The city of Durban, beloved for its laid-back vibe and balmy weather, offers a unique melting pot of cultures and cuisines with everything from aromatic spice markets to graffiti-painted streets and vibey beachfront eateries. If you’re heading for east coast shores, hit some of the city’s more eclectic gems located south of the Umgeni River. These are a few of our favourite Durban restaurants.
FOR THE BEST BUNS ON THE BEACH: AFRO’S CHICKEN
The famous sunshine-yellow container on the Golden Mile stretch was only the beginning for Durban’s favourite chicken-shop brand. Durbanites and tourists flock here for streetfood to enjoy on the beach – don’t miss their signature freshly baked, flour-dusted bread rolls filled with succulent braaied chicken. If you’re a heat seeker, try yours spicy with one of the best chilli marinades around. The buns are best served with a side of golden rustic tjips, some cooling coleslaw, and Durbs-style pineapple chutney. If you’re more of an early bird, you won’t be disappointed with the bacon-and-egg roll with good, sustainably sourced coffee. Sand between the toes optional.
Find Afro’s at 2 OR Tambo Parade, South Beach
For cocktails and shisa nyama: The Joint Jazz Café
Jazz, cocktails and braai-style meat is what you’ll find at this kid on the OR Tambo Parade block. The menu is designed by Brendon Newport of the strip’s favourite surf shack, Surf Riders, and features a taste of Mzansi with build- your-own shisa nyama platters, Durban-inspired tacos, bunny chows and local sides. Grab a seat in the bar area for cool
local tunes, or enjoy beach views while sipping icy drinks and snacking on mfino, peri-peri wings, and chakalaka wors rolls.
Find The Joint Jazz Café at 98 OR Tambo Parade, South Beach
FOR BREWS, BURGERS AND RIBS: ROBSON’S REAL BEER
Born in Shongweni and now brweed in Durban central, the folk from local craft beer brand Robson’s Real Beer know what yhey’re doing when it comes to pub grub. The raw industrial brewery space and the hum of beer tanks set the scene for sticky pork belly ribs with jalapeño basting, gourmet burgers topped with brie and bacon, and crisp, ice-cold beer flights. The brewery also hosts live-music nights and runs midweek burger specials.
Find Robson’s real Beer at 72 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Point Waterfront
FOR A DOSE OF CULINARY CREATIVITY: STATION DRIVE PRECINCT
Horseshoe-shaped Station Drive in Morningside has fast transformed into a hive of east coast creativity. From coffee spots and a cheese shop to bars and breweries, a Sunday morning market and even crowded First Thursdays, this cool cultural precinct has become one of the city’s foodie destinations. Kick off your Sundays with a stroll around the Morning Trade market in The Plant, where you’ll find farm-fresh produce, baked treats and soothing coconut drinks. There’s also The Cold Press Juice Co. for vibrant fruit-and-veggie juices, Artisan Cheese for a range of local cheeses and preserves, and Parkside in The Station for a quick coffee kick. When it comes to good grub, Fortune Coffee hits the spot with power breakfasts and inspired lunches – think red wine-and-mustard pulled-pork sandwiches. Finally, grab a cold one (or two) and a burger at S43 Home to That Brewing Co., or indulge in a gin distillery tour and cocktails at Distillery 031.
FOR PIZZA, PASTA AND PANINI: CIAO BELLA CAFÉ
One of Durban Central’s best-kept secrets, this sidewalk café and deli is refreshingly unpretentious, and their pizzas and pastas are knockouts. Start with fresh antipasti from the deli fridge before moving on to one of the mains. The thin, crisp pizzas might feature toppings of coppa and feta or chorizo and mushrooms, while freshly made pastas could be as simple and delicious as Bolognese or fresh clams with garlic. To satisfy sweet cravings, try the freshly baked cannoli ribbons topped with hot chocolate sauce, served with an espresso.
Find Ciao Bella Café at 162 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Durban
FOR SPICES AND INDIAN STREETFOOD: SPICE EMPORIUM
This huge Indian supermarket’s shelves are jampacked with fragrant spices, blends and ingredients for authentic Indian cooking. After stocking up (the wet masala is a must), visit the vegetarian café, The Snack Bar. Here you’ll feast on colourful Mumbai- style streetfood or chaat. The array of spicy morsels includes home-made paneer-stuffed sandwiches, bhel puri with puffed rice, potatoes, sev and peanuts, shahi biryani with mixed veggies served with raita or dhal, and bateta vada (deep-fried potato patties with date chutney). Cool down with a rose-flavoured Bombay crush.
Find Spice Emporium at 31 Monty Naicker Road, Durban