Where: Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, 63 Snell Parade, North Beach
Open: Wednesday to Saturday 6pm to 11pm
Call: 031 362 1300
I heard a tale of horror this week. One of Durban’s top restaurants was charging R650 for a steak. And this was off their specials list. It always seems churlish when a waiter recites this exciting list of specials to ask the cost, but it seems that is what one must do these days.
My friend sort of baulked when the bill for three, without wine, landed at more than R2,000. But being the good host, he quickly regained composure and paid up without fuss. I’m not sure I would be so calm. Another steak was R550, and his lamb dish in the upper R300s.
It’s fast approaching Salt Bae’s new London restaurant where a gold-plated tomahawk will set you back a cool £700 (about R14,000). Considering gold plate is tasteless and textureless, I can’t quite see the point. But then at least you get the full drama of the maestro cutting it himself at the table, and doing that famed salt-pouring trick down his arm, described by one diner as like being in the front row of a culinary Superbowl.
But it’s crazy stuff.
One steakhouse that certainly delivers superb meat and won’t break the bank is the Grill Jichana inside the Elangeni Hotel. I persuaded a jeweller friend to leave the gold on his workbench as we gave it a whirl. Here you can have a good 300g piece of rump with sauce and side for less than R200.
Which is exactly where the jeweller went. A good piece of rump (R150) was cooked exactly to order and served with a good tangy cheese sauce (R30) and nice crispy skinny fries. Simple, but just what the doctor ordered.
Starters are limited at the Jichana, but cover most bases. There’s beef carpaccio with truffle oil and prawn gratin. A trio of snails with blue cheese, garlic sauce and café de Paris butter. Field mushrooms get a balsamic reduction and hollandaise treatment. I really enjoyed the creamy garlic and saffron mussels (R75), the sauce being light and tasty and not overpowering.
Perhaps the only disappointment was the chicken livers (R60) in a home-made peri-peri sauce which were way too hot. This was less peri-peri and more of a violent chakalaka ‒ a hot one-dimensional flavour.
Mains take in a full range of steaks in a variety of sizes ‒ rump, fillet, prime rib and T-bone ‒ while sauces might include Madagascan pepper, chef’s jus, blue cheese, roasted garlic, mushroom and béarnaise. There’s lamb chops, skewers and flame-grilled chicken. Linefish, Norwegian salmon and prawns are there for those wanting something lighter.
Signature dishes include a pepper-crusted ostrich fillet and slow-braised lamb shank. With roast duck (R170) in short supply in Durban at the moment, this was my first port of call. The confit leg and grilled breast with crispy skin were served on a bed of Asian-inspired veg-fried noodles with a cinnamon-scented jus. It was most enjoyable even if the jus was a shade sweet for my taste.
Also offering value for money was a shisanyama special. This at R250 included a steak, lamb chop, large piece of wors and two chicken wings with pap, chakalaka and chips. I popped in another evening to try it and was impressed. This was more than I could eat and provided a hearty lunch the next day. Even the pap, which will never be high on my list of culinary must-haves, was nice and creamy. And it came with ice cream and chocolate sauce for afterwards.
We couldn’t face desserts, which include a lemon tart, a chocolate espresso tart and a cardamom and rosewater panna cotta. The famed five-chocolate ball (R80) containing chocolate mousse over which hot chocolate sauce is poured until it implodes into a delicious chocolate mess is still very much on the menu.
Service: 3 ½
Ambience: 3 ½
The Bill: R609 (our entire bill was less than a single steak at that fancy place on the harbour)
The Independent on Saturday