Thursday, September 15, 2011
110908 Main Ingredient's MENU - A week in Durban, Oyster Box, Eat Greek, barracuda, things to do, affordable places to eat
Main Ingredient’s weekly E-Journal
Gourmet Foods, Ingredients & Fine Wines
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A very, very kind friend offered us a week in his time share in Ballito, here a little North of Durban in KZN, and we leapt at it. John was born in Durban, but left at 5 months, Lynne has previously been to the city for the sum total of 3 days. This turns out to be a very good time of year to come here – 25°C and very low humidity, with a little wind and some occasional rain in the evening. We left a cold Cape Town in a full North Westerly storm and arrived to balmy airs and a beautiful coastline, very well ‘appointed’ as they say in the property ads. We are one short block of flats back from the beach, so walks along the impressive boardwalk and beach are mandatory. We thought we deserved a rewarding rest but, guess what, nothing keeps us back - we have been rushing about as usual and have been down to Durban most days, and sometimes twice a day, sightseeing, tasting, and finding things to write about! The bird photography has been marvellous - the best being the sighting of an ethereal fairylike pied kingfisher hovering over the beach at sunset. The sun sets at 5.30 here, so there just wasn’t enough light to get a good photo of it, but we live in hope of seeing it again. People seem to rise very early and go to bed very early, so we haven’t seen much nightlife.
HOW NOT TO We found a Groupon offer for a buffet at the Morningside Lodge Hotel restaurant in Durban just before we left: R70 instead of R150 a person and, not knowing Durban, we took a chance. How bad could it be? It turned out to be a fairly Fawlty Towers experience. We were told to be there by 7.30, but we think the locals arrived an hour earlier, because all the starters were finished and the curries were nearly depleted. Not bad food, but pretty ordinary and the curries (a prawn & chicken, and a lamb biriani) were very bony and very mild. The puddings were scary, solid rice pudding and a very strange bouncy finger they called a chocolate brownie which had no flavour and a most peculiar texture, like a very solid floury jelly. We asked for the wine list – blank looks from our waitress. “We have wine, led (red) wine (pause…) and white” she said. We asked, what kind? “Led wine or white wine.” We asked what name, what label – no label she said, “in glass”. In the end we gave up, realised we were being pretentious and said, “just bring us two glasses of the red”. It was absolutely awful! Oxidised, thin, sour and quite undrinkable. But it was included in the price…. They did eventually bring us a wine list as we were leaving – they have five wines on it (see picture). That was when we realized that a lot of Durban doesn’t drink.
Market madness Saturday morning, we decided to find the local Saturday Dolphin market (Busman’s holiday!) mentioned In our Information booklet (but with no signage and no address, we drove for ages and finally found the charming Litchi orchard market in Umhlali. Literally set in an orchard next to a great nursery, there were art, clothing, antiques and a very nice small food market. We met lots of lovely stall holders and bought some John Platter branded Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc for our supper, some great chutneys, fresh veg and a couple of presents.
Eating Greek When we wrote last week that we were going to be in the area, Nick Papadopoulos, who runs the successful Eat Greek caterers with his partner Eric Edwards, invited us to come and have lunch at the Hellenic Community Centre (pictures here) near the river in Umgeni Park, Durban North. This is where he holds the monthly Food Market, which is held on the last Saturday of every month which sadly was the week before. This Greek food buffet must qualify as one of the best deals in Durban. Held every Sunday from 12.30, it costs R90 per person and we suggest you check out all the serving tables before you start piling up your plate with the cold mezze. There is a cold mezze table with tarama, humus, melanzane dips, pita, fried slices of aubergine, pepperoni, Greek salad, olives, fish cakes and aubergine slices wrapped around haloumi cheese; then a hot mezze table with the lightest spanakopita and tirokopita (triangular spinach and cheese pies) we have ever eaten, crisply crumbed soft calamari rings, and spicy chicken livers, delicious courgette patties amongst others; a main course table with herby, tender Greek roast lamb, chicken, a curry (this is Durban after all and they can’t live without curry) rice, potatoes and vegetables and a very full dessert table which includes a classic Greek desserts like baklava, rice pudding, as well as pecan pie, crème caramel and proper ice creams which the children flocked to. Corkage is R25, but they do sell a very good selection of wines, and other drinks.
