A Taste of Things to Come

Text and Photos by Shirley Berko – Cuizine Durban 

Food in Durban has long since been underrated in the context of the rest of the country. Boxed into the quarter or square half of a bread loaf of its idiosyncratic bunny chow, the perception of the city and province’s food has been limited to bunnies, curries and takeaways. But that’s a perception that’s been shifting, as the local cuisine and palates have been diversifying and expanding. Local craft and artisanal food and drink movements and markets are driving the flavours forward, bringing farm produce to our tables with a robust enthusiasm for all the good things to feast on, that are available right at our provincial doorstep and backyard. There’s so much on offer, it just needs to be shared and revealed.

Considered one of the wettest provinces in the country, KZN is home to an abundance of indigenous livestock, like the Drakensberger cattle, that thrives at local farms. Within half a decade we’ve gone from ordering our overcooked steaks at large national franchises, with mass-producing central kitchens in Joburg, to having the top grill and steakhouse in the country, with the award-winning Little Havana. Other home-grown restaurants are also making for some tough competition with their tender offerings. Grass-fed, grain-fed, sourveld, sweetveld, free range, locally reared and pastured, wet or dry-aged, Durban diners are now informed and discerning when it comes to selecting the protein served on our plates.

Thanks to our rich climate and landscape, we have a unique terroir. Terr-what? Terroir. That snooty-sounding French term for the soil, topography and climate that forms the habitat for vines to grow. Successful vineyards like Abingdon in Lidgetton in the Midlands, are emerging and producing globally acclaimed and awarded wines. Vineyards in KZN? Never! And yet, here we are. With more soon to follow.

Or skip the vines and head for the hops. With all the craft breweries mushrooming around the city and beyond, from Durban to the Midlands, you can cheerfully follow a beer route (with a designated driver) and sample some of the best suds in the country. Nottingham Road Brewing Company has been pouring their craft draught for 20 years, and is one of the most recognised of the many microbreweries we have.

Robsons beer (Medium)

If a dark brew reminds you of coffee instead of beer, Durban’s got good java. Beaver Creek down the coast grows and roasts their own coffee. Terbodore in the Midlands have been roasting theirs for over a decade. Colombo Coffee & Tea has been running their roastery in Durban for nearly a century, and is still owned by its original family. Our baristas are some of the best, with the likes of Craig Charity from Lineage Coffee, winning South African Barista Champion in 2014. Coffees are the new steaks, with Durbanites shifting their sipping from milky Wimpy offerings to blend beansin flat whites and Americanos.

Farmers’ and artisanal food markets like the Shongweni Farmers’ Market and the Morning Trade, have been catalysts to the delicious and inspired street-food-style cuisine being celebrated and served. Tandoori naan omelettes with lamb seekh skewers, gourmet scotch eggs, falafel, steamed pork dumplings, these foods represent an international cultural comfort food palette, home-made and served at these markets with a palpable passion.

It’s this diverse mosaic of flavour that has pushed the curry-set boundaries ascribed to our city by the rest of the country. We’ve come far and have so much more to offer than single dish hits. And the idea behind this segment is to explore and laude the little known food and drinks heroes of our city, because they deserve it and we deserve to know about it.

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