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.
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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This is where you go when you want food that’s both beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. Ingredients are considered and combined to make your meal experiential and not just satiating. Chefs Graham Neilsen and Michelin-starred Charlie Lakin have crafted a menu which celebrates seasonality and skill, with a strong focus on creativity.
Think ostrich fillet served with salted orange and beetroot salad, preserved plums, buttermilk, pine and brioche crumbs, or creamy shellfish orzo made with a combination of barbecued langoustine and baby lango tails, topped with delicate lemon foam. A six-course tasting menu, with or without wine pairings and coffee, allows you to experience a variety of dishes, which could include duck liver parfait served with toasted brioche and pickled apple salad, or succulent beef fillet and a delicate crispy oxtail croquette, served with bone marrow and potato mash. The chicken croustillant is an eat-before-you-die dish: a crispy potato string encases chicken, goats cheese, pineapple and macadamia nut butter parcel that simply melts in your mouth.
Don’t skip dessert – the vanilla bean crème brulee is sinfully good and the pear, apple and raisin bread pudding served with whisky ice cream, crème anglaise and pear compôte elevates a run-of-the-mill dish to heavenly heights.
A carefully considered list of sustainably-produced South African varietals, as well as a few imported champagne, sparkling, red and white wines, are on offer with both origins and wine makers listed, along with a handy glossary of definitions.
This is a well-oiled team of servers, knowledgeable in both food and wine who effortlessly work the room without breaking a sweat.
Despite being located in a small suburban shopping centre, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in a bustling European bistro once inside. The focus is on fine dining without the snoot and the cosy restaurant, complete with open kitchen, decadent aromas and understated efficiency, is a popular haunt for both locals and city visitors.
The owners have recently committed to reducing their waste footprint, embarking on a green journey. This sees them not only cooking with reduced waste in mind, but also implementing ways to recycle, reuse and replace.
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More than a decade on, this bistro remains as relevant as ever … perhaps even more so since accomplished British chef, Charlie Lakin, joined Graham Neilson in the kitchen. The focus of the menu remains the same, with dishes like grilled pork rib-eye served with a truffled macaroni cheese, broccoli and pork jus, or red onion tarte tatin with wildebeest bresaola, gorgonzola, rocket and plums. Specials could include the rich roast lamb rump with rustic pairing of edamame beans, marinated tomatoes, lamb bacon and confit garlic gnocchi or subtly smoked cob brandade, new season asparagus, heritage carrots, rainbow chard and caper mayonnaise. Charlie is a forager, so expect to see local flowers and plants as both adornment and ingredients. His love of offal can be translated into dishes such as pigs’ head terrine with squid heads, fermented carrot, squid ink kewpie, scallion and duck breast served with sweetbreads, ginger parkin and pickled cherry.
The lovingly curated wine collection is as thought provoking as it is comprehensive. Page upon page of international and local wines are listed with succinct description. A substantial South African selection showcases wines from iconic and boutique producers. There are also premium cognacs, aperitifs and classic cocktails.
A young, erudite ensemble is sharp of eye and fleet of foot. Great care is taken to observe etiquette and the service dispensed is discreet and glitch-free. A highly efficient, consistent kitchen completes the all-round experience.
The restaurant is located in the corner of an unassuming shopping centre. A covered veranda area affords privacy with wooden shutters; the simple interior relies on wood, exposed brick and botanical artworks and tables are given a classical, understated treatment.
Book two days in advance for the bespoke 10 course set menu that can be paired with wine and beer.
This bistro has serious culinary credentials. Chef-patron Graham Neilson has been joined by Yorkshire man Charles Lakin, who’s worked in Michelin-rated restaurants and competed in the TV series The Great British Menu. It’s a sanctuary for those of jaded palate… Think wild mushrooms with toasted brioche, crispy egg yolk, walnuts and halloumi, or pig’s head terrine with apples, walnut and pickled turnip. Main courses are mostly meaty affairs and could include braised lamb shoulder with confit carrots, spinach, potato mash and herb yoghurt, or charcoal roasted pork chops served with Brussels sprouts, bacon, baby potatoes and tahini. It’s impossible to refuse dessert here, and the comforting pear-and-apple bread pudding served with a warm whiskey sauce, pecan nuts and fresh whipped cream elicits blissful sighs.
The six-course tasting menu offers a good culinary overview and you can also add wine pairings for a minimal additional payment
The wine list is carefully contemplated, informative and has fair mark-ups. South African bottles are listed according to varietal with vintage, area of origin, winemaker and a brief description. There are also good-value new and old world international wines. By-the-glass options cover all eventualities and you’ll also find dessert wines, local ports, sherries and cognac. Classic cocktails and some craft beers complete the picture.
