You’d be kuku to miss this chicken

Kuku bizari ya pwani, an aromatic chicken curry with East African spices.

Kuku bizari ya pwani, an aromatic chicken curry with East African spices.

Published Jun 1, 2024


Fig Tree Restaurant

Where: Simbithi Country Club, Sagila Lane, Simbithi Eco Estate

Open: Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm, Saturday 8am to 10pm, Sunday 6.30am to 5pm.

Call: 032 946 5403

The Glass Guy and I went on a road trip up north this week, when we popped into the Fig Tree Restaurant on the Simbithi estate for a late lunch. It’s a lovely setting overlooking the golf course below. The cocktail bar is on one side and the restaurant on the other, and in between is a wide deck. Golfers come and go.

We’re soon sipping cold beers and enjoying a beautiful winter’s day.

The Fig Tree has to cater for a number of different culinary needs, so the smallish menu is decidedly varied. There are some light meals like toasted sandwiches, wraps and salads. A section on burgers takes in beef chicken and falafel, which all come with shoestring fries and signature onion rings. I should have ordered a plate of these because they certainly look good in the pictures. Then there are sharing platters, designed as nibbles for those enjoying afternoon drinks. They include a fisherman’s platter, a veggie platter and a meaty option which includes steak skewers, chicken satay, beef kofte and pork riblets. A Greek-style mezze platter sounds good.

It’s all extremely reasonably priced too, with only two items more than R200, and much more for less than R100.

Coconut curry soup with prawns, calamari and mussels.

Then there’s the restaurant menu, so to speak.

Starters might include chicken livers, or soup of the day, or mushrooms stuffed with spinach and ricotta served on a bed of wilted greens. The Glass Guy opted for mussel pot (R75), with the half-shelled molluscs served in a creamy wine and pesto sauce. It’s pleasant but for me there’s too much cream. The sauce is so thick it’s more like a bechamel. The mussels get lost.

I set my eye on the coconut curry soup (R80) with prawns, calamari and mussels. This was a delicious red curry-style broth packed with a good quantity of seafood. It was mild and fragrant rather than full-style Thai heat. I really enjoyed it.

Fillet mignon with Niçoise vegetables, béarnaise sauce and beef jus.

For mains there’s pork belly, or oxtail, or chicken schnitzel. There’s rump steak or peri-peri chicken or even good old steak, egg and chips. Fish options include miso glazed salmon, or teriyaki tuna with butternut gnocchi. There’s cajun prawns, or calamari, and fish and chips.

We ask our waitress for her recommendations. She says the ribs, slow cooked with a teriyaki glaze, are popular, as is the lamb curry. Before apologising: they were out of lamb curry. She also drew our attention to the cashew crusted chicken on Asian noodles with a spicy Indonesian peanut sauce.

Mussels in a creamy wine and basil sauce.

The lamb curry might have been off the menu, but I spotted another dish that goes to Chef Godfrey’s Kenyan roots ‒ the kuku bizari ya pwani (R165). Kuku is chicken in Swahili. It was another of our waitress’s recommendations. It’s a mild chicken curry slow-cooked in East African spices and served with fragrant rice, roti, papadum, sambals, pickles and a samoosa. Mild it certainly is, but it has lovely flavours of saffron and turmeric and coconut milk. If you wanted more Durban style-heat our waitress said she would bring us some chilli. The papadum was fresh and crisp, the corn samoosa a nice touch, the rice certainly fragrant and the pickle really good. I’m impressed.

I hadn’t intended to have two coconut curry-based dishes, but am glad I did. It’s not something you will find on many menus around Durban. It’s also a substantial portion. I’m finishing the last of it as I write this.

The Glass Guy went for the fillet mignon (R185), served on fondant potato, with Niçoise vegetables, red onion marmalade, béarnaise and jus. The steak was cooked exactly as ordered, and he really enjoyed this classic cut of meat, nicely accompanied with the mix of béarnaise and beef jus.

Desserts are fairly simple. Besides ice-cream and chocolate sauce and a selection of sorbets, there’s a pineapple sabayon and a chocolate pot, which is basically a rich chocolate custard. But we’ve been well fed and decide to skip dessert in favour of getting back to Durban before the rush hour. Although we could happily have sat on the deck for a few more hours sipping away at cocktails.

Food: 3 ½

Service: 4

Ambience: 4

The Bill: R660 excluding tip

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