Going to ESSENCE Festival Durban? Here's Where to Eat and Drink

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As you taste your way through Durban, you’ll come to appreciate its cosmopolitan character and history, and relax into the laidback social energy of the city's eateries.

Durban, the largest city on the lush, tropical Kwazulu-Natal coast enjoys the best of all the delicious bounty grown right in our backyard. Some of the perks include cheap avocadoes year round and the sweetest summertime bananas, mangoes and pineapple. Just like the weather, Durbanites like their food hot and add chilli to any and everything including our fruit.

As you taste your way through the city, you’ll come to appreciate its cosmopolitan character and history, and relax into the laidback social energy of Durban’s eateries. The service might not always be the quickest but it will be with a warm smile. South Africans enjoy their alcohol and Durbanites are no exception, Phuza (“Drink”) Thursdays generally accepted as the first day to ease into the weekend by heading out for some drinks and a meal.

Indian Food
Bunny Chows, rotis and masala pineapple...You haven’t eaten like a local if you haven’t sampled our Indian food. The best takeaways in Durban are definitely from the Brittania Hotel in and Sunrise Chip n’ Ranch in Sydenham. Sunrise, fondly known to locals as Johnny’s Rotis, is a Durban institution. They’ve been serving up the biggest, cheapest bunny chows (a hollowed out half bread loaf filled with curry) and rotis for over 40 years! Open 24/7, Johnny’s is loved by the lunch crowd and relied on by late night revellers.

For a sit-down dinner, Mali’s extensive menu offers authentic Indian dishes alongside local favourites. It’s a family-run restaurant that just feels like the real deal, around closing time you’ll see the staff share a nightly meal.

Britannia Hotel, 1299 Umngeni Rd, Durban. 
Sunrise Chip n’ Ranch, 93 Moses Kotane Road, Sydenham, 93 Moses Kotane Road, Sydenham.
Mali’s Restaurant, 77 Smiso Nkwanyana Road, Windermere.

Food with a view
A 20-minute drive north of Umhlanga is the seaside town of Umdloti. The rough, rocky beach isn’t ideal for swimming but offers a beautiful backdrop for good food and drinks. Enjoy exquisite ocean views along with your fine dining and cocktails.

Beach Bums is just a few kilometres north of Bel Punto, but worlds away in style. Make sure to wear sandals so you can kick them off and get comfy at tables arranged right on the beach sand. Catch a rugby game on a Sunday or just enjoy their pub fare (wing/rib baskets) and giant colourful jam jar cocktails.

Bel Punto, 1 S Beach Road, Umdloti.
Beach Bums, 65 Casuarina Rd, Genazzano.

Cosmopolitan Flavours
Durban’s colonial history includes the integration of European, Asian and Middle Eastern communities. Our architecture and food tell the story. The best known and loved Italian eatery is Spiga D’Oro. Spiga opens for breakfast, closes late and serves fuss-free Italian in a family atmosphere.

True to Durban’s cosmopolitan character, don’t be surprised if you end up enjoying your njeera and coffee to salsa music at Habesha café. It’s a casual, intimate Ethiopian and Eritrean food spot that hosts weekly salsa dancing nights.

Daruma has been open on the Durban seashore for over two decades and is a well-established favourite amongst visiting businessmen, dignitaries and tourists. The Japanese restaurant serves teppanyaki stir fried theatrically while you watch. Request a private booth for floor seating behind a Japanese screen.

Spiga D’Oro 200 Florida Road, Durban. / 5 Mackeurtan Avenue, Durban North.
Habesha Café 124 Helen Joseph Road, Glenwood.
Daruma 63 O.R Tambo Parade, South Beach.

Shisa Nyama
It’s a national Sunday tradition to wash your car before enjoying music, drinks and a meal with friends and family. If we don’t have a braai (barbecue), we’ll eat “7 colours” a meal named for all the colours on the plate that include vegetables, meat and a starch such as pap or samp n’ beans. Over the last few years big “Shisa nyamas” (literally translated to “burn meat”) have been mushrooming across kasis (townships) across Durban and South Africa. They’re known for an awesome vibe (they book the most popular local artists and DJs) and delicious marinades that are unique to each establishment. Select your meat cuts and have them braaied for you while you enjoy an ice cold local cider like Savannah or Hunter’s Dry. Café Skyzer serves a particularly hearty “7 colours.”

