Where: Belaire Hotel Suites, 151 Snell Parade, North Beach
Open: Daily 7am to 10pm
Call: 031 332 4485
Cafe Jiran opened on Durban’s beachfront primarily as a coffee shop, with a range of artisanal coffees to augment interesting and creative breakfast and pastries. It later opened in the evenings, offering a small array of interesting dishes to tempt foodies.
Now the menu had been stripped down to absolute bare essentials. There were no starters, just a section of light meals and full meals, with everything designed to soak up alcohol served at the bar. Nothing gourmet here. That’s a pity.
The restaurant was quite busy, and we found a seat on a comfy sofa along the one wall. Yes it’s smart, and chic, but it feels like a bar. In fact if anything it feels like an upmarket airport waiting room, people away from home with not much to do, half hoping that something will happen, although nothing does. There are big screen TVs scattered around, which presumably make the place vibier on big match nights. Another pity.
The one thing that has improved since my last visit, pre-Covid, is the service. Then it took me 50 minutes to get, drink and pay for a cappuccino, and I was just about to leave when the bill finally arrived, all the while looking at the rubble from the previous table sitting on my table.
Here, although there was only one waitress on duty, she was on the move and pleasant and made sure no one was wanting for anything.
The menu includes things like toasted sandwiches, crumbed chicken strips and crumbed hake. There’s a butter chicken and lamb curry, chicken quarters and chips ‒ either peri-peri or barbeque ‒ a wors and T-bone plate and a meat platter. There’s a meat and vegetarian special of the day, the meat being roast beef and vegetables, although our waitress told us neither was available.
The Glass Guy opted for the chicken wing and pork ribs platter (R143), the wings good and done in a nice peri-peri with a bit of bite. The pork ribs were succulently tender, but swimming in basting sauce. While the sauce had a nice hit of chilli in it, the purpose of a basting sauce is to help caramelise the surface of the meat, not to cling to it like giant lumps of jam. Not sitting at a table, this was quite difficult to eat, with bits falling onto clothing and the couch. The Glass Guy even got some in his shoe.
It came with packet chips, which is a pity. The best way to make pub grub memorable is with good chips, and it costs no more. It also came with bowls of a good chilli and a predictable monkey gland sauce. Apart from the fact that monkey gland sauce is horrible, surely we could find a better name for it ‒ maybe chutney ketchup.
I opted for the lamb curry toasted sandwich (R110), which was slightly disappointing. Maybe I expected more from it, as in hoping it came sandwiched between slices of good artisanal bread, not a basic supermarket loaf ‒ what my father would have called “government brown”. Still, the curry was tasty. It came with more disappointing chips.
Desserts were limited. Basically chocolate brownies, malva pudding, served with ice cream and, our waitress admitted, Ultramel custard, and strawberry cheesecake. We debated whether the cheesecake (R65) would be a baked one or some kind of whipped up fridge tart. It was bought in, and unfortunately was served semi-frozen, with some evidence it may have been put on a defrost cycle in the microwave. It tasted fine.
Malva pudding (R81) is comfort food rather than excitement. What can go wrong with a basic sponge smothered in apricot jam? It was enjoyable, although the ice cream that came with it was all ice crystals and crunchy. Perhaps it had been in the deep freeze for one too many load-shedding cycles.
All in all a pleasant venue, but some work needed in the kitchen.
Service: 3 ½
The bill: R493
The Independent on Saturday