Eating our hearts out in KZN

Family @ Casa Toscana

When we go visit our parents in KwaZulu Natal, in the small town called Empangeni, we know to brace ourselves for some serious feasting.

On average we go to visit our parents about twice a year. It is quite far to drive – ± 7 hours’ drive. You can fly from Johannesburg or Lanseria to King Shaka International in Durban, but it is about 3 hours’ drive from Empangeni to the airport and back. So, it is not worth it to go for just a weekend or a long weekend. Although we don’t visit often (sigh), we always make the most of it when we are there.

Let me tell you about our adventure that pretty much all revolved around food…

Our stepfather and stepbrothers came back from hunting just as we arrived in Empangeni and joined the feast that was prepared by my mom. My mom called it my birthday celebratory lunch, because it had been my birthday a few weeks before. My mom custom-made gift wrap just for me and all 29 of my gifts were wrapped in this special paper. The food was delicious and my mom had been cooking the whole morning to welcome us home with this special meal. On the menu was steamed cauliflower with béchamel sauce and melted cheese (my stepdad’s favourite), oven baked quinces (so good), ratatouille, Moroccan fig baked chicken, and couscous served with a garden salad. For dessert she made what we call in Afrikaans ‘basaar poeding’. It is a chopped guava, evaporated milk and jelly mixture that has been set. It is a typical church fare dessert and a winner among Afrikaans people. It was a wonderful meal. My mom always goes all out for birthdays. Dankie, Mamma!

One thing you should know about Empangeni is that it is not that small, but there really isn’t a lot of restaurants. You have to make do with what there is. The neighbouring town, Richards Bay, is about 20km away, and has a lot more restaurants, so it is worth the drive.

For lunch the next day we went to the Richards Bay Country Club’s restaurant called The Outpost. It was our first time there. The restaurant looks onto the river and is very relaxed. They had a R60.00 lunch special. Who doesn’t like that?! My mother and sister ordered eisbein with veggies and chips. I ordered chicken schnitzel with a cheese sauce, veggies and chips. The veggies were still crispy and not overcooked and mushy, just how we like the. The food was freshly prepared, portions very big and tasted great. A real bargain & a hidden gem of a place! Plus, the wine is inexpensive. 😉 I can definitely recommend it.

On Tuesday evening we invited some of our friends over for dinner. My mom making sure the table was laid according to her standard, always done before the guests arrive and my father being the perfect host, making sure everyone always has enough to drink.

Once again, a meal that everyone would remember. The most delicious Italian lamb stew, vegetarian pasta, spicy lentil and sweet potato curry, and banting-friendly pumpkin fritters with rooibos caramel sauce made with xylitol. We used Kreatery’s pumpkin fritters recipe and replaced a few of the ingredients, specifically the flour. We replaced it with the versatile, innovative HEBA product. Read more about HEBA here:

On Wednesday we left Empangeni to go to the South Coast for 2 nights. On our way there we met up with one of my stepbrothers at Cape Town Fish Market in Gateway. The menu is striking and enticing and makes you want to order one of each. Normally I don’t have any complaints, but this time around my food was not as great. I ordered the salmon tartare. The tartare looked fresh, but my plate had 2 chips – I HATE CHIPPED CROCKERY SO MUCH! So besides the chipped plate, there were strands of fluff throughout the pieces of salmon. It was not pleasing at all. My sister had oysters, and the rest of the family had seafood platters that were on special that day. They were very satisfied with the big portions and the flavours.

For dinner we went to Trattorria La Terrazza, which is a charming little restaurant about 400 meters from the house in Southbroom. It overlooks the Umkobi lagoon that runs into the sea and the restaurant is situated right next to the sea. This was our second time at this restaurant and it is my dad’s favourite of the lot. It seems to be a hit among the tourists visiting the South Coast. The type of food they serve is a combination of Italian and Mediterranean. My father usually orders meat, which is well prepared in his opinion. We visited this restaurant in February when it was still summer, so we could sit outside and appreciate nature. On this specific night we were seated inside as it was quite chilly. My sister and mother ordered two vegetarian salads. These salads were gorgeous and the flavours were like the perfect married couple. I ordered zucchini fries, which I think was cooked in cold oil as they were too oily. We also had the tuna Carpaccio which was beautifully presented and appetising. I had one of the recommended dishes of the day – grilled line fish. I was very disappointed. It was overdone and it didn’t have any flavour in my opinion. For dessert, we ordered pavlova with mixed berry coulis, liquorice ice cream, and peanut butter ice cream. The previous time I ordered peanut butter cheesecake which was nothing like a cheesecake at all. The dessert portions are too big but good for sharing. The service was good.

