Restaurant Review: Havana Grill – Durban, South Africa
Large upholstered chairs in monochrome leather combine effortlessly with the wood touches, accentuating details. In the far corner of the bar, the barman is whipping up a Cuba Libre (Cuba’s revolutionary drink). Towards the left, antique black and white photo images line the walls conjuring Cuban images of a bygone era.
A large olive-green leather couch invites me to fold my legs and curl up with a classic from the high ceiling shelves stacked with dusty old books. Add the yellow tinge of the sunlight streaming in through the large windows, and the Che Guevara imprints on the waiters’ uniform, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve just taken a step back in time to Old Havana.
Havana Grill, a world-class grill room, is situated in the bustling Suncoast Entertainment World in a prime beachfront location on Durban’s famed Golden Mile.
While their menu boasts “something for everyone”, I’ve heard that this gem of a restaurant is a meat lover’s paradise. I take Mr. Wolf’s carnivorous ‘oooh-ing’ and ‘aaah-ing’ as confirmation. And true to his canine pseudonym, our resident steak connoisseur enjoys only one of 2 cooking styles: Bleu or Saignant (bloody).
On the far wall we find the famed Havana Meat Board detailing the day’s choice cuts and aging details.
Having not taken a bite of red meat in over 15 years, I stick with what I love: seafood. And Havana Grill does not disappoint! An excerpt from the menu: “The SEAFOOD selection includes some of the finest king prawns, langoustines and crayfish; and extravagant platters to feed your soul.” Well, by the end of the meal I consider my soul stuffed, the statement is spot on!
When we arrive we are shown to a table covered in crisp white linen, with stunning vistas over the Indian Ocean. Without having to look at the drinks menu we knowledgeably order a round of mojitos. Handing the menus back to the waiter, some fine print catches my eye. “Magical Mojito” screams the title. In a second my order is changed – I want some of that magic!
My drink arrives with much fanfare. Crushed ice, lime and candy floss (yes, you read right!) are piled high into one glass, while a little pichet accompanies it, containing my magical mojito mixture. At the table, the waiter expertly pours the mix into the waiting glass and the patrons around watch as the candy floss magically dissolves into a sugary goo, lacing my rum with a sweet, sweet buzz.
Giddy from my sugar rush, we dive into our starters: a deconstructed prawn samoosa. The samoosa, like you’ve never seen it before; decadent prawn chutney, rich in spices and flavor, are heaped onto alternating layers of phyllo pastry and drizzled with balsamic glaze. The prawns are fresh and succulent, and each delicious mouthful is a joy to the palate. Another firm favorite is the pear and gorgonzola salad. With a heavenly combination of candied pecans and cider dressing, this salad creates the perfect mélange of sweet and sour for your eager tastebuds. I find the salads are large enough to share.
The progressive menu at Havana Grill isn’t exactly Cuban, but rather fusion world cuisine. Nit-picky reviewers sometimes point this out in their Tripadvisor reviews, but are ignorant to the fact that Cuban cuisine in itself, is a blend of Spanish, African, Caribbean and even Chinese influences.
For the main course, I simply must order the extravagant seafood platter. The herculean dish arrives with a medley of crayfish, calamari, prawns, langoustines, line fish and mussels; each prepared in their individual manner with a selection of different flavorings and served with shoestring fries and rice.
The calamari for example, is simply tossed in olive oil and grilled in Cajun spices. It makes a welcome deviation from the typical dipped and deep-fried variety served in most restaurants. The mussels are a revelation! Smothered in blue cheese sauce, dusted with breadcrumbs and grilled…I am willing to exchange some of my ample prawns for more of them, in some kind of weird restaurant barter deal. That is, until I actually taste the prawns. Infused with garlic butter and grilled on what must be an open flame to establish that smoky goodness; I call it quits on the bartering deal.
The line fish component of the platter changes daily, so be sure to ask your waiter.
A couple of glasses of chardonnay from the Walker Bay wine route helps to soak up the rich, buttery tastes.
Speaking of wine, Havana Grill boasts a large selection of South African wines which can be expertly paired with any dish on the menu. If you prefer international brands, guests are welcome to browse the selection in the walk-in cellar, an experience in itself.
I pass on dessert, unable to take another bite, while my dining companions tuck into crème brulèe and strawberry panacotta. From experimenting with various desserts during my previous visits to Havana Grill, I can safely swear by the hot chocolate fondant. Worth the extra wait, it’s masterfully prepared with the prerequisite oozing liquid center.
What I loved:
- Extensive wine list with domestic and international choices
- Great views
- It didn’t cost an arm and a leg!
What I didn’t love:
- I can’t think of a single thing!
We end the fantastic meal with smiles and small talk with our friendly waiter, who is proffering authentic Cuban cigars in the smoking lounge. Maybe on our next visit?
Havana Grill has delivered once again, and I can’t wait to go back!
Disclaimer: No part of this restaurant experience was paid for by Havanah Grill or its associates.. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.