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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Duvane Does Durban

If you have an appetite for escapades and are keen to try new things, the usual restaurant franchises provide little relief from this intrinsic yearning of the adventurer.

From pizza to pastas, sushi to grills, burgers to prawns, to curries and cocktails, welcome to new experiences…  

Gone are the evenings that are spent begging the questions of where to eat, what to do, what do you feel like eating? This is part 1 of a 3 part dining series that will provide you with fresh insight into some of the popular culinary locales in and around Durban & Johannesburg.

Don't even plan it, just go. 
So make sure you bookmark this page for quick access! You're welcome. 

 (Please feel free to leave a comment below of your personal experience with these establishments)

Prawn Shack
Prawn Shack

As the name suggests, this rustic lodging located near the Amatikulu Estuary on the KZN north coast offers a unique culinary experience.

This isn’t the place for the prissy or the sissy. The caipirinha is the signature drink of this establishment and is served as a complimentary welcome drink. This is a place for the open-minded, offering a 7-course buffet style menu known as the “Lazy Lunch”, due to the amount of time it takes to get through! (Approximately 5hrs).

Honestly, I did come expecting prawns the size of my head but was sorely disappointed.  The prawn soup was by far the best of the lot. Also served up was a prawn salad, prawn bunny (A hash of spices with a small burn, quite an insult to a curry)… but palatable. Grilled prawns on an open braai which were good but could’ve been better. Dessert consisted of camerbet… which I realized how much I dislike. I must point out that this place is more about the drive, the bohemian vibe and the social experience rather than just the food. The bar has a nice touch with playground swings instead of formal seating. I suggest coming along with good company; people that know how to have fun regardless of context.

Service is extremely friendly and they add a nice personal touch to the entire experience albeit at the cost of efficiency. Half-way through the day all patrons are escorted down to the beach to walk off a bit of those extra servings. This is an ‘all you can eat’ experience but taste testing is about as much as you’ll be willing to do for some of the dishes.

Damage: 160pp (7 "courses")

Contact Details: 084 737 6493  
  Note: Prawn Shack is a cash free zone so be sure to take along your debit/ credit cards

La Casa Nostra
La Casa Nostra

This ‘little piece of Italy’ located in Umdloti is an authentic old fashioned Italian trattoria. A family run restaurant, who also own Bel Punto (next review), that has all the exclusivity that such an establishment should possess. You won’t get any sea views but the cuisine should be distraction enough.

The starter courses were decent. The deep fried calamari (baby squid) & mushrooms in cheesy sauce-Both done exceptionally well. I am quite the fan of pasta dishes and but was a tad disappointed in their ‘carbonara’. The pasta sauce was used frugally, which left the dish very ‘underdone’. On that note, Primis Carbonara never fails to disappoint. As for the ravioli at Casa, superb. Having used Spiga d’Oro as a yard stick when measuring any pasta’s, I can confidently say this ranks among the best.

Next on my hit list will definitely be their calzone!

Service was good, friendly and personal. Most patrons seemed like regulars, well acquainted with the owner. The making of an enjoyable evening here begins with starters & a nice port (depending on your meals & taste) with a long dragged out conversation & laughter with mains, desert and coffee before parting.

Damage: 120 – 150

Contact: 031 568 1996
     Shop 4, Whitesands Shopping Centre 1 Main Road Umdloti 

     Note: Operating times are not your usual business hours and bookings are a must if you want to avoid disappointment.
 Times: Lunch Wednesday - Sunday: 12:00 - 15:00
                   Dinner Tuesday - Sunday: 18:00 - 22:00
       Open every day in Season and Mondays on Long Weekends

Bel Punto

Bel Punto is the sister restaurant to La Casa Nostra, also in the Umdloti Village. The evening ambience is bolstered by the soft lighting which pales into triviality when compared to the option of sitting on the deck. This is a modern, casual, chic establishment with a contemporary feel and outstanding panoramic sea views no matter where you are seated. Bel Punto stands out because of venue. Lunch here supersedes dinner, not in menu but in ambience.

