El Toro, a colourful and flamboyant new space, is the latest to join a host of restaurants in the up-and-coming foodie suburb of Durban North. Nikita Buxton heads to her hometown for a Mexican fiesta of flavours.
El Toro fuses old-school Mexican and Spanish classics with some rediscovered and inventive flavours in a varied tapas menu.
Start with the winning Jala bombs, El Toro’s take on chilli poppers: juicy jalapeño peppers are stuffed with a gloriously gooey combination of mozzarella and goat’s cheese and encased in a very light beer batter.
Empañadas are served in portions of two or four. The puff-pastry half moons are golden and deliciously flaky, filled with goat’s cheese and spicy Spanish sausage and served with guacamole. With a bit of crunch on the outside and an extra-creamy filling, these moreish bites are too good to share.
The patatas bravas dish is a bowl of pure happiness. Soft, slightly roasted potatoes are covered in a spicy tomato sauce, a sprinkling of cheese and lightly grilled in the oven, making for a great side dish or vegetarian tapas option. Another good side is the bean-and-corn mash. The subtly sweet and buttery bean mash has a pleasing, smooth texture, while the bites of charred corn add satisfying crunch.
The smoked pulled pork tacos and pulled chicken tacos arrive with a generous amount of filling, but the flavours are subdued, perhaps over-shadowed by the fiery bites we have already eaten. The meat in both tacos dishes is juicy and cooked to perfection, but the lack of heat or hit of lime has us wanting a little more.
For more hearty appetites, the paella dishes are generously portioned and served in traditional Valencia style, with garlic, saffron, paprika, fresh tomatoes, and chorizo. The marinara paella (served in the pan) is rich with tender crab pieces, local black mussels, hake, calamari and prawns. It’s a rather hefty portion that’s best shared.
The drinks menu is concise, with some great wine and beer choices. The bar is fully stocked with a wide range of tequilas and the barmen and mixologists constantly experiment with exciting cocktails. The margaritas are strong and feisty, just as they should be.
Energetic and on the ball. Staff are quick to check on you and take your order, and are helpful when explaining the menu.
El Toro is vibrant and fun. The décor is tastefully bold, with lots of colour and prints. On weekend nights the younger crowd might get a bit rowdy. On warm days (which is practically every day in Durban) the doors open up onto the deck. This area is, however, a smoking section, which does tend to let unwanted second-hand smoke waft through the front section of the restaurant, so it’s best to bear this in mind when booking your table.
With all the new restaurants in the area, parking can be a bit chaotic on busy nights, so we suggest getting there early or taking an Uber (especially if you’re planning on those shots of tequila).
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read the editorial policy here.