Big Hole Complex, Kimberley. Tel: 053 830 4418. Mains R60-115. Bottle of South African craft beer R25-45
If you’re doing touristy stuff in Kimberley, then you’ll be right next to the Occidental, for this Victorian-themed bar is in the mock-up mining village found alongside the Big Hole – Kimberley’s main attraction. The bar is cool, with retro fittings and old Castle ads adorning the walls. Also, as far as I could find, this is the only place in Kimberley (and possibly even the Northern Cape) serving craft beer. What’s more, you don’t have to pay the Big Hole entrance fee to wander around the village, which is a pretty cool thing to spend half an hour doing. There’s a lot of beer-related history dotted around as well as non-beery stuff of course.
Kimberley is not a particularly gourmand-friendly town and if you’ve eaten in more than a couple of local restaurants, the Occidental has a fairly familiar menu – lots of meat and not much else. It’s fair beer fodder though I suppose – I had a mini bunny chow, which went quite nicely with a Blockhouse IPA. The ribs are also pretty good.
Staff were friendly, servce was quick and while I don’t know if we could have had lengthy chats about which of the beers on the menu had the highest IBUs, they knew a few basics about the craft beer available – where in the country it was from, which were lighter and which slightly darker, that sort of thing. Best of all they didn’t make me feel like a loser for lunching alone, so for that I thank them!
If you live in a city where craft beer is now fairly ubiquitous, the Occidental’s selection might not wow you, but having said that, the beers they stock are all solid, go-to brews, including Devil’s Peak, Jack Black, CBC and Darling. The Northern Cape can be damn hot, and if you’ve been travelling around for a while and fancy something other than a pint of Castle, the Occidental will be a very welcome sight. I do wish the craft brewers would put best before dates on their bottles though. Not that the beer I had here seemed stale – it didn’t at all. But you do wonder what the turnover is like in more offbeat waterholes and it would be nice to know how long the beer has been waiting to be drunk. As an aside, brewers – is there a particular reason why best before dates are not printed on your labels?
Even without the craft beer draw, I would recommend a visit to the Occidental if you’re in Kimberley. A visit to the diamond capital is all about stepping back in time, whether it’s at one of the city’s superb museums, on an excellent ghost tour operated by a local historian or of course, wandering the mock-up mining village and peeping into the vertigo-inducing hole itself. For beer nerds there are some fascinating peeks into South African beer history and you can then bring yourself back up to date with a bottle of microbrewed ale at the end of a hard days’ sightseeing.
Read more on Kimberley here.