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You don’t have to have been brought up in an old home on Durban’s Berea or in Morningside to appreciate Audacia Manor.
The lovely double-storey house in Sir Arthur Road, built in 1928, has become a home from home for a number of business people who want five-star luxury with a personal feel.
They are the basis of its operation and, until recently, when new owners bought the boutique hotel, its restaurant kept a low profile.
But manager Meleney Cunniff is slowly changing that, with Fani Myeza now in charge of the kitchen.
There is now also a light, elegant dining room overlooking a patio, as well as the front veranda with its views over Morningside to the city.
As a venue, it has a sense of history, with its wooden floors, stained glass windows and comfortable fittings.
For that alone it’s worth visiting, but its food is also a drawcard.
The menu changed slightly this week, but as Meleney says, there has to be a sense of continuity, as regulars expect to find favourite dishes while still being tempted by something new.
One of the items that will probably never be dropped from the list, she says, is a phyllo pastry basket filled with mushrooms.
We thought about that, but then thought about the fact that power had been out in the area most of the day, and picked something that might pose less of a problem to the kitchen.
So we kicked off with a honey-roasted butternut salad and Thai fishcakes with an avocado and baby leaf salad.
The butternut salad was one of the best versions I’ve had of what has become something of a hackneyed standard. The dressing was piquant, the greens not dominant, with caramelised nuts adding an agreeable sweetness.
That sweetness was echoed in the mild chilli dressing and caramelised onions with the fishcakes, which were tasty and happily not as compacted as they can be in Thailand. It’s a dish I would order again – perhaps as a light lunch.
The fishcakes didn’t leave much room for a main of chicken and prawn curry.
The chicken was still moist, the prawns of good quality, and the dish was enjoyably aromatic, if perhaps lacking the zing one becomes accustomed to, living in Durban.
Mushroom risotto with baby spinach was all it should be, and, like the curry, this is another dish that will stay on the menu.
Not so gnocchi with a creamy paprika sauce and slow-roasted tomatoes. I can’t think why this hasn’t been popular.
The gnocchi may not have been home-made, but they were light, the sauce not overpowering.
The menu also features the likes of tempura prawns with a beetroot, apple and red onion salad; duck confit with fried rice and a plum reduction sauce; beef fillet on spicy lentil ragout; and seared Norwegian salmon with roasted new potatoes and mushrooms.
But order carefully and save space for either excellent home-made ice cream or Eton Mess.
The creamy ice creams come in flavours like caramel, chocolate, berry and… black pepper, which is far more subtle and palatable than it sounds.
The Eton Mess is a glorious hodgepodge of crushed meringue, cream and berries. If the building itself doesn’t take you back to childhood, this sort of dessert might just do the trick.
Prices: Starters and light meals R35 to R68; main courses R65 to R145.
Opening hours: Seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, Monday to Saturday for dinner. Booking is essential, as the hotel caters for a lot of functions.
Telephone: 031 303 9520.
Talking curry, a Mauritian-style seafood curry with a coconut milk base was one of the highlights of a recent meal at Little Havana in Granada Centre in Umhlanga.
But most memorable must be an unusual and delicious special of shredded lamb spring rolls.
It’s good to see someone being creative at this newcomer.
Telephone: 031 561 7589.
The Taste of Durban culinary festival is to take place at Suncoast Casino from Friday, July 27, to Sunday, July 29.
The inaugural festival will bring together restaurants, chefs and exhibitors in an outdoor celebration of fine dining.
Taking part are Café 1999, Hartford House, 9th Avenue Bistro, Havana Grill, Little Havana, Jewel of India, Simply Asia, Versailles and Max’s Lifestyle Tavern.
An amendment to last week’s restaurant guide: Butcher Block in Glenwood Centre has reopened as Silverani’s, the telephone number staying the same.
The venue is run by the same people who had Silverani’s in Silvervause Centre.
The venue has been open about a month, but unfortunately checking for the guide starts some time in advance.
And just another caution: when checking details for the guide, we could not get through to Gunther’s on the Caversham road, but since many of the Telkom lines in that area are not operational due to cable theft, it was decided to leave the venue in the guide. - The Mercury