Service is impeccable and dispensed with genuine hospitality that follows through from the hands-on owners. Regulars are showered with attention; newcomers made to feel equally appreciated. The team on the floor is alert and attentive, ensuring that service matches the same high standards of the kitchen.
An air of quiet sophistication is created by modern lines and a tempered use of colour. Terracotta walls radiate warmth, striking botanical photographic artworks make a statement, and black metal chairs feature against the backdrop of white napery.
The restaurant allows children (although there are no special facilities for kids) but asks that parents respect other diners and keep their kids under control.
The family booked a table of 6 for my wife's 30th birthday on 12 April 2013. This party inlcuded a toddler. At no stage were we informed of a policy regarding kids so we were caught unaware on the day. Upon arriving, the resturant was fairly busy, with the classic bistro vibe of people chatting and enjoying what looked like excellent food. About 20 minutes after being seated, the manager (Dave) came up to the table saying that he has received complaints about the noise from the kid at the table, and that we should try to keep him down or take him for a walk. Now, given the fact that the resturant was busy and noisy, and the fact that the kid had actually been quiet apart from trying to get his aunt's attention on 2 occassions. In fact the noise (including people cursing out loud) far outweighed anything coming from our table. Also Dave mentioned that he had to move a table outside due to us, which to be honest I did not see. This as can be expected, really put a damper on the evening. The food was great and so was the waiter (Dylan) but dealing with the manager really ruined what had the makings of a great meal. Consider making the kids policy common knowledge upfront.
Lunch on 28 March 2013, Fantastic food, excellent service! Pity some of us live in Jo'burg! Well done and thanks very much!
What a brilliant bistro! It is the best service that we've received in such a long time. The wine list is amazing; the food is out of this world. We had the special of the evening, a sweet potato soup, fig and parma ham salad and the main course - the fish! Oh the fish! The waitress was lovely and the owner (or manager) was just as amazing. They were tending to us all evening (not in a irritating manner) and made sure that we had a great experience! Well done guys, we can completely understand why you received the best bistro 2012 award. I’m sure you will take it again this year!
Had dinner on 28th Dec and this establishment never disappoints. Food of the highest quality and just unbelievable. Perhaps waitress tried to rush us through the evening.
We visited 9th Avenue Bistro whilst on holiday in December. It was wonderful! The food was mouth-wateringly delicious and the service quick and friendly. We were made to feel right at home and will definitely go back when next in Durban.
Congratulations upon winning Eat Out's Best Bistro category. A very well deserved honour, and you make Durban proud!
Every year during Indaba we get our 9th Avenue Bistro fix, and it is a good one!
Having 2 menus, one to please the locals and one for the more adventurous palate, 9th Avenue Bistro is most definitely the best restaurant in Durban. The owners are awsome and look after their guests with much heart and passion. My favourite dish is the salmon tartare presented on a carved wooden plate with fine fine chips and a delicious crunchy salad. Can't wait for next year's fix!
Fantastic food but poor location. Entrance near dustbins of other restaurants on the evening we went there.
Thanks for the most friendly service to Gina and team. Thanks to Graham and the kitchen crew for a very tasteful supper. Best in Durban - we'll surely be back.
We went to the Classic Natal Dinner Series 2 with Abingdon wine estate and had the most wonderful evening! The food was simply superb and the wine pairings faultless. I have no words to describe the delicious line fish with risotto and burnt butter hollandaise, the pressed lamb, the pork belly, the coconut tart - everything was just outstanding! I would highly recommend these evenings, such great value for money and such a great evening out!
Ate there just before Christmas as we were visitng from New Zealand. The food is amazing but very disappointed with how staff were treated by the one lady manager. Our server seemed to take it in his stride though and he was very good. Also it is situated just off a busy parking lot which kills the "bistro" feel. I guess it is the price you pay for good food.
Went for dinner last Saturday. Starter 9/10 (Tuna sashimi). Main 6/10 (Tuna special - I found it a little lacking in flavour, bland, needed something zesty or spicy). Dessert 10/10 (Belgium dark chocolate torte). The best chocolate dessert I've ever had!
My husband and I went there for dinner on Friday 5/08/2011 and I highly recommend this restaurant, not only for their fabulous food but also for the friendly and quick service. The food is served in a very different way to other restaurants with certain tastes that add wonderful flavour to whatever you order.
Freshly prepared delicious food!