45 on Eat Street suddenly hit my radar when a variety of friends and acquaintances started asking if I’d eaten there. Tales of fantastic meals prompted me to make a reservation in haste and my husband Brett and I were soon braving a rainy night to head up north to see what the fuss was about.
Stepping in from the downpour, we were welcomed by a crackling log fire — an unexpected delight in KZN in February. The warmth of the firelit interior was rivalled by the welcome from manager Ricky and our vivacious waitress, Sihle. 45 on Eat Street has the personal touch found in family-run restaurants, with long and fabled histories, and design credentials to match with stylish interiors. The enthusiastic staff spoke knowledgably about the extensive menu — starters, mains, pizzas, salads, sushi, kids’ meals and desserts along with a good selection of drinks - and I wondered whether the flavour would match their fervour.
I needn’t have worried … my portion of (highly recommended) arancini as a starter was delicious. Crisp on the outside, with a soft mushroom risotto centre that paired beautifully with the parmesan crisp, spinach and lemon hollandaise sauce it was served with. Brett had the calamari ripieni — tubes crumbed, deep fried and stuffed with halloumi, peppadews, spring onions and pine nuts, served on a fresh basil and white wine tomato sauce — which was just as good.
After debating several tempting options for mains, we finally settled on the traditional choices people had mentioned to us: ribs, a seafood platter and pork belly. The seafood and pork were both very good but the ribs were outstanding — best on the North Coast, Ricky claims — and we believe him. The delicious sticky oriental sauce complemented the fall-off-the-bone meat, creating a flavourful dish. Every element of the seafood platter was perfectly prepared, with the hake, prawns, calamari and mussels served with sauces just drizzled, allowing the natural flavours to shine. The generous helping of pork was succulent and pulled apart without being fatty — sometimes a complaint with belly — but my taste buds longed for a larger portion of crackling (let’s face it, though, my arteries were grateful for the chef’s restraint!) and just a touch more of the jus.
A special mention must go to the sides, a bowl of roasted butternut, beetroot, onion, pomegranate molasses, feta, pine nuts, mint and parsley — it was as good a veg dish as I’ve ever tasted — and a portion of egg-fried rice with a homemade teriyaki sauce twist.
When chef Steven Kruger came out to chat we learned that he had spent years working in Malaysia, hence the subtle Asian influences. He speaks eloquently about the background to his dishes and his plans to add exotic elements to the menu sound exciting.
We went with Kruger’s dessert recommendations. One was a tempered dark chocolate, espresso chocolate sponge and white chocolate mousse, served with homemade peppermint crisp ice cream and hot Frangelico, which theatrically melted the chocolate as it was poured, and white chocolate cream. The other friends had raved about — white chocolate balls served with white chocolate honeycomb, caramel sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream.
For us, whether we’d return to a restaurant for a dish is a sign of its rep – and let’s just say, we’re already planning our next visit for those desserts. While we’re at it, we’d definitely make the drive for those ribs — this time for lunch, with the kids, who can play in the fabulous playground. Winning!
• 45 on Eat Street, The Lifestyle Centre, Ballito.