Danté: a divine inferno
Where: 9 McCausland Crescent, uMhlanga
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 11pm
Call: 087 133 3263
The grand old lady has had a make-over and morphed into a gorgeous young party animal. What was once the staid plantation sophistication of Ile Maurice is now a riot of Italian flamboyance in Danté – part restaurant, part cocktail bar, part lounge. It's impressive.
There’s a champagne bar, a cigar bar, a rooftop cocktail lounge with fabulous views of the ocean, and even a super casual bar that looks more like a Mozambican beach shack.
There’s a grand private dining room upstairs with oversized throne chairs. The main restaurant has been done in a vibrant wallpaper of birds and jungle scenes. Interesting and eclectic artworks line the walls of passages and some of the bars – some of it suitably risqué – while fittings and finishes are all quirky. The decorators have certainly had a lot of fun – it’s a veritable creative inferno.
We take all this in on a tour while sipping a delicious gin and grapefruit cocktail with rosemary – the cocktail menu is worth investigating – before opting to enjoy the open veranda and look out over the ocean.
The menu has been kept small and is Italian in flavour, as you would expect. Starters take in seared beef fillet and tuna loin tonnato with olives, chardonnay aioli and confit tomatoes, or avocado and pancetta salad with dune spinach, a “green goddess” Gorgonzola dressing and macadamia nuts.
The mussels in coriander, beer, ginger, chilli and garlic looked interesting. These were served “on the rocks”, although I never quite got to discover what on the rocks entailed. Oysters are grilled with a lemon and herb crust and there’s a dish of calamari, chouriço and chilli.
We skipped starters to share one of their hand-stretched sourdough pizzas. These are decidedly gourmet, with toppings like tandoori chicken, coriander yoghurt, saffron tomatoes and capers, or bacon, avo, feta, roasted pineapple and peppadews, or even pulled brisket, pickled red onion chutney, cherry tomatoes and basil pesto. I liked the sound of the wild and exotic mushroom variety with four cheese cream, but we eventually settled on the seafood pizza (R225) with mussels, calamari, langoustines, prawns, smoked ricotta and mozzarella.
This took a while to come out, was absolutely delicious and generous with seafood –we mopped it all up hungrily.
Mains offer rosemary, roasted garlic and citrus-basted lamb chops, or a steak of the day with truffle oil shoestring fries. Sauces could include balsamic glazed mushroom jus, or brandy-soaked peppercorn cream or even bacon and oxtail marmalade. There’s a Wagyu burger with “kick-ass” trimmings – and they’d have to be at R170 – and caramel pork belly with roasted vegetables and a lemon zest risotto.
Our host tried the part deboned wood-fired tarragon chicken, the breast stuffed with a Mozzarella-based stuffing in a tomato and saffron reduction with a hint of chilli (R175). The chicken had been through a sous vide process so was deliciously tender and was an enjoyable dish, that might have really popped with a little more of that sauce and without the decorative beetroot smears on the plate. The chips were very good.
A friend got the pick of the day, a smoked tomato and langoustine risotto with shaved ricotta (R210). This had really beautiful flavours and was packed with my favourite seafood – langoustines. I think we all had food envy.
I debated ordering duck ravioli with aubergine and tomato compote and Parmesan, but eventually settled on grilled pink duck breast with a confit leg in a Van der Hum and honey reduction (R265). It came with polenta, which I asked to be changed for mash. While the duck was perfectly cooked and the selection of pretty vegetables on the plate was good, the sauce unfortunately was completely vapid – tasting of little but a faintly citrus liquid. It certainly didn’t pull the dish together.
Dessert was a choice of Ferrero Rocher cheesecake, chocolate fondant or a selection of sorbets. The granadilla sorbet (R70) was exceptional – not too sweet and with a real granadilla punch. The coffee too was good.
Food: 3 ½
The Independent on Saturday