SPICE, BIRDS AND FLOWERS Monday morning saw us doing a pilgrimage to the Victoria Street Market which is much smaller than we both remembered. We bought some masalas and salt mixes from Mr Joe who has been there for 46 years and wants to move to Cape Town! So (they say!) do several of the other traders. We then went off to the Botanic Garden where we took masses of fantastic photographs of the plants, flowers and the birds - you will be seeing lots of the best, and had a sandwich and cool drink lunch in the tea garden (proceeds to charity) in the company of hadedas, monkeys and a cat.
The Pearl of Umhlanga We had been invited to the Oyster Box Hotel for dinner by their PR department, which made us very happy because one of our friends, Eric Botha one of SA’s Sommeliers, moved there recently from the One and Only. Eric welcomed us and gave us a tour of this lovely colonial style hotel, right on the beachfront next to the lighthouse. It was like stepping back into the 50’s (yes, we are that old and it so reminded Lynne of the old Clarensville Hotel in Sea Point, where she lived briefly when very young) looking at the colonial style uniforms of the staff who were all so welcoming and friendly. We were addressed often by name which so impressed us. It has quite quirky style, lot and lots of exotic décor, paintings, flowers and colour and amusing touches. It has a frivolous, sophisticated and fun atmosphere. We don’t often stay at hotels, preferring the privacy of self-catering, but this is one where we would enjoy spending some time. It looks a lovely place for conferences. Breakfast on the Ocean Terrace, marvellous Indian and other Asian food for lunch from the curry buffet, high tea in the Palm Court lounge, cocktails in the Oyster bar and then dinner in the Grill Room And then home for a diet. We met Joanne Hayes, their PRO, in the lounge for a glass of Kaapse Vonkel and were then ushered into the Grill Room for dinner. We chose from the Chef’s Signature menu (Kevin Joseph is the Exec Chef): Lynne started with Tongue in Mustard sauce, tongue finely chopped with gherkin and capers in a mustard sauce, rather like a fleischsalat from a German deli, served with melba toast. John had a twice baked crab and shrimp soufflé with an anchovy cream. We drank Bouchard Finlayson Reserve Sauvignon blanc. Next Lynne opted for Prawns ‘Benedict’. Six fat peeled prawns and a lovely piece of just seared salmon atop a huge raft of noodles and covered in a Benedict Arnold Hollandaise sauce and a herby Vermouth cream. A huge portion, so lots of the noodles returned to the kitchen. She had a glass of the Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay. John chose the Duck à la Peach: A tender confit duck leg, a slightly tough seared breast flavoured with Five spice, accompanied by a peach and honey sauce with a French potato cake and spinach. He drank a glass of Sumaridge Pinot Noir with this rich dish. Room for dessert was hard to find so Lynne opted for the simple but beautiful Crème Brulée while John had the Gingerbread and Butter pudding with bananas and bitter chocolate and orange sauce. A huge portion again of quite a dense pudding, KZN like big portions we decided. And then it was time to drive back to Ballito.
We have to mention the Maitre D, the charming and urbane Henry Pakiri, known to his staff affectionately as Mr Henry. He started at the Oyster box as a lad of 13 in the children’s dining room and has been there for over 40 years. Many of the staff have been with the hotel for a good few years.
FOOD 4 THOUGHT & UMTHOMBO Joanne also represents other clients and she invited us to the launch of this new initiative in Durban. In the Cape we are all familiar with Street Smart – a voluntary donation added to your restaurant bill, which goes to support Street children. This is what Food 4 Thought does in KZN and the money they collect will go to support the charity working with street children here called Umthombo (means wellspring). Held at Market restaurant in Durban we listened to a very interesting presentation both of the fantastic and innovative work done with Umthombo by Tom Hewitt, who was recently awarded an MBE by the Queen for the work he is doing here. They currently run two drop in centres: Safe-space, a 24/7 drop-in centre for street children in Durban where the team lead the children towards reintegrating back into community environments; and Life-space, for children who have come through Safe-space and are approaching adulthood but have nowhere to return to. ‘Kick Start’ is the organization’s newest initiative and works to provide vocational opportunities for the children as they reach the ages of 15-18, equipping them with life-skills and a pathway to a career for life after Umthombo.
