The Britannia Hotel’s Capsicum Restaurant is renowned for its mutton bunny chows and the take-away kitchen sells literally thousands of this signature Durban street food every month. Overall the restaurant pays homage to the city’s Indian cuisine and starters include fish cakes, chicken livers, puri patha rolls, and samoosas with the full range of meat and vegetable fillings. Patrons can also order vegetarian or meat-based starter platters.
Curries dominate the mains and cross the gambit from chops to fish roe, chicken and prawn, crab, tripe, trotters and homemade Mexican prawns. A handful of dishes come with a medium option, but most are served exceptionally hot, so be warned if chilli is not your forte.
The seafood curries are SQ, but reasonably priced and worth the 30-45 minute wait – these dishes are prepared fresh when ordered. All curries are served with rice or bread and rotis. Naan bread can be ordered as an extra.
Other dishes include toasted sandwiches with cheese and tomato or chicken and mayonnaise fillings, as well as more heartier options like broad beans, sugar beans or mutton curry. Roti rolls also feature, with fillings mimicking the toasted sandwiches and curries, but also including another Durban staple – chips and cheese.
Desserts reflect Durban’s cross-cultural dining experiences with chocolate brownies, red velvet cake, malva pudding or vanilla ice cream appealing to those not accustomed to Indian after-dinner delights. For those wanting to end their meal with more traditional fare, there’s soji (semolina fried in butter, cooked with special ingredients and served with cream and almonds) and burfee (Indian sweetmeats) ice cream.
A children’s menu caters for the younger set, while minimal breakfast options feature a bowl of Cornflakes and various egg dishes.
There is a very poor wine list dominated by Distell products, but beer on tap as well as cooldrinks, coffees, teas and brightly coloured milkshakes are all available. Beer tends to match better with curry anyway.
Service can be erratic. Sometimes tables aren’t cleared and food takes a noticeable time to come from the kitchen. Several patrons have also complained about poor service and rudeness, but that was not a personal experience.
There are no airs or graces here, with the Britannia Hotel being unashamedly a working person’s venue. The main dining room can be cramped when busy and the smoking dining room is dominated by a large-screen television for showing sports. None of this detracts from the experience.
Eat with your hands. That is the traditional way for eating Indian curries and cuisine. You’d be in the minority not to personally embrace this wholly sensual experience.
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This popular and bustling Durban eatery is famous for their curries. Despite the fact that there isn’t anything spectacular about the service or food presentation, it has grown to be a popular spot for many Durbanites and out of town visitors who want to get a taste of real Durban style curry.
Choose from a wide variety of starters. The cheese and sweetcorn samoosas are served hot and crispy; the rich and melted cheese breaks out at first bite. The starter fish cakes mixed with green chilli and onion don't pack enough of a punch, though.
Curries are the specialty at this restaurant. Go for the mutton curry – a lovely blend of curry spices, in tomato-based gravy with ginger and garlic, and enjoy it in a bunny chow or with rice. The tripe curry is also worth trying, braised in a mixture of ground fennel and cumin, fresh ginger and garlic and cooked in a garam dhall mixture. It’s quite a spicy option but definitely tasty. Other good options include traditional spicy beans cooked in a thick curry gravy or cornish chicken curry, tougher in texture but delicious in flavour. The homemade Mexican prawn was not a favourite, as the tomato chutney was too overpowering for the prawns, which was slightly overcooked.
For a sweet ending, try the burfee ice-cream, Bombay crush or the Swiss carrot cake.
Choose from a plentiful selection of coffees, cocktails or double thick shakes.
Service is pleasant enough, but tables are left unattended and food can take a while to come out of the kitchen.
The restaurant has a nice home dining room feel but that means it can be a bit cramped when busy.
If you feel like enjoying their fare at home, the convenient takeaway section is ideal.
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This is one of Durban’s curry hot spots – literally. Their curries, biryanis and bunny chows are legendary. Durban’s unique cuisine style is represented here, with traditional dishes on the menu such as fish roe, trotters and tripe curries and bunnies mixed in with the seemingly more conventional Indian-style fare that is enjoyed north of the Umgeni River. The chicken and prawn curry begs to be tried. Indulge in tender chicken pieces, mixed with deshelled prawns, smothered in a rich, not overly spicy and slightly sweet tomato curry gravy. The presentation is nothing spectacular, but this isn’t about fine dining, it’s all about the curry. The slow-cooked deboned mutton curry has much more of a kick, for those who love a bit of burn, and delivers a robust meaty stew that overpowers the usual strong gamy flavour of mutton. They have the range of meaty and vegetarian bunnies, served with a large dollop of gravy inside and generous helping of meat or veg. Capsicum is the KZN comfort food favourite and has deservedly earned the hotel and restaurant legions of fans.
Wines and beers are available, as well a variety of virgin and alcoholic cocktails, milkshakes and more traditional-inspired drinks like the Bombay crush and chai teas and lattes.
Ask for Danny. He greets diners with an enthusiastic, “Welcome aboard the Britannia!” and then busies himself with ensuring that every request is taken care of, at least eventually. Food can take some time to prepare, especially if you order the chicken and prawn curry (“30 minutes!” warned Danny), but we were prepared for it, so we grazed on a platter of samosas, puri patha and rissoles.
The Britannia building itself is nearly 150 years old, but there is almost no evidence of that in the interior. Glass-top tables, wood panel dividers and high-gloss tiled floors form the setup. The patrons are mostly devoted locals, interspersed with some tourists. You will cause eyebrows to be raised, justifiably, if you start asking for everything to be served mild.
It may be in a bit of a dubious location, an industrial locale butting up to the Umgeni/Springfield overpass, with trucks and busses shuddering past, but there are security guards installed and inside, and the building is in complete contrast to the environment outside. It’s a clean and glossy interior and offers a polished oasis amidst the gritty cement landscape outdoors.
The highlight of the menu is Durban curries. You could opt to start your meal with tasty samoosas or puri and patha, but most regulars choose to get on with the main task at hand. Authentic curries are served unpretentiously in rotis, bunny chows or with rice, and they offer many vegetarian alternatives. More exotic choices include the delicious tripe version, trotters or fish roe curry. Of the run-of-the-mill options, try the curries made with mutton or chops, and the fish when available.
Tried-and-tested wines make up the perfunctory but pleasant enough list of quaffable varieties that won’t break the bank. Alternatively, wash your curry down with a beer.
The service is in complete harmony with the surroundings. Pleasantries and basic etiquette are observed by a team of mostly alert waiters who are familiar with the menu.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. The hotel’s modest exterior, combined with its location in a light industrial area, should not deter you. The interior has been given a modern overhaul with high gloss tiles, and the restaurant’s neutral colour palette translates into dark wood tables with generously upholstered or leather chairs and over-sized chandeliers. Diners preferring a casual dining experience should rather opt for the no-frills-no-fuss dining room alongside the bar.
If you can’t linger, be sure to pop in for take-away.
What struck me most about this restaurant is that everything on offer tastes so freshly cooked. How they manage this with so many dishes to choose from is amazing.
If you're looking for the best muttion bunny, then Britannia is the place to be...
Please advise if the restaurant is halaal. Thanks.