With seasoned pros like head chef Charlie Lakin and Graham Neilson at the helm of 9th Avenue Bistro, the Durban icon’s reputation is in safe hands. Whether ordered à la carte or from the six-course tasting menu, the seasonal flavours and locally sourced ingredients harmonise to create beautiful plates of food, says Eat Out critic Nikita Buxton.
Cost: Average main meal is R190; six-course tasting menu for R450 per person (R580 for wine pairing and coffee)
Serves: Modern bistro fare
Star ratings: Food 5, service 5, ambience 4
Beginnings could include the all-time favourite of roasted butternut squash ravioli or the creamy shellfish orzo, but it’s the free-range chicken croustillant that truly shines. Thin potato strips form a golden and crispy casing to a nostalgically delicious filling of chicken and goat’s cheese. The flavours are completely comforting, offset beautifully by honey-pickled vegetables and a tangy goat’s cheese dressing. Another standout starter is the gin-cured salmon. It’s flavourful yet delicate, with thinly sliced fresh salmon, a black onion-seed crème fraîche and fluffy potato blinis.
Deciding on mains might prove difficult with the enticing choices on offer. Heed the call of the classic and generously plated prawn-tail fettucine with fiery red pepper and creamy tomato ragout, or turn to a comforting curry-infused roast lamb rump with spinach, lentils and onion bhajis. The line fish of the day could come in the form of red snapper with bright vegetables and the most addictive parmesan beignets. The vegetarian option of truffled porcini-and-leek risotto is anything but boring. The blissful bowl comes complete with a dainty nest of crispy leeks and fudgy confit egg yolks that add even more lusciousness to the dish. If you’re feeling naughty, add some salty lamb bacon.
Be sure to leave space for dessert. The vanilla-bean crème brûlée never disappoints, served with a welcoming tang of pineapple salsa and homemade shortbread for scooping. The baked pavlova leaves taste buds singing with its zingy lemon curd, lemon Chantilly cream and bright berry sorbet. Shards of meringue round off the dish with a pleasing crunch.
The wine list at 9th is well cultivated with interesting varietals and names, as well as a strong focus on sustainability. The comprehensive selection features estates such as KZN’s Abingdon Wine Estate, Meinert Wines, Badenhorst Family Wines, and Avondale. There’s a good selection by the glass, too.
Staff are knowledgeable and friendly, with elegance to mirror the food. Simple touches like letting the wine breathe and complimentary after-dinner treats make the occasion feel special.
This is cosy bistro dining, complete with white tablecloths and a European feel. While not much has changed décor-wise over the years, the ambience continues to feel warm with a welcoming hum coming from the open kitchen.
Every few months, 9th Avenue hosts set-menu dinners in partnership with leading local wine estates.
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