Then a presentation by Jess Meredith-Watts about Food 4 Thought. 18 restaurants have so far joined the programme and more are queuing up to join. 1% will be added to your bill and there is a restaurant website where you can get information on the restaurant members, a monthly newsletter, specials, information about how the money is used by Umthombo and lots of other benefits. See www.food4thoughtkzn.co.za
Rule Britannia Everyone in Durban says you must have a curry lunch at the Old Britannia hotel. So this is where we went next and had a mutton and a chicken curry in their Capsicum restaurant. Classic curries served in a rather dark and sombre room. If you like a lot of buzz and a lot of cigarette smoke and sport on TV the place to eat (but not for us) is the bar. Super service, nice food. Don’t try to Google it, we couldn’t find it anywhere and had to phone for directions. It’s at 1266 Umgeni Road alongside the river behind the new stadium.
Moz-am-Bik Prawns Our next two days were spent at the time share, both working on our laptops writing MENU amongst other things. Weather is blustery and there has been a little night rain (could this be Camelot?) Last night we asked locals for the best restaurant for prawns and they sent us to Moz-am-bik, in Boulevard Centre, corner of Jack Powel and Compensation Beach Road. This has a Moçambiquan beach bar feel, it has Kingsley Holgate’s Dhow on the top balcony converted to a function venue and we had lovely Mozambican inspired food. Prices are low and yet they are very successful and busy. Lynne started with a Prawn Thermidor, 6 large peeled prawns in a rich cream, mushroom and garlic sauce accompanied by a Portuguese roll and chips (which we declined) for R56. John had calamari tubes in a peri peri and lemon sauce with a roll to soak up the juices and they were really stunning. Everyone seemed to be eating the Prego rolls so we had these with chips (and another roll) for our main course (R50 each) and they made lovely crisp chips. Bill for the 2 of us with corkage was R262. We took along a bottle of Cape Point 2009 Stonehaven Sauvignon Blanc which we were excited to discover on sale at the local Checkers.
Dinner tonight will be at home and, sadly, tomorrow we fly home at midday so that we can attend Winex at CTICC in the evening. We hope to see many of you there.
Airport bus We have to sing its praises. What a superbly unstressful way to get to and from the airport. A friend dropped us off at the terminal outside the Civic Centre at 8.30 am and four minutes later we were off on a comfortable 15 minute journey costing R53 each. It probably takes a little longer in rush hour but it is worth it. They deliver you directly in front of the main arrivals and departures building and will get you a trolley if you have lots of luggage. Polite service, safe driving, what more could you ask. We hope that more of you will use this bus, we would hate it to disappear because no-one used the service. It does feel like you are in Europe when you have superb services like this. And our overseas friends and readers will love it.
Barracuda in ginger and garlic
We have had great difficulty finding any fish or fresh seafood in this area, but the magnificent Checkers in Ballito has an impressive fish counter – we only wish ours in Sea Point could match it in the freshness and availability of fish. We bought two sizable barracuda steaks on Saturday and Lynne marinated them in chilli, chopped garlic and ginger, then we pan-fried them and had them with baked potatoes and a salad. A Braai would have been good but sadly it was drizzling and pitch dark when we wanted to eat at 7.
2 Barracuda or similar (swordfish, tuna) steaks - 2cm piece of fresh ginger – 1 large garlic clove – 1 tsp zhoug (Israeli/Yemeni chilli spice we sell)– 1 T hot water– 1 T oil – good squeeze of lemon juice – salt and pepper
Grate the ginger and the garlic, pour hot water on the zhoug powder then stir in the oil and mix with the ginger and garlic. Spread over both sides of the fish and leave to marinade for at least an hour. Fry quickly on both sides then season, add a squeeze of lemon and serve.
