From its famously fantastic curries to stellar seafood, Durban and its surrounding areas of the North Coast has always been everyone’s favourite holiday destination. After a burst of new openings and the rapid growth of the restaurant scene, the East Coast city pumps all year round with new bars, fresh seafood and casual café-style fare.
Here is our list of the best restaurants in Durban and its close surrounding areas, as rated and reviewed for the 2017 Eat Out magazine.
If you’re on the hunt for restaurants along the South Coast or the Midlands, keep an eye out for those guides in the next few weeks.
This lively tapas spot fuses old-school Mexican food with inventive flavours. Try the Jala Bombs to start, followed by empanadas filled with goat’s cheese and spicy Spanish sausage, patatas bravas, pulled-pork tacos, or a hearty seafood paella to share. The bar is fully stocked with a wide range of tequilas, and the barmen constantly experiment with exciting cocktails. The margaritas are particularly feisty.
This popular Mexican eatery encourages you to eat with your hands. The usual fare of tacos, burritos, quesadillas and fajitas has SA additions like boerie and chakalaka, and some worthwhile snacky dishes. Have a glass of bottomless soda handy for the cheese-stuffed jalapeños and the angry onions with chilli-lime aioli. Vegetarian dishes include huevos rancheros and the WTF – Where are the Fajitas? – a sizzling skillet of grilled onions, peppers and tofu, served with tortillas, sour cream, cheese and rice or beans.
Republik (Durban North)
This is the ultimate gourmet burger experience. Build your own burger with mouth-watering sauces like creamy bourbon mushroom, rich black pepper or traditional cheese and barbecue, and have shoe-string fires on the side. The Republik 4.0 sports a 180g free-range beef patty, crowned with creamy camembert, Parma ham and a drizzle of fig-and-rosemary sauce. Tuck into desserts like deep-fried Bar One bites with ice cream or classic Peppermint Crisp tart.
Smokin’ Joe’s (Berea) – Eat Out Savanna Best Burger Eatery: winner
Expect some of the best burgers in town at this casual spot. The juicy beef burgers are definitely the stars but the chicken versions will also hit the spot.
Greedy Buddha (Umhlanga Rocks)
The Asian-inspired menu features tapas and main dishes with classic flavours and more experimental combinations. Soup served in espresso cups is a great way to start the meal, as are pot-stickers and wontons for dim-sum fans. The Ducking Fantastic platter is ideal for sharing: the bird is shredded at the table, and guests assemble their own pancakes with a sweet-and-salty hoison sauce. Other highlights include crispy pork belly and hearty prawn- or beef-topped noodles. There’s also the signature pan-seared line fish, lamb chops and burgers for picky eaters.
The Wok Box (Durban North)
Be transported to Thailand as you indulge in fresh, fragrant and steaming dishes. Start with tempura-battered vegetables or a steaming soup, then move on to generously portioned mains, like crispy chilli chicken, deep-fried salt-and-pepper calamari rings, or roasted duck with pancakes and a sauce of honey, ginger and sesame. Finish off with delicious homemade ice cream or Nutella spring rolls with coconut custard.
Quo Restaurant (Gillitts)
This iconic award-winning restaurant promises innovative starters like chilli-ginger prawns and calamari phad Thai. Generous mains deliver a round-the-world experience, from baguettes with creamy beef fillet to seafood with a variety of Asian dressings and broths. Desserts cross boundaries with traditional bread-and-butter pudding alongside Turkish nougat with caramel-brandy pears.
9th Avenue Bistro (Morningside)
Chefs Graham Neilson and Michelin-starred Charlie Lakin have crafted a menu that celebrates seasonality and skill, with a strong focus on creativity. Think ostrich fillet served with salted orange-and-beetroot salad, preserved plums, buttermilk and brioche crumbs, or creamy shellfish orzo with barbecued langoustine and delicate lemon foam. A six-course tasting menu allows you to experience a variety of dishes. The vanilla bean crème brûlée is a sinfully good dessert.
