Other than the Oyster Box, hotels are not big on the restaurant scene in Durban, not unless you’re a politician or delegate from overseas, or a businessman who’s staying in one of them.
Hotel dining and bar hopping overseas is de rigeur – world renowned chefs often open their trademark restaurants in hotels and when I was in New York a year ago, we bar hopped from hotel to hotel, sipping cocktails in beautifully decorated spaces, often on rooftops overlooking the city, which is breath-taking.
I was recently invited to the Rainbow Terrace at the Hilton Hotel for dinner. It’s an a la carte restaurant, but on Friday and Saturday nights they do ‘eat as much as you like’ buffets – a seafood buffet on Friday and a curry buffet on Saturday. I went on a Friday night and while the service was good, the food unfortunately was average. The decor is more African kitsch than African chic, which is a travesty in a city which has access to some of the best designers in the country and more art and design could be showcased.
A good buffet is hard to pull off – you’ve got those ‘constantly reheating and therefore dry’ bain maries to contend with, whose lids are always slicked with water droplets, so if you’re storing something like spring rolls or samoosas under them, they end up soggy and limp. There are a few separate stations to this buffet, a cold salad section, which consisted of prawn and melon salad, a green salad and a roast veg & couscous salad. The hot starter section had said limp spring rolls, mushroom and prawn risotto balls and a seafood chowder. There is also a ‘make your own’ starter section, which was a bit lacklustre with a jar of sunflower seeds, some croutons, small dry olives and a selection of cheeses.
The main course buffet station is broken up into 2 sections. On one side is a hibachi (flat top grill) manned by just one chef serving the entire restaurant, so the inevitable queue ensues, making you feel like you’re at one of ‘those’ weddings. You’re supposed to choose your raw seafood and then have the chef cook it, but the queue wasn’t moving, so we moved to the other side which has a seafood curry buffet.
We tried each curry – crab, chicken & prawn and lamb. The crab curry was definitely the best dish, but was a little salty and consisted mainly of legs – so very little crab meat on offer and very fiddly to eat. We mopped up the sauce with bread and poppadums and then our waitress very kindly asked if she could have the chef cook us some seafood, instead of having to stand and queue for it.
Calamari strips, sole, langoustines and prawns were all served grilled and all needed seasoning and lemon. The calamari was inedible, the sole was tasty, the langoustine tails dry and the prawns were a bit limp. These 4 ingredients are some of my best, so it was sad that none were treated in the manner they should have been, nor served with lashings of lemon and garlic butter or peri peri. If you’re going to keep the cooking simple, the ingredients have to be cooked perfectly.
If you’ve got room after all that, there’s a dessert island with an array of mini tarts, cakes, cheesecake, fruit salad and ice cream and coffee & tea are also available.
The seafood buffet is R180/head excluding drinks.
The curry buffet on a Saturday is R90/head.
It’s not somewhere I would rush back to, but I’ve done a bit of investigating online and it has some mixed reviews and Anne Stevens gave it one star, so maybe it’ll rock your boat.
Tel: 031 336 8100