SECRET DINER: Delectable dining with a view
Where: 37 North Beach Road, Westbrook
Open: Tuesday to Sunday lunch, Monday to Saturday dinner
Call: 032 943 3558
A friend wanted to spoil someone with a Sunday lunch - “somewhere special, that wasn’t showing rugby”, were his instructions.
I had no hesitation in recommending Spice. And his feedback was so glowing, I had instant food envy and I had to see why I hadn’t made the trip in some years.
After all, Linda and Russel Burger’s casual comfy eatery had been something of a second home, when they opened in Florida Road, in 2003. And the food philosophy hasn’t changed: good food, good cooking and the judicious use of the many spices that make up the city’s wonderful culinary heritage.
So a friend and I made the easy 20-minute trip this week. While the overcast day wasn’t perfect, the setting was still beautiful as we sat, relaxed in old arm chairs, on the terrace and took in the sea.
We munched on delicious crisp rosemary and sea salt flat bread, while we perused the menu.
I’d pretty much made up my mind I was going to have a curry, but the menu is very much “East meets West” in terms of both spicing and cooking styles.
There is also a light meals menu that includes fish and chips, or chilli and coriander fish cakes with a green salad, or even a home-made burger with cheddar and grilled onions. I liked the sound of a cumin papadum filled with avo and prawns in a mild curry coronation dressing. For a quick lunch, with a glass of wine, it sounded ideal.
Also ideal for warm summer days are an interesting selection of salads. Luscious salads, the menu calls them, and that sums them up perfectly. These are not massive plates piled high with iceberg lettuce and a few odd bits of protein thrown on top. Instead, they are a tasty array of ingredients and dressings, on a selection of fresh young leaves. Think salmon, prawns and calamari in a honey mustard cream, or cumin and garlic grilled chicken with beetroot in a mint and chilli dressing.
We opted to share a duck salad (R128) which the kitchen kindly served on two plates. These were slivers of crispy duck breast on salad leaves with mango and orange segments in a sesame dressing. The kitchen apologised that mangoes were out of season, so offered pineapple instead. It was a lovely light starter, the duck nicely crisp and the dressing bringing together a whole host of Asian flavours, with a spike of chilli at the back.
Other starters might include a very fresh grilled calamari on cucumber ribbons with a chilli, lime and dhania dressing or a smoked salmon and fried aubergine stack with lemon and dill infused cream cheese. The cumin tempura prawns always stick in the memory banks. These are seriously good and are served with a beetroot salsa and chilli and dhania drizzle.
Linda is a superb griller, of both meat and fish, so whenever you get the opportunity, the rustic rack of lamb is always a treat. Another perennial favourite is the seafood bake ,in a leek and Chardonnay cream, with Maldon salted potatoes. And the crispy cumin roasted duck in a port, orange and pineapple sauce is another.
But today we both wanted to try the curries that speak to Linda’s Durban roots. Served with sambals and pickle, basmati rice, papadums and roti, these are a real production. In fact the fresh home-made papadums alone are worth the drive. My lamb curry (R168) was quite mild but with a beautiful depth of flavour. My friend’s prawn curry (R174) was spicier with a lovely rich tomato, onion and tamarind gravy. Full marks to the kitchen.
And I still didn’t get around to trying the interesting sounding aubergine and chilli egg curry, in a tomato and garlic chutney. Maybe next time, although I think I might have said that on my last visit.
Desserts might take in a Westbrook strawberry mess, a coffee creme brulée or an Amarula infused chocolate mousse. But we were full and happily finished off a very good and reasonably priced chenin, while taking in the ocean.