What a beautiful piece of fish

Prawn and salmon potstickers.

Prawn and salmon potstickers.

Published Jun 16, 2024


Benson’s Seafood Restaurant

Where: 1 Grenada Square, Chartwell Drive, uMhlanga

Open: Monday to Saturday noon to 10pm, Sunday noon to 9pm.

Call: 031 561 2930

Third time unlucky. Ingrid Shevlin and I again popped out to uMhlanga to try the Pasta Factory only to find a note on the door. “Store closed until further notice.” The Glass Guy was already waiting for us with the bad news. Oh well. We had tried. It’s obviously not a venture that’s going to go down in the annals of Durban dining history.

Instead we opt to try Benson’s, a new seafood restaurant that has opened where Europa used to be. It’s certainly had a makeover and is now an inviting space. The staff are friendly too. Bespoke tiles in patterns of various shades of blue and grey give it interest, and designer lighting adds warmth. Gone is that feeling that it’s the overflow from The George next door. The pavement area is now incorporated into the restaurant. It feels open, yet protects diners from the layabouts that spill out of uMhlanga’s famed pub.

Crayfish knuckle sandwich.

The old Europa gin bar is now Benson’s Cafe, where you can have a range of coffees and light meals that are not seafood based. Toasted sandwiches and the likes. Breakfasts are also served here.

Benson’s is owned by the same team that owns Fish, higher up in the village. And the menu is similar. It’s kept small and simple and takes in all the bounties of the ocean. Yes, the manager tells us, there will be a few land items on the menu in the future, just in case someone in a large party doesn’t eat fish, but the focus is on fish. I am certainly not complaining.

Starters include squid bites, scampi prawns, calamari tubes or mussels in a white wine sauce. There are some light meals like salmon carpaccio, or crab cakes. We were tempted here until our waitress told us they were ordinary fish cakes that day. For Ingrid, there is nothing more boring than a fish cake. There’s also a fish soup and a mushroom dish, and two poke bowl options, one with mixed seafood, another that is vegan.

Avocado Ritz

Naturally there’s a sushi menu which includes all the regulars - salmon roses, sashimi, nigiri, maki and California and rainbow rolls. There are also some fashion sandwiches and options with bean curd. Prices look quite reasonable, especially for uMhlanga.

Sesame coated tuna with wasabi and slaw.

I wanted to try the thoroughly retro avo Ritz (R95), more to see how it was presented. Retro it certainly was, and I enjoyed it, especially since that ubiquitous pink sauce had some real piquancy. It’s a sauce that needs a bite. I tend to have a slightly heavy hand with the tabasco and cayenne pepper when I make it myself at home. Or I use the brother-in-law’s home-made chilli. The Glass Guy opted for the crayfish knuckle sandwich (R155), a soft roll filled with lettuce and crayfish meat and mayonnaise. It was enjoyable, although it needed more crayfish..

Line fish of dorado with mash and roasted veg.

Pick of the starters was Ingrid’s salmon and prawn potstickers (R165) with an Asian style, soy based dipping sauce. These were lovely, flavourful and plentiful, six in the portion, so both of us could steal one - guilt free.

Mains took in options of salmon grilled in sage butter and served with mash and asparagus, kingklip on a bed of summer vegetables with salsa verde and prawns grilled in lemon butter with two sides. Sides included chips, mash or rice and roasted veg, summer veg and a Greek salad. I think there were onion rings.

Fish and chips with mushy peas.

Ingrid’s line fish of dorado (R160) was a really beautiful piece of fish, succulent and perfectly cooked. “It tastes like it was swimming this morning,” she said. It came with mash and roasted veg and she was very happy with her choices. It was a very good value meal, considering most linefish options hit the over-R200 mark.

My fish and chips (R130) too was great value. A good piece of hake in a nice crisp batter that again had not been over cooked. It came with some decent chips and mushy peas. While these will never be a favourite, they were improved with a good hint of mint.

Panna cotta with berry coulis and ice-cream.

The Glass Guy’s sesame coated tuna (R185) with a soy sauce dressing on Asian slaw with a wasabi sauce was pleasant but perhaps the least exciting dish. It was more of a salad than Asian slaw with the pieces of hard-boiled egg almost giving it a Nicoise feel.

After dinner he had to run to pick up mummy from the airport, so it was just the two of us for dessert. There were three options: a chocolate browning, a panna cotta with berry coulis and I forget the third. We shared the panna cotta (R65) which was pleasant even if the texture was a little gluey - not quite the slightly wobbly, just-set dessert it should be.

But we will be back for the fish… and the chips.

Food: 3 ½

Service: 3 ½

Ambience: 3 ½

The Bill: R1167 for three.

Independent on Saturday