Located on the ground level of the Hilton hotel in Durban, The Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill by Ernie Els invites you in to be seated with a professional and friendly welcome.
Rings of many dimly light Edison light bulbs cover the bamboo laden ceilings creating a warm and inviting tone. Wine racks, displaying a wide and impressive wine selection act as a divide which separate an equally impressive bar and dining area, that naturally boasts impressive vintages of Ernie Els and other select wines.
My dining partner and I were immediately seated at a booth style table and offered a bottle of sparkling water which we gladly accepted. We were promptly presented with the menu and offered a wine list by our waiter and then visited by the restaurant manager who was very friendly and helpful. Overlooking the dining area is an open grill area where the kitchen crew can be seen implementing their craft.
As it was my first visit, I asked the manager what he would suggest and the Oxtail and marrow fritters were recommended. I ordered a portion of those as well as some Rolled pork belly & bacon. While we were awaiting the starters, it wasn’t long before complimentary hot corn bread and fresh herb butter was delivered to the table. Presented on a little purpose made wooden stand in a mini cast iron pot – This bread was delicious with a sweet note coming through from the buttery, whole corn kernels.
I savored a glass of the house owned Stellenbosch estate, ‘Big Easy, Cabernet Sauvignon’ and it poured into a long stemmed high end wine glass. The Cabernet being smooth and well rounded which I felt would pair well with the dishes I chose.
The starters arrived and my dining partner and I quickly exchanged tastes from each other’s plates. I was very impressed with the Oxtail fritters, they were both moist on the inside and delightfully crunchy on the outside as a result of being rolled into a ball and deep fried in bread crumbs. Both the Pork belly and fritters were served in a high-sided boat bowl and the fritters came with a touch of horseradish sauce, while the belly came with some finely diced apple.
The focus of the restaurant is clearly the grill and their aged steaks. To this you are welcome to add a number of delicious sounding sauces (Eight choices in total, including Lemon butter, Béarnaise, Creamy Mushroom and others), and are able to custom select your own side-orders which include ten options including a side salad and garlic baby potatoes which is what we chose.
The side-order portions are generous and the salad had beautifully fresh butter lettuce, wide strips of carrot and cucumber as its highlights. My garlic baby potatoes were very tasty and the garlic really came through – The fillet steak I had selected had the distinctive grilled open flame taste and was of a perfect medium “tempertaure” as per my request. It paired perfectly with the red wine I had selected and I found myself returning to the generous portion of baby potatoes even after I had eaten enough just because they were so scrummy.
As if deciding on a starter and main course was not difficult enough, the desert menu was presented and it was a tough choice between an artisanal Midlands cheese board, the trio of chocolate and cardamom, and our selection of an Amarula crème bruleé and the Sorbet and fruits.
The crème bruleé was quite decadent and dense with a thick glassy sugar layer on top, it was served with caramel ice cream and a few meringue peaks as a nice touch. The Sorbet and fruits featured three sorbets, a citrus flavour, a passion fruit sorbet and a strawberry one.
Admittedly the crème bruleé was quite rich and velvety and the sorbet would be a better choice to cleanse your palate after a steak, but both deserts were well presented and enjoyable nevertheless.
All in all, while this destination is not cheap, it presents itself as an upmarket grill that does not have the pretentiousness of linen table cloths – the selection of starters, mains and deserts are ample and with options of seafood and duck featuring on the menu, there should be something for everyone.
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