We arrived at The Chefs' Table mid-deluge, Durban’s skies seemingly hell-bent on delivering the entire remaining quota of the city’s yearly rainfall in one. However, the welcoming atmosphere of the restaurant soon eclipsed the storm outside and, sodden umbrellas stowed in a stand with the maître d’, we were led to our table, one with a clear view of the kitchen, much to my delight. I love watching professional chefs at work and at The Chefs’ Table this is a particularly rewarding endeavour with hands flying to cut produce with precision, piping bags gliding across plates to deliver decadent desserts and all manner of kitchen tools wielded with expertise in a calm environment. It’s like all the best bits of foodie TV come to life.
The food would have had celebrity judges oohing and aahing (as the restaurant’s numerous awards displayed around the room attest) and we weren’t disappointed either.
Our starters - one a succulent piece of crispy pork served with caramelised onion, aubergine, Col’tempo chorizo and pear and the other a twist on paella with a pair of prawn ravioli served with crispy squares of chorizo, saffron foam and red pepper - were both exactly what we hoped for with surprising notes that elevated them beyond your average pork or paella.
Presentation is key here and the crockery has a chunky artisan-made quality that perfectly contrasts with the delicate plating executive chef Kayla-Ann Osborn favours to highlight the seasonal produce she sources with passion (she’s even won a South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative Trail Blazer award). The tasting menu lists the origins of the main ingredients used, with nothing coming from more than 160km away. The words “seasonal”, “fresh” and “local” are central to the food philosophy which Osborn has honed this year with a two-week stint working alongside two-Michelin-starred chef Clare Smyth at her restaurant Core, in London.
My husband had no difficulty selecting his main meal - a wood-fired, 28 day dry-aged Taylor’s sirloin served with bone marrow, Thys chips, onion, garlic butter and creme fraiche. My deliberations continued until the last moment, with the Taylor’s pork duo with leek, fennel, ginger and carrot winning over the duck, due to how delicious the starter portion proved to be.
The steak arrived on an enormous plate, complete with a huge marrow bone spanning its length, and a medallion of butter beginning to drip down the edges of the meat. It looked impressive and it was, with savoury flavours blending to create a hearty meal ideal for the inclement weather.
My duo of pork was good, too. The medallion of loin was succulent (not easy to get right with a chunk of pork where undercooking is a cardinal sin) and I had the delights of the crackling all to myself this course. I think I would have preferred to forfeit the loin in favour of a larger piece of the belly but the beauty of eating at The Chefs’ Table is that that’s a likely prospect on our next visit as the menu is updated each day depending on the ingredients Osborn has sourced. I’ve had heavenly portions of tuna, duck and a write-home-about mushroom risotto on prior visits.
We relaxed a while in the restaurant’s homely surroundings, pulling a cookbook off the shelf behind our table to peruse, and examining the impressive Diner’s Club Diamond Awarded wine list, which has the highlights of South Africa’s best vineyards, along with an interesting mix of international and reserve selections.
We found ourselves planning our next meal at The Chefs' Table, before settling on the P.S. I love You and chocolate and pistachio desserts. Both were sublime and just the right end to an indulgent evening.