Holiday Restaurant Review: Instalment #6, 7 & 8: Beluga, The Olive Garden & Pintxada
These 3 restaurants were the last that filled our bellies during the Christmas holidays. I wanted to share them with you because all three are so different from the other, but all equally worth a visit for delicious food and a good time.
First up is Beluga.
Holiday Restaurant Review: Instalment #6: Beluga, Umhlanga
My big sister and brother in law from Edinburgh, sadly couldn’t join us in Durban this year for all the festivities (and gluttonous eating) around Christmas time, so instead they treated us to a fine dining evening out at Beluga, as our Christmas gift. How lucky were we!? It all made sense then, thinking back to a few weeks before when Wendy asked me where I would go for the best sushi in Durban, because a “friend” was asking. Thanks guys!
My first experience at Beluga was in Cape Town. I think I was about 19 or 20 and it was probably one of the smartest restaurants I had EVER been to. I was totally underdressed and self-conscious like only a young adult can be, but Beluga was one of those restaurants that just totally opened my tiny eyes, and blew my inexperienced mind about just how incredibly tasty food can get. So this was how the wealthy ate! I’ve had after work cocktails there, half price sushi before 7PM and even been to parties there, and I was never disappointed by the consistent sophistication and class in their food & service.
Beluga in Durban is no different. They take pride in the presentation of their dishes and are creative in their complexity of flavours. What’s really cool about Beluga, is that although they offer top shelf dining, they haven’t forgotten about the little people. Why should only the high rollers be able to afford eating at Beluga? With half price sushi & their set tasting menus that only cost R190 for a 3-course dinner, everyone can get a taste of la good life. But for goodness sakes, please don’t go in slops. It may be affordable now, but you still need to LOOK the part.
I can recommend the following for incredible flavour combinations and beautiful presentation: the duck liver Crème Brule with apple preserve; creamed tuna tartare; the tuna crunch; the deconstructed lamb with panko crust, pomme puree, lamb reduction, tomato chutney & caramelized onions; the malva pudding with creme anglaise, peach salsa and peppermint semi freddo; and the white chocolate beignets with vanilla bean ice-cream & butterscotch sauce. O.M.G.
Holiday Restaurant Review: Instalment #7: The Olive Garden, Assagay
Whenever my husband and I head up to Hillcrest to check out what the local pet stores have on offer, we always say that next time we should really build in time to have lunch at one of the many quaint little coffee shops and restaurants just off Kassier Rd.
So one very sunny day during the holidays, we decided what better weather to spend in Hillcrest sitting in a garden enjoying tea & scones with the parents. But as we always tend to forget, as you crawl up Field’s Hill, the weather always changes, and dramatically too. The dark clouds started looming over us, the humidity dropped, the sun all but vanished, and the breeze got a whole lot chillier. Should have brought that hoody I never need when I have it, but always need when I don’t. Kind of like my “short girl syndrome”, this is like my “always colder than everyone else syndrome”. We tried out Duck n Deck first, which is now called Willow Creek Animal Farm, and although it was really sweet seeing alpacas and baby goats that trot straight up to you for treats, it wasn’t really what we were looking for. More of a children-friendly vibe with very simple seating & meal options.
We moved onto The Olive Garden, a rustic, family owned and run, Mediterranean restaurant right in the middle of Dieters Nursery. Even though we didn’t get to sit right outside in the sun on the balcony, we managed to nab a table half inside, with a really nice view of the nursery. It was a bit nippy, but the welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, coupled with good company and some laughs warmed us up sufficiently. And then when even that couldn’t blanket us, we took a walk in the scattered streaks of sun and visited the beautiful Bonsai enclosure nestled in between all the succulents and the other nursery plants. The couple that have been looking after these Bonsais for years were full of helpful information and tips for when we next get a Bonsai, and it was so inspiring and admirable to see what incredibly good care they have taken of all those exquisitely twisted and pruned Bonsai. Worth a visit.
