Beer, Boks and boards

A board consisting of crispy crumbed prawns, barbecue buffalo wings and rump strips at the Harry James Bar.

A board consisting of crispy crumbed prawns, barbecue buffalo wings and rump strips at the Harry James Bar.

Published Oct 21, 2023


Harry James Bar

Where: 189 Ridge Road, uMhlanga

Open: Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 1am

Call: 031 020 0019

Buckets of Moët and crates of lager are being carried out to the impromptu bar counter under a tent. Ice, lemons, buckets of mint, boxes of hard stuff, cocktail glasses all follow. Then come dustbins and bin liners. The Harry James Bar is getting ready for a big night ‒ two crunch quarter-finals in the Rugby World Cup.

Mom and I pop in here for a late lunch, more by accident. We’d come to have the Sunday roast at Press Club, which now no longer opens on Sundays, and saw the new bar, which has been open for about four months. It’s in the old Harvey’s premises, which has been redone. Pride of place is an impressive bar full of exotic bottles and lights, a veritable mixologist’s cockpit, so to speak. There’s a quieter dining area to the one side, but everything spills out onto a large deck that’s been created at the back. I’m sure this is the spot to be seen.

It’s a smart modern interior, with wallpaper panels of florals and forest. We’re soon out on the deck enjoying a sunny afternoon, complete with a glass of wine in hand. It’s pleasant to sit here and witness all the activity.

Cuban flatbread with rosa tomatoes, olives and feta.

We watched on the big screen as Afghanistan slowly turned the screws on England in one of the shock results of the Cricket World Cup. (Later we would all be huddled in front of the TV screaming for Fiji to really make England’s day, sadly to no avail.) The sound fades in and out as they test the sound system for the evening’s big games.

Waiters are reorganising tables and pinning names to reserved signs and checking seating plans. The waitresses run around in pink micro minis as modern day bunny girls. Fortunately without the ears.

It’s obviously going to be one hell of a party.

The menu is fairly simple and pub grub-inspired. There’s a couple of starters like spicy chicken livers, salmon gravlax and grilled calamari, a couple of salads, burgers which include beef, chicken, pulled pork and a vegan brinjal burger, and pizzas that take in Hawaiian and bacon, avo and feta. Prawns, calamari, kingklip and catch of the day make up the seafood options, while rump, fillet and “Harry’s ribs” are the grills.

And then you can make up a board, so designed to give you nibbles at the table to soak up all those impressive cocktails. This might include chicken spring rolls, or panko crumbed chicken strips or mushroom croquettes or halloumi or riblets.

It’s not a challenging menu, but it does sort of cover most bases. Their spectacular-looking margaritas are probably the selling point.

Mom and I decided to share a board, a way of eating new to her, and one she really enjoyed. We doubled up on the crispy crumbed prawns (R130 for four) which were enjoyable. The menu said they came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, although these were with a lemon butter sauce, which could have had more oomph. We enjoyed the rump strips, which were cooked exactly to order and came with a pleasantly piquant but not hot dipping sauce. The barbecue basted buffalo wings (R85 for four) were nice meaty specimens, although I’d prefer them crisper and stickier. The Cuban flatbread with baby tomatoes, olives and feta (R65) was basically an oval pizza but it went down well. We certainly had more than enough food.

Dessert was confined to panna cotta with mixed berries, a fridge cheesecake and walnut brownies, none of which appealed. I think a strawberry daiquiri would be more interesting.

I can only imagine the celebration ‒ and relief ‒ when the ref blew the final whistle on the Bok/France game. I can also imagine many of the patrons feeling a shade tender in the cold light of Monday morning.

Food: 3

Service: 3


The Bill: R871

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