By Arthur Vandelay
This changes everything.
Well, corruption runs rampant and socio-economic inequality is still a concern, as is a nuclear ready North Korea, so let me tone down the rhetoric a bit. This changes everything concerning bar culture in Uganda. That’s better.
The Camel Club, on Plot 18, Kyadondo road in Nakasero, has brought something new to Kampala. Let me explain, and start with what should bring you here and keep you coming back: The bar.
If you love bars, (and why shouldn’t you, really) you’ll find at Camel Club that very careful attention has been paid to all the aspects that make you end up a regular customer. Primarily, the drinks: Order a Sazerac and watch your hawaiian shirted barman meticulously coat your low ball glass with absinthe. Sip a gin fizz as Hemingway had them. If you’re smart, you’ll try a Camel Club original, the Gin Gin, created by Erik Bruun, co-owner, designer and builder. The Gin Gin, a refreshing combination of gin, homemade ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice and mint is a revelation. After your first, have another. I did. If you see a tiki mug, assume the lucky patron holding it is enjoying a Zombie, one of the classic drinks of Tiki bar culture. Made of three types of rum and a lot of fresh fruit juice, the Zombie, aptly named because it makes you one if you have a few, will introduce you to what the players in Hollywood in the twenties were drinking. Order a double Zombie and leave your keys with the barman. Safety first, everybody.
As with all bars, of secondary, but only slightly so, importance to the drinks is the ambience. The feel. What really makes you comfortable sharing drinks with your friends after work or late on a saturday night. Stylistically, there’s a classic, vintage feel to Camel Club. Twenties speakeasy, fifties “Elvis style” hawaiian, a bit of japanese and a nod to Kampala architecture from the sixties. The massively long hardwood bar topped in opaque black is the focal point. It’s a bar, it should be so. Everything is custom built in Camel Club, I’m told. From the low hanging “piano lamps” above the tables to the bar stools of brushed metal and hardwood to the swinging doors leading to the back bar. Wood is everywhere. Local eucalyptus lines the floors and ceiling, beautiful and comfortable handmade chairs and tables line the inner perimeter of the building, and outside, if you’d like a little privacy, are three uniquely designed circular wooden islands that can comfortably seat four or fifteen, depending on your party. (I’d recommend the elevated one nearest the bar. There’s an Indiana Jones style hanging bridge for easy access to more cocktails.) Music is important in a bar. It can ruin or elevate an experience. Here, bossanova, classic R&B, country and some eclectic modern tunes float to my ears. It’s a mix as varied, and as complete, as the design. Somehow it works. The volume low enough to chat with your friends around a table but yet still adding to the experience. It’s not a dance club, but stay long enough on friday for the volume to be turned up and you may, just possibly, see some folks dancing. They probably ordered the Zombie.
The third ingredient to a great bar is the people. Employees and patrons. A good barman knows when to engage his customers at the bar and when to stand aside and simply provide drinks. Have a seat at the left of the bar and order a dirty martini from Andrea. From Italy, and cousin to co-owners Danilo and Tash DiCangio, he really is what you look for in a bartender – excellence in mixing cocktails, even though fairly new to the craft, and a disposition that really makes you wonder if he gets upset at anything at any time. Tash, with experience working at and owning a bar in London, also works behind the bar, an indication of their level of dedication to success. If you’re away from the bar in the beautiful gardens, you’ll be more than adequately taken care of by professional, courteous and always smiling wait staff.
Camel Club appears to appeal to many types. In Nakasero, it seems the ideal place to wait out the interminable evening traffic jam, as evidenced by the smartly dressed ugandan men drinking Heineken at the bar and discussing whatever it is businessmen talk about. A few backpacks under tables, a couple on what seemed their weekly “date night” break from the kids and a group of young ladies hotly debating “fringe vs no-fringe.” I think it’s something about hairstyles. I also think they were drinking Zombies…
**Camel Club is open daily from 12:00 pm serving a variety of healthy and delectable sandwiches, salads and meat and cheese platters. Also beers, wine and cocktails. Really good cocktails. With a smile. **
For more information , please contact:
Camel Club, 18 Kyadondo Road, Nakasero,Kampala
Mobile: +256 792111200