Feasting on a hot tip

The mutton bunny at Glamwich in Florida Fields.

The mutton bunny at Glamwich in Florida Fields.

Published Jul 8, 2023


Palm Court at the Durban July

Where: Greyville Racecourse

The noise down the final straight is deafening, the air electric as 18 horses at full gallop come into view. The two Cheeky Aussies are screaming for their hot tip ‒ Winchester Mansion. There’s a good couple of hundred bucks riding on Mrs Rupert’s horse in the bright yellow colours. And then it’s all high fives as the jockey hits the turbo charge button and Winchester Mansion bolts ahead, edging out the favourite, See It Again, by a head.

I quietly tear up my race ticket. It seems I had backed the wrong horse from Mrs Rupert’s stable.

It’s the first time I have been to South Africa’s premier race event: usually I am the one working behind the scenes, pulling together the pictures and stories readers enjoy the next day.

The curry buffet at the Palm Court during the Durban July.

When our friend, Dilly (that’s a schoolboy nickname), who was essentially the Aussie’s entertainment committee, asked me to join them, I jumped at the opportunity. Being a member, he got us tickets in the Palm Court, at R850 including entrance to the course, the Durban View Room with its view over the finish line being considerably more expensive and for the real VVIPs.

Greyville put on a spread for its premier race. The room was oddly decked out in black drapery which made it feel a little like being in a nightclub on a glorious July day, but it was convenient, with ready access to the track out front to view the races and the parade ring behind to check the form. “I think your horse has got a limp,” Cheeky Aussie2 teases Cheeky Aussie1 before the third race, only for his pick to win it.

The Cheeky Aussies at Greyville Racecourse. No2 Craig Atwill and No1 Warren Dobes.

There’s a tea and coffee station going for those who come early. Okay, so it’s not real coffee, but there is cardamom chai, and some very sweet but horribly moreish coconut cookies.

Cold starters might be somewhat predictable, what with salads, fish cakes, cold cooked fish and crab sticks, but there was a decent selection of cold meats, and some mussels livened up the seafood platter. I went for the hot starters, with good peri-peri prawns coming out the kitchen by the bucket load, and a piece of battered fish. There were samosas, spring rolls and snacky stuff for those who wanted a nibble.

Part of the dessert buffet at the Palm Court for the Durban July.

The main buffet included two roasts, with vegetables, new potatoes and gravy and sauces. Lamb was the highlight, but a good rare roast beef made an appearance at lunchtime (it was a little less rare in the afternoon). And then there was the curry buffet which the Cheeky Aussies attacked. The lamb curry was a good example of the Durban offering, if somewhat milder in catering for all palates. But it certainly had a lovely depth of spicy flavour. I would have preferred it had there been potatoes, but maybe the other guests pinched all those before I got there. The chicken curry and the veg biryani and dhal too were good.

It had been a week of showing the Aussies good curries. On route to the Hluhluwe-Mfolozi game reserve, I had stopped in the Umhlali village to pick up a curry that’s the talk of the North Coast. Cindy’s Fresh Produce is known for its superb curries. Just ask any busy Ballito person who needs to put a good meal on their table. I had ordered the chicken and prawn variety, which left the curry we had had at the Britannia Hotel the week before in the shade. This was a powerful flavour punch without being overly hot, and with plenty of chicken and prawn. All I had to do was chop some coriander and make a quick tomato sambal, with chillies, much to Dilly’s horror. He asked for a cut-up banana.

The curry was exceptionally reasonable at R60 a portion, plus R7 for rice. It really was a feast.

On the way back from the game reserve, they had wanted to try another bunny chow. With Hollywoodbets closing at 3pm, I took them to Glamwich in Florida Road for a late lunch, where we all ordered mutton bunnies (R80). These were good, the curry having real bite and plenty of meat and gravy to soak up all that bread. They enjoyed sitting in the park at Florida Fields, feasting on street food.

But back to the main event. We celebrated Winchester Mansion in style. In fact Cheeky Aussie2 had an exceptional day ‒ three wins and three places from eight races. I, on the other hand, kept on tearing up race tickets.

It was left to attack the dessert table, which while not exciting, did have a reasonable trifle ‒ okay, it will never be as good as mine ‒ and some proper hot chocolate sauce. Mini milk tarts and carrot cakes and fruit salad completed the picture.

And, finally, an impressive cheese platter was brought out, which was half flattened before the staff could lay out the biscuits and cheese knives. One of our party brought a whole hunk of Gouda to carve off slices for the table.

We enjoyed the day and quit while we were ahead, leaving before the lights went out and the crowd got too tatty.

The Independent on Saturday