Max’s Lifestyle 328 Mbe Rd, Umlazi.
Café Skyzer 69 Gardens Road, Cato Manor.

Healthy Food
After a morning yoga session at Tree Natural Yoga, treat yourself at their café. Tree Natural Café whips up an array of fresh breakfast, smoothie and salad bowls. You can also drink your smoothie the regular way and grab an organic, GMO free muffin or wrap to go with it.

Vegans, raw “foodists” and enemies of gluten unite! Earth Mother will feed you. Their pastas, quesadillas and salads can be prepared in a variety of styles to your preference and their desserts are worth leaving extra room for.

Tree Natural Café 21 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga.
Earth Mother Organic 482 Lillian Ngoyi Road, Windermere.

Dinner and a Show
For about two years, The Chairman was a well-kept secret and a hole-in-the-wall jazz bar in the heart of Durban’s Point harbour. Then word got out about the eclectic décor, live jazz shows and excellent wine cellar. Owner Ndabo Langa is an architect and collector of beautiful things so The Chairman is a never-ending work in progress. Some exciting developments have included the addition of a wood-fired pizza oven and espresso machine. Be sure to try the mfino (a local type of spinach) pizza.

The Chairman 146 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Point.

Best Breakfast
Rise early and dine with Durban’s surfers at Surf Riders’ on the South Beach promenade. Surf Riders’ prides themselves on “just good chow” and all are welcome including dogs and beach bums with sandy feet. Bring your laidback, surfers’ attitude and the slow service won’t detract from the atmosphere and oysters.

Surf Riders’ Food Shack 17 Erskine Terrace, Durban.

Best Brunch
“Taste freedom” at this quirky café built in a bright red shipping container. The stylish, off-beat décor and the fusion dishes served at Freedom are fun and contemporary. Lose track of time over mimosa’s and chakalaka (South African homemade salsa) eggs benedict while checking your mail or chatting under the wild fig tree. Freedom Café shares a quiet courtyard with the equally cool Concierge Boutique Bungalows hotel.

Freedom Café Greyville Village

There’s nothing quite like enjoying the taste of fresh seafood with the smell of the sea in your nose. The deck of Jack Salmon Fish House overlooks the Indian Ocean and the seafood platters are excellent.

South Africans love a local fish called snoek, it may be bony but it’s big, juicy and perfect for throwing on the braai. Battered, fried snoek wrapped in newspaper from the local takeaway is also a treat. At the Fish Plaice be sure to ask for salt n’ vinegar on your snoek and slaptjips (fries).

Jack Salmon Fish House, Shop 15, Glenore Centre, 1 Aubrey Drive, Glenashley.
The Fish Plaice, Tinsley House, 219 Musgrave Road, Durban. / 47 Ashley Avenue, Durban.

Local Brews
Distillery031 is Durban’s very first artisanal local distillery that produces ‘031’ absinthe, vodka, gin and tonic water. Owner and distiller Andrew Rall has opened a trendy, industrial-style restaurant in the distillery that serves modern pub food and creative cocktails. Distillery031 also hosts great live music acts and events on the first Thursday of every month. Just downstairs, local ales are brewed at That Brewing Co. S43, the attached restaurant and bar, is a guaranteed good night out. Unity Bar & Brasserie is under the same ownership as S43 and takes their beer very seriously. Unity pours a selection of craft beers from the rest of the country and the world. Their first love is definitely all things local however. Even DEW, the water sold at Unity, is locally harvested from water vapour.

Distillery031 The Foundry, 43 Station Drive, Durban.
S43 Home to the Brewing Co. The Foundry, 43 Station Drive, Durban.
Unity Bar & Brasserie. Silvervause Centre, 117 Silverton Road, Durban.

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