* Note this article originally appeared here on Food24.com
Last year voted the best quality of life for any South African city, Durban had to have some top eateries up its sleeves. I was in the sun-kissed city for a long weekend and discovered some old and new favourites
1. High Tea at The Oyster Box
Since I suffer from an acute case of sweet-tooth-syndrome, it’s my personal conviction that every restaurant list needs a High Tea option. It’s reputation long preceding my visit, I knew The Oyster Box would be the right fit. The hotel is a sensory experience par excellence, and in every way, it’s the experience is a luxuriously decadent affair.
High tea is served in the Palm Court, where the greenery echoes the tropical surroundings, and cake table that of a royal feast. The variety of savoury, sweet and in-between options will leave you spellbound, including a Durban twist with samosas and chilli bites. Be sure to ask about Skabenga – a famous local whose tea you’ll most likely be gifted with upon your arrival. Leave two to three hours for this visit, and be sure to arrive hungry.
2. Danny’s House of Curries
With the city’s large Indian population, it’s no surprise that curry houses are to be found around every corner. Our childhood ventures to Durbs had to include a visit to Danny’s House of Curries in Blue Lagoon. Located in the very unassuming Lugz Food Emporium, you’ll find a firm local favourite. You can either eat in the communal seating or sit outside. It’s a social experience with locals picnicking, and usually fisherman trying their luck in the lagoon.
The prices are also as good as the food. A chicken curry and rice will set you back a mere R49, and ever popular and very filling mutton ½ bunny R98. You’ll understand afterwards why Danny Naidoo’s humble Curry House has now grown to several locations, including a few in Joburg.
3. The Greedy Buddha
Staying in the upmarket suburb of Umhlanga, the next stop is the Greedy Buddha. After you’ve had your dose of shopping at Gateway, bypass the chain restaurants and make your way to this unique eatery. Finding retirement a little quiet, owner Jess decided to take on a new and admittedly rather expensive hobby: The Greedy Buddha. Initially a small kitchen offering mostly takeaways, the concept has now grown to a full restaurant.
After living in Thailand and travelling the Far East extensively, he wanted a kitchen that reflected his love for Asian cuisine. Almost everything has some chilli in it, and I you’ll notice some of the little unique menu twists. Don’t leave without trying their sushi platters, the Szechwan Chilli Halloumi Bites, and the Crispy Pork Belly & Prawn Tails is a signature must-do.
4. The Joint Jazz Cafe
Moving to the city itself, no Durban visit is replete without a walk on the Golden Mile. At some point your hunger – or desire to admire the view will cause you to pause, and the brand new Joint Jazz Cafe is the perfect place to do so. The owners were desirous of creating a more upmarket shish inyama option (a isiZulu term used to describe a local braai or barbecue) but with ocean vistas and in walking distance from the city.
The restaurant is open all day, and offers some lovely local twists to the traditional fare. Afroslaw replaces coleslaw, and the bacon in your SA Breakfast Braai is hot rock cooked, and the uJeqe (steamed bread) is a definite must. As the day progresses, so does the music from Jazz, to deep house in the evening. Barely a year old, it’s already a favourite with locals and tourists alike, so for those wanting a more authentic local experience, the Jazz Joint will hit the spot.
5. 9th Ave Bistro
9th Ave Bistro is a neighbourhood eatery with upmarket dining, located in Morningside area and headed up by husband and wife foodies Graham & Gina Neilson. Having worked at the Bistro before their forays abroad, the previous owners knew their love for the industry, and when selling, gave them first option of taking over the restaurant. They happily and eagerly accepted, and apparently, South Africans have been as eager and happy: among others, the couple earned the Bistro the 2017 Conde Nast Gourmet Magazine People’s choice for South Africa’s favourite restaurant.
Graham’s culinary mastery is something to be savoured, particularly with options such as chorizo-stuffed squid, gin cured salmon, gorgonzola, pear & candied pecan nut salad – and these are just the starters. For mains, I’d wholeheartedly suggest the crispy roasted free-range duck or artichoke & truffle risotto. During our conversation, Gina had to pause to personally thank each of the leaving patrons. This personal touch, combined with an understated elegance and sensation food makes 9th Ave Bistro a must-visit.
6. Big Easy Durban
My last suggestion will ensure all the grill-lovers are happy. Durban’s iconic Hilton Hotel has had a recent renovation, and The Big Easy was the first to be completed. Big East is the brainchild of golfing legend Ernie Els, who wanted to ensure a comfortable dining experience, warm staff, and a generous menu awaits you at this. Although the Hilton is well respected as a business hotel, I’d still encourage a visit to the five-star property for a hearty meal.
The oxtail and marrow fritters make for a sumptuous starter, as with the spice-rubbed lamb ribs. For mains, you can’t go wrong with a steak, and try out the Durban spiced butter as an accompaniment. If you’re brave, the bacon wrapped crocodile medallions is a tasty and unique option. Don’t leave with trying the baked apple crumble – home cooking comfort dessert at its best.