Service is friendly and astute. There have been odd instances of disappointment in certain food items at both Bel Punto & La Casa Nostra, but this is to be expected with exclusive restaurants that don’t churn out dishes like a franchised production line. The steak fillet definitely ranks right up there with Beira Alta & Butcher Block. The à la carte selection is sparse but whatever you choose you’ll be left satisfied, more often than not. Trust that I will not lead you astray!

Bel Punto is a definite style point earner for a date, thoughtful outing & even a business luncheon.

Damage: 120

Contact: 031 568 2407
   Umdloti Centre 1 South Beach Road, Umdloti

Note: Bookings are essential!!

The Bamboo Lounge

This remarkable little sushi lounge located in the heart of Umhlanga ranks in at #1 on my current list of sushi places. Some have suggested Aqua at Sibaya but I think it would be cheaper for me to fly to Japan and back for dinner.

Bamboo Lounge
Wherever you eat sushi, even though they’re all named the same, it’s very rare to find a restaurant that make them in the same way. The tempura, maki, California rolls, always taste different at every restaurant. I must say, I’ve been quite impressed with the quality and consistency of sushi at the Bamboo Lounge.
A must try are the cucumber rolls; battered & fried prawn encompassed with rice, cucumber & a small dollop of mayo. It’s the best thing the Japanese have come up with after Nintendo & Godzilla.

 With their lunch time special this place also has excellent value for money, second to none. When you consider the cost of individual plates, R65 is dirt cheap. I must stress, due to the popularity of the lunchtime special, bookings are essential.

Damage: R65pp Uncapped! A.k.a, All you can eat lunch special Mon - Fri (11:30 am – 15:30pm)      Includes 1 free drink.
                - Normally R110pp Uncapped - Includes 1 free drink.
                - ½ Price on all take- away Sushi

Contact: 031-561 2705
               48 Protea Mall 17 Chartwell Drive Umhlanga Rocks (Next to Wimpy)

Beach Bums

For a coastal city, Durban and its surroundings have few quality dining and entertainment options with a sea view or beach vibe. This is where Beach Bums rise above the rest.

Beach Bums
What could be better than breakfast on the beach with your toes in the sand? Or an evening of cocktails lying on the dunes…

Their motto “Forever Chilled” gives a good indication of the vibe that you can expect. It’s very laid back and tropical accompanied by decent background music .

The menu offers a wide selection of dishes. The Moroccan chicken burger, peri-peri chicken and line fish are worth a try. The pizzas are also noteworthy despite this not being a pizzeria.

Abandoned house
During peak periods bookings are essential but I must warn you, service is slow and inconsistent. During the busiest times you can expect to wait up to an hour and a half for your meals and don’t be surprised if your drinks arrive warm. It’s sad that the abysmal service brings down such an exceptional establishment. What keeps them going is that they have found a niche in the market, without competition. On a few occasions I have found myself having to leave my table to locate a waiter!

Service aside, you will not find another place with bar & restaurant facilities situated so close to a beach (literally on the sand) that allow a safe family atmosphere.
Chilling on the beach & taking poser photos at the neighboring abandoned house is a must!

Without a doubt, this is still one of my favourite places in Durban that I will continue to frequent on every visit to the province. 

Damage: 80

Contact: +27 32 943 1132
   65 Casuarina Beach, Westbrook

Special acknowledgment must be made to the following people (in no particular order) who made each and every dining experience a pleasurable one. 

Theesan Muruvan           Prasantha Ramsamy
Tarryn Govender            Kitrishia Naidoo
Jared Manickum             Ashlina Ramdutt
Sairushka Naidoo           Joelene Jetnarayan
Denushka Naidoo           Ian Naidoo
Ryan Fernandes              Thiruven Naidoo
Sanolia Naidoo               Deevaksha Viranna
Akira Ramdhial               Jessemaine Manickum
Shalin Naidu                    Lavania Joseph
Kavudh Panday               Devesh Lakman
Kavona Pillay                  Shaheev Parthab
Lashistha Pillay               Kavir Lutchmiah
Sumaya Ismail                 Tiffany Thumbiran

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