The Bell Inn in the 1970s.
The Bell Inn in the 1970s.

Then & Now: The Bell Inn in Durban North

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Oct 10, 2020

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Durban - This week’s picture of old Durban takes in the Bell Inn at the intersection of Northway, now Kenneth Kaunda, and uMhlanga Rocks drives.

Taken from the Facebook Page Remember Old Durban, many Durban North residents remember their local watering hole, famed for its Dunk & Dips – a piece of French loaf that was dunked in oxtail gravy, or rich curry gravy.

Some remember it with onion gravy and, if you were feeling flush, you could have slices of roast beef and tomato in your French loaf. It would appear it was the staple of many a Friday afternoon pub lunch.

The hotel was a favourite for stag parties and wedding receptions. The Blarney Brothers also played there while many remember Sunday night movies at the hotel. Around the back was a bar called Dirty Dicks and Friday night darts competitions here were legendary.

The old Bell Inn at the end of Northway in Durban North, now houses a paint shop and other businesses.

Originally, the site was a tearoom called the Whynot, and was also the terminus for buses. Later it was developed into the Montfleury Hotel and at some point there was a fire that caused a lot of damage.

Facebook correspondent Jackie Turner remembers it in 1953 when she first arrived to live in Durban.

“Ye Olde Whynot was owned and run by Emilio Ottinelli, the maitre ’d and a fabulous cook. He used to make crêpe Suzettes to die for, cooked at your table on a trolley. His Steak Dianne was another speciality,” she wrote.

June Hallen remembers Ye Olde Whynot was worth the drive from Durban “for a proper dinner date”.

In the 1970s it was owned by Nick Bird and his family and became the Bell Inn.

The pub then became famous in the growing suburb, with Facebook correspondent Mike Allaway remembering the owner’s old English sheepdog which had his favourite spot in the pub and was considered a regular.

Former Independent on Saturday editor Clyde Bawden remembers the pub: “The two barmen were Peter and Bobby, large and little, and the pub was like a club, supported by regulars, and was an institution in Durban North. The smaller barman, Bobby, was an authority on boxing and loved discussing it, and he was a comic to boot.

“A few strangers were in one day and one, when it came to his round, called out the time-honoured shout, ‘When you’re ready, Mr Barman’. Bobby’s instant response was brilliant: ‘I’ll never be Reddy, I’ll always be Pillay’.

“These were good times indeed,” Bawden said.

Today, the building is home to commercial and retail outlets as Shelley Kjonstad’s pictures show.

The Independent on Saturday

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