On the coast of the Indian Ocean you will find the vibrant metropolis of Durban, with many restaurants and bars in which to enjoy stunning views across the water. Culture Trip selects the top 11 waterfront restaurants and bars in and near this South African city.
Surf Riders Cafe, Durban
This delightful casual eatery and bar on the Durban beachfront Promenade epitomises the laid-back Durban vibe, with wooden benches, the odd ornamental surfboard and live lunchtime jazz. Food is fuss-free but fabulous – think burgers made with grass-fed, hormone-free beef on a sesame bun with oozy Camembert, balsamic jam and berry relish, and crisp-based pizzas from a wood-fired oven. Dogs are welcome, and travellers missing their pooches will enjoy watching them being treated by friendly staff from a special menu featuring vegan bones and poochino: warm frothy milk and no coffee beans.
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The Joint Jazz Café
Tuck into authentic shisa nyama (hot meat in Zulu) above the waves in a township-style setting, amid beer crates and Coke-bottle chandeliers. The meat is grilled over an open flame, and served on wooden boards with traditional sides – pap (porridge), mfino (spinach), spicy chakalaka (onions, tomatoes and beans), a range of icy beers, and hot live jazz. In deference to its setting, fish is available (try the Zulu line fish wrap with homemade mayo), and that celebrated Durban staple of curry in a hollowed out bread loaf called bunny chow. The Joint can get a bit loud on weekends, and service may be slow, but who cares?
Circus Circus Beach Cafe
With loungers on the sands, café chairs under brollies on the Promenade, and a sheltered playground, this grass-roofed café is a popular eatery for families. Follow an early-morning ocean dip with a stack of granola crumpets and homemade berry yoghurt, seasonal fruit, toasted almonds and a drizzle of honey, or brave a local favourite: spicy chicken livers with peri-peri sauce and two poached eggs on toasted ciabatta. Later in the day there are gourmet burgers, pastas and wraps, all good value for money; but it’s the setting that counts.
Set directly on Casaurina Beach at Westbrook north of Durban, Beach Bums is a fun-filled restaurant and bar where you can enjoy perfectly blended cocktails alongside tasty dishes. As the name suggests, this is a relaxed spot to hang out by day, but on Friday and Saturday nights it’s transformed into an up-tempo setting, when DJs make the beach their dance floor. The restaurant provides light meals and creative chef’s specials, which can be served indoors or outdoors under the palm trees, as you enjoy the tropical breeze.
Linda and Russell Burger have brought together their European and Indian cultures in this special restaurant above the sea at Westbrook, where a subtle infusion of spices gives classic dishes a modern twist. From the deck you can almost feel the spray, as you tuck into the likes of roasted duck salad with mango segments and a cashew nut and sesame dressing, or tamarind curry featuring locally caught fish. Save space for the macadamia nougat cheese cake.
Bel Punto is the place if you want to experience fine dining at an Italian restaurant with a stunning ocean view. The upmarket establishment with its tasteful decor offers a large indoor dining area and equally large terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean. You can order a bottle of quality wine from their extensive wine list to go with your meal, or ask the bartender to whip up a mean cocktail especially for you.
Elements Café Bar
Sip some of Durban’s finest cocktails in this stylish café bar with statement chandeliers, where sliding doors open on to serene views of the Indian Ocean. It’s set on the terrace of the plush Beverly Hills Hotel, and light meals, from seafood to curries, are superbly prepared. Look no further than the chef’s signature dish, linguine del mare: linguini pasta, prawns, mussels, calamari and salmon, served with a chardonnay, coriander and parsley sauce and grated Parmesan. Try the Beverly Hills iced tea with guava, rosewater, locally-distilled 031 Durban gin, vodka, rooibos tea and soda.
The Lighthouse Bar is a sophisticated establishment with a fine view over the Umhlanga Beach and (of course) the iconic red and white Umhlanga Lighthouse. The bar is part of the elegant Oyster Box Hotel, and a romantic place to take in the sunset and watch the moon rise. The Lighthouse Bar’s signature drink, the Umhlanga Schling, is a must-try. Ingredients are close to Durban’s heart: cane sugar and cane spirit. You can watch sport with friends from large plasma screen TVs, and there’s live music from Wednesdays to Fridays.
Havana Grill is a haven for foodies, with 180-degree views of Durban’s Golden Mile. It’s all about good food, wine, cigars (imported from Cuba), good company and friendly vibes. However, the main reason this place attracts so many visitors is its meat and seafood dishes, which have become known worldwide. All the beef is wet aged, except the T-bone and fillet on the bone, which are dry-aged. Steaks are seasoned with Maldon salt, black pepper, thyme and mustard seeds.
The Cargo Hold at uShaka Marine World
For a one-of-a-kind dining experience, come on board the Phantom Ship at uShaka Marine World. Dine in novel style with sharks – the windows look into an aquarium tank. Enjoy spicy, fruity and exotic flavours in a selection of well-prepared dishes made from the freshest produce in KwaZulu-Natal, while the sharks swim by. Try the grilled crayfish or the langoustines, prepared with herbs, spices, lemon and olive oil.
9th Avenue Waterside
And we just couldn’t resist adding this, making a top 11! 9th Avenue Bistro, Durban’s acclaimed, multi-award-winning showcase of beautifully presented contemporary interpretations of bistro classics, has moved from Morningside to a sensational spot in the yacht mole, looking over the water through walls of glass. Decor is light and airy, all natural wood and wicker, and the food is simply wicked. The house favourite, gorgonzola, pear and candied pecan nut salad, is still on the menu. For dinner you’re spoiled for choice, from beef fillet with truffle macaroni cheese, black garlic aioli, onion brûlée, mushroom and peppercorn sauce; to roast duck breast with grilled cabbage and confit leg sauté, mushroom cream, glazed carrots and hazelnuts; and the likes of vegan dark chocolate tart with coconut, maple ice cream and rose syrup to finish.
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