Food Destination: Secret eating
A restaurant is a restaurant is a restaurant, except when it's a back garden, a tote or a museum. Shelley Seid gets a taste of some lesser-known Durban eateries, carefully concealed in weird and wonderful settings
On the first and last Sunday of every month, the Hellenic Centre, the soul of Durban's Greek community, flings open its function-room doors for an eatathon of Herculean proportions. For the price of a tip at any other restaurant you can spend the whole Sunday afternoon scoffing as much spanakopita, souvlaki, keftedes, dolmades, lamb kleftiko, melitzanosalata, moussaka, baklava, koulourakia and honey cake as you can manage. The tables heave under the weight of the rapidly replenished food, organised by Durban's Greek god, Nick Papadopoulos. It's the real deal. Don't expect ambience. This is about serious eating. Kids under 10 eat free.
Hellenic Centre, 6 High Grove, Umgeni Park, Durban North. Phone 0315633877.
Hollywood is a large and busy tote, as popular for betting as it is for its bunnies. But I'd wager that the majority of the customers in the bustling restaurant on the large, first-floor verandah are there only for the food. There is as much space inside, including a full bar, where large TV sets broadcast international horse races and punters study their forms over a curry. A takeaway downstairs serves the same food as the restaurant, with specials on different days of the week - you can gamble on trotters and beans on a Wednesday, and prawn curry on a Sunday.
126 Intersite Avenue, Umgeni Business Park, Springfield Park. Open daily from 6am. A second outlet with eatery can be found in Greyville. Phone 0312632834 or visit hollywoodbets.net.
A visit to Durban's Holocaust Museum is a sobering experience. A place of remembrance for the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime, it is also a space to recognise human-rights abuses around the world. The only way to lift your spirits is to visit its classy little coffee shop, the Circle Café, set in the tranquil Garden of Remembrance. Have a cheese blintz or a slice of cheesecake and reflect on the resilience of the human spirit. If the quality - and quantity - of food on offer is anything to go by, there's a Jewish mother in the kitchen.
Corner Playfair and KE Masinga (Old Fort) roads. Open during the day from Sunday to Thursday, 8.30am to 4pm, Friday until 2pm. Phone 0313681766 or visit ctholocaust.co.za.
The braai ranch
There's nothing like a home braai, so why not just go to someone's home? The Ranch runs from Yusuf and Razeena Randeree's back garden in the leafy suburb of Sherwood. Sit at a plastic table under the boma-style bamboo roof and wait for the mother of all braai areas to charcoal grill your beef kebabs, lamb chops, mutton wors and the rest. The service is excellent; the bill far less than you would expect; and the place is abuzz with seated customers and queues of people waiting for takeaways. You'll be tempted to hang out for hours after dinner's been cleared - just like at home. No alcohol allowed on the premises.
49 Collingham Road, Sherwood. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from late afternoon. Phone 0824670173 or visit randerees.co.za.
Buds on the bay (Bay shak)
Almost hidden in the industrial hub of Durban Bay, among cargo terminals, freight storage and crane hire sites, is a rustic-looking structure surrounded by the mangroves. Bud's is a place to chill; shoes are not mandatory. You might have to walk past the dentist's chair to the bar to place an order (service is haphazard at best) and the crockery doesn't match but it has become something of a Durban institution. Relax with a beer or 10, take in the view of the bay with its scattering of yachts and the occasional fisherman and unwind.
30 Grunter Gully, Bayhead Road. Open noon - 9.30pm, closed Sunday and Monday nights. Phone 0314666100 or visit shak.co.za
Remember the 1960s when the family would go to the airport to watch the planes take off? Head Office, the restaurant at the Virginia Airport in Durban North, is a slice of nostalgia. Thanks in the main to the flight schools based at the airport, you can watch myriad light aircraft taxi down the runway and head for the clouds while you tuck into some hearty, home-cooked food. The runway is within spitting distance and the windows are expansive, so the view from this first-floor restaurant is as phenomenal as the chops and chips.
1st Floor, Main Terminal Building, Virginia Airport, Durban North. Open daily from 8.30am, closes 5.30pm on Monday and Tuesday, 7.30pm the rest of the week and 2pm on the weekend. Phone 0315640000.
Auntie Nita's curry den
In the light industrial area of Brickfield Road, behind the type of razorwire fencing you're likely to see around a nuclear-power plant, is a diminutive wendy house, painted pink and a little worse for wear. Inside is Aunty Nita, her helpers and large cauldrons of some of the best curry in Durban. The mutton bunny (R35) alone is worth the trip. A few chairs have been squeezed alongside the hut so you can enjoy your takeaway bunny and Coke to the roar of passing traffic and the noise of the auto-repair shop next door. Curry is made fresh each day and is usually sold out by the end of lunch. Go early.
172 Brickfield Road. Open Monday to Saturday. Phone 0732602147.
SPCA coffee cats
The little tearoom at the Springfield Park SPCA, called Coffee Cats, serves breakfast, light lunches and tea-time treats in a shaded area next to a thriving nursery. It's standard fare, but value for money and there's great pleasure in watching the clutch of entitled cats strutting their stuff and demanding treats. Knowing your money will help all the abandoned animals is enough reason to have an apple crumble after your bacon-and-cheddar wrap. It's also far enough away from the pound that you don't go home with a one-eyed mutt under your arm (unless you want to, of course).
Corner Willowfield Crescent and Inanda Road, Springfield Park. Open 8am-4pm Monday to Friday; until 1pm on Saturday. Phone 0315794553 or visit spcadbn.org.za.
Cake and Satay house
Anita Leong has turned the front room of her house into an eatery specialising in Indonesian food. It's not that easy to find: the signage is minimal and it's located up a flight of steps and it's small - there are only a few tables. There's been nominal effort put into décor or ambience but the food, authentic Indonesian, is a worthwhile experience. There is a small menu, with goodies such as satay kebabs, nasi goreng and chilli crab. There's no cake though. Book ahead of time or the "restaurant" may not even be open.
Willowvale Road, next to Willowvale Hotel, Umbilo. Monday - Saturday, 4pm till late. Phone 0827163793.