Market Restaurant (Essenwood)
Look forward to simple, seasonal cuisine using locally sourced and organic (where possible) ingredients. All-day breakfasts encompass pastry treats like savoury crumpets with crispy bacon or poached egg and onion marmalade, and casual lunches embrace complex global tastes, from steak and calamari to home-made falafel and hoison-plum duck. Fresh line fish and game are available, but vegetarians will find something to please them, too. The extensive wine list pays homage to Durban’s wine-drinking culture.
Ray’s Kitchen (Salt Rock)
Choose from pastas, risottos, pizzas and grills here. The fishcakes and tuna spring rolls are highly recommended, as are the hearty mains like fillet steak, panzerotti with plump prawns and spicy chorizo, and wild mushroom risotto with bright tenderstem broccoli. Heed the call of the glossy dark-chocolate fondant for dessert.
Unity Brasserie and Bar (Musgrave)
Fare here is simple, drawing on local flavours. For a great start, try the sizzling prawns, salt-and-pepper squid or bonemarrow on toast. Comforting mains include the likes of bangers and silky mash with onion gravy and lemon-and-rosemary chicken. Sign off with a warm white-chocolate brownie or cheesecake. There are plentiful wines, great local beers and cocktails to wash it all down.
Delish Sisters (Salt Rock)
Wholesome café-style cooking is what you’ll find here. Breakfasts steer clear of run-of-the-mill eggs on toast, featuring the likes of pecan-crusted French toast, shakshuka and a beautiful eggs Benny. The harvest lunch table is always laden with fresh, seasonal dishes. Other highlights include roasted lamb naan and the ever-popular phyllo cigars filled with meaty mushrooms and thyme. Desserts will satisfy with fresh bakes like pasteis de nata and halva-and-pecan cheesecake.
Freedom Café (Greyville)
After a stylish revamp and updated menu, Freedom has cemented itself as the place for a quick coffee with friends or a long, lazy meal. For breakfast, try chakalaka on your eggs, or opt for steel-cut oats and fresh robot juices. There’s nothing pedestrian about lunch: think kimchi-mayo beef burgers; Korean chicken wings in a spicy gochujang; and a cola-marinated pulled-pork burrito bowl with avo and salsa. End with a sublime koeksister ice cream.
Glenwood Bakery (Glenwood)
Chef Adam Robinson’s name has become synonymous with artisanal bread made from locally milled, unbleached stone-ground flour. Between 10am and 3pm you can snack on gourmet sandwiches filled with fresh ingredients like Midlands cheeses, roasted tomatoes and aubergine on rye, ciabatta or rosemary-and-potato bread. Pizza evenings are held on Monday and Tuesday nights; for which patrons are encouraged to bring their own tipple.
Parc Café (Glenwood)
The menu on the wall is an expression of chef-patron Brett Gentle’s affinity for simple, casual food prepared lovingly. Salads, open sandwiches, quiches, soups and all-day breakfasts are available. Parc was put on the map by its Eggs Not-so-Benedict, a dish of poached eggs on bacon or fried mushrooms, smothered in Hollandaise and resting on slice of Glenwood Bakery’s much-loved potato-and-rosemary bread. Other highlights include the chicken-liver pâté and chicken Caesar salad.
The Prep Room (Glenwood)
The small, playful menu caters for health nuts and pleasure seekers. From the Salubrious section, dishes are free of wheat and low in carbs, such as garlicky mushrooms on rye, or avo with buttered bacon for the banters. For more indulgence, look to the Hedonistic options, like a deconstructed sandwich with zesty guacamole, mature cheese and an egg baked into Glenwood ciabatta. The take-home dinner offering is clever: Grab a rotisserie chicken or family-size lasagne for a quick fix.
Sprigs The Food Shop (Kloof)
The bakery and food retail space of sisters Clare and Fiona Ras offers an unpretentious variety of food, including breakfasts, light lunches and decadent pastries. An antipasti board of the day might contain kebabs, dukkah-feta balls, roasted vegetables and artisanal bread. Gourmet sandwiches are on offer, some with a twist, such as the Greek-style roasted pork neck with tomatoes and whipped feta, served on a pretzel.
