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9th Avenue Bistro

9th Avenue Bistro
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Cost
avg main meal R245; tasting menu R475 per person (for wine pairing an additional R600)
Ambience
Local cuisine, Special occasions
Food
Bistro fare, Fine-dining food, South African, Steak
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
R70, no BYO set menus

Critic's review

Nicola Ashe

Food
The aim here is to serve creative cuisine using high-quality ingredients, with Chef Graham working to enhance his ingredients’ natural flavours. I could easily make my way through the starter menu, ordering it all meze-style, starting with the gorgonzola, pear and candied pecan salad drizzled with lemon vinaigrette, followed by roasted butternut ravioli smothered in Madeira cream, mushrooms, candied pecan and shavings of parmesan, and rounding off with crispy fried calamari tossed in a sticky Vietnamese roasted jalapeno aioli. And, for good measure, a popular favourite, the creamy shellfish orzo topped with a barbecued langoustine, baby lango tails and lemon foam – it’s delicately fresh and smacks of the sea.

Main courses feature a good balance of land and sea dishes, including lamb shoulder, crispy duck, charcoal roasted pork ribeye and braised beef short rib, as well as a grilled ostrich fillet served on a bed of pearl couscous and dotted with labneh, tomatoes, sticky pomegranate molasses and sprinkled sumac.

Order the tasting menu for an experiential food journey, specially designed to showcase a menu peppered with flavourful combinations – punctuated with delights like slivers of gin-cured salmon dotted with crème fraîche – and pork belly served with chorizo and pork-stuffed squid, potato beignet and saffron aioli.

Desserts could include a decadent homemade blueberry ripple ice cream sprinkled with honey granola and served with a side of yoghurt and honey panna cotta and roast white chocolate sauce. You’ll be hard pressed to find something as delicate as their take on gin and tonic: a gin-and-juniper sorbet served with a toasted marshmallow meringue, lemon curd and cucumber gelée – absolutely delectable.

Drinks
There’s an extensive list of wine and spirits, with an emphasis on local varietals, including select micro-brewed beers. The wine menu changes regularly and has been carefully curated to include smaller South African boutique wines that consider sustainable production.

Service
This team is both knowledgeable and professional, knowing the exact amount of attentiveness needed. Plus they’re on hand to explain menu items with a dash of wit, and know their wine list intimately. Whilst the menu is sophisticated, the experience is unpretentious.

Ambience
This cosy bistro is tucked away in the corner of a nondescript shopping centre and offers both an indoor dining room festooned with colourful Clinton Friedman umbrellas and an enclosed outdoor terrace. The tone is set for an occasion of dining theatre – the kitchen is visible from the restaurant, so you get to watch the chefs at work. On busy nights the atmosphere is charged, as the kitchen and servers work together seamlessly to keep diners happy, with much laughter and chatter among a cosmopolitan group of patrons.

(August 2018)

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

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  • Nikita Buxton

    Food
    With seasoned pro 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.

    Drinks
    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.

    Service
    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.

    Ambience
    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.

    And...
    Every few months, 9th Avenue hosts set-menu dinners in partnership with leading local wine estates.

    (June 2017)

    Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

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  • Nicola Ashe

    Food
    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.

    Drinks
    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.

    Service
    This is a well-oiled team of servers, knowledgeable in both food and wine who effortlessly work the room without breaking a sweat.

    Ambience
    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.

    And…
    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.

    (September 2016)

    Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.