So, back to the Olive Garden. The waitress was great but warned us that although the food was always good, that good food also takes time. So we should just relax and enjoy the afternoon. Which is what we did. They have such an extensive menu which I think is what most families or big tables will love because they have everything from light meals like wraps to Sunday Roasts, and more expensive modern items found on their specials board. They also have huge platters on offer paired with wines at very reasonable prices. If I could, I would make a trip there once a month on Sunday just to try everything once and have a lovely chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc in summer and a warm, comforting glass of cabernet sauvignon in winter.
I ordered the Mussels in a creamy white wine sauce on linguine generously covered in Parmesan shavings. The waitress said “good choice” and she didn’t say that to anyone else so I was really excited to see and taste it. I’m not often impressed with mussel dishes at restaurants: not sufficiently de-bearded or scrubbed, tastes like sea water, grainy on your teeth, overcooked, too few or too small, and this was anything but. I can still taste it, and my mouth starts watering just thinking about it. At this very moment I’m putting a suggestion reminder on my phone to make a mussel pot next week. Firstly the mussels were massive. Bigger than any I had ever had or seen before and they were cooked to absolute perfection, meaty and tasty. They were swimming in this sauce that was so creamy and delicious that even though I finished the mussels, I couldn’t NOT take the sauce and left over linguine home. It was just as good for lunch the next day when I threw in some Cabanossi chunks. Oh yes. I did that. Pork in a seafood sauce. Slurp!
Holiday Restaurant Review: Instalment #7: Pintxada, Umhlanga
One of my most recommended restaurants is Little Havana, in Grenada Square. They aren’t cheap, but they’re also not over the top expensive, and the food is incredible. But that’s more of a dinner place for me.
Thankfully, for lunch, just downstairs from Little Havana, they have opened up a sister restaurant called Pintxada, pronounced *pinchada*. Not to be confused with a piñata, pronounced *pinyada*. They won’t be impressed if you walk in blindfolded and start smashing a baseball bat against everything to see what treats fall out. The name comes from the Northern Spanish word Pintxo, which is a small snack typically eaten in bars i.e. tapas. In addition to that, they also showcase award winning wines, Jack Black on tap, super refreshing sparkling wine spritzers and a rotisserie. If you want to know how to pronounce that, you can check with Suzelle at the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wq6H3gIdDQ Think smart Camps Bay bar meets relaxed Durban style.
On New Years day when most people were still too hung over from the night before, some made their way down to Chartwell Drive in search of somewhere celebratory to chow and cool down. That was us. Remo’s closed. Vovo Telo closed. Pintxada open! We had heard good things and hey, if it’s related to Little Havana, we knew we would be impressed! It was packed when we arrived and we feared having to wait in the scorching sun for a table as most people looked like they were setting up camp for the afternoon and the better part of the evening. The hostess greeted us while we took in the delightful smells and sights of a chef cutting up freshly roasted rotisserie chicken right at the entrance. That’s one way to draw the crowds in! We were escorted to the bar slash tapas area where we got to watch all the dishes being plated and leaving the kitchen, and where we could scrutinize the various types of olives and artichokes and cured meats on show. We ordered two cocktails with berry-like flavours mixed with a white wine spritzer while we perused the menu, the specials board and waited for a table outside.
Once we were seated outside in the sun, with thankfully just enough shade, we enjoyed our drinks and ordered the following (excuse the lack of precise dish names as I cannot for the life of me find any menus online): Home cured Salmon with cucumber dill & mustard R65 off the specials board; cajun grilled calamari & fried chorizo with pickling onions, tomatoes & a delicious hot sauce; and crispy pork belly. Wow! I’ve never had such a delicious combination of Tapas before. That dill and cucumber mustardy mayo was the perfect tangy accompaniment for the very lightly cured and ‘fresh as they come’ salmon chunks and slices. Followed by the richness and intense flavour of the calamari & chorizo dish, and the perfect crunchiness of that pork belly crackling (spot the free chip we scored in the pics), this was just what we were looking for.
So grab some mates, book a big table under an umbrella outside for lunch, order some beers, wines and cocktails and order 1 of every Pintxo you can get your hands on. Then pass them around and spread the Spanish love. Buen Provecho!