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Saturday, July 25, 2009


(Head Chef Preshanthan Pillay displays one of his fine seafood dishes, as the fish glide past!)

Wondrous water ballet accompanies excellent cuisine in magical marine world. (Review by Caroline Smart)

“Since the dawn of history the oceans have thrown the gauntlet to the brave. The foolhardy, the wicked and the wise inviting those who dare to take their chances in a perilous dance of life and death. But nowhere has this challenge been more tempting and taunting than here on the vital eastern trade routes of Port Natal where jagged rocks, dangerous currents, treacherous and violent seas have lured hundreds of vessels to their watery graves. It’s not surprising then that ghost stories abound along this stretch of coastline.”

This is the legend of uShaka Marine World’s Phantom Ship, a marvellous construction created by the famed Disney World team resembling a wrecked and rusty ship grounded on the shore just south of Addington Beach. While the lowest level houses the world-class aquarium, there are several restaurants “on board”.

The Cargo Hold offers diners a marvellous experience as they descend into the depths of the “ship” to enjoy excellent cuisine on the other side of a massive tank that houses several sharks and countless fish. Gliding silently past, they execute a wondrous and silent kind of water ballet.

The above extract from the “Captains Log” (dated April 17, 1914) is contained in the first pages of the comprehensive menu which also features historic photographs dealing with shipping news of the times. In the sure hands of experienced Head Chef Preshanthan Pillay, The Cargo Hold has a new menu and so – accompanied by good friend Dianne – I descended into this magical marine world to check it out.

Chef Pillay created a special starter platter for us. This included the Mediterranean Vegetable Tornados made of feta and sun-dried tomato pesto wrapped in char-grilled aubergines on tossed greens with a honeyed wholegrain mustard dressing (a vegetarian’s dream), as well as some feta and jalapeno stuffed crisp Spicy Wontons; Prawn Samoosas which also contained sweet potato, and some delicious Cargo Mussels flambéed with Pernod.

Other choices in the Setting Sail (starter menu) at R35 each are Ostrich Salad; Warm Bacon, Blue Cheese and Pear Salad; Game Carpaccio or Mushroom Crepes. At R45, the selection includes Calamari Steak; Prawn Stack; Es-Cargo (snails!) or New Orleans Chowder.

Having been carefully guided by our charming and attentive waitress Zethu, we then settled down to enjoy our main choices.

There are two main course menus – From the Galley (ranging from R69 to R121) and Cargo Classics (ranging from R89 to R125).

Dianne had opted for St Valentines Catch (Cargo Classics) which was fillet of linefish topped with a Mango, Pineapple and Tomato Salsa then surrounded by Crisp Fried Prawn Tails and a Gingered Soy Sauce. She pronounced it delicious but, not being a fish fan, I preferred to share one of her prawns. I had decided on the Braised Karoo Lamb (From the Gallery) and it was superb - slowly braised with tomato, honey, grained mustard and lemon set on minted creamed potatoes served with crisp garden fresh vegetables.

Other From the Galley dishes are Smoked Rib-eye of Pork, De-boned Oxtail, Thai-Mushroom Curry, Simonsberg Steak, Gnocchi; Sweet Chili Chicken and Cannelloni. Cargo Classics also offers a Game platter; Cargo Kingklip; Linefish; Chef’s Kingklip; Singapore Sling and The Phantom Ship Adventure (SQ). There’s also The Spanish Inquisition and Flaming Prawns as well as The Shellfish Grill and Platters for Two offering game of seafood.

Not one for sweet dishes, I happily left the dessert choice to Dianne who was encouraged by Chef Pillay to take the Chocolate Fondant (heartily endorsed by Zethu) and it was indeed a triumph - the melting chocolate in the hot cake offset by the chill of the homemade icecream. However, it is important to remember that it requires a baking time of 10 to 15 minutes, so sit back and watch the fish! I must say that one does feel slightly treacherous eating fish dishes as they move past but you can harden your heart in the knowledge that you’re not eating any of their close relations!

The items on the Before you Disembark (dessert) menu are R35 and also include Banana Duo cheesecake; Crème Brulee; Aphrodite’s Kiss (raspberry tiramisu); Panacotta and the Iced fusion trio of sorbets topped with Cointreau.

There are plans to develop the Bosun’s Terrace just outside the restaurant offering reasonable light meals to meet the needs of a funkier more youthful crowd. Chef Pillay also indicated that his menu will be reviewed again in the months to come, so if what you see above excites you, head for The Cargo Hold straight away! The hospitality’s great and it’s a highly worthwhile experience.

The best way to reach The Phantom Ship is to go to uShaka Marine World’s B parking and either walk through the shopping concourse and up the gangplank onto the ship and then descend through the various levels so that you can appreciate the décor and atmosphere, or walk along the beachfront and enter the lower entrance. Bookings on 031 328 8065 or email: cargohold@ushakamarineworld, – Caroline Smart