Secret Diner: A new Unity

The kingklip in a caper and lemon butter with chips and side salad.

The kingklip in a caper and lemon butter with chips and side salad.

Published Aug 6, 2020


The Secret Diner


Where: Silvervause Centre, 117 Silverton Road, Berea

Open: Monday to Saturday, lunch and dinner - last orders at 6.30pm

Call: 0312013470

With impossible restrictions on the operation of restaurants, it was difficult to find one that was actually open this week.

“No, we won’t open until the alcohol ban is lifted,” said one. “We’re open but only for takeout,” said another. “Only with Mr D,” said a third. And so it went on.

Who can blame restaurant owners when everything conspires against creating a social atmosphere?

But we wanted to go out. My friend said he was tired of coming home from work, reheating a lamb curry in the microwave and eating it in his dressing gown. Groundhog Day was wearing very thin.

So we popped into Unity, the gastro pub run by Shaun and Marcelle Roberts, whose menu also includes some of their famed Cafe 1999 classics. There have been some changes from the Unity and Cafe 1999 team. Cafe 1999’s lease was up, and looking at the chaos befalling restaurants over this period, it seemed advisable to give up the lease. So while the old premises will be no more, and when it does reopen it will be in a different setting, the concept and superb cooking are still very much alive and well, just trading out of the Unity premises.

We were presented with three menus: a selection from the Unity menu that included a range of their top-notch, home-made burgers, and classics like chicken and prawn curry, the pick of the Cafe 1999 menu, and the third being an interesting collection of poké bowls Marcelle Roberts has devised. Plus there are daily specials.

Crispy duck breast on a sundried tomato risotto.

We started by munching on a dish I always order here: the crumbed, deep-fried olives stuffed with ricotta and served with a chilli mayo (R58). It has been on their menu since inception 21 years ago, and it’s one that many have tried to imitate, without the same degree of success.

What we did miss was the traditional accompaniment - a glass of their home-brewed craft beer, That Black, which has developed something of a cult status in Durban. But since Big Daddy decided that South Africans can’t handle their booze, a tonic water would have to suffice.

Other starter options include the likes of figs stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in Parma ham, or crispy salt and pepper calamari served with a sweet chilli sauce. One of those interesting poké bowls which had ingredients like seared beef fillet or seared tuna options might be a nice dish to share. But we decided that was a more lunchtime thing.

I debated a Mexican burger, topped with mature cheddar, sour cream, guacamole and battered onion rings. It sounded like a delightfully messy affair. Then there was a slow pot-roasted brisket special, which really sounded like a superb winter dish. As was pasta with a traditional ragu. The lamb curry, too, is good, but that takes us back to Groundhog Day.

Instead, I opted for one of the specials. The crispy duck breast served on a bed of sundried tomato risotto (R150) was a beautiful dish, the risotto rich creamy and with a good tomato tang, the duck breast succulent and pink and the skin crisp.

Chocolate brownie with poppyseed ice-cream.

My friend opted for another favourite, the kingklip served with a lemon and caper sauce, chips and a side salad (R170). Another simple dish beautifully cooked.

The atmosphere was convivial, with five tables of people enjoying themselves and others popping in to collect orders, and our waiter was a wonderful, friendly and familiar face.

We lingered for a bit before sharing a chocolate brownie (R65), for which the chef is famed. Paired with a home-made poppyseed ice cream, it was a lovely after-dinner treat. The coffees here have always been top-notch, my double espresso no exception.

We were back home safely before 9pm so the General didn’t have to come and tuck us in.

Do support your local restaurants whichever way you can. If we want them to be there for us when this interminable lockdown ends, we need to support their efforts now.

Food: 4

Service: 4

Ambience: 4

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