The inside story of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Bertie’s Landing

Bertie Reed had been brought to the V&A’s Dock House offices in August 1989 by Geoff Grylls soon after the veteran and legendary yachtsman returned from Newport, Rhode Island in the USA.  Bertie had seen what he wanted — a quayside pub and restaurant at the V&A Waterfront.

Bertie’s Landing opened in September 1990 alongside the Clock Tower where the Robben Island Gateway is today and was the first new-build project at the V&A Waterfront. 

These photos were taken soon after Bertie’s opened — so they are over 30 years old and the partygoers shown here are 50–60 years old today.  Do you recognise anyone?  Click on any image to open the larger slideshow.

Bertie’s Landing followed in the footsteps of Ferryman’s Tavern to become an instant Waterfront success.  It quickly became SA Breweries second-best outlet in South Africa, with only Quay Four selling more beer when it opened a few months later.  

Bertie’s was a destination in its own right, because there was no bridge linking it to the main Pierhead precinct of the Waterfront.  You either used the Penny Ferry across The Cut or drove there.

Bertie’s landing was liquidated in about 1993 and sold, to reopen as Bertie’s Big Easy.  It never regained its former glory days and was sold again, and closed forever soon after.

Bertie had moved on to open Bertie’s Mooring in Gordon’s Bay but the memory of Bertie’s Landing remains for many.

Bertie's Landing

2 Responses

  1. There is much more history and detail to the above sanitised description of Berties Landing and the Roaring Forties, as this puff piece does not do justice to the provenance of building a single handed 60 foot ocean racing yacht in the V&A shed alongside the Port Captains Tower.

    This builders agreement with Jean-Jacques Provoyeur was set in motion from the Old Harbour Cafe location. Thereafter Berties Landing and The Roaring Forties, together with the Pier and Seals Landing was conceived and implemented by neither Geoff Grylls nor even Bertie himself, who did not drive into the harbour. Too much journalistic license there for sure.

    In fact Berties Landing was at one time the largest outlet for SAB in South Africa, given its upstairs restaurant, downstairs tavern and Roaring Forties at the rear for the yacht racing enthusiasts.

    In addition and allied to the Berties Landing activities was the Global Ocean Watch campaign, which linked South African 1,000’s of schools tracking Bertie and the yacht GRINAKER’s around the world course, learning about oceanography, geography, sea life, mathematics, astronomy, tides and nutrition in specially produced black & white wall maps. This campaign was the forerunner of marine and ecological awareness profiled by SABC’s Good Morning South Africa every weekday morning for 9 months.

  2. Tony you are correct that the original concept for both Berties Landing and the yacht were two separate issues. The yacht was completed at the fish quay shed while the RCYC committee together with Bertie enjoyed a RCYC satellite home at the rear and attached generally to the restaurant for the enjoyment of its members.
    The lower deck beer hall was certainly thought to be SAB supplier best seller. A decision within the V&A head office led by David Jack is the root reason this clock tower area was so successful. Other than Mitchells Brewery and the Pilot Berth fish restaurant Cape Town’s new much published and much criticized Waterfront development, David Jack needed a new jewel at the tucked away piece of this undeveloped rather smelly seal rock base area locked between working fishing boats landing daily fish catches, a old weather bound rather slow single-handed capacity 10 person maximum Penny Ferry Ferry, primary meant to allow port staff to take a short cut from No 1 Jetty to the railway station as their shift ends, and the crowded fish quay road.
    Yes Bertie Reed and supported by the sailing community of the RCYC saw an opportunity to move their head office to the Waterfront. David Jack also saw this as a temporary but very opportunistic chance to show the rather cautious developers that a low cost rental base for the city younger people something and somewhere they could enjoy a waterside evening social without memberships or entry restrictions might work. Work it did, all the music, enjoyment and fun soon spread throughout Cape town and the excitement of this new waterfront was born by.
    I had accepted the post of Harbour Master in David Jack’s team in 1991 that added some challenges to cope with this new style backwater. In briefly summing up, this successful water hole drew attention away from the real development on the other side of the cut. This area is now the focus of the Robben Island tours ferries base and museum.
    Regards Bill Shewell (retired)

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