In the good old days, ‘The Vic’ was the bar to hang out at during the National Arts Festival, and in recent years it’s all been about ‘The Rat’. But The Vic is back, if in a more staid sort of way. Here are five pub venues worth bending your elbow in…
Rat and Parrot Bar & Grill
Large, vibey pub with tables inside and in the bear courtyard for good food and much beer and wine. A Grahamstown institution, busy, noisy and not for those wanting a quiet, romantic evening with harpsichord and violin. Locals love the food here despite the rowdy pub vibe
The Long Table
The Long Table is the festival’s annual pop-up venue, in a church hall where there are in fact three or four very long tables lined with chairs. Each seat is turned many times a night as punters come in for a good and well-priced meal from the buffet and order a drink from the temporary bar on the stage. You’ll bump into almost every theatre director or actor in town eventually if you hang out here
The Vic Bar
The former student hangout, once the scene of many a hangover-in-the-making, has returned in a calmer, quieter guise. For many years it was Henry Ate, a restaurant, and today the Victoria Mews hotel opens The Vic when town gets busy. During the festival The Vic will host a variety of musical acts until roughly 1am. Older festinos and former Rhodes students may want to check it out for a bit of (quieter) nostalgia.
Grahamstown sorts hang out here and during the festival they mingle with the arty crowd of thespians, artists and dancers who come in to add a lot of colour to this multi-roomed venue. It’s as clubby as the name suggests but you can have a surprisingly pocket-friendly plate of pub grub in the dining room, pull up a stool in the rowdy bar or sit in the courtyard to the rear if the cold isn’t too bitter. It’s very central and a nearby alternative to the Long Table if that’s become too busy for your mood.
Rustic pub and pizza venue with massive wine barrels for tables and a student vibe. The Lowlander has regular music nights featuring cool bands and is famed locally for its student nights (Monday Madness, Thirsty Thursday). ‘Awesome’ drinks specials. The Highlander (upstairs) is somewhat more prim and proper.
Also read: 5 great places to eat at the Grahamstown Festival
- Tony Jackman