Our products. Good news for lovers of Paella: We have new Spanish rice products arriving: Spanish Montsià Paella Rice and Extra Seleccion Bomba Rice. The same specially selected variety is always used in growing and producing this rice, so it all has the same cooking time and a great capacity for absorbing flavours. A special kit containing all the ingredients necessary to make a quality paella with concentrated fish, seafood & vegetable stock is also available. It includes a packet of natural saffron and a packet of Paella Rice, which guarantees uniform cooking and absorbs the stock and flavours better. The more expensive Bomba rice is ideal for use in haute cuisine, thanks to the quality of this select variety which comes only from the Ebro Delta. Tender and gentle on the palate once cooked, the great absorption capacity of its short, rounded grains allows it to fully soak up the flavour of the other ingredients. It stands out for its capacity to resist overcooking.
We have a lot of fun putting MENU together each week and, of course, doing the things we write about, but making it possible for you to enjoy rare and wonderful gourmet foods is what drives our business. We stock a good range of ingredients and delicious ready-made gourmet foods. So, please have a look at our Product List and see what you need. You can contact us by email or phone, or through our website. We can send your requirements to you anywhere in South Africa. If you are following Masterchef Australia we have Carnaroli risotto rice and truffles, amongst lots of other strange and difficult things to find that they use.
Our market activities We will be at the Old Biscuit Mill’s brilliant, exciting and atmospheric Neighbourgoods Market, as always, this Saturday between 09h00 and 14h00. Next Wednesday, we will be back at the Dean St Arcade in Newlands from 09h30 to 14h30. You will find us at The Place at Cavendish (Woolworths underground entrance to Cavendish Square), nest Friday, 16th September, from 10h00 to 17h00, and we will have our great selection of delicious treats and ingredients there for you.
Good food and wine continues to grow as a focal point for many people in the Western Cape and, to an extent, in other parts of the country. As a result, has grown so much that it was making MENU too long for some of our readers. So we’ve taken it online. . You will need to be connected to the internet.
Our continues to grow. to access it. These 2011 Winter Specials have been sent to us by the restaurants or their PR agencies. We have not personally tried all of them and their listing here should not always be taken as a recommendation from ourselves. When we have tried it, we’ve put in our observations. We have cut out the flowery adjectives etc. we’ve been sent, to give you the essentials. Click on the name to access the relevant website. All communication should be with the individual restaurants.
Remember - if you can’t find something, we’ll do our best to get it for you, and, if you’re in Cape Town or elsewhere in the country, we can send it to you! Check our product list for details and prices.
PS If a word or name is in , click on it for more information
Phones: +27 21 439 3169 / 083 229 1172 / 083 656 4169
Postal address: 60 Arthurs Rd, Sea Point 8005
Our take small groups (up to 6) to specialist wine producers who make the best of South Africa’s wines. Have fun while you learn more about wine and how it is made! Tours can be conducted in English, German, Norwegian or Dutch flavoured Afrikaans.
Recommendations of products and outside events are not solicited or charged for, and are made at the authors’ pleasure. All photographs, recipes and text used in these newsletters are ©John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus. Our restaurant reviews are usually unsolicited. We prefer to pay for our meals and not be paid in any way by anyone. Whether we are invited or go independently, we don’t feel bad if we say we didn’t like it. Honesty is indeed our best policy. While every effort is made to avoid mistakes, we are human and they do creep in occasionally, for which we apologise. Our Avast! ® Anti-Virus software is updated at least daily and our system is scanned continually for viruses.This electronic journal has been sent to you because you have personally subscribed to it or because someone you know has asked us to send it to you or forwarded it to you themselves. Addresses given to us will not be divulged to any person or organisation. We collect them only for our own promotional purposes and keep our mailing list strictly confidential. If you wish to be added to our mailing list, please send us a message, inserting "subscribe" in the subject line. If you wish to be removed from our mailing list, please send us a message, inserting "remove" in the subject line.
Posted by John Ford at 11:32 pm