SECRET DINER: Fine dining returns to the city centre
Where: Durban Club Place, Durban
Open: Monday to Friday breakfast, Monday to Saturday lunch, Tuesday to Saturday dinner.
Call: 031 015 5555
The Durban Club Chambers building has recently been overhauled with the opening of the Chambers Club, bringing fine dining to the city centre, something we haven’t seen since the days of the Royal Grill, which feels like it was a century ago.
The Chambers Club is a stylish and modern restaurant, trendy but comfortable, with a top-end bar running down one side and a lounge area spilling out onto a terrace.
The terrace has been beautifully landscaped and offers a range of seating options, from couches and loungers to conversation pits. It offers views of the City Hall and the street and takes in artist Sakhile Mhlongo’s dramatic full-length mural of Anton Lembede, wearing a trim suit, carrying his legal briefcase and striding purposefully into court. It’s funky and very on-trend.
The club offers three menus. The terrace menu takes in an array of light options like hake goujons and tartare sauce, or beef sausage roll with sriracha ketchup, or even mac and cheese fritters with truffle mayo. Essentially, light snacky items to go with drinks or cocktails, it also includes warm wasabi peanuts, or salt and pepper squid with chilli jam, or even smashed avo on rice crackers.
Then there’s the plant-based menu which has vegan options as well. Wild mushroom ravioli with pecorino and hazelnuts looked interesting, as did curried sweet potato, chickpeas, brinjals and broccoli with avocado and tahini dressing.
There’s a Beyond Meat burger with all the trimmings and a vegan shepherd’s pie.
And then there’s the main menu. My gang had popped in for a quick lunch and did not feel like starters, although they looked interesting. There’s tuna tartare with mango, avo, sriracha and a buttermilk cracker, or sweetbreads with bone-marrow naan (we weren’t quite sure about that), beef dripping and salsa verde. It’s interesting to see sweetbreads on Durban menus again.
Grilled asparagus with deep-fried hen’s egg, truffle mayonnaise and pecorino also got the taste buds going, although I am still trying to work out how one deep-fries an egg.
Instead, we shared a snack off the terrace menu of tempura aubergine with peanuts and a maple and soy dressing (R45). These were a little odd. The brinjal wasn’t cut into strips and served in a super crisp tempura batter, but rather into chunks and came out more a fritter than tempura. But we enjoyed the flavours. We also enjoyed an impressive bread board with four different types of bread that was served before the meal.
Steaks certainly feature here, with all beef advertised as 21-day aged and grass-fed. The basting sauce is a bone marrow butter. So the traditional rump, sirloin, fillet and rib-eye are all present, along with the more unusual onglet (a cut from the front of the diaphragm which the Americans call hanger steak and the British skirt steak) and for the serious meat eaters a 1.2kg tomahawk that will serve two.
My friend opted for the kingklip with grilled leeks, mussel risotto, grapefruit and chicken jus (R220). The fish was beautifully cooked, although for me the sharpness of the grapefruit overpowered what would have been a wonderfully rich risotto. But he was the first to finish. Another friend had the chicken and bacon salad with ranch dressing (R120) which she enjoyed.
I thought the lamb saddle chop, with lamb kidneys, aubergine caviar, mash, bacon and beans (R185) worked well. The meat was beautifully cooked, and the addition of the kidneys and rich meat jus gave the dish depth.
We didn’t fancy dessert although options are limited to ice creams and sorbets. The ginger-and-pineapple sorbet was seriously tempting.
I enjoyed a decent espresso.
The club, which also offers conferencing and boardroom facilities, is a members-only affair during the day, but is open to the public in the evening. At night there is parking available at a garage in neighbouring Devonshire Place. You can park on the fourth floor and walk straight in.
See the incredible history of the building hereThe Independent on Saturday