national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, October 8, 2010


If you love prawns, don’t miss this one. Last night October 8. (Review by Caroline Smart)

I adore prawns but never seem to have been able to afford the luxury of a spare evening from theatre reviewing and the like to attend the annual Durban Prawn Festival. Well, last night this rookie and her PA, Pauline Dalais, headed for the delightful – and delicious – experience that this event has to offer and had a great evening in the process.

Presented by Blue Marine Frozen Foods, the Prawn Festival is now in its third year and is being held once again at the SUNZone at Suncoast Casino & Entertainment World.

Due to increased demand, this year the Durban Prawn Festival offers an estimated number of 2,000 visitors the opportunity to experience the culinary skills of 25 of the region’s top chefs. The stakes have been raised with chefs divided for the first time into two categories - Fine Dining and Casual Dining - giving each visitor the opportunity to savour their signature prawn and savoury rice dishes.

The Fine Dining section is held in the SUNZone itself while the Casual Dining can be found in the marquee alongside it. My main gripe with the Fine Dining section is that, even though there are a lot of people around, there should be more tables. After all, we are talking about “fine dining” here, where people should be able to sit down and approach with interest each new tempting sample from the stands, not stand around as one does at a cocktail party. Patrons are asked to judge the best dish so it’s only fair that they should be able to give this decision-making process their full concentration.

Some of the participating restaurants include Aqua Seafood Restaurant – last year’s winner; Royal Hotel; Quarters Hotel on Florida Rd; Spiga D’Oro; Thandi Restaurant – Fairmont Zimbali Lodge; Cargo Hold; Sage @ Christina’s; Exquisite Cuisine; Dish Restaurant – The Royal Palm Hotel; Riviera Restaurant – Suncoast Hotel & Towers; Lingela – Elangeni Hotel; HLM @ Sibaya; The Riverside Café; Mozambik; Sublime; Durban Country Club; Suncoast Casino and Cosmopolitan Restaurant at The Square Boutique Hotel & Spa.

Even Pauline (whose taste buds can cope with stronger curry than mine!) had to admit that Ralphy’s Emakhosini Boutique Hotels Portuguese prawns in peri peri were a bit hectic while The Royal Grill’s Asian Crusted Prawn stuffed with fresh coriander and Cajun lemon was delicious once you got past whatever the prawn was coated with. The Durban ICC’s sample was uninspiring and the Riverside Cafe’s prawn bunny chow even more so.

However, The Sibiya Aqua Seafood Restaurant’s stall enjoyed great popularity and rightly so as their “Prawn Reaction” was worth the wait in the queue. Sage @ Christina’s had an interesting Prawn Bomb accompanied by prawn crackers with a delicate mayonnaise accompaniment while Suncoast Casino’s Prawn Oyster with steamed lemon and dill-infused Caesar dressing was delectable.

All kudos to Quarters Brasserie for being firmly but charmingly unprepared to give us their sample until they received more supplies of beetroot mousse - and I'm glad we waited because it was a fascinating accompaniment to the biltong tempura prawn as was the prawn bisque jelly. We also enjoyed the Royal Palm Hotel’s Dish Restaurant’s sample of a risotto salmon cake done in a prawn bisque presented alongside a little bowl of bubbling dry ice for effect. To top off the sophisticated and innovative prawn samples of the evening, we closed with a John Dory’s Grilled Prawn which was simple, uncomplicated and delicious.

Tonight is the last night, running from 19h00 to 23h00. Tickets R150 pp available through Computicket or at the door. This entitles you to a ticket booklet to purchase sample portions from stands of your choice as well as two free drinks and voting slips for both the Fine and Casual Dining sectors. – Caroline Smart

(NB: The Festival is an adult event and no children under the age of 18 will be allowed)