The Black Rabbit
Where: 12 Old Main Road, Hillcrest, Durban
Open: Daily 11.30am to 10pm
Call: 031 765 3059
It’s called The Black Rabbit and it’s the latest offering from veteran restaurateur Chris Black, of Aubergine and Lupa fame, who opened its doors two weeks ago. Situated in his old Lupa premises, it has a casual but upmarket bistro feel, with a reasonably priced menu to match.
The restaurant has been substantially updated. with sound panels to improve noise levels and a new front bar and wine cellar. It’s light and airy yet homely and buzzy at the same time.
Food writer Ingrid Shevlin and I managed to shoehorn ourselves in to the last available table for lunch on Saturday. It’s encouraging to see a restaurant full.
The menu is small but offers much of interest, and shows flair. Daily specials are on the cards once things bed down in the kitchen, which should further add to the variety.
Hungry, we started by tucking into their wood-fired garlic bread (R80) which is topped with home-made ricotta and then a confit garlic butter is poured over the top of it at the table. This double hit of garlic was most welcome as we used the crisp bread to mop up all that pungent butter.
Other starters might include duck liver paté with date jam, or twice-baked cheese soufflé with a bitter leaf salad and caramelised onions. Mussels in a Thai yellow curry broth caught our attention as did a salad of beetroot, dukkah, goats cheese. toasted nuts and so on. Ingrid settled for the soup of the day (R60) which was a choice of Italian tomato or prawn bisque. The bisque was beautiful, with a wonderful and intense depth of flavour, and was topped generously with prawns and mussels. A hearty portion for a cool day.
I enjoyed my Black Rabbit-style steak tartare (R95), another generous portion done Asian style with soy and mirin, and spring onions and hints of ginger and chilli. The addition of crispy shallots made for an interesting texture. Another winner.
A small pasta selection offers the traditional Bolognaise or Alfredo, along with a calamari and zucchini pasta done peri-peri style, and another with salmon, leeks, capers and vodka. A selection of mushrooms with chilli and crispy pancetta appealed. Pizzas offer a good margherita, or ham and pineapple, or bacon avo and feta along with interesting options like grilled eggplant, artichokes, roasted peppers, feta and black olives.
Other mains include a smoked salmon croque monsieur with Emmental cheese, crème fraîche and mustard. We saw a couple of these come out of the kitchen and they looked good. Every bit the toasted sandwich on steroids you would expect. Wood-roasted hake comes with a lemon and caper butter, and there’s chicken peri-peri, a steak and a house burger topped with Swiss cheese and pancetta.
Ingrid liked the look of kingklip in garam masala spices, with jasmine rice (R185) which was a beautiful dish. The kingklip was perfectly cooked and the mild curry sauce with green beans and butternut finished it off. This was an inspired mix. I enjoyed my pork schnitzel (R160) with slaw and potato rosti. It’s in the nature of the dish that no matter how crisp the crumb or succulent the meat, and these were both, it will always be slightly one dimensional. This was helped with a caper butter, but could never match the depth and complexity of Ingrid’s kingklip.
It’s always exciting when a restaurant offers interesting and unusual desserts. Black has done away with the ubiquitous chocolate brownie and crème brülée. Instead, there are options like seasonal fruit tart with vanilla ice cream, and chocolate hazelnut sponge with toasted almonds, or baked Camembert with pears and thyme. There’s also a selection of ice creams which include dulce de leche, peanut butter and banana, and espresso.
We thought we would squeeze in the rose Turkish delight pistachio nougat parfait (R75) with saffron syrup, dates, berries, pomegranates and candy floss. What a treat. Very pink, it’s topped with this mile-high top hat of candy floss, and while neither Ingrid nor myself are fans, the parfait was exceptional, and certainly one of the more exciting desserts I’ve had this year.
Service: 3 ½
The Bill: R620
The Independent on Saturday