/ 18 November 2023

Acid’s trip is going to good-tasting places

Food Friday Main2
Cheers!: Sommelier Jemma Styer (right), who started Acid with chef Jess Doveton. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy

When you have young children and a bond, dinner dates must tick a checklist of pragmatic variables. Sad but true. You need to klap your tastebuds and your eyes and your nose with as much grown-up beauty as possible, in one life-affirming location, at a cost that doesn’t damage your future. 

Acid, the year-old wine bar in Parktown North, meets all those criteria. It’s a space made for the balmy peak of a Joburg summer, with tables lining a veranda overlooking the street (a rarity for this part of town). 

And the wine list is similarly fresh. Sommelier Jemma Styer, who started Acid with chef Jess Doveton, says one of the motives for the venture was to present adventurous new wines, especially those created by black and female winemakers, and to give younger newcomers an affordable and non-intimidating entry into the delights of SA’s indie wine scene. 

“We wanted to fuck shit up. To give people a new experience. The quality of wines from these smaller producers is insane,” says Styer. “I love to see people’s faces light up when they have their first taste.”

We had the excellent [Not] From Here, a Colombar by Processus, a bold new label owned by the wine-maker Megan van der Merwe and curator Beata America. The nose is beguiling, with a herb-laden sea breeze drifting across it. 

Doveton’s eclectic small plates matched the verve of Styer’s wine. We savoured a damn fine beef tartare (see accompanying article on raw beef). But the narrow winner was the mapo mushrooms with Szechuan, soymilk custard and wonton crisps — a lavish mashup of umami and restrained sweetness. 

Also on point was the light and snappy tempura aubergine, with black-pepper caramel and crème fraiche. The crispy pork and chive gyozas laced with black vinegar and ginger supplied the comfort.

And in a town where desserts tend to be lazy, even at fancy places, the dark chocolate and hazelnut tart was a workaholic — firmly biscuity inside, with a sugary, delicately crystallised surface. It alone was worth the outing. 

Doveton and Styer recently celebrated Acid’s first anniversary. They have managed a tricky triangulation between quality, affordability and originality. Now they must update their menu but the economic leeway to push the boat out is limited. 

“We notice that foreign customers have no issue with ordering a lot of plates and wines but our local customers often can’t afford to.” 

Times are tough but their timing is good.