Raise your glass to the lesser-known watering holes of Joburg

Posted by Anita Froneman on 21 January 2022

Ever in search of exciting spots around Joburg, Ryan Enslin compiles an A-List of watering holes to keep you busy for the next few Friday afternoon catch-up sessions.

Let me help you maintain a healthy work-life balance, as I seek out the uber-cool, lesser-known watering holes of Joburg. The names of these establishments aren’t splashed across billboards, and that’s the way I like it. Each of them has a unique atmosphere and some of the best beer around.

The Radium Beer Hall

Proudly known as Joburg’s oldest surviving bar and located along Louis Botha Avenue in Orange Grove, The Radium is a veritable institution to some who call the mining town home. And to many from a foreign land too, such is her reputation.

Today’s Radium Beer Hall started life as the Radium Tea Room in 1929, selling liquor to people of colour in defiance of the racist laws of the time. The Radium formally acquired a liquor license in 1942, becoming The Radium Beer Hall. Salvaging an old teak bar from the Ferreirasdorp Hotel, earmarked for demolition during World War 2 to make way for the current-day Magistrates Courts, the bar counter has stories of her own. Like that of activist Pick Handle Mary, who used it as her tomato box from which to inspire striking miners in 1922. Quite a large tomato box if you ask me.

The third owner of The Radium, Manny Cabeleira, took possession in 1986. Sadly Manny passed away in 2021, but today The Radium ethos continues to flow as managed by his widow, Lina Cabeleira. “This was always Manny’s dream” shared Lina with me, on a wet Joburg afternoon. Music has always been a cornerstone of The Radium experience, with acts lined up once again as restrictions ease up. I look forward to the return of the weekly jazz nights.

Sitting at Pick Handle Mary’s runway, beer to hand, I strike up a conversation with barkeep Sonnyboy Dube. Having worked at The Radium for 12 years, he is proud of the heritage of the place. He shares how he has witnessed the evolution of countless young men who once came in with their fathers and have gone on to become fathers themselves. Incidentally, the bar and its counter was also used in the legendary Savanna adverts featuring Barry Hilton – remember ‘your monkey stole my Savanna’?

Be sure to take some time when at The Radium to read the many newspaper headline posters collected over the years, most of which are found behind the stage. In their time-honoured satirical fashion, they should take you back in time and bring a smile to your face.

Find The Radium Beer Hall at 282 Louis Botha Avenue, Orange Grove, or call them on (011) 728 3866.

The View

Built as a family home in 1897 by Sir Thomas Cullinan, and one of the oldest remaining houses in Joburg, The View in Parktown is today the headquarters of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment. Established in 1902, initial membership consisted of volunteers from Scottish units that had fought in the Second Anglo-Boer war. The newly-formed regiment would see action in all 20th Century conflicts in which the South African Army fought, including World War 1, World War 2 and the South African Border War.

The View was beautifully restored in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and today makes for a trip back in time as you peruse the many items on display throughout her rooms. A museum showcasing a wide variety of artefacts is housed on the upper floor.

The well-stocked bar serves a limited pub-lunch style menu, just ask barkeep Blessing Ngwenya for the items available on the day of your visit, there are no formal menus. Blessing has worked at The View for the past thirteen years and shared with me how he bore witness to the renovations in 2010, as the beautiful paint detail which today adorns the walls, was painstakingly recreated by hand.

Be sure to look back as you mount the stairs to the upper floor and take in the spectacular Delville Wood Cross. Made from a tree in the French forest, it pays tribute to fallen South African soldiers in the World War 1 Battle of Delville Wood. Also, located within the museum is a cloak that once belonged to Emperor Haile Selassie which was donated to the Transvaal Scottish Regiment upon the liberation of Abyssinia.

Find The View at 18 Ridge Road, Parktown, or call them on (011) 643 2961.

The Rooftop at Hallmark House

Picture: Hallmark House

Situated in New Doornfontein and adjacent to the Maboneng Precinct, Hallmark House was once a diamond polishing factory, built in the 1970s. In 2017 the building received a make-over led by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye, whose past projects include the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Today Hallmark House offers residential apartments, a boutique hotel and a jazz club.

My main interest in Hallmark House however, was the rooftop bar located on the 15th floor. The Rooftop at Hallmark House offers spectacular 360-degree views, including the very heart of the Joburg CBD, sunsets are her leading attraction. Music from the resident DJ makes taking in the sunset and subsequent city by night a long, relaxing affair, offering an opportunity to reflect on life here on the Rand.

Up on the rooftop I met barkeep Mbongeni Moyo who shared how the views he takes in each day, inspire him towards a new appreciation for the City of Gold. The Rooftop at Hallmark House is definitely one of Joburg’s most Instagramable spots and an ideal catch-up location.

Be sure to head to The Rooftop at Hallmark House if you see one of Joburg’s notorious thunderstorms coming in. You will be afforded front row, A-list, VIP, Golden Circle tickets all rolled into one as you take in Mother Nature’s phenomenal light show.

Find The Rooftop at Hallmark House at 54 Siemert Road, New Doornfontein, or call them on (010) 591 2879.

Cheers To That!

With an esteemed line-up of lesser-known watering holes around Joburg, you have no excuse for sitting at a loose end on weekends in Joburg. Heck, give me a shout, I’ll come join you.

Pictures: Ryan Enslin

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