House and Leisure gets to know the people behind Joburg's wonderful new Publik wine bar.

Publik Wine Makes a Splash in Joburg

Sarah de Pina

Publik, Wine, Joburg, Bolton

Publik is a bit of an institution in Cape Town, known for its unique selection of boutique wines that are difficult to get anywhere else. So it's no wonder that Joburgers are clinking their glasses furiously at the arrival of the new Publik Wine Bar in the Bolton Road Collection of spaces in Rosebank. Their new little space, right next door to the award-winning Coalition pizzeria, comes packed with charm – courtesy of wonderful terrazzo surfaces, exquisite glassware and a cedar-wood bar that perfumes the air with its wonderfully woody aroma.

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The carefully curated menu at Publik makes ingredients the star of the show. From delicious charcuterie boards overflowing with wonderful ham, salami and caperberries to soft burrata complemented by the soft crunch of local flaked salt, and wonderfully simple sardines, it's all about top-quality produce. This is the sort of place where you take a break with friends to appreciate the in-between moments. 

House and Leisure caught up with Publik's David Cope to understand more about their offering, and, for the newbies, tips on making the most of your first visit. 

Publik, Wine, Bar, Joburg

HL Chats to David Cope of Publik

The menu at Publik is small – how did you go about curating it?

Our menu was developed in the Cape Town bar, the dishes simply reflecting the best quality produce we can get here. We don't have much kitchen space, so Publik is oriented around sharing great ingredients with the customer with minimal preparation. When burrata is that good all it needs is a small splash of olive oil. The whipped ricotta with thyme is something I discovered years ago at an Italian restaurant in New York City. It'll always be a small menu, but we'll add more dishes as we evolve into the space.

Publik, Wine, Joburg, Charcuterie

Publik, Wine, Bar, Joburg

What is the Wine Renegades club, and why did you start it?

Wine Renegades is our monthly wine subscription service, and it allows us to share new releases with wine enthusiasts. Each month we put together six bottles that are new and exciting and send them to subscribers around the country, giving them the first chance to try these wines. If anyone is interested in discovering new artisan producers, varieties or limited releases, for R990 per month this is definitely the easiest way.

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There are such unusual and interesting wines on the menu. What would you say first-time visitors absolutely have to try? 

We offer a tasting flight of five wines, which is the perfect way for guests to sample new wines and understand what we offer. Jaco Smit (who runs the bar) will take you through a variety of wines that explore different styles and tell you about them each, a great entry to the Publik wine experience. You'll likely end up trying a skin-contact white or something like a Grenache Gris, wines that defy the usual categories!

Publik, Wine, Joburg, Bar

Publik is beloved in Cape Town, but did you have to reimagine your offering for a Joburg audience? 

We didn't have to since I think the Joburg audience is interested in and eager to engage with the alternative wines we offer, they just haven't had as much opportunity to try these wines as people in the Cape do. We hosted a Publik Wine Fair at Turbine Hall in October last year and were blown away by the enthusiasm of the over 400 enthusiastic wine-loving guests. It was in a sense almost a litmus test for deciding to open the bar.  

What are your three all-time favourite wine experiences? 

Tasting wine from the large barrels at Tenuta delle Terre Nere winery on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. Cracking open a bottle of the iconic South African wine GS Cabernet Sauvignon 1966 in the original Publik wine bar back in 2014. And squirrelling away endless cases of High Constantia Clos Andre MCC 2009 (with the help of my business partner and original wine smous Dave Nel) over the course of a year, all of which were consumed in one night at my wedding in 2016.

Publik, Wine, Bar, Joburg

Which local foodie do you think is doing it right? 

Liam Tomlin. Chef, entrepreneur and (he'd hate this) but he's also an influencer. He sets standards that are high, but meets them himself and fairly demands the same of his team. The results are there for all to see.

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Lastly, cure for the less seasoned among us, what’s the ultimate hangover? 

A cold shower, a hot breakfast and then a spicy-as-hell Bloody Mary with lots of lemon juice.

Head to Publik's website for more details about the new Joburg space, and follow them on Instagram to keep up with their other Wine Renegade events. 

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