Activities / Western Cape

Observatory Cape Town (Obz!)

Updated Monday, 18 April 2022

Those visitors hankering for the more eclectic / hectic night-time buzz, should make their way to Observatory in Cape Town, or ‘Obz’, home to the first Royal Observatory and a dazzling array of bars and clubs and restaurants.

Unlike Long Street, there’s ‘something of the night’ about Obz, its battered elegance cast into permanent shadow, those past pretensions brought to earth with a bang, decrepit balustrades overhanging walls and doorways smothered with graffiti and flyers. If ever a place was screaming out for gentrification …

Observatory in Cape Town

Obz is definitely not for the faint hearted, it’s bold and brash and exciting, a unique cultural melting pot – one of the few de facto ‘grey’ suburbs under the Apartheid regime where all races lived together. Today all the action happens in or around one short strip – the Lower Main Road, where everything is a short walk away, including the main car park on Nuttal road.

Perhaps no other place in Obz, or Cape Town for that matter, exemplifies the hope of a new South Africa chilling out with itself, than Café Ganesh, a converted stables just off the Lower Main Road. Overflowing with ‘urban shabby chic’, Ganesh offers delicious traditional African dishes of Babotie, Umnqusho, and pap ‘n’ Veg, in warm and evocative surroundings, with live Afro-Latin grooves thrown in on Saturday nights. While two doors down, Tagore’s sumptuous bohemian / beatnik atmosphere plays host to live Jazz sessions on Friday nights.

A particular favourite haunt of mine is A Touch of Madness on Nuttal Road, a ‘Victorian Quaffery’ offering a highly distressed colonial vibe – all chipped plaster, candelabra’s and faded pics of Queen Alexandra. An excellent restaurant, smoking lounge, and lively bar with Live! Traditional Irish music on Thursday nights.

For the best Chilli poppers and frozen margarita’s in town go to Pancho’s on Lower main Road, one of Cape Town’s finest Mexican restaurants, but, as with all of Cape Town’s restaurants, book early to avoid disappointment.

Observatory in Cape Town

Though should you ever find yourself with a few minutes to spare, waiting for a table or friends, take a nose about in Obz Books with its eclectic mix of the old and new and downright curious, where, until 10pm, you can take a leisurely flick through provocative titles such as Sihle Khumalo’s ‘Dark Continent My Black Arse’ to the strains of Charlie Mingus.

Next to Pancho’s, you will find the Obz Café Theatre, where you can tuck into a fine meal and catch a great show at the same time. As well as showcasing everything from local bands to musicals and comics, this lively venue regularly features artworks by renowned and undiscovered local artists, all of which can be bought.

There’s so much more that could be said, so many other excellent bars and clubs and restaurants to mention. But suffice it to say that an Obz night is an education in itself, a mysterious exciting journey with something for everyone – ‘lekker’ sounds and lively conversation fitted as standard. Go and explore …

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