Oct 19

SA homecomers put the G in G&T in CT

Blogger Ilana Sharlin Stone speaks about why she loves the homecoming story of South Africans Leigh Lisk and Lucy Beard. 

Leigh and Lucy met at university in Grahamstown, South Africa, where they both studied law. After travelling via Land Cruiser through Africa and on to Europe, they arrived on a friend’s doorstep in London, broke and ready to become Londoners. They converted their law degrees and stayed for 16 years.

After the recession in 2013, they took a sabbatical. One rainy camping weekend too many, and they decided they’d had enough of Europe. They came to Cape Town for a visit, and a close friend who’d just moved back after living overseas for some years, told them that coming home had been the best decision of her life. Lucy and Leigh decided it was their time to return, but not to corporate life.

While travelling through the Mediterranean, they’d fallen in love with gin and the whole craft gin scene, which was full-on trending in Spain. They researched the trend and a crazy idea began to take shape; that they could actually make a living as distillers in Cape Town. Sixteen years after they’d left South Africa, they bought a building in Salt River, a gritty industrial neighbourhood next to the CBD, and with fingers crossed, a lot of saved up British pounds, and some professional courses in brewing and distilling, Hope on Hopkins was born.

Lucy, who they agree has the finer palate, is the qualified distiller, while Leigh is chief bottle washer and maintenance guy (which is a big part of the distilling process). They live in chic minimalist modernity on a mezzanine overlooking the distillery floor, with their London-born cat Mimo.

Why do I love their story so much? For one, it reminds me of mine. When I moved to South Africa, it was with my husband, who was returning to the country after 12 years. We came to open up a restaurant, and had many ups, in building our dream together, and some downs, in dealing with local bureaucracy and other issues. I think Leigh and Lucy’s experience has been similar.

There are many South Africans who are returning home from the UK, the US and Australia, after what seems almost like either compulsory international finishing school or a hunt for imagined greener pastures. Whether they left for work opportunities, because of worries about the country’s future or in earlier years, to get some distance from apartheid and compulsory military service – the pull back home is a strong one. It’s this place: with its wide open spaces, physically and metaphorically. It gets in your blood, even if you are not from here.

You see a lot of this in Cape Town…where the lifestyle can be damn near perfect. And it’s not just South Africans who are drawn here….there are a whole lot of creative entrepreneurial types from all over the world who now call this place home.

Source: Finding Umami