A suburb famous for its strong community spirit, easy-going atmosphere, quirky cafés, eclectic clothing stores, and trendy restaurants, Observatory has always been a bit of a paradise for those who like to live off the beaten track. The suburb has a long and pretty fascinating history and most interestingly, during South Africa’s apartheid years it was one of the few areas known as ‘grey’ suburbs, where South Africans from all race groups lived side by side. This celebration of diversity lives on today and has shaped the suburbs identity as a bit of a bohemian diamond in the rough. Of course, long-term residents have been shouting this from the rooftops for years but thanks to recent investment by some of Cape Town’s biggest property developers, young professionals are realising its potential as a hot spot for first-time property buyers. Recently I got the opportunity to join in on a walking tour of Observatory to find out just what all the fuss is about. Here are 5 must-visit spots that will make you fall in love with Observatory.
The walking tour wasn’t my first rodeo in Obs (as it is affectionately known to locals); the suburb was one of my favourite haunts during my student years, and up until my recent visit, I’d almost forgotten just how much I loved hanging out there. These days there are even more reasons to love this quirky suburb. For young investors, it’s the fact that the suburb is super conveniently located (Obs is situated just minutes from UCT’s main campus and medical school as well as within easy reach of the N2, making it ideal for both students and young professionals.) There’s also the draw of the community and the Observatory Improvement District (OBSID) is working tirelessly in the suburb to improve security in the area and preserve and nurture Observatory’s unique charm, and diversity. The suburb has a real village feel to it and most of the businesses are owned and run by Observatory residents committed to preserving that community.
As someone who doesn’t live there, I love Obs for its entertainment factor. The area is a serious foodie hotspot and is chock full of incredible restaurants, charming cafés, and trendy bars. With long-standing treasures like Pancho’s, A Touch of Madness, and Queen of Tarts and relative newcomers like Reverie Social Table restaurant and Rust Coffee & Craft Beer Bar, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Observatory.
The first stop on our walking tour was Queen of Tarts – we popped into the super cute spot to say hello to the queen of tarts herself and grabbed a coffee and baked treat for the road. We were given our pick of the lot from the café’s glass display cabinet which was brimming with a selection of freshly baked cupcakes, cookies, and sweet and savoury tarts. I know what you’re thinking; “Free cake? Yes Please!” But you’re not factoring in that I have a serious food FOMO problem and looking at this smorgasbord of treats with the option to pick only one was pretty much like Sophie’s Choice. After eyeing everyone else’s choices and then carefully watching their faces as they took their first bite I finally settled on what was the most delicious savoury tart in the history of ever. No really, I’m pretty sure I made an “mmm” sound out loud when I took my first bite (and yes, the other people on the tour with me definitely thought I was weird).
From baked treats to craft beers, our next stop was the new and oh-so-trendy Rust. This place is so cool it will make you feel like the coolest human alive just being in there (cool by proxy, it’s a thing). An ode to vintage cars and all things craft, Rust is a great place to drag your mates to for after work drinks. The decor at this joint finds the beauty in old rusty car parts and puts them front and centre for you to marvel at while you sip on a delicious cup of artisan coffee or a wide selection of craft beers (about 16 in total). A light food menu is also in the works so you can have something to soak up all that beer you will inevitably be drinking at this spot in the weeks to come. Visit them at 79 Station Road, Observatory.
Our last foodie stop, which happened right at the end of our tour, at dinner time was Ferdinandos. You might not have heard of this place (because the owners are very good at keeping it a secret) but if there’s only one place you make time to visit in Obs this year, make it this pizza joint. I’ve tried a lot of pizza in my day and there’s no doubt the pizza from Ferdinandos is one of the best in Cape Town. The eatery first started in the owners’ home (their lounge to be exact) and has since graduated to a proper restaurant space in Observatory. The authentic Italian pizzas at this spot will have your taste buds reeling and the infectiously fun atmosphere created by the owners and their adorable rescue pup, Ferdinando (who the restaurant is named after) will have you visiting time and time again. Just make sure you book far in advance, the eatery is super popular with those lucky few in the know (which now includes you, you’re welcome!).
We also found time to inject a little bit of culture into the day by visiting an art gallery. I love art but I don’t make a habit of visiting art galleries because let’s just say that I’m at the life stage where the only “art” I can afford to adorn my walls with is mass-produced screen prints from MRP. But Ahem Art Collective isn’t one of those galleries where you promptly put your bank card away after seeing the prices, they actually have stuff you can afford! The homey, super welcoming gallery and café is a place for the people and is doing an excellent job of making art more accessible to everyone. Whether you’re buying or just admiring, Ahem is a real champion of local artists and art lovers who long to own a beautiful painting or sketch to appreciate every day. Whether you’re in the market for a new piece of art to adorn your walls or not you need to visit Ahem for a coffee or breakfast because eating yummy grub whilst surrounded by such beauty is a real treat. Visit them at 77 Lower Main Road, Observatory.
On our tour, we also got the chance to pop into one of Rawson’s latest developments in Obs, The Paragon, due for completion in September 2017. The apartment block goes a long way to making the suburb more accessible to young professionals wanting the convenience and security of apartment living while still being able to enjoy all that Observatory has to offer. Price from R2,750,990, each of the 141 New York-style apartments has been designed to maximise living space. This effortless sense of space is accentuated by beautiful finishes and great views of the mountain and surrounding areas and the prospect of living there is made even more appealing thanks to facilities like an in-house gym, a rooftop pool & braai area, and secure underground parking. The development is incredibly appealing to first-time home owners because of its lucrative tax savings – The Paragon is located in Cape Town’s Urban Development Zone and allows buyers to claim up to 55 percent of the purchase price as a tax deduction. Add to that the that the fact that there are no transfer fees and there is a low deposit fee of roughly R5000 to secure the property and you’re looking at a no brainer.