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‘The Village’, as it’s come to be known, is still one of KZN’s most popular restaurant hubs. With the beach a stone’s throw away and a plethora of hotels to choose from, out-of-towners flock to this tourist-friendly strip for the wide array of cuisines and restaurants, while locals can’t resist the nightlife charm of the stylish pubs and easy-going eateries. Here’s your Chartwell Drive checklist.
Best for: Sushi and seafood with friends
This seafood spot offers favourites with a twist. From Asian-inspired dishes like delicious steamed dumplings, sushi and new-style sashimi to poké bowls, deep-fried fish and chips, prawn and calamari combos, and seafood pastas. There are also non-seafood options including curry, steaks and baby chicken for those looking for a bit more meat.
Best for: An unapologetic steakhouse for meat-lovers
All the beef here is either wet- or dry-aged between 25 and 35 days, then basted and expertly grilled on an open flame to your taste. It’s always buzzing at night and offers favourites like roasted marrowbone starters, signature mains like côte de boeuf or avo-and-Dijon sirloin, and apple malva pudding for dessert. There’s also a decent selection of combos, and chicken and seafood options for pickier eaters.
Best for: A special date night or celebration
Chef Kayla-Ann Osborn’s open-plan kitchen and restaurant boasts gorgeous décor with a menu that features beautifully presented seasonal food. The menu changes almost daily, but could feature the likes of melt-in-the-mouth tuna sashimi; chicken oysters with mushroom tortellini; and roasted dusky kob with mussels, Turkish lentils, and burnt lemon.
Best for: Gourmet pub grub
This new spot has fast become a popular hangout in the village with its familiar, all-rounder menu. Tuck into anything from chicken liver starters or nachos to gourmet sandwiches, burgers and hearty mains. The latter includes the likes of rum-and-Coke ribs with chips; honey-mustard chicken with fresh avo; and a pub grub fave of fish and chips with mushy peas. Pair it all with a cold draught and settle in.
Best for: Drinks with mates
This trendy gastropub attracts a stylish crowd with its booth seating, centre-stage bar and stylish pub grub. There’s a pie of the day, mussels, tasty burgers and mac ’n cheese, as well as lighter beer, snack boards and jaffles. Grab one of the comfy window seats with views onto bustling Chartwell Drive.
Best for: Some of the best Portuguese food in town.
Don’t skip the starters here. The prawn rissoles are crispy, golden parcels of plump prawns and incredibly satisfying. The salty chorizo is also popular, as are the tender calamari tubes. Keep that bottle of spicy Joita’s sauce on hand for dunking. For mains, go straight for the Portuguese chicken, or try the chicken-and-calamari combo for the best of both. The prawns are superb, as is the chicken prego roll, tender and doused in the most moreish prego sauce. You won’t regret ending off with a freshly made pasteis de nata or two.
Best for: Free-range steak
Find a seat on the balcony on balmy evenings and enjoy the calm surroundings and crisp white tablecloths of this upmarket steakhouse. Free-range beef is the name of the game here, aged on-site and prepared by the in-house butcher. Try the grain-fed versus grass-fed meat with a drizzle of delicious béarnaise sauce, or sink into a bowl of fabulous mushroom risotto with rump and a chive butter. Pair all of this with a superb wine list.
Best for: A plant-based health kick
Leaf Café is the latest plant-based spot to open up in the Umhlanga area. Tuck into options like smoothie bowls, aubergine and giant mushroom burgers, vegan chocolate cake and loaded chilli wedges.
Best for: Italian feasts with friends
Start off at this Italian favourite with beef carpaccio or the Italian cigars (pastry parcels filled with robiola cheese, Parma ham and rocket, and doused in white-wine sauce). Spicy chicken livers and pretzel-dusted Falkland calamari are also highlights. Fresh spaghetti, fettuccine, penne and gnocchi (gluten-free options available) are made on-site daily and topped with the likes of simple tomato and basil, Alfredo or bolognese sauce. The truffled carbonara makes a grand entrance, served from a wheel of parmesan – sinfully good. Wood-fired pizzas include the usual suspects and some great vegetarian options. The chicken crumbed and pan-fried with Marsala wine, mushrooms, gorgonzola and cream is sensational. Desserts include baked cheesecake with smashed honeycomb and scoops of gelato.
Best for: Thin wood-fired pizzas
Another Italian gem in the Village is the famed Marco’s Italian, which recently settled in its new Umhlanga home. Tuck into classic faves like arancini balls with arrabiata sauce, chicken parmigiana, baby chicken with lemon and herb marinade, fresh tortellini, and crisp wood-fired pizzas with an array of toppings.
Best for: Getting that Instagram shot
Promising good food, coffee and cocktails from day to night, Mary + Joe opened on the Umhlanga Village strip recently and has been buzzing ever since. Located in the premises formally occupied by Vovo Telo and owned by the same couple who managed that franchise, Mary + Joe is an all-day eatery and bakery that caters to the breakfast and lunch crowd during the day, with a light dinner and cocktail menu served from 5pm.
Best for: Meze platters with friends
This stylish new addition to The Village hub offers locals a taste of Greek fare in an Instagram-ready setting. The large menu is inspired by Greek family recipes with a huge array of meze-style options or mains, like souvlakia with tzatziki and pita; lamb kleftiko with oven-roasted potatoes; whole line fish, or veggie moussaka with a Greek side salad.
Best for: Tequila-fuelled fiestas
Salsa Mexican has become one of the favourites for those Friday night fiestas. Enjoy everything from jalapeño poppers, tostadas and chips and salsa to fajitas, tacos, burritos and quesadillas with a range of toppings. You can also build your own Mexican feast with a bowl base or tacos, lettuce, burrito, or a quesadilla.
Best for: A quick coffee run
This speciality coffee shop, which was founded in the UK by ex-Durbanite turned England and Saracens rugby player Brad Barritt. Now in Umhlanga Village, the new coffee spot prides itself on its delicious robusta blends that gets poured from 6.30 am for the early birds. Snacks and free WiFi are also available.
Best for: Hearty steak fare
This famous Johannesburg steakhouse chain has been ingrained in Jozi food culture since the late 70s and has now taken the place of what used to be Remo’s Villagio. KZN’s first branch opened in 2017 and locals can expect a selection of biltong starters; steaks with flavours from France to Argentina; and hearty combos and classic burgers.
Best for: Breakfasts, beers and burgers
New to Chartwell Drive (where Pintxada Restaurant used to be), The Zululand Brewing Company offers all-day dining with breakfast, lunch and dinner. The broad menu features everything from steak, wraps, and seafood to bunny chows, gourmet burgers, and tapas. There’s also a kiddies menu, making it a great spot for the whole family.
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