A few years back, a friend and myself embarked on a walk through Woodstock to discover its more reclusive architectural secrets. We’d eventually made our way down to lower Woodstock down into Essex Street and discovered the outside of a small establishment called The Torchbearer. We entered into what turned out to be a very busy Sunday lunch. My friend, never one to avoid a decent pub lunch, insisted wisely that we both order the eisbein and beer, and we eventually rolled out of the pub continuing our journey, though this time a little slower.
The Torchbearer still appears to be one of Woodstock’s better kept secrets. Run by Sammy and Alf Robinson, they are happy to talk about the history of the place. It is probably the oldest pub still open in the area – it has been open 28 years now, though before this it was called ‘The Woodstock’ (not to be confused with the pub with the same name where legend says the name of the Woodstock suburb was bequeated) and before then, the incongruous ‘The World of Wines’.
This sturdy Victorian building was originally two buildings and was probably built around the 1890s. It’s thick walls and fireplace with authentic extras give it a comfortable warm old-English feel. Alf is busy renovating the smalle rbar at the back where he plans to install a pool table. And the massive birdcage is just another feature of this delightfully quirky place.
The name ‘The Torchbearer’ comes from the father of the building’s owner who carried the Olympic torch for the 1948 London Olympics. The history doesn’t stop here. When seated, the place mats have been created from turn-of-the-century newspapers allowing you to study the end of the Great War while munching away at your prego roll. (Warning. This is not a place for vegetarians). Apparently Trevor Quirk and Robin Jackman are lunch regulars and a few years back, it was used as a location for “The World Unseen”, a film centered on two women who engage in a dangerous relationship during South Africa’s apartheid era.
The menu is ridiculously affordable. Steak egg and chips are R50, Crumbed Pork Chops are R40 and many more traditional pub lunches some with a Portuguese slant; the chicken chinchada is very popular too. And there is always some special in addition to the regular menu (yesterday it was meatballs and cabbage)
And you’ll be pleased to hear they will be showing all the Rugby World Cup games.
9 Essex Str.
Tel: 021 447 2639
Monday to Saturdays Kitchen is open from 8am-9pm.
Sundays Bar opens at 10am – kitchen is open between 12-4pm