The Foreign Exchange

The Foreign Exchange Bar in Cape Town

Open Mon - Wed from 16:00 - 00:30
Thu - Sat from 16:00 - 02:00
 
+27 (0)21 448 0083
92-95 Station Road | Observatory
oliverhagan@gmail.com
The Foreign Exchange

The Foreign Exchange Bar in Cape Town

The vibrant Observatory-based pub centred on global mixing and mingling

Walking into The Foreign Exchange bar in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs is like stepping into some sort of United Nations-style establishment for the young and fun. American and Dutch accents meld with Xhosa clicks, multilingual chatter moves back and forth over beer mugs and colourful stories of faraway countries are swapped over spirited games of backgammon.

You see, this welcoming, at times wild, pub deals in the currency of different cultures. Appropriately situated in the diverse, international suburb of Observatory, Forex, as it’s commonly known, is both a base for expatriates looking to celebrate their national identities and an easygoing spot where those from abroad and those from Mzansi can mix, mingle and trade thoughts and customs.

“It’s a place for locals to meet foreigners and vice versa,” explains Vermont-born co-owner Oliver Hagan; he opened the nightlife haunt with business partner and friend Sean Walpole in June 2013. “It’s a win-win situation for South Africans wanting to break out of the typical Cape Town scene and for visitors keen to get to know the local landscape.”

The Foreign Exchange Bar

Hardly by coincidence, the two founders also run a Mother City-based internship programme, which, in fact, helped to plant the seed that blossomed into the Observatory bar. Overseeing hundreds of international students in Cape Town each year, the duo saw the need for a space that would give these diverse visitors a mutual gathering point, and so The Foreign Exchange was created. Their aim was also to craft an environment that would appeal not only to those eager to explore new cultures, but to those who like to play as hard as they work.

“Forex is for people who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work hard to achieve things, but who also enjoy a good party, like to live in the moment and aren’t scared of a few tequilas,” Oliver adds, smiling mischievously.

And on the summery Thursday night I’m visiting the large, second-storey joint, the space is filled to bursting point with those keen to live it up a little. Rowdy games of beer pong bounce around, strangers natter merrily with new-found friends, young business-types take shots of green liquid at the bar and everyone looks ready to settle in for the rest of the evening– all features of the venue that exude an enticing hostel-meets-frat house feeling.

The Foreign Exchange Bar

In fact, this is a big part of the allure of Forex: it’s so laidback and so centred on a sense of community that it really starts to feel like home. The easygoing, lived-in atmosphere is further created by the comfy couches, fireplace, bookshelves and board games that are found in the cosy, wooden inside area, which was refurbished slightly in early 2015 to make it even more warm and snug.

But, in the height of the sweltering season, it is the enclosed outside deck that draws the crowds. Peering out over a sea of rooftops and on to the distant horizon, this beach-style balcony is the ideal perch for sundowners or a moonlight tipple. And it’s here where I find myself sipping white wine while watching ping pong balls plonk into cups of golden ale.

Apart from vino, the pub serves up almost anything necessary to keep guests well oiled: there are 13 different craft beers on tap (think Boston Lager, Lakeside American Pale Ale, Van Hunks Pumpkin Ale, Stellenbrau Ale, Woodstock Brewery’s Happy Pills Pilsner, German Erdinger Weissbier and many more), an artisan ale tasting board, a medley of classic cocktails, premium tequila, top rums, whiskies and liqueurs and, of course, 2-L college-style pitchers of brew meant to be shared with mates.

The Foreign Exchange Drinks

The bevvies are complemented by a selection of bites that go down swimmingly with booze. With a strong emphasis on pub grub, the food menu features items like a Portuguese prego roll, a juicy beef and chicken burger, cheesy bacon fries and pizzas as well as a few Mexican dishes like burritos, nachos and enchiladas, and I find the samoosas and spring rolls so crispy and flavourful that they’re reason alone to return.

It’s this combination of good eats, great drinks, interesting company and electric vibes that make this Southern Suburbs bar a prime night-time option. And, of course, when it comes to a pub that’s globally diverse and anything but cliquey, Forex gives all other Mother City watering holes a real run for their money.

Tip: Forex is the place to be to commemorate any big foreign national occasion, like Bastille Day, Halloween, Saint Patrick’s Day or Fourth of July. The bar also has events on most nights of the week: there’s a salsa class and social dancing session on Monday evenings, a free pub quiz on Tuesday nights and beer pong on Thursdays.

The Bill: Despite its foreign focus, prices are tailored to the South African pocket. Food goes for between R45 and R80 for a full plate, cocktails cost from R50 to R55, draught craft beer rings in at between R35 and R50 and wine is priced at between R25 and R45 a glass. During happy hour, which runs every day between 5pm and 7pm, prices are slashed further: cocktails are all R30, craft beers cost between R30 and R35 and SAB draughts go for R25.

---

Looking for a place to stay in the multicultural suburb of Observatory? Read more about African Heart Backpackers.

---

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle and check out our Pinterest boards for updates. Not to mention, subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with what's hip and happening in our pretty city.

Cape Town Events Calendar
May 2015
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31

Stardust new venueDinner Theatre at Stardust Restaurant

The pre-Friday theatrical dining experience that will make you feel like your ...

