Food and Entertainment
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN DURBAN - EATOUT MAY 2013
A coastal city of spice and warmth, Durban has so much to offer visitors and residents alike, whether it’s great steak, Mediterranean flavours or fragrant curries. Abigail Donnelly and her panel of reviewers selected the most stylish eatery and the best Italian, fine dining, steakhouse, bistro and Asian restaurants in Durban.
MOST STYLISH RESTAURANT
Located in the upmarket suburban area of Glenashley, Craft Trattoria serves real Italian cuisine prepared with love. Lots of wood, white and light, it’s part modern and part retro.
BEST FINE DINING RESTAURANT
The Grill Room at The Oyster Box
Expect first-class fare such as oysters Rockefeller, crayfish cocktail, gravadlax, steak tartare, confit of duck with roasted peaches, braised oxtail pot pie or pork rib-eye wrapped in bacon. It’s a swish affair, with white leather chairs to deep blue walls.
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANTS
Genuine warmth ensures a fuss-free dining experience at this supremely casual and definitive neighbourhood trattoria. Keep an eye on the specials board for interesting dishes like wild boar ragù and their trademark spinach pasta rosettes with ham, Italian cheese and cream. Pizzas are also exemplary.
You’ll be greeted like an old friend at this buzzing little stylish bistro. Order a gourmet pizza with toppings such as gorgonzola, apple and bacon or shrimp, chilli, ginger and coriander. Pastas are the signature dish – think spaghetti, olives and bacon with breadcrumbs and lemon zest, or homemade Italian sausage and tomato cream. Mains include a variety of steaks, a pork saltimbocca, a red chicken curry and more.
Here you’ll find some of the best traditional and innovative Italian cuisine on the East Coast. Try artichoke hearts marinated in extra virgin olive oil, or the homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese and cream. The homey atmosphere makes this a great place for a family outing.
BEST ASIAN RESTAURANTS
The usual suspects are well represented and prepared (try the prawn foo yong or Cantonese chicken), but foodies can delve deep into the traditional menu. Standouts are crispy garlic langoustines, sublime brinjal casserole and the barbeque pork served on steaming, garlicky bok choi. It’s deceptively casual, but efficiency is the mantra here. Charming in its simplicity.
The aroma of curry guides you through a panel beater’s workshop into the canteen-style eatery for a working class lunch. The curry repertoire includes fantastic local versions of fish, mutton, chicken, chops chutney and biryani. You can choose to have yours served with rice or great rotis, but bunny chow is king.
House of Curries
This spot is great for a proper Durban curry in a more relaxed atmosphere. Their delicious mini bunnies, with fillings of curried mutton, beef, chicken or beans, make a great light snack, but the famous chip-and-cheese roti will definitely fill your belly.
Located in buzzing Florida Road, Mo’s noodles boasts distinctive Thai fusion cuisine. Try chicken teriyaki salad with peanut dressing, seared calamari cooked in chilli and lime, or the refreshing lentil and feta salad, served with mint and lemon dressing. While elegant and sophisticated, Mo’s is still relaxed and comfortable.
Spice caters for all palates. The boneless lamb curry melts in your mouth and the delicate coriander and chilli fish cakes with tartar sauce are great for a light lunch. For warm days and evenings, there’s a shady veranda, which gives it that home-away-from-home feeling.
9th Avenue Bistro
Winner of Eat Out DStv Food Network Produce Award for Best Bistro in 2012. The fare is seasonal, the food fresh and the ingredients of the best quality. Enjoy pork and chorizo-stuffed squid, sautéed quail breast, or quail spring roll served with a lemongrass and ginger broth for starters, followed by braised oxtail and a smoked marrow bone, or grilled salmon with shrimp and mushroom dumplings on zucchini and rice noodles.
The focus is on honest bistro food prepared with panache. The slow-roasted lamb ravioli in sage butter is a winner. It’s a comfortable and eclectic space with all mod cons.
The table groans with bowls of deep-fried olives and anchovies, chargrilled artichokes, sesame and prawn lollies, figs stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in Parma, and chicken and ginger won tons. Roll up your sleeves and dive into honey-glazed lamb cutlets, duck leg confit, or prawn and chorizo pasta. There is always a buzz, with contemporary eclectic décor, and the in-crowd enjoying plates of fine nosh.
Real Italian cuisine prepared with love. The pumpkin panzarotti filled with amaretti biscuit, ricotta and burnt sage butter is best bet for vegetarians; or try the braised beef shin and tomatoes served with creamy courgette risotto. Their crispy, thin-based pizzas come with a variety fresh toppings.
Perfect risottos deserve fulsome praise: the shrimp, lemon zest, rocket and chilli is a perennial favourite. Mains include a variety of steaks, a pork saltimbocca, a red chicken curry and more. Good wholesome cooking and exceptional value. The bright colours, stylish glass and cherrywood tables, and old Persian carpets give this buzzing little bistro a stylish feel.
