It was time to seek the sun – off to Durban in July to race through a few restaurants. Staying at the Beverly Hills as our base from which to eat up a storm was a right royal treat, starting with a right royal welcome. We lunched at The Chef’s Table, a stone’s throw from the beachfront. Here their five-course tasting menu is extremely popular, but we chose to have a light lunch of a goat’s cheese agnolotti and heirloom tomato starter for me, the Black Angus seared fillet for my man. We then shared the wood-fired prawns with spicy tomato chutney, lentil, basmati and garlic butter foam, which had come from Mozambique that morning. More than delicious, but as there was no finger bowl, I used that as my excuse of being a Capetonian and have a bath back at the Beverly Hills!
We had cocktails in the gorgeous bar at The Oyster Box that evening, with the ceiling fans conjuring up memories of our Singapore slings at Raffles in our youth. We were welcomed to the Ocean Terrace where our waitress Portia gently persuaded us to follow fans of the curry buffet rather than choosing off the a la carte menu. Not being a lover of buffet-style eating, I am thrilled to report that it was superlative, giving us a great spectrum of flavours without having to restrict ourselves to just one dish. How can you visit Durban and not indulge in some heat? A charming diner next to use over-extended herself and nearly collapsed when she sampled the vindaloo! I nearly offered to fetch the fans from the bar! A lively exchange between our two tables followed, and the evening became quite social. Of all the curries I loved the fish curry and the aubergine the most. Our dessert of kulfi ice cream did the trick in cooling our palates down. I was thrilled to bring some of chef Kevin Joseph’s curry powder home with me to relive the experience.
The inviting views of the promenade from our beautiful Beverly Hills room got us up early to join in the weekly park run that takes place at 08h00 on a Saturday all over the world. We returned to a sumptuous breakfast on the patio with sparkling wine and – monkeys! Then it was to the loungers to soak up some sun, interrupted only for fruit skewers and ice creams offered by staff, and drinks, before taking advantage of their spa. Rather than being holed up in a room you can discreetly be treated behind billowing white curtains in the corner of the garden, or lie on your lounger and have a massage, mani or pedi at the pool.
Saturday night was spent at the Big Easy at the Hilton Hotel. Here chef Janine, who hails originally from Gansbaai, sets the style for Miami and Dubai branches. Seeing her signature dishes like the lamb shank bunnychow on their menus must feel like a real feather in her cap. Robust flavours and simple platings keeps Durbanites, sports lovers, wine connoisseurs, Ernie Els fans and visitors to the convention centre more than happy. Janine likes to keep her food simple, and states that she cannot cook without garlic, and loves using alcohol and wine in her food, as seen in her marmalade pork belly in cooked in Savanna.
We declared the oxtail marrow fritters our favourite of the evening. The effort taken to source prime ingredients from the surrounds and farms in the Midlands has paid off. Here it is farm to table, inspired by Janine’s belief that pure, good products and food will never go out of fashion. She seeks inspiration from very old recipe books, and her heritage.
After saying farewell to the team at Beverly Hills, en route to Hartford House in Mooi River we stopped at Café Bloom for lunch. Their daily farmer’s table is a veritable feast of fresh, farm fare. Get there before 12h30 as once it has been served there is a furious flurry to help yourself, and an hour later you may just get crumbs. Their toasted sandwiches and home bakes all looked as good.
Book of the month – a re-read of Peter Mayle’s Bon Appetite. One wintry afternoon was spent ‘with Peter’ touring France with a fork and corkscrew.
Product of the month – the Taittinger range of Champagnes – I’m hooked!
Stay in touch – next up – hear all about our unforgettable stay at Hartford House