Lunch on Thursday was spent at Casa Toscana. It was also our second time at this lovely Italian restaurant and my favourite restaurant for lunch or dinner. The Italian owner is very friendly and shows great interest in his patrons. Last time we ordered pasta with sea urchin roe and prawns, antipasto consisting of a small selection of cold meats, olive and pieces of bread, and also a beef and pork Italian naked ‘burger’. Both times we ordered arancini, which are deep-fried mozzarella filled rice balls with Bolognese sauce. They are delicious! If I find something I like, I will most probably stick to my choice. This time was no different. I ordered what I now call my regular – the perfect flavour combination of lamb, rosemary, and butter ravioli. We also ordered deep-fried olives which were okay, but we would not order that again. For dessert, we had berry semifreddo which was smooth & creamy, and white chocolate crème brûleé which was a little overcooked and nothing sensational. BUT I will definitely go back for some more ravioli! The wine is reasonably priced, but you can bring your own and pay only corkage of R50.00. We had brilliant service and the ambiance is warm and inviting.

As if the Italian food & wine was not enough, we went to Beaver Creek Coffee Estate after lunch. Here you can go for a tour of the estate where they show you how the coffee is roasted and grinded. They have a little shop where they sell local products. There is also a small restaurant with a very reasonably priced menu. You can order a cup and help yourself to all of their coffee varieties for as little as R25.00. Bargain!

On our last morning at the South Coast we went to our favourite breakfast / lunch/ treat restaurant. The last time we went to the South Coast we visited the Waffle House twice in a week’s time. :-p Sweet waffles are too delicious to resist. All three times I ordered a sweet instead of a savoury waffle. As you all know by now, I have a SERIOUS sweet tooth. Now let’s talk about the actual waffles. These waffles are Belgian waffles. Belgian waffles are traditionally made with yeast dough, instead of a batter made with baking powder. Their exteriors are crispy and brown and their pockets are larger and deeper than normal waffles. The interior is light and fluffy. I have tasted the banana and butterscotch waffle, brownie and lemon meringue waffles at the Waffle House. I have also tasted the breakfast mince waffles and steak and kidney waffles. These waffles are really the best I’ve ever tasted. Anything better you would probably only find in Belgium and unfortunately, I cannot say that I have been there to share my experience. You cannot go wrong with visiting this place.

On Saturday it was my mom’s birthday. I bullied all of them into doing their first Park Run with me. We survived! When we got home, my sister and I jazzed up a cake we bought from the supermarket to make it look extra special for my mom. That night we went to Spur (you know the town’s restaurant history by now 😉 ) The mom got the special Spur birthday treatment – an ice cream with a sparkle and all the waiting staff singing (rapping) a birthday song.

Oh yes, the three Rooibokke were processed and ready for collection on Saturday – just about a ton of biltong and droëwors and some stewing meat.

On the night before we were supposed to drive back to Pretoria, my dad cooked some crazy delicious and succulent lamb chops on the braai – we ate them then and there!

So, on what was supposed to be our last night in Empangeni turned out to be our second last night. Our parents convinced or actually bribed us into staying another night and visit the new restaurant on the harbour. So, we stayed and we went to the new restaurant. It is called Portuguese on the Bay. Not a lot of restaurants make it at the harbour, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one. It was 80% to its capacity. Our waiter made sure the service was excellent. We were served warm and crispy Portuguese rolls with butter and a homemade chilli condiment (it was extremely hot!). I had the chicken livers and garlic snails starters. They served it on one plate with some extra veggies as an extra. The chicken livers were soft, but I have had better. The snails were soft and the garlic was not pungent as you’d expect from most restaurants. I will order that again. My sister and mom had a calamari and prawn platter with veggies. It was cooked perfectly. My dad had beef espetada with hand-cut potato chips. The espetada was served in the very Portuguese way – see picture below. You could see the desserts were not made at the restaurant – they were pre-ordered from somewhere else. For this reason, I was skeptical, but after tasting my sister’s mousse cake I wanted one for myself! The wine prices are very reasonable. Our family had a great experience and will go back when we go visit our parents again.

So, there you have it. That is how we gained 5 extra kilograms in just over a week. Next year same place, same food adventure! Yesss!

I have to thank my sister, Nina, for most of these photos as I have been a little lazy with taking pictures on this specific trip. Dankbaar!

See our photos here:

3 thoughts on “Eating our hearts out in KZN

  1. What a blessed girl you are. For many reasons, Renske…….. a mommy who gives you SO many ( I am sure creative & well thought-out ) gifts, the personalized wrapping paper, the stepfather who loves you like his own, and shares the family “foody” passion, the ssiblings who join in on all your adventures, the hubby who is generous enough to share you while you are off gallivanting with your family, and very blessed to have the skills which you so lovingly share with all of us xxxx

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