Not only does the Brass Bell offer specatacular views of Kalk Bay, but we also pride ourselves in being a venue that showcases the heart of Cape Town. We offer a unique dining experience and a range of 9 different venues in which to host your functions. With our phenomenal surroundings and diverse history, The Brass Bell is the perfect backdrop for your corporate year end functions, award ceremonies, birthdays and any other milestone event.
Kalk Bay has a fascinating history rich in diverse cultures and influences dating back to 1742, when the Dutch East India Company first utilized the small village as a “mini-port” when ferrying goods by barge through to Simonstown. Later in the mid 1840’s Kalk Bay was popularized by its’ abundant fishing capabilities, and drew many ethnically diverse families from the Philippines, Malaysia, Java and Batavia who settled into the community, many of whose decedents still reside here today.
As the little fishing village’s population grew, and with the introduction of the railway line in 1883, Kalk Bay rapidly expanded to include more homes, boarding houses, hotels, schools and shops. The increase in visitors and local residents soon led to the construction of the Kalk Bay tidal pools, in 1919 and 1922 respectively, which were to complement the existing wooden bathers’ change rooms, which were later replaced in 1939, by a concrete structure, housing a “Tea Room” for the female bathers, which would eventually go on to become the ground floor of the now, world renowned, Brass Bell Restaurant.
Around 1967 a Dutchman named Frans Otten opened a restaurant in the then derelict former council “Tea Room” and he named the restaurant, The Brass Bell. After a few years he applied for a liquor license. To finance the alterations required for the license, he took on a silent partner, Ralph Iorio.
As so often happens, the partnership didn’t work out and the Brass Bell was put up for auction.
The two former partners were the only bidders and Ralph was successful. He owned and managed the restaurant from 1978 to 1981. Ralph was an extremely interesting person. During the Second World War he worked for the CIA. He was fluent in Russian and Italian, and was a P.W.O in Japan when the atomic bombs went off in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.
When he decided to move on, a local attorney, Tony White, bought the Brass Bell. Tony recalls how Ralph advised, “if you have a good cow that provides good milk, look after it!” So Tony sold up his practice and hopped careers to become a restaurateur.
Tony proved to have no small share of entrepreneurial flair and solid business acumen. However, the first night that Tony ran the show no one pitched up! But he had a plan, and so the Brass Bell’s story began…
Friday nights became disco nights and Saturdays were devoted to promoting South African bands ( a tradition that still continues weekly at the Brass Bell today ) such as Tribe After Tribe, Johnny Clegg, Bright Blue and Wendy Oldfield. Robin Auld used his stints at the Bell to hone his considerable talents. Sunday’s in Kalk Bay were made famous by The Brass Bell’s open air fish braai’s in the evening. It was a recipe for success and the Brass Bell has never looked back.
Not a man to sit on his laurels however, Tony knew he had to keep developing and improving. As he mellowed, the wild weekends were gradually toned down and the discordant upstairs dining areas and down stairs sections began to move in the same direction as the casual lower floor was upgraded to become a more satisfying but still informal venue. Over the last 3 decades he has continued with his vision developing the 60-seater original restaurant into an approximately 800-seater venue that consists of 7 separate restaurants.
There’s the flag ship Brass Bell Grill, Captains Deck, Cabin Pub and Bistro, the Water’s Edge & Hooters Bar, Pavilion, the vivacious Bikini Deck and the newest development, the Beach at the Bell.
When speaking about the Brass Bell, the Cabin Pub has to be mentioned. Although the unique swinging table hanging on the thick ropes has been removed, the Cabin pub has to be one of the most satisfying places to down a draught and wide variety of beverages anywhere in South Africa.
Tony scores top marks for his foresight, innovation and commitment. He has owned the Brass Bell for three decades longer than any other restaurateur has been in the village. In fact, his is one of the oldest established businesses in Kalk Bay, period. It must also be stressed that the Brass Bell derives much of its character through its position within the heart of historical Kalk Bay. This little fishing village has a magical quality with its historic architecture, interesting variety of shops and cobble stone streets.
The Brass Bell remains a genuinely unique dining experience and to top off everything else, it’s just great fun to go there. Its position on the rocks is quite spectacular and many diners hold fond memories of pleasurable times spent there. Everything about it combines to make one relax, and enjoy the views and the food.
Tony still takes nothing for granted and wants to set even higher standards for food and service offered by the Bell. The chefs, management and service staff are nothing else but innovative, passionate, approachable and excited about future developments and the opportunity to build on the legacy of Tony’s hands-on commitment in excellent management of the Brass Bell. The Brass Bell has, perhaps, done more than anything else over the past 30 years to put Kalk Bay on the international tourist itinerary and amazingly will continue to do so.
It’s a special place, and we would love to share it with you.
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