The Old Austria was originally started by Robert and Leena Wolf. Robert trained as a chef overseas and was brought out to South Africa when the 5 star Elizabeth Hotel was opened in 1971. After a year at the Elizabeth Hotel, Robert left to venture out on his own and started the Old Austria in 1972.
The name ‘’Old Austria’’ originated from the first hotel where Robert had worked in Austria. The Wolfs kept the restaurant small and intimate with Robert in the kitchen and Leena serving the tables while the restaurant gained popularity with the patrons of Port Elizabeth.
In 1985 the Wolfs asked their regular patrons, Peter and Francoise Raymer, if they had an interest in running the restaurant for five weeks while the Wolfs revisited Austria. Under the management of the Raymers, the restaurant flourished and soon after the Wolfs returned, Peter and Francoise decided to buy the restaurant.
Although the restaurant was not well situated, it had an intimate atmosphere and a characteristic charm. The menu boasted a wide variety of traditional and favourite European dishes as well as a great selection of seafood. The value for money and excellent service added to the continuous growth and popularity.
In 1990 when the Raymer’s first child, Juliet, was born the Raymers called on Robert and asked if he could help out with the cooking in the now thriving restaurant, for two months. The matter was never discussed again and Robert continued to cook for the next eighteen years until he retired.
In 1999, the perfect new premises presented itself at 24 Westbourne Road which was on the outskirts of the Port Elizabeth Central district. The new site was a beautiful building which had been built by St. Cuthbert’s Church in 1910. The Church sold the building in the 1980’s and it was probable that the Raymers were only the fifth owners of this historic building.
Today, Old Austria is the longest running restaurant in Port Elizabeth, which still fosters an excellent relationship between the Wolfs and the Raymers. The success of the restaurant could be attributed to the creation that the Wolfs had started as well as the devotion to detail by past and present owners.
A milestone in the history of the Old Austria Restaurant was reached in 2010 when the building turned 100 years old which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Raymer’s ownership. This occasion was celebrated by having an anonymous evening when all patrons were given the menus as well as prices from 25 years ago.
Robert Wolf & Peter Raymer