Recently I had the privilege of attending a dinner at Vasco’s – a new restaurant which has recently opened its doors to Durbanites and visitors to Durban alike.
Vasco’s (named for Vasco da Gama, who introduced us to the spices of the East) is located at the Hilton Hotel, Durban. It has replaced the old Hilton Hotel restaurant, the Rainbow Terrace, yet is not just any ‘hotel restaurant’ – it is seen as it’s own entity, a stand alone restaurant where hotel guests and outside guests mingle alike.
The decor is very contemporary-chic, with a large focus on local in the design. You can see that they’ve used both African and Indian styles in their decor with the gorgeous colours used, and the mountain range inspired wall art.
The staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful, and we had a nice long chat with both the executive chef, Cleo Govender and the Hilton’s food and beverage manager Cameron Townend.
Vasco’s is also one of the only restaurants to have an electric Tandoori oven, and this provides authentic food as well as an entertainment value, as you can watch food being cooked in the oven while perusing the rest of the buffet foods available.
One can find delicious breakfasts and dinners at Vasco’s, both buffet and a la carte, and they do occasionally open for lunch. They have two ‘themed’ evenings – Off The Hook, a seafood buffet on a Friday evening at R350pp, and Flavours Of The East, a curry buffet on a Saturday evening at R275pp. The regular buffet cost is R310pp and the buffet is open from 6:30pm-10:30pm. They can also host functions on their terrace, which has a gorgeous view and a very Sandton-esque feel to it.
Although we were going to eat buffet-style (my favourite – you can take exactly what you like, or just try and taste everything! Note – I could honestly not fit everything in, and I’m going to have to go back to taste the rest… yum), we did have a quick look at the a la carte menu, and the meals looked amazing. Chef Cleo’s South African Eggs Benedict (regular eggs benedict, with added sauteed spinach, chakalaka and boerewors make this sound delightful) and the Murgh Makhani Pizza (pulled Butter Chicken, mozzarella, coriander and crispy onion on a pizza – um… yes please!) both shouted out to me. I might have to go back for that pizza alone! They also have an impressive wine list, with a nice variety of wines for all flavour palettes and price ranges. We sipped on the Ernie Els Big Easy 2016 Red Blend and it was sublime.
We headed up to check out the buffet and what was on offer – and boy did I have a hard time making a decision. On offer at the Salad and Starter section was a stunning make-your-own-salad bar, with every topping and goodie you could imagine. I grabbed a few thing to make myself feel healthier about the fact I KNEW I’d be grabbing some naan bread later on. There was also cured meats, cured and smoked fish, two different noodle/pasta salads, a tabbouleh salad, beetroot salad, a tomato, fennel and baked fish salad, the BEST potato salad I’ve eaten, with sesame seeds and mustard, corn fritters, sticky pork ribs, a creamy broccoli soup and an assortment of breads with butter.
I tried some of the salad goodies, a potato salad, a corn fritter, some smoked salmon, some olives and pickled onions and the beef and sweet chilli noodle salad. All were delicious and my plate was wiped clean very quickly.
Next up – the Hot and Main section. They have a hot top grill that has a 6 day rotation of meals, which vary between things like braai/grill meet, a carvery, a chow mein station or a pasta station. They had the chow mein station and pasta station open, and I was so tempted to go with some beef chow mein with noodles and veggies and lots of soy sauce (oh gosh I love soy sauce!) but I figured I’d go back for it. I didn’t. They also had the beautiful Tandoori oven going, with naan breads being constantly baked (garlic/sesame/butter varieties) and were producing some gorgeous Tandoori fish and chicken. There was also a butter chicken curry, mutton curry and a broad bean curry, as well as a veggie casserole, a paella with chorizo and white wine, steamed green veg, baby potatoes and basmati rice, along with various toppings and chillies.
I went with the naan, some butter chicken, a bit of the Tandoori chicken and the Tandoori fish, and some of the gorgeous looking paella. I also grabbed some of the whole chillies, as my partners plate was too full for them! I won’t lie, I figured I’d go back for the chow mein and some of the mutton curry, but I just knew I wouldn’t have space for dessert then. It didn’t stop me having another piece of naan though!
