saturday from 3pm to 9pm. Call 010-900-2559 or visit the bar's Facebook page.