Very chic, but where’s the flavour?

MINI seafood platter ... prawns, calamari and hake in tempura with courgette fritters.

MINI seafood platter ... prawns, calamari and hake in tempura with courgette fritters.

Published Dec 3, 2023



Where: 9 McCausland Crescent, uMhlanga

Open: Daily until late

Call: 078 363 6615

Someone has spent a small fortune. Rockets Beach Club opened recently in the spot that used to be Dante and before that, Ile Maurice. Most wouldn’t recognise the building from its Mauvis days.

Now it’s an upmarket restaurant on the first floor, with a club above it, and then an open cocktail bar and chill lounge on the roof deck. On a sunny Friday afternoon I suspect the terrace is the place to be. There’s also a semi-private diningroom to the side.

The restaurant is all floor-to-ceiling glass to maximise the position’s excellent sea views, with dramatic three-storey murals of howling dogs and swallows up the stairwell – all painted in subtle shades of grey and white. The “infinity” stairs might be a shade scary to anyone in stilettos.

The bars in the club and the restaurant certainly carry every premium label imaginable, while the club comes complete with gold-plated ice-buckets, presumably to take that bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

The restaurant is a large room, overly lit, with little to distinguish it from a hotel dining room. It’s inspired very much by the mid-century modern movement with low chairs in Swedish ply. Very smart, but also very paint-by-numbers today.

MILO cheesecake.

Certainly Monday lunch is never going to be a time to put the kitchen under pressure. I had invited the Sheriff of Morningside to join me.

In this enormous restaurant there was just us and a guy covered in tattoos dining with a woman. The only other sign of life was a strange visit from two well-fed police officers, who plodded around the place a bit. They didn’t eat.

The menu (or ME over NU as they spell it) takes in a vast array of dishes from around the world, plus there’s a sushi menu to augment it.

I’ve never understood the need to include sushi in every restaurant mix, but it seems essential for modern dining. The Sheriff brushed the sushi menu aside quickly. She’s of the “raw fish, eek you don’t know how it has been stored” school of thought.

This is a limited menu with some house specialties that really throw the kitchen sink at the humble sushi, with creations topped with sriracha, spicy mayo, teriyaki, crispy onions, tempura crumbs, spring onions, sesame seeds, pink peppercorns and salmon roe. There goes any hint of sushi’s lovely clean freshness.

The tapas menu – read starters – takes in nachos, chicken drums, pork sliders, crumbed prawns, etc. There are a number of different ways with calamari, including one cooked with chicken livers. I want to run a mile.

CHICKEN satay in peanut sauce

We share a mini seafood platter (R130) with tempura prawns, hake pieces and calamari, along with courgette chips with citrus mayo.

Someone here knows how to make a proper tempura batter, because this was good, and the seafood was nicely cooked, although the citrus mayo hadn’t had a lemon anywhere near it. We also shared some satay skewers (R85) in Thai peanut sauce, finished with spring onion and chilli shavings. All very pleasant, if not exciting.

For mains, steaks may come with chimichurri, or a merlot and mushroom sauce, or peppercorn and feta sauce. There’s an option with bone marrow butter and one with chipotle, and even a steak loaded with creamy garlic mussels and peri-peri prawns. What a horrible mishmash.

Pork belly, beef ribs, chicken peri-peri and catch of the day complete the picture. There are a couple of pastas. And predictably, some pizzas as well. All things to all people.

The Sheriff opted for the oxtail (R280). This was billed as a traditional fall-off-the-bone version with red wine, garlic, herbs and butter beans. It was tender and tasty even if not quite falloff-the-bone. She enjoyed it.

OXTAIL cooked in herbs and red wine.

I opted for their ultimate man bun burger (R185), simply because I wanted to see what a 300g patty looked like. It was topped with cheese, bacon and avocado with beer-battered onion rings. The burger patty was actually very good, and wasn’t overcooked, but I could only eat half of it.

THE man bun burger.

Desserts, unfortunately, were a disaster.

They might include a crème brûlée or chocolate waffle topped with chocolate mousse, Oreo and brownie pieces and vanilla ice-cream and Nutella, or even peppermint crisp eclairs. The Sheriff liked the sound of the Milo cheesecake (R95), which was a pleasant Milo-inspired fridge tart on a good dark chocolate biscuit base.

My tiramisu (R90) really bombed.

TIRAMISU had no taste of coffee or booze

It was untainted with anything resembling either coffee or booze. Tasteless, it was like eating spoonfuls of heavy, ice-cold fat. It’s meant to be a light pick-me-up, not a bowl of cholesterol-inducing stodge.

The chocolate disc on top was of that oily cooking chocolate type that coats the roof of your mouth. I wish I’d never bitten into it. I pushed it all aside and nibbled on a boudoir biscuit.

Food: 2 ½

Service: 3

Ambience: 2 ½

The Bill: R1 053

Independent on Saturday