Eating out in Durbs
From princes to paupers, here are some ideas of where to eat out for a range of budgets, while travelling through Durban.
it’s like you could step off and walk on to it.” Luke Upfold, 20, is almost surprised by his own thoughtfulness in the absolute stillness of the moment.
A local, he and a few other youngsters had followed us to the Monteseel viewpoint from the Hasiender pub where we had stopped for a drink. Maybe it was the cameras we were wielding. Maybe it’s the sheer warmth of the people in this part of the world.
We had tentatively stepped into the typically local hangout prepared for a slightly frosty reception at the intrusion. Instead we were met with slap chips, a dozen or more recommendations of what to see in their beloved Valley of a Thousand Hills, and the chatter of two old friends sitting side by side at the bar, Gordon and Desmond Wright. “The Wright brothers?” I ask. “No, but if we have too much to drink we fly a bit,” they giggle.
The valley itself was a revelation of silence and peace after the rush of our five-day tour and attempts to cram in as much of the city as possible. From Florida to Davenport Road; five star hotels and backpackers and every imaginable food experience on offer.
The great thing about Durban is we could do it on a range of budgets. We’ve already rounded up the range of accommodation options available for different pockets. But to really experience a place you have to try its food. From princes to paupers, here are some ideas of where to eat out while travelling through Durban.
Of shoestrings and paupers
Lauren Clifford-Holmes at Little Gujurat. (M&G) For budget eating—and shopping—downtown Durban and the Indian quarter is a delight.
We snacked on mouth-watering potato curry for R14 at the vegetarian Little Gujurat at 43 and 107 Prince Edward Street.
There are also bunny chows—South Africa’s working man meal invented in Durban.
You can get this filling and wacky meal for between R8 and R30. See our round-up of the best bunny places for where to go a-hunting, as well as brief history of this rather political food.
Somewhere in the middle
Spiga D’oro on Florida road. (M&G) At this price range there are restaurants almost too numerous to mention. Market at 40 Marriott Road, Greyville, is the spot for a quirky menu and healthy eating, for between R42 and R95 for a main.
Sit at rickety round tabled dotted around a fountain in an enclosed courtyard, under a canopy of trees. My pan-fried calamari, brown basmati rice, red pest and macadamia salad, R70, was the most interesting combination of flavours of all my meals on the tour. For every local’s favourite Italian diner try Spiga D’oro on 200 Florida Road for the affable waiters, buzzing vibe and meals between R45 and R90.
Mexican restaurant are hard to find but Taco Zulu, also on the popular Florida road, does fusion “Mexican” and features all sorts of locals—from laidback surfers to dolled-up blondes and rowdy groups. It’s more racially-mixed than a lot of places in Durban and their food is experimental as is their bubblegum and chilli-infused tequilas.
If I were a rich man
The Ocean Terrace restaurant. (Supplied) Our five-star accommodation experience was the recently revamped Oyster Box In Umhlanga. Surprisingly, Durban doesn’t have any high-end hotels in the actual city. A northward movement of the area’s elite has meant that places like Umhlanga are increasingly the playground of the wealthy—a pity, given the immensely rich and historical experiences to be had in the city.
Nonetheless, if I had to play at being rich the Oyster Box would definitely be my spot. Started in 1947, the hotel is an institution with locals. It was completely refurbished under new management in 2007 and the general theme pays homage to Durban’s history: a confluence of Indian, African and Colonial styles. If you’re eating at this rate you may as well do it at this hotel.
The Ocean Terrace restaurant, overlooking an expansive pool set before the hotel’s private beach, has a clean Bombay feel to it with turquoise touches and Indian-inspired architecture. Light lunches here will set you back between R70 and R95. The Grill Room is the place for serious dining, under the able hand of executive chef Kevin Joseph, who regaled us with hilarious stories of “char-ous and wit-ous” throughout our three-course dinner. I went for flavour overkill with a starter of snails in garlic and parsley butter and potato gnocchi for R90, paired with a wooded Chardonnay by an expert sommelier.
My main was braised oxtail at R150 and desert a selection of three crème brulees for us to sample. Loved the starter but the oxtail didn’t blow me away as promised. Lounging on the deck chairs eating oysters the next day certainly did though. You’ll pay about R90 for the privilege of a plate of eight. Enquire about their old-fashioned dinner dances too for R450 per person.
That was our round-up. But we’re positive you can’t wait to pooh-pooh our list with your far better recommendations, if you’re familiar with this warm city by the sea, let us know your favourite dining spots in the comment box below.