In one of South Africa’s most popular coastal cities, there’s been a significant migration north of the Umgeni River. Durban North’s Mackeurtan Avenue has mushroomed into a culinary hotspot with new restaurants and shops offering great eat-in or take-home options. Tracy Gielink takes a closer look at the top offerings along that street.
Bartho’s Fish Co. is owned by brothers (and avid fishermen) Daryl and Brett Bartho, who run an immaculate operation, which explains why they supply the top restaurants in town. Good-quality, SASSI-approved fish is all painstakingly prepared on the premises and dispensed with cooking advice if necessary. Also for sale is a range of culinary accoutrements, frozen seafood and super-fresh sushi made to order.
Locals are clamouring for a table at this funky eatery, which produces outstanding Thai food. Sean and Premjit Beatt developed the Bangkok Wok restaurant chain but have now created an intimate, vibey space with raw wooden finishes. Main courses at The Wok Box are divided into curries, noodles, wok fries, fried rice and signature dishes, but astute diners check out the specials board before committing to a meal. Try the half-roasted crispy duck topped with honey, ginger and sesame sauce; salt-and-pepper calamari with homemade chilli jam; or prawns with garlic and pepper. If floundering in indecision, consult one of the knowledgeable, attentive waiters or hands-on owners.
Earthmother Fresh Food Café has been another welcome addition for foodies with a conscience. There is no sense of time here, as evidenced by unhurried clientele who linger in the rustic space reminiscent of a farm stall. The organic café produces vegetarian dishes that range from super-food salads to spelt pastas. The cappuccinos are commendable and are best teamed with the potentially addictive gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free raw chocolate tart. Also stock up on organic staples like bread, yoghurt, farm-fresh produce, tea and spices.
Despite an unfashionable address on Sol Harris Crescent, the original Neo Café still attracts a steady stream of enraptured diners. Likewise, its new branch on the Mackeurtan strip is already overflowing. The fare here is heralded as colonial Mozambican (rather than Portuguese) and the menu is extensive. Starters include chorizo sautéed in garlic butter, wine, herbs and peri-peri, and grilled cubes of rump served with a prego sauce. Calamari and well-priced prawns aside, main courses include coconut-style curries and Portuguese specialities like tripe cooked with pork, chorizo and white beans. The open-plan restaurant spills onto a covered deck and the simple décor is complemented by friendly, unobtrusive service.
Spiga d’Oro has long been a Florida Road institution and news of its expansion caused much excitement. Their new restaurant on Mackeurtan Avenue is fronted by a large wooden deck and the somewhat stark interior combines exposed beams with wooden tables, school-inspired chairs and neutral walls. While the interior is lacking in warmth, word is that they are going to slowly develop the décor and that a breakfast menu and deli will be operational in the next two months. The same menu applies to both outlets, and the flavours and consistency diners have come to expect at Florida Road have been successfully transplanted. The mezze starter options (like their ridiculously delicious bruschetta topped with tomato and pesto) are appealing and the pizzas are exemplary, as are pastas, which range from the humble spaghetti bolognaise to tagliatelle pescatore.
Another indispensable stopover for the home cook is Hope Meats. Started and run by husband-wife team Mickey and Vikki Ker-Fox, this outlet is relentless in its commitment to provide meat that is free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free. Most of the meat comes from animals reared on the family farm and is traceable from conception to consumption. The sausages, boerewors (gluten-free and made from A-grade meat only in natural casings) and 21-day aged rump steak are especially noteworthy.
Wakaberry has been an enormous success story, with Famous Brands recently buying the majority shares of this Durban-based frozen yoghurt company. Here, at the original berry-hued store, a team of young, friendly staff oversees the pay-by-weight system. Standard flavours like strawberry and English toffee are supplemented with more exotic ones like green tea. Deposit swirls of intensely flavoured fro-yo into your container then top with an assortment of healthy or decadent toppings.