Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Benjamin - Restaurant/Hotel Critique

Restaurant Critique: The Benjamin Hotel - Sidewalk Cafe
Location: 141 Florida rd, Morningside Durban
Contact: 031 3034233
The Benjamin - Sidewalk Cafe

After two lovely dining experiences at The Benjamin, my husband and I were given two complimentary meal vouchers for the new Sidewalk Café at The Benjamin.

We headed over unexpectedly in the middle of a hot and stifling day in Durban!
I liked the simplicity of the café layout, pretty tables set with white décor, scattered under the branches of a gorgeous indigenous tree. We opted to sit on the second level under the porch and I enjoyed having a slightly elevated view as we snacked and chatted.

Chicken breast with basil mayo and grilled
tomatoes, on a white french loaf.

I ordered a pot of Five Roses tea, and opted for the chicken breast with basil mayo and grilled tomatoes on a white french loaf. My husband ordered a cappuccino and went for the Smoked salmon on seed bread.
Both meals arrived with a gorgeous array of greens and olives, we both absolutely loved our choices! My roll was fresh and crisp, the chicken was soft and juicy, the basil mayo was freshly made and delicately flavoured. The cherry tomatoes completed the dish with their gorgeous sun ripened taste! I never eat salad (my dear Mum will testify to this) but every time that I have eaten at The Benjamin, I find myself enjoying every bit of salad on my plate!  

Smoked salmon on fresh seed bread.
My Husband, when asked "So what did you think?" replied with much enthusiasm "Tasty!" he said that the salmon was delicate, not too 'fishy' and that the portion was perfect and had left him feeling satisfied. He mentioned that the flavours were subtle and intriguing and that the herbed mayo was gentle and suited the salmon perfectly. His only complaint was that he had ordered a cappuccino instead of an orange juice… and promptly ordered an orange juice!

The vibe of the place was reminiscent of my time in Spain, sitting at sidewalk cafes and watching the world go by. The waitress arrived when we needed her, and we weren't 'interfered with' and the gentle Florida road breeze was fabulous after a sweltering day!

Francis's Cappucino.

Warning: Do not go there for a "quick snack" this is the perfect place for deep thinkers, poets, muso's and people who appreciate a meal that is made with love and attention to detail. This venue is not child friendly – it is a place where harried Mums can escape for a while sans kids!
Some suggestions from a patron's point of view, when you arrive make sure that you announce yourself at the front desk. Because the café is outside of the hotel it will ensure that you are seen to quickly. Also, once seated it is difficult to get the waiter's attention. It would also be lovely to have some signage – even removable signage – announcing that it is a sidewalk café and drawing attention to any specials that might be on offer. Another suggestion is to have a guitarist (some African French music perhaps?) playing live music or perhaps have music playing outside.

About The Fabulous Chef
Sandy Bigara and the multi-talented Tess Cebekulu

Tess Cebekulu is the Chef at The Benjamin; she prepared our meal on Valentine's evening this year, and managed to present delicious dishes to quite a large crowd. Each course of that meal was exquisitely made, subtle tastes, textures, flavours and colour – an absolute treat for patrons who are used to being served rubbish at many other restaurants…
My Valentine's starter was baby prawns on a bed of mixed salad with a sweet sticky mango salsa – I do not eat prawn OR salad but wolfed this started down and wished for more… my main dish was succulent chicken breast served with a mixed baby salad, divine peppadew pesto, grilled garlic (without that garlic smell!), mashed peas and potato au gratin – I absolutely loved it. Every part of the dish was well balanced and served to bring out the flavours of each separate entity. It was like eating art…
If you want to experience dining that is home cooked, made with care and attention to detail – then Tess Cebekulu is the person to call upon. I for one am going to be taking my Mother and Grandmother there asap for lunch!

Sandy Bigara

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