Tag Archives: Craighall Park

The Colony Arms

Al and I are the type of people who think, if we’re gonna live somewhere, we’re gonna have a neighborhood bar.  We were roundly unsuccessful at finding a Neighborhood Bar in Woodley Park, where we lived for the past three years in DC. The closest thing we had to a Neighborhood Bar there was a foul little establishment called Medaterra whose only redeeming quality was the cheapness and largeness of their martinis.  We went there maybe twice a year.  Not exactly “Cheers” material.

But here in Joburg, it’s going to be different, by gum.  Last night, in search of a good Neighborhood Bar here in Craighall Park, we traveled a block up Jan Smuts Avenue (which Al has taken to calling Jan Smut Avenue given its large number of sex shops) to legendary local bar The Colony Arms.

The Colony Arms, in all of its strip mall glory.

When Al first got to Joburg a month ago, numerous people stressed that he simply must go to the Colony Arms for a “John Deere,” which is a potent concoction of sugarcane alcohol (much like my beloved Brazilian cachaça) and – you guessed it! – cream soda.

(Side note: they LOVE them some cream soda here in ZA.  Al points out that Canadians also love cream soda.  Must be a Commonwealth thing?  God bless the Queen and cream soda?  According to the (highly essential) Wikipedia page on cream soda:

“In South Africa, Creme Soda is often referred to as the “Green Ambulance” (predominantly by students), as it is believed to alleviate the effects of hangovers. Creme Soda is also used as a mixer with cane spirit (an inexpensive alcoholic beverage distilled from fermented sugarcane). This is commonly known as a “John Deer” (cf.John Deere and its green logo), “Cane Train”, or “Green Mamba”. Cane spirit is chosen due its ability to go relatively unnoticed.

Gotta love that. All of that.)

Anyway, we popped into the Colony Arms expecting great things, given the amount it had been talked up, but it was pretty meh.  Despite an advertisement promising two-for-one drinks on Foxy Ladies’ Thursday, we paid two-for-two for our beer and glass of wine.   We stayed for the one drink and then trundled on home.

In doing some research today on The Colony Arms, to see if it had any storied history I should be aware of (it doesn’t), I came across this hilarious article, entitled “Where The Girls Aren’t: The Colony Arms,” which describes the feel of the establishment thusly:

The Colony Arms, or ‘The Colonic” as it’s known by to its denizens, is not high on atmosphere; it’s in a shopping mall for God’s sake. With its bland as tupperware interior, tiled floors and bare walls, the place gives you the impression it gets hosed down the morning after, not swept. The bar staff are friendly enough, and service is quick and attentive.

That pretty much sums it up.  It was fine.  But nothing life-changing.  Not necessarily Neighborhood Bar material.  Then again, on Saturdays they have karaoke, so I could be swayed.  And, according to their website, they also have beer pong.  Despite incorrectly conflating beer pong with Beirut, which is a DIFFERENT AND SUPERIOR GAME (just ask the entire West Coast of America), I like The Colonic’s attitude. This place could win me over yet.


I woke up today, my thirtieth birthday, with a hangover from drinking too much Pinotage at a South African country estate near Pretoria. So I guess this is my life now.

It’s been kind of a whirlwind. I left DC on Wednesday afternoon and got into Johannesburg on Thursday evening.  Al was waiting for me at the airport with a bouquet of red roses (a romantic, that one!) and we embarked on our first South African adventure together: driving back to our apartment in a rental car, with no GPS, on the left side of the road.  Nothing like a few brushes with death to really make one feel at home in a new place, eh?

Our apartment is in an area called Craighall Park, which is home to a fancy mall and a fancy grocery store (Woolworths — go figure) but is also curiously abundant with sex shops.  We live directly across the street from a charming little place called Sextopia.

Our apartment complex, however, is gated off, leafy, and quiet.  When we entered the gates, there were four little kids playing with water guns in the driveway.  They all eyed us shyly and the oldest one asked us, very properly, how we were doing.  We were fine.

That first night, we ate dinner at a restaurant in the fancy mall.  I was immediately impressed with the food and the wine here, both of which are delicious and cheap.

My second day in South Africa, Al and I ran essential errands, which included buying a hair dryer, stocking up on wine, and getting a “wireless stick” for my computer, and then we packed into our rental car again to drive north to Kievits Kroon, a country estate where Al’s company was holding a retreat.  We had cocktails on the veranda of a manor house (built in the “Cape Dutch style,” I am told) looking out over lush green lawns. A cat purred around our ankles. It was lovely.

I spent the rest of last night stuffing myself with a variety of tasty local dishes, including ostrich medallions, and a *bit* too much Pinotage, which is the signature varietal of South Africa, so how could I not, right? When in Pretoria, I say.

Anyway.  Today I woke up thirty years old and with a red wine headache.  But you know? I feel pretty good about it.  I’m in Africa on a Grand Adventure with my husband.  Bring it, old age.  I’m ready for you.