A crucial element for the survival and mental well-being of the modern, Southern African saxophonist – is a decent British-style pub. I got together with some saxophone-playing friends, who are known to be men of the world and experts on lager, to bring you the top 10 British-style pubs in Cape Town.
To us, rugby on the telly, draught beer & live jazz are the most important criteria, however we also rate good service, a descent pub menu and a nice view/location. I was joined on this quest by Marc de Kock (In With a Shout), Justin Bellairs (Kesivan & The Lights), Evan Froud (The Load Shedders), Martin Fennell (The Joe Martin Band), Simon “Fireman” Bates (The Rudimentals) and one (very tall) club bouncer, Mr. Chris Buana, as one can never foresee the dangerous perils of a mission of this nature. All of these gentlemen are highly skilled in the sampling of the golden throat-nectar around the country and the world, so I have no doubt that, after hours of deliberation, we have brought you the best of the best.
We began our mission at 11am on a Monday morning at Barristers Pub & Grill in Newlands and worked our way behind The Lentil Curtain towards the deep South, through Kalk Bay and Noordhoek, hugging the coast around to Hout Bay and back over The Sushi Curtain, on to the City Bowl, testing a pint at each venue (and later a few spirits just to make sure everything was above board in those departments) before winding our way back to Barristers. It was a really, really, tough day, but we did it selflessly so that we could bring you the best local info, first hand. These are our Top 10 British-Style Pubs in Cape Town (According to Sax Players!):
Barristers has a wide selection of about 26 beers on tap, a great wine selection and a R50 lunch special that runs every day until 18:00. Their steaks are awesome, they show rugby (and other sports) on the telly, host live jazz duos every Sunday night, jazz trios once a month on Tuesdays, have good service, friendly staff, an outdoor deck section, indoor pub section, restaurant area, a tent-covered smoking section and it’s only a few minutes drive away from Newlands Rugby and Cricket stadiums. You can’t go wrong at Barrister’s.
Percy’s could be the oldest pub in South Africa, as it started serving travellers arriving in Cape Town from 1808. It’s definitely one of our favourites and it’s also well known as a brass-musician’s hang because you can often find our “brothers of brass” sinking a few pints after their commitments at the Artscape Theatre! The beer tastes good and it’s right next door to Straight, No Chaser, one of Cape Town’s 6-nights a week jazz venues. The owner is always on site, they have great biltong and show sport on the telly. There is a wood-fired pizza oven, the pub chow is generally good and it’s the perfect place to have a quick pint before you take in a jazz gig at Straight, No Chaser. You can sit out front and catch a glimpse of Table Mountain, hunker down inside the bar or sit in the open-air (but covered) smoking section at the back.
The Fireman’s Arms is another one of the oldest pubs in Cape Town (1864) and it was really apt that we hooked up with our friend from the Rudimentals, Mr. Simon “Fireman” Bates at this venue. Nice, cosy venue, good service, sport on the telly, right in the centre of Cape Town City. One down side is that it was probably the most expensive place for a pint that we visited.
Although The Woodcutter’s Arms is a little bit out of the way for those who live in the City Bowl, Northern or Southern Suburbs, it is well worth a visit. The first person we bumped into as we arrived is and old friend and colleague of mine from the Johnny Clegg Band, Mr. Barry van Zyl who lives in the area, so clearly it’s the place for muso’s to hang out! The decor is awesome, they have a nice menu, fresh pints, sport on the telly and Hout Bay is a beautiful location.
Rascals is a classic British-style pub with football/rugby jerseys and flags hung on the ceiling and the walls, beer on tap, a wood-fired pizza oven, is centrally located and provides good service – they even opened the bar early for us on a Monday morning this day! We have all enjoyed several golden throat-massages at this venue which is also well known as being the home of Manchester United Soccer supporters in Cape Town. I also enjoy a pub where the owner is also always on site because the service is good and more personable.
The Brass Bell has to have the best views out of all the pubs we visited. It is literally situated right on the sea, so you can watch the surf, the surfers and even do some whale watching whilst perched on your bar stool in Spring. Always great fish ‘n chips (and good sushi), all the best pints on tap and an awesome maritime-feel about the place. We love that they host live music in the summer and if you have enough beer, then I’d recommend diving out of the restaurant into one of the tidal pools… Prepare yourself, though – it’s freezing! If you’re a visitor to Cape Town, you can jump on the train anywhere heading South and jump out right at Kalk Bay Station, which is where the Brass Bell is situated. We have done one or two train-booze-cruises to this venue in summer and it’s always a blast.
Wedged between SAB Breweries and Newlands Cricket Ground, only a minute or two away from Newlands Rugby Ground, Springbok Pub is in the spiritual heartland of the Stormers, Western Province & Cape Cobra’s Cricket Supporter’s area, Newlands. This iconic bar is set in an old train carriage, with a large indoor dance floor area and large outdoor braai and pub areas which are used in summer and before and after big matches at Newlands. There is a very well-priced happy hour (only R24 a Windhoek Draught until 18:30 daily), pizzas on sale, wood-fires burning in winter and they support live music, albeit not jazz. A great place to gather for a few after work libations and especially before and after matches on game days.
Strictly speaking, Vasco’s isn’t a British-style pub, because it’s a Portuguese vibe, known by locals affectionately as The Portuguse Embassy. However, it had to go on our top 10 list because it’s basically like a British-style pub, just with a Portuguese theme. It has wonderful tasting beer on tap, great peri-peri chicken, a big bar, big screen tellies for sport and a cool vibe. It’s really close to the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town Stadium and the City Bowl which is also convenient.
We really like the location and the vibe of Toad in the Village. The beer on tap tastes better here than at the Toad & Josephine in Newlands for some reason (this has been tested a few times before this day!). A slight draw back is that they have to fetch the Windhoek draughts from upstairs which slows the service a bit. It’s a great place for a hang in a beautiful setting and definitely well worth a visit.
Toad in the Road has a lekker beer garden, a nice bar and good service. It’s definitely worth a stop if you get thirsty en route to the deep South.
Worth a mention, although not in “the saxophonist’s” top 10 due to various reasons:
Forester’s Arms, Newlands
The Toad & Josephine, Newlands
Mitchell’s Brewery, V&A Waterfront
Ferryman’s, V&A Waterfront
Quay 4, V&A Waterfront
O’ Driscolls Irish Pub
Peddlars & Co., Constantia
Kimberely Hotel & Backpackers, Gardens
So there you have it! We hope to have assisted you in ensuring that you enjoy a pleasant libation the next time you decide to have an ale in and around the Mother City!