The morning after a real nail biter

Swordfish ceviche with rosa tomatoes and olives.

Swordfish ceviche with rosa tomatoes and olives.

Published Nov 4, 2023


Little Havana

Where: Granada Square, Chartwell Drive, Umhlanga

Open: Tuesday to Saturday noon-3pm, and 5.30pm-10pm, Sunday noon to 5pm.

Call: 081 393 8205

The hangover was near total. I had never seen the uMhlanga village so empty. It was almost a ghost town. True, it was a miserably cold day, but surely the Arctic breezes couldn’t have that dire effect on things. Then it dawned on me … the party the night before had been wild.

I know just in a little local pub in Morningside, it was a huge celebration. Those final 40 seconds waiting for the scrum down had hundreds of people banging glasses screaming “Bokke, Bokke, Bokke”, and then the jubilation when the ball was run out as the clock went red. People jumping up and down, screaming, crying, hugging, kissing, throwing beer all over the place. The release of that terrifying tension clinging on to a 1 point lead, palpable.

I had a good chuckle -- it was a Northlands schoolgirl in our paper last week who predicted the Boks would stick to tradition and win by one point. It was heart stopping stuff. And then when Siya Kolisi lifted the trophy, more outpouring of emotion.

I left before it got really sketchy.

Tuna teriyaki with crispy noodles.

So I can only imagine what the village must have looked like just 12 hours earlier. I’m sure it was one helluva party.

Trevor and I popped into Little Havana for lunch and were soon sipping on a warming red wine. I hadn’t eaten here since it changed hands earlier this year. The room is as comfortable as ever, with its crisp white table cloths and plush chairs. There are three or four other tables, and the staff welcome is warm. It makes a difference.

The menu has changed little. The famed three ways with snails -- bourguignon, gorgonzola, and Spanish pepper sauce -- is still there along with marrow bones, or deconstructed prawn samosas. Starters might include steak tartare or carpaccio, along with peri-peri chicken livers and bang bang prawns -- tempura prawns served with a spicy sriracha sauce.

Duck with marmalade sauce and chips.

We both chose something from the specials menu. Trevor’s teriyaki tuna (R125) with Asian garnish and crispy noodles was an enjoyable dish, the tuna simply seared and glazed in a teriyaki sauce which wasn’t too heavy. The fish was left nice and rare. I enjoyed the swordfish ceviche (R125) with avo, cherry tomatoes and olives, which came with two little circles of puff pastry when crackers might have been better. I needed a good cracking of pepper.

Mains could include any number of ways with shellfish, or scampi, or Norwegian salmon, or even a number of seafood platter options. All with the dreaded SQ. Ways with chicken include a peri-peri baby chicken or treatments with shrimps, lemon and mustard, or chorizo, olives, tomatoes and coriander. There’s ostrich, and venison steaks. Lamb chops and shanks, or pork ribs, rack chops or belly complete the picture.

Fillet steak with a prawn and porcini béarnaise.

Trevor went for a steak. You order your cut and size and then can add a sauce or toppings. There are some interesting sauces like red wine and onion, or rum and barbecue, or chimichurri, and toppings like crispy beef fat or bacon and camembert.

He opted for a 200g fillet (R200) with a topping of prawn and porcini béarnaise (R90). The steak was good, and cooked exactly to order. I was less enthusiastic about the sauce. It was an incredibly earthy and heavy mushroom sauce, the prawns completely lost in the forest floor flavour. A good pepper sauce might have been better. The side of onion rings were nice and crisp and light, while Trevor also ordered a good baked potato (R45) which was enormous.

I enjoyed the duck (R280) in marmalade sauce. Although I was warned the duck was roasted so the breast would never be perfectly pink and rare, a pity. But the skin was nice and crisp and it was good to see an orange based sauce back on the menu. The two go well together. The dish comes with a selection of fresh veggies and some good crisp chips, that I had insisted upon instead of the polenta.

Crème brûlée with a double espresso

Dessert was fairly conventional. Despite the cold I was too full to try a bread and butter pudding, and pavlova or chocolate fondant, or chocolate brownies didn’t appeal. Which left an affogato, or crème brûlée. We shared the latter which was an enjoyable one, washed down with good espressos.

Food: 3 ½

Service: 3 ½

Ambience: 4

The Bill: R1383.70 incl a 10% service charge added.

The Independent on Saturday