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User reviews

  • The ambiance was amazing however the food did not meet expectation in the least and even more so when the bill arrived. Wouldn't return.
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  • We had a fabulous experience at 9th Avenue Bistro when we went to try the First Thursdays tasting menu in August. The location itself is nothing overwhelmingly special as it’s in a small shopping centre , and the decor inside is simple and sparse, however this is made up for by the fabulous food, fantastic wine and knowledgeable waiters. Highlights of the meal included a hearty black bean soup with a beautifully contrasting sweet corn ice cream, and the black garlic aïoli that accompanied the potato, carrot and artichoke gratin was absolutely sublime. The meal was rounded off with a gorgeous dessert, the star of the show being a silky-smooth and beautifully tart lemon poppyseed ice cream. The waiters were very clued-up on all the menu items, and even where individual items had been sourced from. They were attentive and charming, and added to the fine-dining experience.
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  • The passion the people at 9th Avenue Bistro have for what they do is palpable. Though the setting/ isn't too appealing, you are quickly absorbed into all the tastes/dish presentations and wines on offer. Treat yourself on a special occasion!
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  • I've always had good experiences at 9th. I had the best prawn rissoto here. Definitely a good pick for a fancy celebratory dinner. I personally don't like the dimmed lighting, which I suppose most people do enjoy, but other than that, an amazing pick!
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  • We tried the 6 course tasting menu for the first time. What an amazing gustatory experience. Definitely the best in Durban. I look forward to seeing this gem of a restaurant making the Eat Out awards nominees for best restaurant. Can't wait to return.
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  • 9th is without question my favourite restaurant. Fantastic food and service, wonderful wines and an elegant atmosphere. Good to see Graham back in the kitchen and I can't wait for my next tasting menu... later this evening!!! It's great to see that restaurants are popping up and attempting to bring variety to an industry that is increasingly dominated by large chains, but 9th remains the benchmark for these new players in terms of consistency, quality, innovation and excellence. Super excited for this evening!!
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  • My favourite place by far! Amazing food, amazing service, super friendly staff! Highly recommended!
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  • What a fantastic place to spend an evening. The waiter was friendly and attentive - treated us like we were his only table. The food was excellent and is highly recommended. 10 out of 10.
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  • What is not to love about eating at 9th Avenue! It is always a dinning experience which leaves you feeling special and treated. The service is fantastic, decor gorgeous and warmth and ambiance sets the most pleasant atmosphere. The food is incredible! I particularly loved the pear salad and lamb main literally melts in your mouth. I have never been disappointed. Can't wait to return!
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  • For the past 20 years our family has been dining at 9th Avenue Bistro and have seen changes in ownership, management and menus. However over the years the theme of the restaurant has not changed which is inventive cuisine at a reasonable price with excellent service. The current owners Graham and Gina exemplify that tradition with long standing favourites and always something different on the menu. We are always welcomed with a drink and the obligatory crisp fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar mix. Without doubt we the Wilson family, in our opinion have to say 9th Avenue Bistro is the best restaurant in Durban. Awesome food, great service and Gina and Graeme sure know how to make you feel special. Right now the Restaurant is at its best and is recommended to all that appreciate fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere. Regards, The Wilson Family Peter, Janette, Cassie ,Kiann.
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  • My husband and I celebrated Valentine's day Feb 2017 at this restaurant. it was so refreshing that they had a normal menu, and not an over-priced menu to cash in on Valentines. We even managed to get a booking at short notice.. I presume it was because we were on holiday, and we could come at lunch time instead of dinner. The ambience was a little disappointing, really just more comfy chairs, will make the world of a difference. However, the main course was excellent ( I had the duck), and the portions were really more than enough. The starter was fine but a little average, however, the portions don't leave space for much else. The service was excellent - wish all restaurants were that good. I was happy that they offer a half size bottle wine, my husband does not drink, so I usually just have a glass or two, and the wine per glass in restaurants is usually not terribly good. It is also useful to take the rest home, if I don;t finish it. I went twice while we were there on holiday, and definitely will go back next year.
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  • One of my all-time favourite restaurants in Durban, and certainly head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to innovative and perfectly cooked cuisine. There are few places in the country, let alone Durban that serve consistently good, really delicious dishes. You can always count on 9th Avenue Bistro to deliver fine dining - without the fuss and pretence. My favorite dishes are the Shellfish Orzo, Butternut Ravioli and literally any meat dish they serve! Love!
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  • Have visited several times and have never been disappointed. Home to many of my absolute favourite dishes in Durban (Creamy Shellfish Orzo, Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli, Prawn Tail Fettuccini and, of course, the crispy roast duck!). You simply cannot go wrong at 9th.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Cocktails
  • Eat Out reviewed
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Takeaways
  • Wheelchair

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