Capsicum (Umgeni Road)
This popular eatery is famous for its real Durban curries. Start with cheese-and-sweetcorn samoosas; and then go for the lovely mutton curry in a bunny chow or with rice. The tripe curry is also worth trying, braised in ground fennel and cumin and fresh ginger and garlic. Other good options include traditional spicy beans or Cornish chicken curry. For a sweet ending, try the burgee ice cream, Bombay crush or the Swiss carrot cake.
Impulse by the Sea (Tinley Manor)
Whet your appetite with poppadoms or exceptional chicken livers braised with garlic and spices. The signature prawn and crab curries, with exotic spices in a rich tomato-based gravy, really are the champions here. Be sure also to explore the lamb curry, rich butter chicken, and the masala-grilled fish. Cool down afterwards with an ice cream.
Mali’s Indian Restaurant (Morningside)
The vast menu features a range of North and South Indian dishes. Choose from variations of idli, dosas and vadai, and luxurious chicken, lamb, veg and seafood curries, mopped up with a variety of breads. Can’t decide? Order a thali, which comes with soup, succulent lamb curry, butter chicken, dhal, naan bread, crispy papad, sambals, yoghurt, and gulab jamun for dessert.
Al Firenze (La Lucia)
Typical Italian fare like pizza and pasta keeps everyone happy, but some real culinary gems make this a standout eatery. The trifolati mushrooms are sensational, delicately sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley. Other highlights include baked artichokes with parmesan and garlic, and the chicken livers, smothered in Napoletana sauce with a touch of chilli and cream, which you should soak up with mozzarella-and-onion focaccia. The seafood platter is the kind you languish over all afternoon, with the sauce dropping down to your elbows.
Bel Punto (Umdloti)
Snack on complimentary garlic focaccia while perusing the extensive menu, which includes seafood, grills, salads and pasta infused with authentic southern Italian flavours by the Cantatore family. Delicious bites include feta-stuffed olives, chicken livers and lemon-and-herb calamari. You can’t go wrong with a seafood platter, bursting with queen or tiger prawns, langos, mussels, calamari and line fish – and throw in oysters if you’re feeling flush. Finish off with Italian kisses or baked cheesecake.
The Glenwood Restaurant (Glenwood)
Adam Robinson of The Glenwood Bakery pays homage once more to flour and water – but here it’s all about fresh, handmade and perfectly prepared pasta. Offerings are mostly vegetarian, but your palate won’t miss the protein on once if tastes the gossamer-thin sheets of pasta and sublime sauces. On Sundays they do great roasts.
La Casa Nostra (Umdloti)
Start off the Italian way with ricotta-stuffed olives and crispy calamari. With the wood-fired oven blazing, it’s hard to resist a pizza or the local favourite of oven-baked peri-peri chicken.
Lupa Osteria (Durban North)
The focus here is on authentic Italian dishes, fresh pasta and pizza. Share starters like spicy chicken livers, pretzel-dusted calamari, or crumbed and fried artichoke with minty mayo. Carnivores can choose from wood-roasted chicken or lamb shank, veal, or a balsamic avo fillet stack with white-wine risotto.
Marco Paulo (Mount Edgecombe)
Dishes are stylishly presented with funky twists: a pizza shaped like a baguette, snails done three ways, or a plate of bruschetta with a mix of toppings. Equally enticing are the pizzas; signature pasta dishes like spaghetti gamberi with prawns, olive oil, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and rocket or wild mushroom fettuccini; succulent beef fillet; and creamy risotto with rosemary, bacon, baby peas and slow-roasted tomatoes. If space still allows, desserts are freshly prepared and available on request.
Old Town Italy (Umhlanga)
This is an eclectic combo of restaurant, deli and market. The extensive menus are composted of seasonal in-store ingredients. Innovative breakfasts include homemade sausage with poached eggs and marmalade, waffles and filled croissants. Lunch offers a mouth-watering array of antipasti and pastas. Order buffet-style from the deli or à la carte items like succulent lemon chicken, rib eye or fritto misto.