The Dessert section consisted of a lovely board of local cheeses with crackers and bread, as well as red velvet cake, fruit salad, brownies, trifles, mini pavlovas, mini fruit tarts, mini pecan tarts and a hot chocolate pudding with custard.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit much more in my full tum, so I went for a thin sliver of the red velvet cake and a brownie. Both were utterly divine, the best red velvet cake I’ve eaten! My only regret is not trying out the hot chocolate pudding and the pecan tarts, but hey – I’ll be back!
Visit the Hilton Hotel website to view the menu and make your booking!
Monday to Friday: 6.30am – 10.30am
Saturday, Sunday & public holidays: 7:00am – 11:00am
Monday to Sunday: 6.30pm – 10:30pm
TAPAS OYSTER BOX STYLE
With nobody travelling internationally at the moment The Oyster Box’s Executive Chef, Kevin Joseph and his culinary Team, decided to take guests to exotic places through their food instead. So the Flavour-cation concept was born. Through a variety of food experiences ‘flavour vacations’ are put together to showcase exciting new tastes… literally on our doorstep.
With the Tapas menu (Spanish word for small savoury dishes), each item, has a main ingredient and everything else on the plate contributes to the overall taste sensation. “We looked at what is popular with diners,” says Chef Joseph, “such as oysters, prawns, sharing platters etc. and then added our own taste profile and flair to each dish, to give it an Oyster Box twist. The babotie spring rolls are an example; our steamed buns are baked in-house; the Oysters harvested from our own beds and the pear chutney and hummus cooked from scratch.” The menu also offers ample choice for Vegetarians.
Tapas will be on offer in The Lighthouse and Oyster Bars until the end of November, with new and exciting dishes being added to the menu on an ongoing basis, so that our guests always have something new to look forward to.
Alongside the menu, a wide selection of wine, beer, Champagne and sparkling wine is on offer. A special mention should be made of the House Wine Selection, from our internationally-acclaimed sister winery, Bouchard Finlayson in the Hemel en Aarde Valley in Hermanus. Known for producing exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and renowned Pinot Noirs.
The TAPAS Menu is served in The Lighthouse and Oyster Bars from 12:00-19:30 daily.
Booking is essential on 031 514 5000 or by e-mail email@example.com
Krispy Kreme’s NEW limited edition Jolly Holly Range
‘Tis the season to be jolly and with Krispy Kreme’s NEW Limited-Edition Jolly Holly Range is just that. Fill your homes with joy and cheer with the Caramel Pecan Pie doughnut, Custard Milk Tart Festive Tree doughnut, Candy Cane & chocolate doughnut and White Chocolate Kremey Chiller.
Brightening up your day is as easy as pie with the Caramel Pecan Pie doughnut. It’s an unglazed ring, dipped in a smooth Nestlé caramel treat, topped with crushed pecan nuts and a pecan nut Kreme swirl, topped off with peanut yogurt balls.
Ring in the festive season with the Custard Milk Tart Festive Tree. It’s an unglazed shell, dipped in white chocolate, filled with a milk tart flavoured filling and decorated with a festive tree and a white KitKat finger.
Your holiday can be as sweet as candy with the Candy Cane & Chocolate doughnut. It’s an Original Glazed doughnut, dipped in chocolate icing and topped with crushed candy canes, smarties and milky bar chocolates.
Sprinkle some joy and cheer on your day with the Jolly Sprinkles doughnut. It’s an Original Glazed doughnut, dipped in chocolate icing and topped with festive sprinkles.
Baby, it’s HOT outside! Cool down with the delicious White Chocolate Kremey Chiller. It’s a Milky bar flavoured creamy chiller, topped with white chocolate cream and milky bar chocolate shavings.
These doughnuts and chiller are available in stores and via Uber Eats and Mr D Food from 1 December to 3 January. The doughnuts are also available at participating Engen garages & Pick n Pay stores from 1 December to 27 December.
