Foodie Alert! Learn about the essentials of Durban's food culture and its hidden gems
One of the great advantages of living in a multicultural place like South Africa is that the food and food culture that comes out is diverse and delicious. Although Cape Town is renowned for having some of the top restaurants in the country, Durban exceeds expectations in a different way.
Durban holds the food culture of many a people. There is a hugely diverse group of migrant Indians going back two centuries. Settlers from Britain, Portugal, Italy, and even Mauritius arrived to make Durban their home. I would write more on different groups of people who arrived in this stunning part of South Africa but I'd rather talk about food! As you can imagine, there is no shortage of good food in Durban. So I decided to make a list of hidden gems, as well as institutions that you should try on a visit to Durban:
Indian: in my post, 5 Unique Experiences to try in Durban, I wrote about the Bunny Chow (a half or a quarter loaf of bread scooped out and filled with curry, topped off with the soft inside of the bread). But Durban is not just known for this inventive fast food, it is rather known for its Indian food in general. You may think that the curries would all taste similar but because of the influence of so many cultures from India as well as the unique South African influence, the curries that arrive on your plate are mixtures of generations of recipes and culture. They are not to be missed! My personal favourites are: Oriental Restaurant at the Workshop, Little Gujarat, and Patel's (the last two are Vegetarian but highly recommended!). An article about Durban Indian food cannot be written without an honourable mention of Johnny's Roti. They make (in my opinion) the ultimate hangover food. A seriously huge roti, filled with chips and cheese and smothered with your choice of curry gravy (mutton, chicken, beans...). Many people say a trip to Durban is incomplete without a trip to Johnny's. See it for yourself next time you go to Durban!
Burger: Durban has had a bit of an obsession with burgers in the past years. Of course, it's quite easy to stop at a franchised fast food place and get a plain ol' burger but you may find that local 'Durbanites' prefer their artisan, handcrafted and sometimes over-the-top burgers. They even had a competition running for the Best Burger in Durban for a time. Personally, I couldn't wait for the finalists to come but so I could go to each place and try each restaurant or bar's unique take on the burger. Recently, I tried D'urban Burger Co. which has the same base ingredients (hummus, pesto and caramelised onions plus the usual lettuce and tomato) but you can have any of the meat options. I opted for the chicken, while my foodie partner chose the lamb. Both of us were very satisfied and at R55 a piece, we could not be happier! My other preferences are: O'bryans, Republik and Dropkick Murphy's (note: friends of mine said the veg burger at Dropkick Murphy's was fantastic!)
Italian: growing up in Durban, I never really noticed just how many Italian restaurants were in and around the city. Sunday family breakfasts were often spent in the famous institution, Spiga D'Oro. Mamma Luciana's was down the same street (Florida Road) and was also a family dinner favourite. Only coming back to my hometown this year did I notice the sheer amount of Italian places to dine at. Recently, I stopped by four different locations in the space of 3 weeks. Needless to say, Durbanites love their Italian food! For breakfast (as well as lunch or dinner), a popular spot is Old Town Italy. I love the in house bakery and deli. You can buy ingredients for yourself to cook an Italian meal at home or take homeauthentic Italian goodies not found at a supermarket. This is a must if you enjoy Italian food. My top picks: Spiga D'Oro, Mamma Luciana's, Old Town Italy and Lupa Osteria.
Dessert: locals from Durban are very dedicated to dessert and as a dessert enthusiast myself, I can recommend some interesting and tasty places to fulfil your sweet tooth. I mentioned Old Town Italy but I want to mention them specifically in terms of dessert. They have a huge bakery chock full of desserts to drool over. But their most well-known sweet treat is the cronut. These are definitely worth a drive north from the city centre to Umhlanga. Another popular place for dessert is Wicked Donuts. They serve colourful and delicious donut creations that will make you return for more.Their stores are in a few different locations and they also sell at some of the local markets. Sugarlicious also became recently famous for their unique ice cream macaroons. Yes, ice cream! They will soon open on the famous Florida Road but are currently located next to Gateway Mall in Umhlanga.
Daruma Japanese Restaurant: If you are wanting to do something more upscale and fancy, a trip to Daruma is a fantastic place to visit. They serve high class sushi, Teppenyaki (the chefs cook your meal in front of you) and other scrumptious Japanese foods. This place is special and you will leave feeling full and in awe of a wonderful yet different culinary experience.
Afro's Chicken Shop: First opened on the Durban beachfront, this small chicken based fast food shop has now expanded widely around Durban. They are even opening a new shop in Cape Town! They offer street food style at favourable prices (R35 for a wrap, R39 for a burger). If you want to save money and have a great meal, this also comes highly recommended.
All the places above have awesome food and great locations. Whether they are expensive or more affordable, they are all certainly worth a try. So take your pick when you're in Durban. If you have Instagram or twitter and visit these spots, why not tag us using @tours_africa (Instagram) or @ToursAfricaTrav (Twitter). We would love to see what you post!
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