Remo’s Villagio (Umhlanga Rocks)
This branch of Remo’s is almost always busy, giving locals and tourists a taste of authentic Italy. Try an eggy breakfast, or stay for lunch and dinner to enjoy a range of pizzas, pastas, seafood salads, burgers and meat dishes. Highlights are gorgonzola-stuffed arancini; beef carpaccio shaved wafer thin and served with cannellini beans and parmesan; red wine-braised lamb with rigatoni pasta; and gnocchi with meatballs and Mamma’s sauce. Finish off with delicious coffee-infused crème brûlée.
Café 1999 (Musgrave)
Chef Marcelle Roberts has perfected contemporary Mediterranean cuisine for sharing. Here so-called Bitparts are available in half and full portions, offering the likes of signature crumbed Kalamata olives stuffed with ricotta; Double-D samoosas filled with duck, dates and feta; gorgonzola-stuffed figs; and lamb meatballs. Delve further into fresh line fish, lemony roasted cauliflower with almond emulsion, or gnocchi simmered in a gorgonzola-butternut sauce. The award-winning wine list is full of carefully chosen gems.
031 Bar and Restaurant (Morningside)
Kick-start things with sweet-and-sour pickled onion bhaji, zucchini fritti, and truffled biltong mac ‘n chini balls. The Asian worsrol is a flavour explosion, with fiery Korean ketchup, wasabi mayo and deep-fried ginger, and the Prohibition Waffle satisfies with tender chicken, sweet-and-sour relish and blue cheese. Be sure to try one of their creative cocktails made with the Distillery 031 spirit range.
Bellevue Café (Kloof)
Chef-patron Chris Black has a well-earned reputation for creating food magic. Light breakfasts range from home-made toasted banana bread to classic eggs and bacon. Lunches cater for the social crowd with chicken-and-prawn curry. Signature pastas are homemade and come with creamy and rich sauces. Dinner mains are hearty, including rigatoni with slow-cooked lamb ragu, exotic burger creations, and a triple-roasted free-range duck with Cointreau orange sauce.
The Chefs Table (Umhlanga Rocks)
Started by head chef and visionary Kayla-Ann Osborn and her team, this is a place where you eat with your eyes first. The open-plan kitchen invites you to watch the chefs prepare exquisite dishes of the day. Previous highlights include roasted pumpkin tortellini in rich bacon cream; Greenfield’s roasted bonemarrow with slow-braised beef tongue and sweet mustard; and wood-fired swordfish with rustic mash and a bouillabaisse broth. Dessert is fun, featuring the likes of chocolate popcorn with mint ice cream.
The menu features local and seasonal cuisine, with specials chalked up around the double-storey space. Breakfasts range from duck-and-potato hash with fried egg to spicy beans with smoky pork belly and a poached egg on a toasted English muffin. Open sandwiches boast combinations like smoked salmon, crème fraiche and avo or tuna mayo, roasted tomatoes and artichoke aioli. If you’re after a snack, order scones, doughnuts or muffins.
The Grill Jichana (Snell Parade)
A small, focused menu featured starters like beef carpaccio, saffron mussels, and chicken livers. For the main event, choose from beef or ostrich steaks, slow-braised lamb, cinnamon-and-citrus duck, tiger prawns and SASSI green-listed line fish. Round off your meal with the signature Valrhona chocolate ball.
The Grill Room at The Oyster Box Hotel (Umhlanga Rocks)
This is a refined seasonal menu. The ceviche is delicately flavoured with Asian flavours; the snail cassoulet with anchovy cream and lemon is extremely moreish; and the truffle ravioli in chardonnay cream is heavenly. Also try roasted fennel pork, crumbed venison or five-spiced duck. Finish on crème brûlée.
The Ocean Terrace at The Oyster Box Hotel (Umhlanga Rocks)
Start the day at the breakfast buffet with oysters and bubbly, eggs made to order, pancakes and waffles. Lunch and dinner feature light café-style meals and the popular curry buffet. Two tandoori ovens produce fresh naan and roti daily.
