Either you believe the marketing or you don't. Traditionally, being anti-establishment means acknowledging the norms of society around you and, seeing the exclusion they create, telling the world where to stick it while you live life the hard way. In a way though, that makes being anti-establishment sort of exclusionary, and that's a shame.
After all, aren't society's rebels really just trying to say that we're all worthy of the same experiences?
Considering that Adam Levy and his company, Play Braamfontein, are in essence, the proprietors of the current norms in Braamfontein's Juta/De Korte block, you'd expect the man to take some time to pat himself on the back for a job well done and leave things as they are. There's no rest for the wicked awesome, however, and so he's trying something new. Together with business partners, Adam has opened Anti Est., a bar that is also a succinct act of artistic self-reflection.
The Establishment to which the bar's name refers was no doubt at the forefront of Adam's experiences when he set out to challenge the way people did business in Joburg by buying up properties in Braamfontein. Now he's come full circle and the bar reflects that same discomfort with the status quo and need to take back what mass culture has abandoned.
Let's start with the menu, which is a work of art, designed so that items are written upside down and words the wrong way around, forcing you to constantly turn it around in your hands, no doubt re-evaluating your principles as you do.
Similarly, the alcohol forces you to abandon your traditions at the bar. Everything in Anti Est. is locally produced by craft brewers and priced accordingly. Those involved have made a strong attempt to experiment with booze in the ways that large breweries like SAB Miller must have done decades ago. You've tried craft beer but what about citrus-infused whiskey or the kind of tequila that immediately makes you reconsider your choices after a single shot? It's the inconsistency of taste and experience that gives most of the drinks their edge.
The décor echoes the raw "New York" aesthetic that I think many of us feel Joburg could have more of if we poured more resources into the city. Beneath its bold masthead declaring this is a home for Braamfontein's culturally disenfranchised, Anti Est. has created a rather comforting copy of what it must be like to party with The Establishment, alongside rich young family men with fast cars and their own buildings.
I remember a time when Kitcheners was the only bar on this block and, it being the second oldest drinking hole in the city, being something of an establishment. Now it's mirrored by this new space, which is bucking the trends of the area that have occasionally made it the butt of jokes about homogenous "hipsters" or "yuppies". Anti Est. comments on the trendiness of the neighbourhood outside its doors even while it embraces its own trendiness, already becoming a popular hotspot for those looking to do something outside the norms of Great Dane, Kitcheners and the places that have been there for years.
It's nice to see someone going to such great lengths to make themselves heard above the din of the masses. It's nice to walk into a bar where the message is clear: the anti-establishment isn't just for people who are anti-establishment anymore. Anyone and everyone can be a part of Anti Est.
Where? De Beer Street, Braamfontein, Johannesbur
Tel: 074 187 2421
by Nas Who