Food hot spots in revived Richards Bay and Empangeni
You would have to go to one of the many chain restaurants dotted around the former fishing town’s mall, the Boardwalk.
There were some other options, like Little Switzerland, which was the best fine dining restaurant in the town’s Tuzi Gazi Waterfront.
But that was then. In 2020, Richards Bay is now one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and has an economic boom that sees more people flock to the city for economic opportunities. With an increasingly more sophisticated market, Richards Bay and Empangeni have had to up their entertainment stakes, starting with the variety of restaurants on offer in both towns, which together make the City of Umhlathuze.
Depending on your vibe, here’s where I suggest you eat when you happen to be in both towns.
The Elephant & I, Inkwazi Boardwalk Mall
Popular for its use of the freshest ingredients and innovative takes on Greek and Italian cuisine, the Elephant & I is a bistro that is one of the shining stars of the Richards Bay food scene.
It has survived a number of changes in ownership over the years. There were moments where the food and service were a shadow of its former self. But they have since upped their game and are serving delicious food.
Personally, I feel it is the best place to go for breakfast in Richards Bay.
It has a daily breakfast special, with bottomless coffee. I had their health bread with avocado, cream cheese and smoked salmon breakfast, which was delicious. Even though the avocado’s availability is seasonal, they try to always have the popular superfood in their meals. Oh, and they have the best coffee in town. Their menu has vegetarian and vegan options, too.
LUNCH & SUNDOWNERS
Cubana,Tuzi Gazi Waterfront, Craft Harbour, Meerensee
The Tuzi Gazi Waterfront has been one of the best things to happen to Richards Bay.
But without Cubana, I wonder if the precinct would be as popular as it is right now.
Built on the banks of the harbour, the restaurant is popular, thanks to being unapologetic about being a party spot that also happens to serve great food.
Its outdoor seating option makes it perfect for summer days - having great food and drinks, while being kissed by the sun’s rays.
The service is great and, having been there a couple of times, I have always left impressed with just how efficient their staff is. The food is great, with many options.
If you have been one Cubana, you have been to all, but I had the best meal in Richards Bay.
Their extensive drinks menu will impress and the possibility of you staying until dinner, or even to party the night away, is high.
The Beef Baron, Umfolozi Hotel Casino and Convention Resort/2 Copper Dr, Kuleka, Empangeni
If you are looking for a quiet dinner spot where you can get some decent food, the Beef Baron is the best choice.
Casino restaurants sometimes have the reputation of doing the bare minimum and caring more about the number of people they get to serve than the quality of food they serve.
This is not the case with the Beef Baron. I recently visited the establishment and I was left pleasantly surprised by their menu, which also includes vegetarian cuisine.
There’s also seafood, curries, burgers and, of course, steak.
I enjoyed their pumpkin panzerotti, which was delicious, thanks to the spices blending well together. It is served with a tomato and cream sauce, which goes perfectly with the meal.
You do, however, need to insist on your steak being cooked the way you want it to be cooked. I asked for a medium and got a medium-well, which meant the steak wasn’t as tender as I would have liked it to be. I cannot fault their seasoning.
The service is great and you don’t have to go into the casino to get to the restaurant - just go to the hotel entrance and they will lead you to the restaurant.