While the halaal scene in Joburg is comprised of mostly chain restaurants and pop-ups, Durban is full to the bursting with halaal options, and we struggle to eat our way through the city at every visit. With new options springing up all the time, there’s always something new to try, and we’re always left wanting more. Note that since things change so fast in this space, it’s always a good idea to confirm halaal status before you go by calling or checking websites of local authorities, such as SANHA, ICSA, NIHT, or MJC.
A relaxing, family oriented restaurant, specialising in Mozambican/Portuguese chicken and prawns, it is both delicious and budget friendly. Situated in a converted house, its bright walls and flowering trees welcome you before you even set foot on the property. The menu is extensive, and their cheesey garlic bread was the best we’ve had. The starters were all good, and their mains shine just as brightly. The prawns smothered in a delicious peri-peri sauce were fresh, and the saucy chicken was moist and spiced to perfection. The service was prompt and efficient, if a little brusque at times, but our waiter was great at anticipating our needs and gave us just enough space to enjoy our meal, while still checking up on us to make sure everything was alright. They have an indoor and outdoor seating area, with very different vibes. The inside area is cool and air-conditioned and filled with booths, while the outside is more serene and reminiscent of family get-togethers with its plastic tablecloths and serviettes folded into glasses. There is also an on-site salaah room with wudhu facilities, and parking is available on the street and in a secure parking lot.
Located on Florida Road at what used to be RJs Steak House, Empire fell a little short of what we came to expect from RJs. We tried cheesey garlic bread and chicken wings for starters, which were both good. We then opted for the Philly Cheesesteak Roll and a honey mustard ribeye for mains. The Philly Cheesesteak was delicious, saucy and flavourful, and the steak was tender. However, the ribeye came medium-well done after asking and emphasising that we’d like it medium-rare. They did oblige with another ribeye, this time cooked perfectly, but even with the herb-butter, it lacked flavour and a good sear. The honey-mustard sauce tasted like Dijon mustard out of a bottle with no discernible honey flavour, so unfortunately, not the best steak experience. It also has indoor and outdoor seating, and we preferred the bright outdoor tables and fresh Durban air to the cool, dark interior. The décor is very New York themed and cosy, which we loved, and the service was great, with our waiter being very accommodating and accessible whenever we needed anything.
Open till late and with an extensive menu, we were spoilt for choice when we visited, starving after a long day at the beach. We opted to try the cheesey garlic bread and chicken wing starters, which by now you’ll know are amongst our favourite starters. The garlic bread was tasty and saucy, with a hint of tanginess that I assume is from mayo, and the wings were crispy and juicy. We ordered a burger, a quarter chicken, and a fillet for mains, and once again, our medium-rare steak came back as medium-well. However, they too obliged and gave us another one, this time cooked better, which was moist and tender. The burger was good, too, with a meaty patty and all in all, we had a good time.
They also have two seating areas, one with booths that looks into the children’s play area, and another larger section with moveable tables. When we visited there was a huge family dinner set across the length of the dining room, and the noise was a bit too loud for that hour of the night. We shifted to the other section, and really enjoyed the atmosphere there. Our waiter was really good, if a little forgetful, and overall the service was great. We should mention that we first visited in 2018, and on that occasion, our fillets came back cooked perfectly medium-rare on the first try, so it might just be a matter of luck!
Sharing a food-court like setting with a few other restaurants at 415 on Windermere, the shared seating area filled with both normal tables and couches around coffee tables was a lovely place to spend an afternoon. With hanging plants and wooden accents on the walls and ceiling, it is a very trendy, hipster-like place where you could easily spend hours catching up with friends. They offer steaks and burgers, but we were a little steaked-out after the previous day’s adventures at Empire and Legends, so we decided to stick with burgers. Both sliders were delicious, cheesey and saucy in equal measure, and came to our table, staked with knives on an oven tray, which was definitely unique. The patties were actually fillets and were still a little pink in the middle, which we loved, and although the menu is small, they do their food well!
