On the Rocks
The Oyster Box is rich in history and has several living stories to tell, especially in light of it being a family establishment. One of whom is Hendry Pakiri, the Maitre’d, of the Grill Room and a member of The Oyster Box family since 1963 when he started as a waiter in the children’s dining room. Another interesting reminiscent fact is that the current chef Kevin Joseph, still uses recipes that were inspired by Kay O’Connor – the co-founder of the hotel with her brother Ken.
There are two things that set the Grill Room aside from other fine dining establishments. First of all, the hors d’oeuvres trolley that 18 serves 1920s inspired “olde worlde” appetisers on a vintage carousel and second of all, the authentic Gueridon service where dishes are prepared and presented at the table. Personally, I think food is not just about the taste (which is was truly divine) but I found the interactive setting part of the whole refined dining experience.
If you would like to take experience to the next level though, The Chef’s Table, is the latest concept from the Oyster Box. Executive chef Kevin Joseph and his team prepare a delicious five course menu for between six and ten guests right before your eyes. It was a “behind the scenes” experience to see these masters at work in the kitchen or should I say their second home.
Having five star sister hotels in London (The Milestone, 41 Hotel, The Egerton Hotel) probably helped The Oyster box to perfect this lovely occasion in the most charming colonial style. The Palm Court is a visual spectacle with even the chandeliers purchased from the Savoy hotel in London. I enjoyed the live piano in the background while enjoying all the decadent delights. High tea can be quite a lengthy affair at the Oyster Box. All the mouth-watering pastries and baked goods are made in-house so you can just imagine the aroma that lingers while you enjoy your cup of tea (or cocktail – which is apparently very acceptable in this day and age).
At The Oyster Box the oysters are freshly harvested from their own oyster beds – surely it cannot be fresher than that! – to be enjoyed at the all new Oyster, Salmon and Sushi bar. It is quite a get-together spot with live local music throughout the week. I love to pair my oysters with a glass of Veuve Cliquot, but like any fine establishment, The Oyster Box has a signature Cocktail, the Umhlanga Schling, which seemed very popular the evening I was there. It consists of ingredients uniquely particular to Durban, such as cane sugar and cane spirit.
I simply cannot visit Durban and not go past the Lighthouse Bar. There are only a handful of places in South Africa that can boast an establishment that is right on the water, without a road or anything in between. The Lighthouse bar is the ideal place to switch off after a long day. It’s just you, the ocean and the famous Umhlanga lighthouse. With a 180 degree view of the coastline, this is the ideal spot to meet some friends or just enjoy a sun downer. The Lighthouse Bar, with its dark wood and detail in leather, crimson and gold, makes it very cosy in winter too, not that Durban ever truly experiences a cold winter.
Durban has been fabled as the largest concentrated population of Indians in the world, outside India itself. This area is renowned for their incredible curries and the now globally accepted Bunny Chow, effectively a curry embedded in an unsliced loaf of bread. The Oyster Box takes pride in sourcing their ingredients locally and what better way to showcase local flavours than a buffet – with 11 different styles of curry each day. There is a selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes and the two tandoori ovens make sure that the chicken stays truly authentic. One of my favourites is the traditional Durban lamb curry and accompanied by fresh, home-made condiments including lime and vegetable pickle, home-made chutneys, raitas, sambals and freshly baked naan breads, papadums and roti.