NOW OPEN: DANTE Umhlanga
“The team from Dante approached me and asked if I would be interested in helping them with a project,” says interior designer Alice Kelly. “I was thrilled, but have to admit that the timelines frightened me! Once I realised that the bones of the building were good and even though the deadlines were really tight…I couldn’t say no.” Built on the site previously occupied by the renowned Ile Maurice restaurant, Durban-based Kelly has been tasked to bring ‘a totally new restaurant and dining experience to life’, for the three owners Trent Varejes and brothers Andile and Ayanda Ngidi.
“Dante is going to be something quite magical,” enthuses Alice. “We have NOT held back in any way. It is the type of place where you will simply feel at home and at the same time be taken on a journey that is exciting and unforgettable. This place has brought dining pleasure to many generations over the years, so we have added some life, love and colour to the venue for the next generation to enjoy.”
Combined with the strong visual aesthetic, the owners set out to find a chef who could interpret their culinary dreams for the space. Enter another local Durban industry stalwart, Chef Marco Nico. Well respected, uber-talented, forager and charcutier Chef Nico has over the past 30 years, owned and run many of Durban’s most well-known and popular restaurants.
As Chef Consultant, Nico will together with Christina Martin-trained Head Chef Kyle Govender, bring to life the contemporary Mediterranean / Italian menu, with a South African twist. Those that know Chef Nico and his slow-food ethic, will also know about his ‘local is lekker’ approach to food and you’ll find that in abundance on the Bistro menu on offer. Chef Govender is well acquainted with the style and tastes of the East Coast, having worked at both The Oyster Box and The Beverly Hills, so expect to see an abundance of local ingredients, sustainably sourced meat and fish and the best of international… only when absolutely necessary.
Nico is excited to be bringing a whole new era of diners into a space previously recognised as one of Durban’s most famous dining spots. Inspiration from the restaurant’s former life, can be seen in the way the building has been completely re-imagined to suit its new purpose. Multiple venues on multiple floors offer something for every customer – from the island-style Verandah opening into the light and airy Restaurant, to the elegant Champagne Bar, tropical Oriental Bar and Cigar Bar, before stepping outside to a Gin Terrace and upwards to a show-stopping Roof-top Bar, with a 180 degree Indian Ocean sea view.
The re-incarnation of the building is ‘no accident’ according to joint owners Ayanda Ngidi, who together with twin brother Andile, have been dreaming of a venue like this ‘for as long as we can remember’. Born and bred Durbanites, the twin brothers are well-known in local eventing circles having been the brains and energy behind The Social Pop-Up event co-ordination company that they started in 2011.
The third member of the trio, Trent Varejes, hails from Johannesburg but has known the brothers for 10 years. Discussions were already afoot for Varejes to become involved in the eventing business, when the twins presented him with an idea for a multi-storey, multi-function venue, on the Ille Maurice site, that had become available for long-term lease. Seven weeks later, their dreams have been fully realised, with the opening of Dante.
According to Ayanda, Dante, which means steadfast and enduring in Latin ‘fits with both our faith and work ethic’…it’s also ‘catchy’ he says, ”we thought it would be easy for people to remember.” Combining their collective business experience and hospitality skills towards this one joint project has been ‘really exciting’, says Varejes. “We wanted to create a ‘knock-out’ restaurant and I believe that with an amazing team, we’ve realised our vision.”
For the interiors, designer Alice Kelly has gone big and bold, with hints of the legacy and footprint of lle Maurice. All the existing restaurant tiles, balustrades, basins and a few mosaics have been retained to create the base of the story. “I have added moulded pressed ceilings for character, and layered with bold wallpapers, art, velvets, linens, chandeliers, chunky bamboo blinds, elegant light fittings and furniture. I think every colour under the sun has been used in this project…however it all seems to work together like a beautiful piece of tapestry.”
Spanning three exciting levels Dante boasts a Main Restaurant and Bar, Gin Garden, Cigar Bar, Oyster & Champagne Bar, Signature Bar and Rooftop Bar with hypnotic ocean views. Opens on 29 November from 12 noon and thereafter, daily for brunch, lunch and dinner; as well as for special events and private functions.
Contact https://thedanteexperience.co.za or call 087 1333263 to book or for more information.
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