The Foreign Exchange

The Foreign Exchange Bar in Cape Town

Open Mon - Tue from 16:00 - 23:00
Wed - Thu from 15:00 - 23:00
Fri - Sat from 14:00 - 00:00
 
+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.”

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.

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, beanbags and board games that are found in the cosy, wooden inside area.

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 idealperch for sundowners or a moonlight tipple. And it’s here where I find myself sipping white wine on tap – yes, they sell a draught Sauvignon Blanc and red blend – while watching ping pong balls plonk into cups of golden ale.

Apart from free-flowing vino, the pub serves up almost anything necessary to keep guests well oiled: there’s plenty of craft beer on tap (think Boston Lager, Lakeside American Pale Ale, Van Hunks Pumpkin Ale, Stellenbrau Lager, Devil's Peak First Light Golden Ale 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 bevvies are complemented by a selection of bites that go down swimmingly with booze. With a strong emphasis on Mexican dishes, the food menu features items like burritos, nachos and enchiladas as well as Mozambique Chicken Kebabs, Oregon Cheesy Fries and tramezzinis, and I find the butter chicken samoosas 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. It’s also a great spot to celebrate a birthday as the owners will treat anyone hosting a bash to a special birthday concoction and to the honour of designing the drink of the night.

The Bill: Despite its foreign focus, prices are tailored to the South African pocket. Food goes for between R30 and R75 for a full plate, cocktails cost from R35 to R45, draught craft beer rings in at R30, the artisan ale tasting board (it includes five beers) is R25 and wine on tap is priced at R18 for white and R20 for red. During happy hour, which runs every day between 5pm and 7pm, prices are slashed further: cocktails are all R25, craft beers cost R20 and SAB draughts go for R17.

---

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
March 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

Woordefees in Stellenbosch Woordfees Festival in Stellenbosch

Head to the City of Oaks for a literary and art overload when this annual ...

The Night Harvest in Hout Bay The Night Harvest BMX & MTB Competition ...

Burgeoning International and local adrenaline junkies on two wheels whiz around ...

Assembly Hunter S Thompson Tribute Assembly Presents: Hunter S. Thompson ...

Celebrate the weekend and the life of a cult literary icon with a themed ...

HQ Friday night DJ Dance partyFriday Night DJ and Dancing at HQ ...

#AfterDark with DJ Rene: start the weekend with a steak dinner, stylish ...

Barnyard Theatre Willowbridge 80s RewindBarnyard Theatre’s 80s Rewind Party

Take a trip down musical memory lane with this rocking fiesta

RAMfest 2014RAMfest Cape Town

Due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, the 2015 RAMfest Cape Town ...

Matt Manning One Ingredient Pop-up Dinner and Cooking ClassMatt Manning’s One Ingredient Pop-up ...

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

Nik Rabinowitz What the EFF at the Fugard Theatre Nik Rabinowitz’s Stand-up Comedy Show

Have a hearty laugh at this Capetonian comedian’s politically inspired new ...

Dutch Haven BarAfter-work Drinks and Live Music at ...

Enjoy an authentic Holland-style borreluur every Friday evening at this ...

Wembley Tap Bar Craft Beer Beer Pong at Wembley Tap Bar

Mix ping pong with artisan ale at this industrial-chic house of beer every ...

Oude Libertas Summer Music FestivalOude Libertas Summer Season Festival

Catch this series of Stellenbosch music concerts showcasing some of the finest ...

Robertson Wine Valley 03Robertson Hands-on Harvest Festival

Route 62’s popular food and wine affair returns in 2015 for two whole months ...

Fire and Ice Pool Shot Cape TownFriday Night DJ Sessions at Protea ...

Welcome the weekend with a free and funky party at the Mother City’s ...

Super Cool Beer Tour Bottles at Devil's PeakFree Beer Friday Special with Super ...

Embark on a fun Friday brewery excursion and get two lagers on the house

Dinner Club at Borage Bistro Cape TownFriday Dinner at Borage Bistro

Ease into the weekend with a superb supper at this urban-chic CBD eatery

Julep Cocktail BarHappy Hour Cocktails at Julep Bar

This speakeasy-type watering hole offers up a late-night drinks deal in Cape ...

Park Inn Newlands Happy Hour SpecialSlide On By Happy Hour Special at the ...

Glide in to this slick Southern Suburbs hotel for 2-for-1 drinks and music ...

Wine Flies Forgotten Route TourThe Forgotten Route Train Tour to ...

Take the road less travelled on a two-day adventure to the Klein Karoo

Manor House at Saxenburg Wine Farm StellenboschWine Tasting at the Saxenburg Estate

Savour one of South Africa’s finest Shirazes alongside other outstanding reds ...

Art of the Brick Lego ManThe Art of the Brick Lego Exhibition in ...

Don’t miss the world-renowned expo at the V&A Waterfront that transforms a ...

Richard's Bistro supper and stage Kaapstad“Kaapse Stories” at Richard’s ...

Supper and Stage make for a delectable evening’s entertainment

Food and wine tasting at La MotteFood and Wine Pairing at La Motte

Discover a match made in the divine tasting room of this Franschhoek estate

Vibe at the Hout Bay Harbour Market in Cape TownFriday Night at The Bay Harbour Market

Ring in the weekend with live music, craft beer, hearty fare and happy shopping ...

Outside of Peter's House on Kloof NekOpen Mic Night At Peter’s House

This cosy Tamboerskloof restaurant hosts a free intimate live performance ...

Marcel's Frozen Yoghurt BlizzardHow Awesome Would It Be If this Cape ...

We’ve reimagined some of the Mother City’s hotspots as cool and quirky ...

Diesel women's dresses sale from Labels4Less shopDiesel Jeans & Clothing Sale

Get an extra R50 off already marked-down designer denim, bags, belts, tops and ...

Dinner at Dish Restaurant Inn on the SquareBraai Lunch Special at Inn on the ...

Friday is braai day at this Cape Town accommodation’s laidback eatery

Glenelly 1Meat and Cheese Platters at Glenelly ...

A Stellenbosch wine tasting with true French finesse

Bright Day Art Classes in WoodstockCreative Corporate Team Building with ...

Harness the power of creativity at an edgy customised workshop

WeatherGiveawaysTravel Tips