The philosophy is food that’s fresh, local and honest at this brasserie and gastro pub. Comforting staples like sausage and mash, beer-battered fish and chips, and some serious Durban curries offer good value for money. Try their own hand-crafted Cowbell pilsner.
The Grill Room at The Oyster Box
Order from classics like steak tartare, braised meat, pies and steaks, of course. It’s a swish affair, from white leather chairs to deep blue walls. It’s modern, formal and yet remarkably intimate. Enjoy sundowners on the terrace before dinner.
The Havana Experience, which can feed up to four people, includes 1.5kg of rump, prime rib and fillet with a selection of sauces. Try the creamy wild mushroom risotto or ostrich fillet au poivre, served with Madagascan green peppercorns, cognac and cream sauce. It’s ideal for business meetings, family outings, or if you want to host a party in one of their private rooms.
However you like your steaks, you will find former butcher Joop Moll frying, flipping and flambéing the best cuts to perfection in the open-plan kitchen. Hearty and homely, if somewhat retro. Don’t skimp on the fried onions on the side.
Steak and Ale
Comfortable, home-style pub food is the order of the day here. Feast on fillet, rump steak or their signature pork belly – served with mash and drizzled with honey and mustard sauce. The atmosphere is vibey yet relaxed, and the deck perfect for leisurely lunches during the warmer months.
Head for some of the city’s best eating and entertainment destinations:
Durban Central Beachfront
There’s always a great atmosphere here, plus a wide variety of restaurants, cafés and bars.
The Bunny Chow
You don’t need a plate or eating utensils for this one! Half a loaf of bread, hollowed out and filled with curry. Cheap, delicious and filling, this is Durban’s most famous dish. You’ll find it at corner cafés and restaurants, particularly in the city, along the beachfront and around the Blue Lagoon.
Wilson’s Wharf ( 031 307 7841 / www.wilsonswharf.co.za )
One of Durban’s liveliest venues offering a fusion of food, live music and shopping overlooking the magnificent Durban Harbour.
Florida Road, Morningside
Hip, happening and cosmopolitan - that’s Florida Road, where cafés and restaurants line the sidewalks amid buzzing art galleries, boutique shops and nightclubs.
This upmarket resort area north of Durban offers a range of fine-dining options, from classic and elegant restaurants to contemporary and cool eateries.
Fun and food for the whole family can be found in Toti (as the locals call it), from pubs to steakhouses to takeaways.
Helen Joseph (Davenport) Road, Glenwood
You’ll find this road is packed with restaurants offering everything from Moroccan food, Portuguese food, gourmet pizzas and classic hamburgers; cafés and interesting independent stores.
uShaka Village Walk
At the Cargo Hold restaurant (031 328 8065) inside the Phantom Ship, you can dine while you marvel at the backdrop of a massive shark-tank. Moyo (031 332 0606) offers a sophisticated and truly African dining experience.
Sundowner Harbour Cruise
For a unique eating and entertainment experience, book a trip on one of the many charter boats that offer day, sunset, or night cruises around the harbour.
Durban is a shopper’s paradise, with pavement sellers selling arts, crafts and curios, street markets selling curries and spices, handmade curios, and massive shopping malls.
Gateway Theatre of Shopping (031 514 0500 / www.gatewayworld.co.za)
This is one of the greatest entertainment and shopping complexes in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s located on the Umhlanga Ridge, overlooking the Indian Ocean.
The Pavilion Shopping Centre (031 275 9800 / www.thepav.co.za)
Just 10 minutes inland of Durban, this mall has a wide range of stores as well as cinemas, ten-pin bowling and a skatepark.
The Heritage Market (031 765 2500 / www.heritagehillcrest.co.za)
This open-plan shopping complex in Hillcrest is surrounded by rose gardens, giving it a country atmosphere with 160 Victorian style shops.
Galleria (031 904 2233 / www.galleria.co.za)
This centre is a must for entertainment junkies with its ice skating rink, bowling, glow-in-the-dark mini golf and games arcade.
Pop into the Craft Village alongside the beachfront and pick up some distinctive Zulu crafts, art and other memorabilia.
Essenwood Market (031 208 1264 / www.essenwoodmarket.com)
You can find everything from local clothing, jewellery and food to plants and herbs at this market that runs every Saturday at the Berea Park in Musgrave.
Shongweni Farmers’ and Craft Market (083 777 1674 / www.shongwenimarket.co.za)
The Shongweni Farmers’ and Craft Market in Assagay in the Valley of 1000 Hills specialises in organic foods, fresh produce and traditional crafts.
Victoria Street Market (031 306 4021)
This vibrant Indian Market with its colourful stalls, fish market and curio outlets is a favourite for tourists.
The Midlands Meander (033 330 8195 / www.midlandsmeander.co.za)
The Midlands Meander is South Africa’s first, largest and most popular arts and crafts route. Weavers, potters, woodcrafters, leather workers, artists, metalworkers, wine makers, herb growers, cheese makers, beer brewers and more can be found along the meander.