Joseph Fernandes, a relative of the makers of one of TT's finest rums, Fernandes Black Label Rum, and his Surinamese-born wife Cynthia Bacchus-Fernandes, a former diplomat, threw open the doors of their fairly new establishment Cazabon Wine & Cocktail Bar recently, and so far they've said the response and feedback have been tremendous.
Asked the reason behind the name, Fernandes said: “Cazabon, is a rich, strong, Trinidad name and can mean 'Good House'. Of course, most notably the name recalls the famous and talented
19th-century Trinidad painter who befriended governor and commoner alike. Our bar merges some seriousness with an entertaining relaxed touch, and a refreshingly new place to hang out.”
Lots of pictures by photographer Stephen de la Costa, as well as paintings that capture TT and the Caribbean in the 1880s from London, and a panoramic mural from Paris all adorn the walls of Cazabon, to create that elegant Trini atmosphere just the way artist Cazabon did it in his paintings.
Bacchus-Fernandes said: “They all capture what Cazabon means to us.”
On his decision to open the establishment, Fernandes said: “In the first world, wine has become the drink of choice. Even if you look at the beer-drinking nations of northern Europe – Germany, Holland and the UK
– by 2022/3 they will be drinking more wine than beer. Spirits-drinking is on a slide; vodka-drinking is in free fall; gin-drinking is on the increase to a certain extent, because it is an interesting spirit; rum-drinking is exciting because it is so variable and mixable – so wine is the thing to drink, in moderation, like so many other things. It is beneficial to you.”
However, he lamented that wine-drinking is not the culture in TT, and the way it is taxed makes it more and more difficult for people to get involved in it. But then Fernandes said excitedly that about a year ago: "We wanted to do something fun and elegant, something for the discerning individuals who like the idea of an informal, fun place where wine-drinking isn’t put on a pedestal necessarily, but it’s approachable. The ambiance and decor of One Woodbrook Place are appealing, generous, easy, welcoming.”
They next invested in wine-tasting machines from Europe and paired the wines contained in them with a menu to go with these wines. Staff has also been furnished with the necessary knowledge to help guide diners through the unfamiliar and complex world of wines.
Fernandes explained how the tasting machines work. Customers can buy cards for the machine at the bar, “and the good thing is that there is no service charge. It’s a fun way to learn about wines.
“The wine-tasting machine or ‘buy the glass,’ as it is known, put under temperature control, contains 32 bottles of wine, 16 in each cabinet, and we can store white, rose, reds, port, Madeira, dessert wines and a full selection from all over the world – Chile, Argentina, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Spain
– and we change them regularly.
"For each bottle you have three different pour measures on it – a 25ml, 50ml and 100ml pour – so if it’s a wine you don’t know and you want to explore, you take your glass and can take a 25ml splash into your glass, and if you like it you can take a 50ml top-up, or go on to another wine. There are also some wonderful old and rare wines and some wonderful everyday drinking wines. Also, if you are here for a little meal or a little apéritif, you can take a white wine to whet the appetite, and as the main course comes you can do it yourself and take a red.”
There is also an in-bar wine cellar that houses a selection of 80 to 90 different red wines, as well as a fridge that contains a range of 15-18 different sparkling wines and champagnes, and a the third fridge with white wines.
Cazabon also has a full cocktail bar serving professional cocktails, both spirit-based and virgin (alcohol-free).
“The resident mixologist Jack Scott, who is from the UK, was trained in London and has a great pedigree in the world of cocktails, and he is training the local team. He can also create things on the spot. He makes unusual things as well, like fermenting juices and putting certain elements in it,” said Fernandes, who added that they plan to source rums from all over the Caribbean, to suit the different palates of their customers and are also looking to get unusual whiskies from Ireland and Japan.
With respect to the cutters that come from the kitchen, Fernandes said: “We brought down chef Pedro Cabral from Portugal to train locals in doing Mediterranean food to pair with the wines.
Some of these dishes include traditional Mediterranean charcuterie, classic Mediterranean salad, baked Camembert, couscous Moroccan style with grilled vegetables, Cypriot port stew, octopus in herbs and vinaigrette, mussels and chourico au gratin, as well as sauteed shrimps, Portuguese style steak, grilled salmon filet with lemon sauce, bacalhau (oven baked layers of cod fish, potatoes and cream), various meat and vegetable kebabs and Spanish tortilla.
"We are looking to get another chef from Spain to add Spanish dishes to the repertoire and develop it. General manager Rui Pires runs a tight ship putting it all together and keeping it in the right direction.”
Fernandez said: “We’re striving to do everything the best we can and we’re serious at becoming the bar destination in Port of Spain. It will be an intimate, fashionable, sophisticated setting serving pioneering cocktails, a broad range of fine wines, many by the glass, and a comprehensive collection of Caribbean rums. A new modern take on the rum-shop vibe into the tropical capital of Trinidad.”