5. Hey Sushi
It’s so difficult to find good sushi options at halaal restaurants, so we were ridiculously excited at the prospect of trying Hey Sushi after reading reviews online. They are also situated at 415 Windermere, sharing the same seating area as Ironman. We visited on a Friday afternoon during the school holidays, but there was no tuna or salmon available, so we only tried the prawn inari. They add avocado to their version, and the portions were nice and generous, but the rice was slightly harder than normal. We hope to come back and try more of their offerings, since their menu has quite a few options that intrigued us.
We stumbled upon it by chance, noticing Comida when we came to 415 on Windermere and decided to come back and try it out. Perhaps not having expectations or prior info was a good thing, as we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. For starters we had cheesey garlic bread and fried squid heads. The garlic bread was nice and garlicky, but not as cheesey as the others we tried- blame Sunkist for setting up unnaturally high expectations on all future versions we try! The squidheads were the best I’ve ever head, crunchy and full of flavour, although the portion was generous, I was left wanting more.
We tried their classic burger which was delicious and meaty, and the simple toppings just highlighted the flavour of the beef. We also tried a half and half pizza, with half topped with steak and onions, and the other half covered in a green Thai curry with chicken. Both sides were tasty, and the Thai curry in particular transported me back to the streets of Phuket. It was a strange topping to have on a pizza, but delightful nonetheless. We only later found out that they are known for their potato pizza, so we will definitely return on our next trip to give it a try. We visited on a busy Saturday night, and sat outside to better enjoy the Durban air (blame the streetlights for the yellow-tinged photos below), but there is also an air-conditioned interior area. The service was the best we received, with the manager on hand to speed things up with our waitress, who was extremely efficient, too.
Located at Moses Mabhida, the atmosphere here on bright weekend mornings is unrivalled. With people riding bicycles and Segway tours crossing regularly, it is a great place for people watching while catching a good meal. There are so many options on the menu that interested us, and we opted to try the classics for breakfast. Unfortunately they were out of English muffins so we tried a hash brown eggs benedict stack, and a sausage and baked bean breakfast alongside some sunnyside up eggs. They were rather busy and the service was slow, but their location makes it easy to draw out your meal and the surroundings offer pleasant distractions from waiting for your food. The eggs were poached perfectly, and the crunchy hash browns made for a great combination, while the sunnyside eggs and sausages were delicious as well. Surely a place to return to, to sample some of their mains!
8. Honourable mentions:
- Continental Bakery: just off Sandile Thusi road serves up delicious food, and also stocks a great selection of baked treats, fresh meat, and imported products.
- Canvas grill: we ate at their old location on Cowey Road, but they have since moved to a new premises in Umhlanga. Their menu has old classics alongside more exciting options, and we enjoyed their ostrich steak with cherry sauce. They also managed to get the steaks medium-rare on our first visit at the first try, but we weren’t so lucky the second time around and they weren’t very accommodating at rectifying it at the second visit.
- Caminettos & Purple Burgers: this used to be a staple on all our visits to Durban, but with the arrival of so many other options on the food scene, it’s slipped down the list a little. However, their food has always been great, but the service is usually a little slow. They have since opened a Let’s Thai section as well, but we haven’t tried it yet.
- Casablanca: also on Windermere road, this was also one of our staples but has fallen down the list a little. Go for a prawn feast, and you won’t be disappointed.
- At North Beach, there are a few halaal chains to eat at, and while we haven’t eaten at all recently, over the years we’ve had good experiences at Mochachos, My Diner, Steers, Fishaways, Milky Lane, Ocean Basket, Debonairs, and Jolly Grubber.
- Overport is also home to tons of halaal restaurants and takeaways; just drive up Moses Kotane road and you’ll see Roman’s pizza, Kiki’s, Wrap it Up, and many more.
- We’ve heard good things about Sofra Istanbul, and were eager to visit if only for the Kunafah on their menu. But we called ahead and they had none in stock so we decided to leave it and try it the next time we’re in town, as we’re always on the lookout for a great kunafah!