In December 2012 a unique new restaurant opened in Cape Town. Keenwa celebrates all things Peruvian with a menu that highlights some of the country’s most famous dishes like Salchipapas, Empanadas, tequeños and Ceviche, prepared with love by Chef Fabricio Durand from Lima.
Owner German de la Melena was also born in Lima and travelled the world as a model before deciding to settle in Cape Town.
Now German has gone one step further by opening the country’s first and only Pisco Bar above the restaurant. Pisco is the national liquor of Peru, made from grapes and is particularly popular when combined into a sour cocktail.
We chatted to German about bringing a taste of Peru to Cape Town.
X: Can you explain the concept behind a “Pisco Bar”?
G: Pisco is a Peruvian liquor and it is very well known to every tourist that goes to Peru and it is at every party in Peru as well as in every bar and restaurant there. When I opened the restaurant (Keenwa) the venue was perfect for a bar as well so I thought, why not make it as unique as the restaurant and serve Pisco? P.I.S.C.O. Bar comes from a trip we did with 20 friends to Peru to do the Amazon Jungle and the Inca Trail. The guides started calling us the Pisco group because that was what we always drank and we had a joke about the D.I.S.C.O. song from the late 70′s or early 80′s.
X: What makes P.I.S.C.O. Bar unique?
G: The fact that we are the only ones in the whole country that serve Pisco and not only the popular Pisco sour but also a couple more cocktails made with Pisco. Our tapas Peruvian style and also the decoration and venue are very different.
X: Can you tell us a bit about some of the beverages you have on offer?
G: We import the Pisco from Peru and we serve Pisco sour – lime juice, sugar, Pisco and a little bit of egg white. We also make these with passion fruit, chilli, raspberry and chichi – the last is a drink from Peru made of purple corn. A different cocktail that we also make is Chilcano, the trendiest drink in Peru nowadays, with Ginger ale and Pisco and a dash of lime juice. I just go with whatever is trendy at the bars in Lima and Peru in general.
X: How has the local community reacted to the bar?
G: The bar is still new and not well known yet but the people that come around love it! They love the decor, they love the vibe and especially everybody loves the Pisco sours!
X: What factors do/did you consider regarding your location?
G: Mostly I looked for the location thinking about the restaurant, which I opened before the bar. I wanted something by the beach at first because of our famous ceviche but then when I saw this venue I fell in love with it and immediately wanted it. It was also great for the bar upstairs and the restaurant on the ground floor so that’s what we did!
X: What are some of the most popular beverages?
G: Pisco Sour and Chilcanos are very well accepted but also the wine and beers are a must the Peruvian Beer Cuzqueña sells like hot bread!
X: Are there any plans for more shops/branches in SA?
G: I would love to expand. My idea is to open one in Johannesburg, being a restaurant and a bar and then see from there… maybe Durban or even abroad somewhere where they don’t have Peruvian food nor Pisco?
X: What kind of experience do you hope to give your customers?
G: Definitely a unique experience – with our tapas of Peruvian food and the Pisco. What I want is for people to be able to come to our bar and relax while listening to nice music and enjoy nice food great vibe and good drinks. Hopefully people will be interested in playing cachito (lie dice) – very typical in Peru.
X: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced/ are facing as a business?
G: I think the challenges would be the same for everyone – trying to get the costumers through the doors, to fill the place. I think Cape Town is very seasonal and people like to always go to the places they are used to. It is difficult to get them out of their routine and to try something new. I think that labour laws in SA are very different from other countries and that makes it very complicated to hire people. Also the very big difference in the culture and traditions and ways of doing things makes it a bit difficult to communicate and to work.
X: What do you enjoy most about P.I.S.C.O. Bar?
G: I love the fact that is a way to promote Peru in the sense that people come to the bar and experience a bit of our food and our drink and usually the conversation at some point moves toward Peru, which is a great way to show off the country somehow. Also it makes me happy when people are enjoying themselves!