Celebrating life... it’s not another brick in the wall
Where: Coco De Mer Boutique Hotel, 63 Compensation Beach Road, Ballito
Open: Daily 7am to 10pm
Call: 032 946 1029
When I phoned to book our late lunch, the waitress asked me if we were celebrating a special occasion.
No, just meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while, I told her. “Ah, so you are celebrating life,” she said. Which sums up nicely what a restaurant experience is all about. Especially in these dreary pandemic times.
The Fiamma Grill is the main restaurant of an upmarket boutique hotel. It serves breakfasts, for guests and the public, with an interesting breakfast menu or a very reasonable breakfast buffet at R120.
It also has a wonderful outdoor terrace and pool area, with a bar along the one side, taking advantage of KZN’s wonderful mild climate. On a perfect day it is a pleasure to sit on the terrace, and being a public holiday Monday we were treated to live music, although at levels that were somewhat above ambient.
And life was certainly being celebrated. It was busy and resembled more a beach scene than a fine dining restaurant, with large tables of families quaffing pizzas and kids in and out the water, the beer flowing. Waiting staff were on the hop to keep up.
Starters include a duo of calamari, chicken livers, or prawns or snails in garlic butter and gratinated in the oven. Vegetarians could enjoy the feta stuffed deep-fried olives, a lentil soup, grilled black mushrooms or melanzane. Carpaccio and steak strips also feature. My friend really enjoyed his calamari and chourico in a spicy paprika cream (R89) which was served with crisp slices of focaccia. My mussel soup (R79) in white wine, lemon, garlic and cream was a generous portion and was enjoyable, if a shade heavy on the cream. It would have worked better with more slices of that focaccia rather than the very doughy roll, made soggier by being served in the sauce.
Fiamma Grill has a comprehensive sushi menu, and my friend is a fan. California, avalanche and bamboo rolls, ngiri, sashimi, maki and fashion sandwiches all feature. Plus there are a number of platter options, ideal to share for starters. He went for a double portion of salmon roses (R70) with a salmon hand roll (R60) which was attractively served on a wooden bowl. He enjoyed his lunch.
Not feeling like a heavy steak ‒ these can go up to an 800g tomahawk ‒ I opted for the fish of the day (R225) which was kingklip. The pan-fried veal in a sauce of your choice or the wood-fired oven baby chicken both sounded interesting. There is also a range of pastas.
The kingklip was an enormous portion ‒ two pieces of fish piled on top of each other ‒ and was nicely grilled, with a very good lemon butter sauce and decent chips. It just needed something to break the monotony. Even a salad garnish would have helped. The one accompaniment it didn’t need was the singer belting out Another Brick in the Wall along with added table thumps from the party next door.
We skipped dessert ‒ by this stage I felt it would be a brick too many ‒ but offerings include a predictable crème brûlée and tiramisu. The chocolate phyllo parcel with ice-cream and amarula sounded interesting.
Instead later at the Lifestyle Centre while buying a whole range of interesting artisanal products ‒ the olives are always a must ‒ I popped into Scoop Ice Cream and relished a punch in the mouth granadilla sorbet in a crisp waffle cone (R35). What a magnificent kick from the humble passion fruit, pips and all. It was worth the stop.
Food: 3 ½
The Independent on Saturday