The allure and old-world charm of Durban’s Oyster Box hotel in uMhlanga is the perfect venue for any occasion.

Ocean Terrace

Where: Oyster Box Hotel, 2 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga Rocks

Call: 031 514 5000

Open: Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner

There can be few spots on the KZN coast that can rival the Ocean Terrace at the Oyster Box for casual elegance. This is the cool, barefoot luxury KZN should be offering.

And the service is definitely five star. Chairs were pulled out, napkins folded, a maitre 'd came for a chat. Nothing was too much trouble.

The menu is extensive and takes in most cafe-style basics. Salads range from 155 to R195 - that’s salmon and avo - while light lunches take in fish cakes, and babotie spring rolls and a pukkah lamb curry sandwich (R190). A few pizzas, a couple of burgers and an extensive grill selection complete the picture. Or there’s the curry buffet at R450 ahead.

We had come to relax over the hotel’s prawn special (R190) for ten large prawns. Our water informed us that if we were having the special, the house wine, a Bouchard Finlayson sauvignon blanc (retail price R126) was reduced from R100 to R50 a glass. We were so shell shocked that wine by the glass had broken the R100 barrier, that we stared at our waiter in disbelief and then vaguely nodded for him to bring us a glass. It was a pleasant wine and fortunately a decent sized glass.

We started by sharing a dish off the light meals menu, mussels in a parsley and chardonnay cream with toasted baguette (R180). It was a sizable dish and easily made a starter for two. I was served with aplomb complete with two plates and bowls for the shells and finger bowls. While the sauce was pleasant enough, the mussels themselves had been frozen and the dish had cooled considerably on the trip from kitchen to table. Sadly a disappointment.

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But we were perked up by the prawn special. This was ten decent sized prawns beautifully cooked and served with savory rice (which on the special couldn’t be switched for chips) and a sauce of your choice. And of course more finger bowls, shell baskets and fresh linen napkins.

My friend chose the creamy garlic sauce which was a shade on the bland side, my peri-peri, while not overly hot, had beautiful flavour. It was a most enjoyable lunch.

But, and it was a big but, my friend decided to treat her hubby here again for an anniversary lunch last weekend. And the same special produced 10 dry and overcooked prawns. But hubby was more than happy with his sizable lamb bunny chow (R220 - and yes that is not a misprint). But knowing the Oyster Box curries, I am sure it was an excellent dish.

We finished with an enjoyable coffee and spent an hour just taking in the sea views.

Food: 3

Service: 4.5

Ambiance: 4.5