Naked Girls Reading in Cape Town Naked Girls Reading in Cape Town

See how sensuality and literary works merge with this unique concept returning ...

Celebrity new years resolution Reuben RiffelThe Reuben Invites Dinner Series at ...

Join Reuben Riffel and various other top South African chefs as they take you ...

Science Cafe Cape TownScience Café Talks in Cape Town

Cure your curiosity at these free talks where Einsteins meet ordinary folk

Murder Mystery Dinners in Cape TownMurder Mystery Dinner Parties Cape Town

Intrigue, secrecy and cold-blooded killings are the order of the day at these ...

Matt Manning One Ingredient Pop-up Dinner and Cooking ClassOne Ingredient - Interactive dining ...

Learn how to prepare gourmet dishes while tucking into a four-course food and ...

Barnyard Theatre tribute ABBA Bee Gees Queen 01Barnyard Theatre’s Tribute to ABBA, ...

Celebrate the decades of disco, pop and great tunes

Cabaret at The Fugard Theatre Cabaret Musical at The Fugard Theatre

One of Broadway’s most popular productions comes to Cape Town

Picture of Great White SharkGreat White Shark Diving and Breaching ...

Take a once-in-a-lifetime plunge and swim with the masters of the sea

Batstone Swimming Pool and Bar Cape TownBatstone Pool, Cafe and Bar in Cape Town

De Waterkant’s rooftop play place and work space: a chic spot to swim, sip, ...

Facial at Ways of Wellness Spa in Cape TownFacial Special at Ways of Wellness Spa ...

Save 15% on various skin treatments every Thursday at this all-natural house of ...

Linde Collection Diamond Lily Flower RingsDiamond Lily Rings at Linde Collection

An exquisite nature-inspired jewellery range for women with an edge

Segway Tours at Spier Wine FarmSegway Tours at Spier Wine Farm

Take a two-wheeled tour of one of South Africa’s most innovative farms

De Grendel Wine Farm WineWine Tasting at De Grendel in ...

Enjoy a serene sampling experience in Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs

Haute Cabriere Fine Dining MenuTaste of the Season Menu at Haute ...

Enjoy a specially curated platter of fresh seasonal produce at this Franschhoek ...

Forex Foreign Exchange Beer Pong ObservatoryBeer Pong Night at The Foreign Exchange ...

Give this fun-filled drinking game a go every Thursday night in Observatory

Don Gelato Ice Cream Parlour in Cape TownWeekly Ice Cream & Sorbet Special at ...

Get a FREE scoop of gelato or sorbet when you buy a double scoop of either ...

John at the Artscape TheatreJohn Play at the Artscape

Explore the hidden world of sex workers through the eyes of a man seeking his ...

De Grendel Restaurant Food#ThrowbackThursday Restaurant Special ...

Tuck into old-school classics with a new-school twist at this Durbanville wine ...

Winelands Tea at La MotteWinelands Tea at Pierneef à La Motte

Enjoy an old-Cape high tea at La Motte wine estate

The Pervert Laura Play at the FugardThe Pervert Laura at the Fugard Theatre

A brilliant character study of a woman who starts to unravel as her dark past ...

African Arts Campus Africa MonthAfrica Month Lecture Series with the ...

Join the African Arts Campus for a series of enlightening talks on politics, ...

Booom! Baby ExhibitionBooom! Baby Art Exhibition at the ...

Grab your very own limited edition print from a renowned artist and help HOLAH ...

Belmond Mount Nelson HotelThe Summer of 1946 by Alexander McCall ...

Drink the stars and watch Alexander McCall Smith’s out-of-this-world play at ...

Black Koki Worldart GalleryWorldart Gallery Exhibition: Black Koki ...

Laugh now, cry later is a departure from the artist’s usual detailed ...

Pool deck at the African Pride Crystal Towers Hotel & SpaHalf-price Sushi Special at African ...

Get 50% off this Century City restaurant’s sashimi, salmon roses and more ...

Romantic Date Night & Movie at Twelve Apostles HotelDinner and a Movie Experience at The ...

Lights, camera and a three-course meal at one of Cape Town’s favourite fine ...

Sundowners at Asoka's Happy HourCocktail & Tapas Pairings at Asoka Bar

Discover this Kloof Street haunt’s ‘trendier-than-a-hashtag’ happy hour ...

table mountain chocolate 3Table Mountain Chocolate Bar Special

Buy five of the flat-topped bars and get one FREE when you mention CapeTownMag

Kurt Schoonraad's Cape Town Comedy ClubDinner Theatre at Cape Town Comedy Club

Head to the V&A Waterfront for both laughter and delicious food at one ...

kids birthday party venue idea at waterworld strandWaterworld Strand Water Park’s Free ...

False Bay’s finest family fun zone is offering a complimentary game of mini ...

Oriscolls City Centre pub Cape TownAll-week, Double-whammy Happy Hour at ...

Drop kick the stress of the workweek with not one but two hours of discounted ...

Wine and cheese platter from Peter FalkeSundowners at Peter Falke Wine Farm in ...

Toast dusk with fine wine, gorgeous cheese platters and tasty salads