The Shed (Salt Rock)
This spot is perfect for a lazy, booze-filled lunch with mates. Kick off with plump tempura prawns or smoky polenta-crumbed sweet-potato wedges. For mains, the bourbon burger is sensational, topped with crispy bacon, mature cheddar and cararmelised onions. Pizzas and seafood are also popular. Finish on a milkshake: Milo and cookie dough or fried banana and peanut butter.
The travels and respective cultures of owners Russell and Linda Burger have inspired a broad menu that caters for all tastes. Dishes are generous and impeccably presented. Look forward to coriander-and-chilli fishcakes; a prawn-and-avo poppadum with mild curry-cream dressing; and traditional curries served mild, medium or eye-wateringly hot. The roasted duck with drunken orange and figs is a standout. Finish off on baked camembert layered with preserved figs.
The menu celebrates Portuguese cuisine with rich meat- and seafood dishes doused in various combinations of peri-peri, garlic, lemon and butter. Highlights are chicken livers, trinchado beef, fish cakes, slow-cooked giblets and grilled calamari. Get the best of both worlds with a combo. The imported 2M beers here are a refreshing feature.
Catch (Umhlanga Rocks)
The extensive ocean-themed options range from sushi, dim sum and curry to shellfish and fish burgers. To start, try spring rolls or tempura, then move on to anything from battered hake and chips to kingklip thermidor. If you’re indecisive, the combos (served with wasabi mash, chips, savoury rice or salad) are handy. The seafood curry is delicious and full of flavour and spice. Desserts include a deep-fried ice cream and oozy chocolate fondant. Fish-bowl cocktails are a fun choice.
Ile Maurice (Umhlanga Rocks)
Ile Maurice celebrated 40 years in Durban in 2016 and remains a stalwart of French-Mauritian cuisine. The menu focuses on seafood, with entrées like crab in its shell, lightly battered peri-peri prawns, oysters and escargot. All fish dishes are SQ and the mains are quite pricey. Meat dishes include lamb, beef, oxtail, duck and rabbit. The signature fish vindaye is spiced with turmeric, garlic and ginger.
Jack Salmon Fish House (Glenashley)
Jack Salmon scores big with its fresh-from-the-sea promise. In keeping with the Mediterranean feel, order a meze platter of olives, lemony halloumi and calamari. Shucked oysters and steamed mussels also feature. The platter of prawns, calamari and catch of the day is recommended, or try the signature parmesan-and-panko-crumbed kingklip with tomatoes, olives and capers. If you can squeeze in a dessert, succumb to Death by Brownie.
Butcher Block (Umhlanga Rocks)
Catering to carnivores, this eatery make choice cuts the hero, with various iterations of flame-grilled beef, wet-aged for a minimum of 21 days. A starter of baked camembert is oozy and delicious on melba toast, and panko-crumbed prawns are delicate and crisp, dipped in sweet chilli sauce. The rib-eye steak with bordelaise-and-bonemarrow sauce is tasty, and seafood is an option, too, in the form of grilled calamari, butterflied prawns and line fish. Decadents include the likes of deep-fried Oreo and a chocolate soufflé.
Butcher Boys (Morningside)
This is unashamedly a meat lover’s paradise, with the emphasis on succulent rump, sirloin, rib-eye, fillet, espetada, T-bone or prime rib. All the beef here is either wet- or dry-aged between 25 and 35 days, basted and expertly grilled on an open flame to your taste. Dive into culinary experiences like côte de boeuf, chateaubriand and slow-roasted lamb shank.
Little Havana (Umhlanga Rocks)
Starters like deconstructed prawn samoosas speak to Durban’s cultural heritage. Fresh line fish is appealing, served simply or spiced; however, it’s the perfectly executed free-range and hormone-free steaks – mostly wet-aged – from the on-site butchery for which the eatery is known. Try the risotto rump or the entrecôte béarnaise. Pair this with some of SA’s best wines.
By no means a complete list of all Durban restaurants, this list comprises the top restaurants rated and reviewed for the 2017 Eat Out magazine, which is on sale now.