It’s long been a Durban complaint that we don’t have enough spots to have a drink and enjoy views of our gorgeous coastline so the excitement about Back Yard, the rooftop bar at the newly opened Umhlanga Arch development, is palpable.
Situated upstairs from the innovative Legacy Yard food and retail area of the Arch, Back Yard ticks all the boxes for a sophisticated summer cocktail spot. With a distinctive Tiki bar feel, the space nods to the tropical location with murals of palm trees, fluorescent strip lighting, loads of botanical motifs and bright colours. Instead of fighting the heat, they’ve embraced it and the already heady sense of island escapism distinctive to Durban is cleverly foregrounded here.
Large-scale murals by local graffiti artist That Damn Vandal beckon you upstairs where the city spreads out 140m below, and in the neon glow of the signage against a bamboo ceiling you get to choose from an array of seating options from swing seats and daybeds to bright-legged tables flanked by bougainvillea filled planters, around a firepit or at the bar. Leafy-patterned tiles and banana-leaf fabric umbrellas echo the waiters’ aprons and at night, bare bulbed lights hanging from the pergolas flicker to life while pink flamingos greet you from the restroom wall. Despite the potential for kitsch, the design is stylish and will make a great background for selfies, which is essential to social-space design these days, let’s face it.
This is a cocktail bar and there are plenty of cocktails to choose from, including classics such as Piña Colada, Mai Thai, Long Island and Singapore Sling. What makes them different is that instead of being served up in a tall glass, at Back Yard, they’re in a ceramic tumbler carved with the eponymous Tiki faces, an instantly-recognisable, Instagrammable touch, or a unique pouch that you can hang from two fingers in between sips. Bamboo straws are a fun, eco-friendly touch and photogenic when paired with a pile of fruit and ice in your brightly coloured glass.
The cocktails are delicious, but if other ale, lager, beer or spirits are more your vibe, the bar’s stocked with them, too, with a twinkly-lighted Corona sign winking suggestively from the raw wood façade. Buckets of ice are generously distributed to keep drinks cold on hot days and live music pumps out over weekends.
The seating area is completely open — perfect for responsible social distancing — but on inclement nights, you’ll be able to order your drink from the covered bar and then nip downstairs to enjoy it in the restaurant area. It’s on sunny afternoons and balmy nights (which Durban definitely has more of) that this place is going to pump, though, and we’d recommend booking a seating area online via the Umhlanga Arch website so you’re not disappointed when you make your way up the stairs.
Mark our words, this is absolutely going to be the place to be for sundowners this holiday season — mask and sanitiser in tow.