With a Fin & Tonic and lobster roll, life really is a beach
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The Beach House
Where: 3 Chartwell Drive, uMhlanga
Open: Wednesday to Sunday and public holidays, 11.30am to 11pm
Call: 031 943 3044
Food writer Ingrid Shevlin and I had been following its progress. A new restaurant was going to open on uMhlanga’s Chartwell strip. Called The Beach House, it promised many of the classic meals we remember along Durban’s beachfront.
The restaurant is the brainchild of Zane da Silva, of Taco Zulu fame, with chef Brendon Newport, whom many will remember from Beanbag Bohemia and Surf Riders, heading up the kitchen and creating the menu.
It’s a super-casual venue, with decor that is fun and funky and pays homage to Durban’s surfing past. There are vintage surfboards hung from the rafters. There are pictures on the walls of the city’s surfing greats, and the pizzas have names like Cave Rock chicken, New Pier pepperoni and Bay of Plenty. The wifi password is a variation on “life’s a beach”.
There’s a bar area and a long table down the middle which should make for some fairly sociable evenings and plenty of mingling once Covid regulations are scrapped. There are some comfy banquettes along the walls and to the one side is a smarter lounge area, which has already been dubbed The Library. The whole restaurant spills out effortlessly onto the pavement. You almost expect there to be beach sand. It’s fun, convivial and boisterous and on the public holiday Monday was pumping.
As we arrive, an awesome looking cocktail is brought out. It’s a Fin and Tonic, a gin and elderflower creation served in a plastic bag tied at the top around a straw. Inside something that looks like a fish is bobbling around. It’s carried out in a basket. I can see that being a hit.
The menu takes in all the comfort favourites that a surfer arriving in a wetsuit with a board under his arm would recognise. But these are notched up a level or two. There’s a series of tapas or small plates, many ideal for putting in the middle of the table and sharing. There’s Sea for seafood dishes, Land for meats and Earth for veg. All are interesting.
Newport invited us to come try his food, so we were at his mercy and the dishes were a complete surprise. A lazy Susan arrives at the table piled with food. There were panko prawn tails with lime mayo and caviar (R95). Delicious. And then tuna ceviche served in prawn crackers (R130). Super silky. From the seafood side we could have had mussels in a lemon and chilli broth; a spicy seared tuna poke bowl; or tuna lollipops rolled in sesame seeds with a teriyaki glaze and wasabi mayo. There’s also deep-fried, flour-dusted pieces of linefish with mayo and toasted seaweed.
Also on our table was The Beach House’s mac and cheese (R125). This was certainly no ordinary mac and cheese. It’s a dish I’m wary of. There are some that taste like stodge, some of flour, some that set like glue. This was perfection, rich, tasty and rewarding, a deeply cheesy sauce coated the pasta, with the whole being tarted up with truffle oil, and a crunchy, gooey, stringy Parmesan and garlic crust. Heavenly, Ingrid described it as. It’s also enormous and would easily feed two with a side salad for lunch.
Other Earth options might include a watermelon and feta salad or aubergine, spinach and ricotta rotolo. Then there’s crumbed deep fried olives which come out complimentary instead of bread.
Burgers here are not an ordinary affair. Besides the traditional beef, boasted as made from free range, hormone-free beef, there’s a crunchy chicken burger with green slaw, sesame seeds and lime mayo; a falafel burger with tzatziki and roasted peppers and brinjals; and a tuna burger with avo, wasabi and peanut slaw. We shared their signature “burger”, the lobster roll (R190), with lobster, lemon mayo, crunchy slaw in a toasted brioche roll. If you want to go the whole hog you can order half or a whole lobster to go with any dish. We loved it.
Mains might include pork ribs, or a Durban lamb curry, or Marsala chicken, or even fish and chips. Baby langoustines are cooked in the pizza oven with garlic, parsley, sea salt and lemon butter. There’s a seafood cartoccio ‒ prawns, mussels, calamari and clams cooked in the bag with tomato and lemon and served with linguine.
The linefish (R190) ‒ it was swordfish ‒ was simple but beautiful, with a caper and roast tomato topping in lemon butter. This was excellent cooking. The pepper crusted beef fillet with café de Paris butter (R175) was another winner. Even those skinny fries (by this stage we could barely fit another morsel in) are worth a mention. (And yes, the doggy bag was enormous).
We finished sharing a crème brûlée (R65) topped with honeycomb which hit the mark. A salted caramel popcorn sundae gives the dessert menu that just-off-the beach feel.
Food: 4 ½
Service: 3 ½
The Independent on Saturday