“We’re the first to admit that 9th Ave Bistro’s location was a bit dull,” says owner Gina Neilson. I have to agree as I think back to the parking lot view and pleasant, but unexciting, interior design of the old restaurant. There’s not a soul who’ll make that complaint any longer as the new 9th Avenue Waterside’s setting is as spectacular as the old one was uninspiring.
Seeming to float above the waters of the Durban Yacht Mole like one of the boats moored alongside it, the landmark building that once housed Café Fish has been refurbished and redesigned into a haven of contemporary style that echoes its seaside location without a single element of kitsch.
“That’s thanks to architect and interior designer Kevin Boyd,” says Gina as she shows me around the space. He’s tried to make it reminiscent of being on a yacht and the use of raw wood, black iron, brass and white gets the feel just right. Adding to the ambience is the fact that the views are the star, and boy, do they shine. From the architectural smorgasbord of the buildings on Victoria Embankment (one of which Boyd’s dad, Dennis Boyd, designed) to the ever-changing vista of the harbour as the tide ebbs and flows and the yachts, both super and simple, anchored to the jetties, it’s a feast for the senses.
“I had a list of the things people have said they wished to see at 9th Ave over the years and we’ve tried to incorporate as many as we can here,” explains Gina. One of these is a bar to have a drink before your dinner (and where they serve coffee and bagels at breakfast) and another is a private dining room. Both have come to life situated on a mezzanine level that boasts a variety of seating including a few hanging chairs where I could happily while away some time watching the waves. “The idea is that 9th Ave Waterside will be a multi-functional space where we can also hold conferences and functions,” notes Gina. They’ll be hosting city weddings and events like the Diners’ Club Winelist Awards which is scheduled for next week. Their regular wine-pairings are also all still a fixture on the calendar.
Despite the attention to detail in the design, food is undoubtedly the focus with Gina’s husband Graham still heading up the new open-plan kitchen. “We thought the kitchen staff should get to enjoy the views, too,” Gina says and patrons can gaze into over the marble counter to watch the talented team at work. The smells wafting through the room confirm that the location may have changed but producing food that’s interesting and inventive, beautifully presented and delicious is something that certainly hasn’t. They’re keeping the menu similar but expanding the seafood offering. “When in Rome,” quips Gina.
“We’ve been completely overwhelmed at the response to 9th Ave Waterside,” she says. “We’ve seen all of our regulars already and the phone’s ringing off the hook.” Let that be a subtle hint to book your table as soon as you can.