Simple, subtle, sublime

Caprese salad.

Caprese salad.

Published Dec 17, 2023



Where: 3 Chartwell Drive, uMhlanga

Open: Monday to Thursday 7am–11pm, Friday and Saturday 7am–1am, Sunday 7am–10pm

Call: 031 943 3044

Food writer Ingrid Shevlin and I have been trying to taste the new menu at Sunsets and Mermaids for months now. Our busy schedules never quite collided, but on Tuesday we finally popped in.

It’s always a fun and funky venue with its surfboards and reeded canopies around the bar. You feel like you could almost be on the beach.

The cocktails are going out rapidly, including one with floating fish served in a plastic bag. Ingrid tried a virgin Mai Tai, for me a more prosaic glass of chardonnay, as we take in the many diners around us, all letting their hair down a bit. All having fun.

Beef carpaccio.

Chef Brendon Newport had invited us out to sample some of his dishes, many inspired by a mid-year trip to Italy. The menu has been kept as a selection of tapas dishes, and then main dishes, each divided by land (meat), Earth (veg) and offshore (fish). A small section of No Man’s land crosses over. It’s been simplified a little but there are still plenty of choices, many intriguing.

There’s also a small sushi menu which is obviously popular here, including a mythical collection. Well, at least they admit they are playing with sushi. With dishes like flaming ferraris you can expect nothing like you would get in Japan. But it’s for those who want a bit of fun.

We started with a really beautiful Caprese salad (R130) – a simple stack of ripe tomatoes, Mozzarella and basil pesto dressed with a good olive oil that was delicious. Newport brings his Mozzarella up from Cape Town, specially for this salad. Also on the Earth menu for next time are the lightly dusted artichokes pan-fried with garlic, capers, lemon and Parmesan. The mini mezze of home-made flatbread, hummus, chargrilled aubergine, artichokes, stuffed Peppadews, olives and feta too sounds like a lovely light nibble to share.

Next up are two lots of dim sum – the jiaozi chicken dumplings (R120), and prawn wonton dumplings (R135), both dressed in a lovely and quite spicy soy sesame and chilli dressing. We were more than satisfied.

Prawn and chicken dumplings.

The offshore menu takes in tuna ceviche, which I had on my last visit and it was truly remarkable, along with tuna lollipops, a new addition, and mussels in the traditional style, and prawns gratinated in garlic butter in the pizza oven.

The land menu consists of deepfried biltong, or meatballs in tomato sauce. There are skewers and a bao bun. It also includes a nice meaty carpaccio (R125), which chef brought out next. Garnishing with good olive oil and a nice aged balsamic vinegar, I could have easily managed another plate.

Sunsets and Mermaids has a burger menu, but it is a most unusual one. Here your conventional cheese burger is last on the list, behind a lobster roll (delicious on my last visit), and a soft shell crab burger with Japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce, sushi ginger and sweet chilli. That’s on the list for next time. A Mexican-inspired chilli fish burger, a felafel burger and Asian-inspired crunchy chicken burger all feature.

Langoustine ravioli in sage butter with capers lemon and crispy sage.

Mains take in the likes of seafood risotto or seared tuna or Spanish paella. There’s baby langoustines and a catch of the day. Steaks and ribs and pork cutlets are augmented by a Durban-style lamb or prawn curry. There are some pizzas (I’m sorry but these rarely excite me), and pastas which offer an interesting selection.

There’s a linguine with both langoustines (sunsets) or lobster (mermaids). There’s a frutti di mare as well as a seafood al forno – I suppose something akin to a seafood lasagna. Well fed now, we try the ravioli di Roberto (R220) – pockets of baby langoustines in a sage butter with capers and lemon. So simple, so subtle, but so sublime. We relished every last morsel, including the crispy sage.

Desserts here take in milkshakes, or triple chocolate brownies and crème brûlée. However, the incomparable lemon pie (R110) caught our eye. A zesty deep crust lemon pie topped with a mile-high dollop of soft Italian meringue. It was enormous and probably a little too sweet. I challenge one person to finish it – the two of us could not.

I enjoyed a good espresso to finish up.

Incomparable lemon pie, topped with miles of meringue.

Food: 4


Ambience: 4

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