HOLIDAY RESTAURANT REVIEW: Instalment 3, 4 & 5: Lupa, Union Square & Pirates Arms:
My previous two posts have been centred around the restaurants that my family & I ate at during the Christmas holiday. Today’s post will be a collaboration of instalment 3, 4 & 5 reviewing Lupa, a modern Italian chain restaurant; Union Square, a new addition to the ever-growing collection of Broadway restaurants; and Pirates Arms at Wilson’s Wharf, known for their famous monster-size hake & chips. If you haven’t been to any of these places yet, have a read, and I’m sure you’ll be making a trip to at least one very very soon.
HOLIDAY RESTAURANT REVIEW: Instalment 3: Lupa Osteria, Broadway
When my husband and I first discovered Lupa in Hillcrest we were absolutely blown away. Walking into a restaurant that has a huge hunk of cured pork, locked into a meat slicer, on display and ready to be freshly shaved for every order of the parma ham & rocket pizza, makes for an excellent first impression. While you don’t have to dress up for a meal there, you kind of want to because the service is so professional, the food is bordering on fine dining, and the décor is so modern rustic. My first meal there was a starter of crispy risotto balls, which when cut into, oozed mozzarella, sage and Italian sausage. Craig’s first starter was probably one of the best meatball dishes we’ve ever had. We loved it, and we were convinced we wouldn’t find a better restaurant than this in Durban. We were just so sad that it was so far away from home, so having dinner and drinks there was not an option. Thankfully not too long after that, a branch opened in Westville where I had one of my most entertaining office parties. Soon after another that, another branch opened their doors in Broadway which I had the pleasure of experiencing for the first time, with all my favourite gals, on my Hen’s night. Now all we need to do is cheaply uber to Kensington if we are planning on having a few glasses of wine or a craft beer from their wide selection of both.
When my mom and step-dad arrived for the Christmas holiday, I really battled to get a booking anywhere in Durban for Christmas Eve. I called 8 of my favourite restaurants and all were either closed for dinner or in most cases, were closed until 6 January. What!!?? Insane! All the Vaalies come to Durban for the holidays, with their pockets overflowing with cash, and all the good restaurants shut down?! How is that a good financial move? Anyway, their choice I guess. But Lupa was open! I booked online, and the Manager called me back less than an hour later to confirm my booking. Now that’s what I like! We had such a lovely candle-lit evening surrounded by Christmas decorations; large, loud families & high spirits, and the food was all fabulous as usual. I’m not going to go into too much detail about each dish that we ate because I can safely tell you that there is not one dish on Lupa’s menu that isn’t delicious. I also can’t post too many amazing photos due to the lighting, but let me assure you that presentation is also very important to them. What I CAN tell you is that you we have personally tried (and you should too) the following: Roman style crumbed & fried stalk-intact artichokes; the wood roasted snails with gorgonzola sauce & toasted ciabatta; the pretzel dusted calamari and the Italian nachos (don’t expect traditional nachos, but expect something equally as tasty with similar ingredients). My main meal favourite is the Veal Escalopes with lemon, white wine & cream sauce with a side of creamy Parmesan fettucine To die for! So much so that I’m happy to order a different starter everytime I go, but no other dish competes for mains.
HOLIDAY RESTAURANT REVIEW: Instalment 4: Union Square, Broadway
Just across the road from Lupa, is Union Square. Very different cuisine, but equally as tasty. No aircon guys, and set outside on a verandah, so be prepared to brave the humidity if you go during summer. Never fear though because at Union Square you will be swiftly seated, welcomed and cooled right down with an ice-cold beer, glass of wine or cider. Then once you’ve acclimatised sufficiently, you can order your rack of ribs, burger, chicken wings (or a salad if you really must). It reminded me a lot of Rocomamas, because they too are a ribs, burger and wings joint, and they also use the same ordering concept where each guest is given a menu which must be filled in and given back to the waiter. You complete your name first (which I like filling in as L-Dog, cos I like hearing the waiter confusedly ask for L-Dog when my food arrives) and then add any special requests or messages to the Chef. I like to try and make the kitchen staff smile with me message. Haha. Yes – life’s little pleasures. Then you tick off what dishes you want, what toppings you want, what marinades you want, what sides you want and you can even build your own burger. I’m not a massive burger fan, but any place that has a lamb burger on their menu gets my vote! Or a pulled pork Bun….oooooo…. And when they add fine little details like smokey mayo or Harissa mayo (a hot Moroccan mayo) instead of just regular mayo, and caramelised onions instead of just plain fried onions, well that’s what will set them apart. I started with a Fiery Dragon Ginger Beer, which was beautifully fizzy, frosty and fabulous with a kick of not only ginger, but just a touch of alcohol too ;).
My eyes were darting from the ribs to the wings, from the wings to the ribs, and then finally I decided to just order the combo deal. The waiter recommended the BBQ marinated ribs so I went for that, plus the per-peri wings. Wow! Such tender, juicy, meaty and flavourful ribs & wings. I won’t mention names, but so SO much better than another ribs, wings & burger joint I know. Craig decided to take advantage of the option to assemble your own perfect burger combination. He constructed a gorgeous monstrosity of Smashed beef patty, jalapenos, pineapple, rocket & gorgonzola sauce. He loved it! And he isn’t the easiest to please when it comes to burgers. He also ordered a side of the honey mustard wings. Super saucy and full of flavour!
Go there for an early lunch to make sure you get a table, because you can’t book, and plan to stay a while, breathe in the fresh air, have an icy drink, catch up with some mates, order the ribs and wings combo so you don’t feel like you’re missing out, then get your mate to order a burger so you can distract him and get a bite of that too. The complex has parking so this is one place you won’t need to uber to (if you have a designated driver or having less than two that is) Arrive alive!
HOLIDAY RESTAURANT REVIEW: Instalment 5: Pirates Arms, Wilson’s Wharf
I’ve decided that we don’t go to Wilson’s Wharf often enough, and that’s purely because I’ve discovered that they truly have the best fish and chips in Durban. At Pirates Arms of course. OK, so a forewarning that this restaurant is definitely not a Lupa and is not even a Union Square when it comes to being fancy or being hipster, or when it comes to décor, or special treatment. It’s an old harbour restaurant with walls adorned with various weapons that pirates would have been paired with back in the day, with a bathroom that still has a 2c entry slot on the door and a very strange and scarily dusty man with his slightly deformed drumming monkey in the one corner. But don’t be alarmed. Just ask for a table outside on the balcony overlooking the harbour, then order a long island ice tea (like my mom did) and sit back and enjoy the sounds of seagulls squawking and people laughing , the fresh, salty smell of the sea mixed with that amazing batter, fish & vinegar aroma, the sites of low turning to high tide and crabs climbing the walls, and the feel of the sun’s warm caress on your back (but wear a bit of sunscreen and don’t get burnt like we did). Don’t bother with starters and don’t worry to look at anything else on the main’s menu. Just jump straight into the large hake & chips or rice that they are so famous for, and you will understand why everyone keeps going back. Crispy crunchy yummy batter and the freshest hugest piece of hake you’ll ever be served. I ordered the regular, but it was so huge that I had to take half home, so that should give you an indication of how big the large order is. If you don’t want take aways, maybe order the petite hake. And that’s only R45! It’s a steal! The service was a bit slow, but relaxed and friendly, so don’t go there expecting to get a list of what’s not available on the menu and details of what type of oil they fry the fish in. Just chill and enjoy the fish. Again, pop in for an early lunch so you get a good spot outside, or do what we did and sit inside until an outside table is available. And don’t worry about parking. I think they actually started extending into the sea to fit more cars in, so you’re good.